Authors: Kat Martin
“I'm afraid not. I'm making a list of what I can do to uncover information. Strangely enough, I think the first thing I need to do is speak to the police.”
“I need to know what sort of evidence they have against Rudy. Perhaps it is only that he knew the women, which surely isn't enough to arrest him.”
“I see. Actually, I had an idea myself.”
Krista nodded. “After we spoke the other day, I sent word to a friend of mine, a private investigator named Randolph Petersen. Mr. Petersen was a great help to me several years ago when we had problems here at the gazette. He also helped Coralee investigate the murder of her sister. Unfortunately, Mr. Petersen is away on business. His office is uncertain when he will be returning to London.”
“A private investigatorâ¦that is a very good notion. I should like to think that before your Mr. Petersen gets back, all of this will be resolved, but if it isn't, I would certainly be glad to speak to him.”
“Perhaps we can find someone else.”
“Let's wait for your friend. That will give us time to see if the matter will take care of itself.”
Krista nodded. “You were saying that you intend to start with the police?”
“That's right. Tonight the ladies' auxiliary is doing their annual widows and orphans' benefit, a charity strongly supported by the London Police Commissioner. My aunt Delilah has a friend whose son is a police lieutenant. A number of senior officials are expected to attend and Lieutenant Harvey is among them. Aunt Delilah's friend has promised to introduce us.”
“This sort of investigation can be dangerous, Lindsey. I can tell you that firsthand.”
“I should be safe enough at a ball attended by the commissioner of police and his men.”
“Of course. Stillâ¦Leif and I were thinking that if you are serious about investigating the murders, perhaps it would be wise to have someone around in case of troubleâ¦a sort of bodyguard, if you would, a person who would be close at hand should youâ”
“I hardly need a bodyguard.”
“No, of course not, but it might be wise to have some sort of protection just in case you run into trouble.”
Lindsey mulled that over. Surely asking a few simple questions wouldn't be a problem. “Who did you have in mind?”
“We were thinking of Thor. He is extremely capable andâ”
“That is what I said when my father suggested that Leif protect me, but one night he saved my life.”
“That was a different situation entirely.”
“I'm not so sure. You have no idea who the real killer is, no notion as to his social class, which circles he might move in, or if he might somehow learn of your activities. You have already been casting about for information, have you not? You could be putting yourself in danger, Lindsey.”
She considered the point. Krista was no fool and Lindsey respected her greatly. “Even if I said yes, I cannot imagine that Thor would agree.”
“You're a friend. Of course he will agree.”
Which meant, thus far, Thor knew nothing of Krista's outrageous plan. She should have guessed. “Yes, well, I will give the matter some thought. Tonight, however, I shall be perfectly safe in the company of my aunt.”
“I am certain you will. Besides, Leif and I were thinking of attending, so you will not be there on your own.”
Lindsey felt an unexpected sense of relief. Her friends were overly protective and yet it felt good to know there were people she could count on, people who really cared.
“Then I shall see you tonight,” she said.
Krista managed a smile, but Lindsey could tell she was worried.
As for Lindsey, her biggest concern was that she wouldn't be able to prove her brother innocent of murder.
Krista hurried into the house in search of Leif. She had volunteered him to go with her to the benefit tonight and now she couldn't find him.
“Have you seen my husband?” she asked the butler, Simmons, an older gentleman with iron-gray hair and skin so thin it appeared translucent. “I thought that by now he would be home.”
“I am sorry, my lady, I meant to give you this when you arrived.” He handed her a note with her name scrawled on the back in Leif's bold hand. She popped the wax seal and read the words that told her that he would be late in getting home. He had a meeting with his partners in Valhalla Shipping: Dylan Villard and Alexander Cain. As he had guessed, Krista had forgotten all about it.
“Thank you, Simmons.” Tapping the note, she headed upstairs. She had promised Lindsey that she and Leif would attend the party, but Leif couldn't go. It wasn't really important, Krista told herself. Lindsey would certainly be safe with so many policemen about.
