Authors: Amalie Vantana
Tags: #love, #suspense, #mystery, #spies, #action adventure, #regency 1800s
By Amalie Vantana
Copyright 2013 by Amalie
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places, and incidents are either products of the author’s
imagination or used fictitiously. Any similarity to actual people,
organizations, and/or events is purely coincidental.
Cover design: Robin Ludwig Design
the very best part of my
20 May 1814
once said that to have a truly successful spy organization you must
have the presence of mind always to be seven steps ahead of
everyone else. My father’s seven steps had been between the ages of
eight and seventeen. He claimed that no one would ever suspect
children of being spies. He was right. I was twelve when four men,
my father included, formed a secret spy ring—
to protect the good on which this nation was founded.
Five years later and I am wondering if there was
more to it than that. When you live a life of secrets, you trust no
one and question everything.
It was well past ten in the evening when I stepped
away from the brick wall that I was leaning against. A dark haired
man in a red regimental coat came striding toward me holding a
lantern that illuminated the darkened alley. When he reached me, he
set the lantern on the ground, then his arms wrapped around my
waist. He pulled me against him, his wet lips smacking on my mouth.
I hated when he did that.
I let him kiss me for a moment, then I pushed him
back, casting down my eyes. “Willy, you are a rogue.”
He did not laugh as he usually did, and when I
glanced up at him, his eyes were focused on mine, or rather my
“We have been meeting in secret for three months,
Lucy. When will you cease to wear a mask?” His voice was cool, and
I thought I detected a hint of suspicion.
I flashed him my most enticing smile and laid my
hand against his cheek. “I thought you liked a mystery, Willy.”
His eyes hardened for an instant as his brows
snapped together, but then his face cleared, and he laughed,
unconvincingly. He was uncomfortable; something was not right.
“You know that I adore you, Lucy.” He kissed my
neck, and I fought the urge to run him through with a small
ornamental knife that was in my hair. He stepped around me laying
his cool hands against the bare skin of my shoulders. One of his
fingers stroked the black beaded necklace I was wearing. “It is
only that they offered me more than you; you understand.”
At the entrance to the alley, three men appeared,
and as they walked toward me, everything inside me went wild. My
shaking hands twisted in the folds of my red dress. The men before
me were wearing plain brown clothing, nothing remarkable, but it
was the rings they all wore on their right hands that relayed their
“At last we find you, Ma belle,” one of the men said
in a thick accent.
“Willy?” I pressed against him, my voice sounding
His hands tightened on my shoulders for a moment
before he released me, stepping toward the very men I had been
hunting for two years ever since they murdered the man I was going
“My payment,” Willy demanded, holding his hand out
to the evident leader of the men.
“Ah, yes, your payment, Lieutenant Standen.” The
leader snapped his fingers, and the man to his right pulled a
pistol so fast that Willy had no chance of escape. As he fired, I
dropped down, covering my ears with my hands. Willy stumbled back
clutching his chest before dropping like a fallen tree. Willy was a
fool to believe that those men would be fair. I stayed cowering on
the ground until the leader stomped toward me and grabbed my arm.
My eyes rose to his. He smirked.
“You do not much resemble your mother, Ma belle,”
the greasy-haired leader remarked.
“No, I take after my father,” I replied, keeping him
talking as my hand slid beneath my skirts and gripped a handle
strapped to my leg.
“Your father?” he asked sharply. When his eyes
widened in recognition, I smiled. He turned his head to yell at his
men, but I was upon him before the words passed his lips. My arm
wrapped around his throat, and I placed the tip of my dagger
against his skin beside his eye.
He called in his native tongue for his men to halt
when they stepped forward.
“Now, you will tell me what you want with Ma belle,
or I will stick you like a pincushion.”
The man choked out a laugh. “I remember you. You
were there the night we killed that masked spy.”
Do it! End him!
