A Study In Seduction - By Nina Rowan Page 0,1

she faced the viscount. “Lord Northwood, I apologize for the lateness of the hour, but I must speak with you. It’s about a locket you purchased.”

“A what?”

“A locket. A pendant attached to a chain, worn as a necklace.”

He frowned. “You’ve come to my home at this hour to inquire about a necklace?”

“It’s terribly important.” She gripped the doorjamb so he couldn’t close the door and leave her standing on the step. “Please, may I come in?”

He stared at her for a minute, then rubbed a hand across his chin.

“Kellaway.” A crease formed between his brows. “Kin to Sir Henry Kellaway?”

Lydia gave a quick nod. “He was my father. He passed away several months ago.” Grief, heavy with the weight of the past, pressed down on her heart.

“My sympathies,” Lord Northwood said, his frown easing somewhat as he glanced over her black mourning dress.

“Thank you. How did you know him?”

“We were both involved with the Crystal Palace exhibition in fifty-one.” He stood looking at her for a moment, his gaze so protracted she could almost see his thoughts shifting. Then he moved aside and held the door open.

She stepped into the foyer, conscious of the fact that he did not allow her more space to pass, even as her shoulder brushed against his arm. The light contact made her jerk away, her chest constricting.

“What makes you think I have this necklace you seek?” he asked.

“I don’t think you have it, Lord Northwood. I know you do. You purchased it from Mr. Havers’s shop less than a week ago, along with a Russian icon.” Her chin lifted. “It was a locket my grandmother pawned.”

Pushing himself away from the doorjamb, Lord Northwood stepped forward. Lydia started before realizing he intended to take her cloak. She pushed the hood off her head and fumbled with the clasp.

He stood behind her, close enough that she could sense the warmth of his body, close enough that her next breath might have been the very air he exhaled.

“Come to the drawing room, Miss Kellaway. You’d best explain yourself.”

Lydia followed him into the room and sat on the sofa, making a conscious effort not to twist the notebook between her fingers. Lord Northwood lowered himself into the chair across from her. A stoic footman served tea before departing and closing the door behind him.

Lord Northwood took a swallow of tea, then put the cup on the table and leaned back in his chair. His long body unfolded with the movement, his legs stretching out in front of him. Although his outward bearing was casual, a tautness coiled through him. He reminded Lydia of a bird of prey elongating its wings, feathers ruffling, poised for flight.

“Well?” he asked.

“I found the ticket in my grandmother’s desk.” She leafed through the pages of her book before finding a small slip of paper. “I hadn’t known she’d pawned any of my mother’s jewelry.”

His hand brushed hers as he took the pawn ticket, the hard ridges of his fingers discernible even through the protection of her glove. She jerked away, curling her hand into a fist at her side.

“Your grandmother had a month to redeem her pledge,” Lord Northwood said after looking at the slip of paper.

“I realize that. And I would have attempted to do so on her behalf had I known about the transaction to begin with. I thought Mr. Havers might not have put the locket up for sale yet, or if he had, perhaps it hadn’t been sold. But when I arrived at his shop, he informed me he’d sold it last Thursday.”

“How did you learn the name of the purchaser?”

Color heated her cheeks. “Mr. Havers refused—rightly so, I suppose—to divulge the purchaser’s name,” she explained. “When he became occupied with another customer, I saw his book of sales behind the counter. I was able to… borrow it long enough to look up the transaction.”

A smile tugged at his mouth. She watched with a trace of fascination as a dimple appeared in his cheek, lending his severe, angular features an almost boyish glint. “You stole Havers’s salesbook?”

“I did not steal it.” She bristled a little at the disagreeable term. “I removed it from his shop, yes, but for less than ten minutes. I gave a boy sixpence to return the book to its proper place without Mr. Havers seeing him. You were clearly listed as the purchaser of the locket. Do you still have it, my lord?”

Northwood shifted, his hand sliding into his coat pocket. Lydia’s breath caught in