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

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 1h



They arranged to each take one shot at each of the three farthest targets. Phoebe buckled on her leather arm guard and tightly laced up her leather shooting waistcoat. It served to protect her clothing, but it also flattened her chest to prevent her bosoms—small as they were—from jiggling in the way. Lastly, she slipped on her shooting glove and picked up her bow and quiver. She took a few practice shots at one of the nearer targets, but after only three practice arrows himself, Mr. Vernon rather impatiently stood with his bow tapping against the top of his boot. Phoebe concluded that apparently he was anxious to be utterly destroyed in this competition.

“Who shall go first?” Miss Layton asked.

Mr. Vernon bowed to Phoebe. “Ladies first, of course.”

Phoebe approached the first target. She rolled her shoulders, stretching her neck, shaking out the muscles along her arms. She filled her lungs with air and expelled it. Normally this helped to calm her, but this time the fire in her heart and the boiling in her stomach were clashing in a thunderstorm deep inside of her.

She could not shoot accurately in this state. But she was determined not to lose to someone like Mr. Vernon, a man in a man’s world, who suddenly seemed to represent everything her father stood for.

She chose a calming image. After a long day of swimming in the sheltered cove at Chateau Gardinier, she and Keriah would build a fire on the rocky beach, wrap themselves in wool blankets, and watch the sun set across the water. They talked of dreams, young men, the precious things they still had, and the precious things they had lost.

Phoebe notched an arrow and drew back her right arm. Her dress and pelisse had been especially made for archery, and they were comfortably loose around her shoulders. In her sights, she imagined Mr. Vernon’s face on the target. Deep breath in, deep breath out. She released the arrow and the string twanged close to her cheek.

It was a near-perfect shot. She heard polite applause punctuated by more enthusiastic applause from Miss Layton and Miss Lynn.

Phoebe stepped aside for Mr. Vernon, who seemed to take extraordinarily long to aim. Phoebe could tell that his stance was too tense, his knees too straight, his back too arched. He fired, and the arrow landed perhaps seven inches away from the center, and from Phoebe’s arrow.

In the applause, Mr. Tolberton was especially loud, but that was because of his one hundred guineas.

The second target was farther away, and Phoebe took longer to aim. The wind began to flow through the trees far beyond the target, the same whoosh-whooshing sound as the wind in the trees at Sauber Hill. She would gallop toward a target nailed to an old oak tree, riding astride so she could control the horse with her knees. The pounding of the hooves against the turf thumped in counterpoint to the wind in the trees, forming a rhythm that she absorbed into her body through the horse, through her ears. Using that rhythm, she would aim and shoot at the target from horseback.

She was not astride a horse now, and the target was farther away, but she still felt the beat of her heart and heard the whoosh-whoosh of the wind. She imagined the swirling pattern of the wind, the strength of its invisible whorls, and adjusted her aim. Then she fired.

The arrow landed an inch farther away from the center than it had been on the previous target—not bad considering the farther distance and the wind.

Mr. Vernon seemed distracted by the wind, which unfortunately rose even more as he stood to aim. To Phoebe’s eye, he seemed to be overcompensating, and she wanted to warn him but knew he’d be offended and embarrassed if she did, so she kept her mouth shut. Keriah would be shocked at her restraint, which was usually at a minimum when they practiced archery.

Mr. Vernon loosed his arrow, and Phoebe already knew it was too far wide. It ricocheted off the edge of the target and flipped behind it in a ragged arc.

“Oh, too bad, old chap.” Mr. Tolberton’s voice was too jovial to be sincere.

Mr. Vernon’s round face flushed, looking like a large, overripe cherry. Phoebe began to feel badly for him, because Mr. Tolberton’s teasing seemed to stab sharply into Mr. Vernon’s ego.

However, it was also the archer’s responsibility to attain emotional equilibrium, especially before shooting. As Phoebe aimed at the third target, she reflected that her ability to remain unmoved despite distractions was possibly one of her greatest strengths as a sportswoman.

This time, she imagined her father’s face on the target. She stretched the bowstring taut. But as she drew breath, a voice sounded over her shoulder.

It was considered rude to speak to an archer as they aimed, but Mr. Vernon said in an oily voice, “Miss Sauber, I offer my sincere congratulations. I recently heard in my club that your father is getting married.”

Her entire body jerked as if she were a doll and a little girl had yanked her down from a shelf. Her hand accidentally loosed the arrow and it sailed over the target.

“Oh,” gasped several people behind her, but Miss Layton’s irate voice cut over the murmurs. “Mr. Vernon—!”

Whatever she was about to say was cut short. From the distant tree-line where the arrow had disappeared came a high-pitched shriek.

***


Camy here: That’s it! I hope you enjoyed this excerpt of Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 1: Archer!

***


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