Defiant: 5 (Noble Passions)

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Defiant

Sabrina York

 

Noble
Passions, Book Five

 

When
rakish Ned falls in with the wrong crowd, his brother decides to send him to
the Continent for “seasoning”. For Sophia, this just won’t do. She’s loved Ned
for ages—and also longed for adventure. She runs away from her boring suitors
and disguises herself as a cabin boy on the
Defiant
, the ship sailing
Ned to Italy.

Ned
knows he’s not good enough for Sophia, but once they’re on the
Defiant
,
he can’t stop himself from touching her, tasting her, loving her. Not when a
wild tempest and a band of ruthless pirates threaten them. Not when every look
from her gives him such pleasure. And certainly not when she comes, warm and
wild and willing, to his bed.

If
they survive their voyage, Sophia’s brother might kill him, but it will have
been worth every moment and every hot, sweet kiss.

 

A Romantica®
Regency
historical erotic romance
from Ellora’s Cave

 

Defiant
Sabrina York

 

Dedication

 

This book is dedicated to Nita Banks. Because Nita is a
goddess.

 

 

Acknowledgements

 

My deepest appreciation to Dar Albert for a rocking
cover—always gorgeous—and to Carrie Jackson for her editing genius. I adore you
both!

My heartfelt appreciation to my fellow writers for their
support. Especially Denyse Bridger, Cerise DeLand, Delilah Devlin, Tina
Donahue, A.M. Griffin, Dena Garson, Desiree Holt, Jennifer Kacey, Adriana
Kraft, Kathy Kulig, Susana Ellis, Danita Minnis, Madeline Pryce, Zenobia
Renquist, Jayne Rylon, Erin Simone and so many more.

And of course a shout-out to my amazing support team,
Crystal Benedict, Stephanie Berowski, Crystal Biby, Kris Bloom, Kim Brown,
Sandy Butler, Carmen Cook, Tracey A. Diczban, Lisa Fox, Rhonda Jones, Denise
Krauth, Barbara Kuhl, Angie Lane, Tina Leuthardt, Chris Lewis, Tracey Parker,
Laurie Peterson, Tina Reiter, Hollie Rieth, Regina Ross, Kiki Sidira, Sheri
Vidal, Sally Wagoner, Deb Watson, Veronica Westfall and Michelle Wilson, as
well as the shy ones, Christy, Elf, Fedora, Gaele, Lisa and Pansy Petal.

To all my friends in the Greater Seattle Romance Writers of
America, Passionate Ink and Rose City Romance Writers groups, thank you for all
your support and encouragement.

 

Chapter One

 


No?
What do you mean, no?”

Ewan St. Andrews glowered at her across the broad expanse of
his desk but Sophia didn’t let it weaken her resolve.

She tipped her chin at an intransigent angle and shrugged. “No.
It’s a simple word.”

“Well why the hell not?” A bellow.

Her brother only bellowed when he wanted to intimidate
people. Sophia refused to be intimidated, especially by the likes of him, and
certainly not on
this
issue. And oh, he’d tried to bully her. Dragging
her into his study, sitting on the far side of his imposing desk. Making her
perch in this narrow, uncomfortable chair as though she were one of his minions
called to task over some minor infraction.

No. She would not be intimidated.

“He’s handsome.” Ewan turned to his wife, who stood across
the room, dandling little Will on her hip. “Isn’t he handsome, Violet?”

“Very handsome, darling.”

Sophia waved her hand. “Pish.”

“And he’s rich. I had Colin look into it. No prancing
popinjay without a farthing.”

“Money is not important.”

Ewan’s brow darkened. “You have no idea what you’re saying,
Sophia. Money is everything, especially when you
don’t
have it.”

“And I said
pish
.”

“It’s been four years. Four seasons. You’re twenty. Nearly
on the shelf. You’ve had twenty-four proposals.”

Twenty-seven, actually. She hadn’t told him about the three
who had gone down on bended knee before her when no one was around.

“You’ve said no to them all. Why?”

“I didn’t see it.”


It?
What
it
?” Ewan raked his fingers through
his hair as he did when he was at wit’s end. He raked his fingers through his
hair a lot around her.

She shrugged again. “You know. The
look
.”

His lips flapped, rather like a trout. “The look? What look?”

Sophia tipped her head to the side. “The look I see in your
eyes. When you so much as glance at Violet.” His brow beetled and his attention
skimmed to his wife. That
look
flared. Doting and warm. Absolute love.
Not the mere flicker of attraction because she was pretty, or the avaricious
gleam because her brother was a wealthy and powerful man. But love. For her and
her alone. “Yes,” she whispered. “That one.”

“This is absurd. Heinrich is a fucking prince for fuck’s
sake.”

“Ewan! Language.” Violet set her free hand over Will’s tiny
shell-like ear.

As though Will hadn’t heard
that
word before.

