Brazen Heiressby Elizabeth Boyle
Napoleon lusted for her fortune while Paris swooned at her feet. Adelaide de Chevenoy, claimant to the de Chevenoy fortune, captivated jaded Parisians with her fresh beauty and mysterious past. No one suspected that the newly returned heiress was really Lily D'Artiers Copeland, Adelaide's
Femme Fatale . . .
Napoleon lusted for her fortune while Paris swooned at her feet. Adelaide de Chevenoy, claimant to the de Chevenoy fortune, captivated jaded Parisians with her fresh beauty and mysterious past. No one suspected that the newly returned heiress was really Lily D'Artiers Copeland, Adelaide's dazzling double, sent by the British government to retrieve a cache of priceless journals. At her side was the aristocratic adventurer who had lured her into spying, a man she'd spent her whole life trying not to love. . . .
Gentleman Spy . . .
Bold, dashing Webb Dryden remembered the reckless hoyden who'd pursued him as a child. But this Lily, transformed into a woman who stole his breath away--seemed frustratingly indifferent to his charms. Posing as her fiancé, Webb planned to work undercover, but Lily's brazen ways commanded the attention of Napoleon's intrigue-filled court. Suddenly Lily was more than Webb bargained for, a beauty who touched his heart and haunted his dreams, inciting passions that imperiled their very lives. . . .
- Random House Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.75(d)
Read an Excerpt
Lily D'Artiers Copeland walked up the wide stone steps to the main entrance of Byrnewood, her afternoon stroll in the rare bit of November sunshine having revived her spirits.
As she entered the house, a maid immediately approached her.
"Mrs. Copeland, Lady Trahern would like to see you in the study." The girl eyed her disheveled appearance with a critical gaze as she held out her hand for Lily's wrap. "There's company as well."
Mercy and Mary, she thought. She'd hoped to arrive back from her walk before Adam and his mother arrived. They'd escorted her to England and promised to visit her at her sister's home after Adam had finished his first round of business in London.
Lily glanced down at the borrowed gown she wore. Since her trunks had been delayed in reaching Byrnewood, she'd borrowed several of her aunt's gowns since nothing her petite sister wore would ever fit Lily's tall frame. Luckily, their aunt, Lady Larkhall, lived on the adjoining property and she and Lily were of the same height and roughly the same weight, a testament to their shared Ramsey heritage. However, all her aunt had been able to offer were gowns cut in the severest fashion for mourning, which she had worn ever since her beloved husband's passing.
Though it was almost a year since her own husband's death, Lily had hoped to arrive in England well out of mourning. Now it seemed her mourning was destined to follow her, a mockery of the lack of grief she'd felt over Thomas's untimely death.
She peeked in the mirror and sighed.
The black gown enveloped her like a shroud, paling her already fair features. Her hair, blown from the wind and adorned with bits of twigs and leaves left over from her climb through a thicket to find her way back to the main path, looked as if birds had taken to building a nest in it. Even her face hadn't been spared, for there was a good-sized smudge of dirt along her cheek down to her chin.
Holding out the skirt, she realized the hem and a fair portion of the petticoats beneath were muddied from her cross-country jaunt as well.
Unwilling to face her always flawless sister and her company in this state of déshabillé, she started for her room to change into another of her aunt's proffered gowns.
"Oh, no, miss," the maid said, "you were wanted in the study as soon as you came in. Her ladyship was most insistent."
I've made a mull of it this time, Lily thought as she ventured over to the imposing dark oak door that guarded Giles's study from interruption. At least Adam will have brought my trunks, she thought.
Lightly she tapped on the door until her sister bade her enter.
Lily walked into the room slowly, unsure why Sophia had sequestered their company in the relative discomfort of Giles's study. But the moment she set foot in the room, she realized she'd been mistaken about Adam's arrival.
Sophia and her husband sat on the horrible horsehair couch Giles kept for his less-favored guests. Wondering at this strange arrangement, Lily then noticed the elderly man rising from her brother-in-law's usual place behind the desk.
Though it had been five years since she'd last seen him, Lily recognized him instantly. And he was the last man in England she wanted to find staring at her with his perceptive and piercing gaze.
"Lord Dryden, how pleasant to see you again," she said, her voice coming out scratchy, still chilled from her stroll.
"Been walking, eh, Lily?" Lord Dryden commented, his gaze falling to the muddied hem of her gown. "Good girl. Makes for a hearty constitution. My wife takes a stroll every day, and she's more fit and fine than most women half her age."
