12 April 2012

Excerpt Thursday: Someone to Cherish by Kate Rothwell

This week on Excerpt Thursday, we're welcoming historical romance author Kate Rothwell, (who also writes as Summer Devon). Her title, SOMEONE TO CHERISH, (formerly published as The Rat Catcher) features a heroine down on her luck in 19th-century New York City.  Join us Sunday, when Kate be here to talk about the novel and give away a copy. Here's the blurb:

The death of Callie Scott’s fashionable father left her with nothing—except an inquisitive mind not even her grandmother’s puritanical upbringing could quash. An adventurous spirit doesn’t help the sheltered young lady in 1884 New York City, and she must accept an abysmal position as a companion.

Things are looking up when she lands a trial job in a “special” library. Her benefactor’s offer of wine before noon should have signaled something amiss—not to mention the heated text she’s asked to translate. The more she reads, the more wine she needs to cool her blush.

Detective Cutter can’t quite place the tipsy young woman he encounters in a notorious brothel, but when she plants a dizzying kiss on his lips, he’s sure she doesn’t belong there. The resulting scandal of the police raid leaves Callie on the street, and Cutter feels responsible for her welfare.

Despite the cruel knowledge that he will never be part of her world, Cutter impulsively offers her a job in his home, where she turns out to possess more than the face of an angel. She has an irresistible, innocent sensuality—and an insatiable curiosity that could bring her one step too close to a murderer.

**An Excerpt from Someone To Cherish**

The three-story brownstone lay not far from Gramercy Square. Not at all the sort of residence one expected a police officer could afford. She supposed that the house had been carved into apartments and that explained the matter. She'd heard mutterings from Mrs. Lucien about how the old neighborhoods were dying and the best residences were being built further and further uptown.
Officer Cutter answered the door. She tried not to stare, but he was dressed in blue trousers, shirtsleeves, no jacket or waistcoat, with his suspenders showing. He had his sleeves pushed up to reveal strong forearms that had discernable brown hair on them. His collar was gone and she could see the dip at the base of his throat.
Callie was not used to seeing men in dishabille. Her face grew hot and she stared at the floor.
"Come on," he said. He must have seen her discomfort for he rolled down his shirtsleeves and when she felt brave enough to look up, he grinned at her. Oh, goodness. She'd forgotten how his grin transformed his features to an almost puckish intelligence. Her face grew so hot she wondered how she could see through the red haze.
He took a step back and she realized she still stood on the doorsill.
"I won't hurt you," he said mildly.
"No, of course not. I didn't think you would." Her nervousness made her sound waspish. Hardly the way to begin a working relationship with an employer.
"I, er, assumed you did not mind Mauschen?" She shifted the dog under her arm forward for his inspection.
"Suppose not."
"She's not very active."
He eyed the dog doubtfully. "Sure she's still alive?"
"Usually. Sometimes I feel I should check her breathing." Callie smiled, grateful that the peculiar tension between them had eased. "She is content, I hope."
He led her through the high-ceilinged room on the first floor and she was struck by the odd contrast. She caught sight of elegant molding, huge windows, a marble fireplace but she only had glimpses because so many things cluttered the space. A stuffed blue jay perched on a pedestal next to an iron, which lay on top of a cracked firescreen, next to a stack of books near an empty elaborate wrought-iron cage of some sort. A path was cleared through the haphazard stacks of objects, but she still had to step over a dusty belljar.
"Granny," he explained. "A collector, or was."
"I see." Callie disengaged her skirt that caught on the spindle of a broken chair. "Er. Why?"
He rubbed his chin."I'd best explain. Come on."
They threaded their way through the stacks and piles to the kitchen that felt huge because it was nearly empty.
"Her stuff's only in two rooms," he said. "Want coffee? Tea?"
"Coffee, please." She wondered if she should offer to make it, but realized she had no idea how to brew coffee.
As Officer Cutter turned the handle to grind the beans, he spoke. "Granny's eccentric. Suspicious of most people. Happiest going through rubbish. Was doing that when I met her."
"When you met her? But I thought..."
Before she could think of a polite way of phrasing it, he shook his head. "Naw. Ain't my real Granny. Don't have one." He pulled out the drawer from the mill and dumped the coffee into the pot. His motions were clean and deft, as if he made hundreds of pots of coffee every day.
"You were saying," she prompted.
He gave her an impassive look. "She lived in a pit--a basement. Rags and bones. I changed it slow, so she wouldn't notice. Always been... eccentric. She's sick now. So. That's all. If she takes to you, I'll pay five dollars a week. And room and board."
Callie gasped. "That's far too generous."
"Not if she's safe. Might not work. I've tried before." He rubbed his knuckle over his upper lip. She'd seen him do that before. It brought back the confused frightful feeling she'd had that day in the library. She'd wanted to feel that lip too. Oh, goodness, please not another blush, but she could feel the heat rise.
He didn't seem to notice. "Hmmm. Pretend you're related. Or a friend, come to call. Maybe a lady's companion." He smirked slightly, no doubt recalling her recent past. "Yah. Could work. She might be used to it. I think she's from your world."
"My world?"
"Money." He plunked down two mismatched cups on the table with no saucers. "Respectable. She wasn't always a trash picker."
"But she was when you met her." Callie wondered if she would risk rudeness if she pressed him about Granny's past, or his own.
Apparently he wasn't going to volunteer more.
He poured out the coffee and sat down across from her at the small table. How large he seemed. And every time she snuck a peek at him, he was watching her with those steady blue eyes. The same thoughtful examination he'd given her in Panz's library. One corner of his mouth quirked up into a grin and she realized she'd been staring at him as she tried to remember exactly what that kiss had been like.
"Willing to try?"
Heaven help her. For the briefest moment she wondered if he meant another kiss. "Yes, please, I would like to see if I can take care of your, um, Granny."