Big excerpt from new historical suspense story!

It’s two weeks away from the release date of The Indecent Agent, so as usual, I’m giving you a good chunk of the front of the story (as there isn’t a first chapter to give you).





The Indecent Agent

SS Runic. Two days away from Cape Town. February 1908.


Adele was both annoyed and pleased that Melville had ordered Daniel Bannister, Baron Leighton, to accompany her to Cape Town. She was annoyed, because to her mind, this journey was one she was fully capable of undertaking by herself. She had not disputed Melville at the time, but for the fourteen days the voyage had taken so far, at least once each day Adele found herself wishing she had protested. If she had, then she would be alone on this voyage, as she had been for the journey back to England, almost exactly two years ago. As she had patently survived that onerous voyage as a new, bewildered widow, it followed that she was just as capable of sailing back to Cape Town on her own.

Yet, right at this moment, she was very pleased that Daniel was a passenger on the Runic¸ for he thought nothing of securing a grand suite that came with a private promenade deck, while Adele could barely afford the smallest first-class cabin available, even with Melville’s small stipend. Daniel’s personal deck allowed them to practice in complete privacy, which was a very good thing. If any of the ladies aboard the Runic saw what Adele and Daniel actually did in his suite and upon the deck, they would be well beyond scandalized.

Daniel flexed his shoulders, making the collarless shirt shift and reveal rather more of his chest than a lady other than his wife should ever glimpse, then raised his hands once more.

“Again,” he said shortly.

Adele let her knees relax, ready to move, as she considered the unsmiling man before her. She put her hands on her hips. “Before the next round, we should discuss a shift in the ground rules.”

Daniel straightened a little. Irritation and a touch of puzzlement colored his expression. “Rules? There are no ru—”

Adele launched herself at him, ramming her shoulder into his chest. It hurt, even though she was braced for it, but the “oof” sound Daniel made as he staggered backward was fair compensation for the small pain.

She hooked the heel of her flat man’s loafer around the back of his ankle, and yanked the foot he’d just got under him right back out once more.

Daniel landed on his rear. Heavily.

Adele pushed her broadcloth encased knee into his shoulder, and thrust with her other foot to push Daniel’s back to the varnished deck boards. She rested enough of her weight upon his shoulder to keep him pinned there.

“Bloody hell, Adele…” Daniel muttered breathlessly. “You took me by surprise.”

“I do hope you’re not about to protest that I wasn’t playing by the rules?” she asked coolly, ignoring the oath.

“As there are no rules, I can hardly complain about you failing to follow them,” Daniel replied. He patted her knee. “Let me up, please.”

She got to her feet and brushed off the trousers she wore. They and the man’s shirt were one reason she was glad of the private deck. The peculiar exercises Daniel and she conducted upon the deck was the other reason. The sight of them would shock all the gossipy peers on the ship into next month.

“You said yourself that I must make up for my lack of strength with another factor,” Adele said.

Daniel felt around his rear, and winced. “I did,” he admitted. “I didn’t think you’d heard me.”

“There is nothing wrong with my hearing.”

“And I didn’t think you’d take this sort of tack, either.” He pulled his shirt together, then grimaced as he found a button had been torn off. Their earlier rounds had been far more strenuous. He unfastened the remaining buttons and stripped the shirt from him.

“I thought the point was for me to learn how I might overcome men, who are naturally stronger than I, as I am only a woman,” Adele said. “Have I not overcome you, more than once, this morning?”

Daniel paused, the shirt wadded in his hands. “Is that how I sounded when I said it?”

“More or less,” Adele replied.

He turned away, crossed the deck, and stepped into the suite. Adele found herself watching the agreeable sight of Lord Leighton without a shirt. She followed him into the sitting room, where he cast about in his sea trunk, looking for another shirt.

He glanced up at her, then away. “Shouldn’t you be changing? Lunch will be announced in a moment or two.”

She had brought her man’s suit to Daniel’s rooms in a carpet bag and changed here. She would change back into her light voile morning dress and ladies’ boots before returning to her cabin. As luncheon was mere minutes away according to the ormolu clock on the mantel shelf, she had best get a wiggle on.

