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Authors: Brenda Joyce

Persuasion

BOOK: Persuasion
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Betrayal Tore Them Apart

Amelia Greystone was deeply in love when the earl of St. Just abruptly ended his courtship and left Cornwall ten years earlier. So she is stunned when Simon returns, recently widowed. Now she must forget the past they shared and his betrayal and console him as any neighbor would. Simon has changed—he is dark and haunted now—but he can still make her reel with a single look. When he offers her the position of housekeeper, Amelia knows she must refuse. But for the sake of his children,she throws all caution to the wind....

Passion Will Reunite Them

A British spy, Simon Grenville is now playing both sidesin a time of war, his goal to keep his sons safe. Yet when heis brought face-to-face with the woman he once loved, he realizes nothing about his feelings for Amelia has changed—if anything, they are even stronger. Still, Simon knows he must stay away from Amelia; his life is too dangerous now. But sometimes passion is too strong to be denied....

Praise for the novels of
New York Times
bestselling
author
Brenda Joyce

“Merging depth of history with romance
is nothing new for
the multitalented author,
but here she also brings in an intensity of
political history
that is both fascinating and detailed.”

RT Book Reviews
on
Seduction

“Joyce excels at creating twists and turns
in her
characters’ personal lives.”

Publishers Weekly

“Another first-rate Regency, featuring multidimensional
protagonists and sweeping drama... Joyce’s tight plot and
vivid cast
combine for a romance that’s just about perfect.”

Publishers Weekly,
starred review, on
The Perfect Bride

“Truly a stirring story with wonderfully etched characters,
Joyce’s latest is Regency romance at its best.”

Booklist
on
The Perfect Bride

“Romance veteran Joyce brings her keen sense of humor
and
storytelling prowess to bear
on
her witty,
fully
formed characters.”

Publishers Weekly
on
A Lady at Last

“Joyce’s characters carry considerable emotional weight, which
keeps this hefty entry absorbing,
and her fast-paced story keeps the pages
turning.”

Publishers
Weekly
on
The
Stolen Bride

Also available from Brenda Joyce and Harlequin HQN

The Spymaster’s Men Series

Seduction

The Deadly Series

Deadly Vows
Deadly Kisses
Deadly Illusions

The de Warenne Dynasty

An Impossible Attraction
A Dangerous Love
The Perfect Bride
A Lady at Last
The Stolen Bride
The Masquerade
The Prize

The Masters of Time®

Dark Lover
Dark Victory
Dark Embrace
Dark Rival
Dark Seduction

Coming soon

Surrender

Brenda Joyce

Persuasion

PROLOGUE

La Prison de la Luxembourg, Paris, France
March, 1794

T
HEY
WERE
FINALLY
COMING
for him.

His heart lurched with fear. He could not breathe. Slowly, filled with tension, he turned to stare into the dark corridor. He heard soft, steady footfalls approaching.

He knew he needed his wits. He walked over to the front of the cell and grasped the ice-cold iron bars there. The footfalls were louder now.

His insides shrank. The fear was cloying. Would he live to see another day?

The cell stank. Whoever had inhabited it before him, they had urinated, defecated and vomited within its confines. There was dried blood on the floors and the pallet, upon which he refused to lie. The cell’s previous inhabitants had been beaten, tortured. Of course they had—they had been enemies of
la Patrie.

Even the air flowing into the cell from its single, barred window was fetid.
La Place de la Révolution was just meters below the prison’s walls. Hundreds—no, thousands—had been sent to the guillotine there. The blood of the guilty—and the innocent—tainted the very air.

He could hear their voices now.

He inhaled, sick with fear.

Ninety-six days had passed since he had been ambushed outside the offices where he clerked at the Commune. Ambushed, shackled, a hood thrown over his head. “Traitor,” a familiar voice had spat as he was heaved onto the bed of a wagon. An hour later, the hood had been ripped from his head and he had found himself standing in the midst of this cell. He was being accused, the guard said, of crimes against the Republic. And everyone knew what that meant....

He had never seen the man who had spoken, yet he was fairly certain that he was Jean Lafleur, one of the most radical officials of the city’s government.

