A Spy Unmasked

A Spy Unmasked

by Tina Gabrielle
A Spy Unmasked

A Spy Unmasked

by Tina Gabrielle

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Overview

London, 1820

The mission did not go quite as Robert Ware--known in society as the new Earl of Kirkland--planned. A spy in the service of His Majesty, Robert is a "guest" at a masquerade party as he retrieves vital information for a murder investigation. Until he's quite unexpectedly interrupted by an exquisite, masked woman with glittering green eyes. And a pistol she has cocked and aimed right at him...

Lady Sophia Merrill has defiantly taken up justice's shining sword, determined to expose the brigand who murdered her eccentric but brilliant father, and stole his latest invention. Now she must masquerade as Robert's betrothed in order to infiltrate the Inventor's Society and find the killer. But the undeniable potent attraction between them not only imperils the investigation, but Sophia's reputation... and both of their lives.


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781633751330
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC
Publication date: 11/10/2014
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: eBook
Pages: 285
Sales rank: 589,994
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Award-winning author Tina Gabrielle is an attorney and former mechanical engineer whose love of reading for pleasure helped her get through years of academia. After multipublishing for a prestigious law journal, she fulfilled her dream of writing fiction. She is also the author of adventurous Regency historical romances In the Barrister's Bed, In the Barrister's Chambers, Lady of Scandal, and A Perfect Scandal from Kensington Books.

A Spy Unmasked is the first book of the In The Crown's Secret Service series. The second book in the series, At the Spy's Pleasure, is coming soon from Entangled Publishing.

Tina's books have been Barnes&Noble top picks, and her first book, Lady of Scandal, was nominated as best first historical by Romantic Times Book Reviews.


Bestselling author Tina Gabrielle is an attorney and mechanical engineer whose love of reading for pleasure helped her get through years of academia. Tina also writes the bestselling Kebab Kitchen Mediterranean cozy mystery series as Tina Kashian. She grew up in the restaurant business, as her Armenian parents owned a restaurant for thirty years. English is her second language. Tina’s books have been Barnes&Noble top picks, and her first book, Lady Of Scandal, was nominated as Best First Historical by Romantic Times Book Reviews. Tina lives in New Jersey and is married to her own hero and is blessed with two daughters.
tinagabrielle.com

Read an Excerpt

A Spy Unmasked

An in the Crown's Secret Service Novel


By Tina Gabrielle, Terese Ramin

Entangled Publishing, LLC

Copyright © 2014 Tina Sickler
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-63375-133-0


CHAPTER 1

May 10, 1820

London, Viscount Delmont's ballroom


Robert Ware adjusted his black half mask and sipped a glass of claret as he surveyed the glittering ballroom. Tonight was supposed to be an ordinary mission, similar to the countless other clandestine operations he had carried out.

The Delmonts' masquerades were rumored to be quite dissolute, and from the look of the guests this party lived up to that reputation. Well past midnight, expensive champagne continued to flow freely. A voluptuous blonde with a dazzling diamond necklace and a vast amount of cleavage boldly met his eyes and licked her painted lips.

Robert grinned and raised his glass in silent salute. Ah, for king and country, he mused.

A liveried footman carrying a silver tray halted beside him. "Viscount Delmont's guards are now making the rounds in his private wing," the man whispered.

Robert swapped the claret for a flute of champagne from the server's tray without making eye contact with him.

Ian MacDonald was a fellow agent assigned to observe Lord Delmont's men while Robert carried out his assignment. Unobtrusive, of average height and build with brown hair and eyes, Ian easily blended in with a crowd.

"How much time will I have?" Robert asked.

"A half hour."

A half hour. Little time to retrieve the package and quit the place before the guards made their next rotation.

A booming laugh drew Robert's attention. Lord Delmont stood in the corner of the ballroom. He was unmasked and talking to three other men. As the head of the London Inventors' Society, the viscount's interests lay in chemistry. He was a bear of a man with a chest the size of a small armoire, meaty hands, and a short neck that gave him the appearance that his head rested directly upon his shoulders. By the look of Delmont's florid complexion and glassy eyes, he was well on his way to being drunk.

