Published by Loveswept on August 22nd 2017
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo
Two morally compromised souls wage a battle of wits—and seduction—against the backdrop of the French Revolution in this thrilling romance from bestselling author Shana Galen.
After her late husband leaves her in debt to some dangerous people, Lady Gabrielle McCullough is forced to become a thief. In the intervening years, her skills have not gone unnoticed. After being recruited by the Scarlet Pimpernel, the mysterious do-gooder spiriting aristocrats out of revolutionary France, Gabrielle crosses the Channel for the most daring mission of her life. Accompanying her is the Earl of Sedgwick, a thief in his own right and an enticingly masculine presence. The man is not to be trusted—nor is Gabrielle’s body when he’s near.
Ramsey Barnes would not say he is an honorable man. His whole life has been based on a lie; why change now? Although it pains him to deceive the tantalizing Gabrielle, he’s working toward an altogether different objective: unmasking the Scarlet Pimpernel. If Ramsey fails, his blackmailer will ruin him. But when Ramsey’s confronted with the carnage of the Reign of Terror, he seeks refuge in Gabrielle’s heated embrace. Now he faces a terrible choice: betray the woman who’s stolen his heart—or risk losing everything.
This standalone novel includes an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
In this scene our hero Ramsey, the Earl of Sedgwick, is reminiscing about his prior relationship with the heroine, Gabrielle, who has just come back into his life.
He lifted Cleopatra’s necklace from the bedside table, where he’d placed it when folding his suit. Now, standing in ruffled shirtsleeves, he lifted it and studied it by candlelight. It was exquisite. Truly. And to think Queen Cleopatra had once worn it, had once rubbed her hands over the lapis lazuli as he was doing now.
But it wasn’t the image of Cleopatra that came to his mind when he thought of fingers stroking the piece. It was Gabrielle. The lovely Gabrielle, his best friend’s widow. He hadn’t thought of her in months, and then only when he caught a glimpse of her at some rout or other. She was always with her friend Diana, the clever daughter of the Duke of Exeter.
But not tonight. Tonight she’d been alone—and trying to steal Cleopatra’s necklace.
Ramsey crossed to a safe he’d hidden behind a painting by Domenico Rinaldo. He secured the necklace, locked the safe, and finishing the brandy, reclined on his bed, hands behind his head.
Gabrielle, Lady McCullough . . .
George hadn’t known what to do with her. Ramsey had watched his friend court the lovely Gabrielle and knew the fellow would never understand a woman like her. But Ramsey understood her. He knew what she wanted—and it wasn’t some idiot who wasted his time and blunt at the gaming tables.
A woman like that wanted passion and adventure. It ran in her blood. Apparently, tonight she’d found an outlet for it. And once again, his mind circled back to the question of why Gabrielle was stealing Cleopatra’s necklace. Hell, how did she become such an accomplished thief? She’d picked the door and the clothespress locks with a finesse he’d rarely seen. Even he wasn’t that smooth. But then she had those long, slim, aristocratic fingers, and his hands were better suited for farm labor.
Still, she hadn’t seemed to mind having his hands on her in the past. Before her engagement to McCullough. He didn’t want to remember that summer night now because it would plague him all evening and he’d toss and turn. Better to read a book and go to bed than to think too much about the lovely Gabrielle.
But it was too late. His mind was already drifting back.
He’d been in the greenhouse at the Duke of Exeter’s country estate. The duke had hosted a house party, and they’d all been invited—Gabrielle Newton and Mrs. Newton, McCullough, himself, other ladies and gentleman of the ton. Gabrielle and George had spent the afternoon taking a turn about the park. They’d danced together after dinner. Ramsey had stood back and watched the courtship develop. If she wanted George, let her have him. But he wouldn’t make her happy.
Ramsey didn’t know if he could make her happy either, but he knew when he looked at her, his thoughts turned to marriage. No other female had that effect on him. He might have pursued her, but marriage was a dangerous proposition. Even in those halcyon days, he wasn’t carefree enough to forget that. And so he kept his distance.
He had walked down to the greenhouse alone and stood among the orange and lemon trees, allowing their pungent citrus scent to float over him. He’d plucked a waxy orange, and held the firm fruit in his hand before peeling the skin back and tasting the fruit.
