Authors: Alyssa Alexander
Tags: #Fiction, #Historical Romance, #Regency
“Debut author Alyssa Alexander captivates with a potently drawn Regency suspense that will keep you turning pages far into the night. With perfectly paired protagonists—including a fallen spy and an indomitable smuggling heroine—Alexander delivers a lively, twisting romance with an undercurrent of gritty realism. With wicked dialogue and well-researched historical facts, Alexander is clearly an author we ought to watch
—Jennifer McQuiston, author of
What Happens in Scotland
THE LADY REMEMBERS . . .
He leaned in farther, lips close to hers. He hesitated, giving her the chance to run. She knew what would happen, knew the inevitability of it. And she wanted it—wanted him—in a way that was both foreign and familiar, and filled her with the same fire as the ride.
She didn’t run. Instead, she gripped his biceps and lifted to her toes to meet his lips. When his mouth touched hers, it wasn’t gentle or demanding. Instead, it was simply there for her to take from, to use as she wanted.
Emboldened, filled with her own recklessness, she pushed her hands to his shoulders and pressed her lips more fully to his. His mouth opened beneath hers and she darted her tongue between his lips. He tasted hot and salty and male.
He groaned and pushed his hands into her loose hair, taking control of the kiss. The demand was there now, the need clear in his foraging tongue and agile lips. His hands worked through her hair, then cupped her cheeks as he drew her against him. She obeyed, hungry for the forbidden. As their bodies met and breath mingled, Grace knew what she had been missing for so long . . .
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THE SMUGGLER WORE SILK
A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author
Copyright © 2014 by Alyssa Marble.
In Bed with a Spy
by Alyssa Alexander copyright © 2014 by Alyssa Marble.
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eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-63609-1
Berkley Sensation mass-market edition / January 2014
Cover illustration by Aleta Rafton.
Cover design by Diana Kolsky.
Interior text design by Tiffany Estreicher.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
For knowing I’m crazy and loving me anyway
The number of people who help a novel move from dream to reality cannot be counted. They are infinite, and for me, started somewhere in the vicinity of fourth grade. But I will do my best to list everyone and hope I do not leave anyone out. I no doubt will, and I apologize in advance.
Thank you to my amazing agent, Nikki Terpilowski of the Holloway Literary Agency, for her tireless efforts on my behalf and for believing in me and my work. Thank you to my editor, Julie Mianecki, and the copyeditors, artists and promotions team at Berkley for giving me this wonderful opportunity and seeing it through to fruition.
Thank you to my Three Cheeka Honey Badgers: Tracy Brogan, Jennifer McQuiston and Kimberly Kincaid. Without you, my daily life would be very drab indeed. So would my writing. And I would never have learned there was somethin’ about a truck. May your flasks be ever full and your fingers be ever quick on the keyboard.
Thank you to the Romance Writers of America and the Mid-Michigan Romance Writers of America. I didn’t know it was normal to have voices in your head until I started to attend meetings with other writers. I must also thank the Beau Monde, a special interest chapter of RWA, for their combined wealth of knowledge and their willingness to share it.
And my deepest gratitude to all those people who touched my life and book along the way:
To The Side Saddle Lady, for patiently answering my questions. Turns out that first kiss scene would not have worked on a side saddle.
To Avis Hewitt, the professor who told me writing romance was a viable option. Yours was the first encouragement I received outside of my family, at a time I needed it most.
To the friends who didn’t look at me like I’d grown two heads when I said I wanted to write books, and to the friends who listened to me talk about my characters as though they were real people. You know who you are.
To Bruce, for not firing me when I sold my first book. Thanks for the time off to write!
To my family: Mom and Dad, for always encouraging me in this foolish idea I had to be a writer. To Susie, for reading those horrible first handwritten pages nearly twenty years ago. To Kelsey and Kara, for playing dress up with me. All the stories started there.
To Josh, for being five years old and a delight in my life. I have no idea how you went from being my baby to being a little man. I didn’t notice it happening, and now you’re all scraped knees and sharp elbows and gangly limbs. I hope your dreams are bigger and better than mine, and I hope you obtain them.
And most of all, thank you to Joe. For dreaming this dream with me. For eating pizza for dinner when I don’t feel like cooking. For waking me up when I fall asleep at the computer, taking the small child out of the house when I need to write, and working hard so I could go to conferences and chapter meetings. For being my IT guy and setting the coffeepot for four thirty a.m. and preheating the bed. For giving me the upstairs carpeted office and putting your computer in the concrete dungeon. For believing in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself.
E COULDN’T SPEAK,
couldn’t think. Couldn’t
In front of him, the spymaster’s lips moved, but the sound issuing from them was tinny and thin. He struggled to focus on the words.
