Joanna Bourne Rogue Spy (Spymaster)

ISBN 13: 9781494551100

Rogue Spy (Spymaster)

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9781494551100: Rogue Spy (Spymaster)
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Ten years ago, Thomas Paxton was sent by Revolutionary France to infiltrate the British Intelligence Service. Now his sense of honor brings him back to London to confess. But instead of facing the gallows, he is given one last impossible assignment to prove his loyalty.

Lovely, lying former French spy Camille Leyland is dragged from obscurity by threats and blackmail. Dusting off her spy skills, she sets out to track down a ruthless French fanatic and rescue the innocent victim he's holding, only to find an old colleague already on the case-Pax. Old friendship turns to new love, and as Pax and Camille's dark secrets loom up from the past, Pax is left with a choice-go rogue from the Service or lose Camille forever.

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About the Author:

Joanna Bourne is a RITA Award-winning author of historical romances set in England and France during the Napoleonic Wars, including The Forbidden Rose, My Lord and Spymaster, and The Spymaster's Lady. Joanna lives in the Appalachian Mountains with her family. Visit her at joannabourne.com.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Acknowledgments

One

When you must run, carry nothing and never look back.

A BALDONI SAYING

The end of her own particular world arrived early on a Tuesday morning, wrapped in brown paper and twine, sealed with a blob of red wax. She found it at the bottom of the pile of the morning’s mail.

She sat at her desk in the library, pleasantly full of breakfast, opening letters, ready to be brisk with the contents. Camille Leyland—Cami—dutiful niece, British subject, codebreaker, French spy, ready to deal with the morning post.

The Fluffy Aunts didn’t believe in opening mail at the breakfast table. “A barbarous custom,” Aunt Lily called it.

Books filled the room she sat in and most of the rest of the substantial cottage. They ran floor to ceiling along every wall of the front parlor, the entry hall, the back parlor, what had originally been a bedroom, and this little study at the back of the house. Books, plump with pages of notes and bristling with bookmarks, stuffed the shelves two deep and wedged in every available space on top.

In the next room Aunt Lily and Aunt Violet bumbled back and forth, trailing scarves and arguing amiably about . . . something to do with Gnostic symbology. In any case, they had wandered deep into the maze of academic dispute. Any decoding done today would fall in her lap.

The window at her back was open to the morning. Sun fell across these nearest shelves in the pattern of the windowpanes, eighteen trapezoids across the books. The leather binding was mellow brown, red, and blue. The gold lettering on the spines turned to curls of fire.

To work, to work. She’d get the pesky small business of the day out of the way first. It was an old relaxing routine to cut a fresh nib on the pen and unstopper the ink. She slipped her shoes off and cuddled her stockinged feet under her, comfy as a cat. Her desk was bare as the deck of a ship at sea. When one codes and decodes for diplomats and the secret agencies of the British government, one keeps a tidy desk.

“I can’t find . . .” Aunt Violet leaned in at the door. “Cami, did you move the Norbert manuscript for some reason?”

“Try the boxes on the table.” That answer usually worked.

“I have it here.” Aunt Lily’s voice came around the corner. “I was consulting it last night. Fanshaw is wrong. Incorrect citations. Sloppy scholarship. No real knowledge of his subject. He is quite simply wrong.”

“Ex scientia vera,” Aunt Violet said.

Half a lifetime of Latin over the dinner table made the translation automatic. “From knowledge, truth.” Herself, she’d always thought one could have too much truth.

Aunt Lily crossed the door to the front room, coming in and out of the line of sight, carrying a large manuscript. “Stupid as owls. Not the Hungarians. Stuffy old fools and their Cambridge politics.” That was obscure, but probably true, the Fluffy Aunts being shrewd in such matters.

A serene, blue and gold morning filled the sky outside the window to her left. The air was full of academic infighting and the scent of late roses. This first letter . . . she glanced at the postmarks. That was from Aunt Lily’s man of business. She could set it aside, unopened. The Fluffy Aunts invested in cog production and rope inventories and God knew what and didn’t seem to go bankrupt.

She slipped her letter opener under the seal of the next letter and loosed the news that Mr. Owens, owner of the Sparrow Bookshop in London, had located a copy of De Componendis Cifris, exhaustively described herein. How much would they authorize him to bid on it? That went to the pile on the far left, for Aunt Violet, who collected. A bill for a hat slid into a drawer with other bills to be paid next time she was in London. A letter from Germany, in German. That was for Aunt Lily.

Paper by paper, she sorted order out of chaos. It was not unlike decoding, in its way.

Aunt Lily stalked about, muttering, in the other room, “Not Ogham. Not Welsh. Next he’s going to spout nonsense about Aramaic.”

The letter opener was an antique dagger from Italy, honed to a killing edge. But no one would wonder why she kept a deadly weapon in the house. Lay it gently in a desk drawer and the knife became unremarkable as a goose quill.

