If any fans have been wondering why I haven’t produced a new book since March 2019, I want to let them know I’M STILL HERE! I’ve been slowly working on another gay historical, but the writing has been moving at a glacial pace. Plus, I began a new job last summer and it zapped my interest and momentum. All that being said, I wanted to let everyone know, there WILL be a new Bonnie Dee historical in 2020. I’m in the process of finishing final chapters and editing The Thief. Read on for a blurb and excerpt.
Street rat Jody plays any role that will win the confidence of a mark. His sights are set on Lord Cyril Belmont, a possible ticket to the financial freedom Jody has dreamed of his entire life. With a fake investment scheme in mind and larceny in his heart, Jody sets a snare for the wealthy gentleman.
Cyril Belmont may have a title but he is as broke as a china plate. Only inertia keeps him from selling his dilapidated family property and starting a new life in America. After his hollow, lonely existence is suddenly invaded by bright, passionate Tobias Wentworth, Cyril is ready to share whatever he has with the exciting stranger—including the deepest recesses of his heart.
When Jody, aka Toby, begins to have inexplicable feelings for sweet, openhearted Cyril, he intends to end his con and slink back to the ghetto. Fate intervenes, his cover is blown, and it takes an ocean voyage and several twists of fate to bring the two men to a true understanding of each other and the unexpected bond they share.
“Awright, so he ain’t exactly a prince, but Lord Belmont is related to the royals and sure to have lots o’ blunt. With your fine face and clever palavar, you’ll pick him clean right quick.”
“I got no way to meet ’im. He ain’t my usual sort of mark.” Jody passed a coin in and out between his fingers, making it disappear and reappear like magic. He must knock down Lassiter’s mad idea before the old man pressed him into doing something he’d regret. “Unless he visits the right sorta place, I’ve no excuse to bump up against him.”
Lassiter gave a nonchalant wave of his hand. “Just so happens an old friend of ’is lordship owes me a debt. Mr. Poindexter Alden will arrange a meeting. You charm the pigeon and pluck him.” His voice dropped to nearly a whisper. “Come, lad. Times is hard and I ain’t gettin’ younger. This could be the job leaves us both rollin’ in clover and smellin’ like roses. Enough to last the rest of our days.”
Jody no longer believed his teacher’s plaintive wheedle. “So you’ve said before. Ain’t no such thing as The Big One. One little step forward and a big slide back down—that’s life.”
“Trust me, luv. Like I said, I got a fellow to get you in, but I need you to act the part. I sure as bloody hell can’t do it with this craven old face.” Lassiter stooped to become a crone with a cane and a cackle, and Jody couldn’t help but smile.
Lassiter patted his arm with one twisted arthritic hand. “You’re my right hand. I rely on you. Just do this one favor and I’ll not ask again.”
Another promise Jody had heard before. But he couldn’t bear the everlasting whining and knew Lassiter wouldn’t stop pestering until he drew his terminal breath. “Awright, awright. Shut yer hole. I’ll talk to your inside man then maybe I’ll give the job a try.”
“There’s my good lad,” Lassiter crooned.
God help him if the old man’s praise didn’t affect him even after all these years. Jody had once preened at being called Lassiter’s right hand, or his captain, or his head boy, the best of the lot. As a little lad, he’d fed on those scraps of praise more than sausage and beans. Old habits died hard.
“I’m off. Got things to do.” Jody put on his coat and buttoned it.
Lassiter hobbled over and tossed his own scarf around Jody’s neck. It reeked of onions and sweat. “Keep warm out there, and don’t get into trouble. We’re on the edge of makin’ our fortune.” His foul breath suggested any coin he earned should go toward a few tooth extractions. He clapped his hand against Jody’s chest. “Do as I say, dearie, and we’ll spend the rest of our lives in Greece. Blue water and white sand all around, how does that sound, eh?”
“Like a kiddie’s fairytale.” Jody stepped back and grasped the latch that would let him out of this smoky rathole he’d once called home. “Like the stories you used to tell before us lads went to sleep.”
Before he closed the door behind him he added, “What would you do with your bony old carcass in Greece anyhow? That’s as mad as a baboon wearing a bonnet.”
Walking down the gritty Shoreditch streets with his oversized greatcoat flapping around him and a tall hat adding several inches to his height, Jody knew he looked like trouble. His clothing and stance protected him like a suit of armor as he marched forward, shoulders broad and expression fiercer than the gargoyles on a cathedral. I am lethal. Make way for me.
