Below are two excerpts from BATSthe first is the
prologue, and the second is a scene from later in the book. Also,
on February 10th, be sure to check Dishing
with the Divas for a juicy little morsel from BATS that
you won't find anywhere else. Enjoy!
later, Anna would remember how big the moon had been that night,
swollen and slung low like a pregnant woman on the brink of birth.
The hard white light of it penetrated the shutters in her bedroom
and kept her tossing and turning, and there was too much room
in the bed to thrash. For Richard had been to visit, and Richard
had left, as he always did, and tonight the bed seemed emptier
than ever for it.
She tried soothing herself with thoughts of mundane things: Susannah,
just three years old, was getting the last of her teeth, and was
fussy and feverish with it. I must tell Richard, Anna thought,
so he could exclaim over it and make Susannah giggle, for she
loved her papa. She was such a funny little thing, bubbling over
with laughter so easily, already exhibiting a taste for luxuries.
Yesterday she'd taken one bite from a cake and then handed it
back to Anna. "It's broken, Mama," she'd said sadly,
as though she couldn't possibly eat something that wasn't whole.
Then there was Sylvie, four years old now, who was proving to
have her mother's quick tongue and temper and her father's intelligence.
"I'd really rather not," she'd loftily said to Anna
just this morning, when she'd been told to pick up her toys. Anna
smiled, remembering. Sylvie would be a
challenge. And Sabrina,
who leafed through books intently and couldn't keep her jam-sticky
fingers away from the pianoforte, who always seemed to know when
her mother was feeling sad, and brought her little offerings of
flowers and leaves. It unnerved Anna, how much Sabrina noticed.
Her daughters were miracles, all beautiful, all made of the best
of her and Richard. Her love for them frightened her with its
exquisite, terrible totality. Like her love for Richard.
Ah, but thinking of Richard would not bring sleep; instead,
her senses surged with a hunger that his absences kept honed.
His light eyes with the lines raying from the corners, the way
her body fit so perfectly against hishe still took her breath
away. An arrangement born of economics and necessityhe'd
needed a mistress, she'd needed moneyhad bloomed into a
surprising, abiding love. Together they'd built a semblance of
family life here in Gorringe, a town, legend had it, named by
a duke who'd gone mad searching for a rhyme for "orange."
It appealed to Richard's perhaps overly developed sense of the
absurd and to Anna's desire for a quiet country home, and it was
a mere few hours coach ride from London, where Richard, a much-beloved
member of the House of Commons, spent most of his time.
There had never been talk of marriage; Anna had never expected
it, or pressed him for it.
But lately she'd begun to suspect that Richard, having survived
battlefields, had grown too accustomed to danger and was no longer
capable of living without it. He'd told her over dinner one night
while the girls slept that he suspected one of the country's most
influential politicians, Thaddeus Morley, had amassed his fortune
by selling information to the French. And Richard, a patriot to
the bone, intended to prove it.
Anna had seen Morley precisely twice, and she had been struck
by his stillness and sheer presencehe held himself like
a man carrying a grenade in his pocket. The populace thought highly
of him; he had risen from humble origins to a position of prominence.
Anna knew a little something about what it took to rise so high
from humble beginnings. She suspected he was a very dangerous
"If anything ever happens to us, Anna
had murmured against her mouth the other night, as his fingers
had worked busily at the laces on her dress.
"Hush. Nothing will happen to us, except perhaps some marvelous
He laughed a little, applied his lips to her neck. "If
anything happens to us," he insisted, "I want the girls
to have the miniatures of you. Promise me." He'd commissioned
three exquisite miniatures of her, brought them with him during
this all too short visit.
"Of me? Why not of their handsome father?"
"Of you, my love. Of their beautiful mother." He'd
had her stays undone by then, and then his hands had covered her
Bam, bam, bam.
Anna shot upright, her heart clogging her throat. Someone was
throwing a fist against the door downstairs.
In one motion she swept from her bed and thrust her arms through
the sleeves of her robe; her trembling hands tried once, twice,
three times before she finally managed to touch a light to a candle.
Cupping the tiny flame with her hand, she moved into the hall.
Susannah was whimpering, startled awake; Anna heard the whimpers
become choking sobs.
