Historical Romance (Victorian)
Greggory Redcake's plate is full. Widowed young and left with two small children, the manager of the Kensington location of the illustrious tea shop is besieged on all sides between the bakery and family matters. If only his remarkably efficient shop assistant, Betsy Popham, could manage his home life, too! But Greggory can't linger on thoughts of Betsy's fetching smile when a dead body is discovered in the bakery…
Betsy has no time for romance, not even with the delectable Mr. Redcake, whose kisses are all too unforgettable. Haunted by a specter from her family's past, Betsy is terrified that the man blackmailing her has turned to deadly violence. Yet the only way to save her position--and possibly her life--is to accept Greggory's help as their delicious attraction sweetens into the tantalizing promise of true love…
Greggory poked at the last of the windows, making sure all of them were secure. Because the doors leading to the bakery were locked, it made sense that nothing from this end of the building had set the fern in motion. He’d thought maybe a feather from Miss Popham’s hat had set it to swaying, but her straw bonnet had not a single frippery gracing it.
He took one last glance around and returned to the door, pulling his key ring from his pocket.
A scream resounded from across the entryway. He dropped his keys and ran.
“Miss Popham?” he shouted, grabbing at the tearoom door to slow himself when he saw her. He didn’t want to topple over her.
She stood in a wide ray of sunlight, her gloved hands fisted in front of her face. He went to her without thinking and put his arm around her.
“What?” he asked, but by then he’d already seen the shoe, and the leg, and the thick pool of blood under the body.
“We need the police,” Miss Popham said weakly, holding herself upright on one of the tables.
Greggory grabbed her under the arms and turned her toward the door, then marched her out of it. He shut the door and leaned against it, feeling sick himself.
Betsy wiped at her forehead. “Why was there a dead man on the tearoom floor?”
Greggory shook his head, then regretted the motion as dark spots danced before his eyes. “I’ve never seen him before. He’s not one of the bakers?”
“No, he wasn’t dressed like one. And none of the bakers are so slim.”
“How old do you think he is?”
“Oh, sweet Jesus, I didn’t look at his face. His neck had been cut open.” She squeezed her eyes shut and swayed.
He wrapped both arms around her shoulders, trying to keep her upright. She slid in his grasp, her face slipping along the fabric of his coat. He pushed her hat away so she could nestle against him. Her hair smelled powdery, like flour, with a faint sweet undertone. But beyond that, if he took a deep breath, he could smell the metallic scent of that man’s life’s blood, ebbing away on the floor.
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Heather Hiestand was born in Illinois, but her family migrated west before she started school. Since then she has claimed Washington State as home, except for a few years in California. She wrote her first story at age seven and went on to major in creative writing at the University of Washington. Her first published fiction was a mystery short story, but since then it has been all about the many flavors of romance. Heather’s first published romance short story was set in the Victorian period, and she continues to return, fascinated by the rapid changes of the nineteenth century. The author of many novels, novellas, and short stories, she has achieved best-seller status at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. With her husband and son, she makes her home in a small town and supposedly works out of her tiny office, though she mostly writes in her easy chair in the living room.
For more information, visit Heather’s website at www.heatherhiestand.com. Heather loves to hear from readers! Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.