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

***


Chapter 1c



The knocker sounded sharply, and the butler hastened to answer to escape the tension between the two of them.

She realized that her father had likely timed this so that she would be forced to leave as soon as he told her about his remarriage, so that she would not argue with him. But she was not as blindly agreeable as her brother. Not when she worked diligently all year in order to have the funds to enjoy the society of London for these few months. “Palmer, please tell Miss Layton I will not be joining them today.”

“There is nothing more for us to discuss.” Her father stuck out his wide chest and frowned at her like an intimidating bull, but his fidgety eyes looked as though he very much wanted to escape her company as soon as possible.

“You cannot expect me to smile and go off to gallivant with my friends when you have dropped such tremendous news into my lap only this morning.”

“Only this morning? Denholm, that is really too bad of you.” A new voice came drifting from the open doorway, startling Phoebe. The voice was as sweet as honey, flowing thick and smooth, and yet it also seemed to have an edge to it that would make your ears bleed. “Why, I have been telling all of my friends and acquaintances of our engagement for two or three days, at least.”

The butler stepped aside and a woman entered the foyer, shedding her burgundy velvet cloak. She was slender and elegant, with ebony black hair curling artlessly from beneath the edge of her bonnet. Her dark gray eyes were thickly lashed, but they were also as cold as marble, and her delicately carved lips smiled at Phoebe with a beauty that lacked warmth. “You must be Phoebe. I am Mrs. Lambert, your father’s fiancée.”

The suddenness of being faced with the woman made Phoebe threaten to lose the abrasive strength she had found only moments before. She drew a long, slow breath and met the woman’s eyes directly and frankly, in a way that her governess had always scolded her not to do. “How do you do? I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage, since my father told me nothing about you until today.”

The woman gave a delicate laugh, but the dulcet tones scraped down Phoebe’s back like fingernails on a slate. “Men can be so forgetful, can’t they? Or were you embarrassed, Denholm, to be courting a woman again as if you were twenty-three years younger?”

The artless comment reminded Phoebe of her advanced age and didn’t endear Mrs. Lambert to her future stepdaughter. “I’m certain it was simply that my father has rarely seen me these past several months.” Now Phoebe understood why he had been even more absent than usual from their country estate.

“It is terribly drafty here in the foyer and I am positively parched. Might I beg you for a cup of tea?”

Phoebe was made uncomfortably aware that she had been detaining Mrs. Lambert in the foyer rather than inviting her into the drawing room. Was that a jab at her for being remiss in her duties as lady of the house? “I do beg your pardon, Mrs. Lambert. I shall ring for tea in the drawing room.”

“There is no need to stand on ceremony, my dear. After all, we shall soon be family. I shall take tea in the breakfast room. Denholm invited me to share breakfast with him this morning.”

Phoebe shot her father a hard look that he ignored, so she replied, “How negligent of my father to not mention that to me. I would have cancelled my morning plans in order to spend time with you.”

“There is no need for that.” Mrs. Lambert led the way upstairs, but her barely noticeable hesitation on the landing made Phoebe realize she was not yet familiar with the layout of the house. Her father took his fiancée’s arm and led her to the breakfast room, where she sat at Phoebe’s traditional spot at her father’s right.

Phoebe was surprised at this maneuver. Surely it was not on purpose to remind Phoebe that she was about to lose her place in her home?

Then Mrs. Lambert smiled at her. There was a hardness just on the edge of her lips and a glint in her eye that showed her pleasure at how she had usurped Phoebe.

Yes, the seating was deliberate. Mrs. Lambert had no intention of easing into the transition from Phoebe’s control of the household over to hers.

Phoebe’s back straightened. She didn’t understand why Mrs. Lambert was so aggressively unwelcoming, but Phoebe had always reacted with stubbornness in the face of bullies.

“You there, a fresh pot of tea,” Mrs. Lambert snapped at the maid who had scurried in behind them.

Phoebe sat farther down the table, not too close to Mrs. Lambert or her father. “Oh, but Mrs. Lambert, Agnes had just brought a fresh pot when I left the breakfast room, and it is still hot.” Phoebe poured Mrs. Lambert a cup of tepid tea and gave her a cheerful smile.

Mrs. Lambert’s smile grew wider, and somehow sharper at the same time. It made Phoebe feel like she had just started a knife sparring match with Vadoma, her Gypsy friend. In the summer of her thirteenth year, she and her friend Keriah had first seen a sparring match against the skilled Gypsy woman, who was precise with her knife strikes and exploited any weakness she saw, and she was so enthralled that she immediately begged to be taught knife-fighting, unorthodox though it was.

“I do regret that we have met in this way, but the relationship between your father and I was very proper and distant until only recently.”

“I assure you, Mrs. Lambert, my father has always made it clear that his business is his own.” She didn’t look at her father, but she could feel his frown at her.

***


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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