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Authors: Susan Sizemore

Tags: #Romance, #Historical, #Fiction

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BOOK: On a Long Ago Night
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pluck the book away from her and have a look at what she'd found

so interesting. He had a devilish smile on his face when he put the

book down and bent close to kiss her. She tasted herself on his

tongue, and was delighted by sweet, salty, musky taste of sex.

After they'd kissed for a long, sultry time he asked, voice

teasing, eyes bright with desire, "You liked what you saw in the

picture?" She raised her head from the pile of bright pillows at the

head of the bed to nod enthusiastically. "Let's try it."

"Oh, yes, please!"

He was snatching pillows out from under her and

rearranging them elsewhere even as she spoke.

"What the devil are you smiling at, Honoria? Honoria? Are you

listening to me?"

Derrick's waspish tone brought her out of her reverie, but she

couldn't manage to wipe the wide smile completely away as she

focused on him. She supposed she should be blushing in shame, but

she couldn't manage that, either.

"What am I smiling at?" she inquired mockingly. "Why, you,

I suppose. If not for you…"

He did not take her meaning, of course, and preened with

vanity instead. "Ah. That's my Honoria." His grip tightened a little

on her waist. She could hardly wait for the music to stop. "When

shall we announce our engagement?"

She sighed. The man really believed he could make her

change her mind. Amazing. "We've already had this discussion.

Don't be repetitive."

"You're not very good at being coy, Honoria."

No, she didn't suppose she was, nor could she think of why

she should try to be. She looked around boldly, reveling in being a

red-blooded woman, or possibly a wolf set loose among a herd of

sheep. It was James Marbury she sought, the wolf mate who'd set

her emotions tumbling wildly free all those years ago. Her

Spaniard, who'd returned from the dead to claim her as his lover

once more.

Then reality hit. What nonsense—though for a brief moment

she let herself believe it. The Spaniard was no more interested in

her than Derrick was. Fortune hunters, that's all either of them

were. The only difference was, Marbury was dangerous. Marbury

knew her weaknesses. He
was
her weakness. No matter how strong

she tried to be, no matter the walls she'd built high and thick around

her emotions, she remained vulnerable to him. Malleable,

changeable, unable to stop her mind from flying off on fanciful

roads that always led back to the bedroom and the long, sensual

nights she'd left behind. How she hated the weakness he incited

inside her that threatened to destroy everything she was and stood

for. She liked her placid existence; she really did! She would not

shame her father in the eyes of society. She would
not
lose the

emotional control that kept her sane.

As soon as the music ended, she peeled away from Derrick's

clinging touch and marched purposefully up to the Honorable

James Marbury. He stood tall and proud beside his father, and his

eyes held a spark of anger deep in their core. Anger toward her, she

knew, though she had no idea what
he
had to be annoyed about.

She ignored his dangerous look and told him quietly, "This

has to stop. Do you hear me?"

"I hear you," James answered, even more quietly, but his

voice was as edged as a dagger.

Jealousy roared almost uncontrollably through him. Watching

her dance and smile and laugh with the other man, while he stood

on the sidelines consumed with desire, galled him. He wanted to

take her and shake her and demand what it was about Derrick

Russell that attracted a woman as fine as her. He kept his gloved

hands clasped tightly behind his back as they glared hotly at each

other a moment longer. If he touched her, he wouldn't shake her; he

would make love to her to prove that she was his, then and there.

What would dear Derrick say to that?

"You say you see, but do you understand? These games must

stop."

He nodded. "They will stop. Very soon. I promise you that,

duchess
mine
."

The possessive emphasis he put on the last word sent a

melting shiver through her. Damn the man! How could he make her

react so with one small word? She didn't dare to look at him any

longer. "As long as we understand each other."

"We understand each other very well."

Honoria backed away from the man's intensity. Turning, she

found that her father had come up beside her. She thanked God for

his steadying presence, and put her hand on his arm.

"Are you well, my dear?" he asked worriedly. "It's been a

long night. Would you like me to take you home?"

All she could do was nod, and try not to drag the poor man

from the ballroom when he led her off.

Chapter 14

Four days
. Honoria sighed; she couldn't keep the words from

running through her head. Possibly it had been longer, but she

could piece together enough erotically detailed memories to count

four days and nights for certain. Time had disappeared for her in

the Spaniard's bed. What had she been thinking? She
hadn't
been

thinking, of course; that was the obvious answer and shameful

truth. Some madness came over her and she became lost in a

sensual fantasy world. It had seemed quite real at the time. In fact,

nothing that had happened in her life since had been as real as those

four short, glorious, ecstasy-filled days when nothing existed but

him, her, and every pleasurable sensation that had ever been.

How she hated being reminded of those days.

Her dreams last night had been predictably vivid. His hands

had been on her in her dreams, and his exquisite mouth. She'd

smelled the musk of his skin, and the strength in his hard muscled

body. Worst and best of all, she had felt him inside her, possessing

her, his thrusts driving in a hard, fast rhythm that drove her…

Needless to say, she had awoken agitated and with the

restless ache of longing she'd fought to kill for years. Only this time

it was worse. They had touched and spoken and her body had been

pressed to his as they danced. The brush of his strong thighs against

her had not been imagination. His lips were very real, and the

impulse to kiss him had been almost too strong to bear last night.

