Published by Regan Walker Publishing on November 6th 2017
“Seasonally enchanting and romantically perfect!” – Chicks, Rogues & Scandals
Spies and Scots and Shipmasters, oh my!
Scotland 1819 - Twin brothers Nash and Robbie of Powell and Sons Shipping, London, sail with their fellow Agents of the Crown to Scotland for a secret celebration of Christmastide, a holiday long considered pagan by the Scottish Kirk. But more than Christmas is being kept secret. The two brothers have accepted an assignment from the Home Secretary Lord Sidmouth to ferret out a fugitive fomenting rebellion among the Scots.
Aileen Stephen, the only daughter of an Aberdeen shipbuilder, had to be clever, devious and determined to gain her place in the family business. She succeeded to become a designer of highly coveted ships. One night, a man’s handsome face appears to her in a dream. When two men having that same face arrive on a ship full of Londoners, Ailie wonders what her second sight is telling her. Is the face she saw a portender of the future, a harbinger of danger, or both? And which of the two Englishmen is the one in her dream?
Older than Nash by a mere five minutes, Robbie has always been protective of his twin. When he realizes Nash is attracted to the sister of their Scottish host, he thinks to help matters along. But Nash wants no help from his brother, not where Ailie Stephen is concerned because Robbie is attracted to the girl himself!
Two brothers vie for the affection of the Scottish lass but only one stirs her passion. Which one will it be? And what will she do when she learns both are spies?
Sailing from London:
Captain Anderson, a rather stern-looking Scot with dark curly hair and ruddy cheeks, strode across the deck to join them.
“Welcome, Lady Claremont,” he said with a pronounced brogue, lifting his cap in greeting. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Captain Dougal Anderson of William Stephen’s shipbuilding. Your fellow passengers will be pleased to hear of your arrival.” Then with a chiding tone, “They were afraid we might have to leave you behind.”
“Stuff and nonsense!” the countess scolded in a commanding voice. Her back as straight as steel, her head held high, she confronted the captain nose to nose. A formidable woman thought Nash. Definitely not one to be intimidated by the unsmiling captain. “I am an adventurer at heart, my good man, and I love to sail, this dashed cold weather notwithstanding.”
Lady Claremont moved aside, allowing the captain to view the woman with light brown hair and white mobcap who had been waiting patiently behind her mistress. “I have brought my cook, Mrs. Platt.”
“An English cook for my… my ship?” the captain sputtered.
Ormond turned to wink at Nash, clearly enjoying the exchange.
“No, no, my good man,” the countess scolded as if addressing a schoolboy. “For our Christmas feast in Scotland.” Then to her cook, she muttered, “One could not expect Mr. Stephen’s cook to serve up a proper roast goose, minced pie and plum pudding.”
The countess returned her attention to the captain. “Mrs. Platt’s supplies are in a crate sitting on the quay. Please have it loaded promptly.”
“Now see here—” The captain began, but stopping himself, he let out an exasperated huff and snapped his fingers at a waiting seaman, who hurried down the gangplank to retrieve the crate.
Ormond covered his mouth, stifling a laugh.
Nash pressed his lips together, holding in his own laughter, thankful Robbie chose that moment to emerge from the aft hatch to approach their small group.
The countess glanced from Robbie to Nash. “Another?”
“Twins,” said Nash, managing a small bow. “Nash Etienne Powell, at your service, my lady.” He gestured to Robbie. “This is Robert Pierre Powell, older than I by a mere five minutes yet he will not let me forget it.”
The countess perused them. “Humph. I believe I may know one of your older brothers. Sir Martin. Yes, that’s the one.”
Nash had always been amazed at the power of his brother’s charm over the ladies, but when Robbie bestowed his most brilliant smile upon the elegant countess and bowed over her hand, Lady Claremont had a very different reaction than Nash had expected.
She picked up a quizzing glass, dangling from a gold chain around her neck, and carefully examined Robbie through the lens. Dropping the glass, she said, “You must keep hearts in the ton all aflutter, Mr. Powell. I shall have to keep an eye on you.” Then she turned to Nash. “You, too, I daresay. How confusing it will be if you have a smile like your brother’s.”
Nash thought to show her just how alike he and Robbie could appear but, just then, the captain pulled a pocket watch from his waistcoat, gave it an anxious glance and frowned. Narrowing his gaze at the Thames, in a tone that brooked no dissent, he said, “I would ask you and your servant to go below, Lady Claremont. We are about to sail.”
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