They Met At London's Notorious Cyprian's Ball . . .
Georgiana Escott has one night to find the perfect man to ruin her and leave her with a tattered reputation so she can avoid an arranged marriage to an aging, despicable roue. With a misstep, she tumbles into the arms of the disgraced and dashing Lord Danvers. But Georgie doesn't know that the lover she has enticed to follow her into the night and the stranger she holds responsible for her misfortunes are in the same . . .
When Lord Danvers find himself entangled with a tempting Cyprian, his secret mission to expose a dangerous spy goes awry. Yet once he starts to unmasked this bewitching lady, he realizes the seductress who claims his heart may be the traitor he seeks. Mistrust makes them adversaries in a perilous game--but how can he dismiss his obsession with her when one night of passion entwined their lives forever?
"Given the evidence and the documentation offered to this court, I have no other choice, Captain Danvers, than to see you relieved of all duties and obligations in His Majesty's Navy." With those words said, the Lord High Admiral brought his gavel down on the court bar. The responding thump, like the last clap of a hammer on a coffin nail, was followed by stunned silence.
After all, the packed hearing room at the Admiralty had just witnessed the end of one of the navy's most brilliant careers, some said one that rivaled even Nelson's.
Few doubted they would ever again see such a precipitous and fatal descent in their lifetime.
There wasn't a man in the room, officer or jack tar, who wasn't saying a prayer of thanksgiving that it wasn't his hide being flayed, his livelihood sinking to the bottom of the icy Atlantic.
But then again, most of the men in the room held their posts as men bound by the honor and code of the sea, the written and unwritten edicts that Captain Colin Danvers had flagrantly violated. No one disputed the damning evidence of his treason and duplicity. Not even Nelson, the captain's staunch supporter and mentor all these years, had offered to attest to the man's innocence and character given the irrefutable facts.
So the future that had once shone like the North Star for Captain Danvers now looked as bleak and murky as a Thames fog.
Cashiered out of the navy.
Forfeiture of all his prize money -- a sum that had made him the envy of his peers.
It was a moment worthy of silence.
As for the man himself, Captain Danvers stood before the Admiralty Board, his back ramrod straight, his shoulders squared like a taut reef bar. And despite the fact that he'd just been cast out, he faced his judges with the same indomitable spirit that had been his undoing.
"Is that all, my lords?" he had the audacity to ask.
The Lord High Admiral blustered, his whiskers shaking in anger. "Consider yourself lucky you aren't hanging from a yardarm, you insolent pup."
Several heads nodded in agreement. Truly, if it had been any other man, he would have found himself swinging before the day was out. But lofty familial connections had kept that prospect at bay.
Danvers, treasonous bastard that he was, had recently inherited his father's barony. And if that wasn't enough, the captain's maternal grandfather was none other than the Duke of Setchfield, a man few people dared cross.
No, the Admiralty couldn't hang Captain Danvers, but the punishment they'd enacted was just as effective.
They'd taken the man from the sea. From Society. From a life among his peers. A life about to be spent, some said, landlocked in a hell of disdain and scorn.
In the back of the hearing room, a pipe whistled the end of the session, and the trio of judges rose in unison.
Danvers bowed to them, making an elegant and noble show of it. Then, as if he had just been handed the command of the entire fleet, he turned smoothly on one heel and, with his head held high, began the long march out of the room. The crowd melted apart, leaving him a lonely aisle. He walked past the downcast glances, the whispered observations, and, by many, the cut direct as they turned their backs to him.
Yet as he made his departure, it was as if he didn't see any of it.
Damned, it was observed by an old captain hours later at one of the officers' clubs, if the bastard didn't waIk out of there smiling like the devil himself.
Georgiana Escott stood before the door to her uncle's private dining room, girding herself for the confrontation that was about to take place.