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Lady Wynwood's Spies, volume 6: Martyr - chapter 3a

I’m posting an excerpt of Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 6: Martyr!

A Christian Historical Adventure set in Regency England with slow-burn romance and a supernatural twist
Part six in an epic-length serial novel

Lady Wynwood has discovered the gardening notebooks belonging to Bianca Jadis, the deceased mistress of the late Lord Wynwood and a former member of the treasonous group, the Citadel. However, the team is dismayed to discover that parts of the notebooks have been written in some sort of code.

Mr. Sol Drydale has kept hidden the fact that the notebooks have been found because he is unable to fully trust his superior officers at the Ramparts, the secret branch of the Alien Office. After all, when one of his own was kidnapped, the men who should have assisted him had seemed more interested in obtaining the Root potion that gives men supernatural strength.

But then two Ramparts agents bring information about an opportunity to capture the poisoner Apothecary Jack, one of the members of the Citadel. Sol is ordered to integrate these newcomers into his group, then plan a daring raid upon Jack’s new laboratory.

When things take an unexpected turn, Sol is faced with a terrible choice. Will he disobey orders, or will he forfeit the life of someone he holds dear?

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 the story continues in volume 7.

All the posted parts are listed here.


Chapter Three (part 1)

Mr. Sol Drydale decided that he would rather fight superhumanly strong, raging mad Berserkers than try to make sense of the documents delivered by his cousin’s attorney.

He rubbed his forehead, trying to ease the headache firmly lodged there as he examined the papers on his desk in the library of his townhouse. He’d barely survived a three-hour-long meeting with a lawyer whose preferences ran to an over-fondness for onions, which was apparently what the man had eaten for lunch.

The documents detailed the estates and belongings of Sol’s first cousins, once removed, who were both now deceased. Their father should be reviewing this material, but Viscount Purcombe had taken to his bed after the death of his children and was now gravely ill himself, and as the next closest family, the task had fallen to Sol.

He had never wanted the title or lands, and now he was next in line to inherit both. Before the deaths of his cousin’s sons, his only ambition had been to purchase a small cottage, perhaps, when he no longer cared to live in London. His temperament didn’t run to the responsibility of managing a vast estate and tenant farmers, and he hadn’t sons of his own to run the other properties, which only added to the burdens upon him.

Sol was tempted to pour himself a glass of whiskey and be done with it all for the day. Because more than the management of the lands, there was also now the responsibilities of his blood.

He absolutely needed to remarry and try to beget an heir to carry on the family name. However, before his wife’s death, she had had so many miscarriages that he was no longer certain if he could beget children. And after being widowed for twelve years, he now must cast himself upon the turbulent waters of the Marriage Mart to find a bride. But there was no woman he desired to marry except …

Sol could not picture anyone else for him but Laura. They had always gotten along well together, possessing many interests in common so that they never ran out of topics of conversation. They were able to laugh with each other, knowing how to argue and how to reconcile, and often maintaining comfortable silences. He admired her mind and found her attractive. And after working closely with her on his team, his respect for her under-appreciated abilities had only grown.

When she had been in danger, he’d been beside himself with anxiety—he realized, belatedly, that he would be utterly devastated if he lost her. And when they rescued her, all his ardor poured out of him as he embraced her. She was alive and in his arms, and his heart was so full of joy that it had been almost painful.

But he was not certain Laura would even accept him if he did propose to her because of her strong viewpoints on religion. She had always made clear that her spirituality was important to her, and he could not see her agreeing to marry a man who did not share her devotion to her God, a man able to understand why she felt the way she did when she read her Bible and prayed.

They’d had many discussions and arguments about God. Despite their differing opinions, Sol enjoyed the stimulating conversation and appreciated her sound logic and clever way of thinking.

But he was also a man who felt most comfortable when he had firm control over his world. A devout belief in Providence made him feel unstable because it was not something he felt he could rely upon. His life was his own to shape. His own decisions and actions accomplished his goals, and he alone faced the consequences.

And a part of him also felt that while Laura had been desperate for a spiritual anchor to sustain her during her marriage to Wynwood, Sol himself had no need for a God to buoy him aloft. He was self-sufficient and satisfied with his situation.

Well, most of the time. He admitted he had felt untethered when Laura had been taken, and he had never been so terrified in his life, whether from fear over her safety or fear that he had lost control over the things and people in his life that he cared most about.