The man couldn’t have said
. Impossible. Spies did not die as old men in soft beds. Death took them in the field. A knife to the throat. A bullet. Even poison was preferable to this.
“With respect, sir, I cannot retire.”
Julian Travers, Earl of Langford, uncurled clenched fists. Blood roared in his ears. He was being
to retire. As though the request did not decimate the life he had carefully rebuilt. As though ten years of atonement meant nothing.
“There are no other options.” Sir Charles Flint’s voice was brisk. If the spymaster was disappointed to be losing an agent, he didn’t show it by a flicker of an eyelash. “The French know you are the Shadow.”
Julian’s hands jerked reflexively. “Sir—”
“The traitor gave your identity to the French. You and two other agents have been compromised.” The lines around Sir Charles’s mouth deepened. He pushed aside a stack of documents and leaned over his worn oak desktop. “If we send you to the Continent and the French capture you, they’ll use every method of torture in their arsenal to extract information from you. You
The words punched into Julian’s belly. He pushed to his feet to pace the cramped government office. “Austria has officially declared war on France. I could travel to—”
“No. You’re the best agent I have, but I can’t send you on a mission abroad.” Finality rang in Sir Charles’s tone. “It’s time for the Wandering Earl to return home.”
Julian ignored the moniker. He much preferred the Shadow, his alias among the other spies, to the ton’s pet name for him. Still, the Wandering Earl’s bored and spoiled persona served as a useful cover for his frequent trips to the Continent.
“The other compromised agents are also being forced into retirement,” Sir Charles continued. “The threat to our network of spies in France and on the Continent is simply too great to allow any of you to continue.”
“I still have a job to do, sir.” Julian stopped pacing to stand in front of the room’s only window. He gripped the smooth wooden windowsill and stared down at the cobblestones of Crown Street.
“Langford, you’re an unofficial agent. Assignment to an official position is not possible. Unless you want to work within this building, behind a desk—”
“That would be worse than rusticating in the country or haunting the drawing rooms of the ton, which are my other choices.” Julian suppressed a disgusted snort. His gaze fell to his knuckles, the flesh white where his fingers gripped the windowsill.
“The Shadow served king and country for ten years.” Cloth rustled against leather. The chair beneath Sir Charles creaked. “During those ten years, the Earl of Langford turned his back on his title and his heritage.”
“I never wanted the title,” Julian said flatly. Beyond the window, gray fog drifted around carriages and buildings. Diplomats and clerks and secretaries scurried to and from their offices. They went about their business, blithely unaware that only a few feet away, the earth was shifting beneath Julian.
“Nevertheless, you are an earl. You belong in the London drawing rooms. Your duty is to marry and create heirs. It’s the way of things.”
Julian’s gut turned to ice. The world did not need another Travers. Therefore, Julian needed no heir. The logic was inescapable. He couldn’t change the past, but he could ensure the Travers legacy did not continue.
He forced his fingers to release the windowsill. The war continued. Napoleon was a threat. He could prove to Sir Charles he was still useful and return to active duty. All he needed was the right leverage. The right mission. He thanked whatever fate had sent him to the filthy pubs lining the docks of France on his return home.
“I have information that may lead us to the traitor, sir.” Julian faced his commander. He knew how to give a report. Straight shoulders. Steady gaze. No emotion. Only the facts mattered. “I may have found one of his contacts.”
Sir Charles let out a resigned sigh. “How did you receive this information, Langford?” Impatient fingers tapped the scarred surface of the desk.
“From another British agent. Our paths crossed in Cherbourg.” He stared steadily down at the spymaster. The desk seemed like an ocean of oak between them.
“Sit down, Langford.” Sir Charles rubbed the back of his neck and sent Julian a baleful look. “My neck is beginning to ache from looking up at you.”
“Yes, sir.” Julian settled himself into the armchair facing the desk and resisted the urge to stretch out his long legs.
“Now give me your report.”
“The agent overheard a conversation in a tavern while waiting for his vessel to sail. Two men were arguing about secret documents and whether they should be delivered to Cherbourg.”
Sir Charles’s brows rose. “What type of documents?”
“I don’t have specific information. The agent was unable to pursue the men without compromising his own mission. However, he did overhear that the documents contained military information and the two men would talk to a Miss Gracie about the documents.”
“Miss Gracie? Is that an alias?”
“With a few inquiries, the agent discovered Miss Gracie is Miss Grace Hannah. She lives in Devon with her uncle, Lord Thaddeus Cannon. They live near Beer.” Julian paused. “She is definitely not an innocent. Miss Hannah has strong ties to Jack Blackbourn.”
“Blackbourn? I thought he had retired from smuggling.”
“He has, sir. For now, at any rate. He’s running a public house.”
