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by Gayle Callen
Book 3 of the "Spies and Lovers" trilogy
(The books do not have to be read in order.)
Julia Reed's love of adventure led her far from home --
and resulted in her wrongful conviction for treason against the British
Crown. Now she faces a death sentence, thanks to the determined efforts
of Sam Sherryngton, the dashing agent who arrested her, and a man whom
Julia has adored in secret for years.
Even though the evidence against Julia is compelling,
Sam cannot help but believe in her innocence. Risking everything, he
breaks this enchanting prisoner from her cell and leads her undercover
to find the real traitor. But on the trail of a dangerous truth, a
that can no longer be hidden or denied. Each touchbrings them closer to
sensuous surrender -- but will giving in to an irresistible
temptation free their imprisoned hearts ... or cost two fugitive lovers
"...edge of your seat
suspense and adventure with
a touching love story."
(The following is the property of the author and Avon Books, and cannot
copied or reprinted without permission.)
Jail was a terrible place for a woman,
even a guilty
one. As Samuel Sherryngton stared at the dilapidated building in a
neighborhood in Leeds, he found himself hesitating, his jaw tight from
so many hours grinding his teeth together in angry frustration. Julia
was in there, having spent ten days awaiting transport to trial in
charged with treason.
He hadn't seen her since she'd been led
her innocence with weary desperation. He still felt a pang of shock and
disbelief, and a rage he sometimes wondered if he could continue to
How had this happened to bright and
sunny Julia, the
little girl who followed him through gardens so many years ago? How
she have betrayed her country, her family--him? He knew he was taking
too personally, for they had not been close in many years. But
of people had died because of her. And he'd spent
the previous month
of August chasing her through England, ready to intercept her before
could kill the man who would testify against her.
Taking a deep breath, he squared his
shoulders and entered
the jail. Even in the front office, the stench seeped out, full of
It was easy for him to obtain
permission to see Julia.
A few shiny coins were all that mattered to the jailer. After agreeing
their transaction, Sam set a basket on the desk.
The man tilted back his chair and
smiled wolfishly, his
missing front teeth a black hole in his face. "Ye brought her food
eh? The wench could use some. She eats like a horse."
Sam leaned over the desk, directing
some of his anger
at the jailer. "You had better be taking good care of the prisoner. The
against her have the attention of Queen Victoria."
The jailer affably lifted his hands.
"Ye need not complain
about me, sir. She gets what everyone else does." Then he sorted
the basket, taking away the bottle of cider and several meat pies for
"No glass in the cell, gov'nor," he
said with a smirk.
Sam waited impatiently while the man
unlocked the door,
lifted an oil lamp, and led him down a dark passage. On either side
doors with bars as a viewing window. The air was hot, heavy, full of
Someone coughed repeatedly, a deep emptying of the lungs. Another
begged to ask a question, and the jailer ignored him.
"You don't have a woman's area of
cells?" Sam asked
"How big a jail does this look like?"
the man replied
over his shoulder. "This ain't London. And the lady got a window,
At the last door, there was a feeble
light from within
the room, the promised window.
The jailer unlocked the door. "Ye want
me to come in
"That won't be necessary," Sam said. He
the doorway and straw crunched under his feet. "Julia?" His voice
harsh even to himself. He'd get nowhere with her if he couldn't control
She made not a sound. The door clanged
shut behind him.
There was a mound of blankets on the cot and a bucket in one corner.
"Call when ye need me," the jailer
said. His uneven footsteps
"Julia?" Sam said again, louder, with
an edge of worry
he thought he'd never feel for her again.
The blankets suddenly moved, and in the
dim light, he
watched the woman push herself slowly to sit against the wall. The
hair that so distinguished her hung disheveled and dull. She wore a
shapeless dress, more a smock, that sagged off one white shoulder.
He should despise her for what she'd
nagged at him each night as he lay sleepless in a nearby hotel.
"Sam?" Her usually expressive voice was
He nodded and took a step towards her,
watching as she
sat up straighter. "How are you, Julia?"
She cocked her head. "Well that's a
she said sarcastically.
He sat down on the edge of the cot,
testing it first
with his weight, to make sure it didn't collapse beneath them both. He
the basket between them.
"Food?" she asked.
They stared at each other in the gloom,
and he saw the
dirt that smudged her face, the dark shadows beneath eyes that
But she didn't cry.
He almost wished she would.
"So you brought me food, Sam. Am I
supposed to thank
you? What more could you want from me?" She drew her knees up against
chest and hugged them to her, though it was hardly cold in this oven of
It was just another barrier between
"I don't know," he said, giving in to
thoughts that chased around inside his head. "This is one of the
things I've ever had to do."
"If you're looking for redemption, then
you might as
"I don't want that."
