Read Grim Shadows (Roaring Twenties) Online
Authors: Jenn Bennett
“You had me at booze, raw lust, and black magic! An inventive setting, delightfully sharp-tongued characters, white-hot chemistry, and wry, subtle humor make for a truly enjoyable read. I couldn’t wait to meet each new character. It’s
, but so much better.”
—Molly Harper, national bestselling author of the Jane Jameson series
“I loved this book! Bennett delivers a sizzling-hot yet swoon-worthy love story with a mystery that keeps you guessing until the end, all set in the fresh and ultra cool world of Jazz Age San Francisco. Can’t wait to read the next one!”
—Kristen Callihan, author of
“Complex and smart romantic leads . . . Expect historical romance authors and fans to eagerly hop on the Roaring Twenties bandwagon, following Bennett’s very able lead.”
“Absolutely delightful . . . Stirs intrigue, paranormal activity, and romance into a wonderfully refreshing brew . . . Bennett’s fast-paced dialogue, often witty and sharp, as well as her charming characters and detailed setting, will truly captivate romance readers.”
“The combination of sizzling sex, gritty danger, and paranormal thrills adds up to one stupendous read!”
RT Book Reviews
Berkley Sensation titles by Jenn Bennett
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) LLC
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
USA • Canada • UK • Ireland • Australia • New Zealand • India • South Africa • China
A Penguin Random House Company
A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author
Copyright © 2014 by Jenn Bennett.
by Jenn Bennett copyright © 2013 by Jenn Bennett.
Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.
Berkley Sensation Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group.
BERKLEY SENSATION ® is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.
The “B” design is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.
For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-63638-1
Berkley Sensation mass-market edition / June 2014
Cover art by Aleta Rafton.
Cover design by Lesley Worrell.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Berkley Sensation titles by Jenn Bennett
This book is dedicated to ten-year-old Me, who decided that her early Nursing ambitions didn’t jibe with her aversion to the sight of blood, and therefore being an Egyptologist was the next logical career dream; I think she’d be happy I finally settled on Writer.
Much love and gratitude goes out to my wonderful agent, Laura Bradford, and to my lovely editor, Leis Pederson. Thanks also to my awesome publicist, Jessica Brock, and to Aleta Rafton for the beautiful cover—and the Berkley art department for the gorgeous layout.
A lot of research went into this humble tale, and I could not have written it without the help of the following people and institutions:
San Francisco Chronicle
, the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo, the British Museum in London, the Bancroft Library at UC Berkley, Mark Bittner (who wrote the fascinating book,
The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill
), the San Francisco Cable Car Museum, the Jewish Home of San Francisco, Alioto’s Italian Seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf, the James Leary Flood Mansion, the CinemaTour project, the Shaping San Francisco community project, and the Western Neighborhoods Project of San Francisco.
Thanks to my brilliant husband for not only tolerating my Authorial Angst but also aiding and abetting it. Lastly, a big thanks to my readers for following me off the beaten path and into the secret garden of Unusual Historical Romances. This book was an absolute pleasure to write. If it gives you even half as much pleasure to read, consider me a happy writer!
LOWE MAGNUSSON SCANNED THE
desolate Union Pacific Depot lobby. A young couple he recognized from the train was spending the brief early evening stop flipping through magazines at the newsstand. A handful of other travelers loitered on benches. No sign of the two thugs, but it was only a matter of time. Easier to kill him in the dark corner of a rural station than in the middle of a crowded smoking car.
Satisfied he was at least temporarily safe, Lowe slid a bill through the ticket booth window. Not a large bill, but large enough to sway a hayseed Salt Lake City ticket agent. Surely.
“Look,” he said in a much calmer voice. “You and I both know you have first-class tickets left on the second train bound for San Francisco. It departs at eight. If we wait for your manager to return from his dinner break, I’ll have missed it. It’s not like I’m asking for a new ticket. I just want to be moved from one train to another.”
The young attendant exhaled heavily. “I’m sorry, sir. Like I said, I don’t have authorization to exchange tickets. Why can’t you just wait for your current train to depart? An hour really isn’t that much of a difference in the long run. It might even leave sooner if they get the supplies loaded quickly, and aside from a couple of extra stops, they’re both going to the same place.”
Yes, but the other train didn’t have thugs with guns on it.
When he first noticed the men shadowing him, he thought sleep deprivation had gotten the best of him. After all, he hadn’t had a decent night’s sleep since Cairo. Food poisoning had made the usually tolerable Mediterranean crossing from Alexandria to Athens a waking nightmare. But just when he thought he was out of the woods, he spent the storm-cursed weeklong voyage from England to Baltimore hugging both the toilet and his pillow in turns, praying for death.
But God wasn’t done punishing him, apparently. Now that he’d endured three nights of restless sleep on the worst train trip of his life and was less than a day’s ride away from home, armed men were stalking him.
