SATURDAY SPOTLIGHT: A Cantata of Love (Code Breakers #4) by Jacki Delecki

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Napoleonic France is no place for an Englishman, especially Michael Harcourt, the Earl of Kendal, who is on a clandestine assignment for the Crown. Already injured and facing imminent discovery by Napoleon and Fouche’s men, Michael finds his escape made even more perilous when he is charged with the safety of a young boy who must be spirited out of Paris.

Desperate to escape the terrible fate that awaits her if she remains in France, Lady Gabrielle De Valmont must disguise herself as a boy and rely on the cunning of a virtual stranger—an Englishman, no less—to smuggle her out of the country. When the Earl’s injury becomes severely infected, rendering him gravely ill, Gabrielle realizes it is now up to her to save them both.

Look for more heart-pounding adventure, international intrigue, and sizzling romance with the release of Book Four in The Code Breaker Series.

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EXCERPT

Two weeks earlier in Paris

Michael Harcourt, the Earl of Kendal, resting face down on the settee, attempted to stand with the arrival of his unexpected guests in the drawing room. He was quite adroit at avoiding any pressure or pain from the gunshot wound in his arse by this nimble maneuver. Using his arms to push himself off the settee, he planted one leg at a time, twisting forward, preventing any backside contact.

Hurrying to greet the two nuns encased in black robes and white wimples, and to secure his dressing gown from revealing any part, he twisted a bit too quickly and fell backward on his wound. The sharp pain on impact was excruciating. “Son of a bitch.” He knocked over his brandy in the fall, spilling the liquid into his boots. “Double son of a bitch.”

Denby, his valet, rushed to greet the guests. A severe, tall nun held a young boy’s hand; a round nun carried a large portmanteau. Denby turned back at the commotion caused by the fall. He signaled impatiently with his hand for Michael to get off the floor. The tall nun’s penetrating gaze left Michael feeling fully exposed for every one of his transgressions.

Without any help from his valet, he was left to get off the floor. Hampered by his cumbersome, dressing gown, he struggled on all fours to obtain an upright position.

The boy giggled behind his hand at Michael’s gymnastics. The minx whispered to the tall nun whose austere lines softened when she leaned down to answer.

Now upright, he pulled himself up and walked forward with decorum of his rank, his hands holding his dressing gown together. He glanced at Denby, whose face was red. Could a stalwart of the cavalry be embarrassed by the censure of a nun?

“Sister Marie Therese and Sister Genevieve, may I present Lord Harcourt, the Earl of Kendal,” Denby said.

Michael bowed with the correct amount of aristocratic poise for greeting the sisters, who had just witnessed his disgraceful fall. He ignored the piercing pain that shot down his arse. “A pleasure, I’m sure. May I ring for tea?”

The round Sister Genevieve smiled. It was obvious that she had an amiable personality, unlike her tight-lipped and tight…superior.

“There is no time. Only a snack for Pierre for the journey.” Sister Marie Therese commanded.

Avoiding further pain, Michael nodded instead of bowing to the youth. “How do you do, Monsieur Pierre?”

With his eyes focused down, the boy whispered almost inaudibly, “Monsieur.” A hat covered his hair, little wisps of blond hair framed his pale face.

“We should make the switch quickly. The men watching your home will be suspicious of your entertainment of the Sisters of the Visitation.” Sister Marie Therese’s speech was clipped, her manner fixed. “Lord Kendal, remove your dressing gown.”

Michael stiffened. He had been imbibing generous amounts of brandy for the pain, but he had consumed nowhere near-enough to have imagined that a nun had just instructed him to get naked.

He turned to Denby for help, but the seasoned soldier’s gaze was on the ground, his face as bright a crimson as a chaste debutante.

Michael replied through gritted teeth, “Over my dead body.”

“Lord Kendal, it will be your dead body if we don’t make haste.”

Sister Marie Therese stepped closer. Her eyes flashed with authority, the same look he assumed she gave to Pierre and other wayward children. “You and Monsieur Denby will escape Paris and deliver Pierre to the safety of England. You will leave France disguised as Sisters of Visitation.”

In the seaside town of Berck, France

Lady Gabrielle De Valmont pushed back Lord Harcourt’s blond curls and applied the wet cloth to his burning brow. His long golden eyelashes brushed against his bright red cheekbones. In their days of hard travel from Paris, the earl’s gunshot wound had festered into a nasty infection.

At this moment, he rested, but, in the past days when the fever peaked, he thrashed, calling out about a book to woman named Henrietta. Desperate to soothe him, Gabrielle discovered he’d calm with the French songs of her childhood.

They couldn’t stay in the little village much longer without Napoleon’s or Fouche’s henchmen discovering them. Gabrielle had brought them to her former nanny’s tiny village of Berck, south of Calais, when it became obvious the earl couldn’t travel. They waited until the middle of the night to make their entrance into the village to avoid alerting the citizens.

For seven long days and nights, she had cared for the ill Earl. Their presence in the tiny town couldn’t be kept secret much longer. They had to leave Berck and France.

But how would they cross the channel with the French soldiers on alert, watching all the boats crossing the English Channel?

Monsieur Denby, Lord Harcourt’s valet, had assured her that he had a plan to divert their attention away.

Helpless and despondent from the exhaustion, she beseeched the Blessed Virgin for their safe escape and the earl’s recovery.

She also prayed that Lord Harcourt would forgive her and Mother Therese for their deception. When he understood what Fouche and Napoleon had planned for her, she knew the amiable gentleman wouldn’t abandon her to her terrible fate.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jacqueline DeleckiAbout the Author: Jacki Delecki is a Best-Selling, Romantic Suspense writer. Delecki’s Grayce Walters Series, which chronicles the adventures of a Seattle animal acupuncturist, was an editor’s selection by USA Today. Delecki’s Romantic Regency The Code Breaker Series hit number one on Amazon. Both acclaimed series are available for purchase at http://www.JackiDelecki.com.

To learn more about Jacki and her books and to be the first to hear about contests and giveaways join her newsletter found on her website: www. JackiDelecki.com. Follow her on Facebook Jacki Delecki; Twitter @jackidelecki.

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