Ladies in waiting can’t help noticing more than they let on. After so many years at the court of Mary, Queen of Scots, Emma Howard sees quite plainly that the royal couple is anything but happy. Reeling from a failed marriage herself, Emma sympathizes with her beloved queen. But the last thing she wants is for the king to be murdered, let alone to witness the shocking act herself. With her whole world turned upside-down, Emma is saved by the quick thinking of a lowly printer . . . who, unbeknownst to her, is one of England’s most daring spies.
At Queen Elizabeth’s behest, Tristan has been stirring discontent against the Scottish nobility. Now that the king is dead, his mission is even more critical. There’s only one complication: the exquisite courtier who’s unexpectedly fallen under Tristan’s protection. Emma rouses his body and his soul. But after she learns that he’s a traitor, the fate of two nations hangs on her response. Tristan’s prepared to risk his life in exchange for hers. Will Emma do the same for the man she’s come to love?
Don’t miss these novels in the All the Queen’s Spies series:
WED TO A SPY | BOUND TO A SPY
And look for all of Sharon Cullen’s delightful historical romances:
THE NOTORIOUS LADY ANNE | LOVING THE EARL | PLEASING THE PIRATE | HIS SAVING GRACE | SEBASTIAN’S LADY SPY | THE RELUCTANT DUCHESS
The Highland Pride series: SUTHERLAND’S SECRET | MACLEAN’S PASSION | CAMPBELL’S REDEMPTION
This ebook includes an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
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February 10, 1567
She should have taken Whickersham’s offer of a carriage ride home. But, no, she’d insisted she could walk to Holyrood palace.
Sometimes her stubbornness was not a pleasing trait. Tonight was one of those instances.
It was dark.
And her trailing lady’s maid was sullen and silently condemning. Maybe the issue was not that she was walking home, but that she had to bear the incessant sighs and dagger looks to the back from Gelis.
“It’s just another ten minutes,” Emma said over her shoulder.
Gelis bent her head and trudged onward, pretending to limp when Emma knew there was nothing wrong with the girl’s leg.
If she’d just taken the carriage she’d be in her chambers at the palace now, her feet up on a stool, the heat from a roaring fire warming her.
She buried her hands farther into her sleeves and tipped her chin down into her cloak. The wind stung her eyes and the occasional snowflake pricked her cheeks.
“See? We’re passing Kirk o’ Field now.” She wanted to say the words, to reassure Gelis that they were, indeed, almost home, but she didn’t want to release her chin from her warm cloak and she didn’t much care to reassure Gelis.
Emma breathed a sigh of relief as they passed Kirk o’ Field. She could see Holyrood palace in the distance, and she could practically feel the warmth of the fire now. A good mulled wine would be nice to warm her innards as well.
“Walking is invigorating,” she had told Mr. Whickersham when he’d offered his carriage. “Besides, I need the exercise.”
She rolled her eyes at herself and glanced behind her to see if Gelis was still following when she caught movement behind the girl.
About half a dozen or so men were running in their direction. Quickly Emma stepped to the side, pulling Gelis along by her arm. Gelis yelped and stumbled up next to Emma, but before the men reached the girls they veered off into the Kirk o’ Field orchard.
Curious, Emma watched them go. It was late in the evening. Most people with a lick of common sense were in their homes, in front of their fires, or getting ready for bed. Emma and Gelis had not passed anyone at all in the few blocks they’d walked from the Whickershams’ at the other end of High Street. Where had those men suddenly come from?
“Come, Gelis,” she said. “We must hurry.”
Gelis snorted. “I been telling you that the whole time. Somethin’ ain’t right. I got a feeling in my bones.”
Emma disregarded Gelis’s bones and continued on, but her mind was on those men. It appeared that they had been carrying weapons but it was dark and she couldn’t be positive.
Emma walked faster.
They were passing the other end of the orchard when Emma heard a noise that gave her pause. She looked to her left, into the orchard, and saw those men again. A few were bent over, touching something on the ground. Emma stopped, even though her mind was telling her to run, and peered closely into the darkness.
Was that a body they were bent over?
She couldn’t be certain but she had to be wrong. Why in the world would there be a body lying in the middle of the orchard? Unless some poor, hapless being expired there on the spot. What a terrible way to go. All alone, in the middle of a field, on a cold, dark night.
She heard someone yell out, but could not make out the words. A person leaned over the body, placed his hands on it. The legs of the person lying on the ground flailed. The arms jerked.
Beside her Gelis was muttering and looking longingly at the palace. Did she not see what was happening?
And what exactly was happening?
It almost appeared as if whoever was standing over the body, reaching down, was attempting to strangle the one on the ground.
Suddenly the legs stopped kicking, the arms collapsed and the person did not move again.
Emma covered her mouth to keep her shocked gasp in. She looked up and down High Street. The area was strangely empty except for the men surrounding the body on the ground.
A large clap of thunder suddenly rent the air. Emma fleetingly thought that it was strange to hear thunder on a snowy February night. Then a bright light pierced her eyes and the Kirk o’ Field building exploded.
The impact lifted Emma off her feet and tossed her backward. She thought maybe she had screamed and then thought that she couldn’t let those men know she was here, watching their dastardly deed.
Bits and pieces of stone from the building began falling from the sky. Emma stared up at them as they came hurtling toward her but she had no strength to cover her face, to get up and run.
And then she knew nothing.
The explosion rocked Tristan’s bed and woke him up. He hurriedly pulled on clothes, grabbing his cloak as he headed out the front door of his print shop.
People were coming out of their homes, still in their nightclothes and nightcaps, their eyes clouded with sleep. Some were hurrying toward the orange glow on the horizon, lanterns in hand.
Tristan closed and locked the door to the print shop and followed the others. They were talking excitedly, speculating as to the source of the sound that rattled the windows and the dishes in the cupboards.
Tristan listened with half an ear, his mind cataloguing the theories being tossed about.
“Had to have been a lightning bolt come from the sky,” one man said.
But the sky was clear, not a cloud in sight, and who had ever heard of lightning and thunder in February.
It was snowing but it was a lazy snow, the sparse flakes drifting slowly about. The orange glow grew brighter, and Tristan could just make out the lick of flames against the black backdrop of the sky.
An explosion of some sort?
“We’re under attack,” a woman wailed.
Tristan highly doubted they were under attack but it was a more plausible explanation than lightning.