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—Margaret George, New York Times bestselling author of Elizabeth I
“One of the great joys of historical fiction is that it can carry you into another world, submerge you in its trappings, capture you in its conflicts, and let you experience history as it is lived. One of the great joys of reading is to find a new author who creates strong characters, builds vivid scenes, and writes with the assured confidence of an old pro. So allow me the great joy of introducing you to Donna Thorland and her fabulous first novel, The Turncoat. Let Donna sweep you back to the American Revolution, into a world of spies, suspense, skullduggery, and sex. You won’t want to stop reading. You won’t want to come back to the present.”
—William Martin, New York Times bestselling author of Back Bay and Citizen Washington
“Set in a fascinating and turbulent time in America’s history and featuring an extraordinary heroine, The Turncoat is a wonderful debut. It’s a trip into the dangerous past from the comfort of your reading chair, filled with romance, authenticity, and great storytelling—the very best of what historical fiction can be.”
—Simone St. James, author of The Haunting of Maddy Clare and An Inquiry Into Love and Death
RENEGADES OF THE REVOLUTION
NEW AMERICAN LIBRARY
Table of Contents
The Jerseys, August 1777
Kate didn’t like Mrs. Ferrers. Something about the beautiful young widow was off. To exclude the newcomer on account of such vague feelings, however, would not be Quakerly, so Angela Ferrers, along with every other woman in Orchard Valley, was at Grey Farm that sweltering morning, packing supplies for the Continental Army.
“Yet Colonel Donop still refused to divulge the lady’s name at his court-martial,” Mrs. Ferrers said to her spellbound audience. “For all the good it did him. When the disgraced Hessian returned to find his lover—seeking vengeance, explanations, or further dalliance, who can say?—I’m told he discovered nothing but a cold hearth and an empty house.” The Widow folded back her fine cotton sleeve and reached for the pickle jar.
“Mrs. Ferrers, please don’t.” Kate tried for a note of polite deference and decided that polite frustration would have to do. “If you put your fingers in the jar, the brine will spoil.”
They were gathered in the kitchen, painted terra-cotta pink by Kate’s classically minded grandmother, around the pine worktable where she had learned to roll piecrust, pluck fowl, hull beans, and keep careful record of household stores.
Kate handed Mrs. Ferrers a ladle. The Widow cradled it like a royal scepter and went on with her story, the pickle jar entirely forgotten.
“But tell us, Mrs. Ferrers, about your late husband.” Mrs. Ashcroft was a dour Quaker matron of the old school, but today she sounded like a five-year-old asking for a bedtime story.
“Peter was a born Friend, like myself, and after our marriage we farmed his father’s land in Rhode Island,” Mrs. Ferrers began, “where we had, two years ago in the spring, the most extraordinary incident with a cow…”
The woman was an expert tale spinner, but she talked more than she worked.
Kate tried to be fair-minded. It was Mrs. Ferrers, rising from her bench beneath a rather convenient ray of sunlight during the Sunday meeting, who had convinced the congregation that Arthur Grey’s proposal to offer supplies did not contradict their Quaker pacifism. It was Mrs. Ferrers who argued that their goods would not prolong an already bloody war, but would save the lives of the men and boys starving in the Continental Army. Aiding the Rebels was an errand of mercy. The town drove cattle all the way to Boston when the British blockaded that city. They could certainly spare a few wagonloads of grain for men starving almost on their doorstep.
Angela Ferrers’ Quaker demeanor was pitch-perfect. She thee’d and thou’d when appropriate. She conformed to the Society of Friends’ preference for plain dress. She wore no lace, no gaudy colors, no frills, yet she stood out among the other ladies.
Her skirts were hemmed to show a tasteful, but well-turned, hint of ankle. Her bodice was expertly tailored. The beige cotton of her ensemble set off her hair and eyes. Peeking out from her collar, cuffs, and lacings were a chemise and stays of the most impeccable white. Even her teeth gleamed.
She fooled the other ladies because they wanted to be fooled, because they saw in her an ideal reflection of themselves. But she did not fool Kate.
The pickle jar was just the latest of her mistakes. Earlier that day she had stepped into the fireplace in the summer kitchen without hitching her skirts high enough. Only timely intervention from Kate had prevented the Widow’s skirts catching fire. Her pockets, though, clinched it. She didn’t have any: not a single one in her fitted skirts, jacket, or stays. The impracticality of it was astounding.
Kate left the women packing salt pork into the last of the barrels and debating the merits of linen versus cotton baby swaddling, and went to find her father at his secretary in the back parlor. It was dark and cool there, and she welcomed the relief from the sticky heat of the kitchen. She shut the door behind her.
It was her favorite room in the house, where she played the harpsichord in the evening and indulged her father’s un-Quakerly taste for ballads. Floored with Brussels carpet, painted in hues of sea blue and wheat gold, hung with classical scenes and furnished with a set of horsehair lolling chairs that bristled like angry porcupines, it served both as the Greys’ private sanctuary and their preferred place to entertain guests.
At sixty, Arthur Grey was still a vigorous man. The years had softened his hawklike features, but his eyes burned bright and his frame was lean.
“Are the wagons packed?” he asked.
“Almost. What will you do when Reverend Matthis discovers the contents of the last wagon?”
“What kind of an unmannerly oaf do you take me for, young woman? I will offer him one of your excellent pies, of course.”
“I meant the contents under the pies,” Kate persisted.
“That would be blueberries?” He turned from his secretary to cast a merry eye on his daughter.
“That would be rifles, sixty, with shot.”
“I’m afraid for you.”
“Be afraid for the Regulars. I’m still a damned good shot.”
“You mean to stay with Washington, then.” She tried to hide her disappointment. Her father had been an officer in the French and Indian War; a man, at one time, of violence; and a close friend of the Virginian who now commanded the Continentals.
“These may be the times that try men’s souls, but our masters in London have tried my patience. I didn’t fight in the last war to put up with a standing army on my doorstep.” He pressed his seal into the wax pooled on the envelope. It bore no address.
“It’s your soul that Reverend Matthis will think the worse for wear. He’ll read you out of the meeting.”
“Would that be so terrible, Kate? I wasn’t born a Friend. I was convinced. Largely by your mother. She was a damned sight better-looking than Matthis, in any case.”
Kate laughed out loud. “I give up. Go and frustrate King George…How long will you be gone?”
