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“You never give me the chance to.”

Fair, Mab thought. The day she recited her wedding vows for the second time, she had been pierced by a huge irrational terror that if she let this man into herself the way she’d let Francis in, the world would smash her into pieces all over again. It was inviting trouble, opening your heart that way. She couldn’t do it. She refused to do it. And there wasn’t any reason to do it, because as far as Mab could see, most men weren’t like Francis; they didn’t expect soul-searing intimacy with their wives. They expected to bump along together, a husband in his sphere and a wife in hers, amiable, contented. So she’d locked Francis and the woman she’d been with him away in a vault—and for the most part, she’d assumed everything with Mike was fine.

But recently, these little quarrels had started flaring.

“I’m sorry you find me so disappointing.” Her voice was stiff as she heaved the traveling case off the bed. “Considering that I don’t nag, I’m not extravagant, I keep a good house, and I gave you two beautiful children—”

“Yes, yes, you’re a good wife. You tick it off like you’re checking a list. Good meals, tidy house, loving mother, check, check, check—”

“What’s wrong with that?” she fired back. She was proud of being a good wife, damn it. If you married a good man like Mike, he deserved full value for what he was giving. Mab knew she gave good value. He had no reason to complain, none.

“I’d like to know if you love me at all,” he said. “Or if you’d have settled for any half-baked bastard who’d give you babies.”

Mab’s breath left her as if she’d been kicked. He regarded her steadily, not backing down.

“Excuse me,” she said finally. “I need to leave.”

“Are you coming back?”

“If that’s your way of asking if I am having an affair—”

“You’re the last woman on earth to have an affair. You’d have to let someone in, to do that.” He blew out a breath. “Don’t leave. Talk to me—this is important, Mab.”

No, she wanted to shout, it’s not more important than the job in front of me! I have to visit a lunatic in an insane asylum to verify if there’s a traitor loose in the country. A traitor who sold wartime military secrets from a place so secret, I’m not even allowed to dream about it. That’s what’s more important here, darling!

But there was no version of that she could voice. What a thing it was to have so many secrets inside a marriage. Her husband shared her table and her bed and her body, and he had no idea how many lies Mab had had to tell him over the years.

The children started to fuss, aware of the tension in the room. Mab swooped her son up and squeezed him tight. “Your mum has to go away for a few days, Eddie.” She wondered if men felt like this going off to war. I don’t want to leave, but there’s a fight to be won, and I have to do it. She passed Eddie to his father and buried her nose in Lucy’s soft dark hair. Little Lucy didn’t have curls like her older sister had had, and Mab was glad. This Lucy might have shared the same name in tribute, but she was entirely herself, not a copy or a replacement. “We’ll talk when I get back, Mike.” Mab stroked Lucy’s chubby wrist. “I promise.”

“Will we?” Mike followed Mab downstairs, his voice angry but his hands gentle as he walked the twins down the steps, one clinging to each leg. “It’s not a hen party you’re going to, is it? I know when you’re fibbing, Mab.”

“You aren’t always forthcoming, either.” Mab turned the argument round so she wouldn’t have to answer it. “You’re all stories about working on the airfields now, but I don’t think I’ve heard you say more than two words about your war years.”

“I don’t particularly like reliving the bit where I got shot down over Kent and invalided out with a bum leg.” Mike let the twins’ hands go so they could toddle over to their toy box. “Now, your turn.”

Mab kissed his cheek instead. He turned his head and caught her mouth on his, pulling her against him. Mab kissed him back with all the anger she had, the heat of him igniting her effortlessly—that part of things had always been easy between them, fire to spare. But there wasn’t time, and she pulled away and reapplied her lipstick before the hall mirror. “I’ll see you in a few days.”

“Where are you going?” His voice was dreadfully quiet as she opened the door. “Why can’t you tell me? State secret?”

Yes, thought Mab, slamming the door behind her. It is. And she put the whole mess that was her second marriage behind her in the Bentley’s rearview mirror, driving to the Grand Hotel to wait for Osla.

“Get in,” Mab greeted her old friend unceremoniously, enjoying Osla’s astonished expression. “You navigate to the asylum, I’ll drive.”

Chapter 70

There you are!” Beth sat down at the Go board, summoning a smile. “I’ve been looking for you. Fancy a game?”

The woman stared at her blankly. She had a bandage about her head; her hair had been shaved from the crown of her skull.

Beth kept the smile pinned in place, laying out the black and white pieces. “You first.”

The sharp-eyed woman just sat there, looking at the board as if she’d never seen one before.

It’s just drugs, Beth told herself. Every patient was dozy after surgery. Most surgeries here were minor things . . . Beth reached out, touching the woman’s hand, then nearly jumped out of her skin as a nurse spoke behind her.

“Visitor for you in the rose garden, Miss Liddell.”

Osla? Beth nearly overturned her chair, forgetting about her Go partner for an instant. Or Mab? Oh, God, one of them had come at last . . .

But it was a man standing beside the stone bench at the center of the dormant rose garden. A tall man in an expensive overcoat, his back to Beth, smoking a cigarette. The smoke smelled foreign but somehow familiar.

Gitane cigarettes.

Giles Talbot turned, a smile fixed in place, but the smile disappeared as he took in her appearance. He stared at Beth with something more than horror . . . with guilt. Beth stared at him as the matron droned about visitation rules, and connections clicked in her brain like a lobster sliding into place under her pencil.

“It’s you,” she said when the matron departed. “You.” Not Peggy, after all.

He managed a rueful smile. “Hullo, Beth.”

She looked at her old friend. His suit was expensive, and his red hair gleamed; he was a long way from the rumpled academic she’d met at Bletchley Park. Giles. All this time it had been Giles, not Peggy. Beth could feel fury boiling beneath her skin. If he touched her, his fingers would blacken.

“It’s safe to talk.” He stubbed out his cigarette, not quite meeting her eyes. “One never trusts visiting rooms; anyone could be listening.” There was no one in earshot here; the day was too cold for many inmates to venture outside. “But a garden . . . I think we can talk freely.”

“What is there to say?” Beth answered.

“Look, I really am sorry. I never meant to land you in this mess. I just—panicked. Had to get you out of the way before you had a word with Travis about that report.”

So he’d been the one to spot it on her desk as she was trying to break the other Rose messages. “I thought it was Peggy,” Beth heard herself saying. “She told Mab about the Coventry raid.”

“I told her. She was annoyed at you already because you bit her head off in ISK. I was going to tip Mab off about Coventry, but I thought it would look better coming from someone else, so I primed Peggy to carp about you instead. Wasn’t sure it would work, but she brought it up without any nudging once I steered the conversation round.”

“Clever,” said Beth. It really was. “Why are you here, Giles? Why now?”

“I never thought things would go on this long. Time to bring an end to this little standoff.”

That was ominous, but Beth was filled with too much rage to make room for fear. “I’m limited to family visitors only. Who are you supposed to be, my brother?”

“I got them to bend the rules for an old friend. And that’s right, isn’t it?” He smiled. “We really are old friends.”

“Friends don’t lock up their friends in asylums.”

“Come now, it’s not a bad place. I made sure of that. Top-quality care, gentle handling—”

“Yes, I’m very gently bundled into a straitjacket whenever I complain about anything.” Beth spat out the words. “You traitor.”

He brushed a bit of pollen off his sleeve. “I’m no traitor.”

“You broke the Official Secrets Act.”

“I am a patriot—”