Friday, August 2, 2013

Excerpt: TAMING A GENTLEMAN SPY - The Spies of Mayfair Series, Book Two


Available for pre-order from KNOX ROBINSON PUBLISHING

John Haldane, Earl of Strathairn, is on an urgent mission to find the killer of his fellow spy. Has the treasonous Frenchman, Count Forney, returned to England to wreak havoc? Or has someone new landed on English shores to stir up rebellion in the Midlands? After visiting the young widow of one of his agents, Strathairn strengthens his resolve. A spy should never marry. And most certainly not to Lady Sibella Winborne, with her romantic ideas of love and marriage. Unable to give Sibella up entirely, he has kept her close as a friend. And then weak fool that he is he kissed her…
Lady Sibella Winborne has refused several offers of marriage since her first Season years ago – when she first set eyes on the handsome Earl of Strathairn. Sibella’s many siblings always rush to her aid to discourage an ardent suitor, but not this time. Her elder brother, Chaloner, Marquess of Brandreth, has approved Lord Coombe’s suit. Sibella yearns to set up her own household. She is known to be the sensible member of the family. But she doesn’t feel at all sensible about Lord Strathairn. If only she could forget that kiss…

Excerpt: Sibella's family had decided she was too much of a prize to remain unmarried, and even her favorite brother, Edward, had joined their ranks.

As they often did at her mother’s instigation, Sibella and her siblings repaired to their countryseat, Brandreth Park, near Tunbridge Wells. Sibella welcomed the change. It gave her time to think, and being close to nature always helped clear her mind. The air grew humid with an impending downpour, sending her back to the house. When Strathairn had searched for her in Rotten Row, had he suffered disappointment not to find her there? He obviously wasn’t going to fall at her feet and propose. After the kiss, things might be awkward between them, but she didn’t wish it had never happened. Only now, though, she had dreams of such a disconcerting nature she would blush to reveal them to anyone, even her sisters.
In the entry hall, Belton, their butler, took possession of her bonnet, apron, gardening gloves and sketchpad. “Your mother entertains a visitor, Lady Sibella.”
Expecting it to be a neighbor, for no one had stated their intention of calling; she tucked the trug of blush pink roses over her arm and entered the salon, wiping her moist brow with a naked forearm.
A strange gentleman sat with her mother.
“Sibella.” Her mother called from her chair where the whiskey-colored cat on her lap played with the fringe of her cashmere shawl. “Come and meet Lord Coombe. Lord Coombe was up at Oxford with your brothers. I can’t think why we haven’t met him before.”
The well-dressed gentleman had hair an unusual shade of deep auburn swept into a careful Brutus. He rose and came forward to take her hand. “What a perfect picture you make, Lady Sibella. Those roses match the ones in your cheeks.”
She curtsied, clutching the basket close to her chest. “You must excuse me, my lord. I’m a trifle soiled from gardening.” Over his shoulder, her mother cast her a dark look.
Lord Coombe dropped his arm and bowed. “I was begging your mother’s forgiveness for this inopportune visit; I should have left my card. I had hoped to see your brother.”
She settled the wooden trug on a mahogany side table and began to remove each rose, careful of the thorns. “Which brother do you refer to, my lord?” She smiled. “I have several.”
“Lord Edward. He suggested I call in when passing on my way to London from Arrowtree Park,” he said with a puzzled frown. “I did hope to catch him. He is advising me on the purchase of a gelding.”
Sibella wasn’t fooled. Edward an authority on horses? He had arranged this, and by the smug expression on her mother’s face, she was part of the conspiracy. At the very least, Edward might have had the good grace to be here.

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