Undercover by Cat Gardiner

Undercover by Cat Gardiner

Undercover by Cat GardinerUndercover by Cat Gardiner
Also by this author: Denial of Conscience: A Modern Darcy & Elizabeth Adventure, Villa Fortuna, , A Moment Forever, Without a Conscience
Published by Vanity & Pride Press Genres: Austenesque, Romance
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A Pride and Prejudice, non-canon variation, Undercover brings a unique voice and new style to the genre: Noir, a romantic, crime fiction novel filled with intrigue, steamy nights, and 20th Century historical fiction. Jane Austen’s beloved characters become entangled in a Philip Marlowe-esque adventure of love and mystery. It’s November 1952 in New York City where mysterious denizens linger in smoky bars and darkened alleys. The second Red Scare is dredging up a new swarm of “Commies”; “duck and cover” are the lingo of the day. And hard-boiled private eyes aren’t always men. One audacious dame, Elizabeth Bennet, is undercover in a case of suspected murder: her best friend, Mary King, has been missing for eighteen months. Determined to find the man she believes did the girl in—one George Wickham—her investigation collides with an enigmatic bachelor, Fitzwilliam Darcy and his socialite sister, Georgiana. Darcy is loaded, from a high-society family with all the money and the right connections for a future in politics. Elizabeth’s a career girl from the wrong side of the East River, but the sexual chemistry between them cannot be denied. She is focused on finding Slick Wick and he is hell-bent on stopping her investigation. But why? He’s hiding something, but she’ll use almost every weapon in her H-bomb arsenal to get his lips flapping. Murder, kidnapping, and a brainy broad with a body for sin are just enough to break Darcy’s stone-cold reserve. She’s so provocative that maybe he’ll even be taking a trip down the aisle despite where she’s from, what she does, and the fact that she knows George Wickham. Be advised: this novel contains mature sexual content.

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Cat Gardiner is one my favorite JAFF writers.  She is unafraid to step outside the box and give us sassy, sexy, seductive stories that make us swoon. 

I didn’t quite know what to expect with Undercover, I read it with pure abandon, wanting to be wooed by an enigmatic Mr. Darcy.

I enjoyed the setting so much! The nightclub ambiance, the Dick Tracy vibe was so fun get lost in!

Eli was such a strong feisty character much like our beloved Lizzie Bennet but it was that Darcy that kept me reading under the covers for two nights!

Undercover is a re-imagining of Pride and Prejudice filled with mystery, intrigue and whole lot of heat!

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In shock, the rocks glass stilled at Darcy’s lips. He blinked. It was her again—with the owner of that sleazy steakhouse in East Harlem. So that was how she knew he had been at El Barrio. A stab of jealousy pierced his chest as he watched the suave man place his hand upon the small of her back, guiding her down the steps then toward the wood floor.

Elizabeth beamed, obviously having a wonderful time as the center of attention both at the table and in that man’s affections. The red number she wore was all class.  The sparkling brooch above her bosom, elbow length gloves, and high heels completed the look. Her luscious lips matched her dress— sheer perfection. She was quite the picture and he allowed his imagination to travel to satin unmentionables. She looked as though she was torn from the pages of one of those fashion magazines Georgiana read. He couldn’t help staring at her as she and her date held each other, laughing and moving through the crowd of dancers until they found their spot near the bandstand.

The Latin percussion had quite an effect on the way the woman under his scrutiny swiveled her hips. He took a drink, envying her partner’s hand resting upon that seductively swaying rounded hip of hers. Spellbound by the way she danced to the beat of the tambourine and bongo drum, all Darcy could do was stare. His reason for being at the Copa in the first place was relegated to the back of his mind. When Elizabeth threw back her head in mirth, he’d had enough. He finally gave in to his base instinct, rose from the stool and then made his way through the crowd.

Before he knew what he was about, he tapped her partner’s shoulder. “May I cut in?”

Elizabeth stopped dancing. Her heart seized.

Oscar chuckled and was about to say something, but she forced a smile, slapping his arm playfully. “Yes, you may cut in,” she quickly answered silencing her date with a look. She knew exactly what he’d say. Something about tall, dark, and smoldering being her type—just as he had predicted four nights ago.

“If you can keep up with her, she’s all yours, bub,” Oscar said placing her hand into Mr. Darcy’s with a wink before vacating the floor.

After his rude brush off days earlier, she was surprised to see him—surprised he’d want to dance with her. She, too, couldn’t resist chuckling, but it was nerves that made her do so. Why was the suit here? Was this a coincidence? Who cared? The man was an absolute beefcake dressed in fine wool and a silk necktie as blue as his eyes.

“Miss Bennet,” he said, placing his hand on her hip; her own clutched his muscular bicep, enjoying the firmness below her fingers.

“Mr. Darcy. I wouldn’t figure you as a Copa sort of gee.”

“It’s been a while, but I assure you, I won’t step on your feet if that’s your concern.”

She delighted how their bodies moved together in syncopated tandem, feeling the energy sparking between them. He was right, he could dance. She enjoyed how his hand held hers as their hips mirrored one another mere inches apart.

“Are you following me?” she asked.

“I thought I was leading.”

“And you do it so well, but that’s not what I meant.” She raised an eyebrow.

