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Sari robins

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SARIROBINSWhen Seducing A Spy

For Marilyn and Normie,We love you always

Contents

Prologue

“What are you reading there, old boy? You seem positively…

Chapter 1

“There you are, Aunt Sophie!” Entering the drawing room of…

Chapter 2

“Andersen Hall would never sell these books!” Fiona Reed sputtered,…

Chapter 3

“Mr. Bartlett,” the butler announced as Heath entered the femininely…

Chapter 4

Tess was careful to keep her face fixed and her…

Chapter 5

“Good day, Joe.” Heath stepped into Tipton’s tavern and nodded…

Chapter 6

Tess climbed the stairs leading to the red-painted door marked…

Chapter 7

The next afternoon at the Society for the Enrichment and…

Chapter 8

Marks-Cross Street Prison was a hulking gray building of stacked…

Chapter 9

“I’d like to know how you manipulated this,” Tess ground…

Chapter 10

Sitting before the oval mirror, Tess watched as her maid…

Chapter 11

Pushing away all thought of Tess, Heath bowed to the…

Chapter 12

Tess made her way down the long candlelit passage, thankful…

Chapter 13

Heath was laughing and out of breath as he and…

Chapter 14

It took all night for Tess to decide that Heath…

Chapter 15

Heath’s heart was racing, his breath struggling, and his body…

Chapter 16

“What the devil’s the matter with you?” Bills exclaimed the…

Chapter 17

“So how do I ascertain Heath’s true purpose?” Tess asked…

Chapter 18

“Aunt Sophie!” Tess crouched down beside her aunt, her chest…

Chapter 19

As her aunt headed down the hallway, Tess hurried to…

Chapter 20

Having dressed with care that evening, Tess stood outside the…

Chapter 21

Heath swallowed, anger and some unknown emotion racing through him…

Chapter 22

Tess stared out the window of the moving coach, palpably…

Chapter 23

Tess surrendered to Heath’s kisses and to the desire pulsing…

Chapter 24

Tess rolled over and sighed, unable to believe how deliciously…

Chapter 25

Fear constricted Heath’s chest as Tess fell to her knees.

Chapter 26

The prison room was small and the furnishings sparse and…

Chapter 27

Tess turned to Heath, her face filled with consternation. “Dead?…

Chapter 28

“You lying bastard!” Furious, Heath grabbed Reynolds by the lapels.

Chapter 29

“It’s too damned cold in here,” Tess muttered to herself,…

Chapter 30

Heath didn’t think, didn’t call for help; his body simply…

Chapter 31

Hours later Tess awoke to the sound of voices, her…

Chapter 32

“Engaged?” Heath cried, disbelieving, and lowering his arms.

Chapter 33

Heath followed the liveried servant to Solicitor-General Dagwood’s private study.…

Chapter 34

The scents of leather, old parchment, and dust filled the…

Acknowledgments

About the Author

Other Romances

Copyright

About the Publisher

Prologue

London, England1810

“What are you reading there, old boy? You seem positively mesmerized.” Puffing on his thin cigar, Sir Lee Devane lowered himself into the creased leather armchair, his stiff legs an irksome reminder of his almost seventy years.

Tristram Wheaton acknowledged his former superior at the Foreign Office with a mild grunt, his eyes not leaving the newspaper. With his corpulent belly, snowy white hair, and shiny pink cheeks, Wheaton could easily pass for Father Christmas, an ironical exterior for the cunning, cold-hearted master of spies.

After a few moments, Wheaton looked up, a calculating gleam in his blue gaze. “Have you read this?” Leaning forward, he handed the broadsheet to Sir Lee, his gray superfine coat straining to accommodate his movement.

The thin paper crackled as Sir Lee held it open andread, “Sifting Truths: The Power of Rumor and the Art of Discernment.” Sir Lee looked up. “No, I haven’t. But I don’t usually read theGirard Street Crier.”

“Nor do I, but that scandalmonger Mr. Norton pointed it out to me. Apparently this article has tongues wagging. And well it should. It sorts through the whole Brinkley affair and separates fact from innuendo and misinformation.”

“Misinformation that you planted.”

“Quite right.” Tapping his finger against his meaty lips, Wheaton’s eyes narrowed as they usually did when he was deliberating a strategy. “This author, what’s his name…?”

“Deiniol.”

“This Deiniol fellow managed to slash through my carefully constructed web of lies quite neatly.”

Sir Lee leaned forward, concerned. “Do you think someone’s talking?”

“No. The information here was puzzled together and clearly didn’t come from us.”

Setting the broadsheet aside, Sir Lee leaned back into the soft leather and puffed on his cigar, enjoying the pungent flavor and the fragrant cloud floating in the air around him. “Then I would ignore it. The periodical will be hearth ashes before the end of the week and the gossips will find other fodder.”

