British Agent Excerpts
Victorian-Era Romantic Mysteries
"Ms. McClintock succeeds in masterfully weaving both genres meticulously together until mystery lovers are sold on romance and romance lovers love the mystery!" —InD'Tale Magazine
from Chapter Three
British Agent Safe House, Scottish Highlands
TRISTAN STARED AT the stains covering his hands. He couldn't tell where the dirt ended and the blood began. From across the room, he watched as Devon took his turn at the washstand. Charles sat on a stool nearby, his blood-stained shirt partially unbuttoned, revealing his bandaged chest.
Devon Clayton and Charles Blackwood had been with him on every mission since they joined the agency after they had all finished their studies at Oxford. For three years, they worked side by side, mission after mission, with the highest success rate in the agency. The youngest, brightest, and best trained, they were called on by Britain because they succeeded where others had failed. However, they had not expected this.
Tristan had killed men before—it came with the work—but he had always believed those killings had been justified. At the tavern, they had done everything possible with their combined knowledge to save the woman and child who had unknowingly fallen victim to their hunt. Their target—the woman's husband—had used her as a shield. Another man had used the child. They had never fired on a woman or child and had momentarily backed down—a mistake which cost too many lives, including two of their own.
Tristan replayed everything from the moment they had reached the tavern, attempting, in vain, to see any other way for a different outcome. There had been five agents and six men expected to be at the location. Their source had been mistaken or had betrayed them. There were eight men and the woman and child, sitting down to supper. Tristan and his agents did all they could to make the arrests without injury, but the men had refused to go peacefully.
He saw again the woman's husband throw her into the middle of the ruckus as he attempted to escape out the back door. Charles shot the man. The other, who had used the child as a shield, had held a knife to the boy's throat. As he tried to make his exit, the knife slipped.
Tristan remembered every man and every move. He had seen two of his agents go down, each taking a culprit with him. One had escaped, but he couldn't recall how. They might be the best at what they did, but they had made a deadly mistake. Tristan once again studied his partners and friends. Neither would forget what happened either. The woman and child's screams promised to haunt them all for years to come.
Tristan cleaned his hands, watching the blood darken the water. Some of it left a temporary stain on his hands, but a more permanent one stained his mind.
He nodded to his friends and they all left the room. They were due to return to England, and there were bodies to collect before they left.
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Excerpted from Alaina Claiborne by MK McClintock. Copyright © MK McClintock. Published by Trappers Peak Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author or publisher.
from Chapter Three
CHARLES LISTENED TO the howls of wind beyond the glass window panes and contemplated Rhona’s glances. When she had first set her eyes on him in the study, her gray eyes expressed no emotion beyond the anger directed at them all. Davidson had joined them for supper, but Rhona had remained absent throughout the meal.
Now he lay on a bed in one of many rooms gracing the interior of Davidson Castle. Unable to find solace in sleep, Charles, still clothed, removed himself from the bed and looked around the dark interior of the room. Charles and the others had discussed everything they knew about Davidson and his family, including his wealth, as a possible motive for whatever happened to his son, Wallace.
None of them believed that Wallace Davidson had been kidnapped. That he found himself in dire circumstances because of his older brother’s illicit actions remained to be seen. Using Rhona as a cover did not sit well with Charles, but to refuse the plan would be to give her father a reason to question their true motives.
“Bloody hell!” Charles’s whispered frustration dissipated in the quiet of the room. Resolved that he would find no peace on this night, he slid his feet into boots, lit the lantern Graham left for him earlier in the evening, and halted. The faint knock at his door led him to believe that either Tristan or Devon had been of the same mind to go downstairs. He turned the lantern up and walked quickly to the door. The soft hand reached out and connected with the side of his face.
“Bastard!” Rhona’s whisper wasn’t much of a whisper, and she looked down both halls before pushing past Charles into his room.
“I wondered how long that would take.” Charles leaned into the hall to ensure himself that no one had heard her. He gently closed the door, the resounding click making them both fully aware that neither of them should be there.
“I assume you are not here for the reasons we enjoyed on my last visit.” Rhona closed the distance between them, her palm once again meeting his cheek.
Charles immediately regretted his nastiness. “I deserved that.”
“That and more.” Rhona turned abruptly and walked past the edge of the light’s reach. “I want to know why.”
“Not that I don’t enjoy your lovely company, but I do like my head where it is. If your father or anyone else caught us—you want to know why what?” Charles walked toward her. The past two years and his deception created a barrier that stopped him from reaching out for her.
She turned to face him. “Why come back? I’d almost let myself believe I felt nothing for you.”
“I didn’t choose . . .” Charles reached for her, ignored her efforts to tug her arm loose from his grasp, and pulled her out of the shadows. “I came back now for the same reason I left—orders.”
“Everything was an order. Get close to me and make me . . . betray my family. Those were your orders?” She pulled at her arm and his fingers reluctantly loosened their grip.
Charles shook his head. “Nothing between us was an order, and I won’t apologize for what I told you back then.” Charles expected to see tears or regret in Rhona’s eyes, but the grayish-blue orbs revealed nothing.
“I shouldn’t be here. My maid doesn’t sleep soundly and at times wanders the halls.” She hesitated. “We were close enough to . . . I thought you would come back.”
Incredulous, Charles stepped toward her. “I wrote letters, and I returned once I resigned. Your father said you visited a cousin, but I went north to Skye, and they’d not seen you.”
“You came back?”
