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Excerpt

London
April 22, 1661

The last time Amethyst Goldsmith saw her king, she was five years old and he was about to have his head severed from his body. Now, twelve years later, she sincerely hoped his son would have better luck.

She shouldered her way through the crowd, her parents and aunt murmuring apologies in her wake. Here, there's room! Finally reaching a few bare inches of rail, she clasped it with both hands and turned to flash them a victorious smile. Come along, it's starting!

Hugh and Edith Goldsmith joined her, shaking their heads at their daughter's tenacity. Hugh's sister Elizabeth squeezed in behind. Ignoring the grumbling of displaced spectators, Amy spread her feet wide to save more room at the front. Robert, over here!

Robert Stanley tugged on her long black plait as he wedged himself in beside her. She shot him a grin; he was fun. Although he'd arrived just last week to train as her father's apprentice, Amy had known for years that she was to marry him. So far they'd gotten along fine, although he'd been surprised to find she was far more skilled as a jeweler than he. Surprised and none too pleased, Amy suspected. But he would get over those feelings.

She might be female, but her talent was a God-given gift, and she'd never in this lifetime give up her craft. Robert would have to learn to accept that.

With a sigh of pleasure, Amy shuffled her shoes on the scrubbed cobblestones. Look, Mama! Everything is so clean and glorious. She breathed deep of the fresh air, blinking against the bright sun. The rain has stopped…even the weather is welcoming the monarchy back to England! Have you ever seen so many people? All London must be here.

These cannot all be Londoners. Her mother waved a hand, encompassing the crowds on the rooftops, the mobbed windows and overflowing balconies. I think many have come in from the countryside.

A handful of tossed rose petals drifted down, landing on Amy's dark head like scented snowflakes. She shook them off, laughing. Just look at all the tapestries and banners!

Just look at all that wasted wine, Robert muttered, with a nod toward the fragrant red river that ran through the open conduit in the street.

Amy opened her mouth to protest, then decided he must be fooling. Marry come up, Robert! You must be pleased King Charles will be crowned tomorrow. Twelve years of Cromwell's rule was enough. Now we have music and dancing again. She felt like dancing, like spreading her burgundy satin skirts and twirling in a circle, but the press of the crowd made such a maneuver impossible, so she settled for bobbing a little curtsy. We've beautiful clothes, and the theater—

And drinking and cards and dice, Robert added.

That too, Amy agreed, turning back to ogle the mounted queue of nobility parading their way from the Tower to Whitehall Palace. Such jewels and feathers and lace! Fingering the looped ribbons adorning her new gown, she pressed harder against the rail, wishing she too could join the procession.

Where did they possibly find so many ostrich feathers in all of England? she wondered aloud, then burst into giggles.

Her aunt laughed and wrapped an affectionate arm around her shoulders. Where do you find the energy, child? You must come to Paris. Uncle William and I could use your happy smiles.

Feeling a stab of sympathy, Amy hugged her around the waist. Aunt Elizabeth had lost her three children to smallpox last year.

We need her artistry here, Amy's father protested, poking his sister good-naturedly. Your shop will have to do without.

Ah, Hugh, how selfish you are! Aunt Elizabeth chided. Hoarding my niece's talent for your own profit. She aimed a mischievous smile at her brother. 'No wonder we moved to France to escape the competition.

Amy grinned. Aunt Elizabeth and Uncle William had been forced to move their shop when business fell off during the Commonwealth years. But they'd flourished in Paris, becoming jewelers to the French court, and wouldn't think of returning now.

I'm glad you came for the coronation, Auntie. It wouldn't be the same without you.

I wouldn't have missed it, Elizabeth declared. Old Noll drove me out of England, so my home is elsewhere now. But it's God's own truth that no one here is happier than I.

Listen! Amy cried. A joyous roar rolled westward toward them, marking the slow passage of His Majesty in the middle of the procession. Can you hear King Charles coming? There are his attendants! The noise swelled as the king's footguards marched by, their plumes of red and white feathers contrasting with those of his brother, the Duke of York, whose guard was decked out in black and white.

