Switching roles and the pursuit of freedom come together in the hunt to discover who can be trusted and who is really the traitor during the Colonial times. Mercedes Maxwell’s sister’s last wish was for Mercedes to find evidence against Kat’s husband, William Braxton, and have him hung as a traitor to the crown. Mercedes isn’t naïve when it comes to capturing traitors, because her own deceased husband had once been an agent for the King when they lived in England.
When she meets William Braxton for the first time, all is not as it seems. Portraying her twin, Mercedes knows this is the only way to get close enough to William to discover his secrets. What she finds along the way are little surprises she hadn’t counted on, especially when she begins to give her heart to a man who may be a spy against the crown.
Clutching her thick skirt, Mercedes scurried toward the end of the building and ducked behind the far corner. Another street opened before her, spectators gawked at the commotion she created.
She didn’t stop to rest, but kept running until another alleyway loomed ahead. Looking over her shoulder, she breathed a heavy sigh that the men following were farther behind. But within seconds, more men had joined the chase.
She turned another corner and ran into a solid form. A scream tore from her throat as she grasped his arms to keep from falling. Two strong arms circled her waist. She looked up into the face of a soldier wearing a red coat; the symbol of those men serving England, her mother country. The white periwig covered his head, the queue held in place by a jaunty black ribbon.
“My, my.” He grinned, tightening his arms around her. “What lovely package do I have here?”
Instead of being relieved to see him, she worried he would believe she stole the apple – just as the others did. “Please sir, release me at once.” She squirmed, but to no avail.
“’Tis all right, my dear. I shall protect you.” He gave her a wink. “Have I not always been your champion?”
His words confused her, but she didn’t have time for an explanation. “Please, if you would be so kind. I must get away.” The shouts of pursuing men grew louder. “You do not understand. I cannot be caught. I fear they will put me in jail for a crime I did not commit.”
The soldier raised a dark eyebrow. “What stories are you telling now, Mrs. Braxton?”
She gasped and stared at the man holding her. Mrs. Braxton? He thought she was her sister? But of course he would. She and Kat were identical twins. And…nobody knew Kat had died.
As she opened her mouth to deny his comment, heavy footsteps rounded the corner. Panic gripped her, and she couldn’t breathe. They had come to take her away.
Daring to peek over her shoulder, it surprised her to see the men’s expressions showed no anger. Instead of scowls aimed at her, their brows were creased, mouths pursed tightly as they glared at the soldier. Confusion filled her and she slowly shook her head, trying to understand what was happening.
“Release her at once, sir,” the apple cart’s owner said to the soldier.
A chuckle rumbled through the soldier’s chest, but he didn’t let her go.
Thundering hooves of a horse bore down upon them. Mercedes switched her attention to the man on the steed. The small crowd parted, and the man atop the animal dismounted. His horse had whipped up a cloud of dust in the dingy alley and she waved her hand in front of her face to keep from sneezing. The sight of the rider left her speechless and a bit weak at the knees.
His rugged appearance shocked her, his strength evident in his lean arms and legs. Rather than the fancy clothes of the English gentry, the beige shirt and brown leather vest of a farmer’s attire stretched taut across his wide chest, and the black material of his trousers molded to his legs and fit snugly into his black knee-boots. But this man was no farmer. That much appeared evident by the way he carried himself as he strode toward her, his step too confident, too graceful.
When he neared and she gazed upon his face, her breath caught in her throat. The sun had turned his skin a light brown, and the sureness of his jaw bespoke authority. Chestnut hair tousled by the wind framed his head, and she had a sudden urge to swipe the unruly locks off his forehead.
He was quite handsome, if she dared admit, and he literally made her lungs stop working. Never had that happened to her from just admiring a man. Looking into his fiery blue eyes, she swallowed hard.
He stopped mere inches away, towering over both Mercedes and the soldier like a dark cloud of doom. She leaned her head back to take in his height.
The handsome man met the soldier’s stare. “Sir, will you kindly remove your hands from my wife?”
Her jaw dropped. Wife?
“Correct me, Mr. Braxton, but was your wife not running from you?” The soldier shook his head. “There must be a reason for that.”
She sucked in her breath. Mr. Braxton? This handsome and very powerful man was William Braxton, her dead sister’s husband?
When the man in question settled his dark eyes on her, his expression softened and a smile touched his mouth. “Yes, my dear. Please inform the captain and all these good people why you were running from me.”
The pulse in her temple grew stronger. She couldn’t speak, and she couldn’t think. Telling him about Kat’s death was crucial, yet she didn’t want to do that in front of all of these spectators.
If only her mind would work with her tongue and voice, perhaps she wouldn’t feel like a trapped animal. But more importantly, why did she find her brother-in-law dangerously attractive?
Coming to Philadelphia was worse than she'd ever imagined.
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