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Daisy Dunlop thinks “heir hunting” is a perfect career. Too bad she has to work with her husband’s best mate, Irish PI Solomon Liffey. They’ve barely spoken since he took her husband Paul’s request to keep her safe far too literally and handcuffed her to the kitchen sink.
Solomon has no interest in babysitting a new partner, especially this one. The woman’s a bleedin’ liability. She has no concept of danger and could flirt for England at the next Olympics. As if that isn’t bad enough, she has a habit of sticking her nose where it’s not wanted, including into Solomon’s very private life.
Determined to keep Daisy safely out of his way, Solomon sets her the task of finding a missing lord. Her investigations land her in the middle of his case. Bullets fly, bombs explode, and the body count rises. When Solomon goes missing, the tables are turned. Now it’s his life that is in Daisy’s hands, and she has two missing men to find before it’s too late.
A real P.I. would have thought to get the address before she was running late. Not that hunting heirs made Daisy a P.I., or that she wanted the title, although having a handgun would be cool. However, she couldn’t imagine any need to shoot people when she was about to tell them they had inherited their dearly departed’s worldly goods.
She slowed down to check the building numbers. Even though she was in the backstreets of Southampton the office and shop fronts along the row were all chrome and glass, swanky and very upmarket. Despite the makeover the developers had done well to maintain the English city’s unique history and charm. She passed twenty-six and stopped, there was no twenty-six B. She tugged her phone from her bag and checked her husband Paul’s response to her SOS. He had definitely said twenty-six B.
The door to the In Bloom florist at twenty-six opened and a blonde stepped out carrying an advertising sandwich board.
“Excuse me. I’m looking for number twenty-six B. I’m running late, and now I can’t find the office.”
The blonde set the board down and turned her attention to Daisy. “Ah, you must be looking for our mysterious tall, dark, and handsome neighbor.”
“So Solomon’s office is near here, then?”
“The entrance is around the side. You can’t miss it.”
Daisy glanced around the corner of the florist. “Do you mean down the stairs? Is his office in the cellar?”
“According to the landlord, it’s more a bespoke bijou basement.”
“Great, a pokey, run-down cave. Why am I not surprised to discover Solomon dwells underground?”
“Why are you looking for him?”
Good question. Daisy considered her options. To work as his slave? To be trained as an heir hunter, family historian, and finder of the lost, because her husband didn’t trust her to work alone? Employee? None of the options appealed. “I’m his new partner.”
“So you know what line of business he’s in? What does sultry Solomon do?”
“I could tell you, but then I’d have to shoot you.”
The blonde’s laughter was light and melodic. “I’m Belinda.”
“If you get bored doing whatever it is you do with Mr. Mysterious, drop in for coffee.”
Belinda’s outfit was definitely more Harvey Nicks than Primark, and her accent indicated she was posh totty. Not the sort that Daisy usually hung out with. However, Belinda had a twinkle in her hazel eyes, and laughter lines around her beautifully penciled and painted red lips.
“I might take you up on your offer. See you later,” Daisy called, waving good-bye and ducking around the corner. She took a moment to tug her ponytail tight, pull her distressed leather jacket straight, and get her breath back, before descending the stairs. A shiver ran up her spine. The black door with the word SOLOMON’S above it in a square blocky font was hardly inviting, and the large brass knocker appeared to be the only way to announce her arrival.
She pushed her shoulders back, grasped the knocker, and rammed it hard against the dark timber a couple of times. The door swung open, and she met the frosty blue-eyed glare of the man in question.
“Hello, Solomon. Lovely to see you too. Yes, I will come in. Thanks for asking.”
“Don’t be a smart-arse.”
“Don’t be an obnoxious pig.” She met his fierce gaze as she stepped around him. “If you keep glowering like that you’ll get wrinkles and a permanent unibrow. How attractive would that look?”
“I don’t care how I look.”
Daisy stepped back, her focus drifting up and down him. His feet were bare. His dark jeans rumpled. His charcoal-colored shirt could use an iron. Day-old stubble darkened his chin and jawline. If his black hair were longer she had no doubt he would have treated it with the same disregard he’d given the rest of his appearance.
“Clearly. So where do I start?”
Solomon shoved his hand in his pocket and pulled out a twenty-pound note. “Coffee shop, across the street. Mine’s black, two sugars.”
“I’m not the bloody tea lady. I’m here to learn to do detecting stuff so I can become an heir hunter.”
“You can start by detecting your way to the coffee shop, and when you get back I’ll give you something else to detect.”
Daisy tried to stare him down, but the Irish git had eyes that made her stomach plummet to her knees, and left her feeling mentally violated when she looked into them for too long. He probably got people to confess to all sorts of things with his death stare. It was a wonder the Americans hadn’t stolen him from the British army and used him as a CIA interrogator. “Fine. Whatever.”
