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Cameron Blakeney is a man on a mission. Well, more than one, actually. Not only does he wish to reunite his brothers, separated from him in childhood, but he’s a spy for the Crown. When he’s tasked to observe two French spies in Portsmouth, he hopes to use the opportunity to locate his youngest brother, too. What he’s not expecting is to be working with a co-agent in the form of the lovely, undisciplined Lady Arabella.
Lady Arabella Willoughby enjoys working as a female spy and is looking forward to her latest assignment. However, when she discovers her co-agent is Cameron Blakeney, she’s not so enthralled. Her one-time childhood friend and hero seems to relish taking her to task over the slightest ‘misdemeanor’.
Their mission sees them traveling across the beautiful English countryside, but it is all they can do to stay focused on their goal and not each other. For his part, Cameron is enjoying teaching Arabella new things. Things like how to reveal secrets written in invisible ink, and how to pleasure a man with her mouth.
Arabella is a devoted student and learns all of her lessons well. Lessons that include learning to find pleasure in being over Cameron’s knee, bare bottom upturned, legs spread, and with his hand coming down to help her realize the error of her headstrong, reckless actions.
Publishers note: This story contains scenes of domestic discipline and explicitly described sexual scenes.
“When do I go to Portsmouth?”
“Immediately. The carriage is outside. Arrangements have been made and your absence already explained. I expect the French to arrive in the next few days.” He pushed two pieces of paper across the desk to her. “These are their likeness, drawn by my agent in Paris, although they will be disguised.”
Arabella took them. Then stood up ready to leave. “May I enquire what it is that has me hightailing it from London?”
“You’re visiting a sick relative, my dear. Simple and plausible explanations work best.”
“And do these French spies have names?”
“Henri Brochand and Camille Fouché are their real names. The names they are travelling to England under, I hope to know very soon and will get the information to you in Portsmouth.”
She gave a rueful shake of her head, bid goodbye and left Whitehall.
Arabella was helped into the carriage waiting outside for her. Inside it was impeccable, designed for comfortable travel. But on the outside it was shabby and unnoticeable. She noticed her bag of disguises on the seat beside her. Lord Coleridge had thought of everything. She leaned back against the cushions and closed her eyes. Her adventure had begun. Which was a good thing. For her godmother, though lovely and well meaning, was determined to find Arabella a husband this year. It was good to get away.
He had been summoned to Whitehall by Lord Coleridge and he couldn’t be more relieved.
At last. A new mission to take him away from estate matters and the marriage mart. Lord, he hated attending all the balls, musicales and house parties. Yet, that was now his role: Cameron Blakeney, the Marquis of Lavenham had to fulfil the expectations of his title. He grimaced. The last four years had seen him dodging every match-making mama throwing a daughter his way. These women were shameless, relentless. They tried to set him up in compromising situations with their offspring to force his hand. So much so that Cameron turned up late to soirees and stayed of short duration.
Cameron knocked on the spymaster’s door and entered.
“Good morning, Cameron.”
“Good morning, James.”
The two men had known each other for years and Cameron was glad that at least here in this office he could be an ordinary man again.
“How’s the estate?”
“Flourishing,” Cameron told the older man with pride. “Despite personal circumstances, my father managed everything with great efficiency. I barely have to do anything. I also have a very capable steward.”
James Coleridge nodded. Then pierced him with an intelligent gaze. “And your brothers?”
Cameron actually felt a lump in his throat at mention of them. They’d been separated for so long. “As you know I’ve found one of them, Gabe. Along with his wife. I’m continuing my search for the others. I believe William may be down in Cornwall, so I have sent runners there to find out.”
“Well, I have a mission for you and while you’re doing it, it may offer you an opportunity to search for your youngest brother.”
Cameron was immediately intrigued. “What do you mean?”
The other man clasped his hands and leaned on his elbows on the desk. “I have knowledge of two French spies coming to Portsmouth.”