Charles slowly nodded and traced her smooth cheek with his finger. “Given my line of work, I should have been able to find you, but I contacted your other living relatives. None claimed you’d been there.”
“I wasn’t. I spent six months with a distant cousin on my mother’s side. I was in Caithness, and I never saw your letters.” Rhona pulled the edges of her shawl close to her body and walked toward the door.
Charles deemed her last letter now irrelevant, certain it was not she who told him to stay away. “Why did you never to return to England?”
With one hand on the door handle, Rhona slowly turned around. “How do you know I didn’t?” Her hand slipped from the handle. “You watched for me?”
Charles remained silent.
Rhona closed her eyes and breathed deeply. “There was nothing for me there. When you saved me that day on the road, did you know who I was before you came north?”
“No, it wasn’t until I saw you again here. When I learned you were Davidson’s daughter, I tried to forget you, set you from my thoughts, but nothing I did worked. It was never my intention to cause you pain.”
“And yet, you did, but I made my choices, too.” Rhona steadied her eyes on his. “My father hates your people with such passion. He would not have told either of us the truth. If I had known you came back . . .” Rhona’s hand reached once more for the door.
“He hates the British, but you had an English tutor.”
“That was my mother’s doing.” She pressed down on the handle, but Charles stilled her movements.
“Did you ask for the marriage?”
Rhona attempted to push Charles away. When she failed, she turned angry eyes on him. “It does not matter because the deed is done.”
“When was it decided? Not when we were—”
She shifted and leaned back to look into his eyes. “No. There’s never been anyone else.”
“A few days ago. It’s not uncommon.”
Charles could have left it alone, asked her if she wanted to marry Crawford, but he let seconds pass. Rhona leaned toward him briefly, and Charles wondered if she might stay. He prayed she would. She smelled of heather and lavender, and the fragrant scents sparked memories of a night years ago when he held her in his arms as they lay in a blanket of heather near the woods.
“I’m sorry.” Her whispered words barely reached his ears before she quietly exited the room.
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Excerpted from Blackwood Crossing by MK McClintock. Copyright © MK McClintock. Published by Trappers Peak Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author or publisher.
from Chapter One
County Wexford, Ireland
February 4, 1892
COULD THEY HEAR her? If she moved deeper into the shadows, could she sneak away? If she loosened the grip on her lungs and took the deep breath she desperately needed, would they find her? The heady stench of copper filled the air of the great hall, the dank stone walls doing little to block the scent of death. The carpets beneath her slippered feet masked her first step. Back one, and then two. She ducked behind a heavy tapestry, one of the few left in the old castle.
Masked under a cloak of clouds and desperation, she escaped out the servants’ entrance, confident that the cook and single housemaid would not see her. Wet slush and rain combined to make her retreat difficult. She could not risk discovery by hailing someone and beseeching them for a ride. Her own two feet must carry her the miles to Brannon Cottage.
The noise of the carriage wheels competed with that of the storm, but she did not mistake the sound of the small rocks as they ground and rolled over one another. She hurried behind a nearby copse of blackthorn and waited. Lights from the carriage lanterns broke through the darkness as the conveyance approached. The man in the driver’s seat sang “She Is Far from the Land” faintly heard through the wind. After he passed, Anne set one foot in front of the other and paused. Her fear overpowered her desire for warmth. She could do this. It was only four miles.
One worn slipper almost fell from her foot when she stepped in a small slush of wet snow. Colder now, she pressed forward. One mile. Two miles. Three. She must reach him before they realized she was gone. Anne flailed and her body lurched to the ground. Her arm scraped over a sharp stone that sliced through her cloak. The faint clatter of bottles in her satchel managed to reach her ears over the harsh howl of the winds.
Anne rose to all fours and then stopped and knelt on the sodden road, choking back a trail of tears as they coursed down her already wet skin. She tucked soaked locks of her long hair beneath her wet bonnet. Drawing on pure need, Anne pushed up from the ground and continued down the dirt road. She did not know the Brannons well. They visited Ireland once or twice a year, and yet the only person on this earth she could hope to trust was currently on holiday and using the Brannons’ cottage. Ten years had passed since she’d last seen him.
The tidy two-story stone structure appeared as though from the fog. Soft, white flakes fell in time with her heavy breaths but lasted only the time it took for her to reach the front door.
With knuckles cold and weak, Anne managed to knock. The sound of fist against wood was pathetic even to her. She knocked louder and waited. She heard someone remove the door latch and a tall, familiar man opened the portal. “Anne, whatever are you doing here?”
“I’m sorry, Charles. You sent word you’d be here, and I know we were to meet tomorrow.”
A beautiful woman with soft red curls stepped into the front room, still clad in her robe. “I heard you open the door. Is everything all right?” The woman looked at Anne.
Charles motioned the woman forward. “This is my cousin, Anne Doyle. Anne, this is my wife, Rhona.”
Rhona reached out and welcomed her. “You’re shivering and cold. Come and sit by the fire.”
Anne wanted to cry all over again. Kindness had been a rare commodity in her life these past few years.
Charles helped her into a chair and covered her with a blanket. “What are you doing out alone on a night like this?”
Anne’s eyes welled with tears. “Something terrible has happened. I need your help.” Anne lifted her leather bag over her head and set it on the floor, revealing the long and bloody tear in her cloak.
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Excerpted from Clayton's Honor by MK McClintock. Copyright © MK McClintock. Published by Trappers Peak Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author or publisher.