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Authors: A Case for Romance

Katie Rose

BOOK: Katie Rose
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THE START OF SOMETHING UNHOLY

“Well, well, if it isn’t Miss Potter,” Thomas said, his voice clearly laced with laughter.

He sat knee-deep in a large copper bathtub, the picture of utter contentment. Suds floated around his legs, and shaving cream covered his chin. The barber had apparently been prepared to give him a shave while he soaked in the hot water.

“Why … I …” Emily stuttered, her face getting warm. She could feel the color rising in her cheeks as she realized that she was facing a very naked and very amused man of the cloth! She was acutely aware of his lean masculine form, glistening with soap, his muscles providing enticing little curves and valleys for droplets of water to trace. Emily swallowed hard, then tore her eyes away, aware that she was staring, but not before she saw the knowing twinkle in the wretched preacher’s blue eyes.

“I can explain …”

“Yes, please do,” Thomas said, biting on his pencil-thin cigar, obviously enjoying every minute of her discomfort, “I’d like to hear that myself.”

A Case for Romance is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

A Loveswept eBook Edition

Copyright © 1999 by Katie Rose
Excerpt from All is Fair by Linda Cajio © 1986 by Linda Cajio.

Excerpt from Bad to the Bone by Debra Dixon copyright © 1996 by Debra Dixon.

Excerpt from Rescuing Diana by Linda Cajio copyright © 1987 by Linda Cajio.

All Rights Reserved.

Published in the United States by Loveswept, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

LOVESWEPT and colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.

A Case for Romance was originally published in paperback by Bantam Fanfare, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. in 1999.

Cover design: Derek Walls

eISBN: 978-0-307-79877-0

www.ReadLoveSwept.com

For Erin, who loves Emily and Sherlock Holmes
as much as I do.
Thank you for your patience with my bad socks,
annoying songs, and the endless hours
at the computer.
You truly are the light of my life
.

Contents
Acknowledgments

Special thanks to: Stephanie Kip, for her help and enthusiasm, Karen Solem, for her guidance and support, Linda Cajio, for her help and laughter, and Marlene, who lent me my first Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Special thanks to the Camden County Library in Voorhees for their research help.

1
The World’s Second Consulting Detective

Colorado, April 1, 1894

“Excuse my rudeness,” said Sherlock Holmes. “You broke the thread of my thoughts, but perhaps it is as well. So you actually were not able to see that that man was a sergeant of marines?”

“No, indeed,” Dr. Watson said.

“It was easier to know it than to explain why I know it. If you were asked to prove that two and two made four, you might find some difficulty, and yet you are quite sure of the fact. Even across the street I could see a great blue anchor tattooed on the back of the fellow’s hand. That smacked of the sea. He had a military carriage, however, and regulation side whiskers. There we have the
marine. He was a man with some amount of self-importance and a certain air of command. You must have observed the way in which he held his head and swung his cane. A steady, respectable, middle-aged man, too, on the face of him—all facts which led me to believe that he had been a sergeant.”

“Wonderful!” I ejaculated.

“Commonplace,” said Holmes.

Emily Potter closed the dog-eared copy of the
Strand
amid the rumbling of the stagecoach, and sank back into the seat with a smile of satisfaction. Along with Holmes, she, too, had figured out the mystery long before everyone else, but it was enjoyable just watching the story play itself out. Her reading glasses slid down her nose, and she pushed them back into place, ignoring the odd glances she received from the other stagecoach passengers. Besides herself, there were two women, a businessman, a cowboy who smelled suspiciously of whiskey, and a preacher. Although it couldn’t possibly matter, Emily noticed that the preacher was undeniably handsome, with piercing blue eyes and indecently long lashes. He seemed preoccupied with the landscape that whizzed by the coach window. Putting the book aside, she felt the familiar surge of disappointment that the tale was over.