He rose without answering and slid his hand along the mantelpiece, fingertips flying over courses of dentils, acanthus, frieze, and metope, to rest upon the stalk of an exquisitely carved pineapple. A tiny door swung open, revealing a cubby. He held up the letter. “For our friends in Philadelphia, by the next courier,” he said, and slipped the missive into its hiding place. When he closed the panel, between the acanthus-twined pilasters, the joint was invisible.
“Before you began writing treasonous letters to Rebels, what did you use that hidey-hole for?” Kate asked.
“Tobacco. Your mother hated me to smoke in the house. And it’s a Committee of Correspondence with like-minded gentlemen, not treason. Still, it wouldn’t do us any good to let the Regulars get hold of any of my letters, particularly that one. It’s important. I’m informing Congress that I will accept their commission and have tendered my advice on whom they might consider sending to Paris.”
“Mrs. Ferrers says that Howe has landed at Head of Elk and will begin arresting Rebels.” Everyone feared they would soon march on Philadelphia, de facto seat of the rebellion since the first Continental Congress had convened there three years ago.
“Then you’ll be safer with me away.” He handed her a heavy purse of golden guineas.
“What is this for?” she asked.
A suspicion formed in the pit of her stomach. “How long will you be gone?”
“That’s one of the uncertainties. I’m sorry, Kate.” He capped the inkpot, closed the doors of the secretary, and put his arm around his daughter.
“I’ll be lonely without you.”
“Then marry, Kate.”
“Never. ‘For I’ve been warned, and I’ve decided, to sleep alone, all of my life.’”
“Don’t put your faith in maudlin ballads. I seem to remember that one containing a philandering father.”
“A handsome devil of a philandering father.”
Arthur Grey grunted. “Well, they got that half right.” He paused, and something in his manner made Kate recall the time when she was a little girl and contracted a hoarse, bellowing cough. She had rebelled against taking the ichorous green tonic prescribed by the doctor, but every morning Arthur Grey had talked her into swallowing the draught.
“What?” she asked.
“I’ve asked Mrs. Ferrers to stay with you until Howe goes to ground for the winter.”
“No! I’m fine by myself. The Regulars know that Quakers are pacifists.”
“Tired, hungry soldiers don’t always trouble to pay for food, or firewood, or to discuss politics with the people they rob. Regulars or Continentals, for that matter. Mrs. Ferrers is staying.”
“She’ll drive me mad.”
“She is a sensible lady of great experience. Provided she doesn’t set herself on fire, you should have a quiet few weeks, and she’ll be gone by the first snow.”
* * *
By late afternoon, Kate was longing for snow.
The wagons departed in good order, though Silas Talbert, their neighbor to the south, returned an hour later when his horse went lame. This was generally perceived as the signal for the ladies to depart, though Kate found herself wishing that they had stayed later, both to occupy the chatty Mrs. Ferrers and to put the house to rights.
Kate spent the early afternoon scrubbing tables, sweeping floors, and taking count of their provisions. During these activities, Mrs. Ferrers was, not surprisingly, nowhere in sight.
They had sent away more than half their stores with the men. It would be a lean winter for Kate, Mrs. Ferrers, and Margaret and Sara, the two young girls who helped with the house and lived in the room above the winter kitchen.
Kate was in the cold room counting apples when the rider broke through the line of trees at the end of the barley field. She could see him from the second-story window, crossing straight over the meadow.
It was Silas Talbert again, but this time his horse was very definitely not lame. He was shouting. Kate lifted the sash and leaned out the window, wishing for a breeze to break this dizzying heat, and finally his words reached her.
“Regulars. Cavalry. Heading north. They’ll be on the house any minute.”
Kate stepped back from the window. Below she could hear Talbert riding away, his message delivered, his own family and farm to think of.
Her father’s words came back to her: it wouldn’t do the Greys any good if his letters fell into British hands. And no matter how he made light of them, those letters were treason.
Kate wasn’t certain if the distant thunder she heard was horsemen or the blood pounding in her ears. Hungry soldiers, who wouldn’t stop to ask their allegiance or talk politics. The thunder grew louder, and Kate looked back out the window. The road was hidden by a long stand of elms, but the sound of hooves carried over the field, and the branches shook with their passing.
She ran down the stairs and into the back parlor.
Kate expected an empty room and a cold grate. Instead, a woman stood at the fire, her back to the door, negligently feeding the contents of the secretary to the flames.
The woman turned. Gone was the plain young Quaker widow of the morning. In her place stood a powdered, perfumed, bewigged lady in silks and satins. Her dress was closely fitted, and the oyster pink satin shimmered in the firelight. Her wig was tinted the same soft pink, pale curls piled high on her head. She wore a diamond around her neck on a silky ribbon, and rings on her manicured hands.
Her cheeks were rouged, her skin powdered porcelain white, her eyes rimmed with kohl. The entire effect was stunning, particularly to a girl like Kate, raised in a community that eschewed such finery.
At a loss, she said, “There are men on the road. Cavalry. Regulars.”
“Yes. I know. A day earlier than I expected. Thirty men, I should say, in scarlet with buff facings, two pistols each, a carbine, and a saber. The man who leads them is tall, has fair hair that he does not allow to grow past his shoulders, blue eyes, and rather full lips.”
Stunned, Kate stepped farther into the room. “How do you know all this? They haven’t even reached the drive.”
As she spoke, the jingle of spurs came distantly from the road.
“Because,” said Mrs. Ferrers, closing the secretary and smoothing her spotless pink satin, “I’ve been waiting for him. Colonel Sir Bayard Caide commands a battalion of His Majesty’s horse in these, his Colonies, and has systemically murdered, robbed, and raped civilians in the execution of his duties. I have come, my dear child, to destroy him.
“Now,” Mrs. Ferrers went on coolly, “you are my niece. I am your dear aunt Angela from Philadelphia, staying with my dull Quaker cousins in the country. I will dazzle the colonel and persuade him to spend the night. You will see that a fit dinner is laid on for him and his officers. Is that clear?”
Kate found her voice with difficulty. “I’m not going to help you a kill a man. It’s not our way.” It sounded prim even to her own ears.
Mrs. Ferrers laughed, deep and throaty, a genuine sound, quite different from the hollow simper she had used in front of the ladies that morning. “My dear girl, I’m going to destroy him. You don’t have to kill a man to do that. Caide is a sybarite, a sadist, and above all things, a soldier. The cavalry is perhaps the only place where men like him can exist within the confines of the law. He thrives on violence with a bit of style. And what, after all, is an army in the field? I don’t need to kill him. I need only ruin him.”