Sophia wrinkled her nose. “He’s an
Austrian
prince.”
Some obscure little burg in the Alps. She’d rather move to the wilds of India.
Africa, perhaps. The colonies? A little thrill trickled through her at the
thought. What an adventure
that
would be. She’d never had an adventure.
Not a real one. Oh, how she’d love to—

Ewan stood in a rush, tipping over his chair. He paced the
room. It made Sophia dizzy to watch. “You used to be docile. You used to be
obedient. Whatever happened to that girl?”

She blinked. When had she ever been docile or obedient? Had
he even been paying attention?

“I worked. Slaved. Sacrificed my whole life to create
opportunities for you. And this is how you repay me? By being defiant? By
saying no? Time and time and time again?”

Ah. Guilt now. Too bad for him she was heartless. “Yes.”

“I… You… We…” It didn’t become him to sputter so.

Sophia stood as well, but only because, in her estimation,
this interview was over. There was nothing more to discuss. “I’m not marrying
Heinrich von Österreich.”

“See! You don’t even know his name. It’s Wichtigtuerisch.”

He’d completely missed her pun—he often did—but Violet
caught it. Her lips twitched and she winked. “Darling,” she said in a soothing
voice, bless her. “You didn’t work all your life for Sophia to have a princely
husband.”

“I didn’t?”

Lovely. Now he was bellowing at Violet.

She
wasn’t intimidated either.

“No. You did not. You slaved and sacrificed so she could
have something even more precious.”

“I did?” He frowned. “What?”

“Choices. You wanted her to have choices. The freedom to
choose her own path. Forge her own destiny.”

He tunneled his fingers through his hair. Again. “What the
hell was I thinking?”

“Do you want her to marry just to marry?” She stepped closer
to her husband and set her palm on his cheek. Will patted his father as well. “Or
do you want her to marry for love? Because I want her to know…”

Ewan’s Adam’s apple bobbed. “Know w-what?”

“What we have, darling.”

She kissed him then and Sophia knew for certain the
interview was at an end. Because even though these two had been married for
four years, once they kissed they were newlyweds once more.

Violet smiled at her as Sophia took her babbling, drooling
nephew from her arms and quit the room, leaving husband and wife locked in a
passionate clinch. Heavens. They’d already made three children in the course of
their short marriage. They were probably working on number four. Even now.

Ah, let them. She adored her nephews and she adored her
sister-in-law. No one had ever had a more diligent champion. If anyone could
convince Ewan to let Sophia make her own choices, it was Violet.

She resettled Will on her hip, pressing a kiss to his
baby-soft curls. His scent wreathed her and she felt a little tug in the region
of her heart. She would love to have children of her own someday, and a husband
too, as apparently they were somewhat necessary in the making of them. But not
yet. Not now.

She’d told Ewan the truth—she absolutely wanted the passion
she saw glinting in his eyes when he looked at Violet and she would not settle
for less.

But there was more. She hadn’t told him the rest of it. She
hadn’t shared the fear.

The bald fact of the matter was, from everything she had
seen, life ended at marriage. At least for a woman. She became a man’s property
and strictly under his thumb.

Sophia was far too strong-willed for that.

Besides which, she longed for adventure. Always had.

The only adventure in Violet’s life was discovering Will had
left a present for her in his nappy.

Her nose wrinkled. She glanced down at her nephew. “What
have you done, young man?”

He gurgled and yanked on one of her curls. She carefully
untangled his sticky fingers. Nurse met her in the hall and Sophia passed him
off, issuing a dire warning about the fragrant gift.

Ah yes. What a thrilling life that would be.

Ever since she was a girl, running barefoot and amok in the
wilds of Scotland, Sophia had craved adventure. She’d had it too—after a
fashion. Hunting with the boys in the woods, exploring caves in the tors,
fording wild rivers and climbing unclimbable trees, and then later scrabbling
around the hard back alleys of Perth. It had been glorious. But then the worst
had happened.

Ewan made his fortune and announced he was sending her to
prison. Well, to the confines of a strict finishing school, which was
practically the same.

Lady Satterlee’s School for Girls had been abominable. Rules
for everything. Shoes, always. The other girls had been odious in their
contempt for a Scottish
heathen
. If it hadn’t been for Violet and
Kaitlin, who had befriended her, she didn’t have any idea how she would have
survived the torture.

Sophia shuddered at the memory as she made her way
downstairs. The sight of a tall and handsome man handing his hat to Duncan
stalled her steps.

Ned Wyeth, Violet’s older brother. He was striking,
adorable, utterly scintillating. There had been a time when she would have
flown down the steps and thrown herself into his arms. But now…

Now she swallowed her welling excitement and arranged her
features into a mask, trying desperately not to think on it. Still, the words
crowded her mind.

Off with you, girl. Don’t be such a pest.

She hadn’t cared that he’d said this in the company of his
friends. She didn’t give a whit what they thought of her. But ever since she’d
met him, on the cusp of her first season, she’d had a
tendre
for him.
His rebuff had scored her deeply. After it, the easy amity, the friendship
between them, had waned.

