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Authors: Sandra Madden

Tags: #Historical Romance

Seducing the Spy

BOOK: Seducing the Spy
3.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub




Sandra Madden


Chapter One


Ballymore, Ireland, 1598


Yeoooowwww. Yeoooowwww.

‘Twas dusk, and the high-pitched howling of the wolves caused each downy hair at the nape of Meggie Fitzgerald’s neck to stand on end. She came to an abrupt halt at the edge of the copse. Her gaze darted from tree to bush to tree, searching the dense growth for movement. Fearing to make even the slightest sound, she held her breath. Her two great white Irish wolfhounds, Seamus and Bernadette, came to rest at her heels.

Meggie raised her musket. She never ventured beyond the walls of the bailey without the cumbersome weapon. A light mist dampened her face and the wind caused her skirts to slap about her ankles.

A rustling at the edge of the copse caught her attention. Stiffening, Meggie stood as still and rigid as a mason’s chisel. Her dogs, however, whimpered with excitement. “Hush, now,” Meggie hissed.

She sighted the musket in the direction of the sound. Hoping to have a duck for dinner or at the very least, to frighten off whatever creature lurked in the wood, Meggie pulled the trigger. The retort of her weapon knocked her to the ground.

“Ack!” she cried, falling on her bottom in an inglorious heap of saffron skirts.


’Twas a counter cry. A man’s yelp of pain.

She had shot a man ... or more likely, a werewolf. Werewolves were known to roam this part of Ireland. The frightful creatures changed themselves from man to beast and back with the blink of an eye.

Scrambling to her feet, Meggie snatched up her smoking weapon and cautiously made her way into the wood. Her dogs yelped behind her, falling all over themselves and trouncing on her heels.

Meggie’s quarry lay just yards within the copse. A mountain of a man lay on the ground, clutching his thigh, gritting his teeth. She stopped a safe distance from him. A woman could not be too careful. At first glance a body could not distinguish between an ordinary wolf and a werewolf. According to legend the werewolves were men cursed for their misdeeds to live like a wolf for any number of years. Men who might appear human one moment and then in the next bare then-teeth as a wolf. In an effort to gain a measure of reassurance, Meggie reminded herself that although dangerous beasts, the werewolves had been known to aid the ancient Irish kings in battle.

Meggie Fitzgerald feared only the sea more than she did wolves of either type.

But what—or who—was this? A mixture of shock and dismay held her transfixed as she regarded the wounded stranger. She stared at the patch of the man’s woolen trews as they darkened with his blood. Beneath her horrified gaze, the stain spread. Her dogs whined.

Breathing heavily, the man struggled to raise himself up, bracing himself on his elbows. “God’s bones! Did ye do this to me?” he growled.

His deep-set eyes did not glow red. Rather, they were the rich, deep brown of sea rushes. His features, at the moment contorted in pain, would otherwise be quite compelling. His sun-leathered face was formed in perfect symmetry.

She stepped closer.

He fell back.

“Ye did this to me ...” he said in a rasp of resignation.

Realizing the man was no threat to them, the dogs began to bark at his motionless body.

Before Meggie could confirm or deny her part, the wounded intruder’s eyes rolled to the back of his head and he fell into a swoon.

He posed no danger at the moment.

Meggie took advantage of his senseless state to study him.

Despite the humble garments he wore, and the smudges of dirt over most of his face, there could be no doubt that he was a rare handsome man. His lips were neither full, nor narrow; his nose neither too large, nor too small. His dark chestnut hair fell to his shoulders. And if one looked beyond his scraggly beard, he appeared to possess a strong jaw, fiercely set.

She eyed him warily.

He opened his eyes. Awake too soon and obviously addled, he bunched his dark brows in a frown. Until his eyes found hers.

“Why are ye staring?” His fist slammed into the ground. “I’m bleedin’ like a stuck pig! Could ye lend me your kercher? Or are ye intending to let me die?”

“Who are ye?”