Where the hell had all his good luck gone?
Right now, all he wanted was to kiss solid ground in San Francisco, fall into his ridiculously luxurious feather bed—courtesy of his brother’s ever-increasing bootlegging fortune—and sleep for a week. Some clam chowder would be nice. A two-hour hot bath. Maybe a small harem of nubile women to warm his sheets—dream big, he always said. But if he could manage to avoid getting shot and robbed during the last hours of this hellish trip home, he’d settle for ten hours of uninterrupted sleep and a home-cooked meal.
The attendant eyed Lowe’s loosened necktie and three-day-old whiskers. “We wouldn’t even have time to find your luggage and transfer it before departure, sir.”
“Just forward it to my San Francisco address.” Lowe begrudgingly placed another bill atop the first. Dammit. Only forty dollars left in his wallet. Ludicrous, really. A priceless artifact was in the satchel hanging across his chest, guarded with his damned life for the last two months, and all he had was forty dollars to his name.
Not to mention the massive debt hanging over his head after the botched deal with Monk.
The attendant shook his head. “I’m not supposed to accept tips, sir.”
Lowe changed tactics, lowering his voice as he leaned on the counter. “Can I tell you something, just between you and me? I’m on a very important, very
government assignment.” He wasn’t. “League of Nations business. Health committee,” Lowe elaborated nonsensically.
“Health committee,” the attendant repeated dryly. He couldn’t have cared less.
“I wasn’t aware the U.S. had joined the League,” a voice called out.
Lowe looked up from the window to locate the voice’s owner: a woman, standing a few yards away. She was long and thin, wearing a black dress with a black coat draped over one arm. Black gloves. Black shoes. Black hair bobbed below her chin. So much black. A walking funeral home, blocking his view of the platform entrance.
And she was staring at him with the intensity of a one-person firing squad.
“I did say it was a secret assignment,” he called back. “In case you missed that part of my
“Yes, I heard,” she said in an upper-crust transatlantic accent, as if it were perfectly polite and normal for her to comment. No remorse whatsoever for butting into his business.
And please leave me alone,
he thought as he turned back to the ticket window. Concocting a believable story on no sleep wasn’t the easiest task.
But she wasn’t done. “Can I have a word, Mr. Magnusson?”
Had she heard him giving his name to the agent, too? Ears of an owl, apparently.
Lowe’s attention snapped back to the agent. “Look, just get me the ticket before the train leaves. Have a porter deliver my steamer trunk to my address. I’ll be back in a minute.”
He stepped away from the counter and strode toward the woman.
“Yes,” he said irritably. “We’ve established you know who I am.”
Her brow tightened. “You were to meet me.” When he gave her a blank stare, she added, “My father cabled you when you arrived in Baltimore.”
In his haste to change trains, he’d forgotten about meeting up with Archibald Bacall’s daughter, the oddball museum curator.
Not that she was unappealing, now that he was seeing her up close. Not plain, either. To complement her owl-sharp hearing, she had an angular face that reminded him of a bird of prey. Long face, long arms, and nice, long legs. Tall for a woman, too. The top of her narrow-brimmed hat might fit under his chin, so he guessed her height to be five foot ten. But her boyish, slender body made her seem smaller.
And the all-black widow’s weeds buttoned up to her throat didn’t do her any favors.
“Hadley Bacall.” She stuck out a hand sheathed in a leather glove trimmed in black fur. More fur circled the collar of the coat draped on her arm. The Bacalls had money. Old San Francisco money, from the gold rush days—her deceased mother’s fortune, if he wasn’t mistaken. The Bacalls also had significant influence in the art museum at Golden Gate Park. Her father ran the Egyptian Antiquities wing and sat on the board of trustees; he’d been a field archaeologist when he was younger.
Not that Lowe had ever hobnobbed with the man. Without the amulet carefully tucked in Lowe’s satchel, Dr. Archibald Bacall and his daughter would not be extending high-class handshakes in Lowe’s direction. Hell, they wouldn’t even give him the time of day.
“Yes, of course,” he said. “Hadley, that’s right.”
Her grip was surprisingly evasive for someone whose arm was propping up a thousand dollars worth of fur and an aloof attitude to match. She tried to end the handshake as quickly as she’d offered it, but he held on. Just for a second. She glanced down at his hand, as if it were a misbehaving child. He reluctantly let go.
“You did get my father’s telegram, did you not?” she asked.
“Sure.” He’d received a lot of telegrams from the man after the photograph of Lowe and his uncle standing in front of the Philae excavation site circulated in newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic—a photograph that had been reprinted a month later in
“Why were you lying to the ticket agent?” she asked.
He coughed into his fist. “Ah, well. It’s a long story, and one I’m afraid I don’t have time to share. I’m switching trains, you see. So I won’t be able to meet with you after all.”
