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

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 1e



“Now that we have met, I do hope that we can become good friends,” Mrs. Lambert said with complete insincerity.

They were fighters exchanging light blows with their verbal knives, the blades ringing softly, testing each other’s strengths. “That is my wish, as well. I understand you have two daughters? When shall I meet them?”

“Soon, I hope. The youngest is just out of the schoolroom. Your father quite dotes upon them.” Unspoken was the implication, Unlike how he obviously does not dote upon you. “My oldest, Alice, will have her debut in London next year.”

Phoebe finally looked at her father with a piercing glance. “My father will not allow me to accompany you to London next year. But I am sure, ma’am, you would wish for as much help as you can get for such an important event.” Phoebe stepped in with a wide swinging attack to test her opponent’s defenses.

Mrs. Lambert’s gray eyes widened in feigned innocent surprise. “But your father has mentioned to me that you have an invalid aunt in Bath who will need your assistance. I am certain she would not be able to spare you for three months.”

What? Bath?

Phoebe felt as if her opponent had suddenly unsheathed a second knife.

Her father cleared his throat and sat on the edge of his seat. “As for that, I am afraid I had not had a chance yet to discuss the particulars with Phoebe …”

Her throat tightened up, and she almost felt the physical pain of a blade piercing her chest. She tried to swallow, but ended up choking and coughing instead.

“Oh, dear, you look quite pale. Do drink some tea.” Mrs. Lambert poured cold tea into a cup and passed it to Phoebe. She was forced to sip it to recover her composure, and Mrs. Lambert seemed even more delighted.

“Father, do enlighten me.” Phoebe’s voice had a biting edge.

Her father’s face grew more grave and austere, which Phoebe knew meant that he was embarrassed but didn’t wish to show it. “Your Grand-Aunt Bethia has written to say that she could use a companion to help her, and I naturally thought of you, Phoebe.”

“Why does she wish me? Aunt Bethia has numerous grandchildren who can attend to her.”

Mrs. Lambert cleared her throat delicately and looked at Phoebe’s father with a pointed glance. He pinched his mouth and looked even more uncomfortable than he already did, but he finally inhaled sharply and gave Phoebe a determined frown. “Mrs. Lambert has mentioned she does not wish you to live at Sauber Hill with her—something about two women under the same roof.”

The air was punched out of her lungs. Sauber Hill was her home. She knew each of the tenants by name, had watched their children grow up, had even taught some of them how to read. She spent hours in the greenhouse with her roses. It was where she felt most comfortable, safe and at peace.

And her father was kicking her out like an unwanted dog.

Mrs. Lambert now spoke up, perhaps for the pleasure of twisting the knife in Phoebe herself. “Also, your Aunt Bethia has proposed a truly marvelous idea. She will lend her very fine horses and carriage to your father in exchange for your help with her in Bath. Your aunt can rarely use her horses since the hills are so steep, but it would be such a relief to have another conveyance here in London.”

So Phoebe was being traded like a slave in exchange for horses and a carriage. Phoebe felt her hand involuntarily curl into a fist, whether in anger or anguish, she didn’t know. She quickly hid it under the fold of her skirt so that Mrs. Lambert could not see. She was suffocating, drowning, in the sea of blood from the blades stabbing into her heart. She couldn’t breathe, she could only bleed.

“It is quite a certain thing, my dear.” Mrs. Lambert looked like she wanted to appear sympathetic, but failed. “But I am sure a mature young woman like yourself will find great satisfaction in caring for your elderly relation in Bath.” Mrs. Lambert’s eyes gleamed, as if she were wondering if Phoebe would lose her senses and her temper, and begin yelling or throwing things.

But Phoebe did not want to give Mrs. Lambert the satisfaction of witnessing how she had hurt Phoebe so much, and through the actions of her callous father.

She had to escape.

Phoebe was grateful for the skirts that hid her shaking legs as she rose to her feet. She knew her voice was not steady as she spoke, but she also knew her face felt like the statue of the avenging Athena as she stared down at Mrs. Lambert. “I assure you, this is not my desire, but I’m certain you knew this already.”

Mrs. Lambert seemed both surprised and also titillated at Phoebe’s blunt speech.

She couldn’t bear to wish them a good day, so for the first time in her life, she rudely turned and left her father without another word, closing the door behind her with a firm click.

Once the door was between her and her father, she nearly collapsed in the hallway. But she sucked in a deep breath, pressing her fist against her stomach, and managed to make her way to her bedroom. The house was suspiciously empty, with no servants in the hallways, which led Phoebe to believe that the servants had been listening to the entire conversation behind the door in the breakfast room that led to the servants’ hall.

It wasn’t that Phoebe disliked Aunt Bethia, although the old woman had a tendency to complain about anything and everything, creating a peevish and negative environment. It was the fact that Phoebe was being shifted from the only home she had ever known, and the beauty and comfort of her beloved roses. It was frustration and regret that she had wasted so much time in managing his estate in order to somehow prove to her father that she was important in his life.

She had no rights, and no say in the matter. Everything she had done was being disregarded, and everything she loved was being taken away from her.

Her bedroom windows faced the street, and she suddenly realized she heard the sound of horses hooves slowing, then stopping in front of the house. A quick look down showed Miss Layton’s servant climbing the steps to the front door.

Before, she had only thought about escaping the breakfast room, but now she realized she wanted to escape the house. To be with people who knew nothing about what had happened. And to fire many, many arrows at targets and pretend they were her father and Mrs. Lambert.

A look around her bedroom made her realize Agnes had not returned her outerwear and bow and arrows to her room. They were likely still in the foyer. She hastily made her way to the ground floor before the butler had appeared to answer the knocker. Flinging her cloak about her and grabbing her bow and arrows from the foyer table, she yanked open the front door and burst from the house as if it were on fire.

It might as well have been burned to ashes. It was no longer her home.

***


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