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Few visited the Ruthven offices who were not expected. Workroom employees were due at half past seven. Vendors arranged appointments weeks in advance. No meeting was ever scheduled before nine. Gabe imposed order efficiently and effectively on the daily goings-on of the business. If some random Londoner happened across their threshold, it was usually because the poor sod got lost.
Over the years, Gabe had learned the rhythms of the workroom floor by heart, memorizing the clatter of the printing presses and the patterned strikes of Daughtry, his assistant, and other clerks tapping at their typewriters. When productivity waned because of inane chitchat, he caught that too. And immediately cut such nonsense short.
So when he settled behind his desk on Monday morning, a half hour before any other employees were due to arrive, as was his habit, he savored the bliss of quiet. He felt something akin to peace. After weeks of mulling, he’d made a choice. He would inform Kit Ruthven of his plans to leave Ruthven’s and take the position offered by Wellbeck Publishers.
Why shouldn’t he go? He owed no loyalty to the late Leopold Ruthven. The man had been a reprobate, far worse than his family suspected. Only grudgingly, Gabe had come to respect the son. Kit Ruthven trusted him to carry out his duties, rarely questioning or interfering with his management. He even admired the man’s determination to share ownership with his sisters. If he’d been lucky enough to inherit anything of value, he’d have happily shared with Sara too.
Of course, Gabe didn’t believe in luck. Only in scrabbling and fighting for every scrap of good fortune that came his way.
Change was necessary. He needed the higher salary Wellbeck’s offered. He’d been beholden to the Ruthvens for long enough.
Unfolding the letter from Wellbeck’s, he smoothed the document on his desktop. Beside it, he poised a nib pen over a fresh sheet of foolscap and began scratching out a formal reply. A moment later, a noise in the outer workroom jolted his attention, and his nib sputtered blots of ink across the paper.
Hell and damnation. Gabe crushed the ruined page in his fist and shot up from his chair. No one ever arrived this bloody early, and he’d secured the door behind him when he’d let himself in.
After shrugging out of his suit coat, he rolled up his sleeves and moved slowly toward the door. He took care to land his boots softly on the polished wood. A distinctive sound froze him in place. Not the rustling that had initially drawn his notice but a steady, rhythmic tick of type bars hitting the platen of a typewriter.
Plastering himself against the frame of his open office door, Gabe gazed across the workroom to get a glimpse of the early morning typist. Irritation flared, and his chest collapsed in a long sigh.
Bent over Daughtry’s typewriter, Miss Ruthven swiped a strand of hair from her face and then proceeded to jab haphazardly at the keys. With her back to him, her body curved in a perfect hourglass shape. A single loose curl had slipped its pin, hanging down her back in the same sinuous line. Despite the fact that he’d never entered the workroom to find a lovely woman working away at one of the desks, she looked strangely right perched on Daughtry’s chair.
He couldn’t lambast her for skulking into the office and commandeering the old man’s typewriter. This was her office now. Her business. Her typewriter, if she damn well pleased to use the machine. Apparently, she did.
Gabe cleared his throat as loudly as he dared.
She jumped before turning an irritated glare his way. “You startled me.” After an enormous gulp, her tone softened. “I didn’t expect anyone so early.”
“Do you always arrive before everyone else?” She collected whatever she’d been composing from the typewriter and turned to face him.
“Always.” Gabe gestured toward Daughtry’s work space. “What required typing so urgently?”
“Nothing.” She shoved the paper behind her.
The movement amused him. How many filched objects had he pushed behind his back or stuffed into his pockets as a child? Once he’d even hidden a stolen pocket watch in his mouth while a constable passed on his nightly rounds. The bitter tang of tarnished metal had lingered on his tongue for days.
“May I?” he asked, palm out, much more politely than any copper had ever cross-questioned him.
She notched up her chin a moment and then relented, shoving the half-covered sheet in front of him. “It’s nothing. Truly.”
The page smelled of flowers. Gabe wondered if she imprinted her scent on everything she touched. Rows of letters typed over and over were broken with lines of text such as “There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.” The words were familiar to Gabe, though he couldn’t recall from where.
“I must become proficient with the typewriter. I came early so as not to disturb anyone.” She stepped closer and snatched the sheet from his fingers. “Did I disturb you, Mr. Adamson?”
“No,” he lied. But she did disturb him. Mightily.
His senses ignited in awareness, every nerve firing. She was the brightest spot in the room, her blouse a bright buttercup yellow that clashed with the darker gold of her hair. And those violet eyes of hers seemed to eat up everything they beheld. She had an eager way of gazing about, as if she was seeing the world for the first time, and every sight fascinated her.
She moved constantly too, like a flower swaying in a stiff breeze. Shuffling her feet, twisting at the hips, she behaved as if the act of standing in one place put a fearsome strain on her patience. “Would you mind if I continue, at least until the other employees arrive?”
Yes, I would mind quite a lot.
“As you wish, Miss Ruthven.”