The maid, a girl with eyes and a mouth too sultry for her own
good, stood at the top of the stairs, dark hair spilling like
two shadows down the front of her, hands twisting anxiously in
her nightdress. She'd come highly recommended from the agency,
and yet she'd proved nearly as hapless as she was handsome.
"Please go see to Susannah." Anna was amazed to hear
her voice emerge so gently. The girl jerked as though shaken from
a trance, then glided into the nursery; Anna heard murmuring,
heard Susannah's sobs taper off into hiccups.
Somehow Anna's bare feet found each stair without stumbling,
and then she was at the door. She threw the bolts and opened it.
A man stood heaving before her, hunched with exhaustion, breath
bursting from him in harsh white puffs; a thick scarf coiled around
his neck and a heavy overcoat protected him from the weather.
Behind him Anna saw the dark outline of a coach against the star-spattered
night; two spent horses bent their heads in its traces.
When the man straightened, the white glare of the moon showed
her the long nose, kind eyes, and small, ironic mouth of James
Makepeace, Richard's friend from London. The whole of his message
was written on his features.
"It's Richard." She said it before he could, as if
doing so would somehow protect her from the blow.
"I'm so sorry, Anna." His voice was still a rasp,
but it ached with truth.
Her chin went up. The deepest cuts, she knew, brought a blessed
numbness before the agony set in. "How?"
"Murdered." He spat the word out, like the foul thing
it was. "And Anna
" he paused, preparing her, it
seemed. "They're coming to arrest you for it."
The words sank through her skin, cold as death.
madness." Her own voice came
faintly to her, through a burgeoning fear.
"I know, Anna. I know." Impatience and desperation
rushed his words. "It's impossible. But witnesses claim to
have seen you arguing with him at his town house yesterday; others
have sworn they saw you leaving it shortly before he was
You can be certain clues will be discovered that point to you,
as well. If he's gone this far, I'm sure he'll be thorough."
No word had ever sounded more bitterly ironic than that last
"Morley," she breathed. "It was Morley."
James's silence confirmed this. Then he made a strange, wild
little sound. Almost a laugh.
Anna jumped at the crunch of approaching hooves and wheels,
and the flame of her candle leaped tall, nearly flickering out.
In that instant, Anna saw silvery tracks shining below James Makepeace's
His low, curt voice cut through her numbness. "The hackney
you hear approaching is one I hired for you. Anna, please-you
need to leave now. They know to look for you here. Take it anywhere
but London-I've paid the driver well enough not to ask questions.
But don't tell him your name, for God's sake."
how was he
" She stopped, shook her
head; she didn't want to know how Richard had been killed. She
wanted to picture him in life, not death. "The girls"
"I'll take them. I'll make sure they're cared for until
it's safe for you to return, Anna. You've my vow."
"But I can't
they're so small
Such futile words, and not really what she meant to say. Richard
James Makepeace seized her cold, cold hand in his gloved fingers
and squeezed it hard. She sensed that he wanted to shake her instead.
listen to me: a woman with three children
be dangerously conspicuous. They'll find you, and who knows then
what will become of the girls? You're a brilliant scapegoat; the
public will tear you to pieces. I swear to you if there was some
" He threw a quick glance over his shoulder,
turned back to her, and she could see him struggling for patience.
He'd risked his own life for her.
Would it be better to flee without her girls, if there was the
slimmest chance to reunite with them later?
Or for her girls to grow up knowing their mother had hung for
their father's murder?
Anna made the only sort of decision one could make in the frantic
dark: she gave a quick shallow nod, acquiescing.
James exhaled in relief. "Good. I swear to you, Anna, if
I could hide all of you, I would. I just
there wasn't time
to make other plans."
"You've risked so much already for us already, James. I
would never ask it of you. I cannot thank you enough."
James ducked his head, acknowledging the gratitude he heard
in her voice.
"How did you
how did you know this?"
He shook his head roughly. "It's best I not tell you. And
forgive me, Anna, but I must ask one more thing: did Richard say
anything, anything to you about where he kept some very important"
He chose his next word with care "documents?"
