BY: DANIELLA BERNETT
A month after her adventures trying to track down the killer of her friend Charles Latimer, Emmeline finds herself in a car that has crashed on a lonely country road in Kent with a dead man as her companion. How did she come to find herself in this predicament? It all started with a man named Ambrose Trent, the fiancé of her friend Claire Sedgwick. But there’s something not quite right about Ambrose. When he ends up dead, Emmeline believes she knows who the killer is. But as new evidence comes to light, she realizes that she’s dead wrong—and only Gregory can save her.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Deadly Legacy by Daniella Bernett, we are reunited with Emmeline Kirby and Gregory Longdon as they work to solve another mystery. This time, Emmeline’s friend Claire is engaged to be married to a man she has only known two weeks. When he is suddenly murdered, Emmeline is assigned to investigate the case by the newspaper she works for. And that’s when things start to go downhill. Not only is Claire’s fiancé not all he seems to be, Claire’s aristocrat father doesn’t want Emmeline investigating his family’s dirty little secrets, so he gets her fired. But that doesn’t stop Emmeline. She is determined to solve the case, even at the risk of her own life.
Melding mystery and romance with fast-paced action and spine-tingling suspense, the author has crafted a story that will appeal to mystery and romance fans alike.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Deadly Legacy by Daniella Bernett is the second installment in her Emmeline Kirby and Gregory Longdon Mystery series. This time Emmeline and Gregory are trying to solve the murder of a man who doesn’t exist. When Emmeline’s friend Claire gets engaged, her friends are worried, since Claire has only known the man for two short weeks. Then when Claire’s fiancé is murdered, they soon learn that the man isn’t who he said he was. So who is he? And who wanted him dead? Emmeline is determined to find out. She teams up with Gregory again, albeit reluctantly, and together they follow a string of clues—and stolen diamonds—dating back to World War II. But Emmeline gets too close to the truth which, as she quickly discovers, isn’t the safest place to be.
Deadly Legacy is a well-written tale of love, murder, greed, and the determination to do the right thing, even in the face of harsh opposition. Once you pick it up, you won’t want to put it down until the end.
The noise came from a long way off. Angry, persistent. It rattled round and round the outer edges of Emmeline’s consciousness. A despicable pain throbbed mercilessly as it slowly slithered up from the base of her skull all the way to her temples. Surely her head was going to explode at any moment. She couldn’t see. The menacing blackness was everywhere. Taunting her, clawing at her. She suffocated in its embrace.
Gradually, she realized that her eyes were closed. She shifted slightly, groaning as her head rebelled against the thousand needles of pain the movement caused. Something was holding her back. What was it? She opened one eye tentatively and then the other. It was still dark. With a supreme effort that made her wish she were dead, she managed to lift her head. Beads of perspiration moistened her brow from the exertion. Trying to catch her breath, she focused on her surroundings. She was in a car. Her eyes fluttered closed again. The seat belt was cutting into her ribcage. Her clumsy fingers fumbled to open it. After the third attempt, she was free.
Emmeline opened her eyes once more, squinting hard to channel her disjointed thoughts. The noise that had plucked her from the inky depths of oblivion was rain. Not a pleasant spring rain, but rather a seething torrent that lashed against the windows and sent an icy tremor of fear down her spine. Where was she? What was she doing here?
Before she could answer these questions, she passed out.
When she came round, there was another sound mingling with the tempest outside her window. It was…violins. Violins? In the middle of nowhere? She thought she had become delirious. Her ears strained toward the music. Yes, it was violins mimicking the rain. The Four Seasons…Summer…Vivaldi. It was the radio. She wasn’t losing her mind after all. She sighed with relief. But Vivaldi reminded her of her recent trip to Venice, which, in turn, led to thoughts of Gregory. She squeezed her eyes tightly shut, hoping to push away these unsettling ramblings. However, her eyes snapped open as a searing white flash scorched the night sky. Then thunder cracked its vicious whip.