She snatched the money and flounced out the door. When she got back he’d better have something for her to do that was real detective work. Two police cars rushed past, apparently on their way to the waterfront. She stopped at the curb and stared after them. What the hell was going on down at the marina that had the cops so stirred up first thing on a Monday morning?
* * * * *
Daisy’s voice broke into Solomon’s thoughts. “The Internet is full of speculation about this Tobias Wareham. Apparently he was abducted by aliens, or joined MI5. There is absolutely nothing of any use. Solomon, are you listening to me? How about some help? Or are you going to sit there with that stupid expression on your face all day?”
He hadn’t realized he’d been smiling, but apparently the thought of Daisy getting more and more frustrated had caused an outbreak of happy to take over his features.
“Why did you agree to let me work with you if you’re just going to ignore me?”
“Because Paul asked me to.”
“And do you always do what Paul asks, or did he blackmail you over the butt-shooting incident?”
“What do you know about that?” Why, or how, Paul got shot in the arse was supposed to be a well-guarded secret. Solomon stared at her until she turned away.
Daisy shrugged. “Nothing.”
She tapped at her keyboard for a few more minutes before turning her chair so she faced him. “Why am I looking for Lord Tobias Wareham?”
“Have you not been reading the papers? He’s the second son of the late Duke of Mardon, who was unfortunately eaten by a lion in Africa. Now Tobias is heir to a vast fortune, but the man remains elusive, and the late duke’s estate is offering a reward for his return.”
Solomon shoved his chair away from his desk. “Now, as much as I would love to stay here and chat, I’ve got something important I need to be taking care of.”
“And finding the missing second son of a dead duke isn’t important?”
“Not to me. Paul says you’re all fired up to become an heir hunter, so hunt away.”
Solomon put his empty cup on the desk, pushed to his feet, and strode barefoot across the office.
“This is not heir hunting; it’s looking for a bloody missing person, which is your forte, not mine. Clearly the man is hiding. Can’t you at least tell me what else I can do to find him?”
Solomon chuckled. “Well, you could try employing those finely tuned feminine charms that you used on Paul to get you working here to begin with.”
Daisy stared at him. “On you? Use my charms on you?” She shuddered with apparent revulsion at the thought.
He didn’t care about Daisy’s opinion of him. He wouldn’t want her if she were the last female on the planet. Other far more appealing women were amenable to his particular brand of seduction. “No, on whoever knows where your Lord might be hiding. I’ve no interest in your charms.”
“For your information I never wanted to work here. In fact I’d rather have an enema than spend a day in your employ. If Paul hadn’t insisted, I’d be working on my own.”
“And do you always do what Paul wants?”
“Not likely. He wanted me to kiss and make up with you so that he could invite you to his last birthday party.”
“Are you planning on kissing and making up now?” He offered his cheek.
She glared at him. “I would rather eat shit than kiss you.”
Solomon smirked. “Whatever you say, darlin’.”
Daisy banged away at her keyboard. “Fine, believe what you like. I don’t need your help. I know exactly what I’m doing.”
“In that case, I’ll be on my way.”
Daisy kept her back to him. “Just one thing. What should I do if I find him? How do I claim the reward?”
Solomon held back a snort of laughter. “If you find him? Well, then, you best be getting right on it, chase him down and take him home kicking and screaming before someone else gets to him first and steals your prize. It says in the newspaper his big brother Elliott will give the reward money to anyone who shows up with the wayward Lord Tobias in tow.”
Daisy spun her chair around. Her arms were folded, pushing up her breasts and revealing the cleavage he knew had been the first part of Daisy to steal Paul’s heart, quickly followed by other bits of his anatomy. “You don’t think I can do this, do you?”
“I have no opinion either way. I’m just helping out a mate.”
“Where are you going?”
“When will you be back?”
“What if I have to go out?”
“You don’t have to go out. Everything you need is here. If you come to your senses and decide to quit and go home, be sure to turn the lock and slam the door behind you.”
Solomon kept moving and lifted the corner or his mouth in a lopsided smile as he heard her grumbling under her breath. She had a unique way with words. Once he’d established she sucked at being a detective, perhaps he would suggest she pursue a career as a writer. Apparently her new term of endearment for him was “half-brained, shit-headed, arse-wipe of a moron.” When he had more time he would have to come up with a similarly affectionate description for her.
* * * * *
Daisy surfed the net until Solomon left, slamming the door behind him. She stared at the closed door and toyed with her mouse, bored and in need of a break. After getting to her feet, she ambled nonchalantly across the office and down the corridor. Solomon hadn’t given her the guided tour when she arrived, so she would have to take a look around by herself. Knowing where to find the facilities was important, and anything else she discovered along the way would be a happy accident.
