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Authors: Tracey Devlyn

Shev

BOOK: Shev
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SHEV

A
Nexus
Novella, Book 5

104 pages

 

The Marquess of Shevington’s bleak existence sparks to life after hiring a mysterious governess whose secrets stir his curiosity and whose courage awakens his desire.

 

A LOVE SO DEEP…

Marcus Keene, Lord Shevington, leads a life of idleness and indulgence—or so he would have everyone believe. The illusion he has carefully crafted to protect his country no longer holds the same appeal it once did. His life takes a dramatic turn when a five-year-old girl—his daughter—appears on his doorstep, scared and angry and carrying a missive from his former French mistress.

 

A SECRET SO DARK…

The unassuming, aloof governess he hires begins to break through to his daughter while protecting a dark secret of her own. A secret that is tearing her apart, day by day. What the governess does not understand is that mysteries are like catnip to Shev. Irresistible. Much like the governess herself. But all is about to change when his daughter’s French family arrives to take her away, and Shev’s faced with the prospect of an empty home once again and his heart’s desire slipping from his grasp.

 

Copyright © 2015 by TDC Creations, Inc.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented—except in the case of brief quotations—without permission in writing from its publisher, TDC Creations, Inc.

 

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.

 

For more information contact:
[email protected]

Sign up for Tracey’s new release newsletter:

http://traceydevlyn.com/contact

 

Published by TDC Creations, Inc.

Print Edition, June 2015, ISBN: 978-1-940677-07-1

Digital Edition, June 2015, ISBN: 978-1-940677-06-4

 

 

Acknowledgments

 

Shev
would never be the story it is today without encouragement and input from these talented and generous people. From the bottom of my heart,
thank you
.

 

TEAM DEVLYN

Brainstorming with
Kelsey Browning
,
Adrienne Giordano

&
Theresa Stevens

First Read by Tim Curtin

Edited by
Bev Katz Rosenbaum

Line Edited by
Megan Records

Copyedited by Martha Trachtenberg

Proofread by Linda,
Victory Editing

Beta Reads by Kym Fullen Amaral, Cricket Diller,

Karen Grage, Isabel Hofmann, Tara Kingston,

Amy Remus, April Renn and Michelle Steffen

Cover Design by
The Killion Group, Inc.

Digital Formatting by
Author E.M.S.

 

Author’s Note

 

Shev
’s publication marks a bittersweet moment for me. The end of my beloved
Nexus
series.

Nine years ago, I nervously put pen to paper and started writing the first chapter about a female British spy who endured a rather torturous ending to her career. My heroine’s difficult beginning eventually led to the publication of my debut novel,
A Lady’s Revenge
.

Back then, historical romantic suspense novels (aka dark historicals) were scarce. Every time I hesitated to travel down the path that spoke to my heart, I would receive advice from a seasoned and trusted friend. Every spark of wisdom emboldened me to step outside the safe historical romance box and write the kinds of stories I longed to read.

It seems I wasn’t alone in my reading preferences.

Many thanks to all the readers who sent me a note or stopped me at a conference to let me know how much they enjoyed the suspense element in my novels as much as the romance. Your kind words encouraged me to continue writing what I love.

I have enjoyed exploring the intricate facets of my
Nexus
world and am sad I won’t be hanging out with Cora, Guy, Ethan, Sydney, Sebastian, Catherine, Latymer, Shev, or Anne on a regular basis. Though you never know when Sophie and Teddy might crop up again. 

Don’t worry, you’ll find more murder, mayhem, and love in my
Bones & Gemstones
series…

Thanks for all your support!

 

 

Chapter One

 

Marcus Keene, Lord Shevington, would have preferred standing in a sweltering ballroom full of pompous aristocrats to sitting in the drawing room of his Mayfair town house with his mother, waiting on the latest in a long string of stiff-necked spinsters to arrive.

Somehow, sifting through endless inane chatter for a morsel of treasonous conversation seemed far less daunting than selecting a governess for a daughter he’d known only a few short weeks.

“Please stop making that dreadful noise,” Lady Shevington said. “My nerves are quite frayed as it is.” To underscore her complaint, she smoothed her hands down her copper-hued skirts and leveled her already-squared shoulders.

Shev halted the gold chain’s rotation around his forefinger with one quick flick of his wrist. “She’s late.”

“Perhaps you should check your timepiece again. Mine indicates she’s not due for another five minutes.”

“Yours is clearly an inferior product.”

“I do hate when you’re in these appalling moods.” She sent him a withering look. “There is no need for nerves. Miss Crawford comes highly recommended by the Hunt Agency. I’ve also been acquainted with Miss Crawford’s aunt for many years, and she only has good things to say about her niece.”

“Well then, if she has her aunt’s endorsement, I suppose I have nothing to fear.”

“Mind your sardonic tongue, Marcus. A mother can find innumerable ways to make her child’s life intolerable.”

