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The Poor Wee Lass!

HighlandsThe Highlands are agog with the news of the impending marriage of Ailsa Cameron to the dreaded Laird Duncan MacLean. Clans MacLean and Cameron have been enemies since St. Columba walked these lands. All know these two clans rather break bones than bread. Now, they are binding together for peace.

And that poor lass, Ailsa Cameron—she is a sweet, tender soul they say. Ailsa the Tender— as she is known—will be no match for Black Duncan MacLean. The Laird is a man who likes to display the heads of his enemies on pikes, not display the type of affection the lasses like. The man doesn’t smile and lives a spartan life few came withstand. Worse, he has vowed to kill any Cameron who steps on MacLean land.

Yet, there may be hope for the bride and her groom…Black Duncan has loved before and had his heart crushed like heather beneath a foot. If Ailsa can somehow reach the heart he has buried then a chance for love and happiness exists.

All fear that Ailsa doesn’t stand a chance.

An excerpt from The Marriage Alliance

Duncan MacLean took stock of the lass. Her curtain of blazing tresses draped down to her hips. She had green eyes. Easy to notice since she gawked at him. Her complexion seemed fair, if not pale with fear. Her fine features exhibited a delicate quality yet a resoluteness radiated from her high cheekbones that should have held the rosy bloom of youth and health. Comely lass…If she closed her gaping mouth.

“She’s puny,” Duncan said to his two trusted commanders, Caelan and Lachlan. These two men had been at his side since he wielded a wooden sword. He valued their judgment, sought their advice and half the time adhered to it, and they guarded his back.

“It’s her inferior bloodline,” Caelan replied.

Duncan agreed. If Cameron men were stunted, it was only proper their women were even smaller than wee. He expected too much from a Cameron Female.

“At least, you’re not wedding the Urquhart lass. What’s her name?” Lachlan asked Caelan while peeking at the Cameron female.

“Nessie,” Caelan grunted.

“Oh aye, the Loch Ness monster,” Lachlan said, with a brief laugh. “At least this one’s a bonnie lass.”

“I do not care about her looks,” Duncan replied, secretly pleased she bore no resemblance to her father.

Lachlan snorted. ‘That’s what every man says until he’s shackled to a beast.”

Caelan smirked and Lachlan puffed his chest with pride.

Duncan blocked out Lachlan. It still dumbfounded Duncan that he was taking a wife and a Cameron no less. MacLeans and Camerons had been enemies since before his birth but that ended with a priest and a vow before the Lord. Warring with the Camerons sounded much more thrilling than standing before a priest and vowing his life to her.

When the red-haired rat offered peace for both clans to war against their common enemy the MacKinnons, his plan shocked Duncan. When Cameron offered marriage to his only daughter, he felt insulted. For some daft reason, he never pulled his broadsword from it scabbard and cleave Cameron in half but instead, he sat and listened. For some reason unfathomable to him even now, he decided to wed the lass.

Duncan smirked. Much as he expected, this puny woman to behave as a Cameron, ready to run, she remained at his side. She must have realized there was no escape or rescue but she kept her head lowered.

He stared at the top of her head, waiting for her to spare him one glance. She had the loveliest hair he had ever seen, streaks of auburns, coppers, golds and bronzes blended to create her silky strands. He only beheld such radiant tones when the sun set over the highlands. In the deep recess of his mind, he was grateful her hair wasn’t the palest of blonde. Hers pleased him.

It was convenient he preferred her waving tresses since he would only see the top of her head from the rest of his days. The woman hadn’t looked past his chin.

That might not be a bad thing. He recognized her fear of him, after all, he was Duncan MacLean, and it was right he be feared. Yet, she risked his displeasure and wrath to state her wants even as her voice trembled but her daring pleased him. How much more spirit she had hidden away? Duncan wanted to seek it out, see her face color from it. Hell, he was enjoying the prospect of having her as his wife.

But she was Cameron.

Forgetting that truth could kill him.

He barely survived the last betrayal.

