Proper, sensible Willow Mabson will do anything to protect her family. So when she finds out that James Sterling--a dashing, arrogant aristocrat working for Scotland Yard--suspects her mother in a recent murder, Willow will do whatever's necessary . . . even solve the case herself! Of course, this will bring her into a most uncomfortable proximity with the very tantalizing Mister Sterling. And try as she might, she finds resisting him her most difficult challenge.
James has always preferred gritty crime scenes to elegant balls. And he can immediately deduce that straight-laced, whip-smart--and exceedingly delectable--Willow isn't your average vapid, shallow socialite. He longs to release her carefully restrained sensuality and tempt her into losing control. But James doesn't count on risking his own heart in the process.
"Well, well, well, if it isn't a letter from 'Anonymous,'" Finch said, handing the envelope to James. "You haven't received one of these in a while."
Inspector James Sterling grabbed the parchment and sat behind his desk. The old chair creaked under his weight. He carefully unfolded the note and read through the flourishing words. A smile curled his lips. "It's been over a month since I've heard from her. Perhaps two."
Finch leaned over his own desk to try to peek at the letter, but James covered the paper with his hand. "Still convinced it's a woman?"
"Look at this penmanship." James flipped it around to show his fellow inspector, but gave him no time to read it before he dropped it again. "No man can write like that, with all the precision and elegance. Not to mention the vocabulary that she uses. She's educated."
"You can wipe that grin off your face, I don't think she's exactly an admirer." Finch stood and stretched.
James tucked the letter into his side pocket. Finch was right; the woman was no admirer, but the fact that he could annoy her so without even knowing her amused him greatly.
"We've got work to do." Finch pulled his tweed coat on. "The carriage house is sending a rig out front. You coming?"
"Right. We have to finish up the Clemmons case." He grabbed his own coat and followed Finch out of the Scotland Yard offices.
His mood sank. He hated having a keeper, having to report in to someone. And Finch had been his equal a few months ago, until Superintendent Randolph put him on suspension. Now James was stuck working under Finch as punishment.
It wasn't working with Finch that irritated him. Finch was a good detective; James respected him. But the fact that James had worked tireless hours and solved more cases than almost anyone and then had it stripped away was beyond frustrating.
Now it was like working backward. He'd asked Randolph just yesterday how much longer this grueling penance would last, but the boss had just grunted and shrugged his shoulders.
Randolph was disciplining him for allegedly breaking the rules, yet he, himself, wasn't following any specific rulebook on James' punishment. The bastard was making things up as he went along. Something James knew all too well. It was how he lived his life.
Tomorrow, James would visit him again. If nothing else, if he pestered Randolph enough, perhaps he'd give in and give James back his team.
"You off to the Spotted Duck tonight with the rest of us?" Finch asked as they stepped into one of the Metropolitan Police issued carriages.
"No. I'm having dinner with Colin and his wife tonight."
"Oh, tell the old chum I said hello. Any chance he'll come back to the Yard?"
"Doubtful. Maybe I'll join him on his own. It would beat working for Randolph."
Finch chuckled. "You'd miss the glory."
"Oh, right, the glory," James said dryly.
"It won't be too much longer," Amelia Brindley said. She glanced at her husband. "I'm certain dinner will be ready momentarily." She smiled warmly at Willow.
Willow Mabson nodded politely. Amelia was her best friend and she loved her, but she should have declined the invitation to dinner tonight. She needed to be home caring for her mother, instead of leaving poor Edmond to do so. Her brother had much more important things to do than watching over their irascible mother. However, she'd been in such a state this past week that someone had to sit with her at all times. Thankfully, Edmond wouldn't have to handle things alone for too long as their father was returning from his short trip tonight.
Forcing herself to focus on the present, she noted the parlor was ornate but tasteful, decorated in soft golds and yellows. She should have felt calm and relaxed...