Compromised for Christmas, p.1Jane Charles
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Compromised for Christmas
Copyright © 2012 by Jane Charles
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Note from the Author
Compromise for Christmas, a novella, first appeared in anthology, A Summons from His Grace. It later appeared in a compilation, Scots, Spies & Salacious Lies. The reason it is now going solo is because it was the first Tenacious Trent story written. These brothers and sisters were only characters in my mind and have become a family I love writing about.
The idea of a family who spends very little time together and spread out across the globe coming together for Christmas returned me to memories of my own childhood. I grew up with a large family of aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents, who got together to celebrate each Christmas. But, as the children grew, families moved, and all I have now of pictures from days gone by. So, for my family now living in Oregon, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and serving overseas – Merry Christmas and I miss you all.
I expect you, along with your cousins and their parents, at Danby Castle by December 24th. You, my absentee granddaughter, will present yourself before me along with that husband of yours, Jean Pierre Bouvier. I will accept no excuses.
Paris, December 7, 1812
Elizabeth Whitton folded the parchment and stuck it into her pocket. Why hadn’t her contact or the Home Office translated this one into code like all of the other letters? Surely they understood the danger. Maybe they feared making an error, given the author. Grandfather did have a way of striking fear into people. Yet all of his other letters had been coded. Why not this one?
It was odd seeing the name Elizabeth. She hadn’t been addressed as that in over two years. She no longer thought of herself as Elizabeth, either. She was Lisette Renard. It was safer this way, even in her silent thoughts, to pretend Elizabeth did not exist.
Nevertheless, she must somehow find a way to be back in England by December twenty-fourth and then return to her position here without anyone being the wiser as to her true purpose. She had worked long and hard establishing her place within Tuileries Palace and liked to think she was valuable to the English crown.
She picked up the rag and wiped the shelves in the library. Who would have dreamed two years ago she would have been given such free rein at the palace? It took almost a year of delivering eggs before she ever found a way to get beyond the kitchen, but eventually the head chef took pity on her, believing the pathetic story of how she needed to earn more to support her aging grandmother and siblings. Her original job had been simply to learn what she could through the kitchen staff and other servants. Nobody thought it possible that she would actually become one of the few entrusted with cleaning the emperor’s private apartments and study. Certainly not her father or uncle, and they were the only two in her family who knew the truth. The rest believed she’d fallen in love and married a Frenchman.
So, what was she to do? Her grandfather expected her home for Christmas, with her husband, and one did not ignore a direct order from the duke.
It would be good to return to Yorkshire. An ache developed in her heart when she thought of her family. She missed them more than she realized, especially Louisa, her sister. It would be good to see her again, even for a short time.
But they had to believe she was happily married to Jean Pierre and not a spinster spy employed as a maid at Tuileries. As much as she hated the idea, there was no other choice but to tell her husband. Lisette returned her cleaning supplies to the closet and made her way outside and into the vast gardens, towards the stables. Jean Pierre would either be working within or exercising the horses. Why had she named him as her husband? She knew she could have come up with a different identity, but when she wrote of her marriage a few years ago, her supervisor had made the suggestion and the name flowed easily from the quill.
She spotted him long before he noticed her approach. If he weren’t so full of himself, he might be attractive. She shook her head and corrected her thought. Despite his conceit, he was a pleasure to watch.
Jean Pierre must have just finished exercising one of the studs, because he was lifting the saddle from its back. His shoulders and upper arms tightened with strength, straining against his shirt as he lifted and handed the leather off to a stable hand. He bent a moment later to pick up a brush and began grooming the animal. She knew without a doubt the man was all muscle. Not that she had actually seen him without clothing, but the fit of his pants and shirt were enough. In addition to his physical labor, Jean Pierre kept himself fit, as she did, in the event they were called on to do more than their currently assigned duties.
He turned to face her when she grew close, as if he sensed her presence behind him. “Ah, mademoiselle, such a lovely picture this afternoon.” He bowed before her. His green eyes twinkled with mischief and a black curl fell onto his forehead. She fought the smile pulling at her lips. The man was a charmer, and she refused to succumb. They both had a job to do for England. Any type of relationship would hinder them both and could be downright dangerous.
“I need you, Jean Pierre.” She blurted the words out without thought.
His smile grew wide, revealing straight, white teeth, much in contrast of those who worked with him. He placed a hand over his heart. “I’ve longed for two years to hear those very words from your lips.”
She put her hand out to stop his stride in her direction. “It is not in the manner in which you think or hope.”
“If not amour, what else is there?” He shrugged and lifted his hands in question.
Lisette rolled her eyes. The man thought of little else besides bedding willing females.
“I need a husband,” she whispered.
He took a step back. She knew those words would cool his ardor quicker than a sudden ice storm. Jean Pierre liked to think of himself as a lover whose talents should never be limited to one woman, unless it was only for a night—but never a lifetime. He had been playing his role longer than she. Lisette had no idea who he really was or how he truly felt about women and the institution of marriage. Not that it mattered, as long as he played along for the month it took them to travel to England and return.
He took a step away from her. “My dear, sweet Lisette, you know I desire you above all others, but I cannot even consider such a radical choice. A married man must be faithful, and I could never promise fidelity, my sweet.” Unlike hers, his words were loud enough for anyone in the vicinity to hear. Lisette would like nothing better than to throttle him.
She caught the sight of three of the stable hands nearby. No doubt they heard everything an
She knew there was gossip about her and Jean Pierre. They met too often for it not to be noticed, but it couldn’t be helped if she were to pass the information she gathered in the house on to him. Jean Pierre saw that it was delivered into the right hands, along with any information he discovered. The mission demanded they work closely together, but not too closely, and thus a relationship developed with Jean Pierre chasing her skirts and Lisette refusing so much as a kiss without a promise. The other maids encouraged her to succumb to his charms, but she wasn’t here for Jean Pierre’s pleasure any more than he was for hers.
Lisette stalked after the retreating groom. “Are you so sure you would ever want another after me?”
His eyebrows shot up. She had never been the bold one, but she didn’t have time for games. The stable hands laughed, and she half expected Jean Pierre to turn and run from her. She grabbed his hand and pressed the folded letter against his palm. “Think on what I have said.” She winked then
Compromised for Christmas by Jane Charles / History & Fiction / Romance & Love have rating 4.8 out of 5 / Based on19 votes