"I wonder what he says about the murders," Robert murmured.

"You mean to speak to the man? That's not part of the plan."

"He's not the mastermind behind the killings."

Ian focused his gaze over Robert's shoulder. "You'll have to wait for another opportunity to engage Delmont. The guards have returned to the ballroom."

Time to go. Robert drained his glass, placed it on Ian's tray and slipped out of the crowded ballroom into the hall. Voices of revelers echoed off the black-and-white Italian marble floor, crystal clinked, and a woman's trill of laughter followed.

He smiled at a group of bejeweled ladies and made a show of heading for the ornately carved staircase leading outside. As soon as the group passed, he turned right into Delmont's private wing. He paused to allow his eyes to adjust from the brightness of the ballroom chandeliers to the low-burning candles in wall sconces that dimly illuminated the corridor. Gilt-framed portraits of the viscount's ancestors peered down at him with haughty disdain as he moved past. He ventured farther, his footsteps muffled by the thick Brussels runner.

The library occupied the last door on the right. He had memorized the layout of the mansion weeks ago, as soon as Wendover, his superior at the Home Office, had advised him of the mission—one for which Robert had been handpicked.

Crack the safe. Retrieve Delmont's documents. If you are apprehended, the Crown will deny your involvement.

All things Robert knew. His unexpected and recently inherited title from his uncle—the Earl of Kirkland—could not change his past. He was a soldier in an invisible army. He would never be a decorated war hero. There were no medals, no accolades for men like him.

He reached the library and opened the door an inch.

Empty.

Slipping inside, he quietly closed the door. Moonlight through the French doors behind a rosewood pedestal desk partly illuminated the room. It would have to be sufficient as he dared not light a lamp.

He scanned the space, his mind calculating where a safe might be hidden. Behind a priceless Rembrandt painting. Beneath the parquet floor under the desk. Perhaps behind a false stone in the mantle.

He found it built into a tall mahogany bookshelf. The gilded spines of the books gave it away. A complete set of Johnathan Swift's first-edition treasures. A rarity, indeed.

Pushing the books aside, he ran his fingers along the inside of the shelf until he felt a latch. There was a slight click when he pressed it and a panel swung open to reveal a formidable strongbox of hardwood with steel bands. His lips curled in a smile as he reached out to caress the lock.

"Ah, a Richmond Company lock," he whispered reverently.

He must use nondestructive manipulation. No one must suspect the safe had been tampered with until Lord Delmont went to retrieve his treasonous documents.

Robert withdrew his lock picks from his pocket and went to work.

Fifteen minutes later the safe was open and he stared at a pile of banknotes six inches thick and a fortune in rubies and diamonds.

He reached past the banknotes and jewels to retrieve a battered, leather-bound ledger and a sheaf of papers from the back of the safe. Tucking them inside the jacket pocket of his blue superfine, he closed the safe and secured the panel.

He was arranging the books in their precise order when he heard a rustle of clothing outside the door.

Bloody hell.

Slipping behind the end of the bookshelf, he reached for the blade in his boot just as the library door cracked open. He clutched one of the books in his left hand, preparing to throw it, when a figure entered the room.

"Who's there?"

A woman's voice.

She came forward, slowly stepping into a swath of moonlight until her features were fully illuminated.

His first impression struck him like a blow to the gut: she does not belong here. She was tall and slim and possessed a wild beauty. Among the garishly dressed women in the ballroom, she would stand out like fine Italian glass beside rough-cut jars.

She had fiery red hair. Odd, he'd never found females with such bright hair attractive. But this one was different. She wore a peacock-feathered mask and a turquoise gown. Her bodice was low, though nothing as vulgar as the other female guests in attendance. Yet it was her eyes that drew him. Not blue, as he would have expected with the flame-colored hair, but a mesmerizing green that glittered like emeralds from the slits of her mask.

He paused, slipping the knife back into his boot before stepping away from the shelf.

"Who are you?" she called out.

He assumed an air of nonchalance. "Merely a guest of Lord Delmont's," he said, advancing toward her.

Full lips parted, then closed, and she raised a pistol that had been hidden in the folds of her skirts. "Please do not move. I'm not afraid to use this," she said, aiming the pistol at him.