“Me name is Colm, and I’m a bard.”

“A bard?”

“And I am bleeding to death here!”

Loath to have an innocent man’s blood on her hands, especially a bard’s, Meggie flung her musket aside and dropped to her knees beside him. She respected the Irish poets above all other men. Removing the scarf from her head, she quickly wrapped it around the bard’s leg and pulled tightly. He howled louder than the wolves. Her dogs then joined in the ungodly chorus.

Before Meggie could do more, Colm the bard fell into a swoon for the second time. Either he was a fainthearted man or she hovered on the brink of becoming a poet killer. As poets were revered throughout Ireland, Meggie could think of nothing worse. A series of chills rocked down her spine, galvanizing her into action.

Ordering Seamus and Bernadette to stand guard over the immobile man, she picked up her musket with one hand and her skirts with the other and ran toward the castle. She needed help to bring the poet to safety. Even though she took pride in being a strong country lass, he was much too large for her to handle alone.

Her father had moved Meggie and her grandfather to the old castle she called Dochas eight years before. In Gaelic, which was not spoken much anymore due to the threats of retribution by the horrid English invaders, Dochas meant hope. Meggie Fitzgerald hoped for many things.

The rambling stone edifice of Dochas had been built around an old tower house in the parish of Ballymore, County Westmeath. Located just north of, and midway between, the cities of Dublin and Galloway, the castle was close enough to Ulster Province for its inhabitants to make a run north for safety if need be. But Meggie had no intentions of running from the English. She loved Dochas and its people with all her heart. For those reasons, she’d resisted moving into Ulster for the past three years or more.

Ulster remained the last stronghold of the Irish. Unwelcome English colonists planted by King Henry and Queen Bess could be found everywhere else, seemingly on every inch of land, save Ulster.

Since 1539 when the English king declared himself King of Ireland, the English invaders had appropriated her country stone by stone, meadow by meadow, province by province. They had married Irish sons and daughters, and some had even taken on Irish ways. But as far as Meggie was concerned, their most grievous sin had been to drive the Fitzgeralds from their southern homeland of Cork. She had no love for the English.

Heart racing and out of breath, she arrived at the doors of Dochas. While she did not have servants in the true sense of the word, Meggie took care of all who lived within its walls, and they took care of her. She quickly summoned help and returned to her wounded prey.

It took four strong men to carry the bard back to the castle and into a chamber across the corridor from hers. ’Twas necessary for him to be close to Meggie in order for her to nurse him properly.

Colm’s eyes fluttered open as Meggie bathed his face and laid a cool cloth over his broad forehead. His dark eyes glazed over in confusion. She suspected the well-favored stranger had never known a weak or helpless moment in his life. Attempting to reassure him, she smiled sweetly, for it was in her nature to comfort. And she’d always had an eye for a handsome lad.

When the bard’s eyes closed again, she tore the leg of his trews and untied the kercher to examine the damage she had wrought. ’Twas not a pretty sight. She called for fresh, boiled rainwater and clean rags. Not many approved of her methods, but Meggie always cleaned open wounds and made certain to keep them clean.

With the help of her grandfather, who worked beside her without question, Meggie removed Colm’s long tunic and slipped the well-worn brogues from his feet. That done, her grandfather, lost in his own particular fog, shuffled off. Meggie tugged at the bard’s torn trews by herself. ’Twas the last tug that woke him once again.

“Hold there!”

His trousers were about his ankles.

“An’ what do ye think you’re doin’?” he demanded in strong, indignant tones.

In his weakened condition, the force of his protest took Meggie by surprise. But one more pull and she would have his trousers off. “I’m removin’ your trews to clean your wound.”

“Have ye no shame, lass?”

“I’ll not be looking ... there,” she promised.

“Cover me up.”

“I’ve seen a man’s privates bef—”

“Cover me now,” he snapped.


The bard fell back, exhausted from the exertion spent to protect his modesty.

