Indiscretions [NOOK Book]

Overview


Tropical heat…burning passion

Daphne had sacrificed everything to remain unknown in her tropical paradise. But if Lord Lockwood recognized the woman who had fled England with a crime on her conscience, nothing could keep her safe….

Even the thought of future punishment could not dampen present desire. Lockwood's lips reawakened the passionate woman she had once been. What harm, Daphne reasoned, could come from one stolen kiss? Still, she could...

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Indiscretions

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Overview


Tropical heat…burning passion

Daphne had sacrificed everything to remain unknown in her tropical paradise. But if Lord Lockwood recognized the woman who had fled England with a crime on her conscience, nothing could keep her safe….

Even the thought of future punishment could not dampen present desire. Lockwood's lips reawakened the passionate woman she had once been. What harm, Daphne reasoned, could come from one stolen kiss? Still, she could not allow her feelings to overpower her sense—it was too dangerous. She'd denied herself for five years. Surely she could deny Lockwood for a few weeks?

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781459225039
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • Publication date: 12/15/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 288
  • File size: 388 KB

Meet the Author


Gail Ranstrom always enjoyed a good tale of danger, adventure, action and romance of long ago times and distant lands. When the youngest of her three children began school, she put pen to paper and wrote her first novel, which is thankfully still under her bed. Her next efforts were more successful and she has been writing ever since as the award winning author of eight novels and two novellas. She loves to hear from readers, and you can visit her at: gailranstrom.com
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Read an Excerpt


London

September 1, 1820

Reginald Hunter, sixth Earl of Lockwood, regarded the under-secretary of the Foreign Office with doubt. "I don't know, Lord Eastman. I'm with the Home Office. How can I help you?"

"The lines between the Home and Foreign Offices have blurred recently, especially in the West Indies. St. Claire is a British colony, which would put it under the auspices of the Home Office, but since we are dealing with other nationalities and subjects, the Foreign Office has taken charge."

Hunt settled into the deep overstuffed chair across from Lord Eastman and accepted a small goblet of brandy from the footman. What could the man be about to say that required them to meet at their club instead of the government offices? Either Eastman wanted him drunk, or he had a concern with security at the office.

He cupped the goblet in his right hand and warmed the deep red liquid. "Did Castlereagh inform you that I've tendered my resignation to the Home Office?" The last thing he wanted on the eve of his retirement from public service was to become embroiled in someone else's problem. He'd paid his dues, and an extra measure besides. What more could they ask than his soul?

"Yes, your resignation." Eastman nodded. "That's why we were hoping to persuade you to join us."

"Thank you for the confidence, but why would I trade one dangerous job for another? I'm weary of risking my life at the turn of a corner. And now that we've finally dealt with—"

"The white slaver. Yes, heard about that. Just a week or so ago, wasn't it?"

"That was the last loose end. I can quit in good conscience now, take my seat in the Lords and settle down."

Eastman sipped his own brandy. "You've barely reached your apex, Lockwood," he said, using Hunt's title. "This assignment is a little plum. Easy as pie and something you could do in your sleep. Think of it as a holiday."

In his experience, nothing the government asked of him was that simple. "Then have someone else go on holiday."

"Has to be done on the hush. Very sensitive, as it is a part of an ongoing investigation. You're known for your discretion."

Discreet? Is that what they were calling assassins now? Would discretion reclaim the soul he'd forfeited to do the dirty but necessary jobs that other men refused?

Ah, but he was intrigued in spite of himself. And now he was sure the Foreign Office had a traitor. Why else would they need a man of his "talents"? "Is your leak here or in St. Claire?"

Eastman frowned and lowered his voice. "We don't know. We need an outsider for this, and your name came up since you have holdings in St. Claire. Only natural that you'd want to visit and check on your investments, eh?"

Hunt sighed. "Tell me about this 'little plum' you want me to look into."

"Pirates."

The answer so surprised him that he coughed, drawing the attention of a few quiet occupants of the club library. He cleared his throat and whispered, "Easy? What the hell is easy about pirates?"

"The Caribbean is rife with them. These are a particularly ruthless and bloodthirsty lot and we need to put them down like the rabid vermin they are."

And there it was. They wanted him to "put down" the rabid vermin. Need someone without a conscience? Bring Lockwood in. "I'm out of that business, Eastman."

"We're only asking you to gather intelligence, Lockwood. See if you can find out where the pirates are based and who is feeding them information and ship movements. Find our leak. And plug it."

"They aren't likely to be based at a single point. And you must know who their informants are by now."

"Only that they are British."

Hunt digested this information for a moment. "Why St. Claire and not Jamaica or Barbados?"