He concealed his surprise. Her grip on the weapon was firm, but her voice was not. Could she be working for Delmont?

He hadn't believed the viscount was solely responsible for the secretive agenda behind the Inventors' Society. Robert had suspected a mastermind behind the murders, but never had he thought a woman was involved.

He flashed his most charming smile. "Careful," he murmured. "Is it loaded?"

"Of course it's loaded," she snapped.

"What's your name?" he asked.

"What's yours?"

"As we are both masked, let's keep it mysterious. You may call me Robert."

"All right," she said. "What are you doing in here, Robert?"

"I needed to escape the heat and noise of the ballroom."

"That's what the terrace is for."

"Ah, but I thought to read."

She glanced at the book in his hand. "Gulliver's Travels? I'd hardly mark you as a man inclined to read Swift."

"How intriguing. What type of man do you believe I am?"

"A false one. Are you one of Viscount Delmont's spies?"

"A spy? I have no idea what you mean. I already told you. I'm a guest."

His eyes narrowed, and he studied her more closely. If she was employed by Delmont, then she would have known he was not. So who the hell was she?

"You're lying." She jerked her head in the direction of the bookshelf. "What's there?"

He shrugged. "Books."

Keeping the pistol aimed at him, she went to the bookshelf and moved one of the books.

The false panel was in place and was sufficient to conceal the strongbox.

Unless one knew what to look for.

Robert contemplated a swift blow to the head, nothing to cause permanent harm, just enough to render her unconscious. But if she wasn't working for Delmont, then that would leave her at the mercy of his ruthless guards.

With an unladylike oath beneath her breath, she whirled back to him. "Did you find what you were searching for?" she said.

Her eyes, visible through the openings in her mask, betrayed her fear. He could almost hear the pounding of blood in her veins. He was skilled at reading people, not only the truth behind their words, but their visceral physical reactions, and she was scared.

Scared and desperate.

"I don't know what you're talking about," he said.

Biting her bottom lip, she cocked the hammer. "Show me your pockets."

This was getting out of hand. His voice hardened. "Give me the gun before it accidently fires. This isn't a game."

She raised her chin in defiance. "A game! I'll fire if I'm forced to. Now give me what you've stolen."

"You don't intend to hurt anyone," he said.

"How do you know my intentions?"

"My intuition tells me you are in over your head."

"Then your intuition is wrong."

His laughter had a sharp edge. "When it comes to life and limb, I'm never wrong."

He stepped closer until he was within inches of the barrel of the pistol.

Her hand trembled. "No closer. Please ..."

"Lady, we must leave here. It's not safe."

She shook her head. "Not until you hand over what you've stolen."

A door opened and closed at the far end of the corridor. Male voices followed.

Damnation.

A swift glance at the minute hand on the long case clock in the corner of the room told him they were running out of time.

The woman must have heard it, too. A glazed look of panic shone in her eyes. "Show me!"

The voices were closer now, just outside the library door. It was too late; one of Delmont's guards would be upon them within seconds.

The handle on the door turned ...

In one smooth motion, he pushed her hand aside, grasped the pistol from her fingers, and jerked her into his arms. "Not a sound," he ordered.

She gasped in alarm as the door burst open, and Robert lowered his head and swooped down to capture her lips.

CHAPTER 2

Sophia Merrill had seconds to comprehend it all. He roughly wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her against a mainmast of solid, male muscle. Through the black half mask she could make out brilliant blue eyes, their color like polished sapphires, and then his mouth covered hers with commanding mastery. Beneath the hardness of his lips she felt instantly overwhelmed and overpowered. The heat from his body enveloped her; the faint scent of his cologne coiled about her. Heart fluttering wildly, she raised her palms to press against his chest.

The door slammed against the wall.

"What are you two doing in here?" a male voice boomed.

Delmont's guard was a bald, brawny man with a square jaw and a bulbous nose.

Sophia jerked in alarm, but the arms of her tawny-haired captor tightened around her waist. Glancing down, he gave her a pointed keep-your-mouth-shut look.

