Friday, November 6, 2015

The Shepherd and the Solicitor by Bonnie Dee & Summer Devon

When a storm is brewing, taking shelter could be the most dangerous move of all.

One careless, public sign of affection cost Daniel Pierce’s lover his life at the hands of a hate-filled mob. Grief-stricken, Daniel retreated from society to a sheep farm in the wilds of the north. Years later, Gregory Tobin erupts into his solitary life.

Sent to confirm the existence—or the death—of the Pierce family’s lost heir, Tobin isn’t sure he’s found the right man. The gruff, shaggy hermit calling himself Jacob Bennet bears little resemblance to photographs of the younger Pierce. Tobin needs more time to study his quarry.

With lambing season in full swing, Daniel grudgingly admits he could use an extra hand. Through a long, exhausting night, they parry back and forth as Tobin probes closer and closer to the truth. And something beyond casual attraction simmers between them.

They come together in a crash of desire, but ultimately Daniel must overcome the terrors of the past to reconcile the man he was with the man he’s becoming—a man capable of loving again.

Warning: Many sexy encounters on a sheep farm—NO, not like THAT!—between two adult males with temperaments as different as night and day.

Another great historical from Dee & Devon.  Watching Gregory's job turn from a typical search and locate to heat and rescue, at least in his mind, is thrilling and heart pounding.  Seeing Daniel/Jacob run from his past and create a new solitary life for himself is heartbreaking but encouraging.  Together they find an unexpected, perhaps unwanted on Daniel's part, alliance over the births of Daniel's lambs and pups.  But will it be enough?  For that you will have to read The Shepherd and the Solicitor.  I will say this, the authors have once again captured the feel of the time, 1883 England, and the characters are intriguing with integrity and determination that makes you want to know them and not let them go once the final page is reached.


Chapter One
They killed Jacob. The crowd would have killed Pierce too, if he hadn’t run.

Fearful and furious, he tried to wade through the pack, but his feet wouldn’t move. The end came as always… He tried to get to Jacob and failed.

He wore rags, even though he was sure they had been too well dressed for that part of London. The screams grew louder, and at last his feet could move, and he stumbled away.

Yorkshire, 1883
He woke in the dark in a hut four years later and hundreds of miles away. To get his breath back, he had to remind himself, again, that running had been the only possible answer.

Flat on his back in his bed, the fury rolled through him, bottomless, soul-drenching waves of anger at himself for running, of course. But he had plenty of anger for Jacob, who couldn’t stay silent. Maybe if they’d walked away… Jacob had decided to turn and confront the man who’d shouted at them.


The overwhelming rage could still sicken him—the crowd, the people who killed Jacob, and those who watched. One in that crowd had been a policeman. Pierce had called to him that night, begging for help. The copper met his eyes, looked away, and then walked out the alley.

That marked the instant Daniel Pierce’s link to his fellow humans broke. Tonight, like every other dreary night he had the dream, the link broke again.

The incident, from the first scream to the last, had taken less than five minutes, but it went on and on through his nights.

The dogs lying on his feet sensed his awakening and moved up to lick his face and drag him to a far sweeter and harsher present.

Daniel Pierce returned to the world in which he was Jacob Bennet. His dead lover’s first name and a name from literature provided him with a new beginning. His soft hands had grown tough, his soft body lean and hard, his heart… That didn’t change. It still beat.


He had work to do, thank the Lord. He really shouldn’t have rested in his cottage at all. He should be out with the ladies.

He jumped from the bed onto the perpetually cold flagstones, a chill he could feel through thick wool socks, and raced to the fireplace to throw a log on the embers. The two rooms were small enough that the snapping fire actually managed to heat them.

The sky showed a dingy dawn, but the sharp, cold air brought him back to life and the present. He quickly fed himself and the dogs that weren’t out with the flock. After forking hay for the horse and milking the cow, and feeding the stray cats that hung about the place, he walked toward the larger barn, where the ewes were penned. He stopped for a second to admire the sun cutting through a bank of clouds and glowing on the splotches of snow on the higher ground and the first bright green in the valley far below.