She had fought her wild passions down in public, but they had run

rampant in her dreams. She'd woken up panting, aroused and

unsatisfied, and had to fight off the urge to find the man and have

her way with him.

She had these dreams often enough in the country, but there

she could deal with them with simple activity and hard work that

wore her rebellious body down to exhaustion that put her beyond

dreaming. She was in London now, where she could not take a ten-

mile walk across the countryside, or work beside stable hands or

housemaids, or go for a long swim in the deep, cold pool hidden in

the Lacey House woods.

She was in London now. And so was Diego, her Spanish

corsair, James Marbury. They were both in London, and all she

could do was think of him, and remember. As if she ever did

anything else when she was in the country, she admitted

reluctantly, even though she hid her thoughts from herself by

reading books and performing good works. She sighed at

acknowledging this obsession, and hated hearing herself make such

a weak sound.

"I am a weedy creature," she murmured. "An utter weed."

She could not bear to meet her own gaze in the dressing table

mirror as her maid finished arranging her hair. It was not a

withered weed she would see there, but a lustful wanton, no matter

how much she pretended to be a dried up stick of a spinster. Being

a red-blooded woman had distinct disadvantages, especially

considering the course she'd chosen to steer in life.

"Men," she muttered. "Who ever invented the masculine

gender, Maggie?"

"You've asked me that before."

"So I have. I believe we came to the conclusion that they are

useful for lifting heavy objects and caring for horses."

Maggie stepped back from the table, and the conversation.

"You are keeping your callers waiting, Honoria."

It was nearly two in the afternoon but the day was only

officially beginning here in the city, and it was going to be a busy

one. She was scheduled to be downstairs soon to meet her

"morning" callers.

"The devil with callers," Honoria decided. "And to the devil

with Mr. Marbury." She rose decisively from her seat. "Send my

regrets to whoever wants to see me today," she ordered Huseby.

"I'm going to spend the day with my real friends."

"You'll be in the library, you mean?"

"Precisely, Maggie. With lots of tea and a stack of books."

Honoria walked into the library with firm, brisk strides,

determined to read something uplifting and morally improving.

Which did not explain her marching straight to the shelf where a

copy of
Tom Jones
rested. She took out the leather-bound tome and

flipped it open. The first thing she noticed, as she always did, was

the personal note from Mr. Fielding to her great-grandmother. The

book about the amorous adventures of a wild orphan lad was

scandalous, and a family favorite since it was first published in the

middle of the last century.

Honoria shook her head. "Is it any wonder I've turned out the

way I have?" She was wanton by nature, lust ran in her blood at a

constant simmer, but that didn't mean she had to give in to base

impulses. She fought off the depraved urge that had sent her to pick

out this of all books, and placed
Tom Jones
back on the shelf.

As she walked toward another shelf she noticed that the room

was chilly, and dampness from the early afternoon rain permeated

the air even though a fire burned in the grate. She glanced toward

the windows behind the library table and noticed that one was

open. As she passed the table to close the window, she saw the

book lying open there.

The edge of one side was singed, as though the book had

been snatched from a fire. The ill-treated book was clearly out of

place resting on the alabaster tabletop. Honoria forgot about the

window and picked up the small, open book.

She got a good look at the illustrated pages, gasped, and

promptly dropped the book. "Oh, good Lord!"

She turned to flee, but it was too late. James Marbury blocked

her way—and the fiend was smiling. It was enough to make her

heart race and her bones melt.

"I brought you a present," he told her. "I remember how

much you like books. Especially that book."

"Oh, good Lord," she repeated.

James found her expression priceless. "It's a memento from

Algiers," he told her. She tried to step around him, but he moved to

prevent her, coming closer to her in the process. The color of her

gown was golden yellow. The color was as vivid as her personality,

but the dress itself was buttoned all the way to just beneath her

chin. What a pity to cover such a lovely long throat and the

magnificent swell of her bosom. Her hair was a braided crown on

the top of her head.

"I want you to go right now!" She pointed dramatically at the

window.

"I know you do," he answered with more bitterness than he

intended. "But you won't be rid of me this time. You belong to me,

remember?"

She tried to dodge around him again; he took a step closer to

her. They were eye to eye and very nearly nose to nose. "I will

make you remember. Say thank you for the present, Honoria."

"Thank you?" Her chin tilted up at an even prouder, more

stubborn angle. Her eyes flashed fire that sizzled along his nerve

endings.

"Remember?" He brushed the tips of his fingers across her

cheek and ear. Her head tilted sideways at his touch, her cheek

briefly resting in the wide palm of his hand, her eyes half-closing.

She straightened abruptly, turned and walked away from him.

"Remember what?"

He shrugged. "Page fourteen, perhaps?" He grinned. "That

was quite a favorite of yours. Let's clear off the tabletop and try it,"

he suggested. "Or would you prefer being closer to the fire? It's too

BOOK: On a Long Ago Night
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