When a Lady Deceives (Her Majesty’s Most Secret Service)
any sense of conquest. He had not gotten what he wanted. What had he sought from Jennie?
    “My, she’s a refined one. Tin t’spare.” Gerry gave a soft shake of her head. “That cap on her pretty head…fit for a duchess, it is.”
    He rubbed his jaw as if that would blot out the sudden ache. Nothing made sense. The clever beauty had sipped tea in a dank pub with a man she’d soon left behind to down his ale alone. Blast it all, what was she about?
    A piece of the puzzle that was Jennie was still out of his reach. He’d bloody well find it before Harwick caught on to the contradictions. If the bastard suspected she’d come to the Lancaster as part of some scheme—blackmail, perhaps—he would show no mercy. And Matthew would be a dead man, if only for good measure, his own plans for retribution extinguished after years of sacrificing his life to this ugly quest.
    What in blazes was she up to? Why had Jennie insinuated herself into Harwick’s brutal empire?
    The questions tore at him. The only sure way to protect Jennie was to extricate her from Harwick’s world. He should give her the sack. But she’d caught Harwick’s eye. He’d ask questions—questions that might put both their necks on the line.
    Matthew couldn’t take that risk. Not yet. For the time being, he would protect her. He would figure a way to keep them both alive.
    But first, he needed to discover what the bloody hell was going on.
    Just another man in a dark hat and coat, Matthew became part of the milling crowd. Following Jennie as she bustled to Oxford Street, he kept his distance as she made her way past shop after shop. Sparing little more than a glance at the window displays, she finally slowed before a milliner’s boutique.
    Her expression grew wistful. What had caught her eye? Another hat to teeter on her abundance of upswept curls? Another feather-adorned creation, or did this headpiece boast some other feminine frippery? He pictured his hands lifting away her frivolous little hat and tugging the pins from her hair, his fingers gliding through the wavy tresses until her copper-tinged locks tumbled nearly to her waist.
    Jennie threw a glance over her shoulder, dousing his waking fantasy with ruthless efficiency. Stepping back to take cover behind a stout fellow’s immense bowler, he watched as she resumed her brisk pace. She didn’t pause again until she approached the last merchant on the row. Abbott and Sons, Booksellers. Reaching up, she righted her windblown hat so it perched at just the proper angle. When she turned, her gaze fixed on him.
    “What a pleasant surprise, Mr. Colton. I hadn’t expected to encounter you here. Have you come for Miss Braddon’s latest?” Her delicate brows knit in something that looked like a frown. “No, of course you haven’t. I don’t take you for a man who enjoys sensation novels. I’d wager Mr. Stevenson is more your cup of tea.”
    “I’ve little time for such amusements.”
    She offered a solemn nod. Her eyes flashed brilliant green, the color of the Yorkshire dales in the spring.
    “Of course. What was I thinking? I daresay following your employees about the city must be quite an exhausting endeavor.”
    “This is a public street. Now who’s seeing intrigue where there is none?”
    “Quite true.” She gave a little wave of her gloved hand in the direction of the milliner’s shop. “Perhaps you’ve come to purchase a pretty hat for your mistress. I couldn’t help but notice your interest. I debated whether to part with my hard-earned coin for a new headpiece or pay my landlady this month.”
    “I have no mistress.” He shot a glance toward the plume. “And if I did, she wouldn’t wear bloody pointless scraps of felt and feathers on her head.”
    Her teeth grazed her bottom lip, as though she’d tucked her reply safely away. Ah, the things he wanted to do to that mouth. The taste he’d sampled had only provoked a hunger for more.
    Much more.

Similar Books

The Geneva Option

Adam LeBor

Nantucket Sisters

Nancy Thayer

Sister of Silence

Daleen Berry

The Lancaster Men

Janet Dailey

Red Lightning

John Varley

Hearse and Buggy

Laura Bradford


Matthew Olshan