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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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the scents of jasmine from the garden and of the sea

beyond the walls of the city. "Mamacita has a ring with a

jewel in it," he went on. "A ruby. She wears it around her

neck because it was not safe to wear jewels where we

lived. I pray she still has it," he added.

"I was referring to your character, not your birthright,"

she said now, as she had said then, and turned around to

face the thing she feared. "Hello, Diego," she said, and

slapped the Honorable James Marbury in the face with all

the strength that was in her.

She did not wait for his or anyone else's reaction.

She picked up her heavy skirts and ran toward a side door

and out of the room.

Chapter 2

"Get out."

The gaggle of females gathered around a cozy fire in

her suite's sitting room turned toward her as one. Honoria

couldn't make out their faces, between weak eyes and a

flood of tears, but their united gasp was loud on the air.

She pointed at an exit. Her maid, her maid's assistant, her

secretary, her hairdresser, and her mistress of the

wardrobe were wise enough to scatter, at least after

Huseby rounded them up with a look. Huseby had

survived twenty years of being Honoria's personal servant

by knowing when to fight and when to flee Honoria's

temper.

Once they were gone, Honoria barricaded every

entrance to her apartments with the heaviest furniture she

could manage to drag in front of the doors. If she'd had a

weapon available, she would have taken it in hand. Her

father soon stormed along to demand an explanation, but

the most he could do was bang on the hall door while

Honoria buried her head under a pillow and ignored the

racket. His rage soon turned to worried parental

imploring about her well-being. Eventually he called out

that they'd speak in the morning, and went away.

After her fit of hysterics had passed, Honoria felt

weary but much calmer. She had to have been mistaken

about his being Diego, of course. And now the gossip

would already be flying, when all she'd wanted was to

avoid any breath of scandal.

She supposed the one good that would come of it

was that now no one would think to offer for her hand in

marriage. She even managed to smile a little at the

thought. Father would be disappointed and hurt, but the

damage was done. She couldn't go back and undo it; she

could only wait for morning before offering him her

apologies and begging to be allowed to return to the

country.

Once the emotional storm was past, she wished she

could fall into a dead sleep, not to wake for at least

twenty years. But sleep, like every other form of peace,

eluded her. So she rose from her ornate gilded bed and

proceeded literally to rip off the green pastel satin gown

she'd looked ridiculous in.

"It's not as if I could ever do anything right." she

muttered, once she was standing in a puddle of sea foam-

colored rags. She did not find reminders of the sea

pleasant, so she kicked the remains of the dress aside and

went to work on unlacing and tugging off her corset and

chemise. Then she wearily dragged herself off to discover

where her nightgowns were kept.

The problem with being pampered and provided for

by an army of servants, Honoria concluded, after a search

of the dressing room finally yielded up a drawer full of

embroidered linen nightgowns, was that she really had far

less control over her life than she thought. If there was

one thing she hated, it was lack of control. If she wanted a

cup of tea, for example, she had but to order it and it

would be brought in a china cup on a silver tray. But how

to make tea, or what merchant provided it, or even where

the kitchen of this house was located, she hadn't a clue.

"Now, I ask you," she murmured, as she walked

back into the bedroom, "what kind of control is that?"

For all her wealth she had no independence, no true

freedom. Her servants had more dominion over her life,

at least here in London, than she did. Her life was as

narrow and proscribed as that of any harem woman

locked away in the bagnios of the east, not that she knew

all that much about the indolent, luxurious life of a harem

girl. Oh, no, not Honoria Pyne.

I do, however, know how to brew a fine cup of

Turkish coffee
. It was one of several lessons she'd learned

in how to please a man, she recalled bitterly, as she

claimed her spectacles from the damascene coffer on her

writing table. Once she had them perched on her nose she

could see clearly again, though her jaded view of the

world remained as dark as ever. Honoria absently ran her

fingers over the top of the desk while her thoughts drifted

in odd unconnected circles.

Coffee making was one of her few domestic

accomplishments, she thought, remembering the dark

color of the beans, the deep aroma of the steaming brew,

the thick, grainy taste of the sweetened liquid on her

tongue. Not that she had done it in years, for questions

would be asked as to how she'd come to have the skill.

She had not tasted Turkish coffee, either, for fear the very

taste would set off all the wildness that would destroy

her. She drank tea; led a quiet, controlled, proper life; and

kept all her secret desires to herself.

Honoria did not embroider through her quiet days at

the family's country estate; neither did she garden. Nor

did she practice music or drawing. Ladylike pursuits had

always eluded her interest, though she'd been provided

with the finest teachers in the world. Books were the only

true love in her life, a skill in reading languages her only

natural talent. Other than a sizable inheritance, she'd

never possessed any of the artifices or skills likely to

attract the attentions of a suitor.

