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by Gayle Callen
Book 1 of the "Spies and Lovers" trilogy
(The books do not have to be read in order.)
Miss Jane Whittington's hopes have
been dashed. She'd always imagined herself marrying someone daring, adventurous,
exciting. Instead, the man her father has betrothed her to is...a fop!
Certainly William Chadwick is
devastatingly handsome, but Jane could never love a dandy who cares for
nothing save the latest fashions. So why does his heated gaze
enflame a desire in her that she's never known?
His work as a British spy has kept
William apart from proper society for years--and he has no idea that
his latest "disguise" is anything less
than appropriate. Now that he longs for a simpler, safer lot, he
he's found his ideal bride in this irresistible beauty. But it will
special sort of seduction to win Jane's heart. And when the Crown calls
him back into service, how can William refuse--even if it costs him the
peace he covets...and the woman he can no longer live without?
"Tender, touching, and classically romantic."
Jill Barnett, NY Times bestselling author
(The following is the property of the author and Avon Books, and cannot
copied or reprinted without permission.)
Miss Jane Whittington sat at her
dressing table, her
chin resting on her hand, and stared at her own reflection. There was a
pensiveness about her that put an odd wrinkle between her slim, black
and turned down the corners of her mouth.
This was now the face of an engaged
No wonder she looked miserable.
She groaned and swept to her feet. Her
mother was giving
a dinner party this evening in celebration of Jane's engagement to a
William, Lord Chadwick. Even if Jane had to force a smile, she would do
for her mother’s sake, though she still felt hurt by her
and secrecy in arranging the match. She had been waiting for the right
to tell them she didn't wish to marry at all, that she wanted to
her own dowry.
Was it too late?
She picked up her thin gloves from the
and slid them on like armor before a battle. For once she remembered
without having to be reminded. There was nothing left to do but go
greet their guests, and formulate a miraculous plan of escape from her
When she reached the second floor
landing, she was able
to peer over the edge of the wide staircase. She immediately caught the
of the man glancing up.
Lord Chadwick, her groom. She wanted to
look away, but
there was something in his gaze she hadn't seen before, an intensity
felt strangely…intimate. A hot blush swept over her face.
She was behaving
like a girl fresh from the schoolroom instead of a sensible woman of
years. For a moment he didn’t smile, and she felt an absurd
a feeling of something dark and hidden beneath his usually cheerful
Then he gave that irreverent grin that made him seem
she dismissed her unusual feeling as nothing but a flight of fancy.
She had become acquainted with Lord
Chadwick but a week
before, at a dinner party hosted by her sister Charlotte, a widow newly
of mourning. He had been all charm and good manners and decent
rather too talkative, she thought reluctantly.
Giving him a cool nod, she put her hand
lightly on the
banister and descended the stairs, studying him. He was a man of decent
and nice breadth of shoulders beneath a perfectly cut black evening
His face was lean, with a pair of deep dimples scoring his cheeks when
smiled. His teeth were shockingly white and his eyes brown. His dark
nondescript brown to match his eyes, she thought--was slicked back with
oil, and his long sideburns had a touch of gray that made his age hard
determine. Her father, Viscount Whittington, hadn’t thought
such personal information in the letter that had told her the unwelcome
about her marriage.
Overall, there was nothing to dislike
about Lord Chadwick's
countenance--his description could fit a score of her male
When he wasn’t talking, he could almost be called handsome.
would be quite content, but Jane could not understand settling for such
When she reached the foot of the
stairs, Lord Chadwick
bowed over her gloved hand and brought it to his lips for a moment too
His eyes, as well as his mouth, smiled
up at her. "Good
evening, Miss Whittington."
She nodded perfunctorily and removed
her hand from his.
"Good evening, Lord Chadwick."
As he straightened she watched his gaze
slide down her
body. It seemed impersonal, as if he were merely deciding if she was
dressed for the occasion. She should be offended, but she was only
She put her hand on his offered arm and
him into the drawing room. She could see that only a few guests had
They were scattered between overstuffed tasseled chairs and sofas,
ferns and marble columns. Cluttered on every table and shelf was her
odd collection of bric-a-brac, including the unusual gifts from Jane's
Just the thought of his many years in
made Jane sigh with a frustrated longing to travel abroad--something
mother didn't understand. Jane had made plans for her dowry money in
of her parents' acquiescence, mapping out each country she would visit,
continuing to learn the appropriate languages. She refused to give up
her dreams so quickly.