Images danced in his head. His two sons were small, handsome, innocent boys. He had been very careful, but not careful enough, when he had left France in order to visit his sons. They had been in London. It had been William’s birthday. He had missed him—and John—terribly. He hadn’t stayed in London very long; he hadn’t dared linger, for fear of discovery. No one, outside of the family, had known he was in town. But with his departure hanging over him, it had been a bittersweet reunion.

And from the moment he had returned to French shores, he had felt that he was being watched. He had never caught anyone following him, but he was certain he was being pursued. Like most Frenchmen and women, he had begun to live in constant fear. Every shadow made him jump. At night, he would awaken, thinking he had heard that dreaded knock upon his door. When they knocked at midnight, it meant they were coming for you....

As they were coming for him now. The footsteps had become louder.

He inhaled, fighting his panic. If they sensed his fear, it would be over. His fear would be the equivalent of a confession—for them. For that was how it was now in Paris, and even in the countryside.

He seized the cell bars. His time had just run out. Either he would be added to the
Liste Générale des Condamnés,
and he would await trial and then execution for his crimes, or he would walk out of the prison, a free man....

Finding courage was the hardest act of his life.

The light of a torch was ahead. It approached, illuminating the dank stone walls of the prison. And finally, he saw the outlines of the men. They were silent.

His heart thundered. Otherwise, he did not move.

The prison guard came into view, leering with anticipation, as if he knew his fate already. He recognized the Jacobin who was behind him. It was the rabidly radical, brutally violent Hébertiste Jean Lafleur as he had suspected.

Tall and thin, his visage pale, Lafleur came up to the bars of his cell.
“Bonjour, Jourdan. Comment allez-vous, aujourd’hui?”
He grinned, delighting in the moment.

“Il va bien,”
he said smoothly—all is well. When he did not beg for mercy or declare his innocence, Lafleur’s smile vanished and his stare sharpened.

“Is that all you have to say? You are a traitor, Jourdan. Confess to your crimes and we will make certain your trial is swift. I will even make certain your head comes off first.” He grinned again.

If it ever came to that, he hoped he would be the first to the guillotine—no one wanted to stand there for hours and hours, in shackles, watching the ghastly executions while awaiting one’s own fate. “Then the loss would be yours.” He could barely believe how calm he sounded.

Lafleur stared. “Why aren’t you declaring your innocence?”

“Will it help my cause?”

“No.”

“I did not think so.”

“You are the Viscomte Jourdan’s third son, and your redemption has been a lie. You do not love
la Patrie
—you spy! Your family is dead, and you will soon join them at the gates of purgatory.”

“There is a new spymaster in London.”

Lafleur’s eyes widened in surprise. “What ploy is this?”

“You must know that my family has financed the merchants in Lyons for years, and that we have extensive relations with the British.”

The radical Jacobin studied him. “You vanished from Paris for a month. You went to London?”

“Yes, I did.”

“So you confess?”

“I confess to having business affairs in London that I had to attend, Lafleur. Look around you. Everyone in Paris is starving. The
assignat
is worthless. Yet I always have bread on my table.”

“Smuggling is a crime.” But Lafleur’s eyes glittered.

Finally, he let his mouth soften and he shrugged. The black market in Paris was vast and untouchable. It was not going to end, not now, not ever.

“What can you get me?” Lafleur demanded softly. His black gaze was unwavering now.

“Didn’t you hear me?”

“Are we speaking about bread and gold—or the new spymaster?”

Very softly, he said, “I have more than business relations in that country. The Earl of St. Just is my cousin, and if you have properly researched my family, you would have realized that.”

He felt Lafleur’s mind racing.

“St. Just is very well placed in London’s highest circles. I think that he would be thrilled to learn that one of his relations has survived the destruction of the city. I even think he would welcome me with open arms into his home.”

Lafleur still stared. “This is a trick,” he finally said. “You would never come back!”

He slowly smiled. “I suppose that is possible,” he said. “I suppose I might never come back. Or I could be the
Enragé
I claim to be, as loyal to
la Liberté
as you are, and I could return with the kind of information very few of Carnot’s spies could ever attain—priceless information to help us win the war.”

Lafleur’s gaze was unwavering.

