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「戌年」連載小説 第8章

キャミー・タング著「戌年」連載小説 プロのドッグトレーナーであるマリ・ムトウは、厄年を迎えている。 犬小屋と訓練所の改築をしながら、いつも不服そうにしている家族と同居することになった。母と姉に言わせれば、犬の毛とよだれかけにまみれる仕事は、家族にとって恥ずべきものだという。彼女は元カレを説得し、数ヶ月間犬を預かってもらうことにした。しかし、彼の兄は、数週間前に彼女が誤って車に追突した、怒り狂ったセキュリティ専門家であることが判明する。 アシュウィン・ケイトウは十分な問題を抱えている。叔母が玄関先に現れ、同居を希望している。彼は彼女にすべてを借りているので、断ることができません。母親が家を出て行った後、ネルおばさんはアシュウィンと弟を引き取り、愛のあるキリスト教の家庭で育てた。しかも、弟のダスティもアパートを追い出され、居場所を求めている。しかし、彼は犬を飼っている。そして、その犬の飼い主は誰だと思いますか? しかし、旧友でオアフ島のノースショアでデイスパを経営する私立探偵のエディサ・ゲレロから依頼を受ける。マリの施設で奇妙な破壊行為があり、3年前に失踪したエディサの妹の財布を発見する。エディサはマリが危険な目に遭っているのではと心配する。警備の専門家であるアシュウィンがすでにマリを知っていることを知ったエディサは、忙しい若い女性を密かに監視することを彼に依頼する。 アシュウィンは、活発でのんびりとしたドッグトレーナーに不本意ながら惹かれていく。彼女は、幸せそうな母親を思い出させる。その母親の裏切りによって、彼は人と距離を置くようになったのだ。マリは、アシュウィンの冷たい外見を見抜き、彼が家族に忠実な男であることを認める。彼は、彼女のキャリア選択を批判するだけの母親や姉とは違う。 マリのバラバラな家庭とアシュウィンのバラバラな家庭の中で、過去を隠そうとする人たちから、彼らの周りに危険が迫ってくるようになる。彼らは、影で動く秘密に光を当てることができるのか? 過去に発表されたパートへのリンクはこちら。 *** 第8章 - 恐ろしくも真っ白な不動産書類 『みんな仲良くできないのかな?』 マリは無用に力を込めて箱に本を投げ入れた。最近、なぜ彼女は人生の中で全員と言い争いをしているのだろう?もしかすると、これは本当に悪いアイデア

Lady Wynwood's Spies, volume 1: Archer EXCERPT - Prologue 1b

I’m posting an excerpt of Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 1: Archer, the first part of my Lady Wynwood’s Spies series!

Part one in a Christian Regency Romantic Adventure epic serial novel with a supernatural twist
Lady Wynwood’s Spies series, volume 1

She met him again by shooting him.

After four seasons and unmarried because she is taller than most of her dance partners, Miss Phoebe Sauber receives the shocking news that she is being callously banished from her father’s estate because he is remarrying. Feeling betrayed by her father and by God, and wanting to escape her family’s presence, she attends an archery tournament with her friends.

But her perfect aim fails her, and her arrow hits a piece of paper held by Mr. Michael Coulton-Jones, whom she hasn’t seen much in society in several years. But strangely, her arrow tears a section of the paper with a partial symbol that looks eerily familiar to her.

He met her again while searching for a killer.

Michael had quit his work as a spy for the Foreign Office when his brother was poisoned. His search for the murderer leads him to Apothecary Jack, a criminal underworld leader with a penchant for poisons, who is gathering a powerful army through an alchemical potion that can give men supernatural strength.

But his path unexpectedly crosses again with Miss Sauber, who saves him from a trap laid by Jack. She and her Aunt Laura, Lady Wynwood, have found a vital connection to Apothecary Jack and the mysterious group he works for.

Now Michael, who had vowed to never again allow civilians to come to harm, must work with a nobleman keeping dangerous secrets, a human lie detector, a chemist, a fellow former spy, and the one woman he’s never allowed himself to get close to.

And it is only this ragtag group that stands against a traitorous organization that could enable Napoleon to conquer the world.

PLEASE NOTE: This is the first book in the Lady Wynwood’s Spies series, an epic serial novel. Each volume has a completed story arc, but this is NOT a stand-alone novel and ends on a cliffhanger.

All the posted parts are listed here.

***


Prologue 1b



Sol shifted in his chair in the silence. “I was surprised to receive your note today, asking me to call upon you when I had seen you only a few days ago.”

“Eighty-four hours ago, in fact.”

Sol cleared his throat. “Just so that I’m aware of the situation, are you upset with me or with something that happened while we were at Lady Meynhill’s birthday celebration?”

Her eyes narrowed at him.

He sighed and answered his own question. “Both.”

“You promised me that long discussion, did you not?”