"Then just go. Surely you'll see me at
the trial in London,
you and your fellow soldiers, full of enthusiasm, ready to gloat."
Sam closed his eyes and rubbed a hand
over his face.
"You think I'm enthused about any of this? This
type of crime…I
still can't grasp that you were a part of it."
She sighed again and spoke in a dull,
flat voice. "Don't
bother hoping that I might incriminate myself. I didn't do anything.
already told you that. But no one will believe me."
"There's too much proof," he said
"Sam, who could possibly hate me enough
to want me dead?"
she continued. "You know that's the punishment for treason. Death by
He said nothing, sickened by the
thought of her baring
her long white neck to a blade. She sounded so convincing, so
She had always been able to appeal to his protective instincts.
What if she was telling the truth?
That was why he was really here, wasn't
it? Some part
of him still thought there had to be a mistake somewhere. Was he just a
"I just saw Edwin Hume," Sam found
himself saying against
his better judgment. Hume was to testify that he'd worked for Julia,
along information about British troops to the Russians--information
had helped ensure the deaths of sixteen thousand soldiers and their
For a man trying to save his own neck,
Edwin hadn't even
been able to look Sam in the eyes. He'd taken to drinking, and would
have to be guarded to make sure he would remain a credible witness at
"He's lying," Julia whispered angrily,
"but I can think
of no reason why. He was part of my household, my governess's shy son.
I was young, you always encouraged me to befriend him."
"He was more of your age," Sam said
briskly. "I was so
much older than you. It was inappropriate for me to be your constant
even if it was in simple friendship."
"There were only six years between us.
Not so much."
"Maybe not now, but back then--" He
broke off. She'd
been the master's daughter, he the gardener's son, and at the end a
man to her fourteen years. He had realized they couldn't be friends
Julia sighed. "Edwin and I shared our
He said nothing, though he remembered
well his feelings
of jealousy. That sweet kiss, not meant for him, had been the final
for Sam's entry into the army of the East India Company. He knew even
that he could not stay in England and watch her grow up and away from
Had she felt deserted? Was it his fault that she'd turned to other men?
"And now Edwin has betrayed me," Julia
but with bewilderment. "I haven't seen him in ten years, since I joined
brother in India. I had no idea Edwin had even left England, and I
never saw him in Afghanistan. I can't believe that he conceived this
against me. The man I knew would have been incapable of such a crime."
Sam thought of Edwin, a drunkard now, a
man beaten by
life. Was there a chance that Edwin was lying, that someone else was
in a deliberate attempt to destroy Julia?
"Tell me this proof," she said
fiercely, her fists clenched
on her knees. "Explain it all to me. I was in shock when you arrested
and I remember little of it. And the jailer just shrugs at my
He didn't want to go through it all
didn't add up, and he had long ago learned not to ignore his instincts.
if he said it out loud, it would come to him.
"The first thing that alerted us were
the whispers of
treason we began to hear in Kabul, months before the massacre. Then one
our informants saw a British woman with pale blond hair deliver a
to the hide-out of a Russian officer."
He saw her stiffen, but her voice was
brisk and impassive.
"There are no other blond Englishwomen?"
He shrugged. "He said the woman's hair
was so blond as
to be white. And we already knew you'd been in Kabul unescorted,
I had discovered you. Your brother is a British general--surely you can
understand why you were one of the few people with access to military
information." He raised a hand before she could protest. "In no way did
believe it was you just from this meager evidence
alone. But then
Nick Wright was visiting the Russian officer in an unofficial capacity,
he saw a necklace casually left on a table. He knew he had given it to
Would she deny her affair with Nick--or
with the Russian?
Her eyes grew as frosty as ice. "As I
told you when you
arrested me, it had disappeared from my jewelry box."
"You're trying to say that somebody
took it to frame
you. You were living with your brother, so he had access. Who else did?"
"Our servants. We'd brought a cook and
maid from India
with us. We had officers for dinner several times a week. I couldn't
begin to name them all." She lifted her chin as if to say she'd proved
"As you've already seen, we have two of
the letters written
in your own hand, with a code added that betrays British military troop
"Anybody could have intercepted those
letters and added
their own code."
"We have documented testimony you were
She flung her hands up. "Your witness
could have been
paid to say whatever the real traitor wanted him to say!"
His anger faded, replaced by tired
this evidence is damning, and you can't refute any of it."
"The real traitor is out there, Sam,"
she said passionately.
"The evidence was all set up for you too perfectly."
He was being a fool, letting her sway
him. But what if
she was right? Could he watch her go to her grave, without being
He frowned. "Tell me again why you
traveled north to
Leeds to meet with Edwin Hume."
She twisted to face him, her knees now
on the cot, and
leaned toward him. "My old governess died in her sleep, and she left
my brother thought Edwin would want."
