A Dance With Seduction

A Dance With Seduction

by Alyssa Alexander
A Dance With Seduction

A Dance With Seduction

by Alyssa Alexander

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Overview

Vivienne Le Fleur is one of London’s most sought after opera dancer and one of England’s best weapons: a spy known as the Flower. When a French agent pressures her to change allegiance by abducting her sister, Vivienne is forced to seek the help of the only man in London who doesn’t want her.

Maximilian Westwood, retired code breaker, doesn't like surprises or mysteries—and The Flower is both. When she sneaks into his study in the middle of the night with a coded message, he’s torn between spurning the lovely spy...and helping her.

Now they’re caught up in a game of cat and mouse with French spies. Bound together by secrecy, they discover there is more between them than politics and hidden codes. But love has no place among the secrets of espionage...

Each book in the Spy in the Ton series is STANDALONE.
* A Dance with Seduction
* The Lady and Mr. Jones


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781640631267
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC
Publication date: 07/24/2017
Series: A Spy in the Ton
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: eBook
Pages: 408
Sales rank: 410,472
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Alyssa Alexander is an award-winning author who survives the cold Michigan winters by penning romance novels that always include a bit of adventure. Her debut release received 4.5 Stars&Top Pick by Romantic Times, was nominated for the RT 2014 Best First Historical and the 2015 Best First Book RITA. She’s been called a “talented newcomer” and “a rising star you won’t want to miss.” Alyssa lives with her own set of heroes, aka an ever-patient husband and a small boy who wears a knight in a shining armor costume for such tasks as scrubbing potatoes.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

"Get out of my study." He hunched over the bit of Russian text he was translating, though her scent told him she was near.

She always smelled clean.

Strange, given her various professions. Gunpowder or perfume would be more appropriate.

Of course, she didn't leave, which meant his work would be disturbed for the remainder of the evening. The warm fire and soothing glass of brandy he was about to enjoy would also be disturbed.

He'd been looking forward to that brandy.

Maximilian Westwood did not look up from the Russian missive. Perhaps if he did not meet her gaze, she would go away. The Flower could exit his study by whatever mysterious method she'd entered and leave him in peace.

Light footfalls approached him from behind, followed by the quiet, decidedly feminine sound of a throat being cleared.

She was still there, confound her.

"I am not in that line of work any longer, mademoiselle." The nib of his quill was becoming dull. He eyed the feather carefully. Yes, most definitely dull. Opening the top drawer of his desk, he reached for a short knife. "I suggest you find someone else." Breaking the Flower's ridiculous spy codes was less important than his other tasks. Such as whittling the point of his quill.

"I have a need for you, monsieur."

He scowled at the quill and shifted in his chair. Her voice was sultry and sensual, as befit her profession — well, one of them, at any rate — but her words sounded as if she were advancing a sexual liaison.

"I am no longer in His Majesty's employ. I've retired from code breaking." Thankfully. He only wanted to study words on the page, and as he excelled at translations, his services were in high demand.

Blowing on the nib to dislodge any loose shavings, he was careful to turn away from the desk so the debris did not scatter onto wet ink. He still did not turn to look at her, though he could sense her prowling around his study. Baffling that she could enter the house without even his sharp-eared assistant discovering her.

"This matter is not related to His Majesty, monsieur."

Something stirred against his shoulder. A light touch, little more than her clothing brushing his. Her scent came again. Soap. Not overly sweet as some ladies used, but plain soap.

Maximilian ignored it. He wanted to work, and letters and words were easier to understand than gorgeous spies masquerading as French opera dancers and mistresses. He bent over the paper and pretended the Flower was not standing beside him.

The nib of the quill scored the paper as he tested it. Perhaps he'd oversharpened it due to the distraction of his visitor.

"This matter is only for myself." Her voice layered over the scratching of the quill. Even when she spoke English, the words were accented, though he had never been able to determine the precise region of France she heralded from. "It is coded."

A small, gloved hand slid into his vision, blocking his view of the Russian text. Between her fingers was a scrap of paper. He brushed her hand away even as his mind recorded the note. Two inches on the vertical height, approximately four on the horizontal length. Eight square inches with two lines of text across.

The paper reappeared in front of him, still held tightly in her fingers. He supposed persistence was a necessary quality for a spy.

"I shall pay you, monsieur."

Hell and the devil. Being a second son, his inheritance was not large, and the government did not pay translators particularly well — or code breakers, for that matter. Maximilian's pockets, while not light, were not exactly heavy.

With a sigh, he finally looked up into the Flower's face.

Her beauty simply stole his breath — no doubt as it did every other man. An oval face was framed by a riot of inky curls and a defined widow's peak, with eyes the same deep shade as her hair and narrowed in watchfulness. As she usually did when she worked, the Flower wore all black. A small ebony coat, breeches, and boots. A cap was clutched in her other hand. The Flower might be dressed as a man, but there was no mistaking the flare of hips or the exquisite face.

Or the determined light in her eyes.

"Just this note?" he asked, deciding he would make her pay well for a coded message, since she had interrupted him.

"Oui." Her full pink lips curved up in a satisfied grin. "Your fee is two pounds?"