“Dangerous criminal” was one of many roles in the arsenal of characters that helped him get by in this rough world. He was equally adept at “flirtatious coquette,” “naive country bumpkin,” “earnest schoolboy,” and “sultry seducer,” whatever the situation called for really. He’d find his mark’s weakness and prey upon it like a crow picked at carrion.
He needed to learn a little more about this Lord Cyril Belmont Lassiter wanted him to take. Mimicking a gent’s accent and manners was easy enough. Jody had always had a keen ear, and a high-born fellow who’d kept him for a time had also taught him proper social etiquette among other things. But winning a man’s complete confidence was in the details. One must possess a certain something the mark craved more than safety or security.
If the man was starved for male attention, it could be quite easy to get him to think a handsome lad like Jody was the solution to his loneliness. Jody could probably gain Belmont’s trust and sweet talk him into invest in a nonexistent scheme. If not, he’d at least have learned the layout of his lordship’s house. Later, he’d break in and steal his valuables.
There’s always money to be had. Lassiter used to tell the boys. A river of it is flowing past. Just have to know how to dip your cup and take some.
So why we always livin’ hand-to-mouth? Jody had once replied smartly and earned a cuff that made his eyes water.
The peeling sign for the Bull and Bear caught his eye as he strode along. His stomach rumbled, reminding him he hadn’t eaten that day. Time for a pint and a pie.
Jody stooped under the lintel as he entered the dimly light public house.
Sylvia had his glass and plate set out almost before he took a seat. “Hiya, luv. Got anythin’ for me today?” She smoothed her frizzy hair and adjusted her plunging neckline.
“A kiss, darlin’, and a word.”
She leaned over him to receive both.
Jody pecked her lips and whispered, “Jealous Eyes to place in the fifth. Though I can’t vouch for the information.”
Sylvia gave him a more lingering kiss, sour and unappetizing. But Jody didn’t pull away. Never knew when he’d need her goodwill for some reason. “Your tips paid rent this month,” she said. “Beer’s on me. Cheers, luv.”
Jody lifted his glass in a salute. Sylvia sashayed back behind the bar and he fell on his food. Even when he hadn’t missed a meal he was always ravenous. He’d eat just about anything and lick the plate clean. Too many years going without for him to bear leaving a crumb.
Of course, he couldn’t be gobbling while playing his part for Lord Cyril Belmont. The character Jody was embroidering, Mr. Tobias Wentworth, would have impeccable manners, irreproachable diction and, most importantly, be a perfect listener. That was the way to gain any man’s trust—listen earnestly. People would say or do almost anything if they thought someone actually cared about what they had to say.
He drained his glass and pushed away from the table, exhaling a sigh as he realized Lassiter had reeled him in again. Despite Jody’s determination to strike out on his own and never look back, the old weasel had an invisible hold on him that kept him always attempting yet one more wild scheme. The Big One—a rainbow on the horizon that evaporated when it seemed almost within reach.
Jody stalked the dark street from one pool of lamplight to the next pondering all the ways this shaky plan might explode, leaving him in pieces. The inside man, Alden, desperate to escape his debt to Lassiter, could be offering false information. Lord Cyril’s lineage would be easy enough to check, and once Jody met the man, he’d know if sexual proclivities would make him easy to seduce. But perhaps Alden planned to set up both Jody and Lassiter then unleash the coppers on them.
Mulling over these thoughts, Jody climbed a shaky staircase to a room no bigger than a closet and dark as a coffin until he lit a lamp. He was lucky to have a place of he didn’t have to share, but, after years of larceny, it seemed he ought to have nicer digs and more money saved than the bit he kept in a tin under a floorboard.
For too long, he’d given Lassiter the larger part of everything he earned while existing under the shelter of the moneylender’s wing. He’d also spent too much on gin and opium to dull reality’s bite. Jody had shed those vices some time ago, yet he was still a long way from where he wished to be. Perhaps this time The Big One would be real, dosh in an amount large enough to get him out of here and into another life.
What life that might be, he had no idea. He’d figure it out later. For now, he’d live as always, minute to minute, making decisions on the fly. If things got too sticky, he’d turn and take another direction. That philosophy had kept him out of jail when others were nicked. One whiff of the rotten egg odor of trouble and Jody would be gone so fast Lord Cyril would think he’d only imagined Toby Wentworth, a ghost who’d passed so quickly through his life he may as well never have existed.
Hope you enjoyed this opening excerpt and I also hope I can have the finished book available by April. Thanks to all my faithful readers who are still out there waiting for a new release.