A foiled spy mission on Christmas Eve - Tracey Devlyn
Tracey Devlyn is an award-winning author who writes historical romantic thrillers (translation: a slightly more grievous journey toward the heroine’s happy ending). She’s a co-founder of Romance University, a group blog dedicated to readers and writers of romance, and Lady Jane’s Salon-Naperville, Chicagoland’s exciting new reading salon devoted to romantic fiction.
An Illinois native, Tracey spends her evenings harassing her once-in-a-lifetime husband and her weekends torturing her characters. For more information on Tracey, including her Internet haunts, contest updates, and details on her upcoming novels, please visit her website.
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Spy Me an Angel
Sophie Ashcroft and Teddy Taylor were two secondary characters in the second book of my Nexus series, Checkmate, My Lord. I really appreciate this opportunity to spend time with them again, because I love these characters. In the following scene, we’re fast-forwarding six years to 1810, England. Sophie and Teddy are now thirteen-years-old…and things are a-changing. =)
“Look how clear the ice is today, Teddy,” Sophie Ashcroft said while she strapped on her skates. “We’re going to fly across the lake.”
Teddy followed his friend’s gaze and was nearly blinded by the sun’s reflection off the crystal-like surface. “I can only stay for a quarter hour, Soph. Then I have to get back to my chores at the stable.”
“I still don’t understand why you don’t accept Bastian’s offer to go to Eton.”
Teddy didn’t think he would ever get used to hearing her refer to the powerful, wealthy spymaster as Bastian. The Earl of Somerton was everything Teddy wanted to be. Everything except the earl part. He didn’t want the burden of all that responsibility, but he definitely wanted to be a powerful, wealthy spy.
Pushing off the downed tree trunk, he tested his skates to make sure they were secure. “His lordship has made me a kind and generous offer, but I’ll not accept his charity. I’ll earn my way.”
“It’s not charity.” Sophie rose to her feet. “It’s appreciation. My family will never stop thanking you for saving my life.”
Releasing a sigh, he plowed his way through the snow bank that had formed since the last time they had skated. “Appreciation for something that happened six years ago. Lord and Lady Somerton have already provided a tutor for me. That’s more than enough.” Far more than he would ever have had otherwise. He never realized how large the world was or how fascinating.
In an instant, Teddy found himself face first in the snow. “What the—?” he sputtered, knowing the answer before he could swipe the icy flakes from his eyes. Within inches of his nose stood the largest, ugliest dog he’d ever seen. “Blast it, Galahad! Stop attacking me. I’m not the enemy, you no account mutt.”
In response, the big brown-haired, wiry-coated dog licked his face, leaving a slimy streak of saliva in his tongue’s wake.
Sophie’s Uncle Ethan, who wasn’t really her uncle but insisted she call him so, presented Sir Galahad to her not longer after the bad man tried to steal Sophie away. A spy like Lord Somerton, Ethan deBeau had taught Galahad how to attack potential threats to Sophie’s safety by spearing his one hundred-fifty pound body at the back of the villain’s knees. A sure method to knock down any man, and give Sophie precious time to flee.
Once the dog had her assailant on the ground, he would clamp his giant jaws around the back of the villain’s neck and not let go until he received a release command. Teddy nearly wet himself the first time Galahad slammed into him. Heart pounding, he’d waited for the terrible pain of sharp teeth cutting into his flesh. But the pain never came. Galahad didn’t tackle him because he thought he was a threat to Sophie. No, the ugly mutt thought he was some kind of play toy.
A laugh erupted beside him.
“It’s not funny, Soph. Your protector’s going to break my legs one of these days.”
“Oh, Teddy.” She helped him up, then used her mitten-covered hands to brush off clumps of snow from his clothes. “Galahad would never hurt you.”
Teddy’s muscles locked. She touched him with no thought to propriety or the effect she had on him. Why would she? They had been friends for years, and she had touched him a thousand times.
She knew nothing of these strange, new feelings swirling around inside his body. She knew nothing of the male mind, especially the chaotic thoughts of a 13-year-old boy. Admittedly, he hadn’t understood the unusual ache in his throat or the pressure on his chest or his desire to simply stare at her pretty face, until recently. Then he wished he hadn’t.
Stepping away, he said, “Soph, I’m going to pass on skating.”
“What? Why?” She examined him from head to toe. “Did Galahad hurt you?” She reached for him again, inspecting him as if he were a younger brother.
Batting her hands away, he said, “I’m fine.” He tried to locate the oversized mutt, but, as usual, the beast hit, licked, and ran. “I shouldn’t have come. There’s too much left to do before day’s end.” He sat back on the tree trunk to remove his skates.
Kneeling before him, she placed her palms on his knees. “You’re still dining with us tonight, aren’t you?”
Teddy stared down at her red mittens, unable to breathe much less speak. He loved spending Christmas Eve with her family. When he stepped inside Somerton House, it was like entering Heaven. Everything sparkled and smelled so good. Lord and Lady Somerton always made him feel welcome and loved. Some of his friends weren’t so lucky.
“What’s the matter, Teddy?” Sophie asked. “Why won’t you answer me?”
Should he go and pretend as though nothing had changed? Could he go? He released a harsh breath
“I’ll be there, Soph,” he said, unable to deny her anything. He motioned toward the lake. “Now go fly.”
She smiled. A big, toothy smile that struck him in the chest. When the ache returned to his throat, he knew he was in trouble.
Throwing her arms around his neck, she squealed, “We’re going to have so much fun tonight. Mama promised we’d play charades.”
He groaned and buried his face in his hands. By the time he lifted his head again, Sophie had already reached the lake.
“Back to the muck with you, you silly fool,” he mumbled to himself.
Teddy trudged up the small hill. He made it to the halfway point before coming to a halt. Just one more glimpse. Slowly, he swiveled around and his jaw dropped. Down below, an angel floated across a diamond surface. Even from this distance, he could see Sophie’s smile.
When she opened her arms wide and threw back her head in giddy abandonment, Teddy knew, then and there, that he would love Sophie Ashcroft forever.
Umph! For the second time in ten minutes, Teddy found his face planted in the freezing snow. “Galahad!”
A large, wet tongue lapped over Teddy’s nose and right eye. By the time he lifted himself to his knees, the beast was gone. That’s what he got for spying on an angel before finishing his chores.
Teddy’s gaze wandered back to the lake at the same moment Sophie waved at him.
A grin crept across his face and filled his heart.
A promising young apothecary picks up the pieces of her life, only to collide with the ruthless thief-taker who once shattered her dreams and her heart.
When the love of his life chose an apprenticeship in Scotland over his marriage proposal, thief-taker Cameron Adair buried himself in his work--building an unmatched network of underworld spies. Forged by his reputation as a ruthless, greed-driven businessman, he has amassed a fortune. But he has one vulnerable spot in his armor--a brilliant, green-eyed apothecary, who continues to haunt his heart. When a murder investigation brings him back into contact with Charlotte Fielding, Cameron sets aside the past to find a killer and to distract a headstrong apothecary, clue by clue, kiss by kiss.
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