It Happened One Midnight:Pennyroyal Green SeriesBy: Julie Anne Long
THE MOON LAY ON its side like a discarded pickax, the stars’ diamond smithereens strewn all around it. It was a rare clear London night thanks to a stiff broom of a breeze off the Thames, and everything Tommy had seen on her way to her destination—barrels full of old rain capped thinly in ice, a narrow black cat holding its tail aloft in the shape of a question mark, each bar on the low wrought iron fence she’d just slipped through—seemed etched into the night, distinct as puzzle pieces, shimmering with portent and beauty and danger.
Just the way she liked it, in other words.
Just like her, some of the ton’s bloods might say.
And oh, how they loved to hear themselves talk. Granted, she’d done little to discourage it. She could find something to like in each of them, but there was a sameness to them, to their self-absorption and to their compliments—and to her ability to manage them. Not one of them saw anything more than what they wanted to see. Or what she wanted them to see.
Still, it wasn’t as though she hadn’t been enjoying herself.
She hadn’t realized things had gone a little too far until the pearls arrived.
Pearls notwithstanding, the most valuable thing she owned was a short broad ribbon hung with a gold wide-armed cross. The most important words of her life were etched into it. She gripped it so tightly now she wouldn’t be surprised to find the heat had seared them permanently into her palm.
It would only be fitting. Her body told the story of her life in scars.
She hovered in shadows in the terraced gardens, crouching slightly. She had a flawless view of French doors and enormous windows and a room lit only by a fire burning low. Not a typical row house, oh no; only a recreation of a French palais would suit the grandeur of its owner, who had built it decades ago.
Her heart launched into her throat when a man moved into the room.
Every cell in her body seemed to loan itself to seeing. She gulped glimpses as he passed through. Nose like the prow of a ship: conspicuous, arrogant, but right for his face, which was all sharply hewn edges and broad planes. An edifice of a face.
Tommy absently rested the back of her hand against the smooth curve of her own cheek.
He seemed hewn from eons of privilege. She could very nearly feel the weight of it from where she stood. It was in the way he entered the room, cutting through it with the purposeful confidence of a warship as he headed for the bookcase.
It was him. It was him. She knew it.
He turned a fraction toward the window, and that’s when she saw that his ruthlessly cropped hair was gray. More, more, more. She wanted to know more. The color of his eyes, the shape of his hands, the sound of his voice. Impatience thrummed through her, drew her nerves tight as harp strings.
Which is why she nearly leaped out of her skin when she heard the faint “snick” of a struck flint right behind her.
The blood instantly vacated her head. She nearly fainted.
Still, she was no stranger to surprise. She whipped about so quickly her cloak slapped at her calves, and the knife in her sleeve slid down to prick her palm, but remained hidden. She gripped the shaft.
A sucked cheroot flared into life, and round the light of it a man came into focus.
His posture was unmistakable. She’d inadvertently memorized it this afternoon at her salon, because he’d spent much of his time simply leaning against the wall opposite her and watching her through hooded eyes. Smiling very faintly, as though he was in on a private joke. As though he knew her, although they’d only just met, and never spoke after that first introduction. Then there was the fact that he was the sort of man no woman with blood in her veins would ever forget once she’d seen him. His face, shadowed intriguingly now, rather embossed itself on one’s memory. So few men actually caused a sharp intake of breath.