It was beautiful in a spare, serious way, the sort of knife one of her Baldoni ancestors would have used to commit murder. She’d bought it in London eight years ago for that purpose, and it worked. She hadn’t killed anybody with it since.

The knife was also perfectly good at opening letters.

The next offering of the mail was a note, elegantly addressed and hand-delivered from the manor. There would be a tea next Tuesday. Would the Misses Leyland care to attend?

Tea and tittle-tattle, chatter of King Charles spaniels, flooding in the lower fields. The Fluffy Aunts would love it. She set that aside to write a bright, cheery answer later, because the bottom of the pile held something more interesting. Her last but not least of the morning was a square packet wrapped in clean brown paper, tied with string. It was wider than her hand and not much thicker than an ordinary letter. Some object about the size of a shilling weighted the center.

Because of what she’d once been, because of what she’d once known, she saw the dozens of small details and tried to fit them into a pattern. Shopkeeper paper, suitable to wrap Byron’s poems or a ham. Ordinary twine. Unremarkable red wax for the seal. That seal slopped over the flap of the paper and the knot in the twine. It would be hard to lift undetectably, if anyone took a notion to engage in that sort of behavior. The signet could have been the letter L or a boat. Or a duck.

The aunts had an eclectic network of friends spread to every corner of the map. Sometimes their friends sent curios. But when she turned the little package over, it was addressed to her, not one of the aunts. Educated writing, probably in a man’s hand. The postmarks showed it had been sent from London four days ago.

She cut the string and smoothed the wrapping back to reveal a sheet of cream-colored writing paper inside, folded in thirds, then folded inward at the sides. When she picked it up, a ring fell out to spin in a long, small clatter and wobble itself flat.

A gold ring. Her fingers told her it was real gold and worth far too much to send in a letter through the post. The band held a pearl the size of a pea. She slanted it to the light. It was set in a circle of ten very nice little rubies. Well matched, square cut, excellent color, about a carat all told. Very nice indeed.

A child’s ring. She’d seen this somewhere.

Her body recognized disaster before her mind did.

She read the first lines of the letter and distinctly, crystal by spiked crystal, she felt herself turn to ice.

My dear Camille,

We are not yet acquainted, so I enclose this small token as introduction. You will have seen this ring in the portrait that hangs above the fireplace in the parlor of Wythe Cottage. Hyacinth Besançon, née Leyland, toys with a brown-and-white spaniel named Felix, called Lix-Lix. The child to her left, the genuine Camille Besançon, wears this ring.

She is here with me now. I foresee great awkwardness when this somewhat more authentic Camille returns to her aunts’ house. The Leylands might forgive your deception. The British Service, Military Intelligence, and the Foreign Office will not.

If you try to run, they will pursue you mercilessly.

Make some excuse to travel to London. Meet me at the Moravian church in Fetter Lane on Friday at noon. Bring with you the key to the Mandarin Code. Do so, and you may continue your comfortable life with the Leylands. I will present you with the inconvenient remnant of the past I hold. You may do with her as you will.

 

A friend

Snakes of fear slithered along her bones. She had not forgotten how to be terrified, even after many years of safety.

Outside the window, in the garden, a few house sparrows had come to hop about in the grass. The brightest color was the quince tree, yellow against the brick. The hollyhocks were seedpods now, all their leaves brown, looking disgruntled with autumn. Even in early September frost nipped them at night. She could see beyond the wall to the wood on the other side of Dawson’s field. Tree shadows flickered against the sky.

It was really a beautiful day.

For ten years she’d been safe in the village of Brodemere, playing the part of the Leylands’ niece. But before that, she’d been one of the Cachés, one of the terrible, well-trained children sent to England by the fanatics of the Revolution. She’d been a French spy, placed in an English family. Placed with the Leylands, because the two dithering, scholarly old ladies were the codemakers and codebreakers for the British Intelligence Service.

The British Service would not be forgiving. They could not allow a French spy who knew so much to escape. It would not matter to them that she had never stolen secrets. That she had long since shaken free of her French masters. She’d read thousands of documents as she ciphered and deciphered. The British Service couldn’t afford to let her live.

She let her breath out unevenly, accepting this truth. One must know when it is time to run. When she was a child, her parents had died because they stayed one day too long in Paris, playing a role that was too profitable to abandon.

She lowered the fluttering letter to the blotter to cover the ring. Rested her hands on the desk so they wouldn’t shake. She would not alarm the Fluffy Aunts. Would not bring them to her desk, worried and curious, full of sharp, shrewd attention.

It had been a long, fine game, being Camille Leyland. She’d played it so thoroughly she had almost forgotten it was a lie.

Aunt Lily stood at the table in the corner and leafed through a folio book, exchanging opinions through the open door with Aunt Violet . . . something about the Hermetics and Rosenkreuz. They’d slipped into speaking German.

At any moment either of them could look in her direction and know something was terribly wrong.

Become smooth as an egg. Placid as tea in a cup. Show nothing.