A growing sense of anticipation was felt. This was what he was meant for—code breaking, dangerous undercover and intelligence gathering work, not dancing with pretty debutantes at balls.
“Do tell me more, James.”
“You’ve heard of Brochand & Fouché?”
Cameron raised a brow. “I believe so. Amongst my travels for the Crown.”
“They’re coming to England to gather intelligence from certain French engineers studying here.”
“Naval and industrial spies?”
“Exactly so. They’re landing in Portsmouth, so they’ll begin with the naval intelligence. I strongly suspect that their final destination will be London to mix with the political elite of the haut ton.”
Cameron rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “The engineers would be unable to attend social gatherings of course. Do they have an aristocratic contact?” If there was a traitor, Cameron wanted to know.
James gave a brief shake of his head. “Not that I’m aware of. It will be part of your role to find out. I believe they will have to coerce or blackmail someone into helping them. Or they may bribe someone, in which case do they have finances available to them?”
Cameron’s jaw tightened. “There’s bound to be some fool with pockets to let or a gambler they can exploit.”
“Well, you’ll be following them around, so you can discover all of this for me, including any money trails,” the older man said.
Cameron’s eyes widened. “Following?”
“Yes. Don’t look surprised, Cameron. You’re ideally placed for this task. I want you to watch them in Portsmouth, follow them around in various disguises and report back to me. If they send any correspondence, I want you to intercept it and read it. If it gives away quantities of armaments, I wish for you to downgrade them. And send a replacement. If not too much is given away, you can reseal the letter.”
“Yes. Fine.” Cameron was used to operating in such a manner. “And if they leave Portsmouth?”
“Send a message back to me, but always follow them. I want to know everywhere they go, who they meet, especially once they are here in London. You can be yourself at social events, as can your co-agent, for you are both already well known amongst the ton and can mix naturally with the political elite, without drawing attention to yourselves.”
The sudden mention of a co-agent surprised him. Cameron had always worked alone before. It was less dangerous. “My what?” He couldn’t his displeasure.
He found his room, unlocked it with the key he had been given earlier, then entered. His luggage was by the bed. He decided to unpack it quickly while his bath was being prepared. A knock at the door interrupted him half way through.
“Enter,” he called.
It was the burly Mr. Wilson and another man carrying a bath tub.
“Where do you want it, sir?”
“By the fireplace please.” He watched the two men place it down, before carrying on with his unpacking. A few moments later, more steps were heard on the stairs and two young lads entered with steaming buckets of water. One of them struggled slightly under the weight and Cameron recognized the tall, puny lad from earlier. The boy needed to fill baths more often, then he’d become more muscular.
The boys continued up and down the stairs, bringing more buckets, while Cameron finished unpacking. Then once the bath was full enough, he went behind a screen to undress. He heard footsteps come in again.
“Leave the bucket, lad,” he said and happened to peer over the screen.
“Very well, Sir.”
It was the puny boy. He bent down to put the bucket on the floor and Cameron got a full view of trousers pulled tight across a pair of buttocks. What in tarnation? This was no boy. He suspected it was Lady Willoughby in another disguise. Cameron paused in undressing. Then felt the devil in him. He’d teach the chit to enter a bachelor’s room. Let’s see how my lady reacts to a naked man. “Close the door, lad.”
Cameron grinned. Her voice was suitably gruff, despite her wary query. He’d test her to see how long she could maintain her disguise for. “You can scrub my back.”
Half-expecting her to bolt, he watched over the top of the screen with interest as she hesitated, then put her shoulders back in determination. She swaggered over to the door in perfect imitation of a young lad’s confident walk, shut the door—even turned the key in the lock, before going over to the bath to wait for him.
Cameron stepped out naked from behind the screen, watching her face all the while. To give her credit, she didn’t so much as bat an eyelid. She merely looked him over, pausing at his cock, before lowering her gaze to his legs. Then she turned to look at the bath.
