An Extraordinary Union

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Praise for An Extraordinary Union:

“Alyssa Cole’s AN EXTRAORDINARY UNION is as extraordinary as the title suggests–riveting, romantic, and utterly remarkable.” —Courtney Milan, New York Times bestselling author

“With its richly detailed setting, heart-stopping plot, and unforgettable characters, An Extraordinary Union is everything you can ask from historical fiction. Alyssa Cole has taken an unforgettable hero, a uniquely resourceful heroine, and mixed them together for some truly combustible chemistry. Brava!”—Deanna Raybourn, New York Times bestselling author

“Alyssa Cole is just a wonderful storyteller, and she’s fast become one of my auto-buy authors. An Extraordinary Union is the perfect blend of history, adventure, and heart-stopping romance, with a courageous heroine you’ll love and a hero you’ll fall in love with. I read it in a single sitting, and my heart wants to go on living with these characters.”—Susanna Kearsley, New York Times bestselling author

“The first installment in Cole’s  Loyal League series defies genre stereotypes at every turn. It’s both a romance and a spy novel, with a healthy dose of adventure thrown in, and it offers a nuanced portrayal of Civil War–era racial politics. Any reader who thinks romance novels are pure fluff will be schooled by Cole’s richly drawn characters, who must overcome generations of trauma in order to let themselves love each other.” —Kirkus starred review

“Cole’s sparkling gem of a romance portrays love at its most practical and sublime.” —Publishers Weekly starred review

“Cole spins a tale that will pull you in from the very first page.”—RT Book Reviews *five star* Top Pick review

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As the Civil War rages between the states, a courageous pair of spies plunge fearlessly into a maelstrom of ignorance, deceit, and danger, combining their unique skills to alter the course of history and break the chains of the past . . .

Elle Burns is a former slave with a passion for justice and an eidetic memory. Trading in her life of freedom in Massachusetts, she returns to the indignity of slavery in the South—to spy for the Union Army.

Malcolm McCall is a detective for Pinkerton’s Secret Service. Subterfuge is his calling, but he’s facing his deadliest mission yet—risking his life to infiltrate a Rebel enclave in Virginia.

Two undercover agents who share a common cause—and an undeniable attraction—Malcolm and Elle join forces when they discover a plot that could turn the tide of the war in the Confederacy’s favor. Caught in a tightening web of wartime intrigue, and fighting a fiery and forbidden love, Malcolm and Elle must make their boldest move to preserve the Union at any cost—even if it means losing each other . . .

EXCERPT

“Someone’s coming,” he said in a low voice, jumping to his feet and grabbing her hand to pull her behind him.

“The master detective at work,” she muttered, as he sprinted ahead of her into the more heavily wooded area. He dove behind a stand of thick bushes and dragged her with him just as two men stepped onto the bluff. They seemed to be surveying the wide expanse of river. Elle was so focused on the men that it took her a moment to realize how Malcolm held her.

She’d been pulled into his lap as they crouched. He snaked one arm around her waist just under her bosom, holding her close against his chest. The other hand rested on his revolver. His thighs surrounded her on either side, hard as the uncomfortable chairs in the Caffrey parlor but much more pleasant to perch on, though both were forbidden to her. He smelled of leather and horse and sweat. The sweat of a hard day’s work, not the stale scent of someone who’d gone ripe while being waited on all the day. There was a difference, Elle had learned.

The sculpted planes of his chest made their outlines known to her back, and the beat of his heart was like a soft, insistent knock that she could not answer. Would not. Her own was hammering harder than a blacksmith at a forge.

She risked a glance up at him and her breath caught; the encroaching men had best fear taking a step too close to them. Malcolm’s jaw was tight and his gaze was narrowed like a hawk’s. Behind his smiles and jokes, McCall was a man to be reckoned with. She didn’t know why this made heat race up the back of her neck, but it did.

She wanted to position herself away from the overpowering heat and scent of him, but the noisy crinkling of her skirt could attract attention. She rested her hands on his thighs to balance herself, ignoring the play of hard muscle beneath her palms, and focused on eavesdropping. That was her sole purpose for being in Richmond, and she’d do well not to forget it.

“I think we can move the last of the materials over the river by night without being seen. We can station a lookout here to signal when we arrive,” the man with the skinny legs and short torso said.

“I don’t know,” said the second man, taking off his hat to scratch his bald head.

“We don’t have time for dawdling, dagnabbit! The Yanks will choke this country to death like a snake in the crib while you’re busy thinking. Just give me the go-ahead!”

Smugglers? Elle wondered. Why would they be meeting here of all places? Thanks to Mary’s talks, she knew which routes were deemed best and which were considered too dangerous for the small, swift boats that slipped in with goods for the highest bidder.

Malcolm shifted just the slightest bit, but Elle wore no hoops in her skirt to keep her a respectable distance from him, and the raising of his knees caused her to slide farther down into his lap. Her bottom shifted over his groin and he exhaled sharply, his breath tickling the curls at the nape of her neck.

She tried to put Malcolm out of her mind as she listened to the men, but a sweet warmth was spreading in her belly, and the sensation spiked when his large hand gripped her waist even harder. She could feel the strength of him through the thin cotton dress and the chemise beneath it as his fingers pressed into her. She couldn’t tell if he was pulling her closer or trying to preserve her modesty by holding her away, but his touch felt much too good either way.

The dawdling man finally spoke. “All right. Let’s tell Caffrey that the plan should be set in motion. The final word on the matter will arrive soon enough and then we’ll see whose war this is.”

They turned and walked away, but neither Elle nor Malcolm moved, lest one of the men circle back for some reason. The dusk deepened as they waited, each moment feeling like an eternity. Through her skirts, Elle felt something warm and solid press into her behind. She’d felt that seductive pressure before, during her brief romance with Daniel, and her core pulsed at the remembered pleasure that had followed.

Her quickened breath was audible, and she was sure he could feel the heat radiating from her, especially from the part of her that was pressed against him.

“I should get up,” she said finally.

He should have moved his hand from her waist, but he didn’t. “Maybe you should. But do you want to? That’s another thing entirely, isn’t it?”

His mouth was near her ear, and the deep vibration of his voice made her shiver. His lips brushed against the shell of her ear as he spoke, and Elle let out a soft gasp from the unexpected goodness of it. His manhood surged against her bottom once again.

“Malcolm, we should leave this instant,” she said more firmly, although she didn’t move, either. She knew if she turned around she would see the kind of person she’d been told to avoid intimacy with all her life. But sitting like this, he was just a man. A warm, solid man who stirred something inside her that went against everything she thought she knew of herself.

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