Emily sighed. She hated that her active mind no longer had anything to occupy it. Like her great-aunt Esther, who painted nudes and was admittedly the family eccentric, Emily simply marched to a different
tune than most women. Give her a puzzle, a problem, the most intricate enigma or most obscure crime, and she was in her element. From her earliest memories, she had been obsessed with mysteries, devouring them like candy as she helped her mother in the millinery business. While other girls shopped, went to dances, called on each other and gossiped, Emily read every kind of mystery she could find. She knew all of Poe, memorized Doyle, despised Gaboriau, and adored Vidocq. When that wasn’t enough, she alarmed her mother by voraciously following the daily papers, marking the local murders in ink and poring over the details of each case. She often gave the police information about the crimes, even though they dismissed her help with fatherly smiles. Yet Emily never doubted that she would one day convince them of her methods and win their respect.

But Emily had just turned sixteen when her mother died, and thereafter she had less free time to track the activities of the criminal element. The millinery shop was still successful, so Emily continued the business, propping her beloved books between hats and feeding her habit secondhand. The books almost sufficed, but were never really enough. She longed to be like Holmes, to awaken her counterpart in the middle of the night and whisper, “Come, Watson, come! The game is afoot!”

A rustle came from the bag on the floor of the stagecoach, disturbing her thoughts. Reaching down, Emily’s glasses slid to the tip of her sharp nose as she scooped inside the bag to pull out a black-and-white cat. Dr. Watson mewed contentedly, although he was
tangled up in laces and yarn, thread, and artificial cherries.

“Silly cat.” Emily smiled fondly, disentangling the feline. Fascinated with the mess, the cat swiped at the dangling threads, ignoring his mistress’s attempts to remove them. Much of the millinery business was easily transportable, everything fitting neatly into her bag, but trimmings didn’t necessarily mix well with a cat. Yet Emily wouldn’t dream of going anywhere without her precious feline.

Glancing up, she saw the preacher watching her again. He turned his face away, but not before a strange little flutter began inside of her. Emily frowned. This man of God had the strangest effect on her! Surely he was just as bored as everyone else, and only looking at her to pass the time. Satisfied with this logical explanation, she placed the now string-free kitten in her lap and forced her thoughts back to the reason for her trip.

If anyone had told her a year ago that she would be making this journey out West, orphaned and un-chaperoned, she would have examined them with her magnifying lens in disbelief. But she couldn’t have known then that after her mother quietly passed away, she would feel a wretched loneliness. Nor could she have guessed that several years later, the death of her long-lost father would leave her with a house in Colorado with a mystery attached. Excitement coursed through her as she fished the attorney’s letter out of her bag. This was a good time to refresh herself of the facts. Shaking aside the
millinery materials, she opened the missive and scanned it once more.

It grieves me to inform you that your father has passed away. He has bequeathed all of his property and holdings to you, his daughter, in the hope of making reparation for his neglect of you in life
.

Emily’s nose wrinkled. She really hadn’t known her father. He’d left when she was very young, to make his fortune in the West. Unlike her mother, a romantic who’d always clung to the hope that he’d come back for her, Emily had been quite sure they would never see him again. So while his final parting stirred some small emotion inside her, it wasn’t nearly as heart wrenching as it might have been. She continued reading.

He left you a property, a house on the outskirts of Denver. It is a handsome place, white clapboard with majestic columns, much like the old plantation homes. It has ten rooms, five fireplaces, and a parlor. The house is also fitted with indoor plumbing, something your father installed himself
.

However, I strongly suggest that you liquidate the estate. The West is no place for a woman on her own, especially a gentlewoman like yourself. I can put the house up for sale, although you won’t get one-tenth of what it’s
worth. Shangri-La, as your father called it, is not an attractive property due to its reputation. In addition to its original purpose, which is unmentionable to decent folk, your father met his unfortunate end there, along with his female companion, Rosie. Rumors that the place is haunted abound, and no one in town will go near the house. With your permission, then, I’ll list the property. Perhaps I can find an out-of-towner, who doesn’t know about the murders.…

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