Good morning, cherished readers! Today I have the honor of hosting M. S. Spencer, who is here to share with us her new book, The Mason’s Mark.
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Most of my new novel The Mason’s Mark is set at the George Washington National Masonic Memorial, in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. Three hundred and thirty-three feet tall, it sits atop Shuter’s Hill overlooking the colonial city of Alexandria. The building has three sections—the ground level, the main floor, and the tower. The tower holds six progressively smaller rooms, each of which has a special theme. The fourth floor contains a museum of artifacts and documents related to George Washington, the Charter Master of the first Alexandria lodge. And since our heroine and hero meet there, it follows that the story would involve long lost papers, distant family scandals, and academic intrigue concerning our first President.
Here’s the story:
In both the best and worst first day at work ever, docent Claire Wilding meets the man of her dreams, but her carefully rehearsed guided tour of the George Washington National Masonic Memorial falls apart when she discovers a dead body. Together with Detective Ernest Angle, she’s drawn into a dark world of black ops and Italian renegade masons. Also cloaked in mystery is her new love Gideon Bliss. A George Washington expert, he haunts the Memorial, his manner evasive. What is his secret? Claire fears she’ll fall in love with him only to learn he’s a thief or even a murderer.
Juggling two eccentric mothers, an inquisitive sister, and an increasingly smitten Ernest, Claire must find answers to a complex web of intrigue, including which black ops agent to trust, whether our first president strayed, and if she and Gideon will ever be together.
The Mason’s Mark: Love and Death in the Tower (an Old Town Romance)
Secret Cravings Publishing (released January 7, 2014)
eBook (79,000 words), Romantic suspense, M/F, 3 flames
Excerpt (PG) Dorcas Enters the Picture
Gideon finished his scotch and savagely ripped a piece of bread in half, scattering bits all over the table. Before he could answer, a disembodied voice spoke from the shadows. “Steak and kidney pie?”
The waiter hovered, balancing large crockery plates in each hand. As he bent down, the fire lit his face with a devilish glow.
“Here, thanks, and I’ll take a pint of Guinness. Claire? Another drink?”
Claire considered her order, a rather wilted Caesar salad. O’Connells apparently didn’t approve of vegetables that weren’t boiled to death. Or any dish that didn’t include potatoes. “A glass of the South African dry Riesling, please.”
At least the ambience fit their mood. They sat at a high oak table by an unnecessary fire, overshadowed by pendent dark wood choir stalls stolen from an Irish monastery and next to a heavily varnished organ façade stolen from an Irish church. A tea light made a heroic effort to pierce the obscurity. It all served to heighten the sense of approaching doom.
“You were saying?” she prompted.
“Why is Dorcas here? Simple. She wants to make my life miserable. According to Mother, the man she left me for dumped her unceremoniously. I imagine her plan is to take it out on me.”
“Was the man with her in Paris?”
“Yes, but Dorcas told Mother he went back to Argentina. That’s where she originally met him. When she arrived here she learned that he left Buenos Aires for the States a month ago and is somewhere in the District. She claims if she finds him she’ll give me my freedom.”
“That sounds promising.”
“Not if he doesn’t want to be found. This could go on forever.” He touched her hand. “I hate putting you through this.”
“Me?” Claire ignored the throbbing of a quickened pulse and did her best to assume an indifferent air. “What does it have to do with me?”
His emerald eyes bored into her blue ones. “I shouldn’t have to spell it out, should I?”
Claire blinked and took a large swallow of wine, coughing only some of it up. “I told you—I have renounced disporting with both jailbirds and married men.”
“Disport? Will you gambol with me then? Cavort?”
“The answer to any synonym you come up with is still no.”
The waiter skipped up and set a second Guinness down before Gideon with a flourish. “Compliments of the lady.” He gestured toward the long mahogany bar, sparkling with polished brass and crystal glasses.
Gideon followed the waiter’s pointing finger, and Claire followed his gaze. A woman sat alone facing away from them. She wore a burgundy Donna Karan suit and three-inch stiletto heels. The matching broad-brimmed hat hid her hair and most of her face. Claire checked the mirror behind the bar and dropped her fork when she saw what she would later describe to her sister as Audrey Hepburn’s doppelganger. A few tendrils of glistening black hair curled out from under the hat. High, aristocratic cheekbones flanked a flawlessly proportioned nose over ruby-kissed lips. The woman swiveled on her stool to face them and Claire nearly fell off her own. Dorcas—for it could only be Dorcas—would indeed easily pass as the twin of the late exquisite actress. Her huge, liquid, brown eyes locked on Claire.
If Gideon hadn’t stood up and stepped between them, Claire wouldn’t have been able to break the spell. She slumped, breathing heavily. “I feel like a trapped mouse.”
“Dorcas does that to people.” Gideon tossed the words over his shoulder. After a tense minute’s staring match he swung around to Claire. “Come on, let’s go.” She didn’t argue. He dropped some bills on the table and stalked after her.
She had reached the door when she realized Gideon was no longer behind her. She turned to see him nose to nose with Dorcas, their lips moving rapidly, showing off very white teeth. Claire could have sworn Dorcas’s canines were unusually long and sharp. She waited.
A minute later Gideon swept past her out the door. He didn’t speak as he drove Claire home, unless one counts foam bubbling from his mouth and an occasional snort. He left her at the door. She trudged up the steps. As she fit the key in the lock, she heard ringing. That’s the landline. Who would use that? She ran in and picked up the receiver. “Hello?”
“Claire? This is Ernest. I have news.”
Although she has lived or traveled in every continent except Antarctica and Australia (bucket list), M. S. Spencer has spent the last thirty years mostly in Washington, D.C. as a librarian, Congressional staff assistant, speechwriter, editor, birdwatcher, kayaker, policy wonk, non-profit director and parent. Blessed with two fabulous grown children, she has published eight romantic suspense/mystery novels. In an excess of optimism, she has recently heaved the entire ho to Florida with a detour to Maine, leaving behind the cherry blossoms, the monuments, and the political hacks.
Secret Cravings Publishing: http://store.secretcravingspublishing.com/index.php?main_page=products_all&filter_author=56
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/M.S.-Spencer/e/B002ZOEUC8/