In that instant, when the lightning illuminated everything as if it were daytime, Emmeline saw that she wasn’t alone in the car. There was a man in the driver’s seat and he was quite dead. A dead man, just like Venice. The pounding in her head and the music were converging in a crescendo, but, despite her revulsion, she made a concerted effort to look at him. It was Ambrose Trent.
She could feel herself slipping from consciousness. He was right. I did kill him. But you can’t kill a man who never existed. Can you?
Emmeline was dead wrong.
London, March 2010:
It wasn’t the mizzle–a particularly noisome cross between mist and drizzle–that made Emmeline hurry along the pavement toward the teashop. It was the wind that whipped everything into a frenzy and helped the chilly dampness to burrow deep into the marrow of her bones. She longed for sunshine and the caress of a gentle spring breeze. It wasn’t too much to ask for, was it? It was the end of March, after all. Her umbrella was useless against the onslaught, so she dug her hands into her coat pockets and leaned into the wind. She was determined to come out the victor in this battle of wills.
At Queen’s Gate, she turned right onto Cromwell Road. She already could see the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was not far now to Miss Charlotte’s Tea Room–a quaint relic of a gentile era that she and Maggie had stumbled upon one autumn afternoon when they were at university together. They both had fallen instantly in love with the place–delighting in its dusky rose walls, mismatched porcelain cups and saucers, lace tablecloths, and quiet charm. On that first day, Emmeline and Maggie had made a pact to meet at Miss Charlotte’s once a month, no matter what else was going on in their respective lives. The two friends had kept their vow, religiously meeting on the third Thursday of every month.
The teashop was the kind of place that encouraged cozy chats and where one’s cares seemed to melt away the moment one set foot inside. Today, Emmeline could hardly wait to wrap her numb fingers around a steaming cup of Earl Grey and to tuck into a slice of Miss Charlotte’s decadent chocolate brandy torte. Mmm. Sheer heaven. She sighed and let her tongue roll around her lips in anticipation. And to catch up with Maggie, of course. But the hot tea first. She quickened her pace.
At last, Emmeline reached Miss Charlotte’s. She put out her hand and turned the doorknob. In that instant, a gust of wind bore down on her and flung back the door. It shuddered on its hinges. A tall, slim man in a beige trench coat was hovering just inside in the doorway and blocked her path. The wind snatched a small piece of paper from his hand. They both watched its precarious flight down the street, until it had disappeared from view.
The man, whose tousled fair hair clung damply to his scalp, turned a pair of cornflower-blue eyes upon her. He said nothing for a long moment, incredulity spreading over his squared features. Incredulity and something else–fear. Emmeline could almost taste it. The muscle in his jaw twitched. There was a restless, hunted look in his eyes as they darted to the right and left. This sent a frisson slithering down her spine.
“Oh, pardon me,” she mumbled softly as she tried to step around him.
“Pardon you? Pardon you? Do you know what you’ve just done?”
“You’ve just killed me. That’s all,” he announced melodramatically. “I hope you’ll be able to sleep at night knowing what you’ve done.”
He pushed past her without a second glance, the door slamming angrily behind him. Emmeline felt it as surely as if he had slapped her across the face.
She stood there on the threshold–her mouth gaping open–and stared after him. She was stunned by the entire odd incident.
“Emmeline. Emmeline. Over here.” Maggie’s stage whisper pulled her from her contemplation of the strange young man. Seated at a corner table in the back and waving furiously to attract her attention was Maggie Acheson.
Emmeline waved back and made her way across the L-shaped tea room. She bent down and kissed her dearest friend on both cheeks with genuine affection. “Sorry, Maggie.”
“Who was that chap you were chatting with?”
“I’ve absolutely no idea.” Emmeline shrugged out of her coat and plopped down onto the peach-velvet-cushioned chair. “I’ve never seen him before in my life.” Her eyes drifted toward the door again and the whole scene replayed itself inside her head. “It was all rather bizarre.” And then, she told Maggie about the contretemps that had been over in a flash.
