Carbon

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Carbon – Blackwood Elements #3

Meet me at midnight… When Augusta Fordham receives that message from an unknown admirer, the plot could have come straight from her favourite romance novel. Oh, wait—it did.

Augusta is soon caught between wealthy doctor Gregory and a dark stranger who makes her pulse race as he indulges her fantasies. Will she choose comfort and security or take a leap into the unknown?

When she makes her decision, she’s thrust into a world of secrets and lies with no one to trust. Only Emmy, her new flatmate, seems to be on Augusta’s side as she discovers there’s just one truth: love is never easy.

Carbon is a standalone romantic thriller in the Blackwood Elements series. No cliffhanger!

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Excerpt: Meet me at midnight… 

Three months ago, Midnight’s first message had come out of the blue as I pretended to enjoy my mother’s St. David’s Day party. No, nobody in my family was Welsh, and we lived in rural Oxfordshire not Wales, but little things like that never stopped her. When I said she’d use any excuse for a party, I meant it.

Unknown: Meet me at midnight. The summerhouse by the pond.

At first, I thought the message was a joke. It had to be. Because Meet Me at Midnight was the title of Sapphire Duvall’s latest bestseller, a bodice-ripper set in Victorian England where the object of Lady Anne’s affections asked her to—you’ve guessed it—meet him at midnight. First in the summerhouse, then behind the chapel in the grounds of her family’s country manor, even in the stables.

And what they got up to made my mother splutter her tea and hastily flip the pages until Anne was safely laced into her corset once again.

Augusta: Surely you’re not serious?

Ten rather sweaty minutes later, as I stood with my mother and sister pretending to listen to their conversation, the mystery man replied.

Unknown: Only one way to find out…

No, I couldn’t. I mean, the idea was preposterous. Yes, Lady Anne had gone, but Anne was a fictional character, not to mention a lot braver than me. Back in her day, the world wasn’t full of serial killers and murderers like England nowadays. Okay, so Jack the Ripper lived in the nineteenth century. And Burke and Hare. But that was completely different.

I poured myself another glass of garish yellow fruit punch from a daffodil-patterned jug and sighed. Angelica would go, but Angelica had more courage than I did. People always expressed surprise when they found out we were twins, seeing as we weren’t identical, and I quite understood why—I was the mouse to her lioness, the water to her fire.

The “other” daughter. The one without fame and all the trappings that went with it.

The one who’d never stepped out of the box I’d carefully constructed around myself as a schoolgirl.

“Angelica,” my mother bleated, interrupting my thoughts. “You simply must tell Petronella about your new book. And, Augusta, be a dear and bring us another bottle of rosé.”

Fine, so I was the waitress to Angelica’s lioness.

Why did mother make me go to her flipping parties? I hated every second of them. And at a quarter to midnight, while Angelica dissected the plot of Sapphire Duvall’s debut novel and got several key points wrong, I was sent to the wine cellar for my sixth trip that evening. And that time I kept walking. Right out of the house, across the lawn, past the swimming pool and the tennis court, through the rose garden, and as far as the pond. 

I hadn’t planned to go there. I hadn’t even thought about it. Okay, so I had thought about it, but not seriously. I mean, the whole idea was crazy, right?

 But my feet walked me across the estate until the summerhouse I’d played in for hours as a child stood in front of me. Of course, since my mother had a hand in the design, it wasn’t simply a wooden hut. No, its hand-finished oak walls had been built by a master carpenter, and a sought-after designer had furnished the roomy interior. Three or four times a year, Mother would sit there and read a book for a morning before she got bored. Not one of Sapphire’s—mother preferred memoirs.

The rest of the year it lay empty, except when I borrowed it in the warmer months. Or possibly this evening. Did Mr. Midnight really exist?

Before I could slap myself over how insanely stupid the whole idea was, I tapped in the combination to open the door, and the creaking hinges reminded me how little use the place got. 

Now what? 

A minute ticked past, and my toes began to get a little chilly. I still had time to leave. But the part of me that actually believed in Sapphire’s stories kept my feet planted next to the floral chaise longue, my whole body trembling in the dark.

At least, until the nearby screech of an owl brought me back to reality. Had I lost my mind?

Lady Anne might have found love on her foolhardy jaunts, but that was hardly realistic, was it? In my twenty-seven years, I’d been touched by love twice—the childhood crush I’d never quite grown out of and my husband. And look how both of those episodes ended. The boy I used to sit next to at school moved to a different county, and my husband died.

I desperately wanted to believe it would be third time lucky, but the realist in me came to the fore, and my feet finally came unstuck. What was I thinking? I should have been heading for bed with a mug of hot chocolate, not hanging around wishing for fantasy sex with a stranger.

Oh, but it had been a really, really long dry spell. 

Excerpt: Ah, Gideon’s coming…

It wasn’t long before Emmy slipped back into the room, brow creased into a frown.

“Well?” Sofia asked.

“I’ve got good news and bad news.”

“What’s the good news?”

“Help’s on its way, with a top-level security clearance and macarons from Pierre Hermé.”

“And the bad news?”

“That’s also the bad news.”

Silence descended, and Sofia’s eyes widened as she obviously realised what that meant. “Gideon?”

“I only wanted to ask him a few questions. I didn’t realise he’d drop everything and jump on the bloody Eurostar.”

Xav roared with laughter, surprising because I’d never even seen him smile before. 

“I could have told you he’d do that.”

“Why? I told him he didn’t have to.”

“Because Gideon still wants to fuck you, my dear.”

“Who’s Gideon?” I asked, not expecting anybody to answer.

Emmy sagged into the nearest chair and groaned. “A Frenchman with excellent connections, a filthy mouth, and the ability to make women drop their knickers simply by clicking his fingers.”

“It certainly worked with you,” Xav said.

“That’s because he knows what to do with those fingers. Fuck my life. What am I supposed to tell Black?”

            

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