“I’m not following you. It’s purely coincidental. I think it’s as you stated, perhaps we’re destined to meet.” He smiled an honest to goodness grin that reached his eyes. “In fact, I’m happy to have run into you tonight. I regretted my rude behavior on Tuesday and was hoping to redeem myself. Will you forgive me?”

“Perhaps. I admit, I was too forward, as usual. I’m only just learning the fine art of the delicate extraction of information, covertly.”

  Her regard for him based on the ending of their meeting and his affiliation with Wickham softened slightly when she noted how his eyes danced when gazing upon her. There was no condemnation or anger as he had demonstrated in his office, but one of question—maybe even concern. Whatever that expression was, there was sincerity in it. The fact that he wanted to dance was a sure indication that a feeling man lurked beneath that brooding exterior.

They didn’t speak again until the song ended, both a little winded from the fast rhythm and its suggestive repartee of body movement.

He retained her hand, their palms clasped together as he led her off the dance floor. “Miss Bennet, would you like to have a drink with me? I promise to be more amiable than our first encounter.”

Flips. Her heart did wacky flips. “I’d love to, but just soda water for this girl.”

When they settled at a small table close to the bar, Darcy signaled the nearby waiter then ordered. The orchestra continued its Latin Samba and the songstress took to the stage for a ballad.

“Don’t you drink or are you working tonight?” he asked, reaching into his breast pocket, removing a gold cigarette case.

“Working?”

“As a private investigator.” He lit two cigarettes, then handed her one. “That is what you do at night, right?”

So he found my business card and still wants to talk to me. He’s not as unyielding as I thought. “I’m not working, just holding up my end of a bargain. I owed Oscar a favor. As for drinking … I haven’t for a couple of years now. It dulls the senses, and I prefer being in control of my environment. A single girl could easily be taken advantage of if she’s not careful.”

No, thank you. She was no longer that lollipop and not likely to make that mistake twice in her life. No doubt, Mary King had regretted it, too.

“That’s very wise of you. Advice I often give my sister.”

“Me too, but it falls on deaf ears. My youngest sister is too headstrong for her own good.”

She changed the subject reminding herself that silence about all things Elizabeth Bennet was always the best course. Having attended Jane and Charlie’s wedding, Darcy had already been exposed to her not-so-stellar upbringing.

“Do you always come to a nightclub without a date, Mr. Darcy? I’m surprised there isn’t a leggy dish on your arm.”

“Oh, but there is.” He flirted, moving toward her to give her all his unabashed attention. “And please, call me Fitzwilliam.”

“Fitzwilliam? I don’t know … how about Darcy?”

He smiled. “Sure thing.”

“Well, Darcy, when questioned on your whereabouts tonight, will you deny being here at the Copa, come the morning?”

“Who might be asking me in the morning?”

Their eyes fixed to each other’s as she inhaled deeply from her cigarette then slowly prolonged her release. She knew what he was implying but she didn’t respond. As tantalizing a thought as that was, this man and the secrets he held about Wickham made him off limits by the very association.

He smiled wistfully, his deep voice lowering an octave. “I know you have questions about me, Elizabeth, but not tonight. Please. As you said, you’re not working on a case and, frankly, for the second time this week, I’m more than a little enchanted.”

“Oh?”

“You captivate me. I’ve never met a lady dick before, particularly one as stunning as you.”

She laughed, unable to stifle the little snort she occasionally made. “Such a charmer. I’ll have you know, I’m not so easily swayed by sweet nothings—especially by propositions of pillow talk in the morning.”

“It’s not sweet nothings, just honesty. I want to get to know you. The pillow talk can come later, much later if you prefer.”

“Well, since you want to know about me, then you will have to share something about yourself in return.”

“So, you’ll make me work for your affection?”

Startled by his intent, she held her expression at bay. “Affection? Of course, I’ll make you work for it. How else would I know if you’re real cream?”

“You’ll just have to trust me.”

“No dice, Darcy. Like I said, trust has to be earned. A little lovemaking isn’t going to sway me.” Particularly since you have a history with Wickham that you are concealing.

“I guess not trusting a man is a result of your occupation. Well, you may ask questions but I may choose not to answer them.”

“That’s rather obstinate of you,” she teased.

Toying with her, a corner of his lips raised. “Then you only get one question that I will answer. So make it good. I’m not that easily charmed either. I’m no cream puff.”

“We’ll see about that.” She gazed into his eyes, examining him, curiously warming to the man. “Now … about that first question …”

Her fingers touched his resting on the table. Darcy’s smile was different than Wickham’s; it was earnest. Like the one he gave her on the dance floor his soul lit his eyes, and set hers aflame. Yeah … kitty on a hot stove. Sizzle.

A myriad of flirtatious questions rapid fired through her mind: My place or yours? Do you prefer top or bottom? Are you the marrying type? Left or right side of the bed? Would you bring a girl like me home to meet your family? … And where can I find Wickham?

 The orchestra began to play “Maria Elena” prompting the most important question for that moment. With a twist to her lips, she said, “My question to you is: Would you like to dance again? They say it encourages one’s affection.”

Humored, he furrowed his brow then chuckled. “That’s your question?”

“Yes, but be prepared because tomorrow, in the light of day. I’ll ask you all about Wickham. I may even use some charm—and my digits—to get answers.”

“Is that before or after pillow talk?”

“I’ll let you in on a little secret, Darcy. I may put on a good show, but I don’t give that up to just any man.”

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