Motioning to a passing waiter for a glass of port, Sir Lee nodded to Lord Bertone, but the man didn’t approach. Club members at Brooks’s knew that when Sir Lee was with his former protégé, no one came near unless specifically invited.

Wheaton reached for the glass of port on the table beside him and sipped. “The intelligence reflected in this article is too good, too well considered to ignore. I must find this fellow wherever he is and enlist him.”

“Do you have any thoughts on who Deiniol might be?”

Pursing his lips, Wheaton nodded. “A gentleman, no doubt. He knows the territory too well not to have been born into the upper classes.”

Sir Lee raised a brow. “Are you sure you want to recruit a civilian, from the upper classes, no less? We’re at war and this is not child’s play.”

Wheaton set down his glass so hard, it clanged on the wooden table and the liquid swirled inside. “I’ll use anyone, in any way, to fight Napoleon.” He waved a meaty hand. “Besides, you know as well as I that I can curtail his activities, keep him useful and yet out of harm’s way.”

“Hmm.” Sir Lee opened the newspaper once more and read, “Sifting Truths: The Power of Rumor and the Art of Discernment,” by Deiniol. Skimming the article, he nodded. “This is quite good. You may have something here.”

Wheaton leaned back, with a crafty smile. “If I don’t yet, I will shortly. And this Deiniol fellow will soon learn that there’s more to be gained from sifting truths than merely seeing one’s name in the newspaper.”

Chapter 1

Two and a half years later

“There you are, Aunt Sophie!” Entering the drawing room of the Society for the Enrichment and Learning of Females, Tess Linowes, Lady Golding, smiled.

Lady Braxton looked up from the tome lying open on the desk before her. Her dove gray eyes were filled with delight. “Tess! What a pleasant surprise. How are you?”

“I went to your house and your butler directed me here,” Tess explained, setting a kiss on her aunt’s cheek.

“I find my house a bit too quiet for comfort these days.” Aunt Sophie’s moon-pale face was melancholy as she set her place with a band and closed the book. She’d lost her husband of twenty-five years to a lung ailment last summer, and Tess could hardly imagine her grief. Her aunt’s already graying hair had completely turned slate, as if washed in a cloud of her sorrow.

“I like it here.” Aunt Sophie sighed. “The Society for the Enrichment and Learning of Females has been a salvation for me. I wonder that you don’t utilize your membership at the society more frequently, since there is such a premium placed on books and learning.”

Tess busied herself with her gloves, unable to explain that if she associated much with the society’s members, she’d be duty bound to spy on them for her supervisor at the Foreign Office, Mr. Tristram Wheaton, a task she’d been putting off for months. Wheaton had insisted that Tess join the society since he was worried that it was a potential vessel for discord.

Tess had joined, but had quickly concluded that the members represented what was best about English society and were simply seeking a refuge to study and enjoy each other’s company. She could hardly imagine the founding members, Lady Janelle Blankett, Lady Edwina Devane, and Lady Genevieve Ensley, being traitorous in any way. Thus far, Tess had seen no reason to impose on their privacy, and she prayed that it remained so.

Adjusting her cambric blue gown, Aunt Sophie stood. “Shall I call for tea?”

“That would be wonderful.”

After speaking to the footman, Aunt Sophie reclined into one of the armchairs by the low-burning hearth, and Tess dropped into the seat facing her. Aunt Sophie’s eyes seemed sad and her lips were pinched.

Tess reached over and squeezed her aunt’s hand. “Are you having a difficult day?”

“A bit.”

“His birthday?”

“This is about the time when I would start planning the festivities.” Staring into the fire, her smile was bittersweet. “Chocolate layered cake. A pheasant. Fine brandy…”

“I think…”—Tess bit her lip.—“that we should still have the party.”

Aunt Sophie’s brow furrowed. “You do?”

“Uncle Jack liked nothing better than a good party. What better way to celebrate his wonderful life?”

Aunt Sophie’s eyes grew shiny with unshed tears. “A party for Jack.” After a long moment, she nodded. “He would like that.”

“Although we must make it smaller. No Uncle Hayden. Or Cousin Christopher. He’s a sweetheart but he always has the most atrocious flatulence.”

Aunt Sophie’s lips lifted. “You’re dreadful, Tess.”

She smiled, glad to see the light in her aunt’s gaze. “True or not?”

“True.”

“And he doesn’t seem embarrassed by it in the least.”

“True again.” Aunt Sophie sighed. “Thank you, Tess. I think it’s a brilliant idea. I’ll start planning right away. Will you help me?”

“Of course. Though I am dearly looking forward to that chocolate cake and brandy, I don’t give a fig about the rest.”