He did not bother to point out that the gains to be made if he did as he said—move within the highest echelons of Tory London and return to
la République
with classified information—far outweighed the risk that he might vanish from France never to return.

“I cannot make this kind of decision by myself,” Lafleur finally said. “I will bring you before
le Comité,
Jourdan, and if you convince them of your worth, you will be spared.”

He did not move.

Lafleur left.

And Simon Grenville collapsed upon the pallet on the floor.

CHAPTER ONE

Greystone Manor, Cornwall
April 4, 1794

G
RENVILLE

S
WIFE
WAS
DEAD
.

Amelia Greystone stared at her brother, not even seeing him, a stack of plates in her hands.

“Did you hear what I said?” Lucas asked, his gray eyes filled with concern. “Lady Grenville died last night giving birth to an infant daughter.”

His wife was dead.

Amelia was paralyzed. There was news every day about the war or the violence in France—all of it awful, all of it shocking. But she had not expected this.

How could Lady Grenville be dead? She was so elegant, so beautiful—and too young to die!

Amelia could barely think. Lady Grenville had never set foot in St. Just Hall since their marriage ten years ago, and neither had her husband. Then she had appeared in January at the earl’s ancestral home with her household and two sons—and a child obviously on the way. St. Just had not been with her.

Cornwall was a godforsaken place in general, but even worse in January. The region was frigidly cold and inhospitable in the midst of winter, when gale winds blew, and vicious storms swept the coast.

Who would come to the farthest end of the country in winter to give birth to a child? Her appearance had been so terribly strange.

Amelia had been as surprised as everyone else in the parish to hear that the countess was in residence, and when she had received an invitation to tea, she hadn’t even considered refusing. She had been very curious to meet Elizabeth Grenville, and not just because they were neighbors. She had wondered what the Countess of St. Just was like.

And she had been exactly what Amelia was expecting—blonde and beautiful, gracious, elegant and so very genteel. She had been perfect for the dark, brooding earl. Elizabeth Grenville was everything that Amelia Greystone was not.

And because Amelia had buried the past so long ago—a decade ago, in fact—she hadn’t once made the comparison. But now, as she stood there reeling in shock, she wondered suddenly if she had wished to inspect and interview the woman Grenville had decided to marry—the woman he had chosen instead of her.

Amelia trembled, holding the plates tightly to her chest. If she wasn’t careful, she would remember the past! She refused to believe that she had really wished to meet Lady Grenville in order to decide what she was like. She was horrified by the comprehension.

She had liked Elizabeth Grenville. And her own affair with Grenville had ended a decade ago.

She had dismissed it from her mind then. She did not want to go back in time now.

But suddenly she felt as if she were sixteen years old, young and beautiful, naive and trusting, and oh so vulnerable. It was as if she were in Simon Grenville’s powerful arms, awaiting his declaration of love and his marriage proposal.

She was stricken, but it was too late. A floodgate in her mind had opened. The heady images flashed—they were on the ground on a picnic blanket, they were in the maze behind the hall, they were in his carriage. He was kissing her wildly and she was kissing him back, and they were both in the throes of a very dangerous, mindless passion...

She inhaled, shaken by the sudden, jarring memory of that long-ago summer. He hadn’t ever been sincere. He hadn’t ever been courting her. She was sensible enough to know that now. Yet she had expected an offer of marriage from him and the betrayal had been devastating.

Why would Lady Grenville’s terrible death cause her to remember a time in her life when she had been so young and so foolish? She hadn’t given that summer a single thought in years, not even when she had been in Lady Grenville’s salon, sipping tea and discussing the war.

But Grenville was a widower now....

Lucas seized the pile of plates she was holding, jerking her back to reality. She simply stared at him, horrified by her last thought and afraid of what it might mean.

“Amelia?” he asked with concern.

She mustn’t think about the past. She did not know why those foolish memories had arisen, but she was a woman of twenty-six years now. That flirtation had to be forgotten. She hadn’t wanted to ever recall that encounter—or any other like it—again. That was why she had dismissed the affair from her mind all those years ago, when he had left Cornwall without a word, upon the heels of the tragic accident that had killed his brother.

