by Sheridan Jeane
Secrets and Seduction Book Four
He’s a spy—Certain truths aren’t his to share…
London, 1854 ~ Frederick Woolsy is Queen Victoria’s finest spy. His mission at the Russian Embassy’s annual ball is one of the most critical ones of his life, but his careful plans end in disaster. The book he was assigned to secure has been stolen and now England and Russia are on the brink of war. Even worse, the love of his life has caught him in another lie (he’s a spy, certain lies are expected). However, in this case, it might mean he’ll lose her forever.
She’s a lady who demands honesty—above all else
The nights Lady Josephine Harrington spent with Frederick in her bed were glorious... enough to tempt her to consider abandoning her independence as a wealthy widow to spend her life with him. Tonight, he canceled their plans to attend the Russian Embassy’s ball, saying he would be otherwise engaged. Now he’s shown up at the event with his brother. She’s not sure what he's up to, but she’s going to find out…if she doesn’t eviscerate him first.
Secrets and lies…
He lives in a world of shadows. She values truth and integrity. If they want to find a future together, something has to change. Fast.
Genre: Historical RomancePurchase link(s): Amazon iTunes Kobo B&N
Content/Theme(s): Spies, Victorian, Romantic Suspense
Release Date: June 21, 2016
Publisher: Flowers and Fullerton
Excerpt & More
London, January 6, 1854
“Do you think the Russians—” Josephine stopped speaking mid-sentence the moment she caught sight of Frederick Woolsy weaving through the crowded ballroom. She’d recognize his dark hair and the way his tall form moved anywhere... even in a sea of men wearing black formal coats. What was he doing here at the Koliada Ball? He’d sent her a message only this morning saying he wasn’t coming. Surely he hadn’t lied to her. He wouldn’t have.
She hated that she doubted him, even for an instant.
“Lady Harrington? Is something wrong?”
“What?” She dragged her attention back to her friend and gave him a distracted smile. She'd momentarily forgotten about him. “The embassy is appallingly warm, Tristan. I wonder if the Russians are in the habit of overheating their rooms. I find myself quite parched.” She licked her dry lips.
A flicker of a frown crossed Tristan’s face. Did he suspect she wanted to send him away on some useless errand simply to rid herself of him? If so, his good breeding prevented him from saying anything. “Would you permit me to bring you some punch?”
She smiled her thanks. “That would be splendid.”
Josephine waited until he disappeared from sight and then hurried toward a spot where she could intercept Frederick and his brother. She was only halfway there when the Duchess of Eckley stepped in her path, barring her progress.
Fiddlesticks. There was nothing like a duchess with a determined gleam in her eye to put one’s plans in a muddle.
The young duchess’s eyes were bright with excitement. “I’m so glad I found you,” she said. “You’re acquainted with Mr. Woolsy, are you not?”
“You know I am,” Josephine replied, frowning. She hoped she wasn’t blushing.
The duchess’s lips barely twitched as she raked her gaze over Josephine, taking in every detail of her celadon-blue gown. “Did you hear about the dreadful accident? It’s quite shocking. Lord Tamworth and Mr. Woolsy were injured in a fire on the patio. It happened only a few minutes ago. Poor Lord Tamworth’s injuries are rather severe. He’s being whisked away in his carriage even as we speak.”
Josephine gasped. “That’s horrible. Are you certain the second man was Mr. Woolsy? I just saw him with Lord Wentworth, and he didn’t appear to be injured.”
“Quite certain,” Lady Eckley said, “but Mr. Woolsy’s burns are said to be relatively minor in comparison to poor Lord Tamworth’s.”
Josephine glanced across the room to the spot where she’d last seen Frederick and caught sight of him entering the grand foyer. Now that she knew what to look for, he did seem slightly curled in on himself as though in pain. He held his right hand protectively against his chest and cradled a white bundle of cloth. Perhaps a bandage?
“That’s dreadful,” Josephine said. “How did it happen?”
Lady Eckley pursed her lips in disapproval. “It was that oaf, Lord Percival. He’s three sheets to the wind tonight. He managed to knock over an oil lamp and set an entire table on fire.”
Josephine shook her head. “That man is a menace.”
“Yes, I— oh, there’s the ambassador. I simply must find out what he plans to do about their misfortune. He’s the host, after all. He bears some responsibility.” She darted away before Josephine could say another word.
Josephine searched the room for Frederick but couldn’t find him. For a moment, she considered forgetting she’d seen him. He’d abandoned her all week, leaving her doubting where she stood. She let out a frustrated sigh. This would be her best opportunity to speak with him. She couldn’t let it slip away.
