William Townsend, Lord Latymer, lost the woman he loved because of his greed and his ultimate deception of two powerful countries. Now, he must protect his nine-year-old son from the same fate. Latymer has only one chance to escape his enemies—board a ship that would carry them both to America and a new life. But first he must find his missing son, elude a vengeful grieving brother, and kill a beautiful French assassin. Time is slipping through his fingers and Latymer has twelve hours before his ship and his future sail away.
Releasing a breath, Latymer moved from room to room, floor to floor, sifting through the evening shadows with painstaking precision. White linens draped every piece of furniture, making the once-happy atmosphere feel more like that of a dreary mausoleum.
He saved Lydia’s bedchamber for last. Had he been stronger, he would have gone there first, knowing if Giles had managed to find his way home, he would’ve sought the comfort of his mother’s chamber. An instinctual response for any child, especially one who’d suffered so much.
But Latymer’s courage began to flag the moment he placed his boot on the first stair. Although he could ignore the grief, he hadn’t been able to control the longing. After the French had kidnapped Giles and forced Lydia to spy on Somerton for them, he’d come here often. This house, their possessions, her bedchamber—the only links he had left to his lover and his son. Once he’d learned of her death, he’d stopped coming.
He stared at Lydia’s bedchamber door now, praying Giles was within. If he lost his son to the French, as he’d lost the woman he loved, not even Bonaparte would be safe from his vengeance.
Turning the handle, he eased the door open and slipped inside. Low, flickering light caught his eye. “Giles?”
“No, darling, not Giles.”
Collette. His heart sank like a bag of tarnished coins into his gut.
How had she known to come here? Had she followed Giles? His gaze slashed around the chamber, searching for his son.
Nothing, nothing, nothing.
The lamplight grew stronger. “Looking for someone?” Collette’s bloodred lips tipped up into a taunting smile.
“Where is he?”
Sitting at Lydia’s dressing room table, Collette reached for a silver comb that lay next to a small pistol. She slid the hairpiece into her mass of dark locks, twisting her head one way, then the other, inspecting her handiwork. He’d given the comb to Lydia on her birthday five years ago. Seeing the special piece in his enemy’s possession sent fire streaking through his veins.
She met his gaze in the looking glass. “He?”
“Don’t play games with me, Collette. What have you done with my son?”
“We will get to him later.” She rose and turned to face him. “First, let us discuss the unfinished business you have yet to attend to.”
“There is no later. If you know where my son is, tell me now.” The steel in his voice drew forth two new bodyguards—one from the corridor and one from the dressing room—both as large as the last two he’d dispatched. “It appears you purchase your brawn in bulk.”
Her eyes twinkled. “So much more convenient that way. Now, about that unfinished business . . .”
“Oh, for God’s sake.” He threw up his hands. “The damned list does not exist. When will your superiors listen?”
She reached for the pistol. “We’re no longer interested in the piece of paper.”
“Give it some thought, darling. I’m sure that brilliant mind of yours will come up with the answer.”
Latymer considered the last few weeks and the various attempts the French had made to raze the Nexus organization. They had been unsuccessful thus far, but that would not stop them. There could be only one individual they wanted more than a list of agents. “Somerton.”
She sent him an appreciative smile. “Very good, my lord. Bring him to me.”
He and Somerton had a long history of working together at the Alien Office—until Somerton realized Latymer was aiding the French. Even though Somerton was now his enemy, he was the one person Latymer trusted. To betray Somerton once again would be difficult, though not impossible. To save Giles, he would do whatever it took. But first, he had to uncover what Collette knew about his son’s whereabouts—if anything. “Show me my son first.”
“That’s not how this works, Latymer, and you know it,” Collette purred, clearly enjoying having the upper hand.
When he’d met Collette many years ago in London, fresh out of the schoolroom, she’d exuded a raw, untamed sensuality. Four days after meeting her, Latymer had taken her to bed and had spent several hours tutoring her in the carnal arts. She had been a quick and enthusiastic pupil.