"We already have operatives there, but they are making no headway. We need someone with a perfect right and reason to be on St. Claire. Ask questions. Cozy up to the locals. The officials. Find out what they're hiding. Only contact us if you have an emergency or urgent news, and go through me or my clerk, Langford."

Hunt sat back in his chair and sighed. He hadn't visited the plantation on St. Claire in ten years. Maybe it was time.

Eastman leaned forward. "It won't inconvenience you too long, Lockwood. Present yourself to Governor Bascombe and his chargé, Mr. Doyle, for introductions. Poke around a fortnight. A month at most. If the opportunity presents itself, handle the problem. Then back to England and on with your life."

Handle the problem? God, he wanted out. Out of the ugly underbelly of government intrigues and foreign machinations.

Apparently reading Hunt's hesitation, Eastman tried a new appeal. "Every time a ship is taken or sunk, we hear the groans all over London. We wouldn't ask if there weren't so many underwriters losing their drawers over this and if prices for imported goods weren't rising even as we speak."

With a sinking feeling that he'd just been sucked into another vortex, Hunt nodded.

St. Claire Island, West Indies October 9, 1820

Though the journey had been quick and uneventful, Hunt was glad to set foot on solid ground again. He had a full list of things to do today—buy a horse, call on Governor Bascombe, rent a room at the local inn and meet his contact—but first he needed to take the lay of the land.

He shrugged out of his woolen jacket and draped it over his arm. The first thing that struck him as he walked the streets of San Marco was how truly international the town had become. A mixture of languages and accents buzzed around him as he strolled the cobbled streets.

He found an inn, several taverns, chandlers, locksmiths, haberdashers and greengrocers. Midway down Broad Street, he spied a tidy stone building with a divided door—the top half open to admit the morning breeze—and a wide front window with Pâtisserie lettered in black script. At the bottom of the window, in smaller letters, was the information, Mrs. Hobbs, Proprietress. A baker's rack stood in the window to display a stunning array of pastries and breads.

This would be a good place to start. Bakeries, as much as taverns, were often the hub of gossip and news. He'd once uncovered a pickpocket operation being run out of a bakery in Cheapside. He opened the lower half of the door and entered, setting the shop bell a-jingle. A mouthwatering smell wafted from the back and, along with the sound of feminine laughter, enticed him.

A woman, using a towel to protect her hands from burning, carried a tray of biscuits from the back room. The task had her complete attention as she slid the pan onto the counter, and Hunt used the moment to study her.

Mouthwatering. Yes. Exactly. Sleek brown hair that fell halfway down her back and glinted streaks of sun was tied at her nape with a green ribbon. Her figure was neither thin nor stout, but definitely voluptuous, and a soft smile lifted the corners of those full rose-tinted lips. She was somewhere in her midtwenties, a head shorter than he and, when she turned toward him, he was stunned by the deep green eyes that rivaled her hair ribbon. Her features were a study in perfect symmetry. Greek sculptors would have done mayhem to carve her likeness.

A blush stole up her cheeks, a sure sign she had noticed his interest. "Is there something I can do for you?" she asked as she wiped her hands on a crisp apron. "I'm Mrs. Hobbs."

Yes. Dear God, at least a dozen things she could do for him, and several she was doing at this very moment without even trying. Even her voice raised the fine hairs on his arms.

"Sir?"

"Oh, sorry," he said. "I've come for something sweet." She smiled again, but this time his heart bumped. Then she glanced away, almost as if she were afraid to look at him too long. "Sweet? Well, then, we have cherry and blueberry tarts, buns with cinnamon and raisins, sweet biscuits, lemon and ginger biscuits and, if you care to wait, biscuits with a wee bit of chocolate. Oh, and pineapple cakes."

While he was still mulling over his choices, another woman peeked out from the back room. Shorter, plumper and younger than Mrs. Hobbs, this woman was almost as lovely. He had the sudden notion that the wares at Pâtisserie could taste like chalk and the bakery would still do a brisk business.

As if sensing his thoughts, Mrs. Hobbs lifted a biscuit off the tray with a spatula and held it out to him. "Compliments of Pâtisserie, sir." She turned her attention to the woman in the back room. "Do you need something, Mrs. Breton?" she asked.

"I just came to see if we have shelf space up front." She glanced at the baker's rack in the window and nodded. With a shy glance in Hunt's direction, she disappeared again.

He took the offered biscuit, still warm from the oven, and shifted it from one hand to the other until it cooled enough to eat. The first bite convinced him that he was in heaven. He watched Mrs. Hobbs's reaction as he ate the delicacy. Her lips parted ever so slightly and her chin lifted a fraction of an inch as if tilting upward to receive a kiss. Oh, would that he could! But, no. She was waiting for his verdict.