He well remembered Lewis Reed, now a
general in the queen's
army. As young boys they'd played together, but Lewis had soon realized
differences in their stations. There had been animosity between them
then on, and Sam had been stunned by Lewis's indifference to his sister.
Yet Julia claimed that the governess's
death was the
catalyst for her journey. Edwin had said this story was agreed on
hand, should their meeting be discovered. But the old woman had died
a few weeks ago. Had the story been concocted before she died? And did
mean someone had deliberately killed the governess, just to fashion an
Sam needed to question Edwin further.
And if Julia had betrayed her country
for money, where
had the money gone? None had been found. He stared into her face, not
himself to believe that there was a chance she could be innocent. For a
her eyes caught the scant light from the window, and seemed to shine
that odd, blue color of stained glass windows that had always
"No more questions, Sam?" She tilted
her head mockingly.
"Nothing else to go over?"
He got to his feet. He was on his own
trying to look
deeper into her case. Everyone else believed a swift trial and
were all that was left. He couldn't go to his compatriots, Will
or Nick Wright. Not only did they believe her guilty, but Will was off
his honeymoon and Nick had gone to offer his own marriage proposal.
They'd been three spies ordered to
uncover a plot against
England--maybe only a spy could discover the real truth.
And Sam was a damn good spy.
"I have to go," he said, turning to rap
on the door.
She scrambled to her feet, tall in the
meager cell. To
his surprise, she asked, "Will you come back?"
Just an hour ago he would have refused.
"I promise I
will," he said, then turned away as the jailer arrived.
Julia watched the door close behind
Sam, and though she
hadn't thought it possible, felt even more alone than before. The
leered at her between the bars before he followed Sam down the hall,
she only turned her back, having learned that he was too much a coward
attempt her harm.
She went to the window and pressed her
face to the bars,
her only view the polluted shores of the Aire River, crowded with mills
slaughter houses. The smell was little better out there, but she closed
eyes and inhaled deeply of freedom.
It had been ten days since she'd been
cut off from the
world, ten days of listening to the hopelessness of other prisoners,
occasional shouts or the quiet sobs late in the night. The despair of
place weighed on her, threatening to close her throat with the hoarse
she yet held back. She'd cried when Sam and Nick had first captured
but not since. She was too numbed by all that had happened, all they'd
She had her sins, some of which she
didn't want revealed--but
treason and murder weren't among them. So many people she'd known had
among the dead, their friendships lost to her forever. Her brother had
transferred from Afghanistan back to India six months earlier, and
gone with him, realizing only later how fortunate they'd been.
and thousands of men, women and children were killed by the Afghanis,
wanted the British invaders gone. Even now, the images of their faces
haunted her--the officers' wives who'd insisted on inviting her to
whenever the soldiers were away, the children who gathered in awe
her horse, which had been bred to be the fastest. They were all dead,
as they tried to leave the country under a peace treaty in the dead of
And her own government was accusing her
of causing it.
Grief and despair welled up inside her again, and she fought it back,
she needed a clear mind.
These accusations had even cost her her
never been close, but she'd been certain he would answer her letter, do
within his power as a general in the queen's army to discover the true
Instead, he must have believed the lies, because he'd never responded.
Her only visitor was the man who'd put
her in jail.
Julia looked at the incongruous basket
that perched on
the cot. She shouldn't eat anything Sam had brought. He was only
But surely good food shouldn't go to
waste. She removed
the cloth spread on top, surveyed the contents appreciatively, and bit
a cake dripping with a sweet glaze. She even licked her dirty fingers
she was done. There was more to eat, but her belly was already growling
warning, so she'd better take her time.
Her mind went immediately back to the
things that haunted
her. She'd spent her hours in jail fighting the encroaching sense of
by trying to figure out who had framed her for such a terrible crime.
could hate her enough to want to see her executed? But her thoughts had
round and round, disjointed and confused.
Had her behavior in Afghanistan made
her an enemy she
didn't even know about? She had lost more than her inhibitions in that
country. She'd forever lost Sam.
In a childhood filled with duty and
indifference, her only true friend had been Sam, the gardener's son,
her escape had been the gardens. He came from a large, loving family
envied, had sisters she enjoyed playing with.
But it was Sam himself she'd always
been drawn to. Though
he was six years older, he'd always treated her with respect and
But then he'd joined the army, followed soon by her brother. Her
had died of the fever, and she was alone at fourteen years of age with
the servants, soon forgotten by even the villagers.
She had always known she wasn't like
other women. Though
she'd lived on a large estate, it had always felt like a prison to her.
had been no one but the servants who pitied her, yet they could not
the boundary that divided their classes. She grew used to being alone,
gradually the restrictions chafed at her. She'd ridden her horse across
through forests that she pretended went on forever. But the end of her
property was as solid as an invisible boundary. She could never go
restricted by her age-but mostly because of her gender. Freedom had
called to her, had beckoned to her from across oceans. The globe in
family library had constantly twirled under her hands as she saw the
her brother traveled, traced with her finger the paths he wandered.