It all had to be forgotten.

And it was forgotten! There had been heartache, of course, and grief, but she had moved on with her life. She had turned all of her attention to Momma, who was addled, her brothers and sister and the estate. She had genuinely managed to forget about him and their affair for an entire decade. She was a busy woman, with strained circumstances and onerous responsibilities. He had moved on, as well. He had married and had children.

And there were no regrets. Her family had needed her. It had been her duty to take care of them all, ever since she was a child, when Papa had abandoned them. But then the revolution had come, the war had begun, and everything had changed.

“You were about to drop the plates!” Lucas exclaimed. “Are you ill? You have turned as white as a sheet!”

She shivered. She certainly felt ill. But she was not going to allow the past, which was dead and buried, to affect her now. “This is terrible, a tragedy.”

His golden hair pulled casually back in a queue, Lucas studied her. He had only just walked in the door, having come from London—or so he claimed. He was tall and dashing in his emerald-velvet coat, his fawn breeches and stockings, as he spoke, “Come now, Amelia, why are you upset?”

She managed a tight smile. Why was she upset? This wasn’t about Grenville. A young, beautiful mother had died, leaving behind three small children. “She died giving birth to a third child, Lucas. And there are two small boys. I met her in February. She was as beautiful, as gracious, as elegant as everyone claimed.” It had been obvious from the moment she had walked into the salon why Grenville had chosen her. He was dark and powerful, she was fair and lighthearted. They had made the perfect aristocratic couple. “I was very impressed with her kindness and her hospitality. She was clever, too. We had an amusing conversation. This is a shame.”

“It is a shame. I am very sorry for those children and for St. Just.”

Amelia felt some of her composure returning. And while Grenville’s dark image seemed to haunt her now, her common sense returned. Lady Grenville was dead, leaving behind three small children. Her neighbors needed her condolences now, and possibly her help.

“Those poor boys—that poor infant! I feel so terribly for them!”

“It will be a rough patch,” Lucas agreed. He gave her an odd look. “One never gets accustomed to the young dying.”

She knew he was thinking about the war; she knew all about his wartime activities. But she kept thinking about those poor children now—which felt better, safer, than thinking about Grenville. She took the plates from Lucas and began setting the table grimly. She was so saddened for the children. Grenville was probably grieving, as well, but she did not want to consider him or his feelings, even if he was her neighbor.

She put the last plate down on the rather ancient dining-room table and stared at the highly polished, scarred wood. So much time had gone by. Once, she had been in love, but she certainly didn’t love Grenville now. Surely she could do what was right.

In fact, she hadn’t seen Simon Grenville in ten years. She probably wouldn’t even recognize him now. He was probably overweight. His hair might be graying. He would not be a dashing young rake, capable of making her heart race with a single, heavy look.

And he would hardly recognize her. She was still slender—too slender, in fact—and petite, but her looks had faded as all looks were prone to do. Although older gentlemen still glanced at her occasionally, she was hardly as pretty as she had once been.

She felt some small relief. That terrible attraction which had once raged would not burn now. And she would not be intimidated by him, as she had once been. After all, she was older and wiser now, too. She might be an impoverished gentlewoman, but what she lacked in means she made up for in character. Life had made her a strong and resolute woman.

So when she did see Grenville, she must offer her condolences, just as she would to any neighbor suffering from such a tragedy.

Amelia felt slightly better. There was some small relief. That silly memory had been just that—silly.

“I am sure the family is reeling,” Lucas was saying quietly. “She was certainly too young to die. St. Just must be in shock.”

Amelia looked up carefully. Lucas was right. Grenville had to have loved his beautiful wife very much. She cleared her throat. “You have taken me by surprise, Lucas, as you always do! I was hardly expecting you, and you step in the door, with such stunning news.”

He put his arm around her. “I am sorry. I heard about Lady Grenville when I stopped in Penzance to change carriages.”

“I am very concerned about the children. We must help the family in every way that we can.” She meant her every word. She never turned her back on anyone in need.

He smiled slightly. “Now that is the sister I know and love. Of course you are concerned. I am sure Grenville will make the appropriate arrangements for everyone, once he can think clearly.”

