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His Betrothed

His Betrothed by Gayle Callen
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She was a reluctant bride...

When Lady Roselyn Harrington discovers an injured sailor from the Spanish Armada washed up on shore, she's stunned to see he's the fiancé she abandoned at the altar two years before. When she'd first met Sir Spencer Thornton, he was far from the man of her dreams. But the Spencer she nurses back to health now is very different from the aloof nobleman who once scorned her. And in his strong embrace, Rose discovers passion...with the one man she can never trust.

He was a determined groom!

Spencer had jumped at the chance to escape London and serve Queen Elizabeth as a spy against Spain. And though he's now dependent on Rose's good graces to hide him from the traitor trying to kill him, Spencer decides to play an even more dangerous game: to make Rose fall in love with him so that he can reject her. But the impetuous girl has become a strong beauty, and Spencer's intended revenge turns into a wholesale wooing of the one woman he can't resist -- his betrothed.

HarperCollins; May 2009
384 pages; ISBN 9780061944642
Read online, or download in secure EPUB
Title: His Betrothed
Author: Gayle Callen

Chapter One

July 1588

In the growing darkness, Spencer Thornton stood by the rail and watched the frantic sailors scrambling up the masts of the Spanish ship, loosening the ropes and sails in a desperate effort to alter their course. The English fleet stillsailed behind, sending cannonballs screaming through the sky to topple masts and puncture ships.

Death had been stalking him for days now. He was so weak from lack of food that his pretense of being a seasick soldier seemed real. He couldn't allow himself the solace of sleep because one by one, other British spies were being murdered -- and he might be next.

He gripped the rail and stared hard at the isle of Wight, with its shadowed cliffs and beaches. He had made plans to jump ship there, where he now owned dower property from that illfated betrothal.

At least some good had come from his last London scandal.

He would have done anything to escape the notoriety of his missing bride, and the British government had presented him with a way to be needed -- a way to prove himself loyal. He'd spent over a year pretending to be Spanish, gathering information on the pathetic condition of the Spanish soldiers and sailors. The armada's food and water were spoiled, and they lacked ample supplies of powder and shot. He was all but certain the Spanish couldn't invade England. All he needed to do was get his information to the queen -- unless the traitor killed him first.

The ship was in an uproar: soldiers huddled in sobbing groups, while sailors crawled through the rigging. Now might be his best -- and only -- chance to get the proof of treachery he needed.

Spencer leaned over the side to check that the boat he'd lowered earlier was still lashed to the hull. Then he headed for the cabin of Rodney Shaw, a highly placed British spy -- and the man Spencer believed was betraying his country. As he reached the door, an explosion rocked the ship and the shouting intensified.

He ducked inside the dark cabin, feeling his heart pounding against his ribs and the sweat rolling off him in the stale air. Footsteps pounded overhead; the ship shuddered with the impact of another cannonball. He frantically ran his hands over the table, through the trunks, beneath the bedclothes. He found only one sealed letter, and by the light of gunfire outside the porthole, he was able to make out the first few sentences. It was written by Shaw's Spanish superiors -- just what Spencer needed.

After stuffing the, letter in an oilskin pouch, he strapped it to his chest beneath his shirt and was soon back in the shadowy corridor He had taken only one step when he felt the prick of a sword in his back.

"Señor?" said a voice.

Spencer held his hands out to his sides to show he was unarmed, then slowly turned around. He looked into the dark, smirking eyes of a Spanish soldier.

Spencer braced himself against the bulkhead and wiped his shaking hand across his forehead. "Forgive me, sir. I am sick, and I was trying to find my way below deck to rest."

The soldier leaned closer, keeping his sword at the ready. "My master is looking for you. And where do I find you? Right outside his door."

Unease spread through Spencer's chest. This man worked for Shaw -- but did he know what Spencer had found in the cabin?

He allowed himself to be prodded on deck, where the growing darkness was lit with gunfire. He could just see the island disappearing off the port side -- so much for his plans to jump ship before he was caught.

The bow was all but deserted except for the shadowy figures of two men. Spencer approached warily and received another sword prick in the back to hurry him up.

Rodney Shaw -- dark-haired and still amazingly well dressed -- stepped forward and smiled. "Lord Thornton, how good of you to deliver yourself into our hands," he said softly in English.

Spencer answered in Spanish. "You didn't cover your treachery well, Shaw. Did you not think we would discover your secret?"

"There is no longer a 'we,' Lord Thornton. Every other spy is dead."

Spencer kept his rage contained. "I don't understand why you would do this. Surely you knew that your loyalty would have been well rewarded by the crown."

Shaw only shrugged. "Now I can be well rewarded no matter which side wins. And imagine how grateful the queen will be when I hand her the name of the traitor -- Spencer Thornton. I'll tell her what a shame it was that I had to kill him before he could kill me. And then. of course, when the Spanish invade with my help, I shall be a hero to them as weIl."

Spencer's arms were suddenly gripped from behind. Before he could do more than briefly struggle, he felt a blow to his stomach, then to his face. Pain shot through him, and he tried to pull away. Shaw and another of his henchmen took turns pummeling him, and Spencer knew they intended to beat him to death. He deliberately sagged in their arms, and when one of the henchmen leaned over him, Spencer plucked the man's sword away and rolled to his feet.

Shaw's own sword suddenly glittered in the moonlight, and he laughed. Swaying, Spencer blinked his eyes as his vision blurred, but he fought to hold his hand steady. When their swords arced overhead and rang together, he felt the rippling shock of it clear down to his chest. He desperately fought on, wondering which blow would be his last.

His breath came in labored gasps, and sweat dripped into his eyes. When he stumbled to one side, he felt Shaw's sword pierce between his ribs. And even if he managed to defeat Shaw...

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