As he recited the vows, she leaned toward Father Murray. While he pledged his troth, never raising his voice but adding more bite when he heard her hiss, “Must he stand there with his arms crossed as such?”

Father Murray waved her to silence. She shrugged. Duncan smothered his grin. Aye, her spirit pleased him. She wasn’t weak like other Camerons. When he vowed to love and cherish her, she humphed in a high-pitched tone like a mouse trapped in a cat’s mouth.

He was the cat.

About the Book

Her hand in marriage could secure peace and safety for those she longs to protect.

Lady Ailsa Cameron is not the most patient of souls. She has even slept through a few high masses. Still, this gentle lass never did anything wicked enough to deserve her father’s pronouncement that she must wed the dread Black Duncan, Laird of Clan MacLean.

As leader of the Spartans of the North, Duncan MacLean has inspired many a gruesome tale throughout the majestic highlands and beyond. Duncan accepts Laird Cameron’s offer of his daughter’s hand in marriage and pledges to make war against their shared enemy, Clan MacKinnon.

Duncan aches to possess his ravishing bride as passionately as he vows never to lower his defenses again. Love blooms between them nonetheless, until betrayal incites a war. Clan MacLean is in danger as are Ailsa and Duncan – but the thing in most peril is their love.

Can past enemies become lovers at last? Or will the flame in their hearts be consumed by the fires of war?

Pre-order Link for The Marriage Alliance

About the Author

An Air Force brat, Mageela Troche has lived throughout the world then landed in New York City. She wanted to leave the same day she arrived. Yet, with her stubbornness, Mageela learned to like the place and the libraries were the main reason. Since she was a little girl, Mageela wanted to be an author and an actress, however, once in college, she changed her life plan in the pursuit of money. After all, college loans must be repaid.

With life’s twists and turns, she returned to writing and focused on the romance genre. Mageela Troche’s first break came when she sold a short story to a magazine. She sold two more before the publication of her historical romance novel, The Marriage Alliance. She has gone on to write four more novels and a novella.

Mageela is currently writing in the cramped corner of her Big Apple apartment. She is the proud owner of a Black-masked lovebird named Boobula. She loves to hear from her readers and can be found online at MageelaTroche.com

Be Careful What You Ask a Hero

“There you are,” Amelia, Elizabeth’s dearest friend, exclaimed as edged past a group of giggling young ladies to where Elizabeth was standing under the balcony. “Where did you disappear?”

Feigning interest in the quheroadrille while keeping a keen eye open for her informant, Elizabeth answered with nonchalance. “I’ve been enjoying the opulence and gaiety of the evening.”

“Why are your answers always so vague?”

“They are not…” Elizabeth’s words trailed off as Amelia tilted her head and raised a dubious brow. “The less you know, the better.”

Amelia crossed her arms and frowned, attempting to appear hurt— a tactic she’d been using since they were little girls. “You’re my dearest friend. I would never betray your trust.”

“I know.” On a loud sigh, she conceded, “I will answer three questions.”

With Elizabeth’s acquiescence, Amelia’s features brightened. “Thank you! Oh, I have to make sure I ask wisely.” She paced a couple of feet before edging closer to Elizabeth and whispered, “Have you ever killed anyone?

Elizabeth was already tired of this game, but since she agreed… “Yes”

“Yes?” The single word escaped Amelia’s mouth with a high-pitched squeak that startled a couple of gentlemen standing several feet away. She lowered her voice, peppering Elizabeth with questions. “Who? When? Are you carrying a weapon now?”

“You do realize that you just asked three questions?”

“It all falls under the first,” Amelia stated matter-of-factly.

“I’ll somewhat indulge you just this once. You needn’t worry about all the details. However, I will answer the latter. I always carry my pocket pistol. A lady must be prepared for danger. Next question.”

“Vague as always,” Amelia mumbled before continuing. “Have you ever donned a disguise?”