She paused, abandoned her pose of elegant bravado, and spoke with chilling seriousness. “General Howe has landed at Head of Elk with eighteen thousand Regulars and Hessian mercenaries. He means to march on Philadelphia and take Congress and the capital. There will be arrests, hangings. Caide carries the plans for this attack, the routes, troop placements, and supply lists, from Howe to his subordinate General Clinton in New York. If I can relieve Caide of these dispatches, the colonel will be disgraced. At the very least, he’ll lose his commission. And in one move we can disarm a man who has caused us no end of trouble and gain an advantage over our enemy on the march—perhaps even have a chance to stop the British before they reach Philadelphia.”
“I can’t help you. I’ve sworn not to intervene in the conflict. We all have. You too…” Kate trailed off. “You’re not really a Quaker, are you?”
Mrs. Ferrers shook her head. “I’m sorry, Kate, but it was safer, until now, to keep this from you. I have known your father since the last war. I came here to convince him to join Washington. And I have remained to lie in wait for Bayard Caide.”
“But how did you know this…this…Caide man would come here?”
“Your house is the biggest estate in the county. It’s on the main road north. He was bound to stop here, but he’s too close on the heels of your father and the other gentlemen. Kate, you must help me. Your father will be traveling slowly. The wagons are heavy. If Caide doesn’t stop here tonight, he will overtake your father. Caide would give no quarter to Rebels carrying supplies for the Continentals.”
Kate could hear the men in the yard. Thirty mounted soldiers made a good deal of noise. She must think. She must decide. She must go out and speak to these men, and, it was becoming all too clear, she must lie.
“Kate.” Mrs. Ferrers spoke urgently now. “Are there any other papers in the house that could incriminate your father? You must show me.”
She remembered the letter in the mantel. “No.” The panel was well hidden, the letter safe, and Mrs. Ferrers was clearly not to be trusted.
“Good. Now.” She took Kate’s hand in her own and led her to the front of the house. “We go to meet the enemy.”
The two women emerged into the afternoon sunlight and Kate was blinded by the glitter of polished spurs and weaponry. The man who slipped lightly from his horse and took the steps two at a time to bow deeply before Mrs. Ferrers was tall and broad-shouldered. Kate found herself watching the play of muscles beneath his closely fitted cavalry breeches. Slim, erect, he did indeed have blue eyes, and was most certainly an officer, but his lips were thin, and his hair was neither fair nor short, but long and black, and encased in a tightly wrapped silk queue. He was not, in short, Bayard Caide.
Peter Tremayne was saddlesore, hungry, and acutely aware of the picture he must present to the locals. There was a reason why the British Regulars were so easily caricatured: the stereotype was often true. They were rough men, badly supplied, and far from home. His own mother wouldn’t have let them past the door in their faded regimentals, and yet the colonists were required to quarter soldiers in their homes.
Today Tremayne carried General Howe’s plans for the campaign against the Rebel capital, Philadelphia, in his dispatch case. He had hoped to join John Burgoyne on the expedition north but instead had endured a month at sea with hesitating Howe and his fractious military family, a tedious, hot journey plagued by bad winds all the way from New York. These prolonged a ten-day cruise into a one-month ordeal. Galloway and the other Philadelphia Tories had seduced the general south with promises of a country teeming with Loyalists, but Tremayne failed to see how a territory such as the Jerseys, so hostile that the British could not march their army through it and were forced to approach by sea, would yield up a groundswell of support for the Crown. His horse had died on board ship, and the heat and the unfamiliar mount were adding to his bad temper.
He very much wanted a hot bath, a soft bed, and gentle company, but he was resigned to accept a cold basin, clean straw, and the grateful affection of his horse, if any of these things were to be had. His troop had been sniped at all the way from Head of Elk. The grannies of Pennsylvania were disturbingly good shots, and they seemed to spend more time loading rifles than embroidering cushions. America was the stuff of a career soldier’s nightmare, a morass becoming deeper by the day.
The neighborhood they were passing through promised somewhat more hospitality. He had met Quakers in England and America and found them kind and generous, if naive and somewhat dour folk, and they were largely if not Loyalists, then at least pacifists.
Despite the rigors of travel, he was glad to be out of the city. He had been raised in the country, and on long rides he found he rather liked the American landscape. He could forget, for a time, the halfhearted manner in which his superiors were prosecuting this conflict, the lives and fortunes being poured into this pointless war.
The manor house was well sited, built in the classical style, and if its proportions and ornament were fifty years out of date in England, its scale promised some modicum of wealth and comfort. Five windows across and two stories high beneath a graceful dormered roof, with granite stairs rising to a pillared porch, and red brick on a foundation of local stone. Charming.
The lady who greeted him at the top of the stairs was certainly the most decorative Quaker he had ever seen, resplendent in up-to-the-minute shell pink satin. She would put half the women of King George’s court to shame. He bowed, kissed her hand, and said something polite in passing to the niece, who looked as plain a piece of country business as he’d ever set eyes on.
The lady, Mrs. Ferrers, immediately put the girl to heating water for a bath. The size of the house promised beds, for himself and his officers, and something about the lady’s too-familiar gaze told him that gentle company might be his for the asking.
* * *
When will General Howe invest Philadelphia with his troops, Major? We hear the army has disembarked at Head of Elk. A glorious victory, to win back the Rebel capital, surely,” Mrs. Ferrers flattered.
Kate tried to hide her amusement by taking a sip of watered rum. The glass sweated in the August heat and dripped onto her apron. She should have taken it off, as a mark of respect for their visitors, but she found she had precious little respect to spare for Redcoats.
They were seated in the back parlor, along with a young man introduced to Kate as Lieutenant Phillip Lytton. He divided his time between shifting uncomfortably on the frayed horsehair chair and glancing surreptitiously at Kate.
Her seat in the corner of the room, wedged between the harpsichord and the sewing table, allowed her the luxury of studying the major. Peter Tremayne, Viscount Sancreed, had at least one quality that Kate approved: he was immune to the charms of Mrs. Ferrers. He must, she decided, be a few years past thirty. Tall, lean, correct but not ostentatious in his tunic, he had wiped his boots carefully outside and wisely chosen the lolling chair with a slipcover.
“It will be a victory by default, and hardly glorious,” he replied. “Philadelphia is open on all sides. It has no defenses. Congress will flee, along with most of the Rebel population.”