When the first ripe section was in his mouth, she’d opened the door and walked in.
He knew right away she hadn’t sought him out. Her expression was the perfect picture of surprise . . . and pleasure.
“Oh, I’m sorry, my lord. I didn’t mean to intrude.”
“No interruption at all, Miss Newton,” he said, bowing formally. At that point, one of them should have left. He was the gentleman and should probably have ceded the greenhouse to her. But she had intruded, and by all rights, she might be the one to take her leave.
Neither moved. Neither looked away, and after a moment Ramsey was aware of orange juice dripping down his wrist and gathering in the ruffles at his sleeve. He held out the fruit. “Orange, Miss Newton?”
She didn’t even glance at his hand. “Yes, thank you.”
And she’d walked toward him, plucking the orange from his hand as he’d plucked it from the tree. She didn’t peel a piece away from the skin, as he had done. As would have been the ladylike thing to do. Instead, she bit into the tender flesh, sinking small white teeth into the wet, ripe fruit. A thin line of juice trickled over her chin, but she didn’t wipe it away as she chewed. Ramsey had found himself entranced by that thin line of juice. He couldn’t look away.
“Is there something amiss?” she’d asked, all innocence. But he could see in those bright blue eyes she knew exactly what she was doing. If he’d been George, he would have offered her his handkerchief and made some mention of the weather. It was a hot evening, and his coat clung to him. The tendrils of her dark hair were damp and curling at her temples, and he wondered if her gown felt as oppressive as his coat and knee breeches.
He wondered if she would feel damp and hot as the sultry night.
And because he wasn’t George, he reached out, with one ungloved finger, and swiped the line of orange juice from her chin. Then he put the finger into his mouth to taste it.
She watched him, her light eyes growing dark. He knew that look, knew she wanted him as much as he wanted her. But she was George’s. The engagement wasn’t formalized, but George had all but staked his claim.
And didn’t that make her even more irresistible?
He reached for her again, cupping the back of her neck. He waited for resistance, felt the heaviness of her hair under his palm. Thick and long, he could picture it splayed under her on sheets of satin.
The satin would be cool against their hot, sweaty bodies.
He felt no stiffness and drew her to him, paused when their mouths were inches apart. Her breath, smelling of the orange she’d tasted, fluttered over him. He watched her lips part. She had flawlessly formed lips. They were perfectly pink and almost childlike in their sweet shape. He bent and delicately tasted her. He knew at any moment she would push him away or slap him, but until then he would enjoy this brief lapse in her sanity.
To his surprise, her lips moved under his. Despite the heat, her mouth was cool, and he found himself claiming more of it and still feeling unsatisfied. She opened her mouth and he delved inside, taking what he wanted and being taken in return.
She kissed like a wanton. Her tongue clashed with his, stroked his, and as she did so, her body pressed against his. She was hot and breathing hard. He could feel her breasts heave against him. His hands stroked down her back to wrap about her small waist. He knew it was cinched with a corset, but it still seemed impossibly small. He pulled her against him, against the hardness of his erection, and waited for her to protest. Instead, she dug her hands into his hair, freeing it from the queue.
Ramsey wasn’t certain who possessed whom at that moment, and he wondered how far this would go. He knew where his body wanted it to go, but he couldn’t do that to George.
Or could he?
“Stop,” she breathed, just as his resolve wavered. “I can’t.”
He lifted his mouth but kept their bodies locked together. Her hand was still in his hair, he noted.
“You’re managing quite well, Miss Newton.”
She released his hair. When she stepped back, he saw the faintest hint of a smile on her lips. They were red and swollen now, the innocent blush of pink long gone. “Managing what, my lord? To act like a doxy?”
“No, of course—”
“I should have turned back as soon as I saw you in here. But I didn’t.” Her gaze was direct and honest, and his hands itched to circle her waist again.
“No, you didn’t. Why is that, Miss Newton?”
She shrugged, looked away. Absently, she reached out and stroked the leaves of a potted lemon tree beside her. “Because I wanted this to happen.” Her gaze flicked to his again. “I wanted to see what this would be like.”
“I can show you again . . .”
She held up a hand to stay him. “No. I will marry George. He’ll ask me any day now. I plan to be a faithful wife.”
Ramsey snorted softly.