“Yes.” Knowing her friend all too well, Elizabeth included the answer to the question that was sure to follow. “I sometimes dress as a lad— it’s much easier to sneak around in breeches.”

A slight gasp escaped Amelia’s lips, but thankfully she did not probe further into that topic. “Since this is my last question, I have to make sure it’s one that I’ve always wondered about.” She squinted her eyes as if scanning her mind. “I have it! What is your most treasured possession?”

“The medallion my grandfather gave me.”

Amelia’s brows creased together. “That’s not what I was expecting. What medallion?”

Elizabeth clamped her mouth shut and turned away, knowing she’d just revealed too much. It was good thing that was Amelia’s last question. She really needed to guard her words more closely in the future.

“I know. It’s confidential.

“As I said earlier, the less you know, the better.”

Elizabeth noticed that they had attracted the attention of several curious lords and ladies. It was past time she ended this little interview and searched for Captain Alexander in the immense crush.

About the Series

What if your favorite superheroes had Regency-era doppelgängers? And what if a group of them were recruited by the Duke of Wellington to gather intelligence for him during the Napoleonic Wars while they protected their own parts of the realm?

You’d get The Heart of a Hero series.

Nine authors are bringing nine full-length novels to you this summer, each telling the story of a man or woman who is a hero in all senses of the word.

The Series on Amazon

HeroAbout the  Book

Alanna Lucas  contributes Only a Hero Will Do to the series.

Defender of the realm…and his wary heart…

Captain Grant Alexander is an enigma in London society. Dashing and handsome, he coldly eschews marriage. But the ton knows nothing of his role in the Legion: to bring Typhon, the traitor who seeks to destroy the British monarchy, to justice.

When Grant is thrown together with fellow Legion member Elizabeth Atwell, he’s instantly beguiled yet exasperated by this beautiful viscount’s daughter. She has little interest in combing the marriage mart for a well-bred, well-heeled husband, but is adept at code-breaking and handling a bow and arrow. She also refuses to do as she is told, insisting she accompany Grant on his mission.

As Typhon continues to evade capture and dark forces are at work, Grant realizes he must act, not only to protect the realm but Elizabeth too…not to mention his heart, which is in danger of thawing every time she comes close…

Can you guess which superhero inspired Alanna Lucas’s Regency-era doppelgänger?

Find it on Amazon

~Excerpt~

“Why in bloody hell are you wearing breeches?”

Elizabeth pulled her arm from his grip. “It is rather difficult and impractical to sneak about in a dress.”

“Where have you been?” The words came out harsher than intended. Did she have no concept of danger?

“I believe you know the answer to that question, Captain Alexander, and you’re welcome.”

“That was you at Hell’s? You fired the pistol?” His temper flared. “What were you thinking? You could’ve been hurt.”

Elizabeth replied sharply, “I fared better than you.” Ignoring his question, she stated, “You’re bleeding.”

“It’s nothing.”

“It’s not nothing? Come here.” She grabbed his hand and pulled him toward the window.

The warmth of her hand sent a bolt of desire through him. Pale moonlight caressed her upturned face and full pink lips. He wondered if her lips tasted as sweet as they looked. What in God’s name was he thinking? Control yourself. You’re here to protect her, nothing more.

Pulling his hand away, he sucked in his breath as desire and anger collided. “I cannot believe you were traipsing all over London at this time of night as if you were taking a stroll in the park.”

“It wasn’t all over London, and I know how to fend for myself.”

“That’s beside the point.” He softened his tone. Every word he spoke was laced with concern. “Elizabeth, what were you doing at Hell’s Gaming House?”

“One of the letters I decoded mentioned the gaming house. I decided Fulcher might have some answers. Clearly I was not off the mark since you believed so as well.”

Rubbing the back of his neck, Grant tried to reason with her. “You can not go gallivanting all over the place. You’re the daughter of a viscount.”

“I know very well whose daughter I am. I don’t need you to remind me of it.” She took a step closer. The pleading tone in her voice went straight to his core. “Don’t you see? I don’t want to be just the daughter of a viscount. I want a life of my own choosing. I’m not some simpering miss.”