"Richard said he'd found the perfect hiding place for them,
a place no one would think to look, particularly Morley. He said
it had something to do with 'Christian virtues.' Richard was amused
by it, actually. Found it ironic." James's mouth actually
twitched. A grim little attempt at a smile. "Richard was
"Oh, yes. Richard was clever." Anna felt a helpless,
selfish rush of anger. When would love become more important to
men than glory? How could one woman and three little girls ever
compete with the glamour and excitement of capturing a political
traitor? The thought itself was probably traitorous. "I'm
sorry, he said nothing to me of it."
They stood facing each other. Frozen on the brink of a life
without Richard, and hating to move forward into it.
"I loved him, too, Anna," James said hoarsely.
Loved. Past tense.
Anna stepped aside to allow him into the house. And then she
became a whirlwind in the pre-dawn darkness.
James Makepeace waited while Anna dressed herself in dark mourning,
covered herself in a heavy cloak, twisted up her hair and pulled
a shawl around her head. She woke the girls, Susannah and Sylvie
and Sabrina, kissed and held their little bodies to her, breathed
in their hair, felt the silky skin of their cheeks, murmured quick
desperate promises they couldn't possibly understand. She bundled
them with clothes and the miniatures.
Anna gazed down at those miniatures briefly and felt hot furious
tears pushing at her eyes. Those miniatures meant he had known,
damn him. He had known they were in danger. Had known that something
might become of Anna, or of him.
She would love him for all time. She wondered if she would ever
"For you," she said to James, thrusting a simple but
very fine diamond necklace into his hands. "It should help
well, it should help the girls."
James took it without question. Closed his fist over it, as
though sealing a bargain.
"How will I
"Send a letter when you can, Anna, but wait a few months
for the uproar to die. Leave the continent if you can; I doubt
any place in England will be safe when word spreads. Godspeed."
And then Anna looked one last time at the house that only hours
earlier had been the source of her greatest happiness, her greatest
love, her only love.
She prayed for her girls. For Richard. For justice.
James helped her into the hackney. The driver cracked the ribbons
over the backs of the horses, and the hackney jerked forward and
took Anna Holt away.
[end of exerpt]
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After an entirely too-eventful journey to Barnstable to take up
her new life, Susannah Makepeace drops into a deep, dreamless
sleep and wakes just past dawn, startled at first to find herself
in her Aunt Frances's tiny cottage. Since no clucking maids are
about to object, she decides to sneak outside for a bit of air
before her aunt wakes, taking her sketchbook with her. But an
intriguing path lures her into exploring just a bit further, and
then...well, let's just say Susannah stumbles across something
that leads her to believe Barnstable might not be quite as dull
as she feared...
the birches and oaks and beeches had latticed together, creating
a romantic sort of arch. It could hardly be dangerous, could it?
She entered into it, hesitantly, and then more boldly, and followed
it furtively, promising herself with each step that she'd turn
back after just a few more. There was something about paths, however:
they drew one forward as surely as a crooked finger, and on she
went, over soft dirt and leaves crushed to a fine powder by the
passage of other feet over the years.
And she thought, perhaps, if she kept moving, she could outpace
the feeling of being dropped outside comfortable confines of society.
A hot spark of green, very like light glancing off an emerald,
tugged her eyes off the path. She braved a few steps into the
trees toward it.
The spark of green expanded into a pond as she approached, luminous
as stained glass. Not an emerald, perhaps, but pretty enough,
and the dense smell of it, wet dirt and green things, was strangely
agreeable. From where she stood, she could see the tip of what
appeared to be a faded wood pier; something pale glared stop it.
She squinted. It looked likecould it be
Good heavens, it rather looked like a pair of feet.
She craned her head to the left, and stood on her toes, and
Clapped a hand over her mouth to stifle a yelp as she ducked back
against the nearest tree.
The feet were attached to a man.
More specifically: a rangy, breath-catchingly nude man.
Susannah peeped out from around the tree. Just, she told herself,
to prove he wasn't an apparition.
He wasn't. His torso was a perfect V of golden skin and
muscle; his slim hips, whiter than the rest of him, tapered to
thighs and calves that could have been turned on a lathe, and
these were dusted all over fair hair that glinted in the low sunlight.
The hair on his head was cropped short and beacon-bright, but
the features of his face were nearly indistinct from where she
watched. Given the glory of the rest of him, they scarcely seemed
to matter. The man's beauty was, in fact, an assault, and
a peculiar tangle of shock and delight and yearning began to beat
inside her like a secret, second heart.
