Here’s the blurb:
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, of secret cabals and hidden treasure.
The setting for the Mason’s Mark, the George Washington Masonic Memorial, stands 331 feet tall atop Shuter’s Hill in Alexandria, Virginia. The original lodge, of which our first President was Charter Mason, burned down in 1871, and it would be 61 years before the present Temple was completed. Nine stories include not only exhibits of both Masonic lodges and appendant bodies such as the Shriners, but also a museum dedicated to George Washington. The ninth floor opens onto an observation platform, from which visitors can view all of Alexandria to the Potomac. The rooms get gradually smaller as you go up the levels, and the elevators that begin 61 feet apart on the first floor are only four and a half feet apart by the time you reach the ninth level. So in the tiny space housing a replica of Solomon’s throne room on the ninth floor, it would be difficult to hide a body. Or a murderer.
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)
78,400 words, Romantic suspense, M/F, 3 flames
Excerpt (PG): First Meeting
“Next we’ll be visiting a museum devoted to George Washington. The Masonic Memorial houses an impressive collection of artifacts, some of which were donated by the Washington family and some rescued from the fire in 1871 that destroyed the first lodge. Please be sure to check out Dr. Elisha Cullen Dick’s pocket watch. He was George Washington’s close friend and presided over his death bed.”
As they filed out on the fourth floor and automatically turned right as all human flocks do, Claire surveyed the room. The black and white parquet floor sparkled. Around three sides ran a balcony, filled with small alcoves and paintings. The light from a porthole window flooded the room. As she headed toward a bust of George Washington, a shadow moved behind a column. She took a step toward it, but Mrs. Malloy’s voice stopped her. “Frank, Luther—you be good, hear? I’m gonna sit down for a bit.”
Claire watched, horror-stricken, as the woman plunked down on the Chippendale chair Washington used as Worshipful Master of the Lodge. The yellow tape meant to prevent access to it lay in tatters on the floor. She had lunged forward, one hand stretched out to grab the transgressor, when the shadow flitted across her vision again. Feeling like a spectator at a ping-pong match, she spun around. There. Shaking a finger at the woman and barking “No!” in her most imperious voice, she rounded a pillar. Sure enough, a man stood there by a small bookcase built into the wall.
During Claire’s training, Mr. Quinn had ground into her the absolute prohibition against unauthorized individuals wandering around in the Tower. Oh God, I hope I don’t have to call for backup. “Sir? Can I help you?”
The man jumped and turned to her, his eyes wide, giving Claire the opportunity to admire two very large orbs tinted a luminous tourmaline green. His mobile face sported a Roman nose of reasonable proportion, a strong chin only slightly marred by a salt-and-pepper stubble, and the high cheekbones of an Aztec chief. His tan was not so deep as to seem artificial. Claire had raised her eyes to behold a head of wavy, chocolate brown hair when he began to speak. His sonorous baritone—a cross between Dean Martin and Elvis Presley—captivated her and she found herself humming That’s Amore under her breath.
“No, thank you…er…” he peered at her chest. Her hand went protectively to the bosom that drew most eligible bachelors’ attention until she realized he was trying to read her name badge.
“Um…Claire. Claire Wilding. I’m the docent here.” She indicated her troops, at least two of whom were attempting to wreak irreparable damage on each other with a wooden staff carved in the likeness of John the Baptist. “Who are you?”
He smiled suddenly, revealing brilliant white teeth. His whole face lit up, and Claire swallowed hard. “I’m Gideon Bliss. And in case you’re wondering whether I’m here lawfully the answer is yes.” He stuck out a large hand, calluses prominent on his trigger finger. They reminded Claire of her father’s hands. “David—Mr. Comfrey—gave me permission to visit the museum.” His eyes glinted with little flecks of gold and humor.
Claire found herself at a loss for words and not just because he’d invoked the name of the Worshipful Master of the Alexandria-Washington Masonic Lodge. She sank into the depths of his verdant eyes, while the mellifluous voice rolled over her. Just before she nodded off, he stopped speaking. She shook herself. “Oh, I see. Well, I’ll leave you to it.” Sheesh, Claire, are you shooting for the most pitiful female in Washington award?
Bliss hadn’t moved. “You say you’re the docent here? Could you help me find something?”
Claire dropped her eyes and mumbled, “Uh…”
“I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“Um…this is my first day. I…I doubt if I can help you.”
He chuckled. “So you didn’t actually mean anything by your first question.”
“My first… Oh, well, you know that was sort of …rhetorical. I mean, no one is supposed to be here. Other than me. And of course them.” She indicated her subjects, who had now begun to congregate by the elevator doors. All except for the two boys, who were nowhere to be seen, and their mother, who continued to sprawl blithely on the President’s priceless antique chair.
Her abrupt answer seemed to annoy Bliss. “I see.” He turned back to the bookcase and pulled a large, dusty leather tome off the shelf. Claire spent a painful second staring at his rigid back and finally tore herself away, visions of emerald eyes filled with admiration at her beauty evaporating.
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.
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