Then he turned to the guard, and a guiltless smile curved his lips. "Ah, the lady and I desired a bit of privacy." Slurring his speech, he sounded like a guest who had made one too many trips to the punch bowl.

Masking her surprise, she went along with the ruse. Her position was precarious, and even if she did not know what his motives were, her own were not innocent, nothing she desired to be brought to Viscount Delmont's attention. Her disguise, the red wig and mask, wouldn't fool the viscount for long, and her identity was something she couldn't risk revealing.

For some reason, this mysterious man—the man who had called himself Robert—was bent on protecting her.

Or himself.

She stole a glance up at him. He was tall and although she was not petite, he made her feel small as he held her tightly against him. He cocked his head to the side, his tawny hair changing in the shafts of moonlight—blond, light brown, then darker—slightly longer than fashion dictated.

The guard hesitated, his eyes narrowing to slits. "How did you get in here? This wing is prohibited."

Robert hiccupped and swayed. "Pardon our intrusion. How does the saying go? Lovers will find a way?"

Her legs shook so badly she feared she would have fallen if not for the arm lashed around her waist. Yet he showed no sign of anxiety or tension. Rather he was like a chameleon, an actor of great skill, able to change his demeanor, his personality, his very essence in order to adapt to his environment.

One thing was clear: he was not one of Delmont's men. The guard would have known him, or worse, Robert would have turned her over to Delmont himself at this first opportunity.

Then who on earth was he?

The guard smirked. His gaze boldly swept over her body and lingered at her breasts. "I don't blame you, my lord, but you'll have to leave, nonetheless."

Robert made a jovial wave with his hand. "We shall return to the ballroom at once."

He released his hold on her waist to clutch her hand. When he led her around the end of the rosewood desk, she intended to follow him straight out the library door, but tripped on an object. Glancing down, she saw the leather-bound copy of Gulliver's Travels, which must have dropped when he jerked her into his arms. She immediately tried to hide the incriminating novel with a swish of her skirts.

It was too late. The guard's eyes narrowed speculatively as he spotted the book.

"Stop!" He barreled toward them.

Robert moved so fast, his fists blurred. His swift punch to the guard's stomach caused the man to double over.

She shrieked and leaped to the side as the guard charged headfirst for Robert, sending both men down. The pistol clattered across the parquet floor. They wrestled for control of the weapon; an end table toppled and a lamp shattered.

The deafening crack of the pistol firing resounded through the room.

For a heart-stopping moment, she feared Robert had been hit.

Then he rose with the pistol in his hand. Blood flowed from the guard's chest and began pooling on the floor.

Shouts sounded and were followed by screams from panicked guests in the vestibule.

"Good God!" she shrieked. "Is he dead?"

He grasped her arms and shook her. "Are you going to faint?"

"No!"

"Good, because we have seconds before more guards arrive."

He caught her hand and pulled her to the French doors behind the desk. Throwing them open, he dragged her into the back gardens.

A thousand questions rose in her mind, but self-preservation outweighed her curiosity.

Escape.

She had to escape before she was captured and murdered.

Just like Father.

"Move!" He started to run, pulling her with him.

Clutching her skirts in one hand, she followed as he headed away from the manicured lawns, toward the wooded acreage separating the mansion from town.

Her voluminous skirts hindered her, and sharp stones bit into the dainty soles of her ballroom slippers. A drizzling rain had begun to fall, leaving the grass wet, and she slipped. His hold was like an iron manacle about her wrist, catching her before she fell.

Shouts sounded from the open library doors. "In here!"

"He's dead!" another called out.

"Find them!"

She could hear the screams of panicked guests as they fled from the ballroom and crowded together on the front lawn.

Robert and Sophia sprinted past a fountain, stone benches, marble statues of Roman gods and goddesses. Running past a formal maze, they made it through the tended section of the gardens, and reached a dense copse of trees.

They continued to run, weaving through tall elm and oak trees.

The terrain was wild here, and brambles snagged her skirts. Sticks snapped beneath her slippers, and she was forced to leap over low brush. Her chest heaved in her tight bodice, and her breaths came in rasps.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from A Spy Unmasked by Tina Gabrielle, Terese Ramin. Copyright © 2014 Tina Sickler. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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