Lady Whittington stood arm in arm with
Jane's sister. The two women were so alike in their petite, rounded
Jane felt like a lanky giraffe next to them. They watched her and the
with hopeful speculation.
Lord Chadwick led her near a small
table, then turned
to face her. "I say, your gown is quite the fashion, my dear."
She began to wonder if he flashed his
deliberation. "Thank you, my lord. You do justice to your garments, as
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw her mother whiten with shock.
But Lord Chadwick only looked
inordinately pleased. "Do
you really think so? I must say that since I arrived in London a month
I have been frequenting many a tailor to find just the right man for
style I require."
Jane's smile remained frozen on her
face. Surely he would
not subject her to the details.
"I am quite exacting in my demands
about the quality
of material and the emphasis on the latest designs."
He suddenly walked about her, and she
narrowed her eyes
at the spectacle he was making of himself.
"I do have an exacting eye," he
continued, "with a little
To her surprise, he pulled a monocle
out of his breast
pocket, and she noticed it was attached to his lapel by a delicate gold
He fixed it before his right eye and squinted down at her.
"Is your gown of satin broche?"
"And what a lovely shade of peacock
Peacock? What a perfect description of him!
was beginning to panic over the thought of endless evenings listening
such topics, when he paused and grinned.
"Ah, but you're diverting me from the
perusal of my lovely
Again she felt his gaze linger below
her neckline, and
the squint caused by the monocle made it seem as if he leered at her.
was hardly displaying an immodest amount of skin, and she was affronted
his rudeness. More and more of her mother's guests were arriving, and
felt their curious, amused stares.
"That is an exquisite necklace you're
He had pitched his voice lower, and his
eyes seemed overly
She touched the pearl pendant
self-consciously. "My father
sent it to me from India."
"I always knew he had good taste."
She narrowed her eyes as she stared at
him. "And how
long have you known my father, my lord?"
He'd been bending near her, but now he
imperceptibly and let the monocle drop to hang by its chain. "We've
business for many years, but as you well know, he's often been abroad.
he returned to Yorkshire these two months past, we've renewed our
and have begun even closer ties between our families." He grinned. "And
you will be the bridge between us."
A bridge. How romantic. "And
what sort of business
do you and my father engage in?"
"Mostly our estates interact--buying
produce, wool and
Her father had based the most important
her life on someone who bought the estate's farm goods? Although she
not seen her father in well over two years, he could not have changed
much. Why the secrecy about her marriage?
And why had her father traveled
directly to Yorkshire
instead of London on his return from India? Why had he not visited his
and daughters? The pain from this almost made tears well in her eyes,
she refused to cry before anybody, especially strangers. And that's all
"Excuse me, my lord, I must speak to my
the dinner arrangements."
"By all means," he said cordially,
bowing again as he
blotted his forehead with a handkerchief. "I look forward to sharing a
She approached her mother and Charlotte
and, after drawing
them into the library, closed the doors. A startled servant looked up
refilling a sherry decanter and was promptly waved away by Lady
Both women frowned at Jane.
"Why did you leave Lord Chadwick so
quickly?" her mother
asked. "You wished for an opportunity to get to know him--this is your
"I meant before the
engagement," Jane answered
dryly. "It might have mattered then."
"Jane," Charlotte said with an
that was new to her character since she'd become a widow, "you are
Jane shook her head. "'Stubborn' would
be if I refused
to marry at all. But I would never disgrace you that way, Mama." There
be a way out of the engagement without disgracing anybody at all.
"I know you wouldn't, dear heart," her
touching her arm. "I just wish that you'd trust your father's choice.
knows you well, after all."
"You don't seem as if you've
always trusted his
Her mother's face blanched, but Jane
would not take back
the words. Her parents rarely spoke to one another and usually lived
"I trust his love for you, Jane."
