For nearly three hundred years, the cryptic journal of Mary Dundas has lain unread. Now, amateur code breaker Sara Thomas has been sent to Paris to crack the cipher.Jacobite exile Mary Dundas is filled with longing—for freedom, for adventure, for the family she lost. When fate opens the door, Mary dares to set her foot on a path far more surprising and dangerous than she ever could have dreamed.As Mary’s gripping tale is revealed, Sara is faced with challenges that will require letting go of everything she thought she knew—about herself, about loyalty, and especially about love. Though divided by centuries, these two women will be united in a quest to discover the limits of trust and the coincidences of fate.
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In the street below them the commotion was expanding, growing louder, but it seemed a distant thing to Mary on her stool beside the fire. She felt so cold now she’d begun to tremble from it.
“So,” said Thomson with a sigh, “we must now travel south.” The silence he received as a reply seemed not to trouble him. He stretched his legs before him and in contemplation of the buckles of his shoes remarked, “I should have much preferred to wait until we were more certain of our welcome, but I see there’s nothing to be done but make the best of it. When would you have us leave?”
“Not yet.” The light had changed its angle very slightly at the window and the Scotsman shifted with it, staying just beyond its reach. “We’ll move at night.”
“Move where?” Thomson asked, but once again his only answer was the silence of the room. He smiled. “You’re not a trusting man, Mr. MacPherson.”
Madame Roy said more than that, but briefly, in a language Mary did not understand, but then in honesty the three of them were making little sense to her with all this talk of leaving.
Mary found her voice and told them all, “I cannot travel with you.” She could feel them turn to look at her, and to be plain she added, “I was told to come to Paris, only that, and when I’m no longer needed here, then I am to return to . . .” She came near to saying “Saint-Germain-en-Laye,” but she caught herself in time because in spite of her confusion she remembered there were some things she was charged with keeping secret. “. . . to my family.”
Thomson asked, “Who told you this?” His tone was friendly, even sympathetic, but she could no longer freely give her trust. However amiable he’d been as a companion these past days, he was a stranger to her, as were both the others. And it seemed they’d all been keeping secrets from her, too.
She answered without answering. “The person who did send me.”
“Well, that person did not tell you all,” said Thomson, “for there always was a larger plan in place to put to use if we should be discovered, as we have been. But I can assure you you’ll be safe with us. Mr. MacPherson is a most efficient guard. The very best, I’m told.”
The Scotsman had observed this whole exchange with an impassive face so empty of expression Mary could not guess at what he might be thinking. When he moved, it was to leave the room and pass into the one beyond, returning in a moment with a pewter cup, his fingers lightly holding it suspended by the rim.
He stopped in front of Mary, holding out the cup to her. Whatever was inside it had a scent so strong the vapours on their own were like to set her eyes to watering.
Madame Roy said something that to Mary sounded much like “oushki-bah”—strange words indeed, but spoken with approval; and the older woman added, “That will heal the evil that does ail you.”
Mary could not look above the level of the cup.
The Scotsman’s hands were clean. It struck her odd that they should be so clean when he’d just killed a man, and yet they were. The hand that held the cup was strong and square with well-formed fingers. But beneath the broad cuff of his grey wool coat, along the ruffle of his sleeve, she saw the spattered stains of blood.
They held her gaze transfixed. She was aware of Thomson asking, “How the devil did you come by whisky in this place?”
The Scotsman, true to form, ignored him. Mary watched that clean hand and the bloodstained sleeve come closer still to offer her the cup, insistent.
“Take it,” he instructed her. “The day’s not over yet.”
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Susanna Kearsley is known for her meticulous research and exotic settings from Russia to Italy to Cornwall, which not only entertain her readers but give her a great reason to travel. Her lush writing has been compared to Mary Stewart, Daphne du Maurier, and Diana Gabaldon. She hit the bestseller lists in the U.S. with The Firebird (a RITA winner) as well as, The Winter Sea and The Rose Garden (both RITA finalists and winners of RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards). Other honors include National Readers' Choice Awards, the prestigious Catherine Cookson Fiction Prize, and finaling for the UK's Romantic Novel of the Year Award. Her popular and critically acclaimed books are available in translation in more than 20 countries and as audiobooks. She lives in Canada, near the shores of Lake Ontario.