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

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 1c



“I understand what you do is important, but people are not your chess pieces that you move around on a flat board. They interact with each other, and they bleed.”

Sol’s face had become grave. “I know that they bleed.” There was a tiredness and a sadness there that she hadn’t seen before, and she realized it was because they had never discussed this part of his life. If she had tried to press him, he would never have betrayed even a hint that he was anything else but an idle gentleman of modest fortune.

But everything changed after what had happened this past weekend. She was now aware of things he had kept hidden from her and the rest of society.

“I understand that you have to have different priorities,” she said slowly. “But … you used me, Sol.” Her voice was hollow. “You used me at Christmas to go to Wintrell Hall, and you used me this past weekend to attend the birthday celebration. Pray, do not do so again.”

The silence between them was icy cold.

Sol rose to his feet with athletic grace and gave her a short bow. “I will not. And now, I fear I must take my leave. I had only intended to stay a moment, since you had requested my presence. Unless there is something else on your mind?” His face was serene, but there was a slight coldness now, a sharp distance caused by her prying into the unspoken secrets between them, the accusations she had flung at him.

But she needed him to understand what he had done to her. She needed him to know that he must never again so casually involve her family in his clandestine activities.

In her search for answers, in her determination to protect her family, had she ruined a friendship decades in the making? The thought caused a lancing pain in her heart. And yet she would do it again. Her extended family was all she had left, since she could never have another family of her own.

Sol was not, nor could he ever be, her family.

Laura followed him silently down the stairs to the front door. Her butler arrived with Sol’s outerwear and held the greatcoat as he shrugged it on.

When Sol turned to look at her, Laura could think of nothing she could say to him, perhaps for the first time in all their years as friends. She did not want to apologize, because she was still angry that Sol had accompanied her to her family’s house party at Christmas and to the birthday celebration with ulterior motives that might have jeopardized their safety.

But deep inside her, a small voice told her that it was just her pride that kept her from speaking. So she held her hand out to him. “You have received a distinct lack of hospitality from me today, Sol, and for that, I apologize.”

He took her hand and kissed it. “Pay it no mind.” He squeezed her fingers slightly as he said, “We shall not speak of it again.”

Not speak of it again? she thought as she watched Sol exit the front door. We shall see, won’t we?

“Graham,” Laura spoke over her shoulder as she headed back up the staircase, “don’t think I didn’t miss that bulge in Mr. Drydale’s pocket. I know you slipped him some of Cook’s seed cakes.”

The only answer was a slight hesitation, then her butler gave a polite cough. “Would you like me to refresh your teapot in the drawing room, m’lady?”

“No, I would like a fresh teapot in the master bedroom.”

When her husband had died, Laura had considered selling this London townhouse. Her husband had left all unentailed land to his widow, and having no need of it, Laura had sold the majority of it to Wynwood’s heir, his cousin, who had been happy to keep as much land within the direct line of descent as possible. But this townhouse had been in a good location, and she had been loath to part with it, despite what had happened here.

Now she was glad that she could alter her home as she desired. While in Northumberland, she had sent a letter to her attorney with instructions to hire carpenters to break down the walls between the master bedroom and the adjoining dressing room. The furniture had been taken up to the attics or shoved against the walls, creating an open space nearly large enough to hold a ball. The tall windows let in rectangles of sunlight, enough to illuminate the full-length portrait of her husband, the late Lord Wynwood, that hung on the far wall.

She had originally relegated the portrait to the attics, sorely tempted to burn it. However, only this morning, she had replaced it on the wall because Wynwood’s handsome, arrogant face made a most satisfactory target.

She took up stance at the opposite end of the room next to an old, battered table—also recently brought down from the attics—that held her collection of throwing knives.

Her knife-throwing skills had improved remarkably in the past two months thanks to her tutors, her youngest maid and pageboy. Two years ago, Laura had rescued and hired a pair of very young twins who were about to be sold to a particularly unsavory brothel near the docks. While they had become quite respectable servants, they still retained their earlier skills with knives, which had helped them to survive on the streets.

When she mentioned after Christmas that she wished to learn knife throwing, Clara and Calvin, who had traveled to meet her in Northumberland along with a couple of her other servants, had been quite eager to train her. She’d practiced with tree stumps, and upon returning to London and arranging the life-sized portrait as her new target, was gratified to see how her throws found their mark in either one of Wynwood’s flared nostrils.

She picked up her favorite knife, one of seven she had recently commissioned while staying up north. The blade was thin and small, and if she could manage to construct a leather pouch or some sort of harness, she might even be able to carry these on her person with no one the wiser. She was not usually in any danger—well, perhaps she might be in a little danger when she occasionally went to Rachey Street, not a posh neighborhood by any means, but her coachman deterred anyone who may harm her there.

She took up a solid stance, aimed, and threw. The knife hit Wynwood below his left eye.

***


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:
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NOTE: Unfortunately, the book will only be in Amazon for now. However, if you buy a copy on Amazon and would like to read it on your non-Kindle reader, forward the receipt of your purchase to me at camys.loft@gmail.com and I’ll have BookFunnel send you an .epub copy of the file so you can side load it onto your ebook reader. (If you have any trouble downloading your copy, please click the help link at the top of the download page. The friendly folks at BookFunnel will help you get your book.) You might also be able to download a DRM-free copy from Amazon through “Your Content and Devices” page on the Amazon website.

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