“Positively intriguing. You do run into the oddest characters. How delicious.”
Maggie was warming to her subject. Emmeline recognized the gleam in her friend’s sparkling green eyes. She had to put an end to this right now or who knows where it might lead and she didn’t want to think about that man any longer.
“Well, we’ll never see him again so let’s not dwell on the incident. How are the twins?”
Maggie’s lovely mouth drooped at this abrupt turn in the conversation. She looped a long strand of reddish-gold hair around her ear and rolled her eyes. “They are a pair of little monsters. I never thought two five-year-old boys could get up to such mischief. But they do. If there’s a way to make something dirty or to break it, they always manage it. Sometimes I lie awake at night wondering what Philip and I have done to deserve such punishment.”
Emmeline laughed because she knew her friend did not mean a single word of what she was saying. “But you love them anyway and you wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The corner of Maggie’s eyes crinkled as she rested her chin on her hand and joined in Emmeline’s laughter. “You’re right, of course. You know me too well. How many years have we known each other now?”
“Ten years? My God, I can’t believe it. I was only twenty-one and you were a spry twenty. I remember the day we first met in Prof. Winthrop’s Medieval Literature class at Oxford. I don’t think I would have survived, if it hadn’t been for you.”
“Rubbish. I seem to remember you were the class star.”
“That’s only because we studied together. You made it all seem so easy.”
Emmeline shook her head. “That’s not true. You would have done perfectly well on your own. Your natural drive and intelligence will see you through anything that stands in your path. Look at the way you started your company from scratch. That took a lot of determination and raw courage.”
Indeed, Maggie was president of one the most prestigious public relations firms in London. Although she came from a wealthy and well-connected investment banking family and had lived a privileged life from the day she was born, Maggie refused to accept any money from her father. She wanted to do things on her own terms. Perhaps being the youngest, and a girl, had driven her. Her two older brothers had followed their father into the bank, but Maggie had no desire to join the family business.
“Oh, go on.” She waved a hand dismissively in the air. “You’ll make me blush. And what about you, miss? You told all of us on the university newspaper that one day you’d be a reporter at The Times of London, not some piddling little rag, but the THE Times. Not an ambition for the faint of heart. And look at you now. Not only are you at The Times, but you’re the paper’s top investigative correspondent with a string of awards to your name. Back at Oxford, we all knew you would succeed because you were better at it than any of us ever hoped to be. For us, playing at journalists was a bit of fun, a way to pass the time. But for you, it was a passion. We could see it in your eyes. Mix in a heaping spoonful of talent and poof–” Maggie snapped her fingers in the air. “–and you’ve got the highly-respected Emmeline Kirby, whom I’m privileged to call my best friend.”
Emmeline felt tears prick her eyelids. She reached out and squeezed Maggie’s hand. “Thank you. You know I love you like a sister. Until the day I die, I will be grateful to that literature class.”
They were both teary-eyed and giggly at the same time. Maggie gave Emmeline a quick hug. “Look at us,” she said as one of her elegant hands wiped at her moist lashes. “What a soppy pair we make. It’s a good thing Philip’s not here. I can just see him rolling his eyes and trying to pretend he doesn’t know us.”
The waitress appeared with their tea and cake. Maggie knew exactly what her friend would order so she hadn’t waited until Emmeline arrived. The waitress’s fussing with the plates and saucers gave Emmeline time to arrange a neutral expression on her features. The mention of Maggie’s husband had sobered her mood.
“How is Philip?” she asked tentatively.
“Oh, you know my husband,” Maggie said with another wave of her hand. “He never lets anything get him down. True stiff upper lip. That’s my Philip. But I can tell you that it scared the life out of me when he came home that night a month ago and told me he had been shot in the arm by a would-be mugger. ‘It’s just a graze, Maggie love. The doctor said it’s nothing to worry about.’ Just like that. Calm as you please. Can you imagine? Men. Hmph. I’ll never understand them.”
