Delaney and the Autumn Masque
Series: Victorian Holiday Hearts #4
Authors: Bonnie Dee & Summer Devon
Publication date: October 3, 2016
Length: 75 pages
Victorian Holiday Hearts
Four seasons, four novellas about one theatrical family.
They were the source of entertainment in a world without movies or television. Magic, singing and dancing, acting—the adopted and biological sons the Andrews family could do it all. And in the warmth of their eccentric and large family circle, they could be anyone they wanted or love whomever they wished. In a world where men loving men was a crime, the Andrews and their friends had their own support for true love.
Simon and the Christmas Spirit https://amzn.com/B017QUW2ES
Will and the Valentine Saint https://amzn.com/B01A5OAAOQ
Mike and the Spring Awakening https://amzn.com/B01C6BULU4
And thanks to Meredith for letting us introduce the cover of our last Victorian Holiday Hearts story:
Delaney and the Autumn Masque https://amzn.com/B01KY0UXEI
Bartholomew picked up the greasy deck of cards. They were sticky but he managed to do a few tricks that didn’t involve special decks. He put them down and decided to use a coin. That was easier to use when doing the basic tricks of vanishing and conjuring objects. He quickly went through his small repertoire, feeling silly, as if he were a child showing off school room drawings to a member of the Royal Academy of Art.
“You’re fast enough and you do fairly good distraction,” Andrews said. “But to take diamonds from a lady’s ear? That takes even more--”
He interrupted. “I don’t think I need to do that, I mean not right away. Oh, I say, how would it be if you removed my cufflinks for instance?” He hoped it sounded as if he’d only just come up with the idea. But Delaney gave him a sharp suspicious frown and held his gaze. “Come now, sir, tell me why you’d want me to do that?” He pushed forward and brushed his hand over Bartholomew’s coat sleeve.
A gentle touch. Oh Lord, Bartholomew’s heart sped fast and he had trouble drawing breath.
Did he recognize him at last? Was this the moment Delaney leaned close and put his mouth on his and drew him into a real embrace?
But then Delaney held up a closed fist. When he opened it, Bartholomew’s plain silver cufflinks taken from his shirtsleeves lay on his palm.
He couldn’t help it, Bartholomew applauded.
“And my jacket is tightly fitted,” he said.
“I noticed,” Andrews said. He wore that cocky grin that made Bartholomew’s heart beat almost as fast as his touch.
Not a swooning young lady, he reminded himself. He held out his hands for the cufflinks.
“Allow me,” Andrews said and gave his wrist a tug.
It wasn’t Bartholomew’s imagination. Those deft fingers ran along his wrist, the sensitive skin over his pulse. If Andrews didn’t want anyone to feel his touch, he wouldn’t. So that had to mean Andrews deliberately allowed the backs of his fingers to rest on Bartholomew’s skin, to delicately brush him and raise the small hairs of his lower arm and. . .
“Did we come to terms?” Andrews said. He moved away and Bartholomew was surprised to see his cufflinks back in place.
“Eh? What?” He cleared his throat. “What?” Oh very adroit speech, Bartholomew. Very smooth indeed.
“Do you agree to pay me a full three quid to learn three tricks?”
“Which tricks do you have in mind?”
Andrews stared off into the hanging lamp for a long minute as if debating what to answer then he shrugged. “I can teach you to remove a lady’s earrings, to remove gentleman’s cufflinks and to pick a man’s pocket.”
“Yes.” He had the money from Clara. And not only would it be worth learning the skills to thwart Russell, it meant that he could indulge in his new favorite hobby, standing near Delaney Andrews and enjoying the sight of the man, the scent of him, the way his smile lit his bright green-brown eyes. .
“You already know the first thing you must do is distract your audience’s attention.” He inched even closer so the heat of his body seemed to touch Bartholomew with a phantom embrace.
Bartholomew grew dizzy—and realized he’d forgotten to breathe for too long. He sucked in a lungful of air and drew in more of Andrews. He might be smaller than Bartholomew but his presence enveloped and overwhelmed the room and everything in it, most especially Bartholomew. The sight, the scent, the presence of the man held more power than Bartholomew had felt before. It was a magic he didn’t know.
He backed away, put up his hands and closed his eyes. He must think.
“Are you ill?” Andrews sounded mocking. “Are you not fond of small places? Of being too close to another man?”
Bartholomew might be slightly dazzled in his presence but he understood. Andrews had recognized him. Likely the man had known him from the first. Why had he been pretending otherwise? Bartholomew opened his eyes. “You know who I am.”
“You are Bartholomew Bancroft. You introduced yourself already.”
“No. You know who I am.” He stepped forward and saw a flash of something--a challenge perhaps—in those eyes. It gave Bartholomew confidence. “You couldn’t have forgotten of course, since it was only last night.”
Andrews licked his lips. His steady gaze fell for a moment. He seemed afraid or unsure—and perhaps that was why he had hidden. Bartholomew’s pique vanished at once.
“I wouldn’t tell anyone,” Bartholomew said softly and when he took another step, his body came up against Andrews’s. “I am not such a cad to do such a thing.”
“No kissing and telling for Death?”
There, out in the open at last. “Never. I will be silent as the grave.”
Andrews groaned. “That was a terrible joke.” But he smiled and raised his hands and touched Bartholomew’s cheek and his jaw. “Did you know you are quite beautiful?”
That was the very last thing he expected to hear. “Uh. No. Thank you,” he managed. “You too.”
Andrews laughed and pulled his face down to his. His kiss instantaneously lit Bartholomew. He reached out and grabbed Andrews and hauled him up against him--waiting another second would be too long.
And the way his magician wrapped himself around him made it clear Bartholomew wasn’t the only one who had been thinking of their embraces.
About the Authors
Summer Devon is the pen name historical romance writer Kate Rothwell often uses. Whether the characters are male or female, human or dragon, Summer’s books are always romance.
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NY Times and USA Today Bestselling Author
I enjoy reading stories about people damaged by life who find healing with a like-minded soul. When I couldn't find enough books to suit my taste, I began to write them.
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