A pity he was so attractive. A pity her heart still trilled
at so much as a glimpse of him.

He lifted his gaze and it settled on her. He stiffened. A
muscle bunched in his cheek. Disdain, or something like it, swept across his
patrician features. He nodded. “Lady Sophia.”

Lady Sophia.
Not Soph, or Bugnut or any of the other
affectionate names he had once had for her.

“Ned.” She cleared her throat of some annoying blockage. “What
brings you to McCloud House today?” She didn’t dare hope it was to see
her
.
It never was to see her.

“I have business with your brother.”

Ridiculous though it was, her heart plummeted.

“He’s in the study with your sister.” She forced a smile. “I
believe they are making a baby.” She said it just to see him wince. It was the
only pleasure she had left with Ned, needling him.

He shifted his shoulders back, and my, they were broad.
Broader than they’d been the last time she’d seen him. She curled her fingers,
stifling the urge to measure the breadth of them with her hands. “I’ll wait.”

Lovely.

Sophia cast a glance around the hall. They were utterly
alone. Decorum demanded
she
entertain him until Ewan was available. “Shall
I call for tea?”

His features tightened. Probably at the realization he was
saddled with her for the next few minutes. “Tea would be…nice.” His tone
intimated anything but.

Stiffening her spine, she led the way to the sitting room
and tugged on the bell pull. When Duncan appeared she gave the order for tea
and cakes—Ned loved cakes—and asked him to inform Ewan his brother-in-law was
here to see him.

“Won’t you sit?” She gestured to the divan.

Ned appeared torn. His gaze flicked from the divan to her
and back again. His lips worked. But then he blew out a defeated sigh and
perched on the very edge so he could escape quickly, one would assume.

Sophia glared at him.

When he noticed, which took a while as he was avoiding her
eyes, he flinched.

“Am I so hideous?” She shouldn’t have asked. Lord help her,
she should have held her tongue. She was bad at holding her tongue. But a
roiling anger in her gut forced the words up and out.

Oh, of a certainty, she’d made a fool of herself over him
during her first season. Granted, he’d led her on—and then rebuffed her—but
that was all long ago. She’d learned her lesson. He should be beyond it by now
as well. They were both much older and wiser.

He went pale as her question registered. “H-hideous?” His
throat worked.

She leaped to her feet and paced the room. “For God’s sake,
Ned. Our siblings are married. We have to see each other on occasion. Can you
not, at least, be civil?”

“I am perfectly civil.”

She gored him with a glare. “Are you?”

“I most certainly am.”

Her snort rounded the room.

“What do you want from me, Sophia?” The words seemed ripped
from him, torn in a bloody mass, but when she glanced at him, his face was
emotionless, cold.

“A smile now and again would be nice.”

He fixed his teeth in a grimace.

“A
real
smile.”

“Hell, Soph—”

A scratch at the door heralded Duncan with the tea tray. He
looked rather absurd, that great mountain of a man—the once-criminal who now
served as her brother’s butler—carrying the delicate silver tray with its
shivering cups and accoutrements. He set it on the table and bowed before
quitting the room. Sophia couldn’t help but notice the glare he sent to Ned—or
Ned’s responding wince. She also noticed Duncan did not close the door.

What a farce.

As though Ned needed a warning to behave himself with her.

She could have the plague as far as he was concerned.

She retook her seat across from him and poured the tea,
though she really should have rebelled against decorum and made him pour his
own. It was a nonsensical rule that ladies had to pour. Men had fingers.

Without asking, she added his sugars and milk. He took the
cup and downed it, glancing around as though seeking reprieve.

“Honestly, Ned.” It was hopeless.

Ridiculous, in fact. Ewan wanted to marry her to a prince,
for pity sake. Even if Ned were interested in her, he had little to recommend
him but good family. His brother was a duke but Ned was hardly in line for the
title since Edward had his heir. And a spare.

Aside from that, Ned was a rebel. A rakehell. Or so her
brother averred when he was in his cups. According to Ewan, Ned slept his days
away and spent his nights in a wild bacchanal of women, wine and song.

Likely he had all manner of fascinating adventures.

It was hardly fair.

She shoved the plate of cakes at him and he took two.

Unfair that, as well.

As a
lady
on the market, she’d been advised to forgo
cakes as they had an unfortunate tendency to collect around her middle, and if
she wanted to catch a husband—

Oh ballocks.

She didn’t.

She helped herself to a cake as well. It was delicious, an
exquisite mix of lemon and mint. It made her feel decidedly better. Or at least
a touch rebellious.

The uncomfortable silence was punctuated only by their
chewing and alternate sipping. To break it, and because she burned to know, she
asked, “Why do you need to speak with Ewan?”

Ned grunted and swallowed. “I need him to intercede for me.”

Sophia blinked. “Intercede?”

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