“Will you be at the meeting later this morning, Mr. Adamson?” she put to him over her shoulder after settling herself back into Daughtry’s chair.
“Of course.” The question irked him, almost as much as her sweet floral scent. Where did she think he’d be? This was his domain. At least for a little while longer. “I’m the one who called the meeting.”
As he headed back to his office, a thought struck like a punch to the gut.
He’d miss this damned place—the tidy workroom, the hum of activity when a shipment came in or a new title started production, even the simple orderliness of his desk. Employees like Daughtry, who believed in working as hard as he did to make the enterprise a success, were a rarity. Would he find the same at Wellbeck’s?
Then another thought came, and a chill spilled down his back like ice water.
“Will you be attending the meeting, Miss Ruthven?”
She shifted her enticing hourglass figure, glanced at him over her shoulder, and shot him an irksome grin. “Since I’m here, I might as well.”
Release Date: November 14, 2017
Series: Romancing the Rules, #3
Tracy’s rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Gabriel “Gabe” Adamson is a self made man, born and raised on the streets of Whitechapel, he has done many things he is not proud of, but he has left that life behind and never intends to look back. However, at his sister’s request, he is back in Whitechapel looking for their mother. Unable to find her, he leaves intending to return home, but he is side tracked when he hears a scream and finds a woman fighting off a man. He is ready to intervene when he realizes two things, one the woman is doing a fine job on her own and two she is his employers sister, his secret desire and greatest annoyance.
Clarissa “Clary” Ruthven is helping her friend Helen at the Fisk Academy for Girls, Clary firmly believes in helping others and wants to give these girls a chance at a better life. While fighting off an unwanted suitor of one of the students, she notices Gabe standing near by. The two have known each other for years and she can’t stand him, he is so proper and perfect and gorgeous (not that she is looking). Once the attacker is sent on his way, Clary invites Gabe in to see the school. And when he says he must leave, she suggests they share a cab.
On the ride back to town, they butt heads and Gabe has the cab stop and leaves. Clary follows him, she wants the feuding between them to be over and invites him to her birthday dinner. He refuses and leaves her to go home alone. After her dinner, she learns that her father did not leave her an inheritance like she thought – he left her a dowry. Upset with this information that ruins her plans for the Fisk Academy and an independent life, she tells her brother Kit that she wants to be more involved in the family business. The business that Gabe oversees. Kit encourages her to attend the board meeting.
Gabe is on the verge of quitting, he has been offered a job with an competitor who will pay him more and with his sister getting married, Gabe needs the extra money. He composes his letter of resignation and requests a meeting with Kit. Before he can say anything, Kit offers him a raise and a bonus if he will mentor Clary. The amount is too good to pass up, so he grudging agrees.
Clary is the complete opposite of Gabe in every way, she is warm, friendly, unconventional and overly sympathetic. Gabe is no nonsense, proper, by the book and somewhat grim. They are oil and water. But there is something there, they both feel it and try to ignore it. Gabe tries to ignore Clary, but she is impossible to ignore and when he learns she is planning to go to Whitechapel again, he intercepts her. He knows better than to try and stop her, so he offers her a quick lesson in self defense. Clary is touched that Gabe took the time to help her and begins to admit that her feelings for him confuse her. One minute he is stern and unyielding and the next he is kind and going out of his way to help her.
When a mishap at work leads to Clary being taken into his office to get cleaned up, she tries her hand at flirting with him, but they are interrupted by a visitor to see Gabe, Jane Martin. Gabe was close to her father and considers her a friend, even thought she and his sister hope for more.
When Gabe brings Jane as his guess to the Fisk Academy benefit ball – Clary is horrified to realize she is jealous. When she steals away to compose herself, Gabe finds her and explains that Jane is just a friend and he asks Clary to teach him to dance. They share a kiss before they are interrupted by her sister.
Gabe knows he should stay away from her, but he is drawn to her like a moth to a flame. Clary feels the same way and since she has begun working with him, she is even more impressed with him.
When Gabe is called to Whitechapel and ambushed, he ends up at the Fisk Academy, Clary cares for his wounds and things heat up between them, but when she asks about his scars, he immediately goes cold and leaves.
The next day, he gets bad news and is late to work, when he finally arrives, the building is dark and only Clary is there. The office is closed due to a gas problem and Gabe asks Clary to leave with him, determined to share his past with her.
Once his past is in the open, it seems like these two are headed to a HEA, but Gabe still has secrets and when ghosts from his past come calling, Gabe may have to give up the only woman he has ever loved.
This was a very well written story, it flowed well and it was a very intense, emotional story. Gabe and Clary are both extremely likable characters with strong personalities, there are secrets, passionate kisses, steamy love scenes, a great secondary cast, amusing moments, some heart breaking moments and a very rough road to their HEA.
This is the third book in the series, but I had no problems following the story, without reading the previous books. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will be looking for more by this author.
*I am voluntarily leaving a review for an eARC that was provided to me by the publisher*