Emmeline looked down and made a show of stirring her tea with her spoon. She didn’t like keeping things from Maggie. They had never lied to each other before. However, she couldn’t explain how Philip had really managed to get shot because she was now bound by the Official Secrets Act. Everything that had happened that night was locked away somewhere in MI5’s files. There were only a handful of people who knew the ugly events leading up to the shooting in St. James’s Park on that foggy February night. This little group included Philip, of course, herself, Chief Inspector Burnell, Detective Sergeant Finch, and Gregory.
She tilted her head slightly and looked at Maggie, who was babbling on about something or other. Emmeline wondered if the guilt she felt was reflected in her eyes. But she couldn’t tell Maggie that her husband had been shot by a Russian spy and that he really worked–had always worked, in fact–for MI5, Britain’s counterintelligence agency, and not the Foreign Office’s Directorate of Defense and Intelligence as everyone believed. No, she couldn’t do that.
“So I told the boys–Emmeline, I get the distinct impression that you haven’t been listening to a word I’ve been saying.”
Emmeline shook her head, trying to physically toss away her troubled thoughts. “No, I have.”
“Right. So what have I been talking about for the last ten minutes?”
Emmeline took a sip of tea to stall, but she burned her tongue with the scalding amber liquid. It served her right for keeping secrets. “You were talking about your wonderful, darling twins.”
“Uh, huh. What was I talking about exactly?”
“Exactly?” Emmeline hedged and squirmed slightly under that unwavering stare. Now, she understood what the twins must feel like when they had been caught out doing something naughty.
Emmeline sighed and threw her hands up in surrender. “It’s no good. You were right. My mind was somewhere else.”
“I could have told you that much. You’ve also got a funny expression on your face. It doesn’t do to lie to me, miss. I can always tell when something’s wrong or you’re hiding something.”
Emmeline shifted in her seat and touched a hand to her cheek. It felt warm. “Hiding something? What makes you say that?” Her voice cracked slightly.
Maggie’s cool green eyes locked with her own dark ones and for a long moment neither of them said a word. Maggie was the first to break the silence. “Fine. Have it your way.”
“Honestly, Mags, nothing’s the matter.” Emmeline heard the little bell above the door tinkle and this prompted her to say, “I suppose the incident with that strange young man disturbed me more than I initially thought.”
“Well, you should forget about it. He’s not important. Let’s talk about something more pleasant. Claire’s wedding. It’s only a week away now. I’ve never seen her so frazzled.”
“Ooh, yes. She rang me the other day and was quite incoherent. Would you ever in your wildest dreams have imagined that the always poised, always in control Claire Sedgwick would fall apart like this?”
“Never. It’s a bit amusing to watch.” They both giggled. “Seriously, though,” Maggie continued, “I think this calls for strong action. We must step in and help the poor girl.”
Emmeline popped a heavenly bite of the chocolate-brandy cake into her mouth and swallowed a bracing sip of Earl Grey. “I thought, as we’re her two oldest friends, we should take her out to dinner one night before the wedding to help settle her nerves. Claire’s mother has made it perfectly clear that she is arranging the reception and the rehearsal dinner. That’s why I thought it might be nice for just the three of us to sneak away for a quiet meal together.”
“That’s a lovely idea. Philip will watch the twins. I’m meeting Claire tomorrow for lunch and I’ll broach the subject then. She was supposed to join us this afternoon, but she rang a little while ago to say she had to cry off because she had a million and one things to do for the wedding.”
“What do you know about her mysterious fiancé…what’s his name?”
“Ambrose. Ambrose Trent.”
“Claire’s kept me in the dark about him. I was in Venice last month when the engagement was announced. Don’t you think it’s a bit odd that she hasn’t introduced him to us?”
“I agree. Distinctly odd. But then, the only ones who have met him have been her parents.”
Emmeline frowned. “That’s not like Claire. What’s wrong with him?”
Maggie laughed. “You’re always trying to see problems where there are none. I don’t know that there’s anything ‘wrong’ with him.”
“But?” Emmeline prompted as she leaned in closer.