"Yes, well, it seemed like such a nice day, I didn't want to miss the opportunity." Lily hoped her words sounded light and airy, belaying the anxiety that now sent her heart racing.
Lord Dryden? The head of England's Foreign Office?
This summons wasn't the result of some passing fancy of Lord Dryden's to call on his best agents; rather, it meant business.
Could it be that . . . She mentally shrugged off the wild thoughts which followed her speculations. Glancing shyly at the other occupants, she couldn't see any indication she was about to be hauled away for treason.
Giles, Sophia, and even the normally cantankerous Lord Dryden wore such false smiles plastered on their faces, she felt sure that if she announced she'd just set fire to the west wing, they'd offer her a cheerful round of "huzzahs."
"Have a seat, my girl," Lord Dryden said, waving his hand toward the unoccupied chair before the desk.
Slowly, she settled into the large chair and glanced about the room. The door to the garden stood propped open. A chilly notion for November, but not unlike Giles or Sophia, who were both enthusiasts for fresh air.
Really, nothing appeared amiss about Giles's orderly study, other than the odd demeanor of the threesome around her.
Lord Dryden turned to Sophia. "Perhaps you should do the honors, my lady. She may have an easier time of it coming from you."
Lily's breath stilled in her throat. She'd known this might happen, been duly warned this was one of the risks she would take if she chose to . . .
"Don't look so worried, Lily." Sophia's instant smile and first statement eased her runaway imagination. "Everyone is fine. No one has died."
"Then what is it?" she managed to ask, hoping her calm words belied her thundering heart.
"It's Lucien," her sister said.
Lucien? Lily thought. What does he have to do with my being in England? Perhaps nothing, but she'd never know until she asked. "Have you word from Paris?"
"Well in a way, yes." Sophia sighed. "I suppose I will just come out and say it. I'm afraid my work for Lord Dryden has placed our family in grave danger. In fact, it may jeopardize all our lives if we ever choose to return to France."
Whatever was Sophia getting at? "Well, you can rest assured I have no plans of going back there anytime soon." Lily started to rise from her seat.
"We need you to go to Paris, my lady." Lord Dryden's abrupt announcement stopped Lily in her tracks.
"Sir, I hardly think that would be prudent," Lily replied. "My sister just said--"
"Your sister didn't tell you all of it," he said. "Sit back down and listen."
As much as she wanted to refuse, Lord Dryden's tone commanded respect and brooked no resistance. She returned to the entombing depths of the wingback chair.
Over the next twenty minutes, as he made his unbelievable case for her to go to Paris and impersonate Adelaide de Chevenoy, Lily could only stare at the man. Her sister and brother-in-law remained mute, other than to add an occasional nod to underline the importance of Lord Dryden's plan.
Even as he drew to his concluding argument about the "delicate balance by which so many lives hang," Lily knew there was a missing element in his scheme.
Something he was deliberately leaving out.
"So as you can see, we need you, Lily. Make no bones about it, I am loathe to send someone of your innocent nature and tender age into such a dangerous situation, but I have no other choice."
She sat for a moment in the stillness of the study and considered how to craft her reply.
"Lily, you will be in no immediate danger," Sophia assured her.
Lily didn't deign to give a response to her sister's words. Who was Sophia kidding? If caught, she'd be shot, or worse. But it wasn't the fear of being arrested that made her give the only reply she could to Lord Dryden.
She didn't have the time. Not right now.
"I'm sorry to disappoint you, my lord, but I cannot go to Paris," she said. "I came to visit my sister under the tightest of constraints. I am set to sail home in three months time and cannot miss my sailing."
"We'll have you back to England before anyone misses you, my dear," he promised her.
She shook her head. "I came here to go shopping in London, and Sophia has already scheduled appointments for me with all the best dressmakers. I've been wearing mourning for so long, and when I return home, I would like to be done with my widow's weeds."
"You'll be allowed to do all that before you go to Paris," he told her. "You'll need a completely new wardrobe if you are to appear as the de Chevenoy heiress. I've sent for Madame Volnay, who is the best modiste in London. She and her assistants will attend to all your needs from here."
Oh, how thoughtful, she wanted to say. Racking her brain for more excuses, Lily cast out a hodgepodge of them, hoping one would work.