“Then you must be looking forward to winter quarters in the city. I hear that General Howe keeps merry company.” Mrs. Ferrers, Kate was realizing, had taken the wrong tack with Peter Tremayne. Prepared to dazzle quite another man, one amenable to flattery and enamored of high living, she had no notion how to seduce a sober, tired aristocrat with a long road in front of him.
Tremayne didn’t answer, only smiled thinly and sipped his rum.
Phillip Lytton, looking painfully young and decidedly uncomfortable, rushed to fill the silence. “Yes, it will be very gay. Captain André—he is on the general’s staff and much admired—has already planned a masque for next week. I hope we’ll be back in time to take part.”
“What you hope for, Lytton, is a swift end to this pointless conflict.” Tremayne put his empty glass down. “Howe has the advantage. He should press it, and take Washington while he can. Any general but Howe would have beaten Washington by this time.”
Lytton began to stammer his apologies.
Kate, used to discoursing on matters political with her father, spoke before thinking. “And any general but Washington would have beaten Howe, I believe is the opinion of the London Times. But you and they are wrong.”
Lytton stopped fidgeting. Mrs. Ferrers closed her fan. And Peter Tremayne, for the first time all afternoon, looked less than bored. He sat up in his chair.
Mrs. Ferrers, desperate to break the tension, moved to fill Tremayne’s empty glass. He laid his hand over the cut crystal without looking up at her.
He fixed his cold blue eyes on Kate. “Miss Grey, do you mean to tell me that you have discerned a strategy in Washington’s tactics?” Tremayne’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “I can think of no successful general in history to equal him for retreat and failure.”
“My niece means no such thing. She’s just going to check on dinner.”
Kate ignored Mrs. Ferrers. Like her father, she enjoyed few things more than getting to grips with a noble argument. “I hesitate to correct you, Lord Sancreed, but I can. Fabius Maximus, sometimes called Cunctator—the Delayer. He hindered and harassed an enemy superior in numbers until that enemy’s strength was eroded. His tactics during the Second Punic War helped Rome defeat Carthage.”
Peter Tremayne smiled, an openmouthed, crooked expression of genuine delight that made Kate flush. Lytton and Mrs. Ferrers were quite forgotten. “You know your military history. But Fabian tactics won’t answer here. Rome had a trained army of veterans. Men sworn to twenty years’ service. Washington has only poorly armed militia, whose enlistments are about to expire.”
“Yes,” Kate said, undeterred, “he has something remarkable indeed. A volunteer army.”
Mrs. Ferrers stood up. “Mr. Lytton, will you help me bring up a butt of wine?”
Kate barely noticed their departure. Tremayne abandoned the lolling chair to perch on the harpsichord bench beside her. She was scarcely conscious of his proximity, so determined was she to hear what he might say next.
“Volunteer or no, Miss Grey, you are dependent on Britain for manufactured goods. Where the might of armies may be insufficient, simple economics will prevail.”
“We rely upon you for goods, Lord Sancreed, because you legislate that we must do so.”
“Granted. You might build your own industries. But where will you turn in the short run for powder and shot, ordnance, and the machinery of war?”
Kate opened her mouth, but realized she couldn’t speak the word that rose naturally to her lips. There was only one answer to Tremayne’s question: to France, of course. Up to this point, they had been talking tactics. To answer his question would be to talk treason.
Kate, used to plain-speaking farm people, realized that she had been skillfully led into betraying herself. Her lips remained open, and her tongue felt strangely dry, as she experienced a tiny epiphany: the world beyond Orchard Valley was very complicated indeed.
She became aware of his physical closeness and stifled an urge to shrink back. She could not stop herself from looking at the secret panel on the mantel, just behind Tremayne.
Treason. To speak the name of France, where no doubt Congress was already begging powder, shot, and ordnance, was to speak treason. And behind a slender walnut panel, folded, signed, and sealed, was also treason.
She willed herself to look away and to answer the man looming over her. “Quakers are pacifists, Major. I’ve no notion where to acquire such things.”
* * *
A quarter of an hour of Mrs. Ferrers’ company in the parlor convinced Peter Tremayne that he would be better off with the affections of his horse. Her manner was polished and charming. She laughed prettily at his jokes. She paid him deft compliments and asked a steady stream of flattering questions. She would have been at home in any London drawing room, and like most of the English ladies of her class, she ventured no opinions, offered no counterarguments, tendered no opposition to anything he said.
So when the country niece, whom he had barely noticed, betrayed an argumentative nature and a curiously martial education, he was intrigued.
She had made no impression on him outside the house, and later had contrived to hide behind the harpsichord in the parlor. The girl was a baffling contradiction. Her plain clothes, long, undressed hair, and unmarried status marked her as an innocent, but she had the frank and aggressive manner of an experienced woman.
He moved closer and noted her wide, expressive eyes and fine skin. Of her body beneath the shapeless jacket he could tell nothing. Her skirts were wrinkled and appeared damp and charred at the hem, and he suspected that the granules clinging to her hair were bits of piecrust. He was, against all reason, enchanted.
The aunt had panicked when the girl started talking politics. The widow was clearly a Tory, anxious to preserve her property and favored status during the occupation. Kate was something different.
Quaker women, he knew, were encouraged to be freethinkers, and had even been known to preach at their meetings. Whatever Kate was, though, she was guileless. He had baited her easily and noted her sudden flush when she realized what he had done.
Her eyes had betrayed her. There was something hidden in the fireplace behind him. He was uninterested in her secrets. Quakers weren’t inclined toward intrigue. But his thoughts were turning inevitably to seduction, and this just might prove an opening gambit.
“Quakers are pacifists, Major. I’ve no notion where to acquire such things.”
“France,” he supplied. “The Rebels will seek aid from France. The Old Enemy.”
“But surely that would bring the French into open war with Britain.”
“Yes. And for that reason, France won’t risk such aid unless the Rebels win a significant victory. Trenton, no matter how many Hessians were captured, was a skirmish, not a battle.” Without taking his eyes off Kate, he ran his hand along the mantel behind him, felt the spring, and pressed.
He didn’t turn to look. The expression on the girl’s face, her dark eyes wide, told him he’d found what he was looking for. The sound of surprise she made was curiously erotic to him.
He turned to the opening he had discovered and fished out a sealed letter. He turned it over in his hands. No address. “How charming. A secret letter. Miss Grey, whomever can you be writing to?”
* * *
Kate had been reluctant to trust Mrs. Ferrers. Now she wished fervently that the missive had been fed to the fire.