Not that he ever sent letters himself,
even then. She
was just his sister, a nuisance--a dependent. But he was the key to her
and she focused on him with single-minded determination, hoarding every
in pin money and in unused household budget which the sympathetic
passed on to her.
When she turned eighteen, nothing could
stop her. She
bought a ticket to the East, and even through a miserably long voyage,
excitement could barely be contained.
When she'd arrived in India, her
brother had disapproved,
but he hadn't sent her home. That would have meant sparing time and
money--on her. Instead he made sure she knew she was always a guest,
a part of his household. She'd finally realized that her last hope of
to her own family--a real family--would never happen. She gave up that
determined to exchange it for the freedom a woman in England never had.
it had seemed to work for many years, years of travel and adventure and
cultures to explore. But even the ability to do as she pleased paled
awhile when she had no one to share it with. The price for
freedom--loneliness--sometimes grew too much to bear. Her
occasionally made her cross the line of propriety into places she
When Lewis had been recalled to
England, she'd tried
to look at it as another adventure, the chance to find the
that had always eluded her.
With a heavy sigh, she dug into the
basket and bit into
a flaky meat pie.
Were her present problems punishment
for the things she'd
done in her past? Had God played the ultimate joke on her, allowing her
draw the notice of the Duke of Kelthorpe, only to see her chance at a
crash about her? Why had she been foolish enough to believe that she
have to pay a price for her willfulness? Even if she was proved
the duke could never welcome her again. His abandonment hurt, though
hadn't loved him. She had no one left to help her--
No one but Sam Sherryngton, who'd
disapproved of her
in Afghanistan, who'd helped to arrest and imprison her. He might as
be a stranger now. His brown hair had just a touch of red, and she used
imagine he hid a fiery personality. But he'd always been calm and
with her, even when confronted by her misdeeds. His golden brown eyes,
she'd once thought held the secrets of the earth, now betrayed only icy
indifference. When he and his fellow spies had captured her, he'd
in the background, letting Nick Wright lead in her questioning.
The shock of the arrest still hit her
like a blow, and
knowing Sam believed it all made nausea roil inside her. He'd believed
the lies someone had woven about her. He'd helped track her down across
instead of helping her. She'd spent the past ten days with his face
in her mind, full of bitterness that he'd rather see her dead than
to the truth.
She'd been unprepared for the sight of
him here in her
cell, bearing food, full of questions. There'd been doubt in his eyes.
she hope that he would help her? Or did he want her to take him into
confidence so he could betray her?
Sam took out his frustration on Edwin
Hume's door as
he knocked for a second time. Nothing. Edwin's horse was in the stable
the house, and he wasn't at his favorite tavern across the street.
overtook Sam, making his stomach tighten, making the world around him
sharp and clear. And as usual, he felt the thrill of the hunt.
He stepped behind the shrubbery and
peered in the front
window, shielding his eyes with his hand. He could see the deserted
and a corner of the dining room, and spotted the one inconsistency: a
on its side, just in the line of his vision in the dining room.
Was there a leg attached?
He walked around the house at a quick
pace until he reached
the back, facing an alley. The door was ajar and so he slid his pistol
his pocket, cocked the hammer, and slowly stepped inside. The kitchen
a cluttered mess, more with empty liquor bottles than food.
And then through the kitchen door he
saw Edwin Hume lying
on the dining room floor, unmoving, a wide swath of blood across his
Sam gritted his teeth, holding back his
he assumed Hume's assailant was gone, he went through the house
methodically, until he knew he was alone. Then he stood over the body,
mind already sifting through motives and meanings.
Hume gave a soft cough, and Sam dropped
to his knees
He shook the man's shoulder, then
ripped open his shirt.
Just beneath his heart, a hole in his chest oozed blood with every beat
his pulse. Sam pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and pressed it
"Edwin!" he said with more urgency.
"It's Sam Sherryngton.
Open your eyes!"
The man's eyelids fluttered, but never
"Who did this to you?"
Hume coughed again, weaker this time.
His lips parted,
and Sam leaned over him to catch his words.
Sam stared at the dying man. "Julia's
brother was here?
He did this to you?"
With only the barest shake of his head,
"Paid…someone. Just like he…paid me. He's--" A
coughing fit made
blood trickle from his mouth. Arching his back with a gasp, he finished
"--the real traitor. Tell Julia that--tell Julia--"
His body slackened as he died.
Swearing, Sam sank back
on his heels.
General Lewis Reed?
The man had betrayed and framed
his own sister?
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