In the drafty stone barn, several of the ewes stood pawing the straw, and he knew what that meant. They’d all been tupped five months earlier, in late autumn. Ten had delivered, and at least fifteen more of them would be giving birth soon. He blew on his hands and watched. This was his third lambing season, and he was still filled with anticipation and fear. From his reading, he understood that the joy and worry of this season would never go away.

The two dogs paced back and forth, aching to get to herding, but at a sharp word from him, they sank to their bellies. He might not be the best shepherd in the hills, but he had a previously undiscovered knack with dogs, a fact that filled him with more pride than his first in history from Oxford.

“I have done some reading,” he informed the ewes, who watched him with their peculiar, unnerving eyes. “And I have far better liniment and equipment this year. We’re off to a splendid start. Only one stillborn so far.”

The black-faced ewes staring at him baaed in response. “You sound unconvinced,” he said.

One of the dogs sighed heavily and rolled onto her side. She was near her time as well. He hoped his own dog was the father and not the idiot lurcher from a distant farm he’d caught sniffing around Bets.

The sheep nearest him snorted and shook her head.

“Come now, ladies, you must admit I did a better job crutching this year.” He shuddered as he recalled shearing the rear ends of every one of his sheep to stop flyblown diseases. In all his previous twenty-seven years, he’d never encountered anything as earthy or disgusting as sheep diseases, except perhaps cows’ problems.

One did not see such things as maggots or mastitis in the world in which he’d been raised. But that stray thought brought to mind his old existence as Pierce. Restlessness hit him, the need to escape even the hint of London. His endless list of chores would put an end to that nonsense.

He started to walk out of the barn to gather the day’s eggs when one of the ewes gave a startled louder baa of pain. The eggs would wait.

Lambing season was well underway.

Gregory Tobin pulled on his trousers, tucked in his shirt, and yanked up his braces. He turned to face the naked man on the bed. “I’d rather not go, but we’ve sent agents to India and Europe. They’d contacted other agents in America and Australia. Not a word.”

“You’ve already gallivanted around the countryside.” Sloe-eyed Stephen rolled onto his back and stretched.

That was true enough. Tobin had a taste for travel. He even developed a liking for the over-dark stew they called tea served in train stations all over England. “This is the last hurrah in the search for the heir. I’ve been to Buckinghamshire and Nottinghamshire, and now I shall hie me off to the north. Again. Some man named Pruitt contacted our agent, saying he’d seen a man matching the description.”

Tobin thrust his feet into his shoes and glanced over at his lover, who gazed up at the ceiling of one of the club’s palatial bedrooms, called a chamber. Stephen stayed here rather than at his family’s London residence in a happy arrangement that suited everyone, especially Tobin, who’d rather not bring anyone to his own house. He continued cheerfully, “At any rate, I expect to be gone a month at most.”

“Why not just declare him dead and have done with it?”

“We can declare him dead soon enough, but by then we’ll have lost the important chance to sell part of the business. There’s only so much we can do without the majority shareholder…” He pulled on his waistcoat—and noticed the glazed look in his companion’s brown eyes. “You’re not particularly interested, are you?”

He walked over to the china basin and splashed some water on his face. In the washstand’s gilt mirror, he watched the reflection of Stephen, a pleasant young man about town, yawn and stretch again under the rumpled sheet.

“Not really the most fascinating topic, is it?” Stephen sat up and hugged his knees. “I got the gist, Toby. They’re putting you on the path of this dead johnny again, and you won’t be here for the terribly splendid event we’re putting on in a fortnight.”

Something about Stephen’s hearty enthusiasm put Tobin on guard. He draped the snowy-white towel over the carved cherub holding the mirror, then turned back to examine his friend. “Oh? An event?”

“A party of sorts.”