He leaned back in his chair and eyed that grin. He didn't like it. Or her. Too sneaky by half and so gorgeous a man might forget all boundaries of respectability. "Five pounds."

"Five?" One black brow rose to a wicked point. "My brain, it has been lost, do you think? Two pounds, ten shillings."

"Four and ten." He would have accepted the two pounds from anyone else. The loss of the brandy and his solitude was worth more than two pounds.

"Three pounds."

"Three and ten."

"Acceptable."

He set her paper beside the two sheets already on his desk, where it lay like a bright beacon on the polished surface. Dismissing it for now, Maximilian picked up his quill again. Dipping it into the inkwell, he turned his mind back to the Russian text. "Return tomorrow night, and I shall have it for you."

"No." Leaning over, she tapped a finger on her note with gloves that matched the rest of her ensemble. She would be near to invisible in the dark with all that black clothing — which was her intention, no doubt. "I have need of it now. S'il vous plaît."

"I cannot break the code now. I am translating Russian for a client who already paid me." Setting his fingers on the original Russian letter, he skimmed them over the lines of text until he found the place he had left off. "You have not yet paid me."

"Mon Dieu!" She muttered it, but a coin landed on the Russian letter. Another. Then more, until three pounds ten lay scattered on the document.

His temper spiked. There was an order to his projects. The Russian project first, tomorrow he would translate a Greek paper on the study of water fowl, then Vivienne La Fleur's spy code.

"I still cannot do it immediately." He shoved the coins off the Russian letter. "Your note is too complicated — the symbols, the order. It will take time."

In his peripheral vision, he saw her shoulders sag in defeat. A small movement, but she always stood so straight and tall, shoulders back and head high. A dancer's pose. Even the slightest movement of those shoulders showed.

Quite deeply at the moment, he wished the gentleman in him would stay quiet.

"Very well. I will have it by morning." Sleep would be unlikely, though staying awake all night to translate an interesting bit of text was not a new occurrence.

"Thank you. Merci." Her voice sounded odd. Hoarse, perhaps, as if she were going to cry.

"Mademoiselle La Fleur." He turned his head, angled it up to look at her. "If you are going to be a watering pot, get out of my study."

Pointed chin jerking up, she cleared her throat. "I am not a watering pot. My throat is sore. I have recently recovered from an illness."

Spinning on her heel, she stalked across the room, dark curls swirling through the air like a — well, he didn't know. No one had hair like the Flower.

For once, her boots made more noise than a whisper.

Now it was his turn to grin.

*
Impossible man, that one. Maximilian Westwood was all that was ordered and controlled. Sitting there in his coat and waistcoat, though it was nearly midnight and he was alone. Ah, but he was not so proper. Stubble ranged over his squared jaw, which he surely would have shaved had he known it was there.

Also, a man ought not to have such an agreeable shape to his face, nor eyes that focused on every detail of a woman.

Pitiful locks on his windows, however. Vivienne slid between the sash and the pane to drop onto the grass at the rear of his town house. She shut the window, satisfied not a single squeak could be heard inside. Her town house was close enough to Monsieur Westwood's home that she chose to walk, even late at night. As a kept woman, she did not live in as respectable an area as the monsieur's, but she was not in danger.

And then, of course, there were her knives.

She slipped through her own back door and into the comfort of the kitchen a scant quarter hour later. The fire was out, and a late-night chill hung in the air. Curled in a chair beside the cold fireplace was Anne. The housekeeper's daughter.

Or so it was said.

Thirteen now, and oh, how fast her sister had grown this year. It was all Vivienne could do to keep her in gowns that didn't show her ankles.

"Anne." She shook a narrow, girlish shoulder. All angles and points as she grew, Vivienne thought Anne would be as tall as their mother. Certainly taller than herself, but that did not require much growth.

"Vivienne?" The girl's eyes fluttered open to reveal two dark pools of sleep befuddlement.

"Hush, ma minette. Bed now, yes? Come."

Anne was limp as a sack of potatoes, and as useless. Vivienne prodded the girl until she was walking, such as it was, with Vivienne's supporting arm around her waist. When they reached the servants' quarters, Vivienne stripped off her gown. Anne had become thin in the middle and would need proper stays soon. Nearly ready to be a woman, this daughter of her heart.

Vivienne swallowed the lump in her throat as she settled a nightgown over Anne's head. "Into bed. It was much too late for you to wait for me."

"I wanted to say good night." Anne covered a yawn with work-roughened hands. "Did you see Mr. Westwood about the note?"

"I did." With a gentle touch, she guided the girl to the bed.

"You could have managed any of the short words I taught you for your work," Anne said, slipping into the small bed. "I would have read the remainder for you, but for the code."

"I know." She could only be grateful Anne worked so hard to learn her letters. Vivienne had never learned more than what was necessary. No time when one was fighting for survival as a girl. Later, when she had become a spy, to tell her spymaster she could not read would have meant being turned away from espionage — toward prison or death instead, given her past.

Vivienne drew the coverlet up, tucking the edges around Anne's shoulders as she liked. "Monsieur Westwood will have the translation in the morning. I will soon find out what it means. What I must do."