She stared thoughtfully. Grenville was undoubtedly in shock. Now, deliberately, she kept his dark, handsome image at bay—remembering that he was likely fat and gray. “Yes, of course he will.” She surveyed the cheerfully set table. It wasn’t easy making up a table, not when their circumstances were so pinched. The gardens were not yet in bloom, so the centerpiece was a tall silver candelabra, left over from better times. An ancient sideboard was the only piece of furniture in the room, and their best china was displayed there. Their hall was as sparsely furnished. “Luncheon will be ready in a few more minutes. Will you go upstairs and get Momma?”

“Of course. And you did not have to go to this trouble.”

“I am thrilled when you are home. Of course we will dine as if we are an ordinary family.”

His smile was wry. “There are few ordinary families left, Amelia, not in these times.”

Her small smile faded. Lucas had just walked in the door moments ago, and she hadn’t seen him in a month or more. There were shadows under his eyes and a small scar on his cheekbone, which hadn’t been there before. She was afraid to ask how he’d gotten it, and even more afraid to ask where. He was still a dangerously handsome man, but the revolution in France and the war had entirely changed their lives.

Before the French monarchy had fallen, they had all lived simple lives. Lucas had spent his time managing the estate, his biggest concern increasing the productivity of their mine and quarry. Jack, who was a year her junior, had been just another Cornish smuggler, laughing about outracing the Revenue Men. And her younger sister, Julianne, had spent her every spare moment innocently in the library, reading everything she could and honing her Jacobin sympathies. Greystone Manor had been a busy, happy home. Although the small estate depended almost entirely upon an iron quarry and tin mine for its income, they managed well enough. Amelia had an entire family to take care of—including her mother. The only thing that the war hadn’t changed was that Momma remained entirely senile.

John Greystone, her father, had left the family when Amelia was only seven years old, and Momma had begun losing her grip on reality shortly thereafter. Amelia had instinctively stepped into the breach, helping with the household, making shopping lists and planning menus, and even ordering their few servants about. And mostly she had cared for Julianne, then a toddler. Their uncle, Sebastian Warlock, had sent a foreman to manage the estate, but Lucas had taken over those duties before he was even fifteen. Theirs had been an unusual household, but it had been a busy and familial one, filled with love and laughter, no matter the financial strain.

The house was nearly empty now. Julianne had fallen in love with the Earl of Bedford when he had been deposited at the manor by their brothers, while at death’s door. Of course, she hadn’t known who he was—he had seemed to be a French army officer at the time. It had been a very rocky road—he had been a spy for Pitt and she had been a Jacobin sympathizer. It was still rather amazing, but she had recently eloped with Bedford, and she had just given birth to their daughter in London, where they lived. Amelia shook her head, bemused. Her radical sister was now the Countess of Bedford—and madly in love with her Tory husband.

Her brothers’ lives had changed because of the war, as well. Lucas was rarely at Greystone Manor now. Because they were but two years apart in age, and because they had taken over the roles of their parents, they were close. Amelia was his confidante, although he did not tell her every detail of his affairs. Lucas had not been able to sit idly by while the revolution swept over France. Some time ago, Lucas had secretly offered his services up to the War Office. Even before the Terror began sweeping France, there had been a flood of émigrés fleeing the revolutionaries—fleeing for their lives. Lucas had spent the past two years “extracting” émigrés from the shores of France.

It was a dangerous activity. If Lucas were ever caught by the French authorities, he would be instantly arrested and sent to the guillotine. Amelia was proud of him, but she was also so afraid for him.

She worried about Lucas all of the time, of course. He was the anchor of the family—its patriarch. But she worried about Jack even more. Jack was fearless. He was reckless. He acted as if he thought himself to be immortal. Before the war, he had been a simple Cornish smuggler—one of the dozens making such a living, and following in the footsteps of too many of his ancestors to count. Now Jack was making a fortune from the smuggling of various goods between the countries at war. No game could be more dangerous. Jack had been outwitting and outrunning the Royal Navy for years. Before the war, a prison sentence had awaited him if he were ever captured. Now, however, he would be accused of treason if the British authorities caught him defying the blockade of France. Treason was a hanging offense.

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