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Featured Alternate and "Heartthrob of the Month"
for Rhapsody and Doubleday Bookclubs
Finalist: Best Historical, Holt Medallion
Beauty and the Spy
by Gayle Callen
of the "Spies and Lovers" trilogy
books do not have to be read in order.)
Charlotte Sinclair is seeking a bit
of adventure in her life--but that doesn't mean she relishes being
kidnapped by a traitor to England!
Straying innocently from a crowded ballroom, she overhears a
conversation, and suddenly she's a captive of Nicholas Wright.
Now Charlotte is
forced to go on the run with a devil who's far too attractive for his
Nick can't believe his bad luck!
His mission for the Crown requires that he pose as a criminal,
and now this meddling beauty threatens to muck everything up. The
last thing he needs is to be saddled with
a willful, spirited, and utterly bewitching woman whose stunning
sensuality is driving him to distraction. And as duty draws them
into peril, Nick is discovering that the greatest danger is one he
to avoid: falling in love!
delightful and highly romantic tale...[a] deep-sigh read."
(The following is the property of the author and Avon Books, and cannot
copied or reprinted without permission.)
A man who looks out of place usually is.
The Secret Journals of a Spymaster
Charlotte Whittington Sinclair stood at
the top of the
marble stairs leading down into Lord Arbury's crowded, overheated
Dressed in her first new ball gown since her year of mourning had
she felt as excited and alive as a seventeen-year-old debutante instead
a mature widow of twenty-three years.
Oh, to be out in society again! During
the final six
months of her marriage she had been forbidden to associate with her
and family, practically imprisoned on her husband's remote estate in
But now she had shed the sad remnants of her marriage along with her
garments and her wedding ring, and was finally free.
Her mother, Lady Whittington, descended
the stairs at
her side, forcing Charlotte into a sedate ladylike pace she chafed at.
noticed that she received the attentive glances of several eligible
but thoughts of another marriage were far from her mind. Some day,
she would do her duty and give her mother grandchildren, but not now.
was for living, and as a widow of means, she was determined to do so.
she could certainly dance and flirt with those gentlemen.
She had been reborn since becoming a
widow, and her
excitement had been further heightened when she'd discovered her
hidden journals just a few days before. She'd always thought her
Viscount Whittington, was merely an officer in the army of the East
Company. But his journals had introduced her to his world as a
a secret he'd kept from them all.
Even now, she alone held the knowledge,
and guarded it
close to her heart where his words enthralled her. Her own life had
stagnant and dull next to her father's, and his journals made her feel
restlessness she'd never imagined before.
At the bottom of the stairs, as friends
them, Lady Whittington gave Charlotte a worried look. Her mother
Charlotte was fragile yet, a woman who hadn't come to terms with all
had happened to her, but Charlotte felt far from being such a pathetic
She accepted the hugs of her longtime friends, and allowed herself to
led away as she fended off their concerned questions. She didn't want
be reminded of the past, so she turned the conversation to the latest
After a half hour's tales of who was
betrothed and who
had retired to the country with child, Charlotte moved on to the
for a glass of champagne. She stood alone for a moment, sipping the
liquid and gazing around her at all the familiar faces. She tried to
herself that this was what she used to live for, the doings of the ton,
somehow, it all seemed rather…dull.
Dull? she reprimanded herself. After
what she'd recently
endured, she should be in her glory. But since she'd devoured her
journals, talk of marriage and offspring seemed rather uninspiring. Her
was still full of dangerous, exciting tales of India and Afghanistan,
barren deserts and bleak mountains. Surely she'd soon settle back into
But did she want to? She stood alone in
a crowd, full
of a knowledge no one else had, ready for the next exciting stage of
life to begin-and what would it be? She tried not to let her
And then she saw him.
A tall man strode along the edges of
the ballroom, his
expression set in a pleasant, false smile-nothing new there. But
was wrong. It was his eyes, she decided as he drew nearer; they were
dark, and they constantly swept over the room, as if looking for
She tried to stop her imagination, for
all this could be. Her head was full of intrigues that were not to be
in Lord Arbury's ballroom. After all, the man did not quite look like
belonged. He was very broad across the chest, something not normally
among men of her acquaintance, although he did do justice to his
clothes. He had black hair, a trifle longer and more unkempt than was
fashionable. His face did not have the grace of a nobleman because of
broad bluntness and square jaw, but it was arresting nonetheless.