"Delectable," he pronounced. "Make that a dozen biscuits, Mrs. Hobbs."

She blinked and nodded, the spell broken. Turning again, she ripped a length of brown paper off a roll, placed the biscuits in the center and tied the package with a length of French blue ribbon.

Mrs. Hobbs took his crown and opened a drawer beneath the counter. "I fear my change is limited. Do you have anything smaller, sir?"

Actually, to his embarrassment, he had something growing larger by the minute. "Sorry, Mrs. Hobbs. Keep the change."

"Oh, no. That is excessive, sir."

The gleam of a gold band on her left hand caught his attention as she withdrew every coin in her till. Of course. Mrs. Hobbs. Damn the luck. The most charming shopgirl he'd ever seen, and she was unavailable.

She held her hand out with the change from the till. "Is there anything else I can get you?"

"Not at the moment, Mrs. Hobbs."

When her eyes met his, she shivered, dropped the coins in his palm and broke the contact. "I shall get change, sir. If you will come back later, I will have it for you."

Chains and an anchor wouldn't keep him away. "Count on it, Mrs. Hobbs."

Hannah Breton elbowed Daphne in the ribs as they craned their heads out the half door to watch the tall stranger walk back down Broad Street. "You've brought another visitor low with your charms, Daphne."

She'd brought him low? She rather thought it was the other way around. It was a rare occurrence, indeed, when a man could so take her by surprise that she could not think. She must have looked an absolute fool.

"You should have mentioned you are a widow," Hannah continued.

"Even if I were interested—which I am not—he did not even bother to introduce himself. Besides, I do not want a man."

"And a crying shame, if you ask me," Hannah teased. "You use that gold ring to keep them away. When are you going to take it off? There's certainly no shortage of men for a woman like you." Hannah sighed, then glanced back down the street.

"But not many with eyes that blue."

Not blue. Deep, deep periwinkle. Almost violet. And it should be a crime for a man to have lashes so dark and long.

But his eyes hadn't been his best feature. No, that would be his smile. Sensual lips drew back to reveal straight, even teeth and a tiny dimple in his left cheek. Almost boyish, and completely charming. Daphne always noted a man's smile—or the lack of it. Men who did not smile made her very nervous. She always suspected them of an ill nature.

Hannah chuckled and nudged her with an elbow. "There, that little sigh gave you away. And if you do not want a husband, who's to say you cannot take a lover? You're alone, after all."

She shivered. Impossible! For so many reasons. And she'd never even been tempted before looking into those amazing eyes.

When she'd seen the Gulf Stream in the harbor this morning, she knew there would be strangers in San Marco—and she knew they'd be gone soon. The dark, compelling stranger was no exception. No one ever came to stay on St. Claire. And that was exactly why she did.

A knock on the kitchen door interrupted Daphne's thoughts. The egg delivery, no doubt. Hannah put her spoon down and went to open the door.

"Here they are!" their visitor exclaimed. "The treasure of St. Claire."

"My goodness! Captain Gilbert! Where have you been?" Hannah asked, an expression of pleasure curving her lips.

"Around the world and back again," he teased. "But I came to see you all the moment I could."

"How long will you be here this time?"

"A week. Perhaps a fortnight. Need to take on cargo and make a few repairs before I return to England."

"Then we'd best stock up on pineapple cakes." Hannah smoothed her apron as she went back to her kettle.

Daphne faced the captain. He was graying and tall, had a warm smile and clear blue eyes with creases at the corners from squinting into the sun. "Hello, Captain Gilbert. Nice to see you again."

"How nice?" he asked, tilting his head to one side.

She laughed. He knew she was always happy to see him, and not just because he always brought her an issue or two of the London Times. He was the kindest man she knew.

"Hannah, would you fetch the captain a pineapple cake?"

Hannah nodded. "Why don't you take Mrs. Hobbs out back for a little catch up, Captain? I'll bring you a nice cup of tea."

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2006

    Indistretions Warms, Illuminates

    Despite her dark secrets, Lady Elise Barrett has finally found peace and safety as Daphne Hobbs, owner of a Patisserie on the Caribbean island of St. Claire. Reginald Hunter, sixth Earl of Lockwood, has just tendered his resignation to the Home Office. However when he is approached by the Foreign Office to root out a spy who is leaking information to pirates and disrupting trade, he reluctantly agrees to the assignment. Thus, the stage is set for a roller coaster of plots uncovered, deceptions unmasked and real danger to the protagonists. Gail Ranstrom who is known for her mastery of the period gets all the historical details right and in addition to a deeply satisying love story, the reader will learn about the real issues facing British trade in the early 19th century.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2012

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