Dante Rose, along with his two brothers, splits his time between their very lucrative gaming hell and working undercover for the British Government on sensitive matters. He is also quite the rake, and as his father’s by-blow, has no title, and therefore no need to ever marry and produce an heir. He loves the ladies and his life exactly the way it is.
Miss Lydia Sanford, daughter of Viscount Sterling has an unusual talent. She can read, write and speak seven languages. She is occasionally called upon by the Home Office to help in a case that requires her knowledge. As a bright, independent woman, she has no need of a man since she supports herself quite comfortably with her assignments from the Home Office, a job she dearly loves.
When Dante and Lydia are summoned to the Home Office and given an assignment that requires them to work together, sparks fly. Some of them good, some of them not so good. She abhors rakes and just about everything Dante stands for. Dante balks at having to bring a woman into his investigation. But when the investigation turns dangerous, will he acknowledge his growing feelings for Lydia and protect her?
Dante Rose, by-blow son of the late Earl of Huntington, brother to the current earl, Hunt, and older brother Driscoll, all partners in the exclusive Rose Room gaming club, stared at the missive in his hand. Another summons from their mysterious contact at the Home Office.
He had warned his brother, Driscoll in his terse manner earlier in the week that the assignment was coming. He flicked the paper with his finger and left the office to seek Driscoll, most likely in the breakfast room besottedly staring at his wife, Amelia. Both brothers had succumbed to the wiles of women in the past two years and had taken the march down the aisle to cut off all the fun and freedom a man found in life.READ MORE
Not him. Never him. He had no title and as a by-blow of his father didn’t stand in line for the title no matter what happened to Hunt and Driscoll. Let his brothers wrangle with the restrictions of marriage and produce nurseries full of offspring. He would live his life the way he wanted until he took his last breath.
And that did not include tying himself to one woman. He liked women too much and despite his reputation, he believed in adhering to one’s marriage vows. He refused to believe that had anything to do with his birth status since he’d always been treated the same as his brothers.
Same nursery, same schools, same opportunities. Unsurprisingly, his step-mother did not shower the love on him as she did his brothers, but she always treated him with respect and his father’s attention and encouragement had more than made up for it.
He groaned as he entered the dining room. “Oh, damn, brother. Can’t you two keep your nonsense confined to your own bedroom? Or at least your own house?” Dante shook his head at his brother and sister-in-law just breaking apart from a kiss.
“Well, aren’t we in a fine mood this afternoon,” Driscoll said as he picked up his coffee cup.
Dante poured a cup of coffee and filled a plate with eggs, toast, tomatoes, and sausage. Although it was breakfast, due to the hours they worked at the club, the meal was served well past noon in the private dining room on the second floor of the establishment.
He placed his food on the table and leaned his forearms on either side of the plate and looked Driscoll in the eye. “My day is fine, but your day is about to become more difficult, brother.”
Driscoll raised his brows. “Why?”
Dante shook out his napkin and placed it on his lap. “The summons from the Home Office I told you about has arrived. As usual, our friend said nothing in the missive except that it might take some time.”
He remembered the conversation between him and Driscoll in the office earlier in the week.
“I will be gone for a while.”
“Home Office?” Driscoll asked.
“We’ll handle everything.”
“Damn.” Driscoll ran his palm down his face. “Hunt might be able to help out a bit, but with another baby on the way, he’s a bit—distracted—shall we say?”
Dante waved his hand. “The man has a household full of help. Plus, his wife, who spends all her time hanging over her child’s bed making sure he continues to breathe. One would think she’d moved past that by now.”
He took a swallow of coffee. “What about Keniel? I thought we planned to have him work extra hours. He’s always ready to help out.”
“He asked for a few days off since he’s close to buying a townhouse.”
Dante shrugged. “I’ll send a note and tell him he needs to be available now and take time here and there to settle himself. He knew his hours would be flexible.”
“Good morning, Dante,” Amelia said with a slight grin.
“Oh, sorry.” He offered her his famous slow smile that had the ladies ready to drop their undergarments. Unfortunately, or perhaps for Driscoll’s sake it was fortunate, Dante had no effect on Amelia. He dipped his head. “Good morning, sister.”
She looked at Driscoll. “I can continue with dealing at my old table as well as help with the books. That would free up Dexter to assist with the management.”
Driscoll shook his head. “No. You are seven months pregnant. I’m not even happy with you coming here to do the books.”
“Oh for goodness sake, Driscoll. I dealt for months before we married. It never bothered you before.”
“Incorrect, wife. It bothered me a great deal, but I had no control over it. Now I do.”
Dante laughed. Shite, the man was stepping right into it.
Amelia sat back and viewed her husband with steely eyes. “Excuse me?” she said, her eyes boring into her husband. “Are you suggesting you have control over me?”