As he approached her, she found herself
holding her breath,
some unnameable excitement caught in her chest. Would he speak to her?
came closer and closer, looking bigger and more intimidating than any
she'd ever seen.
Yet his stride did not shorten, and
after giving her
a single appreciative glance that traveled swiftly from her face to the
of her breasts, he moved on past.
Charlotte told herself to feel offended
that he hadn't
even offered a simple "Good evening," that he'd so rudely stared below
face. Yet she turned about and continued to watch him, not caring who
her shocking behavior. She moved back into the crowd, slipping between
of chatting women and bored men. Distantly she heard someone call her
but she ignored whoever it was to concentrate on the back of the
stranger. No one called a greeting to him, as if he knew not a soul
Oh, plenty of ladies noticed his retreat, but turned up their noses at
behavior, as she should be doing.
But she couldn't. She was fascinated
and drawn to the
mystery of him. Where was he going with such single-minded
She stood on her toes and craned her neck; she stooped beneath
elbow so she wouldn't lose sight of him. And then he turned, ducked
a giant fern, and disappeared down a dark corridor that she knew led to
family's private quarters.
She would lay odds that he wasn't a
member of the
Even as her feet continued to carry her
her mystery man, Charlotte told herself to stop. It was none of her
One of the servants would intercept him. Yet no one seemed to notice
but her. All around her, the orchestra music wafted, people jostled her
get to the refreshments or away from someone's determined mama. It was
and loud-and the corridor beckoned her. What would Papa do if he were
by such a dilemma?
With a furtive glance over her
shoulder, she stepped
behind the fern and out of the ballroom. After she took a few quick
into the darkness, the music began to fade, and the stifling heat
Remembering the journals, she pressed herself against the wall and
wondering if her mystery man knew she was following him.
But up ahead she could hear retreating
was getting away from her.
Keeping as close to the wall and the
darker shadows as
she could, Charlotte followed him. The corridor twisted and turned and
up to the second floor, but she was able to remain unseen because once,
ago, she had visited a friend here, when another family had owned the
Since she remembered the layout so well
after only one
visit, maybe she did take after her father a bit, instead of just her
as she'd always assumed.
At last, when she peered around a
corner, she saw her
mystery man disappear into a room and close the door behind him. She
closer to the door, indecision making her heart race. Holding her
she listened, but could hear nothing.
Oh, what did she think she was doing?
Perhaps he was
a guest here, and this was his room. If he caught her-
If he caught her, she would simply lie
and say she was
Having a plan made her feel brave. She
would wait a few
more minutes and see what happened. But she wouldn't wait down the
the way she'd just come-he would likely go back to the ballroom by the
route. She was so proud of herself as she ran silently in her slippers
to the far corner. She ducked around it, then peered out to wait.
When the door suddenly opened, she
covered her mouth
to hold back a squeak of surprise. She'd almost been discovered, and
thought made her breathing erratic and her body tremble. How did a spy
And then her mystery man walked back
the way he'd come.
She caught a glimpse of his face. Now that the fake smile was gone, he
humorless and cold, with a furrow across his brow that made him look
Charlotte told herself to just keep
following him, but
the closed door called to her. She stood outside, her hand on the knob,
tried to discourage herself: it was probably a private room for the men
retreat to, just as the ladies had. She might very well surprise
man in a situation humiliating for them both.
But surely such a room would be near
the ballroom, not
yards’ worth of dark corridors away.
Taking a deep breath, she turned the
handle and pushed
open the door. The room was dark with flickering shadows cast by
wax candles. There was no one inside. She took several hesitant steps
then closed the door behind her. A large bed with an ornate headboard
one wall, decorated with bed curtains tied to four posts. Several
rested on a bedside table. Two wingback chairs faced the bare hearth,
a desk for correspondence was against the far wall next to a massive
and a washstand.
Charlotte groaned and covered her face
with her hand.
She had followed a guest to his bedchamber.
