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Thursday, December 7, 2017

A Historical Christmas Event with Gina Conkle

Gina Conkle loves history, books and romance…the perfect recipe for historical romance writer. Her passion for castles and old places (the older and moldier the better!) means interesting family vacations. Good thing her husband and two sons share similar passions, except for romance…that’s where she gets the eye roll. When not visiting fascinating places she can be found delving into the latest adventures in cooking, gardening, and chauffeuring her sons.

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RFTC’s historical Christmas event is near and dear to my heart. I love it! To celebrate, I wrote a special Christmas novella: a Bow Street thief taker finally gets his chance with an independent widow…on Christmas Eve.

Keep your eyes open for a special offer at the end.  Enjoy!  Gina Conkle

Lady Isabella is off-limits for thief taker, Jack Emerson. Other women practically draw maps to their bed chamber windows when he patrols St. James—but never the raven-haired widow. They’ve shared hot looks, fast quips, and lobbed an insult or two. The lady is maddening. She doesn’t need Bow Street’s best until one Christmas Eve in a dark alley…

This excerpt is from the middle of the story. Jack and Lady Isabella have danced around their attraction for a long time. They’ve traded quips but never been alone—until Christmas Eve.

Meet My Love at Midnight

The door to Ryland House opened, spilling cinnamon and nutmeg scents. Laughter and violin music poured out behind Belker. Even the dour butler couldn’t stop Christmas Eve cheer. And by his rosy cheeks, the upper servant had done a bit of dipping in the merriment.

“Lady Foster. Mr. Emerson.” Belker stiffened his shoulders. “Please come in.”

Lady Foster swept inside but Jack’s boots rooted in place. He grinned at the butler and tapped the corner of his own mouth.

“Is that a wine stain you have there?”

Belker’s hand clapped the side of his mouth. His eyes rounded. “I…I…”

“Like any good butler, you tested the mulled wine before it left the kitchen.” Jack’s grin widened. “For quality purposes only.”

“Yes, for the quality,” Belker sniffed. “We have high standards at Ryland House.”

Lady Foster passed her cloak and gloves to a footman. “Aren’t you coming inside Mr. Emerson?”

Heel strikes banged marble floors behind Belker. Cyrus Ryland and his flaxen-haired wife approached.

“Of course, he’s coming in,” Ryland put in smoothly. “It’s Christmas Eve and Bow Street’s best thief taker is on our doorstep.”

Jack touched his hat, his gaze colliding with Ryland’s amused grey stare. He and the well-heeled man of business had a bumpy history, but Jack gave a respectful greeting.

“I’m delivering Lady Foster safely to your door. She had an…unfortunate incident.”

Three curious pairs of eyes blinked at the lady. “What happened?” Mrs. Ryland asked.

“Nothing of import.”

“Just an overturned hack and a dockside ruffler bent on thievery.” Jack added with pride, “She had the matter well in hand by the time I arrived.”

Mrs. Ryland gasped. “Are you hurt?”

“Not in the slightest, but I could do with a brandy or a cup of your mulled wine.” Lady Isabella’s violet gaze landed on Jack. “As would Mr. Emerson.”

She wanted a drink after her ordeal, but her eyes said, I want you most of all.

Longing hit him square in the chest. He pulled his great coat tighter, fighting winter’s chill. His Hammersmith garret was dark and empty. He could grab a pint at The White Dove and talk to friends and neighbors. Ryland house with its evergreen boughs and holly sprigs was light and inviting—especially with the raven-haired widow waiting for him to join her.

“Oh look.” Mrs. Ryland was a swish of emerald silk. “It’s snowing.”

Fat snowflakes fell on Jack’s boots. Two. Then three and four. White sprinkled the ground like grains of sugar, much of it melting on contact.

Mr. Ryland set a protective hand on his wife’s shoulder and checked Piccadilly. “More like a dusting. We need to go north if you want proper snow.”

Jack grinned against his collar. Ryland spoke like a man who’d move heaven and earth to give his wife whatever she wanted—proper snow included. Dubbed the King of Commerce, London’s wealthiest commoner could buy heaps of the white stuff and have it delivered on the canals he built.

“It’s settled then.” Mrs. Ryland hugged herself against the cold. “You can’t ride off in weather like this. Come inside. I insist.”

She backed away to give him room and there was nothing for it. He caved.

Inside the grand entry hall, candles blazed from three sparkling chandeliers. Belker took his hat and great coat. A footman materialized with a tray of cups brimming with mulled wine. Jack took a cup and drank. Hot, clove-flavored wine tripped over his tongue. He’d stay for one drink.

