The Earl of Morrey (The League of Rogues #13) - Lauren Smith Page 0,1

new brother-in-law,came to his side. He was a fellow member of the private Wicked Earls’Club and had recently married Adam’s halfsister, Gillian. He and James had a passing acquaintancethrough their membership in the Wicked Earls’ Club. There were only a handful of members he’d been close enough to get to know in the last few years.

Adam hadn’t been particularly active in the club or pursuing any rakish wickedness of late. He’d been preoccupied with matters of England’s security.

But that didn’t mean England had been the only matter on his mind. He’d been searching for his long-losthalfsister who’d been working as a lady’s maid in London,and that had brought him deeper into James’s circle of friendship, for which he was grateful. He trusted the man with his secrets in ways he couldn’t trust anyone else.

“Pembroke, good to see you,” Adam replied.

James had been the only one to notice him tonight. One of the few who wereable to see past Adam’s ability to disappear into crowds whenever he wished to.

“Is Caroline with you? Gilly was hoping to see her.” A silent question lurked in James’s dark eyes, as if he wanted to ask what had Adam on edge.

“No, not tonight.” He had convinced his sister Caroline that there would be other balls this week to attend. Once he’d informed her that he had a mission to fulfill tonight, she’d understood the dangers and thankfully had remained home.

“Should Gilly, Letty, and I leave?” Pembroke asked as he and Adam stepped deeper into the shadows at the edge of the ballroom.

“Yes, I would if I were you, but be calm about it—let no one suspect anything. Tonight the devils are among us.” It was the warning he had devised with Pembroke to let the other man know when danger was close at hand. Pembroke was not a fool. From the time they’d first met, James had sensed that Adam was more than merely a titled lord searching for his long-lost halfsister. So without putting James too much at risk, he’d let the man know that he worked for the Home Office in some secretive capacity, though he never went into details unless lives were at stake.

“Right. Well, I see Gillian but not Letty. She must have gone to one of the retiring rooms. I’ll go and fetch her.”

Adam was only partially listening. He’d caught sight of a woman leaving the ballroom, with another woman upon her arm.

Viscount Edwards’swife, Lady Edwards, the woman he was to protect this evening, was leaving the safety of the ballroom with a dark-haired woman whose face he could not see.

“Find your sister and go, quickly,” he said to James beforehe slid through the crowds now gathering in rows to begin a dance. The pair of women vanished at the doors on the far end,andAdam’s fear spiked. Lady Edwards was in grave danger. Her husband had lately been an ambassador to France, and Avery had recruited her to be a spy while she was on the Continent, as he and the Home Office worked in connection with the Foreign Office. She had memorizeda verbal cypherthat she was to give Avery this very evening, and it was Adam’s duty to make sure no one silenced her before she could relay it.

Adam reached the partially open doorway leading out of the ballroom and stepped into a dark corridor. He pressed himself against the wall and moved swiftly from door to door, checking for the presence of Lady Edwards and her unknown companion.

“Hold still. Do not move,” a soft, alluring voice said close by. “Be very still,Lady Edwards, lest I prick you. We wouldn’t want that.”

Christ, he was too late. Some foul French wench likely had a stiletto blade pressed to Lady Edwards’s throat.

Adam’s hands curled into fists as he moved toward the doorway where he’d last heard the voices. He reached up to undo the first two buttons of his green waistcoat and slid his dagger free. Still concealed by the edge of the doorframe, he drew in slow, steady breaths.

“Be still, I say!” the feminine voice commanded.“I don’t wish to hurt you.”

Lady Edwards began to beg. “Oh, please, do have mercy on me. I—”

Adam didn’t wait another second. He shot around the doorframe and into the room, running straight for the feminine figure in a dark-blue silk ball gown. He caught the woman around her waist with one arm and jerked her back against his chest while he held his dagger to her throat.

“Make a sound and you will not live