Still, her friend would be asking sensitive questions and once she started, word would spread. Someone might already have gotten wind of her investigation, someone who didn't want her sniffing about, prying into affairs that could send a man to the gallows.
Walking over to her writing desk, she set Leif's note aside and penned a quick missive to Thor, asking him to stop by on his way home from the docks. Leif and Thor were close enough in size that Thor could borrow a waistcoat and stock, garments he had heretofore refused to wear, and whatever else he might need. He would grumble and groan but in the end, Krista was sure he would dress appropriately to attend the affair.
Hurrying back downstairs, she handed the message to a footman and sent him off to the docks to find Thor.
alking behind Aunt Dee, who was resplendent in an elegant gown of silver and black, Lindsey made her way through the well-dressed throng. An odd mix of guests were in attendance for the event: society matrons involved in various charities, patrons of local orphanages, judges, barristers, the mayor, wealthy merchants and senior-level police officials.
“Over there,” Aunt Dee said softly. “Mrs. Harveyâ¦the woman with the stunning silver hair. She is standing just to the right of the punch bowl.” Aside from her gleaming platinum locks, Emma Harvey was a nondescript woman in her early sixties with average features. Nothing at all like Delilah, who outshone women twenty years younger.
Then Mrs. Harvey smiled and her entire face lit up. She was a pretty woman, her features soft and feminine, the sort of person you were sure you would like before you ever met her.
Emma Harvey walked over to where they stood. “Lady Ashfordâhow delightful to see you.”
“You as well, Emma. May I present my niece, Miss Lindsey Graham?”
“I am delighted to meet you,” the woman said.
“The pleasure is mine, Mrs. Harvey.”
She flashed her amazing smile. “Your aunt said you were doing some research on police work for an article you are writing for your magazine.”
Surprised by the fabrication, Lindsey cast her aunt a glance. Perhaps a gift for prevarication ran in the family.
“Why, yes, I amâ¦which is the reason I was hoping to meet your son.”
“Of course.” She craned her neck to look over the sea of elegantly attired men and women around them, and Lindsey's gaze followed.
She caught sight of Krista, who had apparently just arrived, then searched for Leif. A huge man stood beside her, but he wasn't her husband. For an instant, Lindsey forgot to breathe. Standing next to Krista, elegantly dressed in evening clothes, was the handsomest man she had ever seen.
Beneath his immaculate black tailcoat, he wore a silver waistcoat and black trousers. A frothy cravat teased the dark skin at his throat. He was the same man she saw several days a week and at the same time, a man she had never seen before.
She couldn't stop staring. She knew those fierce blue eyes, recognized the massive shoulders beneath his perfectly tailored coat. Her aunt gave her a not-so-subtle jab in the ribs to remind her where she was and she dragged her gaze away.
“Mrs. Harvey's son is approaching.” Aunt Dee tipped her head toward a man in his thirties with light brown hair a shade paler than her own making his way across the drawing room. He walked with purpose, a smile on his faceâa very attractive man, she saw as he drew near.
Lindsey flicked a last glance toward the door, just to be certain she had actually seen Thor standing there. He reached up and tugged on his cravat as if it strangled him, and she knew without doubt it was he. Taller than any other man at the gathering, he was stunningly male, yet his features were so perfectly carved, his eyes so incredibly blue, the females in the room couldn't seem to look anywhere else.
Lindsey fought a shot of irritation.
For the first time, she realized she was holding her breath, and just as Lieutenant Harvey walked up, the air whooshed out of her lungs. She managed to compose herself, paste on a smile, and wait for the introductions to be made.
The lieutenant bent and kissed his mother's cheek. “I saw a friend and stopped for a moment to pay my respects. I hope I didn't keep you waiting.”
“Not a'tall.” She turned to Aunt Dee. “You've met Lady Ashton.”
“Why, yes.” He bowed over her hand. “A pleasure to see you, Countess.”
