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Year of the Dog serial novel, chapter 22

I’m posting a Humorous Christian Romantic Suspense serial novel here on my blog! Year of the Dog is a (second) prequel to my Warubozu Spa Chronicles series. Year of the Dog serial novel by Camy Tang Mari Mutou, a professional dog trainer, is having a bad year. While renovating her new dog kenneling and training facility, she needs to move in with her disapproving family, who have always made her feel inadequate—according to them, a job requiring her to be covered in dog hair and slobber is an embarrassment to the family. She convinces her ex-boyfriend to take her dog for a few months … but discovers that his brother is the irate security expert whose car she accidentally rear-ended a few weeks earlier. Ashwin Keitou has enough problems. His aunt has just shown up on his doorstep, expecting to move in with him, and he can’t say no because he owes her everything—after his mother walked out on them, Auntie Nell took in Ashwin and his brother and raised them in a loving Chri

Lady Wynwood's Spies, volume 4: Betrayer - Prologue

I’m posting an excerpt of Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 4: Betrayer!

Part four in a Christian Regency Romantic Adventure epic serial novel with a supernatural twist

Beleaguered spies

Lady Wynwood’s team of spies are trying to heal from the physical and mental wounds recently dealt to them. However, their investigation into Apothecary Jack’s mysterious group has turned up only a few strange, disjointed clues, and the dangerous Root elixir continues to circulate in the London underbelly. It is only a matter of time before the Root is sold to Napoleon, which would give him overwhelming dominance in the war.

Sudden threats

Then Laura, Lady Wynwood, is unexpectedly attacked by a man she had trusted. Although Phoebe and her household staff manage to protect her, her life is now in danger and she must go into hiding.

Dangerous mysteries

Laura uncovers more secrets kept by her late husband that shed illumination on his enigmatic mistress, Bianca. In the meantime, the team follows the trail of Laura’s attacker, which might enable them to capture Apothecary Jack or his compatriot, the pale-eyed man.

All the while, they are unaware that the hunters have become the hunted.

PLEASE NOTE: Like the novels published in Jane Austen’s time, this is a novel in multiple parts. 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.


Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 4: Betrayer

A Christian Regency Romantic Adventure serial novel
by Camille Elliot

For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.
Luke 12: 2-3 (KJV)

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him:
but I will maintain mine own ways before him.
Job 13:15 (KJV)

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Matthew 11:28-30 (KJV)


Laura, Lady Wynwood, sat in the dark in her drawing room and waited for an intruder.

Her errand earlier that evening had taken her longer than would have been expected for a simple trip to Rachey Street and a one hour conversation. As usual, they had taken a roundabout route to the Senhora’s establishment, and after the meeting, a meandering path home. It had given Laura ample time to worry about the conversation beforehand, and too much time to brood over the information afterward.

So many secrets, tangled, knotting, tightening. The strands were cutting into her skin and making her bleed regret and guilt, anger and suffering.

None of the events of the past several weeks had been coincidence—not Sol’s actions in confronting a Ramparts agent at the Meynhill birthday celebration, not Phoebe’s meeting with Mr. Coulton-Jones on Hampstead Heath, and not the way those disparate moments connected to her late husband. And to Laura’s own actions.

Normally, it would signal the Lord’s hand over her life, over the lives of those close to  her. But to Laura, it simply felt like an accusatory finger that both judged and stirred up the morass of her past sins, which she’d spent years trying to forget. She should have known she couldn’t run from them.

The conversation with the Senhora tonight had tired her. The anxiety beforehand and the pain of facing her past, facing Wynwood’s past, had left her feeling like a burned out shell.

But she couldn’t sleep. She would toss and turn and nurture her pain like a madwoman, perhaps because everything had made her just a touch insane.

She had news that she knew Sol would want to hear, and she also knew he’d come to hear it despite how tired he might be himself. Upon returning from the Senhora’s place, Laura had sent Calvin to Sol’s townhouse with a message asking him to visit that evening if possible. Otherwise, she would await his presence at breakfast.

