Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Delaney and the Autumn Masque by Bonnie Dee & Summer Devon

Delaney, former pickpocket and now a member of the Andrews theater clan, performs magic tricks as Billbo the Magnificent. Hired to entertain at a fancy dress ball, the magician is struck by the lurking, dramatic figure of the Grim Reaper. He follows Death to a quiet room for a glorious, lustful encounter.

With his identity hidden, impoverished gentleman Bartholomew Bancroft dares to indulge in an out-of-character moment to quench his forbidden yearning for another man’s touch. But in the light of day, he can’t dismiss his memories of the mysterious magician or a craving to see him again.

Bartholomew enlists the dexterous conjurer to teach him to pick pockets. His plan: to retrieve his hand-crafted jewelry taken by a vengeful ex-lover. During the lessons, Bartholomew and Delaney yield to desire, certain their affair will last only until they retrieve Bartholomew’s stolen work.

At another costume ball, the gentleman and the magician work together to foil the thief, but when all masks are abandoned at last, can lasting love remain?

Another Dee & Devon collaboration always ticks all my historical reading boxes.  I will say that of the four stories in their Victorian Hearts Collection, Delaney didn't quite burrow his way into my heart as deeply as Simon, Will, and Mike did but that doesn't mean I didn't love the story it just means that if I had to rank the four books, Delaney and the Autumn Masque would be number four.  As with all their collaborations, their detail to history is amazing and makes the story that much more heartwarming and believable.  As for Bartholomew, not even Delaney's light-hearted and vibrant attitude toward life can bring him to step up and speak from the heart until he's faced with losing it.  But is it too late?  Well for that answer, you'll have to read it yourself because as you know, I don't do spoilers, I will say that you definitely want to find out just what Delaney and Bartholomew's story is all about.


“Sir Death?” The conjurer’s voice behind him made him stop but not turn around. “You wish for a private performance? I’d be delighted.” The insinuation in his voice sent a shiver down Bartholomew’s back. Was the magician a mind reader as well?

The sounds of the ball down the long corridor had an eerie quality in this empty corner of the townhouse. Music, a woman’s shriek of laughter, and the babble of conversation washed over the two of them, standing in the dark corridor. Bartholomew moved to the wall and leaned against it, trying to recover his equilibrium. He’d had only two glasses of punch. Perhaps the drink was stronger than he’d supposed. His head felt strange and his body disconnected as if it belonged to someone other than himself.

“Death?” The man stepped into the shadows to join him. He pulled out a deck of cards and shuffled them. He held them up in a mute gesture for Bartholomew to take one.

Bartholomew pulled off his black glove and plucked a card from the spread fanned in the magician’s hand. A knave of hearts. His heart thumped harder. He’d watched this rogue entertain the ladies long enough to know what that meant. He had nothing to say, no reason to deny or confirm that the card fit him too well. But then he saw the gleam of the magician’s teeth, and eyes that glittered behind the velvet mask.

Keeping his gaze focused on those blazing eyes and the sensual mouth beneath the half-mask, which were all he could see of the trickster’s face, Bartholomew took the card and slowly, deliberately tucked it into the cuff of his other glove. An invitation.

“Heavens.” Billbo the Magnificent gave a nervous laugh and stepped closer. “What is a man to think when you do something like that?”
The teasing was obvious. Because of the mask and the dark, Bartholomew couldn’t see Billbo’s face, but the performer obviously knew how to express emotion to a crowd. The message he gave now couldn’t have been more obvious. Lust and availability and… He took another step closer.

Bartholomew’s careful and detail-loving gentlemanly manners sank away, replaced by something reckless, dark, and full of almost-forgotten yearning. The Grim Reaper didn’t make polite requests or play silly games. He boldly took the things he wanted.

A breeze skittered down the hall, from some unseen open window. The scent of autumn might have been the first whiff of a storm coming, and that storm was inside Bartholomew as he reached out to grasp the masked magician’s upper arms and draw him close. The smile on those full lips vanished, but he didn’t pull away. A heartbeat later, Billbo the Magnificent and the Grim Reaper stood pressed together from knees to chest, and the Reaper was seizing the kiss he desired.

* * * * *
This was not at all how Delaney had expected his evening to play out, clasped in the strong arms of Death and kissed to within an inch of his life. He could well believe this truly was some supernatural entity rather than a mere man in a costume. But he supposed the actual Reaper’s kiss would be cold and deadly, while this man’s was flaming with passion. Good Christ, the man was fierce and somewhat desperate. His lips pressed hard against Delaney’s, and his tongue swept inside to dominate. Delaney happily ceded control, clung to the broad shoulders, and let the Reaper carry him away. Almost literally. For the party guest pulled Delaney along with him out of the exposed corridor into the secrecy of a sitting room.

Death pushed the door closed behind him with one foot and reached down to lock it. Except there was no lock. He was forced to let go of Delaney long enough to grab the nearest chair and slip it under the knob so no one could enter.

This gave Delaney time to draw a breath and put away the deck of knaves still clutched in one hand. It also gave him time to consider the wisdom of what they were about to do in the house of a woman for whom he was working. If caught, the Reaper would disappear. He was, after all, some lord or baronet who would not be held accountable for enjoying a little party game of his own.

But Delaney might well be kicked out without pay, and Lady Margaret might complain of his behavior to Simon. Good old Simon wouldn’t fault Delaney for the sex but for the choice of time and place, since he’d gotten this job for him.

These thoughts raced through Delaney’s mind in moments, just long enough for him to discard them all with easy nonchalance. What the hell. He was standing in a vacant room with a handsome—from what he could tell—sexually potent man who desired him. He would bloody well take advantage of it. After all, he’d never been known for his foresight and caution. Delaney operated on impulse. The only aspect in which he was careful and calculating was his magic tricks.

He rushed at the dark-robed figure and flung his arms around him, demanding more kisses. The Reaper obliged, pressing lips and swirling tongue, while his hands moved restlessly up and down Delaney’s back.

Delaney pushed back the huge cowl to uncover tawny hair. One would expect Death to have coal-black locks. But the pale strands were lovely, shining in the faint glimmer of a gaslight, which had been turned far down in this unused room. Delaney grasped the back of the man’s head. The short hair slid between his fingers, and underneath, he encountered the uncompromising hardness of his skull. Every inch of the man was hard like stone, but not as cold as death. He was warmly alive and clutching Delaney as if he couldn’t get enough of him. When was the last time this poor sod had been satisfied?

Pale eyes gleamed behind the skeleton mask. Hard to tell if they were light blue or hazel in this poor lighting. Delaney reached for the mask, eager to see the rest of his romance du jour, but Death gripped his wrist, stopping him.

“No. Leave the masks on. It’s better.” His voice was rough and dark and dangerous, thrilling Delaney to his very marrow. Yes, sir! he wanted to squeak like an obedient slave, but he nodded instead.

His hands had felt every bit of the Reaper’s body he could reach, but there was far too much robe in the way. What he wanted was naked flesh, but in this precarious, forbidden situation, it was probably best not to strip down to skin. They might need to scramble back to decency at a moment’s notice. So Delaney gathered up the yards of black cotton robe that stretched all the way to the floor, only to reveal shoes and trousers. So mundane. He’d hoped and half expected to find this extraordinary creature naked under the robe. Instead, there were more layers to be breached.

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
EMAIL: bondav40@yahoo.com

Summer Devon
EMAILS: summerdevon@comcast.net

Delaney and the Autumn Masque #4

Simon and the Christmas Spirit #1

Will and the Valentine Saint #2

Mike and the Spring Awakening #3

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