Happy June! I just turned in the Malcolm & Suzanne wedding novella, provisionally titled The Lisbon Bride. It was a fascinating experience going back in time and getting to know who they were before they were married, before they were parents, before they formed their bond as partners. I’m back to revising The Princess’s Secret, which I think will be called The Paris Affaire, and starting to plot the next book. Lots of timeframes and plot strands to juggle, but it’s fun.
This month’s teaser is a scene between Mel/Suzette and Blanca from the novella. If I write more novellas, what other episodes from Charles/Malcolm and Mel/Suzette’s lives would you like me to dramatize?
Also, I just posted a new Fraser Correspondence letter from Charles to David.
“We can’t stay here forever.”
“Who said anything about forever? I’m taking it one day at a time. Like always.” Suzanne Lescaut, who currently went by the name Suzanne de Saint-Vallier, looked across the embassy sitting room at Blanca Mendoza, her friend and comrade, who was currently posing as her maid.
Blanca snorted. “It’s dangerous–“
“We’ve already uncovered invaluable information.”
“The longer a masquerade lasts the more dangerous it becomes.”
Suzanne bit back a retort. As a seasoned agent she knew full well that Blanca spoke the truth. She had only been supposed to stumble across Malcolm Rannoch in the Cantabrian Mountains and intercept a valuable package he was purchasing from a band of bandits. The mission had gone awry and the package had been lost to both of them. But Malcolm had insisted on escorting her back to Lisbon and installing her at the British embassy. Where she’d been able to discover very useful information about Wellington’s plans for the spring campaign. “It’s a risk,” she admitted. “But that’s true of every mission I’ve undertaken.”
“But on the other ones you weren’t pregnant.”
Suzanne dropped down on the sofa, harder than she intended. Her hand went instinctively to her stomach. The fact that there was a baby growing inside still seemed almost unreal.
“It changes everything,” Blanca said.
Suzanne’s fingers tightened over the ruched moss green gros de naples of her gown. Was it just her imagination or was her stomach already beginning to curve beneath? “It doesn’t change what I believe in.”
And that was what had driven her for the past three years. Orphaned and alone she had clung to the Republican ideals she’d been raised on. Napoleon Bonaparte might have tarnished himself by taking an imperial crown, but his reforms were still real, and he was still the best hope of maintaining some vestiges of liberty, equality, and fraternity. Those ideals had kept her going in the face of loss and brutality. Those ideals and, she had to confess, a love of the game she’d learned to play. “I’m not going to turn my back on my comrades and my cause just because I’m a mother.”
Blanca dropped down beside her. “Mr. Rannoch knows you’re going to have a baby. That changes things.”
“Yes, that was a tactical error.” Malcolm Rannoch had found her being sick early one morning, outside their camp. It would have been no use denying her condition. Only of course Malcolm–Mr. Rannoch–believed that her condition was owed to her story of the French soldiers who had supposedly attacked her home and killed her parents.
“He’s worried about you.”
Suzanne swallowed an upwelling of guilt, bitter as stewed coffee. She should be used to it by now. “Malcolm Rannoch is a very decent man. He offered to arrange for me to go away and then find a home for the child if that’s what I wanted. Or to help me get rid of the child now if I couldn’t bear to carry it. But I’ve assured him I want to keep the baby. He won’t reveal that I’m with child. He knows that would spell my ruin. We have time before we need to disappear.”
Blanca fixed her with an intent dark gaze. “When we do disappear he’ll look for you. He’s made you his responsibility.”
And he would feel guilty when he failed to learn what had become of her. He was the sort who took his responsibilities seriously and his failures hard. For a moment Suzanne could feel the concern in his gaze as it rested upon her across the embassy dinner table the night before. She swallowed another pang. “He’ll look, but we’ll cover our tracks.”
“I wouldn’t count on that working,” Blanca said. “He’s a very good agent himself.”
Surprisingly so for a duke’s grandson with a gentleman’s education. “He’s far too decent a man for this game.”
“That won’t be hindrance when it comes to looking for you.”
Suzanne picked up one of the sofa cushions. Something about the shiny yellow-striped chintz was so very English. “No, but it will keep him from guessing the truth. It won’t occur to him that I could be capable of such a deception.”
Blanca fixed her with a hard stare. Dark ringlets fell about her elfin face with fashionable frivolity, but her gaze was ww sharp. “You’re fond of him.”
Agents weren’t supposed to grow fond of people, but of course it happened. “I’m fond of him. ” Suzanne plucked at the fringe on the cushion. “That doesn’t change anything.”
“What are you going to do?” Blanca demanded.
Suzanne smiled at her friend, one of the few people with whom she could be her unvarnished self. “What we always do. Make it up as we go along.”