All at once, the roar was deafening. Amy grasped her mother's hand. 'It's him, Mama, she whispered. King Charles II. Glittering in the sunshine, the Horse of State caught and held her gaze. Oh, look at the embroidered saddle, the pearls and rubies—look at our diamonds!

Amy didn't care for horses—she was terrified of them, truth be told—so she paid no attention to the magnificent beast himself. But three hundred of her family's diamonds sparkled on the gold stirrups and bosses, among the twelve thousand lent for the occasion.

Oh, Papa, she breathed, I wish we could have designed that saddle.

Aunt Elizabeth's hand suddenly tightened on Amy's shoulder. Charles is looking at me, she declared loudly.

Amy's father snorted. Always the flirt, sister mine.

Amy's gaze flew from the dazzling horse to its rider. Smiling broadly beneath his thin mustache, the tall king waved to the crowd. His cloth-of-silver suit peeked from beneath ermine-lined crimson robes. Rubies and sapphires winked from gold shoe buckles and matching gold garters, festooned with great poufs of silver ribbon. Long, shining black curls draped over his chest, framing a face that appeared older than his thirty years; the result, Amy supposed, of having suffered through exile and the execution of his beloved father.

But his black eyes were quick and sparkling—and more than a little sensual. Some women around Amy swooned, but she just stared, willing the king to look at her.

When he did, she flashed him a radiant smile. No, Auntie, he's looking at me.

Before her family even stopped laughing, the king was gone, as suddenly as he had arrived. But the spectacle wasn't over. Behind him came a camel with brocaded panniers and an East Indian boy flinging pearls and spices into the crowd. And then more lords and ladies, more glittering costumes, more decorated stallions, more men-at-arms, all bedecked in gold and silver and the costliest of gems.

Yet none of it mattered to Amy, for there was a nobleman riding her way.

It wasn't the richness of his clothing that caught her eye, for in truth his garb was rather plain. His black velvet suit was trimmed with naught but gold braid; his wide-brimmed hat boasted only a single white plume. He wore no fancy crimped periwig; instead his own raven hair fell in gleaming waves to his shoulders.

Deep emerald eyes bore into Amy's, singling her out as he angled his horse in her direction. His glossy black gelding breathed close, but she felt no fear, for the man held her safe with his piercing green gaze. It seemed as though he could see through her eyes right into her soul. Her cheeks flamed; never in her almost-seventeen years had a man looked at her like that.

He tipped his plumed hat. Flustered, she turned and glanced about, certain he must be saluting someone else. But everyone was laughing and talking or watching the procession; no one focused their attention his way. She looked back, and he grinned as he passed, a devastating slash of white that made Amy melt inside.

Long after he rode out of sight around the bend, she stared to where he had disappeared.

Amy? Robert tugged on her hand.

She turned and gazed into his eyes: pale blue, not green. They didn't make her melt inside, didn't make her feel anything.

Robert smiled, revealing teeth that overlapped a bit. She hadn't really noticed that before. It's over, he said.

Oh.

The sun set as they walked home to Cheapside, skirting merrymakers in the streets. Her father paused to unlock their door. Overhead, a wooden sign swung gently in the breeze. A nearby bonfire illuminated the image of a falcon and the gilt letters that proclaimed their shop GOLDSMITH & SONS, JEWELLERS.

There came a sudden brilliant flash and a stunned Ooooh from the crowd, as fireworks lit the sky. Amy dashed through the shop and up the stairs to their balcony.

Gazing toward the River Thames, she watched the great fiery streaks of light, heard the soaring rockets, smelled the sulfur in the air. It was the most spectacular display England had ever seen, and the sights and sounds filled her with a wondrous feeling.

If only life could be as exhilarating as a fireworks show.

When the last glittering tendril faded away, she listened to the fragments of song and rowdy laughter that filled the night air. Couples strolled by, arm in arm. Robert stepped onto the balcony and moved close.

His voice was quiet beside her. This is a day I'll never forget.

I'll never forget it, either, she said, thinking of the man on the black steed, the man with the emerald eyes.

Robert tilted her face up, bending his head to place a soft, chaste kiss on her lips. It was their first kiss; she was supposed to feel fireworks.

