Authors: Juliana Gray
Tags: #Historical Romance, #Italy, #Regency Romance, #love story, #Romance, #England
A Lady’s Dilemma
She didn’t need to see his face. She knew exactly how it looked: how his hazel eyes crinkled at the corners when he smiled, how his golden brown hair curled on his forehead. How his strong jaw met his sturdy neck, how his full lips parted just before he spoke.
How would those lips feel upon hers?
She’d never known. Their years-ago courtship had been long on elegant words and clandestine glances, and short on physical expression. Proper English ladies, dutiful daughters of proper English ladies, did not accept kisses before engagement rings.
But she’d imagined his kisses, more than once, in the lonely dark hours of the night, curled in her bed, eyes dry and aching. She’d imagined more than that.
Imagined it, and despised herself in the cold light of morning.
No one would ever know,
she thought. They wouldn’t meet again for ages, if at all. He was an honorable man; he’d never tell a soul. He’d take the secret to his grave.
A Lady Never Lies
in this dazzling debut. Pour yourself some limoncello, turn off the phone, and treat yourself to the best new book of the year!”
—Lauren Willig, national bestselling author
A Lady Never Lies
is extraordinary! In turns charming, passionate, and thrilling—and sometimes all three at once—
A Lady Never Lies
sets a new mark for historical romance. Juliana Gray is on my auto-buy list.”
New York Times
“Juliana Gray writes a delightful confection of prose and desire that leaps off the page. This romance will stay with you long after you have turned the final page.”
New York Times
“Fresh, clever, and supremely witty. A true delight.”
New York Times
“Juliana has a stupendously lyrical voice, unlike anybody else’s I’ve read—really just a gorgeous way with language. Some of the imagery made my breath catch from delighted surprise, as did the small, deft touches of characterization that brought these characters so vividly to life. The story feels tremendously sophisticated, but also fresh, deliciously witty, and devastatingly romantic.”
New York Times
“Charming, original characters, a large dose of humor, and a plot that’s fantastic fun make
A Lady Never Lies
a fabulous read. Prepare to be captivated by Finn and Alexandra!”
Berkley Sensation titles by Juliana Gray
A LADY NEVER LIES
A GENTLEMAN NEVER TELLS
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) • Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England • Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.) • Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.) • Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India • Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.) • Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
A GENTLEMAN NEVER TELLS
A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author
Berkley Sensation mass-market edition / November 2012
Copyright © 2012 by Juliana Gray.
A Duke Never Yields
by Juliana Gray copyright © 2012 by Juliana Gray.
Cover art by Alan Ayers. Cover design by George Long.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
Berkley Sensation Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
The “B” design is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
To the august membership of the Romance Book Club, without whom my heroines would be nameless.
I am, as ever, indebted to the genius of my agent, Alexandra Machinist, who smoothes all paths and forges new ones.
The enthusiasm and expertise of the Berkley team humbles me daily. To my keen editor, Kate Seaver, and her able assistant, Katherine Pelz; to my copyeditor, who keeps dates, ages, and punctuation in strict order; to the fabulous artists, marketers, and publicists who bring books into the wide world: I am so very grateful.
The romance community entertains, instructs, and inspires me daily. Thank you so much to all the authors, bloggers, and fans who believe so passionately in a happily ever after.
A final acknowledgment belongs to Giuseppe Verdi, whose opera
inspired many of the elements of the love triangle in
A Gentleman Never Tells
. (Trust me, it all sounds much better when sung in Italian.)
n more than six years of clandestine service to his Queen and country, Lord Roland Penhallow had never before been summoned to the private library of the Bureau chief himself.
It could mean only one thing: He had inadvertently killed somebody.
Roland couldn’t imagine how. The last caper had tied up as neat as a bow, with hardly any noise and only a very little blood.
Even the most perfidious villain can be made to serve some purpose
, Sir Edward would intone, pressing one blunt forefinger into the polished mahogany of his Whitehall desk,
but a dead body is a nullity
. Roland had taken that advice to heart as a new recruit, and had lived by it ever since.