“Ah!” Daniel pulled out a freshly laundered shirt and straightened. He shook it out of its laundry creases, and paused, his gaze meeting hers. “Is there something else?”

Adele pushed her hands into her trouser pockets. Men had a much easier time of it, when it came to fidgeting. Thrusting hands into one’s pockets instantly hid the nervous mannerism. “No, nothing,” she said flatly.

He lowered the shirt. “If you linger there, Adele, I will likely misunderstand why.” He shook the shirt once more, his gaze sliding away from her. “As I am apparently quite bad at reading your mind.”

“Reading my mind?” It burst from her, with the pressure of weeks of stiff silence and hurt feelings behind it. “You presumed, Daniel! You didn’t read my mind at all! You didn’t even try.”

He shifted to face her squarely. “What is wrong with wanting to protect you, when I can? I would do the same for Slane, if it came to that.”

She felt a near overwhelming urge to stamp her foot. But as she was wearing soft loafers, the effect wouldn’t be nearly as dramatic as she wanted it to be. “When you can?” she cried. “You said ‘I won’t risk Adele’s life on a possibility’—as if it was your right to make such decisions for me!”

“And you corrected me immediately, so why are we still arguing about it?” Daniel roared back. His face worked with a fury she had never seen in him before. “That was weeks ago, Adele! One slip. One time. Any other man—” He halted and his throat worked.

“Any other man…what?” Adele said. “Finish it, Daniel.” But her heart was thudding in a way that made her feel a little sick. “Any other man wouldn’t put up with me doing the things I do. Is that it?”

He held up his hand, palm out. “No, that isn’t it at all. Well…perhaps some of that is there. But hell’s bells, Adele…I’ve watched you doing the most appalling things, and I have never once said you should stop this work. Not once.”

“But you think I should stop.”

“No.” He fumbled with the shirt, slowly donning it. “The more we…the longer I am in your company, the more horrified…the more frightened I become for you. But I’ve never thought that you should stop, which surprises me greatly. You are very good at what you do. I think, if I wasn’t a man, if we weren’t, well, friends the way we are, I might have the courage to admit that you are better at this work than I. But I am a man and I do want the woman who graces the other pillow in my bed from time to time to think I am the pinnacle of manhood, so I could never say such a thing.” He concentrated on buttoning the shirt, his head down.

Adele let out a shuddering breath. “You are caught between Charybdis and Scylla, aren’t you?” she said softly, moving toward him. “Perhaps I should stop torturing you.”

Daniel looked up. “I didn’t say that,” he said quickly.

“But if being with you makes it even harder for you to accept who I am…”

He gripped the front of her shirt in both fists and pulled her even closer. “I will learn the trick of it, given time,” he murmured. His gaze met hers, his grey eyes steady. “If you’ll let me.”

Adele undid the few buttons he had managed to close and slid her hands inside his shirt. “Yes, please,” she whispered and kissed him.

Just outside the suite door, a gonging sounded as the waiter walked along the corridor, carrying the little instrument.

Adele tore her mouth from Daniel’s. “Lunch!”

“Sod lunch,” Daniel muttered and drew her back to him.

Trouble reaches out to Lady Adelaide from across the oceans.


Lady Adelaide Azalea Margaret de Morville, Mrs. Hugh Becket, English peer and British intelligence agent, receives an unexpected letter from her dear friend Isa Hass in the Cape Colony, which sends her dashing to Cape Town to confirm her suspicions about Isa and the death of Adele’s husband, three years ago.

Spy master William Melville insists that Daniel Bannister, Lord Leighton, accompany her.  Adele complies, even though she resents Leighton’s company, for their nascent relationship ran aground some weeks before.

Adele’s return to Cape Town elicits memories both bitter and sweet, and unlocks the secrets surrounding her friend Isa, provoking a violent and deadly response from the shadowy figures who resent that exposure…

The Adelaide Becket series.
1: The Requisite Courage
2: The Rosewater Debutante
3: The Unaccompanied Widow
4: The Lavender Semaphore
5: The Broadcloth Midnight
6: The Salinghall Error
7: The Indecent Agent
…and more to come.
An Edwardian Suspense Espionage series

As usual, if you preorder the book directly from me on the SRP site, you will get your copy a week earlier than everyone else. That is, next Thursday.


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