Baroness Gillian Chauncey thought she’d seen everything during her years of devotion to England. But as war escalates and political bonds are severed, a devastating betrayal forces Gillian to make a life or death decision to save the man she loves.
Lord Simon Danbury’s loyalty to the crown has never been questioned — until now. As death’s darkening veil cascades over London, a hostile mole inside Nelson’s Tea tries to assassinate him. Surrounded by the greatest spies in England, only one thing stands to defeat him — losing the one woman who has made life worth living.
EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK
“DO YOU REALLY think this will be the last time we are all gathered together?” Gillian moved into Simon’s welcoming embrace, swallowing back a heart wrenching sob.
Ten minutes had passed since Garrick had left the townhouse. Ten long minutes of watching Simon’s brows furrow ever tighter, deepening until the aristocratic lines of his handsome face were grossly disfigured. Gillian couldn’t bear the ugly transformation, for his expression only hinted at the war building inside him. His steadfast code of morality and honor had consistently succeeded in suppressing his own needs and desires. What of sorrow? Would the news of Nelson’s death prove a more impenetrable shield? Could she shore up this wounded man’s agony? And more importantly, how could she if she tried?
In the past, their separations had been purely physical, an exhausting distance no preoccupation could eliminate. Today, her new enemy held greater influence on Simon’s emotions than marriage vows and honor. And she knew well enough the folly of ignoring this new foe. She’d seen what despair had done to Garrick.
She ran her fingers over Simon’s shoulders, luxuriating in the feel of the exquisite lines of his tailored morning coat. They were as close as they could possibly be, and yet the distance had never been further. Too much stood between them, Lady Danbury’s and Nelson’s deaths, the fate of Nelson’s Tea, their unspoken feelings. Did he feel it too? She’d long dreamed of sharing a deeper intimacy with this man who haunted her days and nights, absorbing his scent of sandalwood and spice, taking all of him, holding nothing back. Now she suppressed a shiver in the resounding quiet. Her long wait for Simon had come to an end at last, hadn’t it? But at what cost.
Her heart cried out with longing. He was no longer married. He could be hers, if not for the sorrowful voices haunting their lives or the ones they heard pulsating throughout the city.
Nelson is dead! Nelson is dead!
Simon inhaled deeply, breaking the uncomfortable silence. “We cannot fail. Our business is not only risky, it relies solely on His Majesty’s grace. With Nelson’s assistance, leadership, and guidance, we were assured good measure. No longer.”
She hesitated to ask why. “And now?”
Surely King George respected Simon enough to allow him to continue Nelson’s Tea after he and Lucien had saved the king’s life at Drury Lane?
His winded sigh heightened her doubts. “I’m not as certain as I once was. Without Nelson at the helm, Nelson’s Tea’s motivation is gone. Once morale is gone—”
“Not all gone,” she said, clinging to him as if her life depended on it. And it did. Simon was everything to her. He was her night and day, her moral compass. He was the most intelligent man she’d ever met. His skill at disguise, his mastery of language, culture, and stratagem far outweighed any nobles servicing England in the House of Lords or the Admiralty Board. He stepped back, only slightly, and lifted her chin, tilting her face up to his. Her gaze traveled from the lapels of his coat to his starched cravat, upper neck, and chin, finally settling on his generous sensual mouth. She held her breath as hundreds of butterflies fluttered to break free from her chest and waited for him to speak as if her very life depended on his next words.
“You and I are not of this world, are we?”
She closed her eyes absorbing his warmth like she’d been deprived of the noonday sun. “I am part of any world you reside in, Simon. I would follow you anywhere.”
When he said nothing, she opened her eyes, suppressing the chill that swept over her. Why wouldn’t he let go and just be? She leaned toward him, absorbing the power emanating from his body.
Dark hair draped over his forehead as he glanced down at her. Heaven help her, she was a selfish woman. She trembled with desire, wanting his mouth on hers, longing to know how he tasted. She wanted assurances, his promise that their dreams of being together hadn’t been crushed. It was wrong to desire these things, so very wrong. It was too soon.