"It's been years since I've seen my sister and brother-in-law and I've promised each of my aunts a good visit," she said. "I just don't see how I can do what you ask and get in my other family obligations. And what will I say to Mr. Saint-Jean? He and his mother were so kind to chaperone me on the crossing. I'm expecting them to arrive any minute and they were so looking forward to spending a fortnight with us here. What would I tell them if I were to so blithely disappear right after their arrival?"
"We can tell the Saint-Jeans our aunt in York is ill, and since I am in no condition to travel, you have been called to her bedside," Sophia suggested.
Damn you, Sophia, Lily thought. Her sister had a convenient lie for every occasion.
"I truly have my heart set on spending time with all of you, as well as the children. Perhaps in the spring I could return and then we could discuss this matter." She smiled hopefully at her sister.
"Aren't you listening, Lily?" Sophia began, in that know-it-all tone that Lily detested. Her very pregnant sister struggled to her feet. "Lucien is in France this very minute. His life is at stake. You can't turn your back on our family because you might be inconvenienced. Do you think you would be alive if I hadn't taken the very same risks?"
At this, Lily's temper flared. How like Sophia to throw it in her face as if the entire situation were her fault.
She rose from her chair and faced her sister with equal tenacity. "You should have realized by choosing to ally yourself with England, your actions would eventually place our family in danger. Your misdeeds, sister, are jeopardizing Lucien's life, not my unwillingness to die fixing them for you."
For a moment, a rigid, inflexible silence held the room in an uneasy thrall as the two sisters, more alike than either cared to admit, stared at each like warring barn cats.
Giles broke the tension by coming to his wife's side and guiding her back to her place on the couch. "Sophia, Lily has every right to refuse this request. We have lived too long with danger at our backs, not to remember that others do not find it a natural way of things." He smiled up at Lily. "Lord Dryden only makes this request because you favor Adelaide so closely. In both age and beauty."
He picked up a gilt-framed miniature from his desk and pressed it into her hand. "See for yourself, Lily-bee," he said, using his old nickname for her. "The two of you could be twins. And if things had been different, you might even have been friends." He nodded for her to examine the likeness.
Lily's anger cooled some at Giles's words. But then he always had that effect on her, though she hated the way he so easily smoothed her ruffled emotions. She resisted looking at the portrait for as long as she could, but her curiosity soon won out and she gazed down at the girl staring up at her from her timeless cage of gilt and oil paint.
In those seconds, she felt herself transported back in time, to her childhood, before the revolution in France had ripped her world apart.
She saw herself then--the pampered and spoiled daughter of a respected comte, growing up in a fairy-tale château, staying in the family apartments at Versailles.
Adelaide would have been a friend, just as Giles said. They might have gone to the same convent school near Paris, shared secret hopes of marriage, and eventually been presented to the King and Queen in all the glory and honor generations before them had been granted.
She shook her head. No, she wouldn't fall prey to Giles's planted sentiment. Everything from that life was gone, as lost as Adelaide's own brief existence.
Lily had her own life to live, and that meant being in London not Paris.
And no one would convince her otherwise.
"I don't think I'm the right woman to send," she demurred. And though it galled her to say it, she continued. "I haven't your cleverness or courage, Sophia. I am sure I would fail or make some other mistake. Sending me would be a disaster."
"Not to worry, my girl," Lord Dryden interjected, "I'd not send you into that nefarious city without someone to keep you from harm."
Lily watched as her brother-in-law nodded in agreement. Was Giles going to leave Sophia right before her confinement? The situation was grave indeed and for a moment she wondered if she could possibly spare the time and venture to Paris. If only to see that Lucien remained safe.
"Do you think it wise for you to leave Sophia, Giles?" she asked.
"I'm not going, Lily," he said. "Lord Dryden has assigned his best agent to assist you. I'm sure you, of all people, will be quite pleased with the arrangement."
She didn't like the way he almost smirked as he said it. If not Giles, then who else could Lord Dryden consider sending to Paris?
Clearing his throat, Lord Dryden continued with his fatherly assurances. "Lily, I will make every arrangement possible to see you are sent home in time for whatever obligations you feel you cannot miss. And as for being clever or brave, you look a sturdy enough girl to me, and capable as well. You'll be just fine. Consider this your great adventure." He continued outlining her qualifications and the steps he was taking to ensure her safety.
Lily only half listened, absently twisting the small garnet ring on her finger while she considered her options. She had to be in London by the first week in January, but to tell Lord Dryden why was impossible.
She needed a reason that even he would consider important enough to call off his entire scheme.