Standing now in Sir Edward’s shabby Mayfair entrance hall, with the tips of his shoes squared against the chipped marble tiles and his eyes roaming across a series of dyspeptic family portraits, Roland felt the same mild dread he’d known at Eton, when called in by his housemaster to atone for some recent prank. He knit his cold fingers together behind his back and looked upward at the dusky ceiling.
Nothing to worry about
, he told himself.
You can talk your way past anything, Penhallow.
Was that a water stain spreading along the far corner? The old fellow really ought to have that looked at; fearsome things, leaks . . .
Roland started. Sir Edward’s butler stood before him like an avenging penguin. His slick dark hair glinted in the yellow glare of the incandescent lamp on the hall table, and his impenetrable shirtfront held back the advance of his lapels with heroic whiteness. “Your lordship,” he repeated, as he might say
your flatulent wolfhound.
“Sir Edward will receive you in the library.”
The butler didn’t wait for a response. He turned his immaculate ebony back in Roland’s face and walked on in the direction—presumably—of the library.
“Thanks awfully,” Roland muttered, feeling less like the brother of the Duke of Wallingford and more like a dustman with every passing step.
“Ah! Penhallow!” Sir Edward said, as Roland stalked through the door of the library with as much sangfroid as he could muster. A considerable amount, he judged modestly: He wasn’t the Duke of Wallingford’s brother for nothing.
The baronet’s sturdy hand waved at the ancient wing chair before the desk. “Sit, sit. That will be all, Pankhurst. Oh, wait. Dash it, Penhallow. Have you dined?”
“Yes, at my club.”
“Excellent. Good. Off you go, then, Pankhurst. We’re not to be disturbed. Sit, I said, Penhallow. Don’t stand on ceremony
, for God’s sake.”
Roland sprawled into the armchair with his usual negligent grace, though the nerves along the back of his neck gave off a warning jangle. Sir Edward Pennington, chairman of Her Majesty’s Bureau of Trade and Maritime Information, did not typically begin meetings in a stream of jocular pleasantries.
The door closed behind Pankhurst with a defiant thump.
Sir Edward’s eyes rolled upward. “Pankhurst. I daresay I ought to sack him, but on the other hand he’s frightfully discreet. A drop of something, perhaps?” He rose and went to the demilune table against the far wall, on which a tray of crystal decanters flashed invitingly. “Sherry? Whiskey? I’ve a noble port at the moment, last of the ought-nines my father put down for me on the occasion of my birth, ha-ha.”
“I shouldn’t wish to deprive you,” said Roland, who felt the loss of noble ports keenly, even in his present disturbed spirits.
“Nonsense. If one waits for the right occasion, one never drinks it at all.” Sir Edward picked up a decanter and lifted the stopper. “Ah! There we are, you damned beauty.”
“I say, you’re a good deal more generous than my brother,” Roland said. He watched with narrowed eyes as Sir Edward poured out one glass and then another, filling each one nearly to the rim with thick ruby port. In the silent book-filled room, the liquid swished against crystal like an Amazonian waterfall. “He never lets me near his vintage.”
“Ah, well. Dukes, you know.” Sir Edward handed him the glass. “To the Queen.”
The clink of glasses rang amiably in the air, and Sir Edward, instead of returning to his desk, moved to the window overlooking the rear garden. With one hand he lifted aside the heavy burgundy curtains and peered out into the foggy darkness. He took a drink of port. “I suppose,” he said, “you’re wondering why I’ve called you here tonight.”
“It came as something of a surprise.”
“Ah! Circumspect.” Sir Edward swirled the port in his glass. “You’ve come along damned well these past few years, Penhallow. Damned well. I thought, when they first foisted you on me, you’d be nothing but an aristocratic millstone around my neck, with your flashy looks and your matchless damned pedigree. But I was quite wrong about that, to my considerable pleasure. Quite wrong.” He turned to face Roland, and all the painfully contrived jollity had faded from his expression, leaving its lean angles even more austere than usual.
