Excerpt! From Tryst at the Brighton Inn

An excerpt from Tryst at the Brighton Inn, by Alicia Rasley
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Matt was, no doubt, angry at her. Angry at her sullen silence, broken only to speak another lie. Angry at her for making him think, or hope at least, that last night was more than just deception. Too angry to want her, to know her, to believe her. But he found himself gazing back at her, across the scarred tables and beyond the grumbling guests. They might as well have been the only ones in the room, the two of them.

Then he had to break that linked gaze, for the JP, coffee mug in hand, came right up to Matt. They knew each other, of course, as they were both landowners in the area. “Sir Matthew,” he said warmly. Then he sobered. “Lamentable business, this. Never had no murders here before. Had to look up the old county record for the way to go on. Not much there to help.” He shrugged. “JPs ain’t usual for felonies, not that we have many here.”

That sounded—promising. In the wrong way, Matt reminded himself. But if no one here had any notion how to go on, well. “The sheriff?”

“Down at the king’s fête, seeing to the riffraff.” He muttered, almost to himself, “Naught help his side, anyroad. Jumped-up fool, he is.”

“Then you’ll be calling in the coroner, I assume?”

The JP shrugged. “He’ll have to be impanelin’ an inquest, it’s true. But he’s off on some fishing holiday out Adur way. ’Sides, the coroner can’t tell us anything we can’t see ourselves. Man’s been axed. No secret what kilt him.”

Matt said carefully, “Any notion who is responsible?”

“Nought. The dead man was not from here. Clear enough to look at him.” The JP took a quick gulp from his mug and added, “So the killer mebbe wasn’t from here either.”

“I see what you mean,” Matt said. Best to encourage this line of thought, though it seemed an incautious leap of logic. “Not one of us.”

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The Grand Saloon at the Brighton Royal Pavilion

“Inn is full of outsiders. Tufts from town.”

The casual use of that insult for quality was something of a relief. Netley didn’t relegate Matt to that group, anymore than he considered himself a “tuft” though he had a brace of servants and money in the funds. That mild class antagonism could be helpful too. For what, Matt didn’t want to say yet. “You’ll be having a riot on your hands, with this group. They are not accustomed to being denied their treats,” Matt said.

“Tuppen there tells me there’s a half dozen or more, more with their servants, taking refuge from the storm. Last night. Some latecomers too, slept in their carriages in the road.”

“Latecomers.” That was another notion to encourage. Matt considered for a moment how best to do this, then said carefully, “With the king’s fête down there in Brighton, hordes of beaus like that one over there, no doubt, have been coming this way from London.”

The JP guffawed. “Wasn’t invited. You neither, I warrant.”

Actually, Matt had received an invitation, though he never considered attending. He had met the king only once, when he was knighted half a decade ago; clearly the palace had been scraping the dregs of the landed gentry to get a big crowd for this fête. And how like their insouciant king, to hold a party in a month his government was collapsing and new elections were predicted, and to invite the very aristocracy that was muttering against him.
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Natasha, of course, would have been invited. She might shun society, but it never shunned her—except, it seemed, for that countess Lady Balfour. “You don’t think,” he asked, “that the dead man was among the invited.”

The JP shook his head. “Not likely. But by his looks, I figured he was from other parts.” He gestured at the landlord, who was drawing pints and making a bit of extra coin on the occasion. “Had an accent, Tuppen says. Makes sense the killer does too.”

That was a speculation Matt didn’t mean to encourage. Here they were talking of accents. That was getting into dangerous territory, though Matt wasn’t sure why danger was the word that came to his mind. Danger to Natasha, was that to be avoided? If she did what he feared she’d done? And why? Why protect Natasha, when she seduced him then lied to him? Well, he supposed, because she did indeed seduce him first, and that meant something.

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Tryst at the Brighton Inn, a Kindle Scout book. Available now!

It’s a decade after Napoleon’s defeat, but the war still haunts even the victors. Linked by family and by grief, divided by social class, Russian émigré Natasha and ship’s doctor Matthew have lived for years in mutual distrust. But when she’s suspected of killing a man from her past, she reaches out to Sir Matthew for help. It takes both his medical training and her intuition to solve the mystery of the murder at the Brighton Inn—and the secret of her own troubled past.