The Earl of Morrey (The League of Rogues #13) - Lauren Smith
Excerpt from the Quizzing Glass Gazette, September 10, 1822, the Lady Society column:
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My darling ladies,
I have returned to bring you the most delicious gossip. It must be noted that the existence of a certain club has recently reached my attention, one called the Wicked Earls’Club. Only the most wicked of titled earls are said to be members. Naturally, my mind has run away with thoughts of a most dangerous nature. Who belongs to this club, and do you already know them? Is the politeearl you danced with last night at Lady Allerton’s ball all that he seems? Is there more to the tall, dark-haired gentleman who tipped his hat as he rode past you in Hyde Park this fall?
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I am mist. I am moonlight. I am the smoke of an extinguished candle. I am the shadow you do not see, but only feel . . .
Adam Beaumont, the Earl of Morrey, let the words of his private mantra flow over and through him until he believed them to be true. As he moved through the crowded ballroom of Lady Allerton’s home, the words worked a subtle magic. They rendered him nearly invisible to the husband-hunting ladies prowling around him, their matchmakingmamas leading the hunt. Given that he was an unmarried, young, and attractive gentleman with a title, that was quite a feat. If the ton knew what sort of man he truly was, those young women and their mothers would not be so eager to snare him.
He swept his gaze over every face in the packed ballroom, seeking that cunning gleam in a pair of eyes or an overly observant glance in his direction. He listened carefully for clever discussions designed to collect information best kept hidden.
A loaded pistol would have been a welcome companion tonight, but he could not conceal such a cumbersome weapon on his person. No, the only friend he carried tonight was the slender dagger pressed flat against his chest beneath his waistcoat. He dared not risk a dance, lest the blade dislodge and become a danger to him.
If only the ton knew what sort of man stood in their midst. A man whose job was to end any threat to the Crown. An agent of His Majesty who worked to keep the monarchy safe,as well as to protect the kingdom from foreign threats. He was the knife in the dark that claimed the life of anyone who came here to do his nation harm. It was a burden Adam had never wanted, but he had been given little choice.
Many thought that wars started and ended on the battlefield, but Adam knew the darker truth. Wars began in drawing rooms and ballrooms, where men let down their guard and becometargets for spies and assassins. He’d learned that after losing his friend Lord Wilhelm. It had been two years sincehe’d watched a French spy take the life of his dear friend.
John Wilhelmhad struggled with a French assassin on a bridge over the Thames. Adam had been too late to stop the man from plunging a knife into John’s back, butJohn had taken the murderous bastard with him over the bridge and into the dark, swift waters below. Adam had rushed to the spot where his friend had gone and leapt over the side into the water himself. The fall had nearly killed him,andit had been for naught. He’d searched the water for what felt like an eternity before finally crawling up the bank and collapsing in exhaustion.
As he lay gasping for breath, a man Adam had seen once or twice before at social engagements had emerged from the darkness and rushed to help. That was the night Avery Russell,the man who would become London’s new spymaster a year later, had recruited Adamto the Court of Shadows.
After the previous spymaster, Hugo Waverly, died last year, Avery had taken control and restructured the spy network. Many of the older spies had retired, and fresh blood like Adam had been brought deeper into the ring.Adam promised himself he would have his revenge upon John’s killers, for as Avery had taught him, French agents worked in pairs, a master and his loyal left hand. Adam did not know which one had perished in the river with John, the master or the left hand, but he would someday find out. Becoming a spy was his penance for being too late to save his friend that night.
A quiet voice broke through Adam’s dark thoughts.“Morrey?”
James Fordyce, the Earl of Pembroke, his