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Seduction abounds in Sharon Cullen’s steamy historical romance! For the Crown’s top agents, love is a hazard best avoided—until an unforgettable affair exposes their undercover hearts.
Sebastian Addison has a powerful secret. To society he is the Earl of Claybrook, the patriarch who raised his siblings after the death of their parents. But to the king, Sebastian is Britain’s top spy—a position that has taken an emotional toll on him. Contessa Gabrielle Marciano has also been living a lie, her title a cover devised by the Office of Intelligence. The femme fatale was plucked from a life of crime and prostitution and trained to restrain her passionate nature. Until she meets the earl.
For three deeply sensual days and nights, Sebastian and Gabrielle drop their masks, indulging in pleasures that seem too good to be true. Then the lovers go their separate ways. Seven months later they reunite when inside sources report that an English aristocrat has been aiding France in a plot to topple the Crown. Their objective: to find the turncoat. Their greatest challenge: to keep their wild, wounded hearts from derailing a mission of life and death.
SEBASTIAN’S LADY SPY
BY SHARON CULLEN
I confess to a bit of nervousness as my carriage rolled up to the front doors of the earl of Claybrook’s country residence. I’m fully aware of what it took to convince the earl to let me interview him and his countess and that is exactly why I’m nervous.
The butler led me into the formal sitting room much to my disappointment. I was hoping for a less formal setting, a place where the earl might relax a bit, but that was not to be.
He was waiting for me so there would be no time for me to prepare. A deliberate ploy on his part, I’m sure. He greeted me with quiet reserve, his eyes shuttered and watching. We settled into our respective seats and he settled back, crossing a boot over a knee but his relaxed manner didn’t fool me. He was on alert and he was watching me.
“I’ve heard rumors that you foiled a plan for another Scottish uprising.”
“Not well enough, apparently,” he says a bit sardonically.
“I’m certain the king is in your favor.”
“The king is in no one’s favor.”
This wasn’t going well. Too many years of being the country’s preeminent spy left Sebastian Addison reticent. A commendable trait for a spy but frustrating for a journalist trying to write a story.
“You met your countess while on your last mission I’ve been told.”
That elicited a small smile and a warming of the eyes. “I re-met my countess on this last mission. So yes, that would be correct.”
“Two spies wed to each other has to be difficult.”
“Not as difficult as you might think. Of course there was a bit of negotiation in the beginning.”
Now this was interesting. “Negotiations?”
Addison shifted. “Who makes what decisions and such.”
“Come now, Sebastian, don’t prevaricate.” Gabrielle Addison, the countess of Claybrook strolled into the room in a rustle of silk. The rumors of her beauty were correct. She was exotic looking with her Mediterranean complexion and midnight hair pulled on top of her head. Her dark eyes looked at her husband in amusement before she turned to me. I have to admit that all of her attention focused on my person was disconcerting. She smiled and I could feel myself blush. A quick look at the earl confirmed that he was well aware of my discomfort. It amused him.
“Welcome to our home,” she said as she settled into the chair next to her husband and arranged her dark blue skirts. She folded her hands in her lap and looked every bit the lady, which was bemusing because I knew from speaking to others that she could kill a man in a hundred different ways with those hands and she was never without a weapon. Supposedly, she had her gowns made to conceal her weaponry.
I didn’t want to look too closely what with the earl watching me intently, but I wondered if she was carrying weapons and where they would be hidden on her person.
Addison still appeared amused and I realized it was in my best interest to keep him amused rather than irritated. He was deadly in his own way.
The countess put her hand over her husband’s and gave him a warm, secretive smile. His eyes crinkled but he remained alert to my presence. “By negotiations the earl means that we had to come to terms with who made what decisions. We’d both lived alone for so long it was an adjustment to being together and of course neither of us wanted to give up any authority.”
I began to relax. The countess’s presence brought a different element to our conversation that I enjoyed. I would get much more information with her here than with the earl alone. Although I was well aware that her friendliness could be taken away in an instant.
“And do you share the authority?”
They exchanged a look. If I could freeze the moment and share it with you, my dear readers, I would. It brought a humanity to two of England’s best spies that is rarely, if ever seen.
“We share everything,” Addison said with an inflection to his voice that had me blushing again.
The countess playfully slapped him on the arm with an admonished, “Stop that.” Addison smiled but kept his eyes trained on me. I cleared my throat and looked down at my notes but my questions seemed pedantic and elementary now that I met the powerful couple.
“Tell me about your courtship.”
The countess laughed, a beautiful, musical sound filled with humor. “There was no courtship. We met on a mission. Sebastian disliked me upon sight and took it upon himself to make everything much more difficult than it needed to be.”
I looked at the earl for either confirmation or denial but he merely smiled. “And is this true, my lord?”
“In part. I didn’t dislike her. I disliked her presence. I don’t work with partners. Ever.” There was a finality to that statement that was hard to dispute.
“Except for that one time,” the countess said. She patted his arm again. “And it worked out very well, indeed.”
Addison put his hand over hers in a possessive touch. They shared a touching look.
“Tell me about Grant McFadden,” I said, feeling more confident. That confidence was ill advised and far too soon, for Addison’s face hardened and his expression closed up. Even the countess stiffened and the smile left her eyes.
“There is nothing to tell.”
I knew a lost cause when I saw one so I changed tactics, abandoning the topic of the traitor that caused such endless trouble for these two.
“And so what do two retired spies do in their spare time these days?”
Addison shrugged. “We keep ourselves busy.” He sent his wife a smoldering look that had her dipping her head and hiding a smile.
“We have our projects that keep us busy,” she said. “I’m very involved in saving young girls from the rookeries. It’s a passion and a mission of mine.”
Most women of quality were content to visit and gossip and plan balls to raise money for charities but the countess of Claybrook was not like that. It seemed she liked to dirty her hands and get involved.
“And what of your future? What plans have you?”
They shared another look, this one filled with so much love that I felt like an intruder.
“Right now we’re living day to day,” Addison said. “We will face tomorrow when tomorrow comes and as long as we have each other we will prevail.”
Sharon Cullen is the author of the historical romances The Notorious Lady Anne, Loving the Earl, and Pleasing the Pirate, as well as many novels of romantic suspense, paranormal romance, and contemporary romance. If you’d like to find out more about the author and her books, you can visit her blog or her website. She is addicted to social networking so you can find her on Facebook and Twitter. Friend her! Like her! Follow her! She’d love to hang out with you and talk about her passion: books.
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