“No, you’re definitely not.” His gaze traveled over her face, settling on her brown eyes filled with intelligence and independence of spirit. A rapid thumping pounded against his chest. Time seemed to stand still, wrapping them in a blanket of moonlight.

“Grant,” she whispered his name as she brushed her fingers across his sore cheek.

About the Author

Alanna Lucas writes sweet, spicy, seductive historical romances. When not daydreaming of her next hero and bygone eras, Alanna can be found reading, spending time with family, or plotting her next travel destination. For more information about Alanna and her novels please visit her website- www.alannalucas.com

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Conversation heard at the community well

Fort Dent, Indian Territories, United States, 1872

You asked if there’s anything interesting going on in our little mining town of Mineral. Well, I’ll tell you…the army had to move folks into the nearby fort for protection. It seems a rogue band of Indians left the reservation and began raiding and burning homesteads. Dreadful heathens. The commander of Fort Dent doesn’t believe the renegades will attack our town, but says it’s better to be safe than sorry.

If being evacuated isn’t bad enough, the military offered shelter to those strange creatures at Seaton House, a home for orphaned children. I’m wondering if we just might need protection from them instead. There are rumors that the children are peculiar, possibly even witches. They can do things no ordinary person is able to. Mind you, I don’t normally gossip…Edeline Wentworth is a respectable woman. But I don’t feel I can keep something so shocking to myself.

It’s about the caretaker of those orphans, Miss Meredith Talbot. She left a luxurious estate in Pennsylvania to come out here and help her aunt run the orphanage. Rumor has it her father sent her away. Something about her using magic and causing her step-brother’s death. It makes a body shudder to think what she might be capable of.

At least the army has the good sense to assign someone to oversee her and the orphans during their stay at the fort. Lieutenant Preston Booth is a fine, upstanding officer. A stickler for the rules, many say. I pray he has the fortitude to keep those creatures in line and to resist any spells they may cast upon him. He’ll need it.

I’ve seen the two of them together at community events, the handsome, strapping officer and the flaxen haired vixen with her strange, violet colored eyes. Magical, my Stanley calls them. Dangerous, I say. She could tempt a saint to sin. While Lieutenant Booth has previously resisted all attempts at match-making, he may not be able to resist her charms. Hopefully the army will soon catch the rampaging renegades, and the Seaton House evacuees can go back to their den and stay there. I’ve exhausted nearly all my supply of salt, spreading it around my quarters to ward off their evil.

About the Book

Meredith Talbot has a secret. In fact, she has nine secrets – her own and those of the eight orphans at Seaton House, a home for children. Each of them has a special talent that if exposed would get them labeled as witches. It is her responsibility to protect the children and their secrets and keep them safe from persecution. Marauding Indians force them into a nearby fort where their safety is threatened by fanatical townspeople and a captivating army officer who try to unmask the children’s extraordinary abilities.

Lieutenant Preston Booth has one goal – to serve and protect his country. The military is the only life he has ever known. It’s the only life he wants. When a child is abducted and Preston goes after the culprit, Meredith has a vision of what will happen to him.

Does she risk everything by exposing her gift? Or keep her secret and risk losing him forever?

Amazon

Excerpt:

“Do you also have an aversion to being touched?”

Meredith looked up and met his taunting gaze. It was a challenge she couldn’t ignore. She hefted her chin. “Not if I have given permission to be touched.”

One corner of his mouth twitched. Surely that wasn’t a smile. From what she’d seen, the most his lips could manage were frowns.

He held out his hand. “May I help you into the wagon, Miss Talbot? In the name of expediency?”

Straw rustled behind her. One child hummed. Another thrummed on the wagon boards. The children were getting restless. She could contain herself long enough to be lifted onto the wagon.

“Very well. I give my permission.”

His hands curled around her waist. Heat seeped through her blouse and branded her skin. Her stomach started doing odd little summersaults like the ones she’d seen Chinese acrobats perform at a local fair. So much for containing herself.