She glanced down at the ring, an odd piece her father-in-law had given her just before his death. The gold band fit her finger precisely, and for some reason she'd continued to wear the whimsical piece, even before she'd known its true significance or why Thomas's father had asked her to wear it. Something about the bumblebee insignia and the eyes made of deep claret stones--which even now twinkled in the sharp sunlight streaming through the windows--had attracted her to the strange piece. Looking up and outside, she spied the dense, green foliage of the maze, a harsh reminder of her last visit to Byrnewood.
The visit in which her foolish, girlish fancies of love and matrimony had died.
And you thought by now you would be wed to that heartless wretch.
Married and blissfully happy.
In an instant, as she momentarily mourned the future she'd envisioned as a girl, she found her excuse.
A reason so good, so compelling, not even Lord Dryden could continue his plaguing arguments.
Taking a deep breath, she announced, "I couldn't possibly go to France. I've been loathe to reveal this, as it was to be a surprise, bu
Webb Dryden had stood outside listening through the open garden door long enough. Lily's early protests seemed likely enough, but this blatant lie about her alleged nuptials, . . . well, it was time to call an end to her charade.
Once she realized who her partner would be, he thought, she would forget this imaginary bridegroom and be more than willing to go to Paris. While the notion sounded vain, everyone knew Lily D'Artiers held a deep tendresse for him, and if he must use her feelings for the safekeeping of his country so be it.
He'd just have to remember to find a way to double-lock his bedroom and bar the windows while they were on assignment together. She was, after all, a more experienced woman than she had been at fifteen, and a widow to boot, he'd learned in the last hour.
"Married again? Who are you following around now?" Webb said as he stepped from the garden into the study. He looked at Lily for the first time in five years and couldn't imagine how his father thought to pass her off as the gentle convent-reared young lady Napoleon expected.
If she'd grown up, it was hard to tell, for the gown she wore seemed too big for her, the black cloth leaving little hint of anything other than the thin, gangly child he remembered. He smiled to himself as out of nowhere he remembered Lady Marston's persistence that some day she would grow into a great beauty.
The next time he saw Amelia, he'd have to collect the crown he'd bet her that that miracle would never happen.
As it was, the somber black color of Lily's gown only further paled her already fair features, leaving her lifeless next to her always vibrant sister.
Life in the Americas obviously hadn't tamed her boisterous manners, he thought, looking at bits of leaves and a small branch stuck in her hair, as if she'd been out climbing trees.
While her face might be fair enough, it was hard to tell for all her wild hair and the dirt marring her features.
In truth, he thought, dismissing Amelia's predictions without another thought, the little hoyden looked pretty much like she had five years earlier, and he didn't give her appearance another thought.
Even now, she just stared at him, her mouth open at his sudden arrival.
Probably shock at his unexpected return back into her dull and otherwise colorless widow's existence.
He crossed the room, grinning at her, turning up his charm. "Marriage? Really now, Lily, can't you come up with a more believable excuse than that? Toss aside this fiancé and come to Paris with me." He held out his hand to her, expecting her to take it up with greedy delight, but to his consternation, she stared down at his fingers as if they were covered in some horrific plague-infested lesions.
What was this? Webb thought, suddenly seeing the differences between the gawky fifteen-year-old and the woman before him. Where were her soft, come-hither glances? Fluttering lashes? Shy flirtations?
No, her steely green gaze bore into him hard and sharp, cutting him into pieces, as if she'd measured the changes in him and found him lacking.
No, Lily hardly looked amused, or in awe, or like a woman reunited with her one and only true love, as she'd called him in her written devotions five years before. Actually, if Webb was going to be honest and admit it, she looked spitting mad.
Probably just angry that he'd taken so long to come back into her life, he told himself as she spun around and faced his father.
"This," she said, jerking her thumb under Webb's nose, "is the highly regarded agent you would send with me? I won't have my reputation sullied by traveling with the likes of this indiscreet Lothario."
"Lothario?" Webb's ears burned at the contempt literally dripping from her words.
"Yes, womanizer, rake, deceiver, cad," she added. "Need I go on, or are there other sins you would like me to add to the list?"
Webb smiled as it struck him. Lily was jealous. Sophia had probably mentioned the names of one or another of his mistresses in the hope of turning her little sister's affections away from him, but it had only made Lily all that more possessive.
He glanced at her again. Well, hadn't it?
Both Sophia and Giles looked a little too amused by this turn of events to convince him his assessment was correct.
"I'll not be sent to my death with this incompetent wretch," Lily continued.