Mrs. Harvey turned her warm smile on Lindsey, who suddenly felt guilty using the woman to gain information. “And this is the young lady I spoke to you about, Miss Lindsey Graham. She writes for
Heart to Heart,
a fashionable ladies' magazine.”
He had the same warm smile as his mother. “I'm familiar with the paper. It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss Graham.”
“You, as well, Lieutenant Harvey.” They made polite conversation, spoke of the weather, discovered a few mutual friends. It seemed the Harveys were related to the Duke of Linfield, which gave the handsome lieutenant quite an acceptable pedigree.
Little by little, Aunt Dee led Mrs. Harvey deeper into the crowd, giving Lindsey the chance to speak to the lieutenant. Determined not to let her gaze stray to Thor, she approached the punch bowl on the policeman's arm. He fetched them both cups of the fruity drink, then found a couple of empty chairs for them to sit in along the wall.
“My mother says you are doing a research paper on police work. How may I be of help?”
She gave him what she hoped was a winning smile. “I am particularly interested in how the police handle the investigation of a crime. I am using the Covent Garden murders as an example. I was wondering how your department goes about collecting evidence and what sort of things they have discovered about the killings.”
He frowned. “A rather unpleasant topic for a young lady.”
She kept her gaze on his face. “Yes, it is. Unfortunately, I am also a journalist and at the moment our readers are extremely interested in the murders. I was hoping you would be willing to help.”
“I'm afraid the facts of the case, for the most part, are as yet unavailable to the public. Keeping the information confidential helps lead us to a suspect.”
“I see. Oh, I do wish I had my notepad. That in itself is interesting information.” She gave him a sugary smile, prayed he would be charmed and not revolted. Flirting wasn't really her forte, but she was desperate enough to try it. “I don't suppose there is a chance we could meet someplace for tea and discuss the matter further?”
He nodded, seemed to like the notion. “I imagine that could be arranged, though as I said, much of the information isn't for public consumption.”
“I understand, and I would be ever so grateful. There is a coffeehouse in Piccadilly not far from my officeâ¦The Pear Tree? It has a pleasant little outdoor seating area. Do you know it?”
“The Pear Tree. Yes, I believe I do. Say one o'clock?”
She flashed a smile wide enough to dimple her cheeksâif she
dimples, which unfortunately, she did not. “That would be lovely.”
They spoke a bit more and then the lieutenant returned her to her aunt. All the simpering and smiling had exhausted her and she was ready to go home. Instead Thor and Krista walked up just then. Thor was frowning, his nearly black eyebrows drawn together.
“Who was that man?”
“He is a police lieutenant named Michael Harvey. I was hoping to get information that might help my brother.”
“Not yet, but the lieutenant has agreed to meet me tomorrow. Perhaps thenâ”
“He was looking at you as if he wanted to eat you up.”
She shook her head. “You must be mistaken. The lieutenant was merely being polite.”
“It is clear he wants you and you encouraged him.”
The notion that a handsome man found her desirable pleased her, even if it probably wasn't true. She wasn't the typical, pale-haired English rose, nor voluptuous like Krista. That Thor believed it was somehow made it even better.
“I told you, I need information. Gaining his cooperation is important.”
Thor just grunted.
Lindsey turned her attention to Krista. “I thought Leif was coming with you.”
“He had a meeting. I had forgotten about it entirely.” She smiled at her brother-in-law. “Thor was kind enough to escort me.”
Lindsey looked up at him, into those blue, blue eyes, and told herself it was ridiculous the way her heart was beating. “You dressed up.”
He shrugged his powerful shoulders. “Krista said I had to.”
“You look veryâ¦nice.” Now there was an understatement. There wasn't a man in the room who could compare.
“Thank you.” His gaze ran over the pale green silk gown that rode low on her shoulders and the light brown curls clustered at the side of her neck. There was something in his eyes, something she had never seen there before. It made a little curl of heat slide into her stomach.
“You lookâ¦very pretty.”
“Thank youâ¦” she replied a bit breathlessly.
Aunt Dee started talking to Krista and from the corner of her eye, Lindsey caught sight of the lieutenant returning.