His grip tightened, and he lifted her up and onto the wagon bed as if she weighed no more than a rag doll. His hands lingered a moment before he released her. Gray-brown eyes fused with hers. A strange connection churned between them like the rush crowding the air before a storm.

About the Author

Donna Dalton lives in central Virginia with her husband, two sons, and a grandson. An avid reader of historical romances, Donna uses the rich history of the “Old Dominion” State for many of her story settings. You can visit her at www.donndalton.net or on Facebook at DonnaDaltonbooks.

Report from our theatrical correspondent

London is agog at the outrageous debut of Miss Lia Kincaid at the Pan Theatre last night. The young lady in question—and we use the term lady with a degree of skepticism—is the daughter of Marianne Lester, one of England’s premier dramatic actresses.

Mrs. Lester is, as our astute readers know, the wife of the well-regarded theatrical manager, Stephen Lester. But the good Mrs. Lester was not always so respectably situated, and was once a popular member of the demi-monde. Her famous lovers included, among others, the Duke of York. The aforementioned Miss Lia is, in fact, the result of a scandalous—if brief—liaison between His Highness and the beauteous Marianne.

Subsequently, the unfortunate child was whisked away to the wilds of Yorkshire by her grandmother, herself once a noted courtesan. They faded into obscurity until this week, when Miss Lia (who we can attest is as comely as her mamma once was) left her rural seclusion and launched her career with a performance not soon to be forgotten.

Your humble correspondent can only assume that the third generation of Notorious Kincaids is about to take London by storm…

The real spectacle began when the first battle scene commenced to loud whistles and cheers. Players garbed as soldiers in short tunics and breeches launched into a mock battle, enthusiastically whacking at each other with painted wooden swords.

“This is much more fun than Drury Lane,” Gillian said, almost doubling over with laughter. “Even if it’s completely absurd.”

“With emphasis on the absurd,” Charles said.

Jack, however, felt as if a very large sword had just whacked him on the back of the head, because unless his eyesight had rapidly begun to fail him, one soldier looked very familiar.

“Goodness,” Gillian said. “I think that soldier standing by the proscenium is a female.”

Jack squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, hoping they were deceiving him. That hope was dashed when he cracked his eyelids open again.

“I’m afraid so,” he said, barely able to choke out the words.

Both Gillian and Charles looked at him. “What’s wrong?” she asked.

Charles looked back at the stage. “Good God, is that Miss Kincaid?”

“It most certainly is,” Jack ground out.

Gillian leaned forward to get a better look. “That’s Lia? Well, I must say she looks very dashing in that outfit. Don’t you think so, Charles?”

“That’s one way of putting it,” he replied in a faint voice.

Jack stared until he thought his eyes would pop out of his head. Lia’s costume was scandalously revealing. The form-fitting tunic revealed the lovely swell of her bosom, before nipping in to showcase her trim waist. It barely reached midthigh, which meant her shapely legs, clad in breeches that unfortunately fit her snuggly, were on full display.

The only saving grace was that she was not front and center on the stage. Because it was a crowded scene with frenetic activity, her identity as a woman might go unnoticed. Jack clutched at that faint hope as if it were a rope tossed to a drowning man.

“You didn’t tell me she was playing a breeches role,” Charles said, his consternation clear. It wasn’t uncommon for certain actresses to don breeches and play a male part, but those roles were notorious for attracting all sorts of salacious attention from male audience members.

“Because I didn’t know,” Jack said. “That blasted girl doesn’t tell me anything anymore.”

Gillian shot him an irritated look. “I shouldn’t wonder, if you speak to her in that tone of voice.”

Charles shook his head. “Under the circumstances, Jack’s dismay is quite understandable, my love. This sort of thing won’t help Miss Kincaid’s reputation at all.”

She shrugged. “I don’t see why. I wear breeches myself on occasion.”