And then the man stretched his arms upward, arching his back indolently;
exposing the dark fluffs under his arms. This, somehow, seemed
more erotic than the rest of his naked body combined: Susannah
had seen paintings and statues of naked men, for heaven's sake,
but none of them had ever sported fluffy hair beneath their arms.
In fact, the sheer easiness with which this man wore all his raw
beauty frightened her a little. He was like someone too casually
wielding a weapon.
She fumbled her sketchbook open.
Quickly, roughly, She sketched him: the upraised arms, the curves
of his biceps and legs and the planes of his chest, and when he
turned, the darker hair that curled between his legs and narrowed
up to a frayed silvery-blond line over his flat stomach. Nested
right between his legs were, of course, his
looked entirely benign at the moment, really, at least from this
distance. She sketched those, too, as she intended to be thorough,
hardly thinking of them as anything other than part of her drawing.
A squirrel rippled by and stopped to stare at her, its tiny bright
eyes accusatory. It chirped once; Susannah frowned at it and put
a finger to her lips.
The man bounced lightly once on his toes and then dove; the smooth
He surfaced an instant later, sputtering happily, his arms rising
out of the pond in rhythmic long strokes that took him away from
the pier, and then he rolled over and did it on his back, his
pale toes kicking out of the water, playful as an otter.
Susannah's knees locked; she toppled over with a little grunt.
She fumblingly righted herself again, and to avoid any further
toppling, braced a hand against the oak tree, and while he swam
the length of the pond she took the opportunity to refine her
drawing, quickly roughing in the trees behind him and the pier
beneath his feet.
The man finally pulled himself from the water onto the pier again;
dazzled, she watched water run in clean rivulets down the muscles
of his back and buttocks. He shook himself like a great cheerful
animal, diamond droplets flying from him, exhaled a satisfied-sounding,
"Ahhhh!" and then strode off the pier and vanished from
For a moment, Susannah remained very still, staring at the place
he'd been, feeling felt light-headed, oddly elated by the sight
of him. Perhaps he does this every morning.
The thought filled her with an entirely improper hope.
The magic of the moment finally began to ebb a bit and sense seeped
in; she worried about her aunt waking and finding her gone. She
pushed herself upright, and found herself eye-level with a pale,
heart-shaped scar gouged into the oak. Inside it, the words "Kit
and Caro" had been carved; they were now swollen with age.
Susannah traced the heart with her finger, half enchanted by it,
half sorry for the wound to the tree.
And this was when two handssmack, smacklanded
on either side of her face, flat against the tree's trunk.
Her heart turned over like a great boulder in her chestthunkand
There passed an intolerable moment, during which no one moved
or said a thing.
And then: "Do you think it's fair," a masculine voice
mused virtually into her scalp, fluttering her hair and causing
gooseflesh to sweep up her arms, "that you have seen every
inch of me, and I have seen none of you?"
Oh no, oh no, oh no. Her heart had recovered. It was now
drilling away inside her chest like a woodpecker.
The warmth of the man's body behind her was as penetrating as
a sunbeam, though not one bit of him actually touched hershe
pressed herself closer to the oak tree, to make bloody sure of
that. But his scent immobilized her as surely as a net: sun-heated
skin and the faintest tang of sweat, and something else, something
rich and complicated and fundamental that started a primal buzz
of recognition up in her blood and made her peculiarly aware of
how very female she happened to be.
This wasn't the groomed-for-a-ball brew of starch and soap with
which she was familiar. This was stripped-to-the-essence male.
She lost her tenuous grip on the sketchbook; it flopped to her
Susannah slid her eyes sideways. She saw long elegant fingers
and a sinewy forearm covered in that silver-gold hair; when his
hand shifted a bit, she saw a small birthmark in the shape of
a gull in flight on the vulnerable skin below his wrist.
She made the subtlest of attempts to crane her head to try to
get a closer look at his face.
"Oh, I wouldn't turn around if I were you." Still amused.
And when, at last, her throat was able to release words, the ones
that emerged appalled her even as she said them: "You
were bloody quiet."
There was a shout of surprised laughter; the man's hands fell
And not being a fool, Susannah bolted around the tree, crashing
through the young bushes for the path. She didn't dare look back.
[end of exerpt]
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