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Lady Wynwood's Spies, volume 1: Archer EXCERPT - Chapter 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.


Chapter 1b

The sound of carriage wheels stopping outside the house propelled her to her feet just as Agnes arrived with the milk and sugar. “Agnes, my friends have arrived. Please go upstairs and fetch my cloak and bonnet, and also my bow and arrows.” The maid’s face flushed with irritation, and Phoebe wished she’d brought her outerwear and archery things to the table this morning, regardless of the fact her father had always forbidden her to do so. However, she had thought she’d have more time, since Miss Layton was almost always late to arrive to pick her up.

Strangely, as Phoebe was waiting in the foyer for Agnes to return, her father appeared and stood next to her. She belatedly realized he hadn’t scolded her during breakfast—he probably hadn’t had time before the carriage arrived—and now she’d likely hear why he’d graced her with his presence this morning.

However, he stood there shifting his weight from one foot to the other, his mouth soundlessly working as if he were trying to decide what to say. Unease burbled in Phoebe’s stomach, which increased when the butler entered the foyer. Why couldn’t her father have spoken to her when they were alone, before the servants appeared?

Her father finally spoke just as Agnes arrived with her things. “You are … going to an archery tournament?”

She tensed, but answered in a calm voice. “Miss Layton is hosting a picnic and ‘friendly archery practice’ today on Hampstead Heath.”

“Before you leave, I must tell you something important.” His voice sounded more terse than normal.

She paused before accepting her bonnet from Agnes. Did he object to the fact she had avoided playing cards with Mr. Vernon at the soiree last night? Her father might care that Mr. Vernon’s uncle was a new friend—for now—of the Prince Regent, but Phoebe couldn’t bring herself to stand more than a minute of Mr. Vernon’s insufferably arrogant company, which had become sharper after she had trounced him in the last archery tournament she had attended.

“In four weeks’ time, I shall be marrying a widow, Mrs. Audry Lambert.”

Her bow and arrows clattered to the marble floor. At first Phoebe thought she’d dropped them, then realized she hadn’t yet taken them from her maid, who had been the one to let them slip from shocked fingers. Even the butler’s mouth had dropped open in surprise.

Phoebe’s highly intelligent response was, “Who?”

He sighed as if he expected his daughter to not be quite so dim-witted. “Mrs. Audry Lambert,” he repeated unhelpfully.

“Have I met her?”

“No, of course not,” he said impatiently.

“Oh.” She blinked a few times, then her sarcasm flew from her mouth before she could check herself. “Of course I wouldn’t wish to meet her. It’s so much more entertaining if she become my new stepmother sight unseen.”

He frowned at her, but she wasn’t about to back down this time. There was a sensation in her chest like two ropes being twisted around each other tighter and tighter, knotting and trembling with the tension. “How long have you known her?”

“Six months.”

“And it didn’t occur to you to inform your daughter you were considering her for your second wife?”

“I do not answer to you,” he snapped at her.

“No, I simply run your household and your estate for you while you gallivant in London most of the year.”

“If you have forgotten, it is my household and my estate. If I wish to give the household to a new wife, that is my decision. And I have recently been considering that it is high time the estate duties pass to your younger brother’s responsibility.”

Phoebe’s hands clenched and unclenched. She indeed had considered that her father would want to remarry, and that she’d have to relinquish her duties as lady of the manor to a new stepmother. She had also been prepared for her brother to one day take over managing Sauber Hill. She was good at it, and she cared deeply about the tenants, who often treated her like family, but she knew the job was not hers.

But she hadn’t expected to be assaulted so suddenly by these changes. And the way her father was doing these things now somehow felt violent and harsh.

His eyes shifted away from her, as if he could ignore the fact that his daughter had turned into a block of stone. “Mrs. Lambert has two daughters. The eldest will have her coming out next year. Since I cannot spare the expense, I am cutting short your Season in London this year. I should think four Seasons was more than enough,” he added defensively, as if to convince both Phoebe and himself of the righteousness of his decision.

It felt like a sharp, sharp sword slashed through the twisted ropes in her chest. With his callous attitude, her father had made clear how he saw her—as a disposable servant. She had heard him once or twice mention to his friends his views on daughters—their expense and lack of value, since they only ate up money in living expenses and dowries. But she had still believed that he might think of her differently because she was so useful to him.

Apparently not.


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