But she felt nothing.


Five years later
August 24, 1666

Are you telling me you made this bracelet? A girl? This shop is Goldsmith & Sons, is it not? Robert Stanley puckered his freckled face and made his voice high and wavering. Where are the sons?

From where she stood by the stone oven, Amethyst Goldsmith's laughter rang through the workshop. Lady Smythe! A perfect imitation.

Well done, Robert. Her father smiled as he brushed past them both and through the archway into the shop's showroom.

Robert's pale blue eyes twinkled, but he stayed in character, cupping a hand to his ear. Imitation? Imitation, did you say? I was led to believe this was a quality jewelry shop, madame. I expect genuine—

Stop! Amy fought to control her giggles. You'll make me slip and scald myself.

Robert's gaze fell to Amy's hands. As he watched her pour a thin stream of molten gold into a plaster mold, his expression sobered. I like Lady Smythe, he muttered. At least she buys the things I make.

Oh, Robert. She sighed. Why should it matter who made something, as long as we're selling a piece?

I'm a good goldsmith.

You're an excellent goldsmith, Amy agreed. Although she also thought he was a bit unimaginative, she kept that to herself. What does that have to do with anything?

You're a woman.

She clenched her jaw and tapped the mold on her workbench, imagining the gold flowing to fill every crevice of her design. I'm also a jeweler, she said under her breath.

Never mind. He walked to his own workbench and plopped onto his stool, lifting the pewter tankard of ale that sat ever-present amongst his tools.

Ignoring him, Amy picked up a knife and a chunk of wax, intending to whittle a new design while the gold hardened. The windowless workroom seemed stifling today—hot, close, and dark. She dragged a lantern nearer, but the artificial, yellowish glow did little to lift her mood.

Five years she'd lived and worked with Robert Stanley, and he still didn't understand her. She couldn't believe it. She was marrying him in two weeks, and she couldn't believe that, either.

Once it had seemed like a lifetime stretched ahead of her before she had to wed. She'd put it off, and put it off, then last spring her father had announced she was twenty-two and it was time to get on with it.

He'd set a date, and that had been that. No matter that Robert thought his wife should stay upstairs and mend his clothes; no matter that he resented it when her designs sold faster and she received more custom orders than he did.

No matter that she didn't love him. Not the way a wife should love a husband. Not the way it was in the French novels she read. Not the way she had felt, five years ago at the coronation procession, when that nobleman's emerald eyes had locked on hers.

She'd never forgotten that feeling.

She would learn to love Robert, her father said. But it hadn't happened—not yet, anyway. Not even close.

Amy sighed and lifted the plait off her neck, rubbing the hot skin beneath. She'd set out to talk to her father dozens of times, but her courage always failed her. Since the death of her mother in last year's Great Plague, it seemed she could take anything but her father's disapproval.

When the casting was set, Amy plunged it into the tub of water by Robert's workbench. She rubbed the mold's gritty plaster surface, feeling it dissolve away in her hands, watching Robert's knife send wax shavings flying as he sculpted a model.

She scowled at his curved back. I believe I fancied you more as Lady Smythe.

Robert turned and stared at her for a moment, then hunched over suddenly. His face transformed, taking on a Lady Smythe look. Are you certain, madame? he asked in that high, wavering tone. I hear tell you've had dancing lessons and speak fluent French. Such pretensions. I don't hold with women reckoning account books, you know. Not at all. His voice deepened into his own. Or making jewelry, either.

Amy flinched. She pulled the casting from the water and carried it to her workbench to brush off the remaining bits of plaster.

He rose and came up behind her, tilting her head back with a hand beneath her chin. Two more weeks, and a proper wife you'll be. With little finesse, his mouth came down on hers.

The faint scent of his breakfast had her squeezing her eyes shut and praying for the end to this torment.

Part your lips, Amy, he demanded against her mouth.

She didn't. She wished he'd use one of those newfangled little silver toothbrushes Aunt Elizabeth had sent from Paris.

Finally he raised his head. Two weeks, he repeated.

Her eyes snapped open and burned into his. Papa would never allow you to keep me from making jewelry. Looking down, she brushed at the casting harder.

