Valentine Serial 2016
The Sweethearts of Truffle Manor
Devon was beginning to wonder if this whole thing had been a mistake. A very big, very expensive mistake. It was bad enough that Truffle Manor was all but crumbling to the ground, but he hadn’t anticipated having to rid the place of so many hidden heirlooms. Or hostile women.
He stood and planted his hands on his hips. “Fine. Suit yourself. I was just trying to help.”
She blinked up at him with wide violet eyes. Something about those eyes made Devon’s chest ache. Whoever the woman was, she was very pretty. Beautiful, even. Too bad she was also nuttier than a Snickers bar.
“Stay back,” she said, scrambling to her feet and tripping over the heavy crimson folds of her velvet dress.
Devon crossed his arms and watched while she righted herself, raven curls tumbling down from her elaborate up-do.
What was with the old-fashioned get up anyway? She looked liked she’d stepped right out of Bronte novel or something, which was fitting considering their surroundings. The grand walnut staircase and frothy crown moulding suited her.
Devon swallowed. Hard. Then he turned on his heel and headed back toward the master suite.
“Wait,” she called after him. “Where do you think you’re going?”
He shrugged without bothering to turn around. “Back to work.”
“To work? You mean you work for my grandmother?”
He slowed to a stop, turned around and gave her thorough once over. So this was the mysterious Adette. He remembered Candy Dunkleman telling him the name “Adette” meant sweet.
Sweet, my foot.
“Actually, I work for myself,” he said.
“What are you doing here, exactly? And why are you holding my grandmother’s ring? Unless you’re a jewelry appraiser or something, you’re in trouble, mister.” She fixed her gaze on the hammer dangling from his tool belt. “By all appearances, you’re not. Do you care to explain yourself, or shall I call the police now?”
He lifted a challenging brow. “Go ahead and try. There’s no cell reception in this place.”
It took two full minutes for her to find the pocket of her billowing gown and dig out an Iphone. If Devon had indeed been a criminal, he could have escaped six times over by the time she finally realized he’d been right. No signal at all.
“Told you,” he said.
She glared at him and kept a firm grip on the useless phone. Devon could practically see the thoughts spinning in her pretty head, and he got the distinct feeling this whole encounter would end with him getting hit in the face with the latest in cellular technology. “I demand you to tell me who you are.”
“You demand me, do you?” Her tone didn’t sit well. At all. He took a step toward the impetuous Miss Dunkleman, pinning her against the intricately carved bannister. “I’ll tell you exactly who I am, but first I want you to answer one question.”
“Perhaps.” She swallowed, and Devon couldn’t help but notice the graceful curve of her porcelain neck.
He forced himself to meet her gaze. “What’s with the dress?”
“It’s a costume. I’m an actress, and tonight I starred in a production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona.” She cast another dubious glance at his hammer. “That’s a Shakespeare play.”
So she thought he was an idiot in addition to being a criminal, did she? “Yeah sweetheart, I know. I have a masters degree in classical literature.”
“Oh.” Her cheeks turned as red as a heart-shaped box of Valentine candy.
“Let me guess—you played Silvia?” he asked.
She shook her head. “No.”
“Julia?” He’d stand there and list every character in the blasted play, if only to prove he knew his Shakespeare.
“No, but does it really matter what part I played?” Her blushed intensified a few shades.
“I think it does.”
She lifted her chin. “If you must know, I was a chambermaid.”
“I see.” A triumphant grin made its way to Devon’s lips. “So you starred as a chambermaid in what is widely considered Shakespeare’s weakest play. Impressive.”
“I don’t need your approval. Nor did I ask for it.” She jammed a finger at his chest. “Now tell me who you are. Right now.”
“My name is Devon Hershey. I own this house. And you, my little chambermaid, are the one who’s in trouble.”