Even with all the lights switched on the place was gloomy. The dark brown carpet and nondescript beige walls did nothing to lighten the basement’s mood. Beyond the office there were three closed doors. When she opened the first, she discovered a bathroom. A proper pristine white bathroom, with a modern glass-enclosed shower. Odd for an office, but maybe Solomon needed it to wash the blood off after a gunfight. Did he have a gun? They were illegal but she doubted he would care. She hadn’t noticed any unusual bulges on his person, or seen him slide anything into the back of his pants or the top of his boot.
Door number two revealed a kitchen of sorts. She ferreted through the fridge and cupboards, helping herself to a can of Coke and a jam doughnut. The sugar and caffeine rush would keep her detecting skills at their peak.
Nothing in the kitchen gave any clues about the man she worked with. For all the fact Paul and Solomon had been firm friends long before she came on the scene she knew very little about him.
As she munched on her doughnut and sipped her drink, she continued her investigations. If the front was the office, and she’d already discovered the kitchen and bathroom, what would door number three reveal? She pushed the last of the doughnut into her mouth, wiped the sticky sugar and jam residue on the leg of her black jeans, and grasped the door handle. The chrome lever moved under her hand, but the door wouldn’t budge. Even a shove with her hip achieved nothing.
The door was locked tight. It had to be Solomon’s secret lair. Maybe he lived in the basement and that room was where he dragged unsuspecting women to seduce them. She shuddered. However, if he did live at the office that would explain why he looked half-dressed when she’d arrived. Before he went out he had boots and socks on and grabbed a jacket from somewhere. She’d heard a door shut, and assumed it was a storeroom, but now she suspected it was his bedroom. All his secrets were probably locked inside.
Her search for Lord Toby was proving frustrating. What she needed was something more interesting to hone her detecting skills on, like Solomon. It was important to know your enemy. What she needed was ammunition. Solomon had to be brought to heel if she was to have a chance of succeeding and proving to Paul she’d finally found her perfect career.
She wandered back down the corridor to the office and read through her notes. Lord Tobias Wareham was an old scholar of Langdon College and had attended Oxford briefly before dropping out in his second year. There were only a few badly pixilated pictures of him to be found. She could fall over Toby in the street and not recognize him. Wherever he was, his true identity was still safely hidden.
If the Internet was to be believed, he’d fallen out with his father over his decision to quit his studies and been disinherited, although his inclusion in the old guy’s will did appear to belie that particular story. Reports stated he’d last been seen busking in Leicester Square in London by a woman who claimed to have given birth to his love child. Further investigation had also shown her to be the mother of love children belonging to Brad Pitt, Steven Seagal, and Pope John Paul II.
Daisy turned her attention to the pile of papers Solomon had tossed on the edge of her desk. There was a copy of the old duke’s will and printouts of most of the information she’d already discovered for herself. Solomon also had some handwritten notes from a conversation with a Sergeant Boyle of the Metropolitan Police Force. If Toby was dead he hadn’t been discovered by the cops.
She leaned back, put her feet on the edge of the desk, and stared at the old man’s last will and testament. The document might as well have been written in Latin for all the sense it made to her. The Internet was a great tool, but what she really needed was to be out there detecting.
She got to her feet and stretched. Maybe she could start with a visit to Langdon College to see what anyone remembered about Toby. It was only a half-hour’s drive away. Meeting some of the people who knew him as a boy might prove useful. She needed to get a handle on the man. Once she had a sense of who he was she might have more idea about where he could be living.
Now that she had a plan, Daisy’s blood pumped with anticipation. She switched off her computer, shoved the copy of the will in her bag, and wrote Solomon a note, sticking it to the middle of the front door after she’d slammed it shut behind her. Daisy Dunlop was going to find her man with or without the Irish git’s help.
Diminutive English rose, JL Simpson, was stolen away by a giant nomad and replanted in a southern land filled with gum trees and kangaroos. She quickly adapted to her new life, learning the meaning of G’day and mate whilst steadfastly refusing all attempts to convert her to Vegemite.
A hunger for exploration awoken by her new surroundings, she traversed the land seeking knowledge and adventure. Despite the trials and tribulations along the way she stood fearless in the face of calamity and embarrassment. With a joyous laugh, and a boundless supply of scones with cream and jam, she stood tall, all fifty-eight inches of her, and shrugged off the humiliation of falling in a freezer and reversing into her own mailbox.
Always ready to accept a challenge she embraced the double headed beast of accounting and taxation and wrestled the monster into submission, placating it with spreadsheets and double entry bookkeeping.
Her desire to experience the world led her to embrace a life of crime. Seeking the higher knowledge shared by the great minds of the detective world, she took to worshipping at the altars of the Crime and Investigation channel and Sherlock.
A dive into family history and heir hunting soon followed, where she discovered not every family has roots back to English nobility but they all have their fair share of ne’er-do-wells.
She loves sharing tales about the land of her birth along with the unexpected twists of fate that can befall all of us. Holding on to a steadfast belief every obstacle can be overcome ,and that you can be more than you ever expected, she spends her moments of solitude creating adventures where mystery and mayhem collide.