Every thought was screaming for me to have my
vengeance, but the tighter I held him and thought about stabbing
him with my dagger, the more I knew I could not. I was not a
The largest of the men pulled a pistol, and I
released the leader, shoving him toward his men. I reached into my
coiffure of hair and pulled out a small knife. I threw it with a
strong flip of my wrist. It struck its target, lodging in the big
The second man, a wiry, foolish looking individual,
charged me, knocking me to the ground. My breath left me in a rush,
but I raised my hand with the dagger. He wrestled it away from me
and stood, placing his boot against my stomach, pinning me to the
ground. For someone appearing small, he sure held some force. The
leader came up beside him.
“Tell me your name, little spy.”
“Spy is such an ugly word,” I retorted, the boot
pushed harder against my stomach.
“What would you prefer?”
“Master investigator or skilled assassin, it makes
no odds to me,” I replied in a breathy, strained voice.
He chuckled, then laughed loud clutching his middle.
My mind was trying to work out a plan. There were only two of them,
and if I could get his boot off me...
Explosions roared in the small
alley. I threw my hands up to shield my face. There were at least
four shots fired, and as the heavy boot on my stomach fell away, I
sat up staring through the cloud of smoke to where four masked men
were standing. Their masks were all different, but their clothing
was the same. Black breeches, black boots, black coats over black
shirts. They were made to blend in with the shadows; to match the
night. The first man wore a black mask with two horns sticking up
above his head; we call him Hades. The second man wore a mask that
was half brown, and the other half had four green leather
leaves—Junto. Fenrir was the third man, and his mask was the face
of a wolf. The fourth I knew was not a man at all. Her mask was
She came over to help me up while the others checked
the bodies. Willy and the two they had shot were dead, but the big
man I had stabbed was alive. His eyes were closed; the fool was
“That one is not dead,” I said, pointing to his
He growled as his eyes opened, but Hades was there
to restrain the man from standing.
Fenrir, the man in the wolf mask, came up to me. “We
must make haste. Many will have heard our shots fired.”
I nodded, but went over to where the leader was
sprawled on the ground. I pulled the ring from his finger. It was
pure gold, forged to resemble a snake, its body wrapped around his
finger twice. When I turned back toward my team, Fenrir handed me
my dagger and my hair knife.
“Artemis and I will go to the tree. After you have
disposed of the bodies, meet us there,” I said.
They agreed, and Artemis, whose
name was given because of her adept ability with a bow and arrow,
and I ran from the alley into the dark night. We knew our way
around the city—how to stay to the shadows; how not to be
The ‘tree’ was code for the house we lived in, a
plain, unobtrusive building in a set of row houses. Our neighbors
were merchants whose lives were too full to allow them to be
inquisitive. By the time we went to work at night, they were abed
for an early morning of work. When Artemis and I reached the house,
we went in through the rear door. The night had not gone as
planned, but we all were safe.
“Raven!” a sharp voice boomed from down the
Standing at the door to the front
parlor was a shorter man dressed in the blue regimentals of an
American soldier—captain to be precise. A feat indeed for a young
man of sixteen, but then, he was not like others his age. I walked
toward him slowly as his eyes were piercing me with each step I
“How do you come to be here, Jack?” I asked as I
The top of his head came to my forehead, but he
always appeared larger when in his uniform. At the moment, he was
daunting with his light blue eyes narrowed and his angular jaw
“What were you thinking? Keeping company with the
enemy?” He bit out each word, over annunciating.
I pushed past him, walking into the
parlor, tripping over the skirt of my red dress. The events of the
night were weighing heavily on me; I had lost a valuable, yet
unsuspecting, informant, and I was in no fit mood to listen to
berate me. I pulled off my mask as I turned to face him.
“I was doing my job of extracting information, and
before Willy betrayed me tonight, I compiled a list of names from
him that will make Papa proud.”
Jack ran a hand through his short black hair, and I
knew something was not right. He only did that when he was
agitated. I walked toward him taking his hand. I was not only the
elder by eleven months but also the taller between us by three
inches, a sore spot with my little brother, and I was the calmer
“What is amiss, Jack? Why are you here?”
Jack pressed my hand for a moment, then pulled a
note from his pocket. “I received this. I regret to have to tell
you this, Bess, on your birthday of all days, but Father is