She bent over the desk as if she were reading the letter. Nothing in the poise of her body betrayed fear. Nothing, nothing showed on her face.

I have not forgotten what it is to be a Caché. At the school in Paris—the Coach House, it was called—she’d learned to recite the English kings, to play spillikins and Fox and Geese, to make small bombs, to dance the Scotch Reel, to kill with her hands. She’d had a different name then. Memories of that time spun and tumbled in her head like a pack of cards, tossed in the air, falling.

When she looked up, the world was changed. The books beside her desk, the mail in its prim stacks, the big lamp, the copybooks and quills, the sharpened pencils in the Etruscan cup felt strange, distant, trivial. The woman she was becoming, second by second, no longer belonged in this quiet village, in this small house where two harmless old women argued about Finnish vowel sounds.

The Fluffy Aunts knew the Mandarin Code as well as she did. The man who sent this disgusting letter must be well aware of that. If he couldn’t get the code from her, he would come to acquire it from them. Her first task, before all others, was to lead his attention away from this cottage. Away from the aunts.

She slipped the letter opener into her sleeve, where it stopped being harmless and turned into a dagger again. She put her palms flat on the desk and made herself think.

From the next room, Aunt Violet called, “So vexing. He agrees with Johnson.”

“Then they are both wrong.” Aunt Lily snapped the volume she was studying closed. Emphatically, she pushed her glasses back up the bridge of her nose.

“Huncher is very unhelpful. I’ll try Middleton.”

“I’d accept Middleton,” Aunt Lily stepped briskly from the room, “cum grano salis.

. . . with a grain of salt. She would miss them so much.

She folded the letter, feeling the texture of it acutely, seeing every nuance and shade of the wood grain of her desk. The pearl ring was light in her hand when she picked it up.

For ten years, she’d lived in this safe, pretty cottage in the place that belonged to Camille Besançon. At night, in her room up under the slope of the roof, in the narrow bed beside the window, she’d looked out over the fields toward the mill pond and imagined the child who’d died. That child, her parents, and the young brother had been murdered so a Caché could be placed in the Leyland household. So many murders committed so a French spy could live in the cottage in Brodemere with the Latin and tea cakes, German, algebra, Hebrew and Arabic, the intricacies of code, the calculus, Spanish, Polish, chess, good wine . . . “There is nothing worse than inferior wine,” Aunt Violet always said. “One might as well drink ditchwater.”

I couldn’t have saved that child. I was a child myself, and helpless.

But in the silence of the night, all those years, she’d felt guilty.

Could Camille Besançon have somehow escaped the slaughter? Could the little girl who’d worn this ring possibly be alive?

“Whyever am I holding this Von Herder book?” Aunt Violet’s voice receded toward the parlor. “What was I looking for?”

“Middleton. It should be on the shelf behind you, next to the Asiatic Register. To the right. The other right, dear.”

They’d given her so much. She’d been able to give them so little.

Now she could protect them. She could make certain this blackmailer never, ever came near them. If Camille Besançon had somehow survived, she could give the Fluffy Aunts their niece. Their only blood relative. It would be a small repayment for the lies she’d told.

I’ll never see them again. I can’t even say goodbye.

She slipped the ring into her pocket. It was time to go. She turned in her chair and dropped the blackmail letter on the fire. It blackened and became ashes. No one would be surprised to see her burning it. Codemakers burn every scrap of paper they’re not using.

The man who’d written that sly, lying letter could have bribed some villager or one of the servants to report to him. Even now, someone might be standing in the wood spying on them with field glasses. From this moment on, she’d assume someone was watching.

She’d always known that one day, without warning, it would be time to walk away. But she wasn’t ready. She would never be ready.

She’d made her preparations. Two miles past the parish pump, under a great flat stone at the end of an old stone wall, money, warm clothing, and sturdy walking shoes waited, wrapped in oilcloth. She’d help herself to the muff pistol and kit from the drawer in the hall when she went by. Then she’d stroll down the front walk carrying nothing but her reticule, as if she went on some ordinary stroll to the village. She’d stand up and walk away. It was as simple and as hard as that.

In a minute of two she’d get up and do it. When she was quite cer...

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Book Description Tantor Media, Inc, United States, 2014. CD-Audio. Condition: New. Unabridged edition. Language: English . Brand New. Ten years ago, Thomas Paxton was sent by Revolutionary France to infiltrate the British Intelligence Service. Now his sense of honor brings him back to London to confess. But instead of facing the gallows, he is given one last impossible assignment to prove his loyalty. Lovely, lying former French spy Camille Leyland is dragged from obscurity by threats and blackmail. Dusting off her spy skills, she sets out to track down a ruthless French fanatic and rescue the innocent victim he s holding, only to find an old colleague already on the case-Pax. Old friendship turns to new love, and as Pax and Camille s dark secrets loom up from the past, Pax is left with a choice-go rogue from the Service or lose Camille forever. Seller Inventory # AAC9781494551100

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