“I’m grateful to have been of service, sir,” said Roland. “Queen and country and all that. Dashed good fun.” He gripped the narrow bowl of his glass until the facets cut hard and cold against his fingertips.
“Of course you are. I don’t doubt that for an instant.” Sir Edward stared down into the ruby depths of his port.
“Sir?” Roland said, because his dry mouth would not permit anything more fluent. Then he remembered the port, and raised it to his lips for a hearty seamanlike swallow.
Sir Edward cleared his throat. “Here’s the trouble. As I suspect you’re aware, we’re not the only organization in Her Majesty’s government charged with gathering intelligence.”
“Of course not. Tripping on each other’s toes all the time.” Roland offered a winning smile, his most charismatic younger-brother effort. “Why, just last month I nearly came to a bad end myself. Stumbled directly into a setup by some damned chaps from the Navy office. The bloodiest balls-up you’ve ever seen.”
“Yes, I read your report.” Sir Edward returned to the desk and sat down in his chair. A trace of what might be called a smile lifted one corner of his mouth. “Rather well written, your reports, except perhaps for an excess of descriptive phrase.”
Roland shrugged modestly. “Reports would be so dull otherwise.”
“In any case, it appears those—er—damned chaps from the Navy office, as you put it, aren’t taking things in quite the same spirit of brotherhood.”
“No? Hardly sporting of them. They were all quite on their feet again within a week or two.” Roland flicked a speck of dust from his jacket sleeve.
“Ah. Still. Despite your tender care, which no doubt met the very highest standards of the service . . .”
“. . . there’s talk”—Sir Edward set down his glass and fiddled with the neat rectangle of papers in the center of the leather-trimmed blotter—“that our involvement represented a deliberate attempt to undermine the efforts of a long and prestigious investigation.”
Roland lifted his eyebrows. Despite hours of concerted effort, he’d never yet managed to raise one by itself. “You can’t be serious. Does the Navy office really think I’ve nothing better to do with my time than to plot its downfall? For God’s sake, my source gave me every reason to think . . .”
“Your source.” Sir Edward lifted the topmost paper from the stack and scanned it. “Johnson, to be precise.”
“Yes, sir. You know the man. Thoroughly reliable, well-placed at the Russian mission.”
“And as of this morning, aboard a steamer to Argentina with a number of small heavy trunks, inhabiting a first-class starboard cabin.” Sir Edward looked up. “Surprised, are you?”
Roland slumped back in his chair. “Well, I’m dashed!”
“Apparently so. Traveling under his real name, of all things.”
“My counterpart at the Navy is, of course, beside himself. He’s convinced you paid off Johnson, that it’s all part of some plot on our part to make fools of them, at best. At worst . . .”
Roland shot forward out of the chair and pinned the paper to the blotter with his finger. “Don’t say it, by God.”
“Pax, you young fool. I wasn’t accusing you of anything.”
“But someone is.” Roland’s voice was low, deadly, quite unlike its usual self.
Sir Edward tilted his lean face to one side and considered Roland for a long moment. “Someone is.”
“I don’t know.” Sir Edward frowned. “Look, Penhallow. I shall speak as freely as I can, because I consider myself a fair judge of men, and I know no man more disinterestedly devoted to the welfare of the British nation than you.”
Roland’s arrow-straight body relaxed an infinitesimal degree.
“Something’s up, Penhallow. I don’t know what it is. Rumblings, currents. There’s always been rivalry, of course; bitter, at times. One expects that, in this line of work, with no great financial benefit, no hero’s reception at St. Paul’s and whatnot. Power’s the only currency. But the things I hear now, the things I sense, odd instances of this and that . . . I can’t put it into words, exactly. But something’s off.”
Roland eased back into his chair, every sense alert. “What sort of thing?”
