Wednesday, August 1, 2007

413 Remembrance Lane: Diary of a House

413 Remembrance Lane: Diary of a House - Cheri Valmont, Emma Wildes, D. Musgrave, Jamie Hill, Michelle Houston. Skyler Grey, and Jude Mason
August, 2007 - ISBN 978-1-59426-992-9
$7 eBook (five formats) - Buy Now!

Catherine Ashbury jumped and shivered when a raspy voice spoke, "I might be able to help ye, laddie. Why ye be looking for that man?"

Nervous and afraid to give away her disguise, Catherine's eyes flared wide as she took in the short, bald man who had sidled up to her and her two companions. She'd noticed him just a moment before, whispering to two other disreputable looking fellows. Tilly McDonald, her Scottish nanny, and Mr. Hillman, who had been Andrew Townsend's manservant from his youth, were in disguise as sailors.

Just as she was.

The alley, with its barely visible visitors milling around, heavy humidity mixed with scarcely a breeze, and flicking torch lights, was eerie and a far cry from the bright ballrooms and cozy parlors that she'd left behind in London. She was shocked at the casual way the pirates and their customers conducted their nefarious business.

Heaven only knew how she had gotten herself into this situation. Nay, her desire to find Drew had brought her halfway across the world to New Orleans and this alley to which their escort had directed them, before hurrying to leave to go about his own pursuits.

She had only herself to blame.

Tilly saved her from answering when she whirled on the little man quick enough to make him start, glaring at him with her dour expression. "And who be ye? A beggar, thief, pirate?" she asked him with a snarl.

Indignant, the man bristled and pulled himself up to his full height of five foot nothing. "I be boatswain to the most famous cap'n to tread these waters." And, as if no longer willing to give Tilly another moment of his time, the man walked next to Mr. Hillman.

Thank goodness the man was English. There were a variety of languages coming from the shadows, the majority being French, of course.

Although some of the French spoken sounded guttural, Catherine knew enough to know she had a right to be frightened. The last man that Mr. Hillman had attempted to ask about Drew's whereabouts had offered, "The boy, how much?" The baleful stare the man had given her as soon as Mr. Hillman had refused him sent a shiver of unease skating over her body.

"Harrumph." Tilly's voice had no need for disguise. She'd always sounded like a grumpy Scotsman and, with the addition of her male sailor's garb, the illusion was complete. "Verry likely."

Catherine suppressed a giggle at how disgusted Tilly appeared at the little man's affront to her. She really shouldn't find amusement at a time like this, but with Tilly's gray hair stuffed beneath a woolen cap and her thin frame in unkempt sailor's clothes, Catherine couldn't help herself. No caliber of clothing could disguise the annoyed green gaze she threw the boatswain. No matter how grumpy she sounded, Tilly only had her best interest at heart, she knew. Which was how Catherine had convinced Tilly to agree to accompany Mr. Hillman and her on what Catherine's father, Robert Ashbury, would have classed a fool's errand.

Her father. Catherine shivered again when she thought of how furious he would be when he found out from her sister, Diana, where Catherine had gone and why. She'd sent a missive to her sister right before she embarked on this trip, but knew that by the time Diana sent word to their father, Catherine and her companions would be well on their way to the Americas. He might even be halfway to New Orleans himself by now.

She wouldn't think about that now. Her mission to find Drew was her sole priority at the moment.

The man sent a scowl in Tilly's direction, then turned his gaze to Mr. Hillman, who, no matter how rough his clothing looked, could not be mistaken for a simple sailor. "Ye look to be a gentleman who might be interested in wa' I ha' to say. If yer looking for the gent, me cap'n might be able to 'elp ye. But ye ha' to follow me. Directly."

Mr. Hillman looked over the man's head at Tilly and Catherine. Tilly looked toward her, too. After Catherine's brisk signal, Mr. Hillman nodded in agreement. No matter that he appeared the leader of their small but misfit band, William Hillman had been in the employ of the Townsend family since his own youth. Thus, he never stepped beyond his station, which was why he presented something of a problem. The man was tall and distinguished looking, and although his steel gray hair was covered by a hat, there was no hiding his haughty, highbrow servant's expression or the mild disdain in his pale blue gaze.