With nothing more than a glance, Frederick Woolsy had the power to make her feel like a débutante rather than a widow, which she found most unsettling. Most unsettling indeed. Following her husband’s sudden and pointless death in a hunting mishap, marriage no longer held any particular interest for her. Never again would she consent to be tied to a man she barely knew.
But her opinion on the matter had undergone a reversal one short week ago.
In one night, Frederick had managed to alter her thinking on the subject. One memorable night.
An undeniable attraction toward one another had drawn them together over the past few months. When she’d finally agreed to the tryst at Lord Saxon’s country house last weekend, they’d been discreet. No one guessed that Frederick had crept into her room both nights.
Both blissful nights.
Frederick had been a divine lover. Skilled and caring. Thinking about him now allowed images from that night to invade her mind. She almost gasped as her toes began to curl in her dancing shoes.
Her. Curling toes. Ridiculous! Widows shouldn’t have curling toes.
She set off toward the grand foyer to search for him, weaving her way between the guests as she followed the path he’d taken.
In the bedroom, the late Lord Harrington had been nothing like Frederick. John believed a lady should abhor sexual intercourse. Apparently, she was supposed to find it base and beneath her. One night early in their marriage she’d almost enjoyed having marital relations with him, but he’d pulled away from her and called her wanton and unnatural. After that, she'd learned to suppress any enjoyment in their intimacy, but that hadn't been particularly difficult. He only came into her bed briefly to perform his duty, as he referred to it, and once the act was complete, he quickly escaped back to his own chambers.
The nights with Frederick had been a revelation. He’d actually wanted her to find pleasure in their union. In fact, he’d withheld his own release until he’d helped her find her own. The experience had been eye-opening. And toe-curling.
He’d also introduced her to an item she’d only heard mentioned in scandalized whispers. A French letter— a mere slip of a thing to cover a man’s— well— his most private part. He said it would prevent her from becoming pregnant. They’d used a number of them over those two nights. More than she’d imagined possible.
He’d left her bed that last morning with kisses and plans and promises, but had avoided her ever since. She hadn’t seen him in a week.
Not until tonight.
Josephine finally escaped the crowded ballroom and entered the foyer. She looked around, but found no sign of Frederick or his brother. They’d both disappeared.
Movement above her on the balcony caught her attention. Was that Frederick? When he spotted her, he ducked out of sight, but she’d seen him. Of that she was certain.
Why had he gone up there? Was he merely curious about the building’s renovations? She dismissed the idea. There was more than mere curiosity driving his actions.
She moved toward the staircase, intending to follow him, but a large footman stepped in front of her, blocking the way.
“Upstairs area is restricted,” the man said in a thick Russian accent. “No guests allowed.”
Josephine glanced at the balcony again, but couldn’t spot Frederick. She knew better than to mention his flouting of the rules to the footman. Frederick must have evaded him by taking an alternate route upstairs.
She acquiesced and stepped away, glancing around the grand foyer. She spotted a door on the far side of the room leading toward the embassy offices. It wasn’t guarded. Perhaps she’d find another staircase e back there.
A children’s choir began singing. The other guests around her moved. As a group passed between her and the man guarding the staircase, Josephine slipped through a side door and found herself in a corridor lined with embassy offices. There should be another, less opulent staircase nearby.
The office doors were all closed, but about halfway down the hallway she noticed one standing slightly ajar. She hurried closer to open it and when she discovered a servants’ staircase, she grinned. Frederick must have taken this route.
Josephine lifted the hem of her skirt and crept up the stairs. Her night around would end in disaster if she ran into one of the embassy’s servants. Those Russian footmen looked intimidating.
She paused when she reached the landing. The door leading to the corridor was closed, but she heard someone just outside. She paused as she tried to identify the odd shuffling sound that seemed to be moving away from her.
Cautiously, she edged open the door and peeked into the hallway. A man was sliding a cloth along the floor with his shoe, wiping up what appeared to be water.
Not just any man. Frederick.
She pushed open the door and stepped through.
At the sound, he spun to face her. His jaw dropped as his piercing blue eyes widened in surprise. “Josephine? What in blazes are you doing up here?”
“You canceled our plans for tonight. Imagine my surprise when you strolled through the ballroom.” She gave him a frigid smile. “Shall I give you an opportunity to explain yourself before I set the dogs on you, or will you only use it to lie to me again?”
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Be on the lookout for Sheridan Jeane's future release(s): Along Came a Spy coming late 2016/Spring 2017
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