Sir Edward tented his fingers together atop the fine white paper, fingertip against fingertip. “If I knew that, Penhallow, I’d have taken action by now.”
“Then how can I help?”
“That, you see, is the trouble.” He drummed his fingertips together; hard, sturdy, peasantlike fingers that matched his hard, sturdy body and made the gentleman-like cut of his superfine jacket seem like racing silks on a destrier. “Tell me, Penhallow,” he said, in an even voice, “have you any enemies? Besides, of course, those damned chaps you put out of action a few weeks ago.”
“Oh, any number. One doesn’t construct a reputation like mine without putting a few noses out of joint.”
“Anyone who might wish to ruin you?”
“There are all sorts of ruin to wish upon a man who’s beaten you at cards, or stolen your mistress.”
“I mean total ruin. Moral, physical. A man, perhaps, who might wish to have you condemned for treason.”
The word rang about the room, ricocheted off the books and objects, settling at last between them with an ugly clank.
“None that I can call to mind,” Roland said quietly.
“And yet,” Sir Edward said, just as quietly, “I can say, with near certainty, that such a man exists.”
“Name the man, and he is dead within the hour.”
“I don’t know his name. That, you see, is the mystery.” Sir Edward rose and went to the middle of a row of bookshelves near the window, where a small globe interrupted the even flow of leather-bound volumes. He placed one hand, spiderlike, over the Atlantic Ocean. “Have you anywhere you can retire for a month or two? Perhaps more? Somewhere discreet?”
? Oh, I say . . .”
“Not hide. Not at all. Only retire, as I said, from the limelight for a bit.”
“Damn it all, sir, I won’t turn tail and slink away.”
“Discretion, in this case, is much the better part of valor.” Sir Edward turned and skewered him with a rapier gaze from his dark eyes. “The idea is to tease the fellow out in the open. Find out what he’s really after. Let him think he’s won. An easy triumph breeds overconfidence.”
“And I should meanwhile sit twiddling my thumbs in some countryseat . . .”
“Preferably outside of England.”
“Oh rot. Outside of England? I’ve no tolerance for Paris, and no friends anywhere else that . . .” He stopped. A thought began to writhe its way through the currents of his brain, like a poisonous eel.
“What is it?”
“It’s . . . it’s nothing, really. Only some damned idea of a friend of ours.”
“What sort of idea? What sort of friend?”
“A scientific fellow. Burke’s his name, a very close and trusted friend of mine and my brother’s. He’s got some lunatic scheme in the works, proposes to spend a year in a castle in the Tuscan mountains, fiddling with automobiles and whatnot . . . really most ineligible . . .”
“Good God! It’s perfect!”
“What’s that? Oh, Lord, no. Not at all. Damp, wretched things, castles. And swearing off women and drink and . . . well, everything that makes life bearable.”
“Just the thing for you, Penhallow. Marvelous. I shall write the necessary letters at once, open up a line for communication . . .”
But Sir Edward was already scribbling himself a memorandum. “Beadle, I think, in the Florence office. He shall set you up with everything you need. Tuscany, eh? The land of unending sunshine, I believe they say. Ha. You’ll have a splendid time. Most indebted to this Mr. Burke of yours.”
Roland watched the motion of Sir Edward’s pen along the paper and began to feel queasy. “I refuse to . . .”
“What’s that? Oh, rubbish, Penhallow. I shall take care of everything on this end and notify you when it’s safe to return. Think of it as a kind of sabbatical. You’ll come back to us refreshed, renewed. Full of zest for life and all that.”
Roland, who was never at a loss for words or composure, found himself devoid of both. His jaw swung helplessly below his brain.
Sir Edward folded the paper and looked up. “What’s that? Oh, come, Penhallow. You look as though you’ve been passed a sentence of death. Think of all the advantages: sunshine, wine, decent food. Ripe young women who can’t speak English.”
He rose from his chair, held out the paper, and grinned like a demon.
“What could possibly go wrong?”