Dante shook his head as he shoveled the food into his mouth. Another reason to not get involved with a wife. They never stayed where you put them, never did what you told them, and when things didn’t go their way, they cried. Or threw things at your head.
“Now, sweeting, you know that’s not what I meant.”
Amelia crossed her arms over her chest. Dante swore he could hear her foot tapping under the table. “What exactly was it you meant, then, sweeting?”
Taking the last gulp of coffee, Dante stood. “I shall leave you two lovers to work out this little issue. I have a few things to finish this afternoon before I meet with Sir Phillip DuBois-Gifford.”
Although that was the name their contact used, the brothers were quite certain it was not his real one. Furthermore, their meetings with the man took place in a small, somewhat shabby townhouse in a lower-class neighborhood. Dante was certain that nowhere in the Home Office records was there a Sir Phillip DuBois-Gifford.
He returned to the office they all shared and pulled out the few files in which he had matters to finish. He scribbled off a quick note to Hunt, advising him of the new assignment and that he needed to spend a bit more time at the club. Who knew, maybe by now his oldest brother was ready for more than nanny-sitting.
He pulled out the information on Mr. Keniel Singh. The man had appeared at the club one day asking for a job. Despite his young age, he had an impressive background, having managed a large plantation in Jamaica for several years. Counting back, that meant he’d taken over the plantation when he was only nineteen.
What resolved the question of hiring him was the fact that the plantation he’d managed had belonged to the brothers’ father at one time but had been sold a few years before, upon his death.
He closed the file with Keniel’s information and left it on Driscoll’s desk. It took him about an hour to finish up and then he was off to meet with Sir Phillip. He made his way to the gaming floor and gave the two missives he wrote to one of the security men and asked that they be dispatched immediately. Neither Driscoll nor Amelia were in sight—most likely in the bedroom upstairs making up for their argument—so Dante left the club, not knowing when he would return.
Sir Phillip was always vague about how long assignments would take.
Thinking it would be best to not yet pack for whatever it was the man had in mind, Dante took the club’s carriage to Sir Phillip’s townhouse.
He bounded up the steps and dropped the knocker only once before the middle-aged housekeeper opened the door. “Good afternoon, Mr. Rose. Sir Phillip is in his study.”
“Thank you.” Dante made his way up the stairs and down the corridor to the overcrowded office that symbolized Sir Phillip.
“Come in, come in, Dante. So nice to see you. It’s been a while since I had something that’s perfect for you.”
Dante took the seat across from Sir Phillip. “What is it this time? You’re correct it has been a while.”
Never one for small talk, Sir Phillip leaned forward and delved right into the matter. “There is spying going on at the German Embassy. While that generally happens in a small way, this is more serious because whoever is passing the information along is privy to things the Home Office is deeply concerned about. Needless to say, we are not happy about that, and we want to confirm first of all that this is true and if the person we believe is involved in this is who we suspect. We will then make arrangements to stop it.”
Dante had no desire to know how they intended to stop the person passing secrets, but that was not part of his job.
“I don’t have access to Ambassadors, Sir Phillip, so I am a bit confused as to how I can help.”
“That is where your partner comes in.”
“I have worked before with an agent who speaks, reads and writes seven languages. Fortunately for us, one of those languages is German.”
Seven languages? Bloody hell. The man must be a genius. Dante was lucky he handled English and a bit of French when pressed.
“Have you come up with a way the two of us can work together? If this agent speaks the language, where do I come in?”
Sir Phillip opened his mouth to answer when the door behind Dante opened. “Ah, here she is now.”
She? She? She?
Dante almost came up out of his chair. In fact, he did come up out of his chair since a lady had entered the room. This—agent—smiled at him and gracefully took the chair alongside him. She nodded at Sir Phillip and Dante continued to stand like a moron, gaping at her.
The woman was about his age. And beautiful. Shiny, deep brown hair had been fastened in a no-nonsense bun at the back of her neck. Her flower-trimmed straw hat was tied under her lovely chin with a wide net ribbon. Chocolate brown eyes viewed him, taking in his countenance and apparently finding him wanting.
The form-fitting blue and white striped dress went all the way up to her neck, with the sleeves down to her wrists. Unfortunately, she could have been naked for the reaction his body was having.
A slight smile decorated her plush mouth. She offered a delicate cough which startled him enough that he landed in his seat with a thump.
Sir Phillip cleared his throat. “Miss Lydia Sanford, may I make known to you Mr. Dante Rose.”
She reached her hand out. He looked at it for a few seconds as if it were a snake ready to strike.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Rose,” she said. Her voice was smooth as French brandy and lower than most young ladies’ her age.
“Dante?” Sir Phillip said.
He straightened and pulled himself together. He took Miss Sanford’s soft warm gloved hand in his and gave it a shake. He looked up into her face and she was still grinning at him.