Peter Tremayne turned the letter over in his long, slender fingers. “No address. Now that is mysterious.”
Kate realized that Peter Tremayne was playing a game unfamiliar to her.
“Perhaps we should open it to determine its direction?” He fingered the seal on the letter.
She held out her hand and spoke as she would to an errant child. “It isn’t addressed to you. That much is clear.”
He looked at her open palm curiously and appeared to consider it a moment. He held the letter out to her, but before she could grasp it he snatched it back and trapped her extended hand in his empty one.
His thumb slid over her palm, invading, intimate, alarming.
Kate was a stranger to seduction. Youthful crushes had come and gone without the heady sensation his touch was eliciting, which she dimly recognized as lust.
An excellent word choice, as lust was inappropriate desire, and nothing could be more inappropriate than a Quaker coupling with a soldier, a man of violence, a killer. All of this passed through her mind in an instant. She called upon common sense to extricate her from Tremayne’s grasp but discovered instead a latent talent for banter.
“Now you possess my hand and my letter. That leaves you no hands free.”
He slipped the letter into the breast of his tunic. “Now my left hand is free. What do you suggest I do with it?”
She willed herself to look away from his long, elegant fingers and instead found her eyes trapped by his pale blue gaze. Her voice sounded tiny and far away when she spoke. “The Latin word for left was sinistra. Sinister. The Romans mistrusted the left hand.”
His voice was very soft now. “So should you.”
Her whole body was tensed, waiting for his touch, but it didn’t come.
Instead he continued to caress her trapped hand, circling his thumb intimately in the center of her palm.
He released her and stepped back just as the door opened behind them. He must have heard Mrs. Ferrers and Lytton in the passage. Kate had been deaf to the world.
Mrs. Ferrers didn’t so much as glance at the open panel in the mantel. She breezed in on a raft of chatter, followed by a bright-eyed Lytton. “You’ll find a tub laid on in Mr. Grey’s room, top of the stairs. Dinner is being brought out to the barn for your men. We can dine after you’ve had your bath.”
“We’ll pay for the foodstuffs we consume, of course.” Peter Tremayne kissed Mrs. Ferrers’ hand on his way out, taking Lytton with him. He sketched a polite bow in Kate’s direction, betraying none of what had just taken place.
Mrs. Ferrers shut the door behind the men, and stood silent and still until the stairs stopped creaking and the door to the best bedroom closed above. She crossed the room, pressed the secret panel shut, and rounded on Kate.
“You’re either a very stupid or a very clever young woman. I can’t decide which.”
Kate felt very stupid indeed, but she met Mrs. Ferrers’ gaze steadily. The older woman scrutinized her. Kate couldn’t stop herself from pushing back her hair, and was distressed when pie crumbs fell out.
Mrs. Ferrers laughed. “We’ll just have to see, won’t we?” She swanned out of the room on a tide of rustling silk, leaving the scent of gardenias behind her.
Kate smoothed her apron and shook her plain skirts out. She was not clever, but she was sensible. Peter Tremayne had her father’s letter, and somehow she must get it back.
* * *
The heat broke in the evening.
Sara and Margaret were unused to serving dinner, and it showed. Flustered from their dealings with the soldiers in the barn, suspicious of Mrs. Ferrers, and terrified of Tremayne, they broke glasses, spilled wine, and, Kate suspected, finding what looked like a bit of quill caught between her teeth, had neglected to thoroughly pluck the chicken.
Tremayne sat in her father’s chair at dinner and noticed none of this. Mrs. Ferrers sat opposite. In between, Kate, Phillip Lytton, and two of Tremayne’s junior officers made up the dinner party.
Kate had contrived to seat herself beside the major. Mrs. Ferrers appeared to have abandoned her efforts to engage him, and turned her attention to dazzling the junior officers, who were now enjoying one of her anecdotes. The complete tale of Colonel Donop, Kate noted in passing, was far saltier than the version offered to the Quaker matrons of the morning.
Phillip Lytton had progressed beyond casting surreptitious glances at Kate and moved on to enthusing about the London stage.
“I saw The Rivals just before I left London. It’s a marvelous play. You would like it. The heroine’s name is Lydia—”
Tremayne was in good humor. “I don’t think Miss Grey’s people approve of the theater, Lytton.”
Lytton was mortified. “I’m sorry, Miss Grey. I’m afraid I know very little about Quakers.”
“Don’t be, Mr. Lytton. I’ve never been to a play myself, but the major is wrong. My people quite like the theater.”
Tremayne raised an eyebrow. “Oh, yes?”
“Yes. General Washington’s favorite play is Cato.”
Lytton was baffled. “Is General Washington a Quaker?”
“No, Lytton. Miss Grey is a Rebel.”
“Are you really, Miss Grey? I’ve yet to meet a Rebel.”
“We prefer the term ‘American.’ And I suspect you meet them all the time, Mr. Lytton, but they are too sensible to declare themselves to you.” Unlike me, Kate added to herself.
Tremayne was obviously enjoying himself. “Yes, we do meet them all the time, Miss Grey, but the trouble is they’re too busy running away to chat with us. I believe I’ve just bitten into the chicken’s beak.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised. You’ve frightened the maids out of their minds. I expect you’ll find they’ve sweetened the mustard and put salt in the pudding.” Kate had addressed herself to their end of the table, but Tremayne pitched his answer to her alone.
“Really? I quite enjoy finding the sweet and the savory in the same dish.”
“Then you’ll be well satisfied with dinner tonight.” Kate pushed another mysteriously tough bit of chicken to the side of her plate.
“I wasn’t speaking of dinner.”
Lytton had stopped eating, uncertain where the conversation was leading. Tremayne ignored him. “That reminds me. Would you like your letter back?”
The other end of the table erupted in raucous laughter, and one of Tremayne’s officers began to perform a trick with a spoon, a pickle, and a saltcellar that promised to stain the tablecloth.
Kate proceeded like a child shod in pattens on a slick of ice: cautiously. “Yes. I would like it back.”
“Then leave your bedroom door unlocked.”
“You are embarrassing Mr. Lytton,” Kate said, blindsided by the directness of his response. She had expected clever baiting, and had his demand been different, she would have welcomed this plain speaking.
Lytton stood up, his chair screeching over the floorcloth, unheard beneath the drunken laughter at the other end of the table. “Sir. I protest—”
“Sit down, Mr. Lytton. Miss Grey is quite capable of defending herself. And locking her door if she chooses.”