“I know. That’s an oxymoron, but I do like a challenge.” She turned, and he realized she was leaving. He needed to speak, to say something to stop her, to keep her there. Logically, he knew her leaving was best, but now that he’d had a taste of her, he didn’t want her to go.
“You don’t have to marry McCullough,” Ramsey said.
She looked back at him, her expression filled with surprise.
“I could . . .” But he couldn’t say the words. He wanted to say them. He’d thought enough about making an offer for her, but now that the opportunity was before him, he couldn’t force his mouth to cooperate.
She raised her brows and made a point of waiting.
“Yes,” she said slowly. “That’s what I thought. Thank you for the kiss. Good night.”
Thank you for the kiss. Good night.
Ramsey lay in his bed on Brook Street and wondered who in the hell said things like that? Who in the hell barged in on a man’s solitude, took his orange, kissed him in a way he would never forget, and then walked away again?
Two weeks later he read about her engagement to McCullough in the Times. He’d been so angry he’d balled it up and stuffed it in the fire. The men seated near him at his club had paused for a moment in their discussions and returned to them again without comment.
He’d seen her again, of course. He’d been at the bloody wedding, but they’d barely exchanged pleasantries. At one point Ramsey wondered if he’d dreamed the whole incident in Exeter’s greenhouse.
But not after tonight. Her lips were the same. She didn’t smell like oranges anymore. Tonight she smelled like lilies.
And he couldn’t get her or the damn fragrance out of his head.
With a curse, he rose, stalked into his dressing room and stuffed himself into a coat and trousers. If he couldn’t sleep, he could walk. If he didn’t feel like walking anymore, he could drink.
God knew Gabrielle McCullough was the least of his troubles. He had more than a bottle could drown.
Shana is giving away a digital copy of Traitor in Her Arms, gifted through Amazon or B&N. US and CAN residents only.
We are curious….
Do you prefer your series to be single or multi-generational?
~~Reviewed by Evelyn~~
Traitor in Her Arms, the first novel in the new Scarlet Chronicles series by best-selling author Shana Galen, is a delightful romp through London and Paris in search of the elusive Scarlet Pimpernel of historical infamy. Did he really exist? I’ll let you decide after reading this intriguing look into the French Revolution.
Widow Lady Gabrielle McCullough has to resort to thievery to pay the enormous debts left to her by her late husband. With one evil creditor in particular breathing down her neck, she agrees to steal a very famous necklace at the request of the mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel who, it seems, is a fan of her “work.” Although he contacts her only through associates, she is convinced that, not only will she be paid fairly for this one job, but that it will help free an aristocrat mother and daughter imprisoned in Paris and waiting for a date with the guillotine. There is an obvious high level of danger involved, but how could she turn this job down?
Ramsey Barnes, AKA the Earl of Sedgwick, was a friend of Gabrielle’s late husband’s. After a stolen kiss, right before her wedding leaves them both wanting more, she is obviously unnerved when she meets him at a ball several years later as they are both trying to steal the same bracelet. Ramsey is trying to hide his past from the public and is he is being blackmailed. The bracelet does not satisfy his blackmailer, however, and he is told to find out the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel to keep her quiet. When Ramsey finds himself on the same boat to France as Gabrielle and he also discovers that she is on a mission for the Scarlet Pimpernel, he tricks her into believing that he wants to help her. Surely Gabrielle must know the mysterious man’s identity. Can he also trick her in to revealing it to him?
Gabrielle and Ramsey are both wonderful characters. They are believable, often funny, and highly likeable. They play off each other beautifully, and in spite of their obviously illegal actions, I found myself cheering for them all the way.
The well-written, fast-paced plot is filled with constant, unexpected twists and turns. Even the predictable plot elements happen as the result of unpredictable circumstances, making the entire novel a joy to read.
The background of Paris during the French Revolution is very well done. While understandably gory at times given the subject matter, it is believable and informative. So many small details are included to make the reader feel that they are there with the hero and heroine. Ms. Galen has obviously done her homework throughout.
Author Shana Galen has out-done herself with Traitor in Her Arms. It is a wonderful mystery that hooks you from the first chapter. I can only imagine what fun Ms. Galen has in store for us in the upcoming books in the series! Five stars, but I wish it could be six!
I voluntarily read an Advance Reader Copy of this book.