Enjoy an exclusive excerpt from The Perks of Loving a Wallflower below!
“Absolutely not,” Tommy said to Jacob and Marjorie the following afternoon at tea. She handed a baby hedgehog back to her brother. “Stop meddling.”
“Is it difficult when you ask the pieman for a pie?” Jacob pointed out reasonably. “Or when you give your direction to a hackney driver? We call those ‘words.’ Extremely adept practitioners can advance all the way to ‘conversation.’ You and Philippa should try it.”
Marjorie refreshed the tea. “Tommy’s never been in love with a hackney driver or a pieman.”
“I’ve never been in love with any kind of man, no matter how delicious his pies,” Tommy said. “I would no sooner fall in love with a man than I would the moon. And the moon is much prettier.”
“But not as pretty as Philippa,” her cursed siblings sang out.
If she had a pie, she’d toss it at them.
“I’m not enamored,” she grumbled.
She was far past enamored. Tommy’s romantic thoughts had been filled with no one but Philippa almost from the first moment she saw her.
It might have stayed a passing infatuation if she and Chloe hadn’t had to join the reading circle in the course of a prior mission to recover a stolen work of art. In the process, Chloe had fallen in love with conversing with fellow literature enthusiasts—as well as with Philippa’s intended suitor.
And Tommy…had fallen for Philippa.
Jacob produced an ornate snuffbox. “I cannot believe that our happy-go-lucky fearless adventuress is scared to talk to a girl.”
“Woman,” Marjorie corrected.
“You have the perfect excuse to approach Philippa.” Jacob opened the snuffbox. It did not contain snuff. “We’re helping her reading circle.”
“I have no reason to talk to her,” Tommy said. “The next meeting isn’t for a week and we have no news yet anyway.”
Jacob arched a brow. “So you’ll just pine from afar in the meantime?”
“She’s good at it,” said Marjorie. “She’s been practicing all year.”
“Thank you, Marjorie,” Tommy murmured.
The truth was, there was no use starting down a path that went nowhere. All good things ended. Especially when it came to people Tommy cared about. She had been orphaned at the age of four. Bean died. Chloe left. It was better to acknowledge relationships were temporary from the start than to get one’s hopes and dreams and feelings tangled up in the matter.
“A simple conversation,” Jacob insisted. “Not a sonnet about your admiration of her big brain and bigger bosom, but a regular, ordinary, words-and-ideas conversation about something other than the case. If you do that, I promise to stop hounding you.”
Tommy glared at him.
“I promise, too,” said Marjorie. “I’ll even make the others promise as well. If you talk to Philippa for…fifteen minutes.”
“Twenty,” Jacob said quickly.
“Talk to Philippa for twenty minutes?” Tommy burst out. “About what?”
“Take her a kitten,” Jacob suggested. “She likes Tiglet.”
“Tiglet is a homing kitten,” Tommy reminded him. “If she sets him down, he’ll run back to Islington.”
“Then you can give him back.” Jacob tapped her on the nose. “See? He’s a perennial conversation starter.”
“I’m not giving her Tiglet,” Tommy said firmly.
“You should hurry,” said Marjorie. “Graham said she’ll be in Hyde Park with her mother within the hour.”
“Graham’s not even here to be part of the conversation. He…” Tommy narrowed her eyes. “Did he plan this? Did you plan this? Am I under attack?”
“You’re being manipulated into doing the thing you actually want to do,” Jacob said cheerfully. “You cannot go to your grave without having tried at least once.”