Pride and Pleasure

By: Sylvia Day


Huge thanks to my editor, Alicia Condon. Her edits to this book were invaluable, and her willingness to learn/work with my process is deeply appreciated.

There aren’t words to describe my appreciation for my agent extraordinaire, Robin Rue. If I listed all the ways she facilitated the writing of this book, it would fill as many pages as the story. Suffice it to say—she rocks!

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to cover goddess Kristine Mills-Noble, who knocked it out of the park with the cover for this book. She’s been giving me great covers for years, but this one is definitely my favorite so far.

Hugs to my BFFs Karin Tabke and Shayla Black, who know how close this book came to killing me. Their support kept me going when I didn’t think I could take another step.

And major love to all the readers who waited a few years for me to release another historical. I hope you love Jasper and Eliza’s story.

Chapter 1

London, England, 1818

As a thief-taker, Jasper Bond had been consulted in a number of unusual locations, but today was the first in a church. Some of his clients were at home in the rookeries his crew haunted. Others were most comfortable in the palace. This particular prospective client appeared to be one of strong faith since he’d designated St. George’s as the location of their assignation. Jasper suspected it was considered a “safe” place, which told him this person was ill at ease with retaining an individual of dubious morality. That suited him fine. He would probably be paid well and kept at a distance: his favorite sort of commission.

Alighting from his carriage, Jasper paused to better appreciate the impressive portico and Corinthian columns of the church’s façade. Muted singing flowed outward from the building, a lovely contrast to the frustrated shouts of coachmen and the clatter of horses’ hooves behind him. His cane hit the street with a thud, his gloved palm wrapped loosely around the eagle’s-head top. With hat in hand, he waved his driver away.

Today’s appointment had been arranged by Mr. Thomas Lynd, a man who shared Jasper’s trade and confidence for many reasons, not the least of which was his mentorship of Jasper in the profession. Jasper would never presume to call himself a moral man, but he did function under the code of ethics Lynd had taught him—help those in actual need of it. He did not extort protection money as other thief-takers did. He did not steal goods with one hand in order to charge for their return with the other. He simply found what was lost and protected those who wanted security, which begged the question of why Lynd was passing on this post. With such similar principles, either of them should have been as good as the other.

Because Jasper had an inordinate fondness for puzzles and mysteries, he was too intrigued by Lynd’s motives to do anything besides follow through. This, despite the location being one that necessitated his handling the inquiry personally, which was something he rarely did. He preferred to work through trusted employees to retain the anonymity necessary to his greater personal plans.

Mounting the steps, he entered St. George’s and paused to absorb the wave of music that rolled over him. Near the front on the right side was the raised canopied pulpit; on the left, the bi-level reading desk. The many box pews were empty of the faithful. Only the choir occupied the space, their voices raised in musical praise.

Jasper withdrew his pocket watch and checked the time. It was directly on the hour. In his profession, he found it highly useful to be a slave to punctuality. He moved to the stairs that would take him up to the right-side gallery for his appointment.

When he reached the landing, he paused. His gaze was drawn to and held by wild tufts of white hair defying gravity. One hopelessly overworked black ribbon failed to tame the mass into anything but a messy, lopsided queue. As he watched, the unfortunate owner of the horrendous coiffure reached up and scratched it into further disarray.

So fascinated was Jasper with the monstrosity of that hair, it took him a moment to register the petite form beside its owner. Once he did, however, his interest was snared. In complete opposition to her companion, the woman was blessed with glossy tresses of a reddish-blond hue so rare it was arresting. They were the only two people in the gallery, yet neither had the tense expectation inherent in those who were awaiting an individual or event. Instead they were singularly focused on the choir below.

Where was the individual he was scheduled to meet?

Sensing she was the object of perusal, the woman turned her head and met Jasper’s weighted gaze. She was attractive. Not in the exceptionally remarkable way of her hair but pleasing all the same. Deep blue eyes stared at him from beneath thick lashes. She had an assertive nose and high cheekbones. When she bit her lower lip, she displayed neat white teeth, and when her lips pursed, she revealed a tiny dimple. It was a charming face rather than beautiful, and notable for her seeming displeasure at the sight of him.

“Mr. Bond,” she said, after a slight delay. “I did not hear you approach.”

One could blame the choir’s singing for that. However, the truth of it was that he walked silently. He’d learned the skill long ago. It had saved his life then and continued to do so in recent years.

Standing, she moved toward him with a determined stride and thrust out her hand. As if cued, the singers below ended their hymn, leaving a sudden silence into which she said, “I am Eliza Martin.”

Her voice surprised him. Soft as a summer breeze, but threaded with steel. The sound of it lingered, stirring his imagination to travel in directions it shouldn’t.

He shifted his cane to his other hand and accepted her greeting. “Miss Martin.”

“I appreciate your courtesy in meeting with me. However, you are exactly what I feared you would be.”

“Oh?” Taken aback by her direct approach, he found himself becoming more intrigued. “In what way?”

“In every way, sir. I contacted Mr. Lynd because we require a certain type of individual. I regret the need to say you are not he.”

“Would you object to my request for elaboration?”

“The points are too numerous,” she pronounced.

“Nevertheless, a man in my position seeks predictability in others but fears it in himself. Since you state I am the epitome of what you did not want, I feel I must request an accounting of the criteria upon which you based your judgment.”

Miss Martin seemed to ponder his response for a moment. In the brief time of introspection, Jasper collected what his instincts had recognized upon first sight: Eliza Martin was intensely aware of him. Without her cognizance, her baser senses were reacting to him much the way his were to her: her delicate nostrils flared, her breathing quickened, her body swayed with the undercurrent of agitation…a doe sensing the hunter nearby.