“What do you mean?”
“There was a distinct but left hanging in the air at the end of that sentence. So out with it.”
“Well, this whole whirlwind romance of Claire’s. It’s not like her at all. We both know her. Everything always has to be planned to the minutest detail. Then suddenly, she comes home from her Mediterranean cruise and announces that she’s fallen madly in love with the ‘most handsome, most dashing, most charming man’ in the whole world and she’s engaged. Oh, and by the way, the wedding will be in a month’s time. But where’s her fiancé? He’s gone back to Switzerland. Why? Because he’s in the midst of relocating his business to London and can’t get away. No, if you ask me, it’s all a bit dodgy.” Maggie speared her fork into the defenseless apple tart in front of her.
“Hmm.” Emmeline nodded with pursed lips as she took another sip of tea. “He’s Swiss then?”
“No, he’s as English as you and I. But he moved to Geneva about ten years ago to start his company.”
“And what sort of company is it? What does he do?”
Maggie spread her hands wide and shrugged. “I wish I knew.”
“What did her parents think of him?”
“Claire’s father was furious with her. That’s not really surprising. They’ve always had an uneasy relationship. Under no circumstances was he going to allow his daughter, a descendent of the noble family of Sedgwick, to marry some chap she had only known for a fortnight. Needless to say, this led to a major row. Claire is past the age of consent and, short of imprisoning her in the family dungeon, there was not much her father could really do about the matter except cut off her money. Although her mother was far from happy about the situation, in the end she stepped in and acted as peacemaker. Since Claire was determined to go through with the marriage, no matter what they said, her mother insisted that they fly out to Geneva to meet their future son-in-law before the wedding.”
“Apparently, darling Ambrose was all deferential charm and he won them over. Now, her parents are as smitten with him as Claire is, at least from all outward appearances. I ran into Lady Sedgwick last week, and she couldn’t stop gushing over dear Ambrose. Such a ‘nice boy.’ The ‘boy’ is all of thirty-five or so. She still thinks of all of us as children. ‘But what does he actually do, Lady Vanessa?’ I asked. ‘Oh, he owns some sort of import-export business. I couldn’t actually get the gist of it all,’ she said vaguely. And this is what she wants for Claire?”
Emmeline stared off into space as she mulled over Claire’s new fiancé. “Something does not feel right. I don’t like the sound of this mystery man.”
The bell above the door tinkled again. Emmeline had her back toward the front of the parlor, but Maggie glanced up as the newcomer entered. “Speaking of mysterious men,” she mumbled under her breath.
“What was that?” Emmeline asked as she turned her gaze back to her friend.
“Nothing.” Maggie glanced at her watch and took a hurried gulp of her tea. “I just realized the time. Must dash. I have an…appointment. Yes, an important appointment.”
Emmeline blinked in bewilderment. “But we’ve hardly seen one another. You didn’t mention anything about an appointment earlier.”
“I forgot…and now I’ve just remembered.” Maggie’s chair scraped against the polished parquet floor and there was a soft swish of her navy skirt as she sprang to her feet. She thrust her arms into her raincoat, scooped up her handbag and umbrella, and gave Emmeline a quick peck on the cheek. “I’ll ring you tomorrow after I’ve seen Claire. Oh, and look who’s here. I won’t feel guilty leaving you. You won’t be alone after all. Bye.” She waved and was gone.
Emmeline turned around to find herself looking up into Gregory’s handsome, smiling face.
© 2016 by Daniella Bernett
Author, Tessa Arlen:
“Stolen diamonds, revenge and murder are served up at a cracking pace as Emmeline unites with Gregory once again in this intriguing second installment of Daniella Bernett’s mystery series.” ~ Tessa Arlen author of the Lady Montfort series and Agatha Award finalist
Author, Tracy Grant:
“Emmeline and Gregory’s new adventure is a delightful blend of mystery and romance, filled with dazzling twists and turns, unexpected dangers, and old and new tensions in their relationship.” ~ Tracy Grant, author of London Gambit