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Excerpt from A Desperate Fortune:
“A family,” Sir Redmond remarked, “is a very great thing, Mistress Dundas. Do you not agree?”
Mary looked to her brother, and feeling the warmth of his encouragement beside her answered, “Yes, sir, I do. Most wholeheartedly.”
“For my own part, there is little that I would not do for the love of my family,” Sir Redmond said. “Their cause is my cause; their need is my own. Do you feel the same way?”
Mary wasn’t entirely sure why the older man wanted to know her opinion, but she told him, “Yes, sir.”
His eyes held approval. The fire had started to settle, and taking the poker in hand he leaned forward to stir the flames higher. “Your family has long served the king, Mistress Dundas. If he were in need of your services now, would you help him?”
She frowned faintly, not understanding. “I’m sure I could be of no help to the king.”
“If you could be,” he pressed her, “what would you do then? Would you honor your family and keep to their path?”
She glanced sideways at Nicolas only to find he was looking deliberately into the fire, and away from her. Mary said slowly, “I hope I would always remember my family and honor them, sir, if I could. But I—”
“Ask her more plainly,” said Nicolas in a low voice to Sir Redmond. “She has the intelligence to understand.”
Still confused, Mary looked to the Irishman who smiled kindly and set down the poker.
“There is at this moment in Paris,” Sir Redmond told Mary, “a man whose affairs are of interest to King James. This man is now sought by the English, and must be protected. I do have a plan for this, but I require your help.”
“My help?” Mary considered this such an unlikely request she was frankly astonished. “But how?”
“I can tell you no details beyond that you would be expected to live for a short while in Paris, my dear, and to keep a great secret. It’s very important.”
She felt a small thrill in her breast. Her help. Keeping a secret. Mere hours ago she had talked with and watched Mistress Jamieson, feeling quite certain she’d never be able to be as adventurous nor half as brave, and now here she was being told she might be given the chance to do just that. And in Paris, where she’d so long dreamed of going.
Sir Redmond asked, “Will you do it?”
“Yes.” She got the word out before indecision could hold it back. “Yes, sir, I will.”
“Splendid.” Sir Redmond turned his attention to Nicolas, who was still watching the fire.
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Mary thought she knew, now, why her brother had seemed so distracted. He clearly was not in approval of Sir Redmond’s plan of her going to Paris and would have preferred she returned with him to Saint-Germain-en-Laye, although his loyalty to king and cause left him duty bound not to complain. She was trying to find the right speech to assure him her choice would amount to no more than a minor delay of his plans, when Sir Redmond spoke first.
“You were right, sir,” he said to her brother. To Mary, he added, “He told me last month you’d be perfectly suited to take this assignment, and so you are.”
Mary’s hand stilled on Frisque’s sleeping back. She looked quickly at Nicolas and this time caught the corner of his sideways glance before it slid away again.
A log fell splintering in the fire and something deep in Mary splintered too, and fell in flames as hot and searing, but she struggled not to let the sudden pain inside her show in her expression as the longcase clock began to chime.
“What, four o’clock already?” asked Sir Redmond. “You must soon be on your way, sir, if you hope to make it home by dark.”
Her brother stood. “I’ll see my sister to her chamber first.”
She did not speak to him the whole length of the corridor, nor he to her, but when they reached her chamber she set Frisque down on the carpet by the bed and, turning from her brother so he would not see the hurt she knew was showing plainly in her eyes, asked, “Am I to remain here, then?”
“Sir Redmond and his wife are very kind.”
She nodded slightly. “Do be sure to give my compliments to your good lady and your children.”
“I am sorry that I shall not have the chance to meet them, but—”
“’Tis only for a little while. A few weeks, possibly, until the man is moved to safer quarters.” When she did not speak in answer to that, Nicolas continued, “When Sir Redmond said he needed a young woman who spoke French and yet whose loyalty was absolute, I thought…”
“You thought of me. I understand.” She understood too well, she realized. “So, when this is finished, this affair in Paris, where will I go then?”
“Then you will come, as I have promised you, to live at Saint-Germain.”
She did not want to ask the question, but her heart was bound to know the answer. “Tell me, if Sir Redmond had not needed me, if there had been no use for me, would you have still been moved to write the letter that you wrote? Would you have wanted me to come to you?”
His pause was a more honest answer than his words. “Yes,” he said. “Of course. You are my sister.” Then to fill the silence that came afterwards he carried on, “There is no danger in what you are being asked to do, I can assure you. I would never have consented to it otherwise, nor placed you in harm’s way.” And as her silence stretched, he added, “If you wish to reconsider…if you do not want to go…”
You always have a choice, her aunt had promised her. And Mary squared her shoulders as she made one now. “I’ll go.”
A Desperate Fortune by Susanna Kearsley
9781492602026 * $16.99/TP * ON-SALE: April 7, 2015
For nearly three hundred years, the cryptic journal of Mary Dundas has lain unread. Now, amateur code breaker Sara Thomas has been sent to Paris to crack the cipher.
Jacobite exile Mary Dundas is filled with longing—for freedom, for adventure, for the family she lost. When fate opens the door, Mary dares to set her foot on a path far more surprising and dangerous than she ever could have dreamed.
As Mary’s gripping tale is revealed, Sara is faced with challenges that will require letting go of everything she thought she knew—about herself, about loyalty, and especially about love. Though divided by centuries, these two women will be united in a quest to discover the limits of trust and the coincidences of fate.
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Susanna Kearsley is known for her meticulous research and exotic settings from Russia to Italy to Cornwall, which not only entertain her readers but give her a great reason to travel. Her lush writing has been compared to Mary Stewart, Daphne du Maurier, and Diana Gabaldon. She hit the bestseller lists in the U.S. with The Firebird (a RITA winner) as well as, The Winter Sea and The Rose Garden (both RITA finalists and winners of RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards). Other honors include National Readers’ Choice Awards, the prestigious Catherine Cookson Fiction Prize, and finaling for the UK’s Romantic Novel of the Year Award. Her popular and critically acclaimed books are available in translation in more than 20 countries and as audiobooks. She lives in Canada, near the shores of Lake Ontario.