“What’s the occasion?”

“Haven’t I told you?” Stephen’s question was far too guileless, so Tobin was nearly prepared for the answer. Nearly. “It’s my engagement party. I’m to be wed in September.”

Tobin stopped buttoning his waistcoat and stared at Stephen. Amusement warred with disappointment. He’d certainly expected this from the lazy devil who’d been threatened with an allowance cut by his parents if he didn’t wed—so Tobin’s disappointment was odd. “Married.”

Stephen smiled at him. “Yes, there will be a huge party, and I wanted you to be there.”

Tobin had to laugh. “My attendance would be in very poor taste.”

“Bah. Don’t be such a stickler. It’ll be a grand occasion. My parents are so delighted, they’re pouring in bucketloads of guineas. You sure you can’t put off this trip to hunt the elusive heir or cut it short?”

“Absolutely not.” He could, of course, but the idea of going to his lover’s engagement party filled him with dreary dismay. Oh no. Not in this lifetime. He said, “I shall miss you.”

“You’ll be back in town in no time.”

“I’ll miss…” Tobin waved a hand between the two of them. “Our private moments.”

Stephen’s large brown eyes widened, a pleading look. “No need to stop, eh?”

“I haven’t been to many weddings, but I recall there’s a part about faithfulness? Forsaking all others?”

“Women. I won’t cavort with women,” Stephen said firmly.

“Good-bye, Stephen. I wish you well, you poor fool.” He considered going over and giving Stephen a last kiss, but the impulse passed. “Farewell. I wish you happy,” he said with less rancor. He pulled on his coat and left the room.

He got rather drunk the night he left Stephen behind, which meant he started his journey with a blistering headache and a stomach that threatened to revolt at every jolt of the train.

It began to rain, and the drops streaked the window and the wind rocked the car. A stormy reflection of his mood. He hadn’t suspected he’d be upset about the end of his alliance with Stephen. One didn’t grow upset at the end of such arrangements. Yet the very anticlimactic nature of the ending affected him more than it once might have. Perhaps because he had no one to tell. Even his good friends—and he had quite a few—did not know of his predilection for men. That was safe, but rather lonely.

Tobin liked people and knew he had a tendency to be confiding, so he didn’t often drink, in case he opened his mouth to the wrong people. Once, after he and his father had shared some fine brandy, he’d mentioned his suspicion about his preferences to his father, who promptly told him he must be mistaken.

Tobin hadn’t had so many glasses that he didn’t recognize the answer his father required, and he’d immediately said, of course he could be mistaken; one might simply be confused.

His father had seemed relieved, but their relationship had grown stiffer after that. His father became more formal and polite with him and seemed to avoid touching him. Tobin hadn’t tried to make amends, because he knew anything he said would make no difference—only a marriage arrangement would have fixed that silent rift.

His parents had died soon after he became an articled clerk, and never saw him become a solicitor. Tobin occasionally thought about how much he missed them, particularly on mornings like this one when loneliness lingered, a fog as unwelcome as the gloom from too much drink.

The train seemed to stop every few minutes with squeals and thumps. Tobin wanted to sleep. He closed his eyes and, quite unusually for him, thought of the emptiness of a lifelong lie and other bilious topics until he fell asleep. Even a nap couldn’t bring him back from the doldrums, and when he at last landed at a station in the middle of a vast expanse of dark empty fields, he wondered why he hadn’t sent along a more junior clerk or a third party to find this rotted heir.

In fact, he had tried to send a clerk, but Jeffers had wheedled his way out of it.

“This sighting might be the one, and it would impress the nibs no end if you brought home the heir yourself, sir,” Jeffers had said. “I’d go, but my wife’s stomach is bad this month. Terrible pains…” He shook his head sadly, and Tobin, fool that he was, took pity on him, his wife, and her constantly upset stomach, and decided to be the one to go north.

He hauled up his satchel and got off at the Faircliffe station. Only a ginger cat greeted him.