Shev pressed his lips together, having learned a long time ago to heed his mother’s warnings. The Marchioness of Shevington did not enter this life surrounded by luxuries and privileges of the aristocracy. No, Gemma Barrow had traipsed the back alleys of London for years while her father clawed his way to the top of a shipbuilding empire. And Shev knew from experience that his mother had an unusual array of survival skills.

“Besides,” his mother said, “you know Sydney Hunt would never send an unqualified candidate to you—not in experience or temperament.”

True. Sydney specialized in pairing the right individual with the right employer. To his knowledge, she had never made a wrong match.

The two of them had been friends for years. A pity he could never view her as anything other than a friend, for Sydney Hunt was a beautiful, spirited, accomplished, and courageous woman. But he was
not
in search of a wife.

A knock at the door drew their attention. “Pardon me, my lady. My lord. A Miss Crawford to see you.”

“Show her in, Standish.”

Seconds later, a young lady of average height and build with plain blue eyes and dark brown hair entered the drawing room. She didn’t have a single feature that would entice a gentleman’s attention to linger.
Brilliant
.

He’d always had an appetite for beautiful women, but he reserved those cravings for outside his household. Inside, he followed a long-standing, unbreakable rule about not bedding members of his staff. It was a hard-learned lesson he’d learned at the age of thirteen after his father caught him spying on one of the housemaids.

“Miss Crawford,” Lady Shevington said, holding out her hands in greeting. “So nice to make your acquaintance.”

“Thank you for inviting me, my lady.”

Despite the disparity in their social status, confidence wove through the young woman’s voice, as if she shared greetings with the upper crust every day.

“Please allow me to introduce my son, the Marquess of Shevington.”

Miss Crawford performed a well-executed curtsy. “Good morning, my lord.”

Shev nodded. “Please make yourself comfortable.”

Selecting the chair adjacent to Shev’s, she sat on the edge, feet together, back erect, chin set at an attentive angle. His mother resumed her seat on the nearby sofa, her posture more relaxed than before Miss Crawford’s arrival.

“How is your dear aunt, Mrs. Kettlestone?”

“Quite well, my lady.”

“Is she still walking a mile a day—rain, sleet, or shine?”

“Indeed, she is. Aunt is convinced regular exercise and a daily glass of sherry will see her into her nineties.”

“I couldn’t agree more with your aunt,” Shev said. “Except for the exercise part. The very thought exhausts me.” His mother’s piercing gaze landed on him, narrowed in warning. “Why don’t you begin, Miss Crawford, by detailing your work experience?”

She took an almost imperceptible deep breath before launching into her credentials. “I gained the majority of my experience while caring for the daughters of my first employers, Mr. and Mrs. Stevens.”

“How long were you with the Stevenses?” his mother asked.

“Eight years, my lady.”

“Your reason for leaving their employ?” Shev asked.

“The girls reached an age where they no longer required a governess.” Miss Crawford opened her reticule, pulled out a sealed missive, and placed it on the side table near her chair. “Mrs. Stevens kindly provided a letter of reference.”

“When did you leave the Stevens household?” Shev asked.

“Six months ago, my lord.”

“Where did your next position take you?”

She clasped her hands together in her lap. “Lord and Lady Whitfield hired me to watch over their young son.”

“Your tenure with the Whitfields did not last nearly as long. Did young Whitfield place a frog in your boot?”

“No, my lord.”

“A mouse in your bed?”

“No.”

“Snake in your wardrobe? Manure in your—”

“Shevington,” his mother scolded. “Not all boys are as unruly as you were at a young age.”

His lips twitched. “What a shame.”

“Do you have a letter of reference from Lady Whitfield?” his mother asked.

“I’m afraid not, my lady.”

The absence of a reference combined with the small fracture in her confidence awakened Shev’s insatiable curiosity. Those close to him knew of his compulsive need to solve even the smallest mystery. Even now, his mother cast glances in his direction. “Why did you leave Whitfield’s employ?”

Looking down at her clasped hands, she rubbed the pad of her thumb over her knuckles. “I could not perform all the duties Lord Whitfield required of me.”

A heavy hush fell over the room. “Well, my dear,” his mother said in a quiet, firm voice. “You won’t need to worry about that sort of thing here. Will she, Shevington?” She caught—and held—his gaze, a fierce motherly warning burning in her green eyes.

With an exaggerated show of indifference, Shev eyed their guest before turning a devilish grin on his mother. “If I’m overcome by desire while in Miss Crawford’s presence, I’ll make haste to Madame Rousseau’s.”

“Shevington! A simple ‘no’ would have sufficed.” His mother shifted her attention back to the governess. “Please excuse my son. He does enjoy his shocking comments.”

Instead of being appalled as he’d expected, Miss Crawford appeared relieved.
Curious.
A sudden restlessness had him out of his seat and striding toward the sideboard for a drink. “Anyone else?”

Lady Shevington glanced uncomfortably at their guest before shaking her head. “Perhaps later.”

“No, thank you, my lord.” Miss Crawford turned to his mother. “There are a few details I’m not quite clear on, my lady. Miss Hunt assured me this situation would suit me perfectly; however, she seemed hesitant to share any information beyond what was in the advertisement.”

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