All unnecessary in Meggie’s opinion. But unwilling to upset him any more than necessary, she placed a hand over her eyes leaving a small wedge of space between the third and little finger. ’Twas just enough to see through without being detected. This must be how a woman with shame nursed a wounded man.

She carefully picked up the cloth from his forehead and moved it toward the region of his distress.

“What are ye doing?”

“I am shielding my eyes. Can you tell me when I am close?”

“Close to what?”

“You know, your... your private area. I shall drop the cloth atop your, er, your ... manhood, and then you shall be covered.”

“Drop it now!”

Curious as to what he wished to protect from her eyes, Meggie sneaked a peek as she dropped the cloth.

Merciful Mary! The bard was well favored!

And she was shameless.

“My thanks,” he whispered hoarsely, eyes closed tightly.

“Welcome to Dochas.”

A long moment of silence passed, as if the bard might be considering the manner of his welcome.

“What is Dochas?” he asked, at last.

“This castle.”

He opened his eyes and gazed up at her. “And who would ye be?”

“My name is Meggie Fitzgerald, and I am mistress of Dochas”

The poet groaned.

“Would ye like a swallow of whiskey before I search for the musket ball and clean your wound?”

His head jerked up. “Search for the ball?”

“Aye. It must be removed, ye know.”

“Is there no one else about? A village physician perhaps?”

“Are ye daft?” Meggie snorted, though she didn’t mean to. “ ‘Tis only a small village we have.”

He raised his head, and with the effort, she noted, the veins in his neck tightened to light blue protruding cords. And when his dark, glaring eyes met hers, Meggie felt a chill slide from the nape of her neck to the tips of her toes.

“You shot me,” he said. “How do I know you’ll not finish the job and kill me now?”

“I did not mean to hit ye.”

“Knowing that makes me feel better.”

“I was after a duck but I heard wolves, and I shot a warning. The wolves roam about the land killing our cattle and horses, ye know.”

“Do I look like a wolf?”

“I could not see ye clearly,” she admitted quietly.

“And you fired anyway?”

Meggie attempted to explain. “I meant it only as a warning shot. Do ye expect me to be idle while my animals are attacked?”

Colm moaned. “I must be daft.”

“Aye,” she agreed without hesitation. Meggie meant to needle him, although she understood the appealing poet simply might not be accustomed to country ways. But he should be.

His brows gathered once more in a deep, dark frown. For a moment he glowered. “I don’t believe I’m daft. I spoke in jest. However, I do believe an apology from you might be in order.”

“By your leave?” The bard
daft. Further, he had done quite a bit of moaning and groaning since the ... accident.

Pride prevented Meggie from making an outright apology. The man should not have been lurking in the woods that way. But even though the mistake had been his, she would overlook his blunder. She would personally see that Colm received the finest care. Meggie silently dedicated herself to restoring the poet to complete health, which under the circumstances was far better than a mumbled apology.

She inched her chin up before she spoke. “Whiskey will help ye while I poke around a bit.”

“Poke around?”

“Do not worry. I know what I’m about. I nurse all in the bailey and the animals as well.”

“I am not an animal.”

“Nay, you are not,” she agreed, slipping an arm under his shoulders to lift his head. The poet possessed the well-muscled body of a blacksmith and the face of a saint. She held a pewter goblet to his mouth, forcing the whiskey between his lips.

The bard rose up sputtering and choking. Thankfully, the effort caused him to swoon again, and Meggie could go about her work unhampered. But not undistracted.

Awake or sleeping, the stranger exuded a fierce masculinity. She felt an odd, belly-deep excitement as she regarded him. It was the same type of excitement Meggie experienced when gazing upon the rugged cliffs of the western Irish shore. Awe and wonder. Though she would not venture near them, and chose to reside well inland, she could not help but to admire and respect the steep slashes of limestone rock. She could not prevent the mysterious tingling of the spirit which filled her. But Meggie had never before encountered such a presence, such a feeling, from a mortal man.

BOOK: Seducing the Spy
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