Her husband stared at her in disbelief. “Only in the country when riding, and very discreetly. You certainly don’t go parading around in front of half of London.”

Lia had retreated and was now partially concealed by the proscenium. Jack couldn’t understand why she was in the scene at all because she didn’t seem to be doing much of anything.

“This theater is not half of London,” Gillian pointed out. “Besides, she’s entirely covered, so I don’t see what you and Jack are fussing about.”

“No, I suppose you wouldn’t,” Charles said in a long-suffering tone.

He alluded to his wife’s unconventional upbringing in Sicily and her sometimes equally unconventional behavior. But unlike Lia, Gillian’s powerful relatives could and did protect her from both malicious gossip and ill-intentioned men.

Lia’s family didn’t even care to try.

“I’m not sure anyone’s yet noticed that this particular soldier is a woman,” Charles said, craning forward to peruse the audience. “With a little luck—ah, she’s disappeared backstage.”

“Thank God,” Jack muttered. He and his friend exchanged a relieved glance. “I think we dodged a pistol ball on that one.”

“Look! There she is again,” Gillian said. “Now what is she doing?”

Appalled, Jack saw that Lia had quickly reappeared, accompanied by one of the other soldiers. They carried a large piece of fabric to the front of the stage and unrolled it.

“That’s called a scroll,” Charles said. “It details the narrative that can’t be explained by the recitations or songs.” He sounded like someone was strangling him.

Jack understood exactly how he felt. Everyone in the pit was now discovering that one of the soldiers was indeed a woman, and a very comely one at that. They were reacting as he’d expected, with a rising tide of loud, ribald comments, a few of which he could make out over the din.

“That’s odd,” Gillian said. “Why don’t they just act it out or present it in a speech, like a Greek chorus?”

“This is how theaters like the Pan get around the legal restrictions on spoken drama,” Charles said.

“You two are missing the point,” Jack growled. “Lia is now front and center in a breeches role, and every damn rake in this blasted theater has taken note of it.”

Three Weeks With a Princess

Lia Kincaid, illegitimate daughter of the Duke of York, comes from a long line of notorious women. Raised by her grandmother, formerly mistress to the late Marquess of Lendale, she has little hope of a respectable marriage. But the new marquess, her childhood friend, Jack Easton, would make a very desirable protector…if he weren’t too honorable to take her to bed.

It’s bad enough being saddled with a title he never desired. Now Jack must resist the beautiful woman he desires far too much. Duty calls, and he is duty-bound to choose a wealthy bride. But then Lia makes another outrageous suggestion: asking Jack to devise some tests to find her the perfect paramour. Tests that involve flirting, kissing, and other pleasurable pursuits. Tests that, in a matter of weeks, could transform friendship into the ton’s greatest scandal, igniting a passion even duty can’t deny…

Meet Vanessa Kelly

Vanessa Kelly is a bestselling, award-winning author who was named by Booklist, the review journal of the American Library Association, as one of the “New Stars of Historical Romance.”  Her Regency-set historical romances have been nominated for awards in a number of contests, and her second book, Sex and The Single Earl, won the prestigious Maggie Medallion. My Fair Princess, book 1 in Vanessa’s current Improper Princesses Series, was named a Goodreads Romance of the Month and is a USA Today Bestseller.

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Links to Three Weeks With a Princess

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Tragically Orphaned Lady Makes Surprise Appearance at Ball

Jean Baptiste Camille Corot, Lady in Blue (1874)

You’re reading it here first, ladies and gentlemen of the ton. Lady Margaret Folton appeared in person at the Harrison gala evening last wearing a confection of pale blue and cream lace. This reporter is just as stunned as you are and would not have put pen to paper without seeing the truth of it with my very own eyes.

We all know the confirmed spinster’s tragic tale of how she became an orphan – her parents, the Earl and Countess of Breckenshire and victims of Madame Guillotine – and have treated her noted absence from society with careful and due consideration. Having been forced to witness her parents’ execution, it is understood that Lady Folton would keep to herself. After all, we outstanding and illustrious members of society can understand the enormity of such an event on a child so small.

