Deceiving the Duke
Scandals and Spies: Book 2
Well-mannered women don’t have careers in 1806 so Philomena St. Gobain disguises herself as a man to attend the Society for the Advancement of Science meetings where she sells her inventions to a select, chosen few. The handsome Duke of Tenwick is not one of those chosen few, so when he corners Phil in the hallway during a clandestine meeting with one of her suppliers, she slips away as quickly as she can. Since she and the Duke have never been introduced and rarely travel in the same circles, Phil is hardly worried about him guessing her true identity … until he shows up two days later at the ball she is holding with the missing piece from one of her most coveted inventions in his hand.
Morgan Graylocke, the tenth Duke of Tenwick, takes the spy business seriously. Normally relegated to desk work, his brother’s recent marriage has given him an opportunity to work in the field. He never imagined his first assignment would throw him in the path of someone as beautiful and intriguing as Philomena St. Gobain. But his delight soon turns to trepidation as he realizes it may not be a coincidence that Phil shows up at all the same locations where Morgan is sent to catch the traitor who is passing off information to the French. Is it possible the woman he is falling for is the very spy he is looking to capture?
The King’s Theatre, London
Morgan Graylocke, the tenth Duke of Tenwick, concealed his irritation as he leaned back in the red velvet-upholstered chairs of his private box. The opera, Il matrimonio segreto, drew near to the close of the second act, with nary a sign of the man he had arranged to meet. Morgan’s life was composed of enough secrets for him to voluntarily watch an opera about a secret marriage. His mother and sister would rejoice if he one day returned home with a wife. They’d made it their mission this Season to see him married and on his way to producing an heir, now that he’d reached the age of thirty.
Morgan didn’t have the time to find a wife, certainly not after his brother and fellow Crown spy, Tristan, had taken an untimely vacation in order to honeymoon with his new wife. Usually stuck behind a desk cooling his heels as he waited to compile reports and ciphers, he was finally given a chance to do the dangerous fieldwork his younger brother usually took upon himself. And, the very night his stint in the field was due to begin, Morgan found himself…bored to tears.
He adjusted the cravat around his throat and straightened the cuffs of his eveningwear jacket—black, so as to fade into the shadows when he left.
A portly, balding man dropped into the chair to his left. Morgan glanced over his shoulder. The scarlet curtain that separated his box from the gold damask-carpeted corridor twitched as it settled into place once more. They were alone.
“It’s about bloody time you got here.”
Morgan faced forward at the grumbled remark. He clenched his fists, clad in thin gloves. I’d like to say the same to you. Clement Strickland, the Lord Commander of the spy network in Britain and beyond, didn’t refer to Morgan’s opera outing this evening. Over the past two weeks, Morgan had been held up at his ancestral estate as he prepared to return to London.
When something went wrong, it seemed like everything else did, too. The fallen domino leading to all the others had been the attendance—and death—at the annual Graylocke house party of Lord Elias Harker, a member of the peerage and a French spy. Ever since he’d darkened Morgan’s doorway, his carefully cultivated plans had turned awry. Some, like Tristan’s marriage, were cause for celebration. Others caused Morgan more headaches than triumphs.
He sighed. “I had some business to tie up. If I’m to go into the field, I need to ensure that Keeling, my assistant, is well-equipped to handle the influx of work.”
“You trained him, did you not?”
“I did.” Keeling, and half of Britain. Morgan worked as Strickland’s unofficial second-in-command. He read all the reports from agents afield, he decoded the correspondence intercepted from the enemy, and he trained every man and woman destined to enter into the business. What he hadn’t heretofore been permitted to do, since he was the Duke of Tenwick and without an heir, was to enter the field himself.
One more reason to thank Tristan for getting him into this mess and then leaving on a tour of the Lake District. If Tristan had been available, he would have been the man Strickland assigned to ferreting out Harker’s replacement in the ton. Morgan would be reassigned to his eternal slew of paperwork. At least this way, he was finally doing something.
Even if, never having done this before, he didn’t quite know where to start.
“Your assistant will do fine in your absence. Your assistance in this matter is paramount.” Strickland drummed his stubby fingers on the arm of the chair, a sure sign of anxiety. Drops of sweat beaded his wide forehead and darkened the brown hair ringing his pate. His jaw was stiff and clenched.
On the stage below the private box, a woman raised her voice in a penetrating aria. The sound rang through the theater, smothering all hope of conversation. The stone pillars between the scarlet-decked private boxes, stacked row by row on either side of the stage and extending over the public seating toward the door, only seemed to amplify the sound, drawing it out longer. The air vibrated with the collective intake of breath of the crowd. After the actress held the note for an impossibly long time and drew it to a close, the other sounds in the room boomed in contrast to the ringing silence. The rustle of clothing as the patrons shifted, Strickland’s even breathing to his left, even the thump of Morgan’s own heart.
“What do we know?” His whisper emerged like thunder.
“Next to nothing.” Strickland’s voice was curt, almost cutting. He ran his hand over his clean-shaven chin. “None of Harker’s known associates have yielded any clues as to who has inherited Bonaparte’s London-based operations. They must have someone new in the ton.”
“What if the new ringleader isn’t in the ton? If I were to install someone, I would place them in a servant position, less visible.”
“Also with less access,” Strickland pointed out. He half turned, pointing his finger at Morgan for emphasis. His dark eyes glittered with determination. “A peer could get into parties and meetings where even a servant or slave might be remarked upon.”
Morgan pressed his lips together at the mention of slavery. His family had been among the first to lobby for abolition of the slave trade. With luck, the Foreign Slave Trade Abolition Bill would pass through Parliament next week, and Morgan would be there to further the cause with his vote.
In the meantime, the import and export of slaves, a vile occupation in itself, provided ideal circumstances for French spies to be ferried in and out of the country. The sooner it was stopped, the better.
Oblivious to Morgan’s disgust, Strickland added, “Rest assured, I have others searching in the lower classes, agents with more freedom of movement than you would have in those spheres. Even if the new French ringleader is not among the ton, they will certainly need an agent among the peerage with access to different information and more funds at hand. Someone in London is bored and wicked enough to take up the French’s offer.”
Morgan didn’t want to believe that a British peer could be so easily swayed. Unfortunately, that had already been proven, with Harker and with multiple agents before him.
“Do you have any inkling of where I should start my search?”
Morgan read most of the reports sent to Strickland—in fact, he compiled the information into more easily readable documents for the Lord Commander. However, Morgan handled the information sent from abroad, not from London. Strickland might know something he didn’t.
A suspicion was confirmed when Strickland whispered, “The Society for the Advancement of Science. They meet monthly on St. James’s Street. I’ve heard rumors that the French may be ferrying messages through the inventions of the Society members.”
“I’ll look into it.” Morgan stood, unwilling to sit through another minute of the opera.
As Morgan rounded the chair, Strickland, still seated, added, “The next meeting is Saturday at seven of the evening.”
Morgan nodded. Strickland leaned back in the plush chair, taking in the opera as he hooked one ankle over the other. The stance was a clear dismissal. Fingering the white streak in his black hair, situated at his right temple, Morgan slipped past the heavy drape and into the corridor.
Two days was not a lot of time to prepare to infiltrate an exclusive club.