Extract: The Road To Ruin

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Adelaide Hills resident Bronwyn Stuart works a checkout by day but by night she can be found caressing the keyboard on the tool of her trade. Bronwyn is on the eve of her first hard copy release, with multiple digital releases already to her name. The author also made her television debut this week, sharing a segment on Today Tonight with bestselling author Trish Morey.

The Road To Ruin is available December 1st and we have a little teaser here to whet your appetite.


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Extract from The Road To Ruin by Bronwyn Stuart

(Chapter One)

What the devil was she up to now?
They had to be in the worst part of London’s seedy wharves and warehouses. The stink of rotten fish mingled with the even ranker filth flowing down the edges of the street. James Trelissick flexed his fingers and then clenched them again, the urge to block his nostrils almost too much. ‘Are you sure this is the address, miss?’
Her uncovered head leaned through the open window of the closed carriage beneath him and James had to fight an even stronger impulse to whip the horses until they were far away. Vibrant red hair and a fair complexion turned the spoiled young woman into a beacon. At least she’d had sense enough to don a dark cloak over her evening gown, although even a fool half blind and deep in his cups would note her station.
‘Your job is not to question, John,’ she reminded him.
James bit his tongue and held the pair still while his quarry opened her own door and stepped lightly to the blackened ground. It wouldn’t do to remind her once again that his name was James
or that she should wait until he opened the door for her. Propriety was not something Miss Germaine would be able to learn at the age of one-and-twenty. You either had it, or you didn’t. She did not. He saved his breath and concentrated on the matter at hand.
His military-honed instincts rose to full alert as a shuffle from the right was accompanied by boot heels clicking against cobbles from the left. He should never have brought her to the address she gave him, not in a thousand years, but he couldn’t refuse without revealing his true identity.
‘I will be some time inside, so you may drive around the corner and wait for me there.’
‘Not bloody likely,’ James told her, biting his tongue too late.
‘I beg your pardon?’ she hissed, her wild green eyes checking the shadows all around.
‘I’m not going anywhere without you.’ He added as an afterthought, ‘Miss.’
‘You will do as you’re told.’
Inclining his head in her direction, James gave the horses a gentle flick with the ancient leather and the carriage moved off quietly, though the clamour of alarm bells in his mind was surely loud enough for even his stubborn mistress to hear. He should have taken her over his knee and spanked some sense into her. If she’d been his sister, he would have her locked in a room with padded walls and declared a bedlamite to keep her from self-inflicted harm.
Once around the corner, not even moving his head in the slightest to look back, James stopped the carriage, tied the reins tight and jumped to the ground. He hit hard but did not pause. As he rounded the back, he rapped two short sharp knocks against the luggage compartment.
‘Shite.’ His man popped out of the compartment and swung his dirt-stained face left and then right. ‘What the hell is she doing now?’
James shook his head and lifted his woollen cap to rake a hand through his hair. ‘I have no idea but you can bet it isn’t good. Watch the horses; don’t move from this spot but be ready to flee as soon as I say the word.’
He didn’t wait for Hobson’s nod or reply. His man would know what to do.
As he ran back to the warehouse his mistress-for-the-moment was intent on entering, he transferred a pistol from his pocket to his hand then pulled his ragged coat sleeve over the weapon.
At some stage he would need to use it, of that he was sure. Trouble didn’t so much follow Daniella Germaine as she was the trouble herself.
Peering around corners and down dark alleyways, no sound met his ears and no other person came forwards. He found the door to the leaning warehouse and slowed to an unsteady walk when he saw two burly men standing guard.
‘Evenin’, gentlemen,’ James said in a servant’s accent.
‘What do you want? You got no business ’ere.’ The one on the left puffed his chest out and took a step in James’s direction.
‘The mistress, she told me to come back and assist her.’
The two eyed him dubiously and James hoped like hell he’d said the right thing. ‘Come on,’ he whined impatiently, ‘she’ll ’ave me ’ide if I’m not in there yest’dee.’
Finally they nodded and opened the door. James held onto his sigh of relief until he’d walked over the threshold but choked on it when the scene inside rushed to greet him.
Nearby stood a crowd of men joking, laughing, chatting. In front of them, beneath the sloping, decrepit roof, a stage of sorts with a roped-off pen had been erected and topped with an auctioneer’s podium. From what he could gather, the crowd were gentlemen, and in their midst lingered Miss Germaine, the bane of his existence and the answer to his many dilemmas. She stood in a dirty warehouse in a gown worth hundreds, surrounded by only men and filth, looking as calm as if she were in her brother’s drawing room.

© Bronwyn Stuart 2014

Extracted from Road To Ruin by Bronwyn Stuart, published by Harlequin Mira Australia, available December 2014.

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