Lytton looked uncertainly at Kate, who decided that the situation, and the fate of the letter, was getting out of hand. “Yes, please, Mr. Lytton, do sit down and finish your dinner. The major is only joking. Isn’t he?”
Tremayne rolled his eyes. “Yes, Lytton, I’m having a bit of fun.”
Kate smiled reassuringly at Lytton, and he sat back down. “Tell me more about the play, Mr. Lytton.”
He spoke at length about Sheridan, and blushed when he described the leading actress in the play. Kate listened attentively, and Tremayne made no further mention of the letter, but when the puddings were served, Kate looked up to discover the major studying her with more than casual interest. What she failed to observe was that Mrs. Ferrers, entertaining her guests effortlessly at the other end of the table and directing with rather less success the efforts of Margaret and Sara, was studying Lord Sancreed with equal, but far less benign interest.
* * *
Viscount Sancreed was not a bad officer. In an era of purchased commissions and only intermittently competent soldiering, Peter Tremayne was a professional. Born to wealth and privilege, but unsuited to politics, he’d entered the cavalry young and grown into leadership. The command of a troop of horse—a small thing in the grand scheme—suited him admirably.
He had probably once been quite like Lytton, though the army tended to attract fewer prudes in his day. He regretted teasing the boy, and knew Lytton bore watching. He was chivalrous and prickly and, without some good advice, would most likely end up gutted in some pointless duel.
But Lytton was for tomorrow and the long road to New York. Tonight Peter Tremayne had other quarry.
Kate Grey’s mysterious letter, most likely to some unsuitable lover, lay snug in his tunic. The lady herself had retired, and the state of the lock on her door remained an open question. The household was still awake, the maids banking fires and extinguishing lamps. When quiet settled over Grey House, Tremayne would try her door.
He had considered a more forceful approach. The aunt was careless and left the girl alone with him after dinner once more, but Tremayne didn’t touch her. He was wholly smitten, but still uncertain. If she was worldly, and inclined to arranging such matters for herself, she could leave her chamber unbarred. If she was inexperienced, she had only to throw the bolt.
He knew she was attracted to him. And the proximity of Grey Farm to Philadelphia was improving his attitude toward winter quarters in the City of Brotherly Love. Even if he was unsuccessful with her tonight, future visits might prove more rewarding. It occurred to him that his mind was turning to seducing a farm girl with pie crumbs in her hair, and he laughed out loud at himself.
His cousin, Bayard, had mocked him for choosing this duty, for retracing by land the miserable journey they had just undertaken by sea, for being Howe’s errand boy. Carrying Howe’s dispatches to Clinton in New York was hardly glorious soldiering. But it was preferable in Peter Tremayne’s mind to the other less palatable missions he knew Howe had ordered that night. He had no desire to kidnap private citizens, no matter what their politics, and thought that abducting Rebels from their homes smacked of Tudor intrigue. If the parties sent forth from Head of Elk with orders to drive deep into Rebel territory and capture members of Congress were not instructed to throw such men in the Tower, it was only because Philadelphia offered nearer prisons.
Mrs. Ferrers had served rum in the parlor, an expensive luxury since molasses had stopped reaching the blockaded American harbors. Tremayne sought, and found, a bottle of local whisky in the kitchen and poured himself a glass. He returned briefly to the parlor, where he opened the secretary and helped himself to pen, paper, and wax.
The rooms were creaky, hot, and old, but the mattresses were fresh and the bed curtains free of dust. Returning to his room, he arranged his kit for the morning, listened with satisfaction to the house retiring for the night, slipped out into the corridor, and closed his door behind him.
Kate’s room lay at the end of the long hall, past the stairs. The scuffed boards groaned beneath his boots and he wondered to himself if the aunt was deaf or just unusually broad-minded. Another, less charitable thought occurred to him: that there were Tories aplenty who would pimp their wives, daughters, or nieces to British officers in exchange for trading concessions and protection. Howe had been accompanied on the journey from Boston not only by his charming mistress, Mrs. Loring, but by her husband as well, who profited handsomely from the arrangement.
When the door to his right opened, Tremayne was prepared for a woman’s tirade, but not for drawn steel. Lytton emerged, flourishing his saber, already realizing that it was a poor weapon in the confined space of the hall.
“Trouble sleeping, Lytton?”
“You weren’t joking about Miss Grey.”
Tremayne sighed. This was a lecture best delivered under other circumstances, but here and now would have to do. “Phillip, this is the way men and women arrange things.”
“She’s only a girl.”
“She’s older than you are, and quite capable of locking her door. Go back to bed. The whole house will hear me if I break her door down, and you can hack me to pieces then, if you don’t bury your saber in the doorjamb first.”
Lytton had no facility for clever words. Wounded pride was writ large on his face, and wounded pride was a dangerous thing in a young man with a sword. He stepped in front of Kate’s door, barring Tremayne’s way. “Put the saber down, Phillip. Someone is going to get hurt, and I assure you it will not be me.”
“I won’t let you pass, Lord Sancreed.”
Lytton failed to anticipate the short, sharp move with which Tremayne disarmed him, and the blow that knocked him to his knees. From his place on the floor he hissed, “You are a scoundrel and a rake, sir.”
“And you are young and foolish, and infatuated. Examine your own motives before you adopt a pose of chivalry, Phillip. You aren’t interested in preserving the lady from my advances. You are frustrated that your own weren’t more successful. The Rivals indeed.”
Tremayne stepped over and past the wheezing boy and laid his hand lightly on the latch to Kate’s door. He would look an utter fool if it were locked.
He pressed, and the door swung open.
* * *
Kate had heard the two men arguing in the hall. Peter Tremayne seemed to do rather a lot of arguing. Then again, so did she.
She supposed Angela Ferrers would have laid a scene for seduction, but Kate had no intention of seducing, or being seduced for that matter. Quakers were good at convincing people. Her mother had convinced her father after all. She must simply convince Peter Tremayne to return the letter.
She heard a scuffle, the sound of metal clattering to the floor, and her door swung open.
She realized a moment too late that she was standing in front of the bed, and that that wouldn’t do. She stepped away, which brought her, in the confines of the small room, closer to the door. And to Tremayne.
He stood on the threshold, one hand tucked casually into the pocket of his tunic. “Mr. Lytton has had an accident. He tripped on the carpet.”
“There isn’t any carpet in the hall,” Kate answered.
“Yes, well. He is extremely clumsy. May I come in?”