Mrs. Ryland steered them through the cavernous entry. Pine boughs swathed every cornice. Oranges and holly berries dotted the greenery. Violins played Hark the Herald Angels Sing from the ballroom. A younger set dashed about a drawing room where the furniture had been pushed against the walls. Youths crowded the room. Gangly lads of twelve or thirteen years all the way to university age young men. Beribboned girls cupped their giggling mouths as they dodged a blind-folded boy.

“My nieces and nephews,” Ryland explained with a nod to the drawing room dripping with festive pine boughs.

“They’re playing blind man’s bluff,” Mrs. Ryland added. “You’re welcome to join them or come to the ballroom. Dancing will start up again.”

Jack tensed at the mention of dancing, quickly tending to his mulled wine. He wasn’t staying long enough to dance.

“Or if you’re hungry…” Mrs. Ryland pointed to a pair of gilt edged doors opened wide.

Guests milled about a long table spread with the finest fare of plum puddings and cakes, three roasted geese, a pyramid of macaroons, and another tower of oranges and dates. A white-gloved footman sawed slices of ham for those needing a hefty nibble.

“I say, Ryland, I’ve been looking for you.” A man with perfect sausage curls above both ears traipsed through the entry.

“Baron Atal seems most insistent,” Mrs. Ryland murmured against her husband’s shoulder.

Ryland gave a curt not. “If you’ll excuse us.”

“Enjoy the party.” Mrs. Ryland spoke over her shoulder as her husband whisked her away to greet the lace-cuffed baron.

Lady Isabell sipped her wine, amusement glinting from her violet eyes.

“What’s got your humor up?” Jack asked.

“You.” She held the cup to her mouth. Steam curled past her nose.

“What about me?”

“You’ve crossed a threshold after all.” Her minx-ish smile widened. “Not the one I had in mind, but it’s a start.”

He grinned, recalling her quip when he nearly kissed her in the Queenhithe alley. But this wouldn’t do. He was a stranger in a strange land. He protected West End homes. He didn’t hobnob in them.

“I’m not one for parties, milady.”

“Parties? Or dancing?” A winged brow arched. “You paled at the mention of dancing.”

He winced. “Was I that obvious?”

“I’m certain no one else noticed.” Her tongued flicked delicately over wine-stained lips. “Your Irish brogue becomes more pronounced. At certain times.”

“You’ve noticed that, have you?”

Lady Isabelle’s nod was slow and her voice for his ears alone. “When you’re vexed. When you tease.” Her breath hitched. “When you’re…aroused.”

Her last word burned him. It went from his brain, tripping through his body like a hot coal. Pricking his skin. Heating his abdomen. And landing between his legs in the most pleasant way. They stood in an entry hall bigger than his garret, surrounded by guests meandering from one entertainment to the next. Yet, he and Lady Foster could be on an island alone. Etched marble underfoot was their land and the lovely, raven-haired widow his sole companion.

She could be a Christmas Eve gift.

He downed the last of his wine. Fanciful thinking like that was trouble. Best he remember his place. He was a Bow Street thief taker, a commoner while Lady Isabella was far beyond his reach. Time he left.

Jack clunked his empty cup on a table festooned with holly. “Where’s Belker? I need my coat and hat.”

“No,” she cried. “You can’t leave. You barely warmed up.”

Creamy mounds plumped over Lady Isabella’s velvet bodice. He stared at them. Hard. He knew what would warm him best, but he was smart enough to keep that to himself.

“I’m good and warm, milady.”

He should’ve pinned her to the alley wall when the moment was ripe. The lady had been more than willing. But diamonds twinkled above her tempting flesh. What other proof did he need that she was not for him?

If he removed lust from the equation, he was faced with an undeniable fact. He genuinely liked Lady Isabella. One misstep could ruin their budding friendship. And get him dismissed from Bow Street.

Some distance was required. He was about to make that point when feminine fingers touched his sleeve.

“Would you consider a proposition?”

Lord Marcus Bowles has stained his family's reputation for the last time. Only after spending a scandal-free year restoring some far-flung property can this second son return in good graces. But Marcus isn't one to abandon a lone damsel on a dark country lane.

One stolen kiss and Genevieve Turner's handsome midnight savior disappears. Typical. No matter, Gen is finally on the way to her new post, and hopefully to finding her grandmother as well. Instead she finds her mischievous hero is her new employer. Surely a few more kisses won't hurt...

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  1. Thanks for hosting me! I love being on RFTC...especially at Christmastime.

  2. Gina, I really enjoyed the excerpt. Now I have to tread it and see what happens. Thank you for the post. Happy Holidays.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

  3. Great excerpt! Thanks so much Gina!

  4. I would rather have a signed - The Lord Meets His Lady...Sounds so good!