The Spymaster's Lady

(The first book in the Spymaster's Lady series)

A novel by Joanna Bourne

For Leo


I want to thank my literary agent, Pam Hopkins, and my editor, Wendy McCurdy, for their faith in Annique’s story.

I’m grateful to the Beau Monde Chapter of the RWA for their tireless effort in promoting historical accuracy in Regency-period books. Their resource materials have been enormously helpful. Thanks also to my crit partners, Mary Ann Clark and Sofie Couch. You have been endlessly patient and encouraging.

I want to express my profound appreciation for the fellowship and support I have found at the CompuServe Books and Writers Forum. I thank Allene Edwards, Barbara Rogan, Beth Shope, Betty Babas, Carol Krenz, Cat Dubie, Darlene Marshall, Diana Gabaldon, Donna Rubino, Janet McConnaughey, John S. Kruszka, Joyce Moye, K.C. Dyer, Karen Watson, Karl Hagen, Kim Laird, Kris Reekie, Linda Grimes, Margaret Campbell, Mark Mussari, Marsha Skrypuch, Martin McArthur, Pamela Patchet, Steve Lopata, Susan Adrian Barth, Varda Amir-Orrel, Vicki Pettersson, and many others.


SHE WAS WILLING TO DIE, OF COURSE, BUT SHE had not planned to do it so soon, or in such a prolonged and uncomfortable fashion, or at the hands of her own countrymen.

She slumped against the wall, which was of cut stone and immensely solid, as prison walls often are. “I do not have the plans. I never had them.”

“I am not a patient man. Where are the plans?”

“I do not have—”

The openhanded slap whipped out of the darkness. For one instant she slipped over the edge of consciousness. Then she was back again, in the dark and in pain, with Leblanc.

“Just so.” He touched her cheek where he had hit her and turned her toward him. He did it gently. He had much practice in hurting women. “We continue. This time you will be more helpful.”

“Please. I am trying.”

“You will tell me where you have hidden the plans, Annique.”

“They are a mad dream, these Albion plans. A chimera. I never saw them.” Even as she said it, the Albion plans were clear in her mind. She had held the many pages in her hands, the dog-eared edges, maps covered with smudges and fingerprints, the lists in small, neat writing. I will not think of this. If I remember, it will show on my face.

“Vauban gave you the plans in Bruges. What did he tell you to do with them?”

He told me to take them to England. “Why would he give me plans? I am not a valise to go carrying papers about the countryside.”

His fist closed on her throat. Pain exploded. Pain that stopped her breath. She dug her fingers into the wall and held on. With such a useful stone wall to hold on to, she would not fall down.

Leblanc released her. “Let us begin again, at Bruges. You were there. You admit that.”

“I was there. Yes. I reported to Vauban. I was a pair of eyes watching the British. Nothing more. I have told you and told you.” The fingers on her chin tightened. A new pain.

“Vauban left Bruges empty-handed. He went back to Paris without the plans. He must have given them to you. Vauban trusted you.”

He trusted me with treason. She wouldn’t think that. Wouldn’t remember.

Her voice had gone hoarse a long time ago. “The papers never came to us. Never.” She tried to swallow, but her throat was too dry. “You hold my life in your hands, sir. If I had the Albion plans, I would lay them at your feet to buy it back.”

Leblanc swore softly, cursing her. Cursing Vauban, who was far away and safe. “The old man didn’t hide them. He was too carefully watched. What happened to them?”

“Look to your own associates. Or maybe the British took them. I never saw them. I swear it.”

Leblanc nudged her chin upwards. “You swear? Little Cub, I have watched you lie and lie with that angel face since you were a child. Do not attempt to lie to me.”

“I would not dare. I have served you well. Do you think I’m such a fool I’ve stopped being afraid of you?” She let tears brim into her eyes. It was a most useful skill and one she had practiced assiduously.

“Almost, one might believe you.”

He plays with me. She squeezed her lids and let tears slide in cold tracks down her cheeks.

“Almost.” He slowly scratched a line upon her cheek with his thumbnail, following a tear. “But, alas, not quite. You will be more honest before morning, I think.”

“I am honest to you now.”

“Perhaps. We will discuss this at length when my guests have departed. Did you know? Fouché comes to my little soiree tonight. A great honor. He comes to me from meetings with Bonaparte. He comes directly to me, to speak of what the First Consul has said. I am becoming the great man in Paris these days.”

What would I say if I were innocent? “Take me to Fouché. He will believe me.”

“You will see Fouché when I am satisfied your pretty little mouth is speaking the truth. Until then…” He reached to the nape of her neck to loosen her dress, pulling the first tie free. “You will make yourself agreeable, eh? I have heard you can be most amusing.”

“I will…try to please you.” I will survive this. I can survive whatever he does to me.

“You will try very, very hard before I am finished with you.”

“Please.” He wanted to see fear. She would grovel at once, as was politic. “Please. I will do what you want, but not here. Not in a dirty cell with men watching. I hear them breathing. Do not make me do this in front of them.”

“It is only the English dogs. I kennel some spies here till I dispose of them.” His fingers hooked the rough material of her dress at the bodice and pulled it down, uncovering her. “Perhaps I like them to watch.”

She breathed in the air he had used, hot and moist, smelling of wintergreen. His hand crawled inside the bodice of her dress to take hold of her breast. His fingers were smooth and dry, like dead sticks, and he hurt her again and again.

She would not be sick upon Leblanc in his evening clothes. This was no time for her stomach to decide to be sincere.

She pressed against the wall at her back and tried to become nothing. She was darkness. Emptiness. She did not exist at all. It did not work, of course, but it was a goal to fix the mind upon.

At last, he stopped. “I will enjoy using you.”

She did not try to speak. There was no earthly use in doing so.

He hurt her one final time, pinching her mouth between thumb and forefinger, breaking the skin of her dry lips and leaving a taste of blood.

“You have not amused me yet.” He released her abruptly. She heard the scrape and click as he lifted his

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