Yet in the center of the room someone
had placed a small
table, on which rested a tray bearing two glasses and several crystal
Why in the center of the room? Wouldn't one constantly stumble over it?
As she stood staring at the table, she
loud footsteps echo down the corridor, as if her mystery man cared
who heard him coming. And why should he? He was going to his own room!
Mortified, she did the most foolish
thing she could-she
opened the wardrobe and climbed inside, pulling it almost closed except
a crack. She was surrounded by silks and merinos and brocades, and
realized that these were a woman's garments. They draped over her head
almost interfered with her breathing. Her mystery man must be preparing
lover's room for an illicit liaison-and because of her own stupidity,
was going to be forced to witness it.
As the bedroom door opened, she called
kind of fool. She wished she'd thought to cover her ears, but now if
moved, the rustle of her clothing would give her away. Feeling
she tried to breathe normally.
"Is the room satisfactory?" said a male
"This is a foolish place to meet," said
"The house is full of people."
Her eyes wide, Charlotte stared out
through the crack
between the wardrobe doors. Thank goodness this wasn't a love affair.
first man who'd spoken had been her mystery man, with a deep, gravelly
that matched his unusual countenance. The other man was shorter,
in a stout manner, with a harsh face that looked like he'd seen much of
streets. Though he was dressed formally, he looked ill at ease.
Her mystery man smiled grimly. "The
mansion may be full
of people, but they're all clustered in the ballroom, including the
I had to be at this function. You're the one who insisted on meeting me
The other man poured himself a drink
from the decanter.
"You gave me no choice. How did you find out about the woman?"
"Does it matter?" Her mystery man
crossed his arms over
his chest, looking as comfortable as if he owned everything in sight.
it to say that I know she betrayed England. She can go on doing it for
I care. I only want to be rewarded for my silence."
Charlotte's disappointment in him felt
deep and personal,
as if she'd known him her whole life. He was nothing better than a
a traitor himself since he didn't care about England. He knew about a
being committed, and all he cared about was bribery money? She wanted
leap out of the wardrobe and reprimand him, to see that both of these
went to prison.
But such actions would only get her
killed, she realized,
as a lump of fear settled in her stomach. Oh God, what should she do?
The short man took a long drink,
grimaced at the taste,
then eyed the other man speculatively. "I could have you killed for
"And I could kill you right now," her
mystery man countered
pleasantly. "But other people know where we are, don't they? Should I
you-and your lady traitor-will have even more men following you."
Charlotte's nose suddenly started to
tickle where it
was pressed against silk, and her breathing grew quick and panicked.
life depended on controlling a sneeze!
The short man laughed humorlessly.
"You've thought of
everything. I'll have to return to my employer and see what she says."
"There might be a problem if she's
leaving London. Is
The short man just shrugged.
"Then there's nothing more to say," her
mystery man said.
"I need my money. I'll pick the time and date of my choosing and leave
message for you at the same inn. When we next meet, you'll have the
Charlotte's eyes watered; she scrunched
up her face,
but to no avail. A loud sneeze erupted from her, and she backed as far
the wardrobe as she could, as if the garments could still protect and
One of the men said, "What the hell-"
She groaned as their quick footsteps
approached the wardrobe.
The doors were flung wide, and hands reached blindly through the
When an arm brushed her body, she gave a cry of shock. Someone gripped
about the waist and hauled her out into the room. She found herself
up into the angry face of her mystery man.
She kicked him in the shins and
frantically tried to
escape. He caught her about the waist, pinning her against his side as
reached her arms toward the door. She opened her mouth to scream, and
covered it with his big hand.
"Ease up, girl," he said harshly into
her ear from behind
her. "You're not going anywhere, so you can stop struggling."
Panting, she nodded her head and
slumped in defeat. Oh
why had she read her father's journals? Before, she would never have
so foolish as to follow a stranger. Her eyes stung with tears she tried
to shed, but she was so terrified.
The short man glared at her. "I thought
you said you'd
secured the room."
"I did. Something went wrong."
At her back, her mystery man's deep
through her. She hiccupped on a sob.
"She heard too much," the short man
his eyes cold. "She has to die."
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