This would not work. He turned to Sir Phillip. “I don’t understand. While I admit I am impressed that Miss Sanford can speak six languages—”
“seven,” Miss Sanford added in her melodious voice.
“—I don’t see how you intend for us to work together.”
Sir Phillip leaned back. “Miss Sanford is active in London’s Polite Society. She is invited to the best social events. Our Ambassador attends almost all of them. I firmly believe he is our man and meeting his contacts at those events. With the two of you attending as a courting couple, you will be in a position to do enough—snooping shall we say—to gather the information we need.”
Dante sprang from his chair as if shoved from behind. “A courting couple!”
Miss Sanford merely nodded at Sir Phillip as if this were all just fine and dandy with her. He on the other hand had no intention of presenting himself as a suitor to this woman. To any woman.
Sir Phillip looked up at him over the top of his spectacles. “Is there a problem, Mr. Rose?”
Shite. When Sir Phillip called him Mr. Rose, he knew he was in deep. None of the brothers had ever turned down an assignment since their father had also been an undercover agent and instilled in his sons the duty to serve their country in whatever way they could.
Dante ran his finger around the inside of his neckcloth which had grown tighter since this woman had entered the room. Why the devil couldn’t his partner be a man, or if it must be a woman, why not someone old enough to be his mother? Or grandmother?
And what the devil was the scent coming from her that smelled like flowers?
He cleared his throat. “It is merely that I have never worked with a woman before. In fact, if you recall, I rarely work with a partner.”
Miss Sanford leaned toward him. “I hope you don’t have concerns about working together simply because I am a woman?”
Should he be honest or lie? “Not at all, Miss Sanford.”
Lying worked because although she smirked, she leaned back in her chair, resting her delicate hand on the knob of the parasol that matched her hat, and didn’t respond.
Sir Phillip clapped his hands together. “Excellent. I think this will be a beneficial arrangement.”
A rather inconvenient arrangement for me.
If word got out that he was courting a young woman, he would be forced to curtail, bloody hell, even stop his thoroughly enjoyable carnal pursuits. He and celibacy were not friends. He cleared his throat. “How long do you foresee this arrangement lasting?”
Sir Phillip grinned. “That depends entirely on you two. Bring me information that I need, and the assignment ends.” After studying them both for a few moments, he stood. “I suggest the two of you go for tea somewhere and make your plans. Miss Sanford will have a list of upcoming events that the two of you will attend.”
Being summarily dismissed, they both stood and left the room, Dante keeping his distance from the woman. They made their way outside and stood on the pavement and turned to face each other.
“Do you have a carriage, Mr. Rose? If not, I have mine available.”
“Yes. I have a carriage, Miss Sanford.” When her brows rose, he realized his voice was not at all pleasant. “I apologize. I will be happy to escort you to tea and you may dismiss your driver. I will see that you are delivered home unharmed.”
She dipped her head and turned to address the man who hovered near her. After speaking with him, he nodded and climbed onto the top of the carriage. Miss Sanford walked right up to him and placed her arm in his. “I am ready.”
Perhaps she was ready, but he wanted to hightail it out of London. Hell, right now the Americas were looking good. She swung her parasol to and fro as they strolled, almost as if they were a courting couple.
Once they were settled in his carriage, and Dante had given instructions to the driver to take them to a small tea shop where he was unknown, he settled back and studied his partner and scowled at her. “Why are you not married?”
“Why are you not married?” she snapped.
He huffed. “I’m a man.”
“And I am a woman.” She stuck her cute little nose in the air. “Now that we have established something that is patently obvious to any observer, why do you care if I am married or not?”
“You are a beautiful woman.”
“And you are a handsome man. Alas, I find we are back to my question to you. Why are you not married?”
Ignoring the query once again, Dante said, “You should be under the care of a doting husband with several children clinging to your skirts, not working a dangerous assignment for the Home Office.”
She waited for several seconds and he could almost see the steam coming from her ears. “I see. Since I am a mere woman, all I am good for is producing children and pandering to a husband, despite my talents, intelligence or skills.”
Dante waved his hand. “I did not say that.”
“Then what, exactly, did you say?”
“I asked why a beautiful woman like you is not married. You must be an age to be considered on the shelf.”
Miss Lydia Sanford’s face grew red, and she drew in a deep breath. He watched her attempt to control her temper, her eyes flashing and her bosom heaving. He could not take his eyes off her.
She was magnificent.
And major trouble.
Bloody hell. This was going to be the worse assignment he ever worked.COLLAPSE
Kety, Goodreads wrote:
I really do enjoy it when I find an entertaining romance and this novel certainly fits the bill.
Lady Tina 11, BookBub wrote:
A fantastic book that will bring you in another world...
Fun.. banter... mystery to solve and love...
. . .this twisty take that will have you laughing, grasping, and a tear or two showing up.