"No one can hurt us, can they?" Big brown eyes watched Vivienne over the edge of the coverlet. Anne's fingers clutched at faded seams, her knuckles white.

Memories of their father had faded, but not enough.

"No. Of course not." A lie. Truth would only cause fear. She smoothed the hair across Anne's brow, tucked a lock behind her ears. "It is nothing to worry over now. Until Mr. Westwood translates it, we can do nothing. So we must wait and take action later. Now, sleep again."

"Good night." Anne turned over, burrowing beneath the coverlet.

Vivienne blew out the candle on the bedside table and let her eyes adjust to the dark. She waited, listening to Anne's breathing. Did everyone tell lies to children? She supposed they did, as sometimes one must pretend there were no villains in the world.

But there were such men, as Vivienne knew.

As Anne knew.

It was a short walk to her room a floor below. Vivienne drew the drapes but did not light a candle. Instead, she let her eyes adjust once again to the dark before moving to the wardrobe. She pushed aside the silk and lace nightclothes provided by her commander and spymaster until she found a well-worn cotton shift. She shrugged out of her coat, removed the knife hidden beneath, then stripped off the other tied around her thigh. A third was hidden in her boots, which she pulled off before slipping out of her breeches.

The first knife she slid beneath her pillow. The second was set beside it on the mattress. She laid the last one on the bedside table, hilt toward her so she could easily grasp it. The shift was soft against her skin and fell to midthigh, freeing her legs for the next part of her nightly ritual.

Plié, deep enough so her bottom met her heels. Count two, three, four. Stand again. First position, fifth position, spin, another plié. She continued the routine, her arms working as she lifted them over her head. The muscles and sinews of her legs would strengthen, fiber by fiber, to assist in her work. Dancer, spy, thief. All required her to stay strong.

A body was no different than a pistol or a knife. She had long ago learned to care for her weapons. In those days she had loved the familiarity of the training rooms, the routine, the comfort of knowing that space was both home and sanctuary. That town house, empty now but for the spies Angel and Jones, was still home.

Jones, too, had been a comfort and refuge. Training beside her with his quiet strength. She had given him her body in their youth, when they both understood that spies could never have love.

Those days seemed very far away.

When she was breathing hard, she strode to the washstand in the corner of the room. The pitcher stood sentinel over the matching basin, their white porcelain sides painted with a floral pattern. She despised the ornate and fussy rosebuds painted across the base of the vessels, but she had not been allowed to pick the decor of the room.

Splashing water into the basin, she dunked her hands into the cold water. The plain, homespun soap lying on the washstand barely lathered, but she used it each day, washing, rinsing, then patting herself dry with a strip of soft linen.

Once she had hung the linen over a rack to dry, she sat down on the end of the bed to let her heartbeat return to normal. Her hands lay limp in her lap, palms up. They were delicate, with fine, narrow fingers. Competent hands, skillful fingers — unmoving and quiescent, at the moment. It would not last, of course. Even in sleep she could not find respite. She must listen for intruders, for soft sounds that were not the house shifting or a carriage beyond the windows.

For Henri.

Lord Wycomb was inclined to arrive in the middle of the night with an assignment, and though he had never touched her beyond a caress or stroke, he sometimes looked at her in a most disturbing manner. He had not done so at first, when she was young. In these last years, she had found his eyes on her more often.

Each night she listened for him.

She slid into the bed, repositioned her knives just so, and mentally listed her tasks for the morning. Breakfast with Henri, as he demanded. Rehearsal — she would enjoy that. Burglary into the house belonging to a member of the House of Lords suspected of turning traitor — she would enjoy that also.

First, before breakfast, Maximilian Westwood. She would have broken the code herself, if she could. Instead, she must rely upon the most proper, reclusive, damnably attractive man she had ever met. She needed an expert, however. Mr. Westwood had been England's best code breaker during the war. More, he was no longer used by the government. He was only a translator now, with his own private business.

Which meant he was her best chance at remaining undiscovered.

CHAPTER 2

Maximilian propped his chin in his hand and frowned at the small symbol resembling the Egyptian hieroglyphic letter A. It wasn't actually an A. The vulture wasn't shaped correctly, and it faced the wrong direction. It wasn't a logical progression in the code, which should have been a mathematical substitution cipher. The vulture changed the rotation.

On 13 October, go to No. 14 Hanover Square. Yes, that part of the message was easy. A date and an address. Document will be hidden in a copy of Sense and Sensibility by A Lady. Truly, spies were an odd lot. Who would hide important documents in a novel where any young debutante could pick it up? Deliver document to 22 Neva Street.

At the end of the message was the vulture. He could not understand its purpose there. He pulled the scrap of paper closer, leaning over and squinting despite his spectacles. A signature, perhaps? Interesting, that little drawing. Quite well done, in fact, and vaguely familiar.

Maximilian yanked on the bell pull recently installed by his assistant. The bell clanged somewhere distant in the house.

Nothing happened. Not for ten long, silent minutes.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "A Dance with Seduction"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Alyssa Marble.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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