Announcing something new.
For Miss Phoebe Lockswell, fashionable London tea parties and balls aren’t her style. Instead, she prefers to tinker tirelessly with a clockwork diffuser she’s built from scratch. If only she can get the invention to work on command, she might earn her way out of an arranged marriage to a repugnant member of the House of Commons.
London watchmaker Mortimer Kidd was brought up hard in the arms of an infamous London gang. Despite the respectability he strives for now, the gang leader is blackmailing him. When Mortimer sees Phoebe’s diffuser, he thinks he’s found a way to buy himself out of trouble. The brash Phoebe manages to steal his heart, however, before he can purloin her invention.
Will Mortimer’s unsavory past catch up to him before he convinces Phoebe of his devotion? Worse, once Phoebe learns the truth, will she ever trust him again?
Phoebe pretended the landscape outside the train window held her attention, but it didn’t. Her gaze fixed instead on the reflection of the skulking reporter as he oozed down the aisle. His beady, searching gaze swept over the passengers. She knew he sought her out, had seen him at the Royal Mechanics Society Expo and done her best to avoid him. Of all the bad luck! How did we end up on the same train? She had no intention of becoming a building block for his journalistic ambitions.
Could be worse. Could be a friend of her father’s. On the other hand, if this journalist cornered her she knew “no comment” wouldn’t suffice. Respectable young ladies didn’t travel alone. She knew no other respectable young lady like herself, however. Maybe she should’ve asked Sally to accompany her. Oh, but if the press ever caught them together, a flurry of scandal would ensue. She’d find her name splashed across the gossip pages attached to the word harlot.
An old man coughed. A baby squealed. Neither one distracted the journalist.
Blast it! Phoebe dipped her head, to hide behind her hair, and stood. She pushed her way through the cramped car.
Oh dear God, if that man recognizes me there will be hell to pay! If her name ended up in print, her father would know she’d come to the Expo. If the reporter cornered her, would she be able to lie her way off the front page? Bad enough her intent in coming to Southend-on-Sea, bad enough she’d gone against her father’s wishes in the trip, but to see her rebellion splashed over the newspapers would be nigh unforgivable!
I hope he hasn’t seen me! She quickened her steps.
A door loomed before her and she slipped through it gratefully. Thinking she was safe, she pulled off the veiled hat hiding her chestnut hair—only to find herself standing on the tail end of the train, staring at a strange man. He blinked at her in surprise, a perplexed look on his angular face. A pair of screen-sided coal goggles covered his eyes, and he held an indigo blue bandana in his light, strong hands. For a moment, he said nothing, simply gaped at her as if she’d caught him at no good.
She laid a hand over her pounding heart. “Oh! Excuse me.”
“I say,” the man protested, “I … uh. Hello.”
“Hello.” She glanced back toward the door and bit her lip.
“I don’t advise jumping,” the man said. “Life is intolerable sometimes, but it’s not worth that.”
“What?” Phoebe said. “No. I took a wrong turn. I thought this was the ladies’ lounge.”
A mixture of amusement and relief crossed his features. “That’s one door back.”
She looked over her shoulder doubtfully. To go back in, though? She stamped her foot. “Oh bother! Well, you see, sir … the truth is, I’m a little worried someone might be following me.”
The man frowned, his gaze on the door. “Someone’s following you? We’ll see about that.”
He stuffed the bandana into the pocket of his gray jacket and took a step forward only to bump into her. Phoebe shifted backward, mumbling, “Excuse me.”
He smiled at her, his eyes laughing behind the gray-tinged lenses. “I can’t do anything to help you if you block the door.”
“Hiding won’t help?”
“Not for long, I daresay, Miss….”
“Locks—” No, that would never do. She couldn’t disclose her real name and risk any accompanying gossip. If her father found out about her day, he would blame her life’s work. The fog and coal dust causing a tickle, she cleared her throat. “Locksley.”
“Ah. A female Robin Hood, are you?” he teased. “My name’s Kidd.”
“Like the pirate?” She couldn’t believe his parents had given him such a famous name. But she knew stranger things had happened in life.
His lips twitched and she wondered, in amusement, or annoyance?
“Yes,” he said. “As to your shadow, I’m sure you’ve lost him.”
She shifted the hat in her hands to better hold her bag. “You think so?”
He wiggled a finger to the door behind her. “Shall I check if the coast is clear?”
If you’d like to check WATCHMAKER’S HEART
out, it’s up at Amazon
now. The paperback is forthcoming. I can’t wait to see this cover in full real life color!
I hope you will enjoy it! (Thanks, Suzanne G. Rogers
, for the beautiful cover.) For those of you waiting for the next Antique Magic
novel, I got the final edits back recently and I just have to get them in the computer. So, it’s coming… before Spring ends, I hope.