One slim brow arched. She was almost attractive when she was frustrated, very glacial and austere. The corners of her eyes tilted up in an appealing manner, and her gaze didn’t waver. He liked that.
“You didn’t come all the way out here just to meet me, I hope.”
She shook her head. “I was giving a seminar on Middle Kingdom animal mummification at the University of Utah.”
Fitting for a woman who specialized in funerary archaeology, he supposed. If he wasn’t so goddamn tired, he might’ve been interested in hearing her theories, but his travel-weary gaze was wandering to her breasts. Nothing much to speak of, but that didn’t stop him from looking.
“I’m on my way back to San Francisco,” she said, diverting his attention back to her eyes. “But when my father found out you’d be coming in on this train, he thought it might be wise for me to book a ticket so I could speak at the university before you arrived. We aren’t the only ones interested in your discovery. I’m not sure if you know what you’re getting into by bringing the
Oh, he knew, all right. He barely got the damned thing out of Egypt. While his uncle had battled the Egyptian Ministry of State, Lowe had defended their dig site from looters. He’d been shot at, stoned, stabbed—twice—and had won a fair number of fistfights.
Once he’d made it back to the States, he thought he’d be done with all that, but now he worried his troubles were only getting started. He’d briefly considered the possibility that the hired thugs on the train tonight might be after him because of his debt to Monk Morales, but if Monk wanted to kill him, he’d wait until Lowe got home. No, these thugs were definitely after the
“I’ve already received offers from a few collectors.”
Her smile was tight. “My father is prepared to give you the best price. That’s why I’m to speak with you now. I’d like to inspect the amulet. If it’s truly the mythical Backbone of Osiris—”
“Christ, keep your voice down, would you?” Lowe quickly surveyed the lobby again. “I’m trying not to advertise, if you don’t mind. Besides, all the artifacts from the excavation were shipped on another boat. They’ll arrive next month. So I don’t have it on me.”
A hurried porter walked past them, wheeling a luggage cart. She kept quiet until the man was out of earshot. “You’re lying.”
Her gaze dropped to his leather satchel. “From the way you’re gripping that bag, I’d say it’s inside. But whether it’s there or in your jacket pocket, I can
The bizarre accusation hung between them for a long moment. If he hadn’t “felt” the cursed object himself, he might’ve laughed in her face. But truth be told, the amulet emitted some sort of unexplainable current. His uncle hadn’t felt it, but some of their hired Egyptian workers did. A fair number of them deserted their camp the night he’d brought it up from the half-flooded sinkhole. The artifact scared the hell out of him, frankly. And considering the way she was looking at him, all matter-of-factly and unblinking, well, that scared him a little, too.
“Mr. Magnusson,” she said in a lower voice as her eyes darted toward something behind his right shoulder. “Are you traveling with bodyguards?”
He stilled. “No.”
“Don’t turn around,” she warned.
“Are there two of them? Black coats. Built like brick shithouses, pardon my French.”
“No need to apologize. I prefer frank language. And if you are trying to ask if they are large men, then yes. They’ve been watching you for several minutes. One has slipped through a corridor behind the ticket windows and the other is approaching us.”
A clammy panic slipped across Lowe’s skin. His hand went to the Arabian curved dagger strapped to his belt and hidden under his coat over his left hip: a
. In Egypt, he’d become accustomed to using it for protection. But after he’d left, he’d continued to wear it for peace of mind, more or less. Just in case.
Looked like he might be needing it now.
“Don’t stare at the man approaching us,” he instructed her. “Just pick up your luggage and follow me out to the platform. Quickly, but stay calm.”
She didn’t panic or question him. And thanks to those long legs of hers, their strides fell into a smart, matching rhythm. He caught the crisp scent of lilies drifting from her clothes as they strode past the newsstand, where neat rows of
blurred in his peripheral vision.
“Listen to me,” he said as he placed an open palm at the small of her back. “Those men are armed with guns. They’ve been shadowing me on the train all day. I don’t know for certain, but I’ve got a funny feeling they’re after the amulet. It probably wasn’t wise of you to talk to me, because now they’ll think we’re friendly, and that makes you a target, too.”
“What do you plan to do about it?” she said calmly. Even in the panic of the moment, he had to admire her grit.
“You have a ticket for the 127?”
“Go ahead and board your train. Tell the porter suspicious men are following you.”
“A porter’s not going to shield me from gunfire.”
“Lock yourself in your stateroom.”
“I’ll do no such thing.”
Oh, she wouldn’t, would she? He prodded her onto the shadowed train platform, where other travelers were waiting for their departure time to come, saying their good-byes to family members and loved ones. The chilly night air didn’t stop a tickling bead of sweat from winding its way down his back.
“If they shoot you and take the amulet, I’ll have failed my father,” she said logically, as if she were making a decision about dinner plans. “So I’m sticking with you.”