Amanda Quick is one of the three pen names used by bestselling author Jayne Ann Krentz. A prolific writer with an impressive string of New York Times bestsellers to her credit, she like to explore different subjects in her work, and uses her various pseudonyms to let readers know which world they’re entering. Amanda Quick is reserved for her historical romances. As Jayne Ann Krentz (her married name) she pens contemporary romantic suspense. And as Jayne Castle (her birth name), she writes futuristic/paranormal romances. When she isn’t writing, she works tirelessly as one of today’s most ardent advocates of romance books. As she eloquently says, "These are books that celebrate women’s heroic virtues and values: courage, honor, determination and a belief in the healing power of love."
Crystal Gardens LP
The muffled thud of the shattered lock echoed like a thunderclap in the deep silence that drenched the cottage. Evangeline Ames recognized the sound at once. She was no longer alone in the house.
Her first, primal instinct was to go absolutely still beneath the covers. Perhaps she was mistaken. The cottage was old. The floorboards and the ceiling often creaked and moaned at night. But even as the commonsense possibilities fitted through her head, she knew the truth. It was two o’clock in the morning, an intruder had broken in and it was highly unlikely that he was after the silver. There was not enough in the place to tempt a thief.
Her nerves had been on edge all afternoon, her intuition flickering and flaring for no obvious reason. Earlier, when she had walked into town, she had found herself looking over her shoulder again and again. She had flinched at the smallest rustling noises in the dense woods that bordered the narrow lane. While she was shopping in Little Dixby’s crowded high street, the hair had lifted on the back of her neck. She had felt as if she was being watched.
She had reminded herself that she was still recovering from the terrifying attack two weeks ago. She had very nearly been murdered. Little wonder her nerves were so fragile. On top of that, the writing was not going well and a deadline was looming. She dared not miss it. She’d had every reason to be tense.
But now she knew the truth. Her psychical intuition had been trying to send a warning for hours. That was the reason she had been unable to sleep tonight.
Cool currents of night air wafted down the hall from the kitchen. Heavy footsteps sounded. The intruder was not even bothering to conceal his approach. He was very certain of his prey. She had to get out of the bed.
She pushed back the covers, sat up quietly and eased herself to her feet. The floorboard were chilly. She stepped into her sturdy, leather-soled slippers and took her wrapper down off the hook.
The assault on her person two weeks earlier had made her cautious. She had considered all possible escape routes when she had rented the cottage. Here in the bedroom, the waist-high window was her best hope. It opened onto the small front garden with its lattice gate. Just outside the gate was the narrow, rutted lane that wound through the dark woods to the ancient country house known as Crystal Gardens.
Out in the hall floorboards creaked under the weight of a booted foot. The intruder was moving directly to the bedroom. That settled the matter. He had not come for the silver. He had come for her.
There was no point trying to silence her movements. She pushed one of the narrow casement windows wide, ignoring the squeak of the hinges, and clambered through the opening. With luck the intruder would not be able to ? t. “Where do you think you’re going, you bloody stupid woman?” the harsh male voice roared from the doorway. It was freighted with the accents of London’s tough streets. “No one slips away from Sharpy Hobson’s blade.”
There was no time to wonder how a London street criminal had found his way to Little Dixby or why he was after her. She would worry about those questions later, she thought, if she survived the night.
She jumped to the ground and stumbled through the miniature jungle of giant ferns that choked the little garden. Many of the fronds were taller than she was.
To think she had come to the countryside to rest and recuperate from recent events.
"CopyRight (c) 2012 by Jayne Ann Krentz"
London, late in the reign of Queen Victoria . . .
It took Adelaide Pyne almost forty-eight hours to realize that the Rosestead Academy was not an exclusive school for orphaned young ladies. It was a brothel. By then it was too late; she had been sold to the frightening man known only as Mr. Smith.
The Chamber of Pleasure was in deep shadow, lit only by a single candle. The flame sparked and flared on the cream-colored satin drapery that billowed down from the wrought-iron frame above the canopied bed. In the pale glow the crimson rose petals scattered across the snowy white quilt looked like small pools of blood.
Adelaide huddled in the darkened confines of the wardrobe, all her senses heightened by dread. Through the crack between the doors she could see only a narrow slice of the room.
Smith entered the chamber. He barely glanced at the heavily draped bed. Locking the door immediately, he set his hat and a black satchel on the table, looking for all the world as though he were a doctor who had been summoned to attend a patient.
In spite of her heart-pounding fear something about the satchel distracted Adelaide, riveting her attention. Dreamlight leaked out of the black bag. She could scarcely believe her senses. Great powerful currents of ominous energy seeped through the leather. She had the unnerving impression that it was calling to her in a thousand different ways. But that was impossible.
There was no time to contemplate the mystery. Her circumstances had just become far more desperate. Her plan, such as it was, had hinged on the assumption that she would be dealing with one of Mrs. Rosser’s usual clients, an inebriated gentleman in a state of lust who possessed no significant degree of psychical talent. It had become obvious during the past two days that sexual desire tended to focus the average gentleman’s brain in a way that, temporarily at least, obliterated his common sense and reduced the level of his intelligence. She had intended to take advantage of that observation tonight to make her escape.
But Smith was most certainly not an average brothel client. She was horrified to see the seething energy in the dreamprints he had tracked into the room. His hot paranormal fingerprints were all over the satchel, as well.
Everyone left some residue of dreamlight behind on the objects with which they came in contact. The currents seeped easily through shoe leather and gloves. Her talent allowed her to perceive the traces of such energy.
In general, dreamprints were faint and murky. But there were exceptions. Individuals in a state of intense emotion or excitement generated very distinct, very perceptible prints. So did those with strong psychical abilities. Mr. Smith fit into both categories. He was aroused, and he was a powerful talent. That was a very dangerous combination.
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