He colored slightly but gave a smile full of all the charm he could infuse it with, including that adorable—er, lone dimple on his left cheek. “But I sent you that note as soon as I returned to town late Saturday—actually, quite early Sunday morning.”

She raised her eyebrows. “Oh. The one that said, ‘All are well. Thanks for your help this weekend.’”

“It was not that terse, surely.”

“It was nearly that terse. But it was not your letter, Sol. I realize there are certain things about which you cannot speak.” She had purposefully never spoken to him about his clandestine work for the government officials in the Home Office. She had suspected—how could she not, when she and Sol had been such close friends in the ten years since her husband died? Although she had not known about Sol’s work for the government when they had first met decades ago at her debut into society, she had observed him closely enough in the past few years to know that he was involved in some way in the government’s efforts against France’s secretive infiltration of these shores. And then his mysterious agenda at the birthday celebration this past weekend had solidified it in her mind, although he had never overtly spoken about it.

She continued, “It was the letter I just received from my cousin, Cecil.”

Laura had the satisfaction of seeing Sol’s face blush the faintest bit pink.

“Perhaps to ascertain you returned home safely? You had spent several weeks with your aunt in Northumberland directly after Christmastide with Cecil’s family, if I recall.” Sol had an innocent expression, but it was obvious that he knew exactly what that letter had been about.

“This charming letter had been sent only a week after Twelfth Night ended, but it had gone astray on its way to Northumberland and I had left before it arrived. My aunt forwarded it to me, so I did not read it until today.”

“How tragic, the mail these days—” Sol began, but she interrupted his attempt to detour the conversation.

“Among other pieces of gossip and random complaints, Cecil also mentioned that Sir Horace Bigby accused the servants of disturbing his things. He questioned the maids, who asserted they spotted a gentleman wandering the hallways near Sir Horace’s room around the time in question. About your height, with dark, wavy hair remarkably like yours. Cecil naturally didn’t believe them and thought they were simply trying to blame a guest.”

Sol opened his mouth, but Laura cut him off. “Do not even attempt to pretend surprise, Solomon Drydale. Pray, explain why you entered the room of another guest at Wintrell Hall this past Christmas. What were you searching for?”

“Why would you think that I—”

“Do not lie to me, Sol.”

Sol hesitated, then said, “I had thought I’d seen Sir Horace speaking to that woman, Harriet, who caused such distress at the house party. After the chaos had died down, I was concerned.”

It sounded extremely convincing, but Laura, catching every minute movement of Sol’s face, hands, and body, knew immediately that this was a lie. Unfortunately, Sol was one of the best liars Laura had ever seen. She would have to be smarter in the questions she asked him. “Concerned in what way?”

“Well … perhaps she had an accomplice or other plans putting the family in more danger. There might have been evidence in Sir Horace’s room.”

“And you couldn’t leave that task to Cecil?”

“Would you leave that task to Cecil?”

She had to admit he had a point. “And did you find anything?”

“No.” He sighed. “I felt very foolish afterward.”

But why had Sol felt the need to concern himself personally in that? She continued to press him. “Did you know what Harriet had been planning?”

“Upon my honor, I did not,” Sol said quickly.

He was telling the truth—about Harriet, at least. If she had not seen a different side of him—that “Stranger-Sol”—this past weekend, she might not have thought anything of Cecil’s letter about Sir Horace, but now … She phrased her question very carefully and with great detail. “Did you go to Wintrell Hall this past Christmas in order to investigate a person of interest for whatever work you’re doing for the government?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

He was very good, but she could still tell that was a complete falsehood.

“Sol!” she protested. “My family was there! How could you put them in danger?”

Sol’s demeanor was calm and placating. “Laura, I assure you I didn’t.”

“But you went there with an agenda, just as you did to the birthday celebration.”

“Laura, you are quite mistaken. This weekend, I had no notion things would turn out as they did. And I understand that you are upset that I riffled through Sir Horace’s room, but it was done out of, I admit, rather poor taste and a lack of confidence in Cecil’s abilities to thoroughly determine that there was no longer any danger to anyone else at the house party.”

His voice was smooth, but Laura didn’t need her special talent to recognize the twitch at the corner of his left eyebrow that indicated it was all a lie.

***


NOTE: Laura and Sol mention events that happened at Christmas and about a month before the events of this story. The Christmas events are detailed in The Spinster’s Christmas, a stand-alone Christian Regency Romantic Suspense novel, but you do not have to read that book to enjoy Lady Wynwood’s Spies.

However, you can read about the events at the birthday celebration in my novella, The Gentleman Thief, which you can receive for FREE in exchange for signing up for my email newsletter. After a few welcome emails, I send out newsletters about once a month with a sale on one of my books, a freebie, or news about when my latest release is available.

***

Buy Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 1: Archer:
Kindle
Paperback

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