But he would come tonight. Or perhaps she willed him to come tonight so that she need not bear the burden of these secrets alone for much longer.

The servants were completing their duties for the evening before turning in to bed, and she could faintly hear voices and small noises from the kitchen in the half-basement at the back of the townhouse. She had hated asking it of her, but Laura had requested for Aya to remain awake in the kitchen so that she would be able to unlatch the back door and allow Sol into the house. Even if he arrived before the house was dark and asleep, she knew he would sneak in from the back so that her nosy neighbors would not spy him visiting so late at night.

She heard a change in the bustling in the kitchen, a subtle shift in the bumps and voices, and knew he’d arrived.

Sol’s steps were surprisingly soft and tentative on the stairs, and Laura realized she should have lit a lamp. When she started her vigil, she had felt more in sympathy with the darkness, and she had wished her neighbors to think she was either not home or had retired to bed unusually early for an evening during the height of the Season.

She was about to rise and open the drawing room door, which was only cracked, when flickering candlelight cut through the shadows, momentarily blinding her. She blinked, letting her eyes accustom to the light, and when she could see again, Sol was closing the drawing room door.

“Rather scandalous, Sol,” she said in a voice that sounded high-pitched and tight rather than carefree, as she had intended.

“Since we are both widowed?” Society dictated that he should leave the door cracked at the very least, but he engaged the latch firmly. “I gathered from the tone of your note that you have no wish to share this information with any other servants.”

“Only you could infer the tone of a short note.”

“Only your notes,” he said, placing the candle holder on a nearby side table.

She almost asked him to blow the flame out, but then chastised herself for being a coward.

She had chosen an elaborately carved chair facing the door, and he sat on the sofa beside her. She had forgotten about the splash of brandy she’d poured for herself earlier, and now gently pushed the crystal tumbler on the low table closer to him.

He sighed and downed the contents in a single swallow. Perhaps it was the dim light, but the shadows formed deep pockets under his eyes and drew long grooves alongside his mouth. “Gracious, Sol, you look exhausted.”

He rubbed his forehead with his long, square fingers. “I have come from the Ramparts, where I did a great deal of shouting.”

“About the deaths of the French agents?” Earlier that afternoon, she and Phoebe had been present—along with the rest of his team—when he’d received news that, due to senseless posturing between individual leaders in the Foreign and Alien Offices, the French agents whom they had captured had been killed.

He nodded. “Unfortunately, it yielded no purpose other than venting my feelings.”

It was a truly regretful ending to the hard work they had exerted to find these foreign agents and capture them before they could return to France. Laura then smiled at herself. She said “we,” but the ones in danger had been Sol, his agents, and Phoebe and Keriah.

He glanced at her, and even in the candlelight, the flecks of gold in his chocolate brown eyes glimmered softly. “I hope your message indicates you have something interesting to impart rather than more bad news.”

Laura grimaced. “Possibly both.” She hesitated. If Sol didn’t agree to her conditions, then all her effort—and the cost—would have all been for naught. “Before I tell you anything, Sol, I must have your solemn word that you shall not divulge to anyone—including to your superiors in the Ramparts—from whom you received this information.”

His dark brows rose in surprise, but he did not appear reluctant to grant her request. “May I ask why?”

“The men at the Ramparts mustn’t know that I was the person who imparted these facts to you. Any of them could surmise that there is no possibility that I would have already known any of what I am about to tell you. Therefore, they would assume that I must have received it from someone else, and I cannot have anyone looking into that person.”

He held out his hand as if to allay her fears. “The report would be only visible to a handful of people, the men in the Ramparts who know best how to keep secrets.”

She shook her head. “Sol, if my name is anywhere on your report, even if it is only for the eyes of the highest levels in your department, it is too dangerous. I am hardly an agent. Anyone with enough perseverance would find my connection to my … source. I cannot have any of those men, even men who keep secrets, to know about this.”

