The Untamed Bride Plus Black Cobra 02-03 and Special Excerpt

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Book: Read The Untamed Bride Plus Black Cobra 02-03 and Special Excerpt for Free Online
Authors: Stephanie Laurens
    “Torturer, maimer, fiend,” Rafe supplied.
    “—he’s clever, and cunning, and a great deal too powerful. So”—Del looked at Gareth—“are we ready to move against him?”
    Gareth reached down, lifted a woven basket from the floor beside his chair, and set it on the table. His chair squeaked as he reached into the basket and lifted out four wood-and-brass cylindrical scroll-holders. “As ordered. The subcontinent’s version of a diplomatic pouch.”
    The scroll-holders were identical, each about ten inches long and a bit more than two inches in diameter. Formed from strips of rosewood clamped together by brass bands,their lids were secured by a complicated set of brass levers of varying length and thickness.
    They each took a holder, fiddled. “How do you open them?” Logan asked.
    “Watch.” Setting the basket back on the floor, Gareth picked up one holder and deftly moved the six levers, one after the other. “It has to be done in that order, or the metal teeth inside don’t disengage. Try it.”
    They all practiced. Gareth insisted they worked at it until they could open and close the holders by touch alone. “You might need to at some point—who knows?”
    Rafe reached across and took the holder Gareth held, compared it with the one he’d picked up. “They truly are identical.”
    “I don’t think anyone could tell them apart.” Logan looked at Del, then Rafe. “So we have the holders. Now for what goes in them.”
    From his pocket, Del drew the sets of instructions Wolverstone had sent. “Five packets.” He separated out one with Original scrawled across a corner. “That one goes with the real letter. These”—he fanned out four identical packets—“are the decoys’ instructions. But we only need three.”
    Now that James was gone .
    They all looked at the four letters. Rafe sighed. “Shuffle the four, I’ll select one, and we can open it and see what form of instructions we’re going to find when we open our own sets later.”
    “Good idea.” Del shuffled the four packets, held them out. Rafe drew one and handed it to Logan.
    Logan took it, opened it, scanned the sheets inside, then handed them on to Gareth. “Comprehensive, but not specific, of course. The route we should follow, but no dates, no specified modes of travel. He does specify which English port we’re supposed to head for—Brighton, in this instance. Apparently we’ll be met by two men, Dalziel’s ex-operatives, who will have our route through England and our ultimate destination, neither of which are included here.”
    Del nodded as he received the sheets from Gareth. He scanned them, then handed them to Rafe, who exchanged them for four slim packets he’d pulled from his inside coat pocket. “The three copies and the original.” Rafe cast a cursory glance over the now-to-be-discarded set of instructions while Del and the other three carefully unfolded and compared the copies and the original.
    Reaching the end of the instructions, Rafe looked up. “We should destroy this.”
    Logan held out his hand. “I’ll burn it.” Rafe handed the folded sheets over.
    Del and Gareth had lined up the four scroll-holders across the table. They laid one instructions packet and one letter before each holder, making sure the original letter with its incriminating seal was paired with the appropriately marked instructions.
    “As per Wolverstone’s directions,” Del said, “I sent him word we were putting his plan into action. It went ten days ago by fast frigate, so he’ll know we’re heading home in good time to have his men waiting at the ports.”
    Rafe reached out, drew the nearest scroll-holder, letter and instructions to him, and set about opening the holder. “Now we do as he suggested and draw lots—in this case, scroll-holders.” He proceeded to carefully roll the letter and instructions and insert them into the holder.
    The others followed suit, smiling faintly, all knowing that Del had

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