She wanted to say, “Yes, please.” His pale blue eyes and crooked smile made her smile involuntarily in turn. Tonight his long hair was tied loosely at the back of his neck and snaked inky black over the gold braid on his shoulder. Instead, she observed, “The door was unlocked.”
“Yes. Is that an invitation? Only, you see, I should like Mr. Lytton to hear you consent to my presence in your bedroom.”
“Another few hours in your presence, Major, and I will know when I am about to be maneuvered into a corner.”
“I was hoping for something rather softer. The bed, for instance.”
“Give me back my letter, and I will consent to your presence in my room.” She held out her hand.
He produced the envelope from his tunic, and this time laid it on her open palm. Her fingers closed around the letter, and Tremayne stepped over the threshold, kicking the door neatly shut behind him. “Now I have both hands free and at your disposal, Miss Grey.”
He took another step and closed the distance between them. She backed toward the bed, then realizing it, stopped herself. “What a puzzle you are, Miss Grey,” he said and, without touching her, bent his head to brush his lips lightly against hers. She opened her mouth to speak and his tongue darted inside. The sensation shocked her, and she opened her lips farther. He pressed his advantage, running the tip of his tongue lightly over the surface of Kate’s.
She felt his hands, still tentative, on the small of her back and at the nape of her neck. She might, she realized, easily break his grasp, if she had the will to do so, but the heat of his body as he stepped closer eroded her resolve.
Uncertain of what to do with her hands, she slid them under his tunic, over the fine lawn of his shirt and the hard muscles of his chest. Her heart was pounding, her breath becoming short. She felt an unfamiliar heaviness at the apex of her thighs and found it thrilling and terrifying all at once.
Tremayne lifted his head and drew back to look down at her, tipping her chin up with one hand and caressing her neck with the other. “Say yes, Kate. Or say no, and I’ll leave.” He dropped his hands and stepped back from her, withdrawing his warmth with his touch.
He never heard her answer. The battering of the front door below drowned out her words, and the clatter of weaponry and opening of doors throughout the house signaled an end to their privacy.
Tremayne heard Lytton hammering on Kate’s bedroom door. He reached out and pulled sharply on the ribbon that bound her shapeless jacket closed. The amateur embroidery came away in his hand. It seemed all the more intimate because the handiwork, though clumsy, was her own. He pressed it to his lips, sketched a small bow, and slipped from her room, before his presence there could cause her any embarrassment.
Lytton, standing just outside her door, would not meet his eyes.
Tremayne collected his kit and found the rider below in the kitchen. The man was lean, old, and wiry, dressed in fine but plainly cut brown cloth. “Rebels. A raiding party. They’re pillaging a farm on the West Road. They mean to burn it.”
The man was obviously local and known to the Greys.
“How many?” Tremayne asked sharply.
“Forty. Maybe more.”
The man shook his head. “Mounted. Well armed. Organized.”
“Damn. Right. Lytton. Mount up. This is what we’re paid for.”
Mrs. Ferrers arrived in the kitchen in a far more attractive, if less artless, state of dishevelment than the one in which he had left Kate. He wondered briefly what the girl would look like with a touch of her aunt’s polish and élan, and dismissed the thought just as quickly. Kate had her own charm, which needed no ornament.
“What’s happening, Mr. Talbert?” the widow asked.
The old man took his hat off. “Mrs. Ferrers. Ma’am. Rebels, attacking the farm to the west.”
“Thank you for your hospitality, Mrs. Ferrers.” Tremayne followed Lytton out into the hall and was about to dart up the stairs when he saw Kate, clutching her jacket closed, standing in the door to the parlor.
Her ribbon was still in his hand. “Your Rebel friends are attacking a farm to the west,” he said to her.
“Yes,” Kate said.
“I must go. Protecting His Majesty’s loyal subjects and such.”
“Yes,” she said again. He could see her chest heave and fall in the confines of her sensible cotton stays.
“Miss Grey?” He cocked his head, realization dawning on him. “Is that your answer?”
She bit her lip, and he could tell she wished to say more. He waited.
“That is, you must understand, I have never said yes before. To anyone.” Then she laughed. “Not that anyone asked. But you are quite outside my experience, Major, in every way.”
“I rather thought so. And I’m glad of it.” He stepped close to her but could not touch her here in view of so many. He spoke quietly, for her alone. “I won’t take the responsibility lightly. Wait for me.”
The daunting prospect of an enemy engagement at night against men who knew the territory better than he dwindled to a minor impediment. He slipped her ribbon through the button loop on his sleeve and tied it, then bowed and was gone.
* * *
The Miller house was already burning when thirty-odd mounted men thundered to a halt outside the place. There were no Rebels to be seen. The house was old, at least a hundred years, and flames had already engulfed the steep gables and melted the lead from the casements.
“Waste. A vast, natural paradise. More land than anyone can settle. And this.” Tremayne spoke more to himself than to anyone else, but Silas Talbert, mounted on the horse that had earlier that day made a remarkable recovery, answered him.
“It’s a rare man on either side of this war whose reach is equal to his grasp.”
They watched the house burn. There was little to save, and no point in pursuit.
On the cold ride back after Talbert left them, Tremayne’s thoughts turned to Kate, and he fingered the ribbon at his cuff. A showy flourish, a bit of schoolboy romance, plucking the lace from her jacket, but well worth the result.
He recognized infatuation, though he’d not felt it in a long time. Affairs, some of them long and satisfying, he had pursued since his late teens when he had left home for the army. He had enjoyed briefer encounters as well, none more debauched than in the company of his cousin and brother officer, Bayard Caide. It occurred to him that there were elements of his past—and regrettably, with this late war, of his present—that made him an unfit companion for a Quaker girl.
Those considerations were for tomorrow, though. Today, she waited for him.
The house looked different in the cold blue light of dawn. The windows that yesterday had glowed softly with welcome now stared like empty sockets.
He’d hoped to wake only the servants by knocking quietly, but no one came. Lytton joined him on the porch. “There’s no smoke in any of the chimneys, sir.”
“What?” Fear stole over him. The viciousness that would cause a man to burn his neighbor’s house led to worse things in a conflict like this. England’s own Civil War had been rife with atrocity, and the Colonists seemed determined to replay that internecine struggle. He pounded hard on the door.
It swung away from his hand.
They searched the hall, parlors, and bedrooms, and finally the attics and cellars, calling out for the women; but of the servants, Mrs. Ferrers, and Kate Grey, they found no trace.