“This level of security seems quite excessive.”

“It is what is required of me.” The Senhora had always insisted that no one know of Laura’s connection to her.

Sol slowly asked, “What would you like to me to tell my superiors?”

“Anything you like. I assume you often receive confidential information from others in society, whose names remain anonymous on your reports except to your superiors. Perhaps you can say that you heard these things from one of them.”

His mouth set in a grim line for a moment before he spoke. “Laura, you are asking me to lie to my superiors.”

She swallowed. “I am sorry, Sol, but that is the price. Can you whole-heartedly assure me that if an important man at the Ramparts, tasked with the security of the nation, is intrigued by your report, that he would not investigate me and my ‘friend?’ And that he would not then instruct other agents to approach this ‘friend’ in hopes of other information?”

Her question caught him off-guard, but understanding lightened his dark eyes, although he said nothing.

Laura continued, “If even a whiff of a suspicion reaches my ‘friend,’ our relationship would be cut with the indifference of a woman snipping embroidery thread.”

He sat back in the sofa. “And this relationship is important to you?”

“It may be important to you, also. You may require information of this sort at some point in the future.”

He sat in thought for a minute, then finally nodded. “Very well. You obviously assign a great deal of weight to this connection, and I would not wish to force you to sever it. And if you believe that we should cultivate the favor of this person, then I will trust your judgment.”

Laura felt warmth radiating from her cheeks and neck, as if she’d remained too close to the fireplace for too long. He had used the word “we,” and he trusted her. It was a … nice feeling.

In halting sentences, she told him what the Senhora had told her tonight about Mrs. Bianca Jadis.

She never witnessed Sol so shocked as when she related her tale. Weeks earlier, he had already appeared rattled when he learned that Bianca’s pendant contained Jack’s mysterious symbol inside of it, but now, tonight, he kept asking questions about Bianca and appeared more dumbfounded the more he learned. Laura also told him what the Senhora had told her about Jack Dix and the group behind that symbol.

At one point, he requested paper and began taking notes as she spoke. He studied his slanting scrawl on the sheets spread out upon the low table before them. “Is this everything about Bianca?”

Hearing her name on his lips was strange for her, but it was also, oddly, a relief. It made her almost forget that “Bianca” was also Wynwood’s mistress. The woman had only been referred to as “Mrs. Jadis” by the spiteful society acquaintances who wanted to deliver the news to Laura to distress her, but the Senhora had only referred to her as “Bianca.” The tendency seemed to have taken root in Laura’s thoughts, perhaps because it distanced her feelings from the pain of the past, and she had used “Bianca” when speaking to Sol, who now copied her.

“Yes, I believe so.” She hesitated, then decided that Sol wouldn’t have such great pride that he’d resist a sensible suggestion. “There was very little information about Bianca because she was a lone woman, unmarried without father or brothers, lost in the sea of other women like her in London. But the most valuable items I acquired about her were the names of her protector, Mr. Field Emsley, and her husband, Mr. Carl Jadis. A high-flyer like Bianca could die and leave no trace of herself behind, but the men she associated with could not. They would have left documents about themselves which could be found, if you looked hard enough.”

“You’d need more than effort,” Sol grumbled. “You’d need a fair bit of luck.”

She couldn’t resist the opening to needle him. “I shall pray for the Lord’s guidance, which would be far more effective than luck.”

He scowled at her, but did not argue theology with her as he might have several months ago. Perhaps Phoebe’s strong faith and the coincidences that continued to fall into his lap were softening him to the concept of the Lord watching over them all.

“Have you the means to investigate these men?” she asked. “You perhaps may need an attorney you trust.”

“I shall try to do what I can myself. There are attorneys trusted by the Ramparts, but …” He grimaced again. “After the way my superiors botched the capture and questioning of the French agents, I have no wish to risk the wrong attorney letting slip these names.”

