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The Beauty and the Spy

The Beauty and the Spy by Gayle Callen
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For the many romance fans who can't get enough of romances set in England, as well as fans of Christina Dodd.

He kidnapped her to keep her safe, but the captor soon becomes a captive when she turns on her charm and has him falling in love.

Nicholas Wright is a spy. It's what he loves to do – his calling, even. His current mission brings him home to England, where he's on the trail of a spy.

When his plans are overheard by one Charlotte Sinclair, he has no choice but to kidnap her to keep her safe.

But Charlotte is not your typical London socialite and her wit, intelligence and beauty all threaten to corrupt Nick's resolve to never fall in love.

HarperCollins; May 2009
384 pages; ISBN 9780061944208
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Title: The Beauty and the Spy
Author: Gayle Callen

Chapter One

A man who looks out of place usually is.

The Secret Journals of a Spymaster

August 1844

Charlotte Whittington Sinclair stood at thetop of the marble stairs leading down intoLord Arbury's crowded, overheated ballroom.Dressed in her first new ball gown since her yearof mourning had finished, she felt as excited andalive as a seventeen-year-old debutante instead ofa mature widow of twenty-three years.

Oh, to be out in society again! During the finalsix months of her marriage, she had been forbiddento associate with her friends and family,practically imprisoned on her husband's remote estate in Cornwall. But now she had shed the sadremnants of her marriage along with her blackgarments and her wedding ring, and was finallyfree.

Her mother, Lady Whittington, descended thestairs at her side, forcing Charlotte into the sedateladylike pace she chafed at. Charlotte noticedthat she received the attentive glances ofseveral eligible gentlemen, but thoughts of anothermarriage were far from her mind. Someday,perhaps, she would do her duty and give hermother grandchildren, but not now. Now was forliving, and as a widow of means, she was determinedto do so. But she could certainly dance andflirt with those gentlemen.

She had been reborn since becoming a widow,and her excitement had been further heightenedwhen she'd discovered her father's hidden journalsjust a few days before. She'd always thoughther father, Viscount Whittington, was merely anofficer in the army of the East India Company.But his journals had introduced her to his worldas a spymaster, a secret he'd kept from them all.

Even now, she alone held the knowledge, andguarded it close to her heart where his words enthralledher. Her own life had been stagnant anddull next to her father's, and his journalsmade herfeel a restlessness she'd never imagined before.

At the bottom of the stairs, as friends gatheredaround them, Lady Whittington gave Charlotte aworried look. Her mother thought Charlotte was fragile yet, a woman who hadn't come to termswith all that had happened to her, but Charlottefelt far from being such a pathetic creature. Sheaccepted the hugs of her longtime friends, and allowedherself to be led away as she fended offtheir concerned questions. She didn't want to bereminded of the past, so she turned the conversationto the latest gossip.

After a half hour's tales of who was betrothedand who had retired to the country with child,Charlotte moved on to the refreshments for aglass of champagne. She stood alone for a moment,sipping the bubbling liquid and gazingaround her at all the familiar faces. She tried toremind herself that this was what she used to livefor, the doings of the ton, but somehow, it allseemed rather ... dull.

Dull? she reprimanded herself. After whatshe'd recently endured, she should be in herglory. But since she'd devoured her father's journals,talk of marriage and offspring seemedrather uninspiring. Her head was still full of dangerous,exciting tales of India and Afghanistan,of barren deserts and bleak mountains. Surelyshe'd soon settle back into her old ways.

But did she want to? She stood alone in acrowd, full of a knowledge no one else had, readyfor the next exciting stage of her life to begin—and what would it be? She tried not to let her expectationsoverwhelm her.

And then she saw him.

A tall man strode along the edges of the ballroom,his expression set in a pleasant, falsesmile -- nothing new there. But something waswrong. It was his eyes, she decided as he drewnearer; they were very dark, and they constantlyswept over the room, as if looking for someone -- or avoiding someone.

She tried to stop her imagination, for surelythat's all this could be. Her head was full of intriguesthat were not to be found in Lord Arbury'sballroom. After all, the man did not quitelook like he belonged. He was very broad acrossthe chest, something not normally seen amongmen of her acquaintance, although he did do justiceto his evening clothes. He had black hair, atrifle longer and more unkempt than was fashionable.His face did not have the grace of a noblemanbecause of its broad bluntness and squarejaw, but it was arresting nonetheless.

As he approached her, she found herself holdingher breath, some unnameable excitementcaught in her chest. Would he speak to her? Hecame closer and closer, looking bigger and moreintimidating than any man she'd ever seen.

Yet his stride did not shorten, and after givingher a single appreciative glance that traveledswiftly from her face to the curves of her breasts,he moved on past.

Charlotte told herself to feel offended that hehadn't even offered a simple “Good evening,"that he'd so rudely stared below her face. Yet she turned about and continued to watch him, notcaring who noticed her shocking behavior. Shemoved back into the crowd, slipping betweengroups of chatting women and bored men. Distantlyshe heard someone call her name, but sheignored whoever it was to concentrate on theback of the enigmatic stranger. No one called agreeting to him, as if he knew not a soul there.Oh, plenty of ladies noticed his retreat, butturned up their noses at his behavior, as sheshould be doing.

But she couldn't. She was fascinated and drawnto the mystery of him. Where was he going withsuch single-minded determination? She stood onher toes and craned her neck; she stooped beneathsomeone's elbow so she wouldn't lose sight ofhim. And then he turned, ducked beneath a giantfern, and disappeared down a dark corridor thatshe knew led to the family's private quarters ...

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