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TRUE SPIES
by Shana Galen

Genre: Regency Period, England, Historical Romance

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Ellie. He had called her Ellie. Elinor could not say the last time he had used the sobriquet with her. Years, she thought. Years and years.

She sat in the Keating town coach and sped toward Hyde Park. There were few other conveyances about this morning. It was early and chilly, and she imagined the members of the ton much preferred their warm beds to the biting wind. This morning she could also see the appeal of a warm bed, a warm, naked man sharing it with her.

She shook her head. Damn Winn! Why did he have to kiss her this morning? Why did he have to whisper in her ear and make her blood thrum in her veins today? All of these years she had wanted him, waited for him, hoped he would notice her, desire her, seduce her. And now, today, when she had finally given up, he sought her out. Did he know or suspect? She did not see how he could, unless he’d found the letters she’d kept in her dresser…

But he was not home enough to have even spent any time in her bedchamber, much less searched her dresser. And if he had been in her bedchamber, Bridget would have told her. The household servants were loyal to her. They’d realized long ago Winn was not the one who ensured their salaries were paid. So how did he know? But if he knew about Mr. Trollope, wouldn’t he have been angry? He would not have kissed her. Which meant this must be an incredible coincidence, and she was allowing her imagination to run wild because she felt guilty for betraying Winn.

Not that she’d betrayed him. Yet. She was only going to meet Trollope. That was all. She hadn’t even allowed him to kiss her. She’d accepted his love letters, that was true enough, but she hadn’t responded in kind. She’d been cautious, despite the fact that Rafe Trollope was wild and exciting. She was not certain this was what she wanted. She was not wild and exciting, though at the moment, with her heart pounding and her lips still warm from Winn’s kisses, she felt rather reckless. She took a deep breath and tried to shut out the image of Winn pulling her into his arms. She tried to forget the feel of him pressed against her. He was so tall and so strong. She could barely wrap her arms around the breadth of his shoulders. And yet, for such a large man, he was never clumsy, never inelegant. Indeed, today he had moved with all of the sleekness of a lion as he caught her about the waist and pulled her against him.

Against his chest. His hard chest. His hard, muscled chest.

She licked her lips and closed her eyes. This was not helping matters. She should be thinking of Trollope, with his sun-touched golden hair and his emerald-green eyes. Drat! That was Winn who had the green eyes. Trollope had… she could not remember the color of Trollope’s eyes.

She glanced out the window and noted Hyde Park was just ahead. Elinor sat up straighter. She would take note of Mr. Trollope’s eyes this morning. She would memorize their color, and she would kiss him too. That would help her to forget Winn’s persuasive mouth. By the time she returned home, her thoughts would be centered on Mr. Trollope and the exciting new adventure she was about to embark upon.

She frowned, a moment of panic infusing her. There was one detail about her relationship with Trollope she had not mentioned to Mary. She’d told him of her interest in his work, and he’d offered to allow her to help him with his next mission. She was excited at the prospect of seeing mention of her work—not her name, of course—in The Times at some point in the future. How thrilling it would be to know she had done something more important than plan a ball or scrub a child’s face clean. And perhaps when she and Trollope were working together on their dangerous mission, they would fall in love. Trollope told her he was half in love with her already, and she knew his motives were anything but pure. Still, at least there was one man whose interest she had captured.

The carriage slowed and stopped, and Elinor peered out of the window. The park was deserted at this hour. She did not even see Trollope. But he had told her he would keep out of sight until she was away from her driver. They did not want any witnesses to their meeting. Mr. Trollope worried about foreign agents and spies, and even though Elinor had assured him her driver was not a foreign spy, Mr. Trollope did not wish to take chances.

A groom opened her door and handed her down.