He sighed. Laura was safe now. There was no more need to dwell on his past tremors. Instead, he must tackle this problem of another wife.

Sol remembered, then, how Laura had heard the news about the deaths in his family, and with a groan, he reached for the whiskey decanter. Hang the fact it was only mid-afternoon—the pain in her eyes had nearly unmanned him when she informed him of how, while she was recuperating at Glencowe Castle, she’d heard about it from local gossip and the newspaper.

He should have told her himself, but the news came to him after she’d been kidnapped—in fact, right in the midst of his investigation to try to find her. After her rescue, he hadn’t been certain how to broach the subject. Since he’d had so many things to do for the Ramparts, he’d allowed himself to become caught up in the happenings around that time, doing his best to distract himself from that demmed letter from the attorney sitting in the drawer of this very desk.

When Laura confronted him about it, she hadn’t condemned him for not telling her. Instead, she’d expressed her condolences over the deaths of his cousin’s sons and had even been supportive of him in his new position as heir apparent.

But there had also been a hint of sorrow in her manner, which Sol had expected. It was not unreasonable for her to have thought that, since they were such close friends, she would have heard of it from himself rather than a stranger.

Sol stared morosely at his tumbler of whiskey. Of all the women he’d met—even more than his deceased wife—he wanted Laura. She never looked at him with speculation or avarice like other matrimonial-minded women in town, instead treating him with respect and a casualness of manner that set his mind at ease. He wanted to invade that invisible boundary around her person, to draw near enough to smell the light fragrance of her perfume, which put him in mind of going berry picking in a cool, soothing forest. He wanted her to become aware of him as a man, to allow him the right to touch her and draw her close and shield her from the troubles of the world.

He tossed back the entire glass of spirits. There was hardly any likelihood of that happening. Laura’s demeanor, even after knowing each other for years, clearly indicated that she was not interested in marrying him or anyone.

And why should she? She had no financial need to marry. Wynwood had left her quite well off, and there would be no benefit for her to put her fortune and her body at the mercy of another man who could legally control her and injure her as her deceased husband had done. Sol would not do that to her, but he knew how she valued the freedom she had gained from the monster she had married, and she would not easily give that up.

And that monster had taken something infinitely precious from her, the one horrific theft that broke her heart in two even as her body had broken under his fists and feet. She had never spoken of it to Sol, but he heard about the covered-up incident, and he’d known confidential things about her condition beforehand that made him sure he knew what had happened to her.

And because Laura had never given Wynwood a child, not in ten years of marriage, she was ineligible as Sol’s potential bride.

The knock at the library door made him stare at his empty glass in dismay before calling, “Come.”

The butler entered. “I beg your pardon for disturbing you, sir, but Mr. Kyleston has arrived. He has asked to speak with you about a matter involving his uncle’s shipping interests.” 

Of course the Ramparts would seek him out on one of the few days when he was not scheduled to visit the building. He swallowed a sigh. “Show him in, Halford.”

Mr. Kyleston looked much younger than his actual age, which was close to that of Mr. Coulton-Jones and Septimus, but his gangly frame and the mop of straight brown hair that looked as though it were in desperate need of a comb gave him the manner of an awkward teenager. However, behind his spectacles—thinner than those he wore within the Ramparts, but not as corrective to his eyesight—were intelligent brown eyes that met Sol’s with both respect and confidence.

“I apologize, sir, but I must ask you to come with me on a matter of some urgency.” In order to keep his business a secret from the butler, he always referred to his “uncle’s shipping interests” when he had a particularly important summons from Sir Derrick.

“Urgent, is it?” Sol set aside the empty tumbler and stood. “I suppose it cannot be helped.”

Being Sir Derrick’s clerk, Mr. Kyleston was usually privy to the reasons for Sol’s summons, which was why he unbent his manner and leaned closer, a contrite look upon his face. “Sir, I’d suggest you take another glass of that for ‘medicinal purposes’ before we leave.”

Sol stared at him a moment before pouring another finger for himself, and one for Mr. Kyleston. “That bad, eh?”

Mr. Kyleston picked up his glass. “Yes, sir, that bad.”

Copyright © 2023 Camy Tang


Lady Wynwood’s Spies, volume 6: Martyr is available for preorder at 40% off! Be sure to preorder before the price goes up on April 26th.

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