“I can’t believe Blackbourn would abandon smuggling to be a publican.” Sir Charles frowned, brows drawing together over cool brown eyes.
“I was surprised myself.”
“Still, it would be easy enough to transfer military information to France through the smuggling channels,” Sir Charles mused, absently reaching for his quill and tapping it against the desktop.
“If the documents were smuggled out of Devon by Grace Hannah, then someone in the War Office or Foreign Office gave her that information. There must be a channel of communication between them.” Julian leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “I believe we can flush out the traitor in London by pressuring the smugglers in Devon.”
“A reasonable strategy.” Sir Charles pursed his lips as he considered the feathers of the quill. Then, with a frustrated grunt, he tossed the quill down. “My best agents are all on the Continent. With so many agents compromised to the French, I don’t have anyone I can send.” He broke off, eyes narrowed as they focused on Julian. “Which you are perfectly aware of.”
“Sir.” He didn’t shy away from the commander’s gaze. Lying would be useless.
“Your family seat is in Devon.”
“Yes.” Childhood memories crowded Julian’s mind. He gritted his teeth and willed the images away.
“Damn if I don’t have a final assignment for you, Langford.” Sir Charles steepled his fingers and regarded Julian over their tips. “I can’t send you to France, but I can send you to Devon.”
“Sir.” His muscles tightened. Anticipation snaked through him. He had the opportunity he needed to prove himself. To avoid a slow and meaningless death by boredom. To prove he wasn’t like his father. The mission hung before him, plump and ripe and as easy to pluck as any red apple.
Coiled muscles twitched at the perfunctory knock on the office door. Julian’s head jerked toward the sound. He stared at the young man peering around the doorframe. Fashionably tousled brown curls topped a handsome face dominated by long-lashed brown eyes. The face, however, held a decidedly apprehensive expression.
“Sir?” Miles Butler’s voice cracked on the word. “A dispatch has arrived for you from the foreign secretary.”
“Thank you.” Sir Charles held out his hand without looking at Mr. Butler. When the clerk did nothing, he glanced up. “The dispatch?”
“Oh, of course.” The young man hastily crossed the room and laid the folded letter in Sir Charles’s hand.
“Excuse me, Langford. I must read this before we continue,” Sir Charles said distractedly as he broke the wax seal and perused the communication. Then he reached for his quill, dipped it in ink and began to scratch out a reply. He glanced at Julian as the quill bobbed across the page. “The circumstances in Devon require further inquiry. I expect you to conduct an expeditious investigation of Miss Hannah.” Sir Charles ended the note with a flourish and blotted the ink.
“Yes, sir.” Julian struggled to keep his voice calm. Success. He could taste it. If he found the traitor, Sir Charles would reinstate him. He knew it.
“Mr. Butler,” Sir Charles said as he folded the note and sealed it. “See that my answer is delivered to the foreign secretary. Also, I’m sending the Shadow on a mission in Devon. I need you to inform him of the channels of communication for that area before he departs.”
“I will, sir,” Mr. Butler said, beaming. “Is there anything else I can assist you with? Any correspondence I can answer, sir?”
Sir Charles waved him away. “I’ll notify you when I have another task for you.”
Miles Butler backed out of the room. His shoulders had wilted, poor sod. Julian sent him an encouraging smile. He’d been just as young and earnest once. A lifetime ago.
“I expect to be informed of your progress in Devon at regular intervals,” Sir Charles said after the door closed. “Use your discretion regarding what information should be relayed in person and what can be sent in writing. If we discover any new information in London, I will send word. In fact”—Sir Charles glanced at the door to the hall—“if anything new arises I’ll send Mr. Butler to Devon as my emissary. You’ll keep an eye on him and see he doesn’t get into trouble, won’t you?”
“Yes, sir.” And he would send Mr. Butler back to London as quickly as he could.
“This is your final mission, Langford.” Holding Julian’s gaze steadily, Sir Charles leaned back in his chair. “When the investigation is complete, you may consider your service to His Majesty concluded and attend to your estates.”
An angry protest rose in his throat, but he swallowed it. He’d bought a reprieve. “Understood, sir.” He pushed himself out of the armchair to stand in front of Sir Charles’s desk, waiting for dismissal.
Within minutes, Julian was flicking the reins to spur the matched bays harnessed to his high-perch phaeton. Instinct navigated him through the busy streets of London, but his mind was on treason.
Innocent soldiers fighting for England had died because of this traitor. The country was at risk, and the bastard had betrayed Julian. Fury lanced through him, hot and sharp. Retirement was simply not tolerable.
, he thought
He would pursue Miss Hannah, find the traitor, and turn him over to Sir Charles. Or kill the bastard.
Sir Charles would reinstate him if he found the traitor. He had to.
There was no alternative to spying.