Hugh Goldsmith won't be here forever. His hand moved to snake down her bodice.

Amy's gaze flickered toward the showroom in warning.

Wrenching away, he strode back to his workbench, back to his ale. At least soon he won't be able to threaten me with bodily harm for sullying his virginal daughter, he spat, raising the tankard in a salute. Two weeks, he added with a grin.

A grin that Amy had once thought boyish, engaging…but of late had made her uneasy.

They both turned as the bell on the outside door tinkled. Amy stood and whipped off her apron. I'll get it.

Your father is out there, Robert reminded her. He can handle it.

She paid him no mind, but smoothed back a few damp strands that had escaped her plait. Pausing to straighten her gown, she put a shopgirl smile on her face before heading through the swinging doors into the cool, bright showroom.

A locket, a young woman at the far end of the L-shaped case was saying, smiling up at a gentleman with his back to Amy.

Deep red curls draped to the lady's scandalously bare shoulders; her lavish golden brocade gown had a neckline much lower than Amy's father would ever allow. The man's mistress? In the years since the Restoration, the nobility had taken King Charles's lead as far as morals were concerned, which was to say they had very few.

The tall man addressed Hugh. My sister would like a locket. He urged the lady—his sister, not his mistress—forward. Go on, Kendra, see what you fancy.

Though the gentleman seemed determined to work with her father, Amy stepped closer, poised to turn the corner and help close the sale. Hugh glanced at her, then smiled. Have you a style in mind, or a price, Lord…?

Greystone. His back still to Amy, he waved an impatient hand. Whatever she likes.

Hugh cleared his throat. Perhaps my daughter can help you decide. Amethyst, please show Lord Greystone the lockets.

She took a tray from the case and moved to set it before the man's sister instead.

They're all so pretty! Lady Kendra exclaimed in delight. When she bent her head to look closer, her beautiful red curls shimmered to rival the glitter of jewels in the case.

Amy's hand went reflexively to her own head, as though she could rearrange her hated black hair into something more fashionable than her serviceable plait. Resisting the urge to sigh, she lifted an oval locket with tiny engraved flowers.

See the gold ribbons forming the bale? As her father had taught her, her voice was sweet and confident, reflecting her certainty of both the quality of the piece and her ability to sell it. She snapped open the locket and extended it, looking from Lady Kendra to Lord Greystone. It's—

Her voice failed her.

Hugh nudged her, frowning. Amy?

It-it's quite feminine, she stammered out, telling herself Lord Greystone couldn't be the man she remembered.

But then his emerald green eyes locked on hers—as they'd done five years earlier. He was the man she remembered, the man she'd been unable to forget…

The nobleman from the coronation procession.

Her heart seemed to pause in her chest, and for a second she thought she would drown in those eyes; then she looked away, with an effort, and down to the locket she was holding.

Lady Kendra reached to take the locket from Amy. Oh, look how pretty it is, Colin. She held it up to her bodice, turning to model it for her brother.

With seeming reluctance, Lord Greystone swung his gaze toward his sister's chest. I'm not sure I care for it.

Notice the fine engraving, my lord, Hugh rushed to put in. Truly first quality.

Lord Greystone ignored him and looked back to Amy. When his eyes narrowed, Amy found herself studying him in return. Classic symmetrical features: a long, straight nose, sculpted planes, a slight dimple in his chin. His clean-shaven complexion appeared more golden than was the fashion.

God in heaven, she'd never seen such a handsome man.

When he finally spoke, his voice, smooth and deep, sent a shiver down her spine. Have you a locket with…amethysts?

Amethysts…

She opened her mouth to answer, but the words refused to come out.

No, my lord, we don't, Hugh said. But emeralds would suit the lady—

Yes, Amy interrupted, finally finding her voice. Yes, we do have amethysts! If you'll but wait one moment. She reached to grab the key ring off her father's belt, then turned and bolted for the workshop.

What are you in such a rush for? Robert asked as she jammed the key into the first padlock on their iron safe chest.

Customers are waiting. Having removed the second padlock, she knelt on the floor and began working the twelve bolts in their complicated sequence.