“Water cools rapidly, sir,” she pointed out in a deep voice.
Cameron had to admit this was a first for him. A woman unimpressed by his physique. He didn’t know whether to laugh or be insulted. She certainly had pluck anyway. He climbed into the bath, sat down and turned to look at her. “Wash my hair first, there’s a good lad.”
Annoyance flashed in those expressive blue eyes, before she lowered lashes over them. “Yes, sir.”
Cameron turned his head away before she saw his grin. He’d see how far he could push her. Yet, the joke was definitely on him when she started to knead his scalp with soapy hands. It felt extremely good and he bit back a groan. Who’d have thought such a simple act could be so sensual? When Cameron’s scalp was fully lathered, she took her hands off him, much to his regret.
“I’ll just rinse the soap off.”
Cameron closed his eyes in readiness—and got the shock of his life, when freezing cold water was poured over his head.
“Serves you right, you arrogant bastard,” she snapped. Then the bucket was in the bath with him and she was going toward the door.
Cameron surged up, out of the bath, sloshing water everywhere. He sped after her, catching her around the waist and pulling her against him as she struggled with the key in the lock. That had been her mistake—locking the door.
“You’re not going anywhere, Lady Willoughby.”
Arabella watched an exhausted Cam finally enter his room. He jumped, almost dropping his candle as she made her presence known.
“Arabella.” He peered into the semi-darkness where the candle light didn’t quite reach. Then he frowned. “What the hell are you doing in here?”
She glared up at him from her position on his bed, arms folded. “Waiting for you to come back.”
“Why?” He took a step forward, looking furious. “More to the point. How did you get into my room? I was under the distinct impression that I had locked it.”
She ought to be wary of the man with his sheer, lethal grace. He was like a caged tiger. But she was annoyed with him and it lent her courage. “I picked the lock of course.”
Cam’s eyes widened as he took another step closer, before shaking his head. “My god. Arabella.” He huffed out a laugh. “Is there no end to your talents?”
Her eyes narrowed as he walked to the end of his bed. “Are you mocking me?” she demanded.
“Not at all. I’m impressed.” He sat down on the end of the bed with his back to her and prised off his boots.
She was glad he couldn’t see how his words had pleased her. Somehow he didn’t seem an easy man to impress, so his compliment meant a lot. His next words, however, roused her temper once more.
“Although I should give you another spanking for having the audacity to break into my room.”
Arabella sucked in a breath. “You wouldn’t dare.”
“Relax,” Cam said, swiveling to face her. “I’m too shattered, Arabella.”
She remained poised to bolt from the bed all the same. Maybe it hadn’t been a good idea to come here after all. He did look very tired, but no less dangerous.
Cam raised a brow at her. “I’m waiting.”
Suddenly she was aware of how close they were. Her sensible cotton night gown with her thick dressing gown didn’t seem much protection against his penetrating gaze. He boldly perused her body, down to her bare feet. Was he going to pounce on her? She gulped.
“Why have you come here?”
Arabella almost fainted with relief at the question. She unfolded her arms and sat up, cross legged, so that her feet were now hidden under her gown.
“I waited and waited for you to come back with the letter. When you didn’t, I snuck in here to wait. I didn’t want to miss you.”
Cam shook his head. “You’re so impetuous.”
Arabella chose to ignore that. Instead she leaned forward eagerly. “Do you have it on you? I want to see it.”
He gave her an odd look, before reaching into his shirt and taking out the letter. He handed it to her.
As Arabella took it, she felt the heat from his body on it. It had been kept close to that hard, muscled chest of his. She tried not to stare at the tanned skin where his shirt gaped open. Pulling herself together, Arabella glanced at the letter. She unfolded it. “Oh. It’s already open.” She looked up at him disappointed. “I thought you were bringing it back here to open.”
The Highwayman’s Proposal is next in the quartet.