Some secrets are not meant to be shared.
Catherine Bennet, known as Kitty to close friends and family, knows this better than anyone. She also knows that she will never marry and it never bothered her before she met Lord George Kerr at Elizabeth and Darcy’s wedding. He’s determined to breach the walls of defense she’d carefully constructed around her heart, and she’s just as determined to stay the course.
Some secrets cannot be shared
Lord George Kerr knows this better than anyone. For five years, as a spy for His Majesty the King, he played the part of a Rake, concealing his espionage activities beneath a blanket of brothels, drink and loose women. Even though he’s forced to resume his regular life within London’s finest society, he still must keep some things hidden.
One thing he does not hide is his attraction to Miss Catherine Bennet of Longbourn. Enraptured by her beauty and warmth of character, he plunges headlong into winning her heart, only to find it carefully guarded and she’s unwilling to give him even a small pinch of hope.
Some things are beyond your control
When circumstances bring Kitty’s secret into the open, she fears the tenuous bonds of friendship she’s forged with Lord George will be lost forever along with whatever love he proclaims to have for her. With the very lives of England’s vast network of spies working undercover in Bonaparte’s France hanging in the balance, she’s forced to face her worst nightmare.
Her secret is laid bare, can he love her enough to overcome what he learns?
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The drawing room was quiet, save for the shuffling of papers and every now and then a soft, yet impatient sigh.
“Darling, as much as I love my own company, I am feeling a trifle neglected.”
Lord George Kerr turned his attention from the documents spread out before him toward the beautiful woman seated across the room. He appreciated the way the crimson brocade couch acted as a perfect foil for her exotic features and raven hair.
“Evangeline, you know our agreement. I attend your exquisite establishment and you whisk me away to your sumptuous parlor, whereupon I gather information for King and Country.” He grinned at her sultry pout. “Now be a pet and make some noise. Otherwise your servants will gossip I am not here for a lover’s tryst and that would be disastrous for our partnership.”
“If you only knew how envious my maids are. Miss Bledsoe told me they remain convinced you are Casanova reincarnated. Imagine their surprise if they knew we only drink tea and talk.” She arose from the couch and glided behind his chair, combing long fingers through his hair. “Could I not entice you, just this once?”
He stilled her hand and brought her palm to his lips. Pressing a kiss against the soft skin, he turned slightly to face her. “While I admire your tenacity, I cannot give what you ask. The only woman I will share a bed with will be my future wife.”
“I did not say we had to be in a bed.”
“Evangeline,” George warned in a low voice.
“Very well, for you I shall behave.” She turned aside with an elegant shrug of her slim shoulders and moved toward the picture hung over the fireplace. For a brief moment she stared at the portrait of her husband. “I miss that man more than words can say.” She tensed and looked toward the door. “Someone is coming.”
She moved swiftly to the couch. Without questioning her instinct, which had proven itself time and again, George laid his coat on top of the papers and joined her, positioning his body so that his head rested in her lap. He placed his left foot on the cushioned seat, knee slightly bent and stretched the right leg to the floor. She glanced down at him, her delicate features tight with concern.
“Prepare yourself, Lord George. In order to facilitate our ruse as lovers, I must expose more than you would like.”
“I believe I shallsomehow survive,” he replied in a dry tone.
She slipped the filmy gown down one arm and it puddled gracefully against his cheek. The door to salon burst open and her lady’s companion, Miss Bledsoe, the only one who knew of their true connection, trembled within the door frame. Behind her stood two men with hardened faces and what George presumed were loaded pistols. A quick glance past the two men revealed Evangeline’s aged butler crumpled on the floor in the front vestibule.
“What is the meaning of this?” Evangeline demanded. She tugged the gown back onto her shoulder while George remained where he lay, a deceptive picture of languor and satisfied coitus.
“I’m sorry, Lady Anstruther…” Miss Bledsoe began.
“Quiet, slut.” The larger man growled and backhanded her.
With a cry, Miss Bledsoe stumbled against the smaller man, who grabbed her wrist in a vice-like grip. When he saw her face, his eyes lit up.
“Look who we have here,” he crowed, a vicious grin twisting his mouth.
Miss Bledsoe ducked her head and tried to pull away, only to cry out again when the man tightened his grip. If Evangeline noticed Smithson laying on the vestibule floor, she gave no indication.
“Not this time. You made him very angry by running away and he’ll pay a nice tidy sum for your return.”
Although piqued by the smaller man’s comment, Georgefocused on the fact his voice and manners were too cultured. A hint of familiarity tugged at the recesses of his mind. Evangeline pushed his head off her lap and arose in an apparent state of agitation. George, still semi-reclined, slid the hand hidden from sight down toward his boot.
“Please donot harmmy companion,” she begged and stumbled, steadying herself by gripping the back of the divan. “Why are you here?”
She intended to retrieve the weapon strapped to the back of divan. George was familiar with this ruse because she’d done it to him in France. Distracted by her nervous display, neither man observed George unsheathe his knife and palm the deadly weapon.
“If they so much as twitch, kill them.” The smaller man called over his shoulder, tugging Miss Bledsoe behind him. “Shoot the prancing dandy first.”
“With pleasure, Reggie,” the larger man growled and bared his yellow teeth in a sickening grin.
Reggie continued on toward the table and it was only through years of conditioning that George didn’t betray concern he would discover the smuggled documents. If these men escaped with the knowledge of his and Evangeline’s clandestine operation, then many courageous people died for nothing. It was time for him to act.
He arose from the couch like a sleepy giant.
“You hafta wait your turn,” he slurred out, weaving on his feet as though drunk. “I pay a lot of money for her exclusive favors. You can have her when I’m done.”
“You dare to pass me off to these… these ruffians?” Evangeline raged and stomped her foot, the pistol hidden against her side.
Her tantrum had the desired effect. The larger man momentarily shifted his attention from George to Evangeline. Without hesitation, George whipped the blade toward him. Surprised, the thug stared at his chest. At first there was nothing to see except the hilt of the dagger, then like the incoming tide, a dark red stain began to spread across his dingy shirt. In a matter of seconds, he sank to his knees, dropped the gun and crumpled to the ground.
At the sound of his accomplice hitting the floor, Reggie turned and pulled Miss Bledsoe tight against his side, but before he could even point his weapon, Evangeline had raised her arm. With deadly aim she made sure he never breathed again. When Reggie fell to the floor, Miss Bledsoe ran to her friend’s side.
George assessed the bullet hole dead square in Reggie’s forehead, marveling at Evangeline’s accuracy. As good as he was with any weapon of any kind, even he wouldn’t attempt a shot like that with someone standing so close.
“Remind me to never challenge you to a duel, Countess.”
Evangeline lowered her arm and cut him a sideways glance. “You are most fortunate I adore you, Lord George. Otherwise that may have been you on the floor after offering to share my favors.”
“It was a means to an end.” He took hold of her free hand and brought it to his lips, murmuring against her skin. “I am forever grateful you did not shoot me in France.”
“Bah, Cavendish was right, you are a terrible flirt.” She tugged her hand from his light grasp and hurried to the vestibule. By the time she reached his side, Smithson had begun to groan and move about. “Miss Bledsoe. Please have a footman fetch my physician.” Once she and George had settled Smithson in another room, she turned to him. “Come, let us find out who those two Cretans were.”