Yet she'd believed in the devoted love of one man,

once. Oh, yes, she had…

Honoria tried to divert her thoughts from going

down yet another rocky, thorny road. It didn't help that

when she grasped the stack of correspondence off the

desk to divert her thoughts that the envelope on top was

written in a familiar hand. It held the signature of Captain

Derrick Russell.

She flung the letters from her and grasped her hands

nervously before her.

"Oh, God, Derrick!"

Her fiancé patted her shoulder and said in a

distracted way, "There, there. Buck up." His steely glance

turned out to sea as the shore of Majorca receded in the

distance. Honoria wiped a tear away and held down the

black skirts of her dress against the assault of the wind.

News of her mother's death had come with the docking of

one of her father's merchant ships, the
Manticore,
and

they were now on board the same ship, returning to

England as swiftly as possible
.

"It's wonderful of you to leave your own ship to

travel with me," she told the Navy captain who now stood

with her on the deck of the merchant ship. He looked

restless, and she didn't blame him. His own vessel had

taken damage in a fight with a band of ragtag Barbary

pirates and put in to Majorca for repairs. She knew he

was anxious to return to fighting in the joint effort with

the French navy to finally rid the Mediterranean of the

outlaws who had plagued these waters for centuries.

Derrick had earned the title of Scourge of Algiers from

his enemies. She was so proud of him.

Honoria watched him with open admiration from

beneath the wide rim of her black bonnet, her eyes

shining as much with devotion for him as with tears at

her loss. She could only pray that her mother would

understand the mix of grief and love that filled her right

now. She had accepted Derrick's proposal only two days

before. Her joy had seemed so complete, before the

Manticore
had arrived with the awful news of her

mother's untimely death
.

Before she had left England, Derrick had asked her

to marry him in a letter posted from Naples, and had

asked her to meet him. Father had told her that since her

happiness meant everything to him, he would give his

consent to the match. So she'd left to visit relations on

Majorca, in the hope that she would be able to spend time

with the Naval hero when his ship put into port on the

Mediterranean island. Her mother had already been ill,

and Honoria wished now that she'd stayed home to help

nurse her. Regrets gnawed at her, but Derrick's presence

was a steadfast comfort. She knew her father would be

pleased that Derrick was accompanying her back to

England, even if her servants and the ship's crew might

not be considered appropriate chaperones by the highest

of sticklers. What did it matter? They were to be married,

after all.

Father had spoken of reservations about the young

man's suit, and had said that his permission for the match

with a mere Naval captain was given reluctantly. But

Honoria knew the duke's hesitation had nothing to do

with any fault her father found in Derrick Russell.

Derrick was perfect. He was solicitous, kind, brave,

chivalrous, and thoughtful. He loved her for herself, and

not the estate to which she was heir. Honoria knew that

the Duke of Pyneham was merely concerned that his heir

make the best match possible for the continuation of the

family name and fortune. Derrick's father was but a

baronet, and Derrick was not even the baronet's eldest

son. His prospects were tied to his Naval career
,
not that

Honoria cared a fig about that. It was Derrick she

adored, since the moment their gazes met at her very first

ball. In his dashing uniform he had glittered like a bright

jewel among a flock of crows. His gold head stood out in

the crowd, as did the healthy glow of skin kissed by the

wind and sun of the Mediterranean. She did not feel so

overgrown next to the tall, slender man. She'd danced her

first waltz with Derrick, and prayed that she would dance

her last one with him, as well. She prayed she would be

as good a wife to him as her mother had been to her

father
.

"I so want to make you a good wife," she told him

now. "To be with you wherever in the world you happen

to sail."

Derrick patted her hand and graced her with his

wise smile. "Darling, where I'll need you to be is safe and

sound at home. I need you there protecting my interests

our interests, my darling." He touched her uptilted nose
.

She found it hard to see his dear face through her

tears. Derrick had taken off her spectacles when they

came aboard the
Manticore,
reminding her that wearing

them in public was unladylike and unbecoming. His

advice was always for the best. She vowed to follow it

always.

"We will make a wonderful team, Derrick. I know it

."

"Indeed, my dear little wife-to-be. Where I lead, you

will follow, and all will be well."

Honoria now put her hand on her stomach as a wave

of nausea shuddered through her. "Fool." The word was a

low, dangerous snarl, though she wasn't sure who her fury

was aimed at. What a sick, naive, besotted thing she had

been. "And Derrick wasn't even the worst of it."

How dared they reappear—both of them in one

night! Why the devil didn't her ghosts have the decency to

stay in their much-deserved crypts? If she could live in

limbo, why couldn't they?
How dared they
?

She shook her head and looked about her, trying to

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