The Legend of Lyon Redmond

By: Julie Anne Long

Chapter 1




The first week of February . . .

SHE’S GETTING MARRIED ON the second Saturday in May.

Nine words scrawled across a sheet of foolscap. He stared at them until they blurred into a single gray mass.

When he lifted his head, his ears were ringing and he was as dazed as if he’d literally been dragged backward through time.

For Lyon Redmond, there had always only ever been one “she.”

He was momentarily disoriented to find himself on the deck of a ship docked in Plymouth, not on the Sussex downs, waiting by the double elm tree. The one with the “O” carved into it.

A dozen pairs of eyes were on him, waiting patiently for the command that always came.

His crew was a carefully curated, casually lethal lot of men and one woman, the versatile Miss Delphinia Digby-Thorne, she of the many languages and surprisingly useful acting talents—she had once spilled ale all over his sister, Violet.

They had nothing in common apart from mysterious pedigrees, ambiguous morals, and unswerving loyalty. To him.

Unlike, alas, Olivia Eversea.

But then, every last one of them had prospered the moment they’d aligned their fortunes with him. He was cynical enough to know it was all of a piece, the loyalty and the prosperity. He didn’t care.

The bearer of this news, a man dressed in footman’s livery, took Lyon’s silence as dismissal and turned rather too optimistically to leave.

“Hold,” Lyon said sharply.

The swords of his men came up swiftly to bar the man’s way.

“I’m unarmed,” the footman said hurriedly, holding up his hands. “And alone. You have my word.”

Lyon smiled a smile that would have had many a man wetting his smallclothes. It bore more resemblance to the curve of a cutlass. “While I’m certain your word is indeed priceless, you’ve naught to fear. I just cleaned my sword, so there will be no running through of anyone for at least another few hours.”

This elicited chuckles from his crew.

The footman gave a wobbly, uncertain smile.

Lyon knew a surge of impatience, which he recognized as shame. He was not in the habit of intimidating clearly unarmed and outnumbered men for the sport of it.

Then again, given how history often treated bearers of bad news, the man was probably fortunate he still drew breath.

“Your name, please.”

“Ramsey, sir.”

“You’re in no danger as long as I believe you are answering my questions truthfully, Ramsey.”

“Of course, sir.”

But judging from how the footman blanched, he didn’t miss the implicit threat.

“Who sent you, Ramsey?”

“Begging your pardon, but Lord Lavay said you would know when you read the message. I am in his employ. I’m a footman, sir.” He squared his shoulders and touched the silver braid on his coat, as if for luck. “And I won the coin toss.”

“I was a reward, then, was I, Ramsey?” Lyon drawled, to another scatter of chuckles. “Please describe Lord Lavay to me.”

Ramsey furrowed his brow. “Well . . . he’s a big gentleman. Perhaps as tall as you, sir. French. He often waves his hands when he talks, like so.” He began to demonstrate with a sweep of his own hands, then clearly thought better of it when all the swords aimed at him twitched a warning. “Took quite an injury in a fight not too long ago, but he’s fit now.”

Lyon studied the footman unblinkingly, searching for the faintest hint of perfidy in the flicker of an eyelash or the tensing of a muscle.

He knew all about that fight and that injury. Lyon and his crew had found Lavay bleeding to death on the Horsleydown Stairs in London.

Lyon was in fact the reason Lord Lavay still walked the earth.

Then again, indirectly, Lord Lavay and his friend the Earl of Ardmay were indirectly the reason Lyon still walked the earth, and they had sacrificed a fortune in reward money to allow him to walk away. Though Lyon primarily had his sister, Violet, to thank for that. Men will do things for women they wouldn’t otherwise in their right minds do.

No one knew that better than Lyon.

“I’m glad,” he said, at last. Curtly. But he meant it. Lavay was a good man, and Lyon had learned that good men were too scarce, and the loss of one was a loss for all.

Lavay was also the only man in the world who knew where to find Lyon Redmond right now. And one of the very few people in the world who knew him by his three identities: The real one. The assumed one.

And the one that could get him hanged.

Even if this message was a trap to lure him back to Sussex or into the Crown’s custody, it mattered little. Lyon had become a man who could elude or escape any trap, by any means necessary.

In all likelihood this message was Lavay’s way of discharging a debt of honor.

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