Although extraordinary, her beauty had not been the reason for his interest. No, he had enticed Collette into his bed to coax from her information about her new husband and his associates within the French government. Two months into their affair, she discovered his duplicity. Undeterred, she’d asked questions . . . a lot of questions. And then she’d disappeared. Their paths crossed a few more times over the years, and every time he saw her he had been fascinated by her transformation—from innocent to victim, to predator, to killer.
“You expect me to bring one of the most dangerous men in Britain to you without any assurance that my son is even alive?”
Nodding, she lifted the pistol in his direction. “Yes, that is exactly what I’m saying.” She began to move toward him, one provocative step at a time. “You have a perfect understanding of the situation.”
“If I do what you want, I’m free of further harassment from your emperor?”
“Harassment? I do not recall you being so harsh last time we worked together.” Her gaze roamed down his frame leisurely, thoroughly, seductively.
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Latymer’s body took notice. One sultry look. That’s all it had taken to awaken memories of their brief affair. She knew how to pleasure a man and how to take a man’s pleasure. How to make him feel like a king.
“Last time we met you weren’t after my son.”
“You’re becoming quite soft on me, Latymer. So much emotional bother over a bastard.”
“Careful, Collette,” he said in a quiet, dangerous voice.
“A man with your aspirations should know better than to become attached to anyone or anything.”
“Let’s stop wasting time. Do we have an understanding or not?”
She approached him with a confident stride, though caution rode beside her like a battalion of loyal guards. Her pistol never wavered. She continued forward until the end of the barrel rested against his temple. He dared not move. If nothing else, he understood one thing about her—she would not hesitate to pull the trigger if he made any attempt to overcome her. This woman never hesitated, nor did she waste her time and energy on regrets.
Her familiar exotic scent reached his nostrils, and he could not stop his slow intake of breath—nor the hardening of his body. Whether his physical reaction was due to the threat, or to the temptation, she presented, he couldn’t be sure. Given his peccadilloes, it could be both.
A flush of pink highlighted her sculpted cheeks, and a sheen of perspiration peppered the delicate hollow of her throat. Her gaze never left his.
“Still enjoy the thrill of danger, Collette?” He dropped his voice, careful to keep himself motionless. “Is that the thunder of your heart beating? Does your womb weep for me?”
She caressed the steel barrel against his temple. “Feel free to indulge in your curiosity.”
“Is your trigger finger steady?”
Something close to a genuine smile appeared. “You’re good, darling,” she responded. “But not that deliciously good.”
“We’ll see.” All he needed was a split second of inattention. Enough time for him to wrench her weapon away and force her to reveal what she knew about Giles. “Send your dogs away.”
Her erotic gaze roamed his face, finally resting on his mouth. “I think not.” She smiled. “Etienne and Philippe won’t mind.”
Latymer clenched his jaw. Having her two guards in the room complicated things.
“Do not move your head without my permission,” she said, “or it won’t go well for you.”
“Then you’re going to have to come closer.”
“You wouldn’t be foolish enough to underestimate me, would you?”
He lowered his lids and expanded his chest. “Do I look foolish?”
She pressed the pistol against his flesh and moved close enough for the tip of her boots to touch his.
Accepting her challenge, he caressed the backs of his fingers over her silken cheek and down her long, slender neck. Her breasts rose to meet his touch, and the soft, exposed skin above her neckline invited him to linger. He did.
Wow, that was delicious! I can’t wait to get my hands on Latymer…
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Tracey Devlyn is an award-winning author who writes historical romantic thrillers (translation: a slightly more grievous journey toward the heroine’s happy ending). She’s a co-founder of Romance University, a group blog dedicated to readers and writers of romance, and Lady Jane’s Salon-Naperville, Chicagoland’s exciting new reading salon devoted to romantic fiction.
An Illinois native, Tracey spends her evenings harassing her once-in-a-lifetime husband and her weekends torturing her characters. For more information on Tracey, including her Internet haunts, contest updates, and details on her upcoming novels, please visit her website.