To set the scene…. It’s 1807 and Jane Wooliston, aka the Pink Carnation, is on the trail of the missing queen of Portugal, with orders to find her before Napoleon does. But to do so, she needs the help of Jack Reid, the agent known as the Moonflower. He speaks the language; he knows the terrain. She doesn’t. But Jane doesn’t like losing control, so she decides to even the odds by having them travel in a way which gives her the upper hand: disguised as French soldiers, she an officer, and Jack her servant.
She doesn’t count on her “servant” sharing her tent….
“Daydreaming, Lieutenant?” Jack Reid let the flap of the tent fall back down behind him as he walked in as though he owned it.
“What are you doing here?” Hastily, Jane yanked her jacket back around her shoulders. As befitted an officer, the shirt beneath was made of fine linen. Too fine.
Jack tossed his hat onto her cot, where it spattered rainwater on her blanket. “We made less than five miles today. At this rate we’ll make Porto by spring.”
“Don’t be absurd. I’m sure we’ll pick up speed tomorrow.” Jane snatched the hat off the bed and thrust it back at him. “Don’t you have somewhere else you need to be?”
“The mule is settled and Moreau’s servant is short a week’s pay. Dice,” Jack explained helpfully, as he plucked Jane’s cloak from its peg and began rolling it into a makeshift pallet.
“How nice for you,” said Jane, with heavy sarcasm. Heaven help her, she was beginning to sound like him. She set her hands on her hips. “What are you doing?”
“Insurance.” Jack removed a pair of pistols and placed them by the side of the pallet. “Not to mention that it’s drier inside than out.”
He plunked himself down on Jane’s cloak, smiling seraphically up at her.
Jane blinked down at him. She hadn’t thought about where he would sleep. She had assumed, if she had thought of it, that the officers’ servants would have their own accommodations.
The tent felt very small with Jack Reid in it.
Jane narrowed her eyes at him. “You can’t bunk with one of the other batmen?”
“And leave you unprotected?”
There, at least, she was on firm ground. Jane reached beneath her pillow. “I have my own pistols.”
“Try not to point them at me,” said Jack, and settled back, using his camp bag as a pillow. “Would you mind blowing out the lantern when you’re done prinking? I don’t like sleeping with a candle lit.”
Neither did Jane, but that was beside the point. “What about ‘go’ and ‘away’ don’t you understand . . . Rodrigo?”
Jack propped himself up on one elbow. The lamplight picked out the strands of copper in his dark hair, dancing along the lines of his muscles beneath the folds of his shirt.
“Are you going missish on me, princess?” There was a dangerous glitter in his amber eyes. “Because if you are, tell me now and we can abandon this whole bloody charade.”
The profanity, Jane had no doubt, was deliberate and designed to shock. “If this is an attempt to provoke me, I can assure you, it will be quite unavailing.”
“‘Quite unavailing’?” Jack collapsed back on his camp bag, rolling his eyes up at the roof of the tent. “Forget what I said about not pointing those things at me. Put me out of my misery and shoot me now.”
Jane resisted the urge to direct a short, sharp kick to the side of the Moonflower’s head. “No one asked you to join me.”
“Didn’t you?” retorted Jack mockingly. “I don’t remember being given much choice in the matter. Master.”
“In my tent,” Jane amended, glaring at him.
It was too cold to strip down entirely, but she’d intended at least to remove her boots before seeking her bed. Jane regarded the recumbent figure on the floor—on her cloak—with tight lips. Missish, he had called her.
If she could endure his presence in her tent, he could bear with her wet feet.
Jack rolled onto his side, looking up at her with an expression of feigned innocence. “Need help with that?”
“I can manage,” said Jane, with as much dignity as she could muster while hanging half upside down. These boots had been designed with a valet in mind. Either that or the leather had shrunk in the rain.
The first boot came off with a pop, nearly conking her erstwhile batman in the head.
Jack dodged out of the way. “Apparently not,” he said, and before Jane could stop him he had gripped the other boot by the heel. “Relax, princess. Consider this a basic instinct for self-preservation.”
“I thought you had rather a well-developed instinct for that,” said Jane tartly. Empires could rise and fall, but the Moonflower always seemed to land on his feet.
“If I did, would I be here with you?”
The boot came off easily in his hands, leaving Jane’s leg bare but for her silk stockings, rather the worse for wear. Jack Reid’s fingers ran along her calf, his thumb digging into the tight muscles, massaging them.
So did Jack Reid. He snatched his hand away as though burned.
Jane drew her leg back, tucking it behind the other. She could feel the tingles all the way up her shin. “Thank you. For your help with the boot.”
Jack Reid rocked back on his heels. “This is only the beginning, you know.” He looked up at her, his eyes dark in the uncertain light. “I’m your manservant. I live in your tent. I see to your, ahem, needs. You’re going to be seeing a lot of me, princess.”
Jane pressed her eyes briefly shut. Of course. Another ploy, another stratagem. She ought to have known.
“We’re not going back to Lisbon,” said Jane flatly.
“Suit yourself.” Jack shrugged, burrowing down into Jane’s cloak and tipping his hat down over his nose. From beneath the brim, she heard him murmur, “It’s going to be a long march.”
In the final Pink Carnation novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla, Napoleon has occupied Lisbon, and Jane Wooliston, aka the Pink Carnation, teams up with a rogue agent to protect the escaped Queen of Portugal.
Portugal, December 1807. Jack Reid, the British agent known as the Moonflower (formerly the French agent known as the Moonflower), has been stationed in Portugal and is awaiting his new contact. He does not expect to be paired with a woman—especially not the legendary Pink Carnation.
All of Portugal believes that the royal family departed for Brazil just before the French troops marched into Lisbon. Only the English government knows that mad seventy-three-year-old Queen Maria was spirited away by a group of loyalists determined to rally a resistance. But as the French garrison scours the countryside, it’s only a matter of time before she’s found and taken.
It’s up to Jane to find her first and ensure her safety. But she has no knowledge of Portugal or the language. Though she is loath to admit it, she needs the Moonflower. Operating alone has taught her to respect her own limitations. But she knows better than to show weakness around the Moonflower—an agent with a reputation for brilliance, a tendency toward insubordination, and a history of going rogue.