Robert wandered over, wiping blunt hands on his apron, leaving streaks of abrasive gray slurry. What customers?

A gentleman and his sister, she said as the last bolt slid into place, allowing her to access the final lock. She opened it with the largest key, then lifted the lid and rummaged inside.

Luckily, the locket she was after was there in the top tray. Ah, here it is. Just seeing the piece, the shimmering gold, the sparkling gems, made her smile.

She rose and headed back to the showroom, Robert at her heels. He lounged against the archway and fixed Lord Greystone with a distrustful blue stare.

Well, she would just ignore him.

I found it, she announced, handing the locket to Lord Greystone. She watched for his reaction even as she plunked the key ring into her father's outstretched palm.

Lord Greystone blinked at the piece in his hand. Beautiful. It's truly beautiful.

Amy's heart swelled. It does have amethysts, my lord, and diamonds, too.

I can see that, he said, staring at the locket. It's splendid.

It had taken her weeks to make it, so many hours she could still see it with her eyes closed. On top, a cutwork pattern of diamond-set leaves surrounded an amethyst flower. The lozenge-shaped locket dangled beneath, encrusted with amethysts and diamonds, its lid enameled with delicate violets. Swinging from the bottom, a large baroque pearl gleamed.

Lord Greystone finally looked to her father. It's remarkable.

I made it. Amy felt a flush blossom on her cheeks.

Lady Kendra's mouth dropped open in surprise. Lord Greystone's startled gaze swung to Amy, over to her father, who nodded proudly, then back to Amy. I don't believe it. You're—

A woman? She heard the challenge in her own voice.

His grin was a bit sheepish. However did you learn to make something like this?

Her father cleared his throat. We hadn't much to do during the Commonwealth, my lord. I expect you were abroad?

Lord Greystone nodded.

Well, jewelry was much frowned upon, other than some mourning pieces. I had time aplenty to train Amy in the arts of goldsmithing. Amy's father placed a possessive hand on her shoulder. She's a natural—even did the enameling herself.

I must—I mean, Kendra—must have it.

Hugh shook his head. I'm afraid it's not for sale. It's Amy's own keepsake.

Of course it's for sale, Papa. Amy regarded Lord Greystone with a speculative gaze. But it's very expensive.

I'd expect so. We'll take it.

Lady Kendra turned to him, a frown creasing the area between her light green eyes. Are you sure, Colin?

He looked down at his sister. Don't you like it?

It's lovely, but…

I said I would buy whatever you chose for your birthday. I want you to have it. He fished a pouch of coins from his surcoat and handed it to Amy. Here. Take whatever's fair. Include a chain; I want her to wear it now.

Shocked that he would leave the price up to her, Amy fumbled with the pouch. She drew out a few coins, then a few more. The materials had been costly, and the piece had taken a lot of her time—she didn't want to take advantage of the man, but she wouldn't short herself, either.

Papa? Closing the pouch, Amy showed her father the gold she'd taken.

Hugh nodded. That's fine, Amy. He pocketed the coins and placed a gold chain on the counter.

As she returned the pouch to Lord Greystone, he handed her the locket. His fingers brushed her hand, and a brief, warm shiver rippled through her. Her breath caught; she hoped no one noticed.

Robert sullenly pulled a cloth from his apron pocket and moved from the archway to stand beside her. He polished the glass case as she threaded the chain through the bale on the locket, then held it up for Lady Kendra to see.

Ooh, Lady Kendra breathed. Will you put it on me?

She turned, and Lord Greystone lifted her hair so Amy could fasten the clasp.

Lady Kendra faced Amy and touched the locket reverently. Thank you so very much. I'll treasure it always.

Thank who? her brother prompted with a smile.

Thank you, Colin, she said and turned to embrace him.

Amy bit her lip, feeling an unexpected twinge of envy for this woman's shiny red curls and low-cut gown. But most of all, she envied the way Lady Kendra was hugging Lord Greystone. She glanced down at the counter, lest Robert catch sight of her telltale eyes.

Lord Greystone ushered his sister outside, then lingered in the doorway, looking oddly reluctant to leave.

