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A Woman's Innocence

A Woman's Innocence by Gayle Callen
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In the final instalment of Gayle Callen's exciting Spies and Lovers trilogy, a mad–dash search for truth brings together an unlikely pair – a woman accused of treason, and the man who convicted her...

Now that he finally has the infamous traitor, Julia Reed, in jail, you would think English agent Samuel Sherryngton would be pleased to see justice served. But circumstances aren't always what they appear to be, and the facts aren't adding up. Soon Sam has doubts over her guilt which, of course, has nothing to do with the attraction for Julia he's been fighting against for so many years. Not willing to see her executed for a crime she may not have committed, Sam defies the laws of England and breaks Julia out of jail. What initially began as a search to find proof convicting Julia quickly turns into a quest to prove her innocence. Can this bold and dashing pair discover the truth and still find time for love?

HarperCollins; May 2009
384 pages; ISBN 9780061946158
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Title: A Woman's Innocence
Author: Gayle Callen
 
Excerpt

Chapter One

Leeds, Yorkshire
September 1844

Jail was a terrible place for a woman, even a guilty one. As Samuel Sherryngton stared at the dilapidated building in a rough-looking neighborhood in Leeds, he found himself hesitating, his jaw tight from spending so many hours grinding his teeth in angry frustration. Julia Reed was in there, having spent ten days awaiting transport to trial in London, charged with treason.

He hadn't seen her since she'd been led away, claiming her innocence with weary desperation. He still felt a pang of shock and disbelief, and a rage he sometimes wondered if he could continue to control.

How had this happened to bright and sunny Julia, the little girl who followed him through gardens so many years ago? How could she have betrayed her country, her family -- him? He knew he was taking this too personally, for they had not been close in many years. But thousands of people had died because of her. And he'd spent the previous month of August chasing her through England, ready to intercept her before she could kill the man who would testify against her.

Taking a deep breath, he squared his shoulders and entered the jail. Even in the front office, the stench seeped out, full of hopelessness and fear.

It was easy for him to obtain permission to see Julia. Afew shiny coins were all that mattered to the jailer. After agreeing to their transaction, Sam set a basket on the desk.

The man tilted back his chair and smiled wolfishly, his missing front teeth a black hole in his face. "Ye brought her food, then, eh? The wench could use some. She eats like a horse."

Sam leaned over the desk, directing some of his anger at the jailer. "You had better be taking good care of the prisoner. The charges against her have the attention of Queen Victoria."

The jailer affably lifted his hands. "Ye need not complain about me, sir. She gets what everyone else does." Then he sorted through the basket, taking away the bottle of cider and several meat pies for himself.

"No glass in the cell, guv'nor," he said with a smirk.

Sam waited impatiently while the man unlocked the door, lifted an oil lamp, and led him down a dark passage. On either side were doors with bars as a viewing window. The air was hot, heavy, full of despondency. Someone coughed repeatedly, a deep emptying of the lungs. Another prisoner begged to ask a question, and the jailer ignored him.

"You don't have a woman's area?" Sam asked sharply.

"How big a jail does this look like?" the man replied over his shoulder. "This ain't London. And the lady got a window, somethin' rare."

At the last door, there was a feeble light from within the room, the promised window.

The jailer unlocked the door. "Ye want me to come in with ye?"

"That won't be necessary," Sam said. He stepped through the doorway and straw crunched under his feet. "Julia?" His voice sounded harsh even to himself. He'd get nowhere with her if he couldn't control himself.

She made not a sound. The door clanged shut behind him. There was a mound of blankets on the cot and a bucket in one corner.

"Call when ye need me," the jailer said. His uneven footsteps faded away.

"Julia?" Sam said again, louder, with an edge of worry he thought he'd never feel for her again.

The blankets suddenly moved, and in the dim light he watched the woman push herself slowly to sit against the wall. The white-blond hair that so distinguished her hung disheveled and dull. She wore a thin, shapeless dress, more a smock, that sagged off one white shoulder.

He should despise her for what she'd done -- but something nagged at him each night as he lay sleepless in a nearby hotel.

"Sam?" Her usually expressive voice was cold.

He nodded and took a step toward her, watching as she sat up straighter. "Howare you, Julia?" She cocked her head. "Well, that's a ridiculous question," she said sarcastically.

He sat down on the edge of the cot, testing it first with his weight, to make sure it didn't collapse beneath them both. He set the basket between them.

"Food?" she asked.

"Yes."

They stared at each other in the gloom, and he saw the dirt that smudged her face, the dark shadows beneath eyes that glistened. But she didn't cry.

He almost wished she would.

"So you brought me food, Sam. Am I supposed to thank you? What more could you want from me?" She drew her knees up against her chest and hugged them to her, though it was hardly cold in this oven of a jail.

It was just another barrier between them.

"I don't know," he said, giving in to the bewildering thoughts that chased around inside his head. "This is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do."

"If you're looking for redemption, then you might as well leave."

"I don't want that."

"Then just go. Surely you'll see me at the trial in London, you and your fellow soldiers, full of enthusiasm, ready to gloat."

Sam closed his eyes and rubbed a hand over his face. "You think I'm enthused about any of this? This type of crime ... I still can't grasp that you were a part of it."

She sighed again and spoke in a dull, flat voice. "Don't bother hoping that I might incriminate myself. I didn't do anything. I've already told you that. But no one will believe me."

"There's too much proof," he said forcefully.

"Sam, who could possibly hate me enough to want me dead?" she continued. "You know that's the punishment for treason. Death by beheading."

He said nothing ...

 

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ISBNs
006194615X
9780060543969
9780061946141
9780061946158
9780061946165
9780061946172