But last evening, we saw nothing of the tragically orphaned child or of the reclusive spinster. No, indeed. Lady Margaret Folton gained the floor with practiced ease and earned respect. Every head turned to take her in just as every breath held in anticipation. She was the very princess of children’s fairy tales, standing on the edge of a ballroom waiting for her story to begin.

But alas, marriage-minded mamas, I leave you with this grave note. Lady Folton was seen partnering with none other than Viscount Pemberly, the gloriously decorated naval captain, newest addition to our ranks, and this season’s most desired match. So be ware, mamas. It appears the previously thought confirmed spinster is stepping down from the shelf.

To Save a Viscount

by Jessie Clever

When an assassin threatens England’s spy network, Lady Margaret Folton must find the killer before it’s too late. Hardened from being forced to witness the murder of her British spy parents by French revolutionists, Margaret approaches this mission like any other, with steely determination and a resolute focus on the necessary outcome at the cost of all else.

Commodore John Lynwood, newly returned from the Mediterranean, finds himself granted the title of viscount in honor of his service during the war. Plagued with a string of good luck throughout his life, the title serves as another reminder that Jack has done nothing to earn the glory and prestige that comes with his position, and he’ll be damned if he’ll enjoy such an honor.

But when Jack is accidentally granted a title meant to be used as bait to lure the assassin into the War Office’s trap, Margaret must face the tragedy of her past and decide which is more important: the assignment or love?

Goodreads | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Nook | iBooks | Google Play | Smashwords

Now available on audio!

The books in the Spy Series:

1/2. Inevitably a Duchess (A prequel novella)
1. Son of a Duke
2. For Love of the Earl
3. A Countess Most Daring
4. To Save a Viscount

Excerpt

London
August 1815

He had grown so accustomed to the sound of gunfire that he did not hear the shot that was meant to kill him.

This would have worried Richard Black, the Duke of Lofton, if he had had time to think on it. But as the situation inherently required immediate action, prolonged and abstract thinking on the subject was neither prudent nor wise. So he refrained. Instead, he wondered whom it was that smashed into him at incredible speed, sending him tumbling backwards off the walk along the Thames and into the bitter, black water below.

He had been meeting his contact there along the water at an unholy hour, and darkness had lain all about him. The exchange had gone as planned, and he now held the knowledge that he knew would prove key to his current assignment with the War Office. But as the inky water of the Thames closed over his head, he wondered if he would ever get that information to the necessary people.

And then as the last of the light disappeared, he thought of Jane, his wife. His Jane. He did not think of her in specific instances or certain memories that lay in his mind. He thought of her in pieces. Her smell. Her laugh. The sound her hair made as she brushed it at night. The way she always laid her hand on top of his whenever they should find themselves sitting next to one another. Her amazing talents with chestnut roasters.

He would have laughed if such an action would not speed up the inevitable drowning that suddenly became all too real, flushing thoughts of Jane from his mind. His arms began to push against the water as his feet began to pulse, driving him toward the surface. Only he did not move. Whoever it was that had slammed into him still held him about the waist, dragging him deeper into the water. He began to struggle, the need for air and life and Jane surging through his veins in a way he had never felt before.

And then a hand brushed against his cheek, and slender fingers came to rest across his mouth. He wanted to open his eyes, but he knew it would do no good in the black water. But he let the feeling of his attacker’s hand brush against his skin, the shape of it press into his face, the narrowness of limb and the delicate arch of bone.

It was a woman who held him beneath the water.

And he stopped struggling.

About the Author

Jessie decided to be a writer because the job of Indiana Jones was already filled.

Taking her history degree dangerously, Jessie tells the stories of courageous heroines, the men who dared to love them, and the world that tried to defeat them.

Jessie makes her home in the great state of New Hampshire where she lives with her husband and two very opinionated Basset Hounds. For more, visit her website at jessieclever.com.

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