“If Bianca was part of this mysterious group, as we suspect, then her husband may have also belonged to them. His may be one set of initials in Wynwood’s pocket watch.”

Sol nodded, animation erasing the tired lines of his face. After the frustration of finding nothing about Bianca these past weeks, he now had a thread to pull to see what it unraveled. She knew him well enough to know that he was relieved to have something to do.

He suddenly stilled as he studied her. In a soft voice, he asked, “What were you forced to pay for this information?”

She had hoped he would not think to ask that. She swallowed, glancing down at her hands clasped in her lap, and forced herself to relax her stiff fingers. “It is nothing criminal, but it is better that you do not know.”

Laura thought Sol would vehemently object, not simply because he worked for a government agency, but also because he hated being uninformed of anything that impacted his work or his life. She and Sol were the same—both desperate to keep firm hold of the things and people around them, because it made them feel they had some sort of control over everything.

But instead, he said nothing for long minutes. Sol’s hand rose to rub his forehead and cover his eyes, but not before she saw him squeeze his eyes shut in regret. When he finally dropped his hand looked at her, his gaze was remorseful. “I am sorry you needed to pay such a price, Laura.”

“I have paid nothing,” she quickly replied. However, she would be risking a great deal next Season. But she would never reveal the truth to him.

“It should have been my responsibility to find this information and pay the person who gave it to you.”

“This person would never have met with you, Sol. Even meeting with me was a great favor to me and an expression of the trust between us.”

“Why was it necessary that it must be you?” He frowned at her, but she could tell he was concerned for her.

“It was not dangerous for me,” she assured him. “But you posses nothing that this person would want. Only I had that.”

He was silent in the face of that truth, but she could tell he still didn’t like it. He gusted a loud sigh and slouched back in the sofa, his head tilted back and staring at the darkened ceiling. She studied his shadowed face and realized that shame had been blurring his features ever since she started speaking about Bianca.

“What is troubling you, Sol?” she asked gently.

His eyes looked at her without moving his head. “I can never hide anything from you,” he complained.

“I’ve known you too long. Argued with you too much.”

“You’re probably correct about that.” He sighed again and returned his gaze to the ceiling. He didn’t answer her immediately, and she let him take the time to sift through his thoughts. Finally, he said, “We do not yet have definitive proof that Bianca belonged to this secret group, but it is becoming more and more likely.”

Silence stretched between them, but she knew he was simply trying to formulate the words for what was jumbling through his brain.

“When you told me weeks ago that you may know how to uncover more of Bianca’s background, I admit I only held faint hope that you could accomplish it,” he said. “At the time, I clung to my faith in my own abilities. I needed to trust in my abilities, because I was so dismayed by the revelation that she had the symbol inside her pendant. I was the one who had disregarded her. I had utterly missed any possible clues that pointed to her connection to a larger group with a larger agenda.”

“None of those clues may have existed at all.”

“We’ll never know. I’ll never know. You may not think too badly of me, Laura, but I know I failed when it came to Bianca. And what is more, my superiors know I failed. Some of them understand how I could have mistaken Bianca’s plans and secret motivations, but others are questioning my ability to investigate and lead.”

She chose her words carefully. “I cannot say anything in regards to the Ramparts. But Sol, none of us are perfect.”

“I must still expect the best of myself and the men I lead.”

“Yes, of course, but it is unreasonable to expect we shall never make a single misstep. It begins to affect the results of our work when we believe so strongly in only ourselves that we start to believe we are perfect.”

“I have never believed that I am perfect,” he objected, but with a hint of petulance in his tone.

“When I need a good dose of humility, that is often the exact moment when God gives me a swift kick in the rear end to remind me that I am not as wonderful as I think I am.” She leaned forward and tilted her head to the side, looking up at him with a hard, searching gaze. “Bianca is looking more and more like God’s foot up your backside, don’t you think?”

His mouth opened, then closed, and then he laughed, a sound tinged with chagrin. “Yes, I do believe so.”

