The Lady Dauntless

A Secrets of the Zodiac Novel

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A fiery lady, a devilish smuggler, and a cargo nations would kill for…

Gemma Harrington leads a wild, unconventional life among con men and smugglers. She can ride and shoot as well as any man, but she wants to escape the world she’s caught in for something better. Then a mysterious gentleman shows up with a daring proposal. If Gemma helps him infiltrate a smuggling ring, he’ll take her anywhere his ship can sail.

With shady ancestors and a far-away upbringing, Logan Hartley isn’t the typical hero, and that makes him an excellent spy. Logan had to fight for everything he ever wanted: his own ship, his place in the Zodiac, and the respect of his peers. Now he wants Gemma—but he has to stay alive long enough to win her.

As Gemma and Logan follow the trail of a strange criminal, they become targets in a much deadlier game. To expose the truth, they will defy convention and break the rules. And they have to act fast, because their enemies are much closer than they imagine…

The Lady Dauntless is the fourth book in the Secrets of the Zodiac, a series that blends romantic suspense with the rich background of the Napoleonic War period.

The Lady Dauntless

As soon as the sun brightened the walls of her bedroom, Gemma got up and pulled her unruly red hair back in a simple ribbon. Ravenous, she dressed quickly and went down to breakfast. She was surprised to find both Uncle Conall and Aunt Maura together at the table. The two weren’t speaking. That in itself wasn’t surprising, of course. Maura staunchly avoided anything related to Conall’s activities, and he in turn despised what he called her sanctimonious manner. The only topic the siblings discussed was Gemma, since both had firm—and conflicting—opinions about her future.

This morning, Maura sat at the table, primly buttering some thick and crusty bread. Conall stood at the head of the table, drinking his coffee without sitting down, as if he didn’t even want to be at the same table as Maura. In his other hand he held a folded up letter, the seal broken. His expression was distant.

Gemma looked at them both, trying to decide if they were about to argue, or if they’d just finished.

“Good morning,” she said.

“Good morning, dear,” her aunt said, with a smile.

Conall grunted. “What are your plans today, Gemma girl?”

She shrugged. With Logan’s kiss still on her mind, she was feeling whimsical. “I was thinking of running off and getting married, though I don’t know if I should do it before or after lunch.”

Her words dropped into a shocked, cold silence. Aunt Maura stared at her with wide eyes, and then put her butter knife down with a soft clink. Conall held frozen for half a moment, then slammed his cup down on the table, breaking it and spilling the remains of his drink.

“Uncle!” Gemma yelped. “You’ll burn yourself!”

“Never mind me, girl.” He stuffed the letter into his jacket pocket and advanced toward her. “What the devil are you talking about?”

Aunt Maura murmured, “Your language, Conall.”

He whirled around to face his sister. “She’s running away, and you’re berating my language?”

He took one step back toward Maura, his fist tightening.

Gemma moved even faster, pulling at his arm. “Don’t you dare touch her!”

Conall shifted his attention to Gemma, his gaze furious and his breath fast. “You’re going to get in my way, girl,” he growled.

“Every time!” Gemma snapped back. She wasn’t scared for herself, but the thought of Aunt Maura being hurt sickened her. “Your very own family! What are you thinking?”

“Your fault, girl. Talking of running off with a man!”

Gemma put her hands on her hips. “I was joking. It was a joke.”

“A damn poor one. Don’t ever say such a thing again.”

“Is marriage such a dire fate?”

He glanced at Maura, but only said, “I am your guardian, Gemma. I’ll say if and when and whom you’ll marry.”

“Only until my birthday,” she said.

His eyes narrowed. “You fancy being locked up until your birthday? Because I have rooms in this old castle for just such a purpose. I’ll throw you in the old barracks.”

Gemma thought of the barracks, the long, low stone building near the outer wall. She grinned. “Even if you could lock the door, I’d get out of the windows in about one minute.”

“Not after I bar them.”

“You wouldn’t dare!”

“You haven't the slightest idea what I’d dare, little girl. Now you tell me the truth this moment. Have you met a man?”

She raised her chin. “As it happens, yes I have.”

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