As she tilted her head, Aunt Sophie’s gaze was admiring. “You’re always so—oh, I don’t know—industrious. You always have a plan or an idea. I’m so envious of your ability to strike out with such confidence, Tess.”

Tess thought about her nightmares, the sleepless nights, the days when her insides felt so twisted with anxiety that she feared being too far afield from a chamber pot. She stared into the fire. “I have my moments, just like everyone else.”

“From the way you act, one would never know it. You have this air of resiliency, of”—Aunt Sophie shrugged—“I don’t know…perseverance about you. And you’re always so cool. I remember when Jack died and my world was falling apart, you were like an anchor steadying me. I knew that if you were around I would be taken care of.”

Tess lifted a shoulder, uneasy with the praise. “I’m glad that I was able to help.”

“But it’s not supposed to be like that. I’m older. Your mother’s sister. I’m the one supposed to be helping you.”

“You do help me.”

Aunt Sophie’s look was disbelieving. “I can’t recall the last time you allowed someone to help you. And I have no idea where this independence comes from, certainly not my side of the family.”

“Talking to you is an inordinate help to me. It keeps me sane when I’m feeling less than rational. Aunt, niece, it doesn’t matter, what I like about our relationship is that it transcends assumptions. The best of family.”

“Indeed we’re family, yet somehow I don’t feel toward any of my other nieces or nephews the way I feel about you. Perhaps it’s because none is nearly as nice to me as you are.”

Tess had nothing to say in her family members’ defense; often she understood them as well as she understood the whims of “fashion” that called for new colors and new lines every season. As if everyone had extra gold lying around just waiting to be spent on a new wardrobe.

Aunt Sophie’s lips pursed and her eyes were amused. “You’ve courted favor with the wrong aunt, Tess. Aunt Matilda is the one with the large bank account, not me. As your sister Vivian has made inordinately clear.”

Tess had some choice words for her opportunistic sister, but didn’t see the point in giving them air. “Vivian doesn’t mean to be so…”

“Calculating? Or obvious about it? Vivian could take a lesson or two from you in keeping her intentions close to her chest.” Picking a speck of thread from her blue skirts, Aunt Sophie straightened. “But I don’t wish to speak about Vivian, I want to talk about you. And your intentions.”

“My intentions?”

“Yes.” Aunt Sophie licked her lips. “Paul Rutherford came by to see me.”

Tess looked away. “Oh?”

“He wishes to know, well, he asked me if I thought you would ever be interested in marriage again.”

“Oh.” Tess exhaled. Rutherford was a sweet cousin, but she could never see himthat way. But Tess hadsworn never to be swayed by passion again; that’s what had gotten her into so much trouble with Quentin. She had mistakenly thought that desire had equaled love. A very big miscalculation she would never make twice. Would she be better off settling down with a sweet but boring man like Rutherford?

Aunt Sophie bit her lip. “You are an independent woman, Tess. You don’t need a man as some women do. But I confess, I think that you are missing out on one of the greatest rewards in life, that of being a mother. Have you ever considered that your time for babies will soon be past? You are not as young as you used to be.”

Rearranging her skirts, Tess brushed away some imaginary dust. “Thanks to my mother, that is a fact that I am very well aware of.”

“I know you’re afflicted enough by my sister’s badgering that you don’t need me doing it. But all I’m saying is that if you wish to be a mother, and I know that you will make a wonderful one, then you need to consider the fact that your opportunity is waning.”

“I’m twenty-four, Aunt, certainly not decrepit.”

“You’re almost five-and-twenty, Tess. Your birthday’s after Jack’s. Rutherford is interested, available, and is a wonderful man…”

Was her time for children passing? Were her opportunities for a real life dwindling like grapes on a winter’s vine? Then there was Wheaton. Somehow Tess couldn’t imagine him just letting her stop working for the Foreign Office. Even if she was pregnant. But once she’d had a child? Tess had to withhold a snort. Evenif she had ten babes, Wheaton would try to keep his “asset” functioning.

Then there was the issue of the father of the child. Even though many women did it and Tess did not begrudge them their choices, she didn’t feel right about using a man for his seed.

And it wasn’t as if she didn’t have any choices left in life. Or perhaps she was so deluded, she didn’t realize that her prospects were bleak. The thought was depressing enough to make her belly ache.

“Did you call for any sweets?” Tess eyed the empty doorway.

“Don’t try to change the topic.”

She exhaled, trying not to wonder if fruit tarts or scones would be coming with the tea. And if they were scones, would they be accompanied by clotted cream or preserves. Strawberry or—

“Rutherford, Tess,” Aunt Sophie chided.

