Table of Contents
“A mysterious lady, bent on revenge, and a mystery-solving Lord will take you on a thrilling ride through Regency England in this smashing debut novel.”
—Victoria Thompson, author of
Murder on Sisters’ Row
“Have a seat, monsieur,” snapped Arianna, indicating the lone stool at one end of the steel-scarred length of maple. She set aside the fillet blade and took up a paring knife. “While I peel and dice the carrots.”
“No amanita mushrooms?” he said softly.
The reference to the deadly poisonous species took her aback.
Good God, did the man actually have a sense of humor?
Arianna grunted in reply. “Zees may be a joke to you, sir, but it eez my reputation at stake.”
“Not to speak of your life.”
She felt herself blanch, but remained silent.
Perching a hip on the stool, Saybrook watched her scoop up a handful of the vegetables and begin trimming off the tops. “You have the hands of an artist, Monsieur Alphonse,” he remarked, shifting his gaze to the heavy steel blades and graters arrayed around him and then back again. “One would not expect such fine-boned fingers to wield the tools of your trade with quite so much skill.”
Her throat seized and Arianna didn’t dare try to speak, fearing a feminine squeak would give her away. At this distance, the darkness of his eyes appeared due to the telltale dilation of his pupils—Mr. De Quincy clearly imbibed a goodly amount of laudanum to ease his pain. But apparently the drug had not dulled the sharpness of his wits.
She must not make the mistake of underestimating him. She had made too many errors already.
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First published by Obsidian, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, April 2011
Copyright © Andrea DaRif, 2011
All rights reserved
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eISBN : 978-1-101-51364-4
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for John R. Ettinger
A book is much like one of Lady Arianna’s delectable chocolate confections—it requires the perfect ingredients, much chopping and stirring, followed by carefully calibrated heat to emerge from the oven with just the right crunch and texture.
Several “chefs” have added their expertise to my own efforts and I wish to raise a cooking spoon in salute!
Gail Fortune, my agent extraordinaire, deserves much credit for helping me concoct the mixture of chocolate and mystery. I’m incredibly “fortunate” to be working with such an amazing talent. . . .
John R. Ettinger, a dear friend and brilliant intellect (honestly, who else would admit to having a “favorite” mathematician!), was kind enough to spend hours giving me a crash course in basic economic theory. Any errors in logic are the fault of the chardonnay and my own feeble brain. . . .
Sandy Harding, my wonderful editor, offered much sage advice in polishing the final manuscript, and patiently helped me untangle myself from various plot twists.
To all of you, I am profoundly grateful.
“Sweet is revenge—especially to women. . . .”
—George Gordon Byron
(CANTO I, ST. 124)
From the chocolate notebooks of Dona Maria Castellano
How fascinating! I recently discovered an old Spanish missionary’s journal in a Madrid bookstore and found a number of references to chocolate among his writings. According to him, ancient Aztec legend has it that the cacao tree was brought to Earth by their god Quetzalcoatl, who descended from heaven on the beam of a morning star after stealing the precious plant from paradise. No wonder that the spicy beverage made from its beans was called the Drink of the Emperor. It is said that this xocoatl or chocolatl was so revered that it was served in golden goblets that were thrown away after one use. . . .
⅔ cup heavy cream
8 ounces 60% dark chocolate
2½ tablespoons dark rum
¼ teaspoon fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1. Heat cream in saucepan on medium heat until steaming. Remove from heat and add dark chocolate, stirring until melted. When mixture cools to room temperature, add rum and lime juice. Refrigerate until firmly chilled.
2. Form 1-inch balls from the chilled mixture using a melon baller, teaspoon, or your hands. Roll in unsweetened cocoa powder.
3. Store in airtight container between layers of waxed paper.
he scent of burnt sugar swirled in the air, its sweetness melting with the darker spice of cacao and cinnamon. Candles flickered, the tiny tongues of flame licking out as the footman set the plate on the dining table.
“Ahhhh.” The gentleman leaned down and inhaled deeply, his fleshy face wreathing in a sybaritic smile. “Why, my dear Catherine, it smells . . . good enough to eat.”
Laughter greeted the bon mot.
“Oh, indeed it is, poppet. I’ve had my chef create it specially for you.” The heavily rouged lady by his side parted her lips, just enough to show a peek of teeth. “And only you.”
“How delicious.” Plumes of pale smoke floated up toward the painted ceiling and slowly dissolved in the shadows. His lazy, lidded gaze slid past the glittering silver candelabra and took in the empty place settings of the other half dozen guests. “And what, may I ask, is it?”
“Chocolate,” he echoed, sounding a little puzzled. “But—”
chocolate,” explained Catherine. “A new innovation, fresh from Paris. Where, as you know, the French have refined sumptuous indulgence to an art form in itself.” She lowered her voice to a sultry murmur. “Aren’t you tempted to try it?”