She was relieved to see him attempt to move past his low spirits, but her smile was strained. She may have spoken confidently about not clinging to perfection, but it also reminded her that she could not move past her own sins.

She knew she needed to face the truth. She needed to tell him the truth, and yet she couldn’t. Her weakness only fed the anguish pressing against her chest, the one awful secret she was still keeping from him.

Sol left her soon after that, and she was not surprised to find Aya waiting for her in her bedroom.

“You should have gone to bed when you let Sol into the house,” Laura told her maid.

She smiled politely like an exemplary servant, and completely ignored her comment as she helped Laura remove her dress.

Aya was behind her, unlacing her stays, and as the stiff fabric loosened, it was as if everything it held in came flying out of her. “Aya, I might still have killed him.”

The words were quiet and scratchy in the dimness of the bedroom, like mice skittering through the walls.

Aya’s hands stopped moving for several seconds, then she continued undoing the laces. She didn’t need to ask whom Laura was referring to. “He was poisoned,” Aya replied in an equally quiet voice.

“I know that now, but it doesn’t matter. I might still have caused his death before the poison killed him.”

“You … We have lived with this for years. What has changed?”

“My relationship with Sol has changed.”

“Has it?” Aya drew the dress from her shoulders. “He still visits, day or night, whenever you send a note ’round to him. He is not colder or more distant to you. You still trust him.”

“He knew things about Wynwood.”

“He confessed those to you.”

“So shouldn’t I confess to him?”

Aya gave a soft sigh, then with strong fingers, clasped Laura’s shoulders and turned her around so that they faced each other. Laura moved obediently, like a lost child.

The expression in Aya’s face was that of a friend, not a servant, a woman who had always tried to protect her even against Wynwood, even on that terrible night. “If you tell him, it may cost your friendship. But you already know that. You may be willing to pay that price, but what will happen to Mrs. Rook and the servants who acted on her orders?”

Laura wanted to say that she knew Sol well enough to be certain what he would do, how he would feel. She wanted to say that he cared for her too much, that he knew what kind of monster Wynwood had been, that he would understand.

Sol was a good man. He also had a strong sense of duty and trusted the men he reported to, men whom Laura did not know.

From what she’d learned these past ten years through the women she’d met on Rachey Street, through the servants she’d collected in her household, there were some men who were honorable, like Sol. But there were other men for whom the law was flexible and easily bent for nobility, but hard and rigid for common folk.

And because of that, when she answered Aya, she said the only thing she knew was the truth: “I don’t know what Sol would do.”

It saddened her, because only a few weeks ago, she had thought she knew Sol better than she’d known her own husband. But ironically, it turned out that she had known neither of them very well.

No, that wasn’t quite true. “I trust Sol to help me.”

“Will he? Without hesitation, even if you tell him this terrible secret?”

“I trust in Sol’s heart. He could not have hidden it from me during all our years as friends.” Laura stared into Aya’s dark blue eyes. “But Sol also answers to other men in that secret department of the Alien Office.” She had not told all her servants about the Ramparts, but those closest to her, like Aya, knew the entire truth. “He has no reason to doubt those men.”

“But you do?”

Laura shook her head, looking down at her hands, which were open in front of her. When she spoke, it was in a whisper as if she were spilling a terrible secret. “For some reason, when I think of Sol’s senior officers and fellow agents, I feel … uncertainty.” It was like a worm wriggling in her heart, uncomfortable and faintly repulsive.

“Has he said something to make you doubt them?” Aya’s voice was calm.

“No. I have no reason for my feelings, but I still feel them.”

Yes, Sol trusted those men. But she could not.

Aya was silent as she pondered Laura’s words. Her hands dropped from Laura’s shoulders. “Then for now, perhaps you should trust your feelings.”

Laura was not surprised at Aya’s suggestion. Her maid was fiercely loyal, but tended to act on her emotions more than logic. She was a good contrast to the housekeeper, Mrs. Rook, who was cool and logical.

