Excerpt from Engaged in Passion

     
     It was the laugh that drew his attention. Low and husky, but not like a woman to her lover. The sound was more like a taste—rich and sweet on the tongue but with an extra spice to make it sassy. Those thoughts, right on the heels of the unusual sound, stopped him cold. And that was very odd indeed, because Anthony Michael Pierce was not a man prone to flights of fancy. But it was an unusual sound, and that made him pause even though this was not a place for him to loiter.
     Anthony was looking for his father, who worked as secretary and chief accountant to Mr. Richards, the wealthiest milliner in London. Normally, his father worked at the shop, but today was Friday, the day of the weekly accounting, and so his father was here, and Anthony was joining him in the hopes of getting a position as bookkeeper.
     But then the sound came—again—and he had to look. Who was the woman who laughed like that? She was in the kitchen, so he craned his neck around and saw the flash of a furry tail and heard scrambling. A kitten, obviously, and a bushy ginger one at that.
     The laugh came again, and this time it seemed to slide down his spine, but not in a comfortable way. The spicy note in her voice set his lower back to tingling and—even more uncomfortable—it stimulated areas best not awakened when visiting the home of his father's employer.
     Unable to resist, he stepped into the kitchen, easing around the central worktable. But no one was there! Two steps more and he saw the kitten again. It was a ginger tabby, rolling around trying to disentangle a red ribbon from its body. Someone was clearly playing with the feline, using the ribbon to tease the kitten. It was a game he'd enjoyed himself back when he was a boy and prone to destroying his sister's ribbons. But then he'd learned how much each ribbon cost, and he'd become more vigilant than his sister regarding her hair adornments. And their kitten had learned to entertain herself with catching mice.
     Obviously, this woman had no such fear, which meant she was in a position to be careless with her things. He took another step, belatedly realizing the woman with the laugh must be crouched behind the worktable. He was just about to turn the corner when she spoke, her voice even more unsettling than her laugh.
 

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