Christmas Secrets of the Soho Club
(Eight Regency Novellas)
By popular demand The Case of the Black Diamond Part I is being released as a standalone romance mystery novella in September 2022
In Part II of The Case of the Black Diamond, it's Ada Ryan, actress and famed beauty, who finds herself caught up in her sister Claire's intrigues. Ada's sister works for the new (and estranged) Queen Caroline. Felix works alongside Claire and is far too attractive for a mere valet. Ada has a decision to make regarding her future - and it isn't practical to indulge her affection for Felix.
Felix poses as a valet to learn from his mentor, who spies for the new King George IV. He's currently trying to solve a murder and uncover a suspected conspiracy. Part of this work involves protecting Ada Ryan, one of the most attractive and talented women in London. He can't allow himself to become distracted by a woman who is pursued by more than just the peerage - for the plot against the king is no mere rumour, and Ada Ryan is not safe. He'd best keep her close then...if she'll allow him.
Your Steamy Taster...
Ada shook her head, determined to forget the firm, gentle press of Mr Felix's lips on hers. It didn’t make sense for hard up actresses to kiss valets, even if they did taste sweeter than an earl’s champagne. The night air cooled the beginnings of heat in her cheeks. It didn’t make sense for an actress to blush off-cue either.
A man’s voice came from the shadows. “You’re late, Miss Ryan.”
“Oh!” Ada clapped her palm to her lips as a familiar shape stepped out of the parfumerie doorway.
“Mr Felix, you startled me!”
“Accustom yourself to this fact, Miss Ryan: I’m charged with your safety, and your sister’s.”
The dimple he’d sported while watching her on stage was absent.
Nevertheless, the man proffered his usual bouquet of blue roses. “You left these in your dressing room, Miss Ryan.” Mr Felix’s tone was clipped.
“I left them on purpose,” Ada admitted.
Oh dear, is he offended? She swallowed as though she could draw heat from her cheeks to her gut. His fist still clutched his bouquet. Blue roses were both unique and impossible. Impossible and impractical.
Pragmatism demanded the truth: her security lay with an earl or a duke, not this man. Ada took her flowers at last, feeling like a chastised thief, though she’d stolen nothing and broken no agreement.
“How many times must I request you not loiter outside my apartments, Mr Felix?”
“It has long ceased to amuse me as well, Miss Ryan.”
He’s definitely offended.
“And I do not loiter.” Mr Felix pointed out. “I am required to escort you home each evening. Your revue ended hours ago.”
Oh that’s scolding. Anger sparked – if Mr Felix knew the earl pursued Ada as his next mistress, then he must know she’d not agreed. Ada sniffed, tossing her head. “The earl’s carriage is new and most luxurious. He offered me a seat tonight.”
“Lord Lindsey’s carriage is a safer transport.” Felix replied evenly.
“A carriage ride is no more contract than a kiss,” she retorted coolly, taking proper consolation in his loud ‘Ha!’
Ada glared as best she could in the dim light.
“A man who impersonates his employer to gain my kiss is scarcely trustworthy, Mr Felix.”
“Miss Ryan—.” Her companion stepped forward into the beam of streetlight. Ada saw his attire properly, taking in his workman’s breeches and worn jacket.
“I see you’re in costume again. It’s poorly done if you’re to pass as anything at all.” Ada shrugged as though she didn’t care. “Who are you this evening, then?”
He flinched, and she wished his jaw less angled, his waist less trim. “I’m not at liberty to discuss this, Miss Ryan.”
He sounded truly regretful, but Ada had had her fill of pretense this night. She turned toward her door.
“Then you have your secret business, Mr Felix, and I have mine.”
“And all of London knows it, when you accept closed carriage rides from such as Hertfordshire.” He responded fiercely.
How dare he? Ada turned back, staring at the man she’d kissed five weeks ago, remembering the way he held her safely in his arms, her heart drumming against her ribcage. Much as it was doing now. She forced her stare into a glare so he knew his offense. She must be offended – why else her racing heartbeat? The earl’s moustaches did not elicit this response. This is maddening.
“This isn’t the first time I’ve ridden with a man,” she retorted and could have bitten out her tongue. The look on his handsome face was devastating – as though she’d cut him with Claire’s throwing knives, or shot him through the chest.
“Good evening, Miss Ryan.” He bowed. “I’ll report you’ve arrived home safely.”
Tasting regret, Ada stared as he turned into the shadows. Affected hauteur was one thing; cruelty was another. I can’t leave it like this. Nor would her pride allow an apology. Bollocks.
She sighed inwardly. “Mr Felix.”
“Must I endure your escort to rehearsals tomorrow?”
“I’m under orders, Miss Ryan.” Mr Felix bowed again, stepping backward into darkness.
Ada watched his tense walk to the corner. This kissable man did not turn back.