Recalling with sickening apprehension and the first cold sparks of anger Mrs. Ferrers’ anecdote about the cruelly deceived Hessian colonel, he reached for the oilskin packet in his bag, and the papers entrusted to him by General Howe.
The envelope was still there, but when he examined the pages in the cold morning light, they were utterly blank.
After Tremayne had gone, Kate had remained in the parlor listening to the clatter of spurs and hooves on the paving. There was little talk. She was not surprised. She’d seen it before. Her father was one of the men their community called upon when Indian raids threatened, and she knew from experience that men who had been wakened in the middle of the night for skirmishing were rarely garrulous.
She slipped her hand into her pocket and was reassured to find her father’s letter there. Absently, she attempted to tie her jacket shut, and blushed when she realized that a man was now riding into the dark with her ribbon around his cuff. She subsided into the lolling chair where he had sat that afternoon and tried to get her mind around what she had just done.
Kate had always been the gray mouse of Grey Farm. Most of her friends were married or courting by now. She knew that some of them enjoyed an advantage of appearance and, most saliently, of disposition. Few farmers wanted a tart-tongued girl for a wife.
Marriage, of course, was not what Peter Tremayne was offering. Untempted by matrimony, Kate had never considered that she might discover needs not easily satisfied outside the bounds of wedlock. Or a man who brought out those needs.
Perhaps, had she not met Peter Tremayne, the matter would never have arisen.
She shut her eyes and replayed their encounter abovestairs, imagining what they might have done next had Silas Talbert not intervened.
It was then that it occurred to her that Silas Talbert had been rather too conveniently alert today. He had spotted the British on the road, when but for the lameness of his horse, he should have been miles away with Kate’s father. And he had spotted the Continentals tonight, at the unnamed farm to the west. Kate tried to remember which of their neighbors lived due west of them. Only the Millers, outspoken Tories, she realized, who had abandoned their property several weeks ago to seek the protection of the British.
She was still sitting in the lolling chair when Mrs. Ferrers found her. The Widow was no longer dressed in the brocade robe she had worn earlier that night, nor her shell pink satin, nor her sensible Quaker ensemble. Now she was dressed for riding in dark gray wool. Only her cloak, edged with costly furs, hinted at her earlier élan. “We haven’t much time. I hope you can saddle your own horse.”
“Yes, of course,” Kate said, and sat up. “But why?”
“You can’t be here when they come back. Tremayne will realize that these”—Mrs. Ferrers flourished a sheaf of closely written pages—“are gone.”
“You stole Howe’s letters,” Kate said hollowly. “How?”
“It was simple. I waited for Tremayne to visit you in your bedroom. It was clear this afternoon that you had the best chance of distracting him. You’ve done well, but I can’t leave you here. Is there someone in the neighborhood who can take you in until Howe goes to ground in Philadelphia?”
She could go to her friend Milly’s, of course. Milly’s mother-in-law, Mrs. Ashcroft, had been among the matrons fawning over Angela Ferrers that morning. Milly herself, six months gone with child and unable to travel, had stayed home. Kate considered what it would be like to shelter under her roof. To be the unwanted spinster guest, secretly pitied but welcomed as a pair of extra hands, though Milly would never treat her like that. Openly. But it would be true, all the same. Kate felt angry, manipulated. She had asked very little of life so far, and tonight she realized she had gotten even less.
“I’m not leaving. Major Tremayne is coming back,” she said, but even as the words left her mouth she recalled Mrs. Ferrers’ story of Donop the Hessian colonel, tricked by the beautiful rebel spy.
“Yes,” Mrs. Ferrers agreed. “He’s coming back. And not to steal ribbons from your jacket. Do you know what happens to spies, Kate?”
“They hang.” She recalled the boy from Connecticut caught behind British lines. Hale. His name had been Hale.
“No. They hang men. Women disappear. It’s only glamorous in novels, Kate. If we are successful, we can’t boast. Spying is a dishonorable trade for women, for precisely the reason you despised me this afternoon, and you despise yourself now. We exchange our virtue for their secrets. If we fail, we don’t have the privilege of a public trial and famous last words. Our reward for failure is an unmarked grave.”
“What will happen to him?”
“Tonight? Very little. They’ll find the Miller farm burning, much as the Millers deserve. Tomorrow, when he reaches New York without the packet, court-martial and a swift return to England, I should think.”
“I think I’m going to be sick.”
“Then do so quickly. I must reach Washington’s camp before Major Tremayne realizes we are gone.” Mrs. Ferrers turned to go, then paused in the door and betrayed, for the first time that day, a hint of unfiltered emotion. Kate realized it was pity. “I wouldn’t feel too sorry for him, Kate. He has money, power, and privilege at home. Even if he is just a decent man caught in circumstances beyond his control, he’s better off out of it.”
* * *
Kate paid Margaret and Sara two weeks’ wages each and sent the girls home across the tall rye fields. She watched their lantern bobbing in the darkness, until the waving grain swallowed the light. Then she saddled her horse.
She had no desire for Angela Ferrers’ company on the road to Milly’s, and nothing further to say to her. The spy’s knowing manner and sudden, belated sympathy were an affront to Kate’s pride. But Mrs. Ferrers wouldn’t go away. She insisted on seeing Kate safely beyond the reach of Peter Tremayne before she continued on to the Continental lines.
Kate knew the Widow was not motivated by motherly concern for her safety. The truth was that Kate knew too much. If she was arrested, she could betray the woman, and worse, if Tremayne discovered who Kate was, she might be used as a bargaining chip against her father.
When Kate thought of Peter Tremayne, she recalled with shocking vividness the warm scents of leather and wool and whisky, the fine weave of his linen shirt beneath her fingertips, and the soft wool of his tunic. The memory brought a flush to her cheeks. She turned to find Angela Ferrers, on her horse, trotting alongside her with the negligent grace of a cavalier and watching her with unconcealed amusement. Kate spurred her mount to escape the woman, but she kept pace.
They were within sight of the Ashcrofts’ rambling hilltop farmhouse, their journey together nearly at an end, when the Widow took Kate’s reins and drew both horses to a stop. Angela Ferrers surveyed the silent orchards rolling away in all directions, and the empty road behind them. When she was quite satisfied they were alone, she spoke. “We probably won’t meet again, Kate. You’re angry, because I’ve used you, but I hope you’ll see past that and accept a word of advice. What Tremayne was offering, you can have from any man you like, if you take the proper precautions.”