But Aya surprised her when she continued, “I do not know why, but I also feel some uncertainty when I think about the agents in Mr. Drydale’s department.”

Laura looked up at her. “You do?”

Aya bit her lip, her words tentative. “Like you, I have no reason to feel uneasy, but … something feels dangerous.” She gave a soft gasp as she thought of something. “Earlier today … or perhaps, yesterday,” she amended, and Laura realized it must be past midnight. “A man came to deliver a message for Mr. Drydale. The note was given to Mr. Coulton-Jones to deliver to Mr. Drydale at Stapytton House.”

“It was the news about the deaths of the French agents.” Laura had been at Stapytton House with Phoebe when Mr. Coulton-Jones arrived with the message for Sol.

“I remained in the servants’ staircase while they spoke in the drawing room,” Aya said shamelessly, but she knew Laura would have approved of her vigilance when there was a stranger such as that in the house. “When the man arrived, Mr. Coulton-Jones spoke to him at first. I couldn’t hear what was said, but the man’s tone was … belligerent. Eventually, Lady Aymer interrupted them. I believe it was she who convinced the man to give the message to Mr. Coulton-Jones to deliver to Mr. Drydale.”

“Why would he be belligerent?” Laura wondered aloud. “Why would a man from Sol’s department quarrel with Mr. Coulton-Jones? According to Sol, Mr. Coulton-Jones is working directly and officially under him.”

Aya gave a small shrug in answer. “I believe that is why I feel unease about the Ramparts.”

Laura nodded. “Thank you for telling me.”

“I apologize that I did not inform you about this earlier.”

“You have no need to apologize. Today has been quite an eventful day.”

Aya helped her into her nightgown and left her. When Wynwood had been alive, Aya had slept in Laura’s tiny dressing room next door, where there was barely enough room for the maid to sleep amidst Laura’s wardrobes and dressers. After his death, she had insisted that Aya was entitled to a private, larger room in the servants’ quarters on the top floor. Laura could hear Aya’s footsteps on the narrow servants’ staircase, soft and hesitant, as if reluctant to leave her mistress, but then there was the distant creak of a wooden door, and the house was silent.

She lay in bed and stared at the darkened ceiling. She had long ago removed the canopy from the ancient bed so that she would feel less suffocated, something she had desperately needed when Wynwood was alive. But now the open air above her made her feel exposed.

She could not tell Sol. Would there ever come a day when she could?

She wrapped her regrets around her like a frost-laden blanket, and the chill turned her heart into ice.


My Lady Wynwood’s Spies series starts with Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 1: Archer.


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I’ve been working on Sushi and Suspicions , a Christian contemporary romantic suspense which will be releasing in June in the multi-author box set Summer Suspicions . Trouble follows Liv on her vacation to Hawaii when she is framed for the theft of an antique rifle. Only a handsome investigator can help clear her name ... and maybe give her a reason to stay in the islands. If you want to read a snippet of what I wrote last week, check out my last newsletter !

Guest blogger Sharon Hinck

Captain’s Log, Stardate 02.08.2007 Today I have my very good friend and sister, Sharon Hinck, blogging with me! Sharon's latest latest mom lit novel is  Renovating Becky Miller ! Becky Miller's Guide to Home Repair * Budget the gross national product of a small country--then double it. * Never, ever invite your mother-in-law to stay with you during a remodel. * Figure out how to heat the living room before inviting your Bible study group over. * Stock up on Tylenol and chocolate and sandbags. * Hire a professional to fix the plumbing. * Sometimes renovation is an inside job. In addition to being a young mom, Becky Miller is a daydreamer. Most recently, she's been envisioning herself in the happy endings she sees during her weekly movie nights with husband Kevin. But her real life feels more like a broken filmstrip, spinning out of control! When Becky and her family decide to purchase a rundown farmhouse, Becky pictures a slower, simpler lifestyle in the pa