Tobin squatted and scratched the cat under the chin. “You’re not the elusive Mr. Pierce, by any chance? No?”

Tobin straightened and looked around the deserted platform.

No one appeared, and Tobin wondered if Jeffers hadn’t set this whole thing up as an extremely elaborate prank. The articled clerk was older than Tobin and seemed to resent the younger man’s success—and saved his more creative efforts to make Tobin look foolish.

With no stationmaster or attendant present, Tobin said good-bye to the cat, shoved his luggage into a corner of the dark station platform, grabbed up his satchel, and went looking for signs of life.

There was apparently no town attached to the brick station. He walked until he found a couple of slate-colored houses with dark windows sitting back from the road. As he rounded a tall hedgerow, he at last saw an inn, a sad little place the size and appearance of a cottage, with only a lamp out front and a faded placard hanging on a cross-pole showing it was a commercial establishment.

He pushed open the door, and even before he’d walked through it, a voice called out, “We’re shut.”

Tobin ignored him. “Do you have rooms for the night?”

“No.” The innkeeper moved into the single flickering light by the door. A square man with a square head and muttonchops, he looked like ye jolly olde innkeeper. Appearances deceived again.

He sniffed and rubbed his sleeve over his nose. “You’re a city man, aren’t you. From the south?”

Tobin nodded and pulled out his wallet from his inside pocket.

“Why is a fellow like you visiting us?” The landlord gazed at Tobin’s wallet, but his tone remained unpleasant.

Tobin said, “I’m here on business. Do you know a Mr. Pruitt?”

“Not a familiar name.” The man turned away. He pulled out a towel, wiped a table, and then stood facing Tobin with his arms folded. “Any more questions?”

He decided not to even bother mentioning Pierce, the real point of his journey. He’d have to butter up this man before getting good answers, and he felt too tired to imitate bonhomie. “I need a place for the night. Do you know of any?”

The man sighed as if he’d been asking him to hand over his night’s earnings. “All right. You can have the room at the top of the stairs. My wife is gone off for a time, so I didn’t want to bother, but go on with you.”

“My things are at the station. May I arrange to have someone pick them up, Mister…umm?”

“I’m Meaks. In the morning.”

“I’m afraid I require my belongings sooner than that.” He fished a sixpence from his pocket. The sight of actual money still didn’t exactly transform the man into an agreeable host, but he did say he’d track down someone named Hoss, who’d go get his bags from the station. Tobin signed a register that had very few names in it.

The room at the top of the stairs was small and damp and dirty. And when the rain started again, there was an ominous plinking in the corner.

An hour later, Hoss, a large man who smelled of horses and whisky, brought in his luggage without a word. Tobin thanked the man and shoved his bag under the bed.

He slept fitfully that night and woke still gloomy about this task to find the heir his client needed to track down as soon as possible. The company’s general meeting would take place in less than a month and Daniel Pierce must be present—or officially declared deceased.

Author Bios:
Bonnie Dee
I began telling stories as a child. Whenever there was a sleepover, I was the designated ghost tale teller. I still have a story printed on yellow legal paper in second grade about a ghost, a witch and a talking cat.

Writing childish stories for my own pleasure led to majoring in English at college. Like most English majors, I dreamed of writing a novel, but at that time in my life didn't have the necessary focus and follow through. Then life happened. A husband and children occupied the next twenty years and it was only in 2000 that I began writing again.

I enjoy dabbling in many genres. Each gives me a different way to express myself. I've developed a habit of writing every day that's almost an addiction. I don't think I could stop now if I tried.

Summer Devon
Summer Devon is the pen name writer Kate Rothwell often uses. Whether the characters are male or female, human or dragon, her books are always romance.

You can visit her facebook page, where there's a sign up form for a newsletter (she'll only send out newsletters when there's a new Summer Devon or Kate Rothwell release and she will never ever sell your name to anyone).

Bonnie Dee

Summer Devon

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