"Incompetent?" he said. Now it was Webb's turn to get a little annoyed. He was many things, a little too daring at times, perhaps, but incompetent, never!
"Lord Dryden, while I understand that your request must to be taken care of immediately, I really must decline. Your son and I are completely unsuited for any kind of partnership. And if my fiancé ever discovered that I had been traveling in the company of such a man, my future happiness would be compromised, as would my reputation. I beg you to find someone else. I can't go to Paris. And certainly not with the likes of him."
Him? She made him sound like a leper.
Webb looked down at Lily's fair features and saw no evidence of her playing hard to get.
No, she detested him and she meant every word.
Lothario. Rake. Incompetent.
Her utter disdain irritated him, when rationally he knew he should be relieved. However, the idea of Lily detesting him just didn't fit his view of the world.
Somewhere in all the danger, in all the escapades, in all the times he thought he might lose his life, there had always been a little whisper in the back of his mind, calling him back to the green, untouched hills of England.
A place where innocent girls like Lily waited for their heart's desire to come home.
And while it had never meant too much to him except in those desperate, dark moments, it did now. For no other reason than he wanted his topsy-turvy world righted.
Besides, he was supposed to be protesting. Not her. Everyone knew that Lily loved him.
"Lily, we didn't know you intended to get married," Sophia was saying. "Mama never mentioned a word of an impending wedding in her letter."
"I haven't told them as yet," Lily replied. "It happened . . . aboard the ship. Yes, during the crossing. He proposed one stormy night when I was convinced all was lost. Quite romantic, isn't it?"
Webb turned a critical eye on Lily.
For years he'd staked his life on being able to judge people's credibility and right now Lily's came up short. Her story, one moment rushed and the next hesitant, remained too full of holes. Even now she stood twisting her odd little ring with nervous motions that belayed her steady, false smile.
No, Lily was lying. He'd suspected as much when he'd been out in the garden listening to the conversation, and now as he stood here and watched her features, he was convinced.
"Do tell," Webb said, stepping around her and retaking his place in the wingback. Lily shot him a vexed look at being left out in the middle of the room. He only grinned back, leaving her stranded and on display for everyone to monitor her every move.
All the better to catch her lying, he thought, as he stuck his legs out in front of him and crossed his arms over his chest. "I love tales of romance. Is it some common sailor or did you hook the affections of some toplofty captain?"
Her brows furrowed and Webb thought she looked ready to dash the first available object over his head.
"Neither," she shot back. "He . . . he . . . he is . . ."
"Alive and breathing?" he offered.
"Is it your Mr. Saint-Jean?" Sophia asked. "Is that why you asked them to visit us here at Byrnewood?"
Webb sat up and watched Lily's features intently. She seemed caught for a moment, as if she didn't know which way to turn--which thread to cast out and which one to cling to in her entanglement.
"Yes," she said, "I'm engaged to Mr. Saint-Jean."
Sophia smiled at her sister. "Well, that must have been some crossing. I know Mama was well pleased that he and his mother were so willing to escort you here, but imagine her surprise when she discovers they are now to be family. Oh, dear, no wonder you've been anxious to get up and change, with them scheduled to arrive before supper."
Webb perked up at this news. "Your Mr. Saint-Jean coming here? Imagine that. I can't wait to meet the bridegroom-to-be." Even as he spoke, he chanced to see movement on the driveway. "As providence would have it, here comes the lucky man now."
Meet the Author
Elizabeth Boyle was an anti-piracy paralegal for Microsoft before settling down to write full-time. Her first novel, Brazen Angel, which won Dell's Diamond Debut Award in 1996, also won the Romance Writers of America's RITA Awards for Best First Book and was a finalist for the RITA Award for Best Long Historical Romance. She lives with her husband in Seattle, Washington. Brazen Heiress is her second novel.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Just as good as the first book of the trilogy!! I was surprised, that I liked it as well as Brazen Angel, because I didn't another couple could be as good as Webb and Lily!! There is love making in this, but not the erotica type, well described so you understand the depth of their feelings. My heart ached at times for Lily but she finds what she has always wanted. Like the first book, this is about spy's, and how much they risk for their country. This is in no means boring, but packed full of action, suspense and romance that builds. I was sad at the ending, but thank goodness for an Epilogue that had me smiling again. This is a great story, moves along fast, and it a great deal if you buy the bundle, because all 3 stories connect. (ljb)
*I liked this one better than the first in the series.. Excellent read.
I was so happy to see Lily get what she wanted.