Maybe he no longer understood his own
daughter, she thought
with despair. All those years apart--how could mere letters make him
her temperament? His correspondence had been full of the wonders of
pyramids and African tribes. He’d sent her rare, fanciful
all around the world: little statues of wood or stone, fans made from
feathers of birds so exotic she had to look them up in books. Across
continents, her father had been the one she'd confided in, to whom
told her deepest wishes to live a different sort of life than her
He had seemed a sympathetic ear, even though he had never encouraged
to openly leave society's restrictions behind. Had he just been
She needed to see him, to talk to him
again she was tempted to abandon all she was, all her mother wanted for
and strike off on her own to visit her father. The scandal seemed minor
to living with a man she couldn't respect or love.
She turned to her sister, saying aloud
had not confided in her. "Surely you understand my concern. You were
to a man you did not love."
Charlotte's open expression instantly
Jane despaired of ever understanding her. Charlotte was too much like
mother, so concerned with what society thought.
"Jane," Lady Whittington said quickly,
too recent a widow. Do not hurt her so."
Before Jane could dutifully apologize,
up a hand. Her wedding ring glistened in the candlelight, and the three
Charlotte dropped her hand and sighed.
"It has been over
a year now, Mama. No longer so recent, I'm afraid. Jane, it is still
for me to talk about it, but you must understand that although I didn't
Mr. Sinclair in that girlish way I once thought I would, there was an
understanding between us. You tarnish his memory by assuming the worst."
But what else could Jane assume? She
had seen how controlling
Mr. Sinclair had been, how little Charlotte had participated in
that affected her own life. Nothing had shaken Jane more than realizing
trap that her sister had fallen in. Surely Charlotte was free now--and
But such a thing her proper sister would never admit.
"I don't mean to assault your
memories," Jane whispered,
unusually close to tears. "I just--I don't--oh, forgive me. I know not
has come over me this evening."
Her mother offered a weak smile of
relief. "Nerves, dear
heart--nothing more. You need to give your young man a chance to prove
to you. Now go find Lord Chadwick, and before we go into dinner, we'll
offer our congratulations."
Jane nodded and opened wide the doors
leading into the
drawing room. All seventeen of their guests seemed in attendance now,
as her mother circled to greet the newcomers, Jane wandered the
of the room, looking for Lord Chadwick. With so many people crowded
it was growing warmer every second, and she felt a trickle of
slide between her breasts.
Soon enough, she saw him standing with
three other men
beside the columns flanking the tall windows. Lord Chadwick gestured
his monocle in a flamboyant fashion that made her teeth grind together.
she approached, they did not seem to see her, and she found herself
behind a column, pressing her hands to the cold marble and pausing to
The four men burst into laughter and
she held her
"Chadwick, I've given you my tailor's
name," said Sir
Albert Dean, a genial friend of Charlotte's late husband. "So now you
me a game of cards at White's tonight."
"Now come, Sir Albert," Lord Chadwick
said with a chuckle
still in his voice, "surely one thing does not equate with the other.
all know that I am not a master of card games. I simply can't keep
in my head. Numbers have always bored me."
Sighing, Jane closed her eyes and
pressed her forehead
to the column. She loved anything to do with knowledge, and she had
her tutor train her in advanced mathematics, usually a male realm. But
mother had always told her she didn't need mathematics to be a good
It appeared her mother was right.
"Now Chadwick," said another man, who
sounded like Mr.
Roderick, one of the Yorkshire members of Parliament, "there are more
to celebrate your loss of freedom than just a dinner party."
More laughter followed this brilliant
then Jane heard Lord Chadwick's voice.
"But gentlemen, I prefer treating
myself to an extravagant
suit of clothing rather than gambling. Speaking of my betrothed, she
be back in the drawing room, since I see her mother. Adieu until a
Jane remained frozen behind the column,
hoping Lord Chadwick
did not find her eavesdropping. She couldn't help wincing over his
mispronunciation of adieu. Languages were her great
After a lengthy pause, Mr. Roderick
said, "Dean, why
ever did you invite Chadwick to join us? The man truly has no idea how
Sir Albert Dean laughed again. "But he
managed to take
all of your money last time, didn't he? And damned if I know how he did
Mr. Roderick grumbled something
"Gentlemen," Sir Albert said, "the
queen made a point
of introducing him to us. We cannot ignore that."
They were all murmuring their agreement
when Jane slipped
away, intrigued as to why Queen Victoria had taken special interest in
She had not gone more than a few paces,
when she saw
her betrothed staring at her from across the room.