A life-long love of stories and adventure, it was either become a stuntwoman for the movies or live out those adventures from the safety of her PJ's and computer. Award-winning author, Robyn DeHart chose the latter and couldn't be happier for doing so. Known for her unique plotlines and authentic characters, Robyn is a favorite among readers and reviewers. Publishers' Weekly claims her writing to be "comical and sexy" while the Chicago Tribune dubs her "wonderfully entertaining." Robyn is an award-winning author as well as being a four-time RT Bookclub Reviewers' Choice award nominee, and a three-time RomCon Reader's Crown nominee. Robyn lives in Texas with her brainy husband, two precocious little girls and two spoiled cats. You can find Robyn on-line at her website or at one of her group blogs, the Jaunty Quills or Peanut Butter on the Keyboard.
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London, the Eighth of May, 1889
When she’d first moved into the cottage at the back of Lord Carrington’s estate, Mia Danvers had been told she could cut through the garden area to get to and from her home. She’d never done that, though, always preferring to walk along the stone wall that surrounded the property. Nearly every day for the past nine years, she’d walked beside the wall, trailing her fingers across cobbled surface, letting the familiar stones guide her home. Today, though, she desperately wished she’d taken the route through the Duke’s yard.
She sucked in her breath and tried to disappear into the shrubbery that sat between the wall and the alleyway. The cold stones behind her pressed into her back, chilling her skin beneath her heavy wool gown. Frigid rain dropped in slow rhythmic beats against her face and she forced her teeth to cease their chattering.
Not far from Mia’s hiding place, a girl whimpered on the alleyway. And beside that girl, a man chuckled, a gravelly deep laugh that raised the hairs on Mia’s arms.
“Please don’t hurt me,” the girl begged.
He whispered something, but Mia could not make out his words.
“No,” the girl whispered in return.
Mia tried to move, but found her arms and legs would not obey. She wanted to call out, do something, anything to save the girl from the man’s brutality, but fear pinned her in place. She squeezed her eyes shut, knowing that wouldn’t change anything. Eyes open or shut, it mattered not, she could not see either way.
But the rest of her worked perfectly. So perfectly that she could clearly hear every terrified exhale coming from the girl, smell the man’s cologne and the alcohol on his breath as it mixed with the icy rain. Feel the cold and the wet and the fear. She told her feet to move, wanting so badly to flee, but her muscles would not budge.
The rain intensified, coming down in angry slashes. Mia pressed her back hard into the stones behind her. Scared, ashamed and frozen in her hiding place.
“Please, no,” the girl’s voice raised to a fevered pitch.
“Open your eyes.” The man’s whisper was angry now and void of the harsh humor it had held before. “Let me see the fear.” His voice was coming out in raspy hisses.
Mia lost track of how long she stood there. The rain had soaked through her wool dress to her underthings below. Her hair was matted to her head and gooseflesh covered her body. Still she could not move. She wanted to yell at the man to stop his attack. But she couldn’t find her voice.
Fabric tore and the girl’s protests softened to weeping and Mia could only assume he’d ripped the girl’s dress apart.
“Oh God no, please no,” the girl’s voice was raspy with fear. “Please don’t cut me.”
“Cry,” the man said. “Beg me not to kill you.”
Mia tried to move forward, unsure of what she would do, just that she must try to stop him, but her dress snagged against the shrubs. She was pinned in place.
“Please, please.” The girl’s cries softened to whimpers and then a guttural sound followed by a horrid gurgle.
Mia knew it was the sound of a knife as it slashed through the girl’s flesh. Again and again.
He cut through the girl’s dress; Mia could hear the worn material give beneath the blade. And again the knife sliced into her skin, cracking against bone and making a vulgar sucking sound as it moved in and out of the poor girl’s body.
And then . . .
What was he doing? Had he seen her hiding against the wall? She thought she was well concealed behind the thick shrubs, but perhaps not. Oh, God. She held her breath, trying not to make even the slightest of sounds. Concentrating on the quiet, she strained to hear. Anything. But there was only quiet.
A moment later, he spat again, and said something vulgar. Then he took several steps, back in the direction of the way he’d come. Moving away from the body of the girl who had long since stopped crying. Stopped moving. Stopped breathing.
His footsteps came closer to Mia’s hiding place, getting louder with each movement, splashing into the potted holes of rain on the alley. She grabbed handfuls of her skirt, squeezed tightly. A match struck and then he took a long drag on a cigarette. The acrid smell of blood and tobacco merged and filled her nose. And something else, something she couldn’t put a name to—his smell. She flinched and prayed he’d walk faster.
He stopped walking, took another long drag on his cigarette. Then he walked away. Whistling.
Mia stood there until she could no longer hear his footsteps. Then she waited some more, long enough for the rain to slow to a trickle. She clenched her teeth to keep them from chattering and knew she could not stay in the bushes forever. She might have been warned from going to the Duke’s estate, but tonight there would be an exception because Lord Carrington needed to know what had happened on his property.
She yanked at her skirts where the shrub held her in place and heard the fabric give way. Swiftly, she moved away from the shrubs, being careful to stay on the grass, to avoid the stone path where the girl’s body lay. She took a few steps to ensure her feet were steady, her legs not too weak, and then she took off in a dead run. The grass was slick beneath her worn slippers and her toes burned from the cold, but she would not let herself stop. It mattered not that the stone tore at her fingers as her hand slid against the wall, ensuring her she was going in the right direction.
Her ragged breath and the ground crunching beneath her feet were the only sounds. Still she ran. It wouldn’t be too much longer before she rounded the corner of the wall and entered the front lawn of Lord Carrington’s London estate.
A carriage rolled down the street. Mia’s heart pounded, the sound reverberating in her ears. Footsteps behind her. Her foot slipped.
She would not stop, could not stop, moving forward.
Excerpt from The Secrets of Mia Danvers ©2013 by Robyn DeHart. All rights reserved.
A lone witness finds her protector...
Since losing her sight in a childhood accident, Mia Danvers has resided in a small cottage on the vast Carrington estate. Thought to be dead, Mia lives a life of virtual seclusion—until one night, while walking home, she happens upon a horrendous crime.
Alex Foster, Eighth Duke of Carrington, lives according to society’s expectations for him. He’s never met the woman who lives in the cottage at the edge of his property. But when she arrives at his door in the pouring rain terrified and claiming she has witnessed a murder, she seizes his attention.
Mia is determined to help the authorities track down the culprit, even though the only person willing to accept her aid is the handsome, arrogant duke. Working closely together proves difficult as Mia’s beauty and independence tempts Alex to ignore convention and follow his desire. But what neither of them know is that this murderer has struck before in Whitechapel, taunting the British press only to vanish—a ruthless killer who knows that Mia is the only living witness to his crime…
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