Can… The long fingers of one hand drummed against his muscled thigh, then stopped. Can you make a signet ring?

His question came low across the small shop, to Amy, not her father.

A signet ring? she said with a small smile. Of course, it's a simple matter.

Beside her, Robert stopped polishing.

Excellent. Lord Greystone paused, frowning a bit. I'll send a messenger with a drawing of the crest, he said at last. And my direction to deliver it when you're finished.

Amy nodded, feeling a quick stab of disappointment that she wouldn't be seeing him again. Robert's hand resumed its deliberate circular motion on top of the counter.

I thank you, Lord Greystone said. Then he melted out the doorway and into the teeming streets of Cheapside.

The bell rang again when the door shut. Amy stared at the solid wood until her father cleared his throat.

I cannot believe you sold your locket, he remarked. I thought it was your favorite piece.

It was, she answered dreamily. But I can make another one.

Her stomach fluttered with happiness, just knowing Lord Greystone admired her craftsmanship and his sister would be wearing her locket. And soon, he would be wearing her ring.

If you ask me, it was a clod-headed idea, Robert put in with a shake of his carrot-topped head. You'll never find time to make another locket with all the custom orders you get.

Amy and her father shared a quizzical look.

Besides, I didn't like him, Robert added. I didn't like the way he looked at you.

Amy lowered her gaze and brushed past him into the workshop. She'd liked the way Lord Greystone looked at her, very much.

Very much indeed.


Colin entered their carriage to find Kendra seated inside, her arms crossed. What took you so long?

He sat opposite her and looked out the window. The door of the jewelry shop was closed, so he couldn't see the girl named Amethyst, the girl with that long, thick, ribbon-entwined plait his fingers had itched to unravel.

I ordered a signet ring, he said.

You what?

Colin could have asked himself that question. He'd known he was acting out of character, but in all his twenty-eight years he'd never met anyone like the girl who had made that exquisite locket. He'd wanted his sister to own it, and he'd wanted something she'd made for him, too. I need a signet ring, for a seal.

Kendra shot him a look of patent disbelief. You couldn't even afford this locket. She shook her bright head. Something happened in that shop.

Nothing happened, he said, although he knew very well something had. He'd noticed the way the girl's amethyst gaze had been drawn to his own. She'd felt it, too—that compelling, undeniable attraction. Remembering, he smiled to himself.

It made a man feel good, though nothing would ever come of it.

Unfortunately, his younger sister was observant as hell, a fact that could be deucedly inconvenient at times. I just thought it was a beautiful piece of jewelry, and I wanted you to have it.

Od's fish, Colin, you're the one always lecturing us about saving funds…

He turned off her voice in his head, instead considering the possibility of landing that enticing little jeweler in his bed.

…planning for the future…

She was completely off limits, of course. Not a widow, not an actress, not a lightskirt, not a highborn member of King Charles's licentious court.

And then you ordered a ring. You never wear jewelry!

A sheltered young woman of the merchant class, she would never bed with any man outside of marriage. And Colin Chase, Earl of Greystone, had no intention of marrying beneath himself.

I cannot believe you bought this locket in the first place.

Besides, he was already betrothed to the perfect woman.

I do love it, though.

As they passed Goldsmith & Sons, he glanced out the window. He would never go back there. It had been a harmless flirtation, nothing more. He couldn't remember the last time he'd set foot in a jewelry shop, and…

No, he had no reason to ever return.

Thank you, Colin. I truly do love it.

He blinked and looked at Kendra. She was sighing, gazing down at the locket and fingering it possessively.

What had she been saying?

Oh, she loved it.

I'm glad. Shall we go buy our brother that telescope he's been hankering for?

Are you sure? Ford will be thrilled. Kendra bounced on the seat, then settled her skirts about her as though she'd just remembered she was grown up. Can it be from me, too? Sometimes he drives me mad as a Bedlam wench with his scientific obsession, but he is my twin, and I love to see him happy.

Colin gave his sister a fond smile, hoping the man she finally consented to marry would have more energy than he did. Yes, it can be from you, too. Now, where do you suppose we might find such a contraption?


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