Lifting her hands, Tess tried to sound regretful. “Now is not a good time. It would stir up sleeping dogs better left quiet. The scandal business would gain a whole new life. I’m not quite ready to face it yet.”

Aunt Sophie scowled. “I still cannot believe that anyone in their right mind can blame you for Quentin’s descent into depravity. You certainly weren’t standing at his side, forcing him to toss the dice or cheat at cards.”

Tess could only imagine what she would have done if she’d been a front-row spectator to her husband’s throwing away her inheritance like yesterday’s trash.“They don’t allow ladies like me in gaming halls,” she tried to quip, trying not to recall the painful time.

“And for good reason, we’re toodamnedsmart.”

“Aunt!”

Aunt Sophie lifted her chin. “I can blaspheme when I wish to. I’m a widow now. There must be some small benefit.”

“If there isn’t, therebloodywell should be!”

They laughed.

Aunt Sophie raised a brow. “Rutherford is exceedingly interested, and with the right encouragement…”

Tess stood and walked over to the window. She crossed her arms, staring out into the sunlit street. “Cousin or no, I find it hard to fathom that Rutherford has somehow forgotten that I was supposedly the cause of Lord Berber’s death and consequently my husband losing his will to live.”

“You and I both know that it’s all stuff and nonsense. Lord Berber never should have engaged in that dangerous race, and he was drunk, no less. YousavedQuentin’s life by not letting him sail that boat that day. He would have joined his best friend in death when it capsized, and no amount of seamanship could have saved them.”

“Tell that to Lord Berber’s family, Quentin’s, all of society, for that matter. According to them, had I not had Quentin tied so tightly by my apron stings, Berber would have lived, he and Quentin would have won the race, and Quentin would not have turned to drinking and gambling to make up for the loss of hisdearest friend. They attribute the duel to me as well, for not giving my husband solace during his grief.”

Sophie made a noise of disgust. “Every boat went down that day. That channel was too hazardous to traverse in those conditions and Berber was drunk, for goodness’ sake! Quentin was caught cheating at cards! Cheating! And the duel was your fault? Those people are disregarding the real facts.”

Tess pressed her lips together, trying to ignore the pain. “Facts are hard to discern when there is so much rumor and innuendo.” She laughed, but it was not a pleasant sound. “I never told you the other twist on the tale. That Berber and Quentin had been lovers, and after Berber perished, Quentin engaged in the duel as a fancy bit of suicide.”

Shaking her head, Tess looked down. “There’s no truth to any of it, but that doesn’t stop some people from talking. I just can’t allow it to make me cease caring or stop trying to protect those I love.”

Aunt Sophie stood. “I think you should consider Rutherford’s interest.”

“Why? Because he’s the only onewithany interest?”

“Not at all. He’s simply willing to overlook your past. He says that a respectable marriage will go a long way toward helping with your tarnished reputation.”

Tess gritted her teeth and held her tongue. No matter that she knew it for truth; she resented the implication that she was a charity case.

“As you are well aware, many gentlemen wouldn’t be so forgiving…”

“Don’t deign to do me favors,” Tess muttered.

Aunt Sophie sighed as if greatly put out. “I know it’s not ideal. Certainly not a love match. But see how you fared with love the last time around?”

“Don’t remind me.”

“And think of the children. Your children. I know you want them. You always have. This is your best chance.”

A war was waging inside Tess. On the one hand, there was nothing more appealing than the idea of being a mother, having babies, and making a life somewhat akin to what she’d always envisioned as a girl. On the other, she had too much pride, too much self-respect, to submit herself to Rutherford’s ideas about a wife and mother, and if she made one wrong move, she’d be hearing about her “tarnished” reputation or her “overlooked” past.

Then again, would marrying a respectable man actually help her reputation? Wouldn’t it be lovely to move out from under the shadow of her past? Would Wheaton ever let her go? Did shewantto stop her intelligence activities for the Foreign Office? She took great pride in being useful and in helping her country. Would she have to give up the book business that Wheaton had set her up in, but that she’d come to love?

Part of her loathed the idea of being dependent once more. She’d grown accustomed to being an independent lady, to some extent anyway. The other part of her longed for a time when she wasn’t obsessed with bills, accounts, making ends meet, and answering to Wheaton.

It was all too messy, too complicated, and too many emotions were involved for her to grasp.

Tess pushed it all aside and turned. “I’ll think about it.” She realized that it was a lie as soon as the words had left her mouth. She had no intention of ever letting Rutherford within a mile of her bed. Whether for children, her reputation, or anything else, she simply couldn’t do it.

Aunt Sophie clapped her hands. “I’m so glad to hear it. I think that I should have both you and Rutherford over for dinner. How’s next Tuesday?”

Tess bit her lip. “Ah…Tuesday?”

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