“I thought perhapsâif your card isn't fullâI might claim this dance.”
She loved to dance. And she needed his help. She gave him her dazzling smile. “I would be delighted.”
She didn't look at Thor but she could feel his disapproval as if it radiated from his pores. The music of a waltz began. Resting her gloved hand on the sleeve of the lieutenant's coat, she let him guide her toward the dance floor. Over the policeman's shoulder, she caught a glimpse of Thor. He was scowling just as she had imagined he would be.
Lindsey stiffened her spine. So what if she was flirting outrageously with a man? She was a woman. She had every right. What did the big brute know anyway?
More irritated than she should have been, she went into the lieutenant's arms. Keeping her eyes carefully fixed on his face, she smiled at him the entire duration of the waltz.
Thor stood in front of the mirror over the dresser in the bedroom of his flat in Half Moon Street. He had chosen the apartment so he could be near Green Park, an open, grassy area with flowers and trees and ponds, a place he could breathe fresh air and pretend he wasn't in the city.
He went there often. If it weren't well past midnight, he would go there now.
Staring at his reflection, he reached up and jerked the knot on his cravat, then tugged the long white cloth from around his neck. He shrugged out of the coat and waistcoat he had borrowed from his brother and released a sigh of relief.
Free at last.
Only for Krista would he wear layers of clothing he did not need. But Krista was Leif's wife and she had become a good friend. He would wear the clothes if it pleased her.
And though he hated to admit it, he had been worried about Lindsey.
Thor grumbled a curse in Old Norse, the language he had spoken on Draugr Island, the place that had been his home. The woman was nothing but trouble. Still, she was Krista's friend and he had come to feel protective of her.
He thought of her behavior tonight with the handsome policeman and a knot tightened in his stomach. He didn't like the way she had encouraged the man. He didn't like the way the policeman had looked at her.
It was foolish, he knew. Lindsey was too scrawny, too boyish to appeal to him. Still, when he had seen her in her green silk dress, when he had noticed the satin smoothness of her skin, the way the candlelight gleamed on her honey hair, his blood had quickened and he had hardened to the point of pain.
He should have stopped at the Red Door on his way home. Madame Fortier's women were beautiful and always willing to ease a man's needs. The buxom owner of the establishment wasn't really French, one of the ladies had told him, which he thought must be true, because the night he had spent in her bed her lusty cries had clearly been in English. He had intended to pay a call at her establishment tonight, but in the end had returned home instead. Now he regretted his decision.
He needed a woman, had for some time.
he told himself as he finished undressing and climbed into his big four-poster bed.
It was quiet in the apartment. Unlike Leif, he didn't have a lot of servants, just a housekeeper, a cook, and a chambermaid, and none of them lived in the flat. He didn't need a fancy valet or a butler. He had learned long ago to take care of himself.
Thor sighed into the darkness. The only thing he needed was the feel of soft skin pressed against him, the heavy weight of a woman's breast in his hands. His shaft stirred to life and he went hard. Desire burned into him with the force of a blaze. An image appeared of Lindsey, smiling as she danced with the handsome police lieutenant, moving with the grace of a swan.
Cursing himselfâand also cursing LindseyâThor tried in vain to fall asleep.
Lindsey awakened at first light. She had slept very well last night and felt energized and eager to get out of the house. As was her habit at least three times a week, she dressed in riding breeches, high black leather boots, and a riding coat, stuffed her hair up under a black billed cap, and headed for the stable.
One of her father's hobbies was raising Thoroughbred horses. He kept most of them at Renhurst Hall, the family estate in West Sussex, but the carriage horses as well as a number of saddle horses were stabled at the edge of Green Park, a few blocks from their residence in Mount Street.
Lindsey loved to ride, had been riding since she could walk. For propriety's sake, she rode sidesaddle, but given a choice she preferred to ride astride. She loved the sense of freedom, the feeling of superior control. Which meant she was forced to ride early before most Londoners were awake.