Someone -- or something -- is causing magical blizzards at Fairleigh Hall. The estate is suffering, and the Earl has requested assistance.
Constable Kit Thompson, of Bow Street’s Preternatural Division, isn’t especially thrilled to be sent out to the country. At least the assignment gets him away from fashionable London society and his own unwanted celebrity after successfully solving a notorious case. Of course, he’s now trapped at a country estate due to closed roads, snowstorms, and magic, but Kit’s always liked solving puzzles. He’s good at using empathic skills for investigations, and this is definitely a challenge. Besides, the Earl’s younger brother is an irritating and delicious temptation, all blue eyes and muscles and boundless enthusiastic optimism. Kit wants to either shake sense into him or kiss him senseless -- and can’t trust him, either, because if someone’s genuinely sabotaging the weather, everyone’s a suspect.
Harry Arden, younger brother of the Earl of Fairleigh, has never met a Preternatural Division constable before, much less a famous and celebrated one. He wants to help. And he wants to make that attractive but cynical constable smile, at least once. But the estate hides a family secret, and Harry knows perfectly well Kit doesn’t trust him ... and for good reason. Still, Harry offers to do what he can to assist with the investigation, and if that means spending more time with Kit, that’s a bonus.
When Harry and Kit end up caught by those magical storms, snowed in together at the old hunting lodge, they’ll have to trust each other with their secrets ... and their hearts.
Kit did not need help finding the library. He had a good sense of direction, and of people. He could feel presences and motion and passion. And Fairleigh Hall had a simple, and simply intuitive, floor-plan.
He passed a maid, a footman, one or two other members of the house’s staff. They regarded him with saucer-eyed fascination. He nodded politely in turn.
The staff did not feel afraid, or angry. They did feel concerned, no doubt over the unrelenting weather troubles, and physically cold, and strangely protective. Optimistic that he could help, but wary of him, an outsider, as well.
He decided that both reactions were justified. He was good at his profession.
He discovered the library without difficulty, and went in; he paused in the doorway, as vivid sunbeam artwork leaned over a table and filled up his vision.
Harry Arden, dressed in the same casual walking-the-estate clothes from earlier, cravat askew and collar loose and shirt-sleeves shoved up, bent to unroll a map. Ran a hand through that messy too-long golden hair.
Drawn-back curtains framed him in scarlet plush and dense white snow. Antique wood and forests of book-spines provided a literary backdrop. Harry’s slim waist and broad shoulders became the center of the story, and those merry treasure-box freckles cavorted through library light. When he bent over more to flatten out a map-corner, fabric pulled tight across his equally nicely muscled backside.
Kit finally remember to take a breath. Essayed a step forward.
Harry turned. Lit up like sunrise. “Oh, hello! I didn’t hear you come in. Is the Blue Room good enough? We can always change rooms if it isn’t. But I do like that one. Splendid views, not that you can tell in this weather, but I promise you they’re there. Do you need anything? Tea, brandy, biscuits, magical paraphernalia?”
“No.” Kit drifted across the room to his side: drawn by splendid views and chatter about biscuits. “I’m an empath, not a conjuror. I don’t work with tools.”
”But you do like the Blue Room?”
“Yes, thank you.” He barely heard his own reply. Bare skin was visible at Harry’s disarranged collar. Freckles there too, as if Harry Arden tended to take that shirt off and run about bathed in sun, in summertime. “Is that a map of the estate?”
“It is. I thought it might be useful. Before that, though ... did Ned say anything to you?"
Investigative instincts kicked in. Sharp and shrewd. "Anything about the estate, you mean?"
"No, not as such." Harry poked at the map, though from Kit's perspective it seemed perfectly aligned with the edge of the table. "About me."
"Should he have?"
"Possibly not. But he does tend to ... I only thought he might have. Said something to you."
"He didn't say much. He reminded me that you'd be in the library." In the library, alone, embodying the definition of temptation. "I think he'd quite like us to work on solving this quickly."
"Us." Harry poked at the map again. "When it's your job. You certainly shouldn't need my assistance. Ned should know that."
"You know Fairleigh," Kit said.
"Yes, but you're an empath and a practiced investigator." Harry sighed. "I apologize on behalf of my brother. He's unnervingly invested in my social life. He thinks I haven't got enough ... er, friends."
Kit, who had seen Edward Arden's expression, did not think friends was the word. He did think that the present Earl of Fairleigh had decided to throw a celebrated London Bow Street constable at his own younger brother, possibly out of some desire for vicarious adventure.
Harry Arden, on the other hand, had not witnessed Ned's veiled warning regarding disappointment. And had just said friends.
Harry no doubt thought that Ned really did want him to have a larger circle of social acquaintance. Those big blue eyes had grown up rambling through fields and sheep pastures, not whisper-dark back rooms and leather-sleek gentlemen-only clubs.
Kit resolutely did not picture Harry dressed in only polished leather boots, arms bound. Wrists stretched up above tousled hair, perhaps. Lips parted and beckoning. Freckles extending everyplace.
He cleared his throat. "No apology necessary. You had an idea about narrowing down the search?"