Authors: Susan Sizemore
Tags: #Romance, #Historical, #Fiction
Alexandra is the woman you're looking for?"
A thought struck James. "How is it that
know they were the same woman? You told me that
you've known the duke since you were boys."
"I have, though we've lost touch occasionally since
we were at school. I don't see how my old friend and your
Honoria could be connected."
She did not belong to him, but she did not know that. He'd
had her brought to his cabin. She didn't know it was the
safest place on the corsair galley for her to be. Her eyes
were large blue pools in a face that was pale in the
lamplight. Freckles stood out starkly against her fine
white skin. Diego fought the urge to trace the line of them
across her nose and cheeks. Her full mouth was drawn
into a hard, brave line. He wondered if he could tease a
smile from those lips somehow. But he stuck to business,
standing tall and menacing before her. He wore fresh
white robes and had bathed after the battle, while the
proud girl wore the chains of a captive.
He took a step closer to her. "What's your name, fox-
the girl," James insisted. He half-
suspected that he was the victim of a cruel joke. The
suspicion caused him a twinge of guilt, but learning to
trust a man who claimed to have his best interests at heart
was something that came hard to him.
"I truly had no suspicion your mysterious merchant's
daughter and the duke could be related. Pyneham's quite
proud of his girl, but that's what he calls her: 'my girl,' or
'my daughter.' The last time I saw her was at her
christening. Oddly enough, I can recall the church and the
service quite well." He closed his eyes briefly and ticked
the names off on his fingers as he spoke them.
"Alexandra Margaret Frances… Honoria…" His eyes
opened. "Ah. I remember now." The viscount raised a
hand to his forehead. "I know the duke of Pyneham's
titles, and the nicknames we gave him at school. But I
haven't heard the family name in years, and as I said, I
thought your Honoria was a merchant's daughter."
A sense of darkness threatened to overwhelm James.
At the same time his temper stirred, telling him that this
woman had made a fool of him—not just this evening,
but for years. He stood slowly, and carefully set the
brandy snifter down rather than hurl it angrily into the
fireplace. He didn't show his building fury, but spoke
with all the careful neutrality covering his emotions he'd
learned from years serving Ibrahim Rais. "My quest is
over, at least."
"On the contrary, I would say that it has barely
begun," his father responded.
James made a small negating gesture. "I found her.
She clearly wants nothing to do with me. She has the
power and freedom to do whatever she wishes, and she
will not wish to be with me."
The viscount rose to face him. "Can you let that
matter, James? You are on a quest, a mission. Nothing
"Everything has changed." James just managed not
to howl the words in anguish. He cursed himself, and her,
and the letter that had brought them together in the first
acknowledge either his defeat, or any sense of drama.
"Nonsense." He put a restrained hand on James's
arm. "You came to England to marry Honoria Pyne, and
that is exactly what you are going to do."
"Read this!" Honoria's voice was shrill above the
gentle sound of morning rain pattering against the library
The duke came around from behind his desk to meet
her. His face was gray with strain and he did not look as
if he had slept any better than she had. "Honoria, about
last night. I am most disturbed—"
Honoria waved the letter in front of her father's face,
too perturbed to have her usual care for his feelings. "The
devil with last night, sir. Read this."
"Your correspondence does not concern me, young
lady. It is your reprehensible behavior that does." He
drew himself up to his full height and declared, "You are
spoiled and willful and—"
"Spoiled and willful you may be," the Spanish corsair told
her. "But you belong to the Bey of Algiers now."
"Do I indeed?" The words were meant to be spoken
with arrogant defiance but somehow they seemed to come
out closer to a sultry purr as she looked up at his blurred
form through lowered lids. She did not understand why
she spoke as she did, or why she shivered instead of
bristled when a wide flash of smile briefly crossed the
Spaniard's bearded face. She had no idea why he'd had
her brought to his quarters, away from Derrick's side in
the hold of the galley. She was determined to defy him no
matter what he wanted from her. She stood up straight
and glared. "I belong to no one, Spaniard."
She didn't know why she assumed he was Spanish,
other than that it was the language in which he had
addressed her. The aged Oxford scholar who had taught
her Hebrew, Turkish, and Arabic in the staid
surroundings of a country house library had seemed more
of an Ottoman to her than the man who now held her
captive. Except for his Arabic robes, the scimitar in his
sash, and his command of one of the corsair galleys, she
did not find him exotic. She did find him dangerous.
He put his strong, broad-palmed seaman's hands on
She didn't flinch, but her legs grew shaky, a shudder
passed through her, and a wild, heart-quickening heat
spread through her. She could tell that he registered her
reaction by the way his honey gold eyes lit with
amusement. Despite humiliation she refused to drop her
gaze from his. "You seem to be touching me, again, pig,"
she told him.
"Indeed, I am," he replied. "It is most pleasant.
However…" He took a step back and turned to a nearby
table. When he turned back he held something in his
She gasped and stepped back fearfully as he
approached. She didn't have time to turn her head when
he lifted his hands, but she closed her eyes. "Don't—!"
"Better?" he asked, and stepped back again.
She blinked, recognizing the familiar weight resting
on her cheeks and her ears. When she opened her eyes
she could see her adversary clearly.
"They were found when your cabin was searched,"
he told her.
"Oh." She blinked again as the details that had been
a blur before came into vivid clarity. Good gracious, but
the smirking fiend was handsome! She lifted her head to
as haughty an angle as she could manage, but still
couldn't stop herself from saying, "Thank you." She
added, "Captain," for courtesy and formality's sake.
He nodded at her acknowledging his authority at
least in this small way. "I would be tempted to bite, too, if
I were half-blind. Now, let us begin where we left off on
your ship, before I was called away to finish the battle.
Tell me your name, fox-hair. Where will we be sending
the ransom request? For your sake I hope your father is a
If he meant to frighten her, he certainly succeeded.
His chilling words also reminded her of the danger her
beloved was in if these Barbary animals learned who he
truly was. That her father could indeed pay a king's
or at least a duke's—for her return would do
nothing to help Derrick. The corsairs had spies in the
ports of the Mediterranean; it would be known that the
Scourge of Algiers was betrothed to the daughter of the
Duke of Pyneham. If she admitted her identity, they would
know who Derrick was. He would be tortured and killed.
She could not think of her own comfort and safety, when
the man she loved was in such grave danger
So she answered the corsair's question with the
truth, but not a truth that would save her. She did it for
"I should have let them execute him," she muttered now,
as she held the letter out toward her father. How could
anyone be so young and romantically foolish as she'd
been in those days? "Will you please stop pacing and talk
to me, Father?" she asked. "This is important."
He pointed an accusing finger at her. "If I am
agitated, whose fault is that?"
"Mine," she answered promptly. She shook the
paper at him. "Will you please read this?"
"I didn't send for you to read any excuses you might
have jotted down, mistress scholar. The viscount and I
have been friends for years. I cannot believe that you
would insult him and his son in such a cruel fashion. You,
Honoria. You of all people, who know what it is like to
be whispered about and falsely accused. After the debacle
with Captain Russell—"
"That's what I'm talking about," Honoria persisted.
She waved the much-wrinkled paper before him again.
"Derrick." She nearly choked from making herself speak
the name, that was how much it still hurt. "Captain
Russell." The formality came easier—of course.
Formality and propriety were the only armor she had. She
wrapped herself in her defense now and went on with
precise clarity. "Captain Russell wrote me this letter,
Her father finally snatched the letter from her.
Honoria stepped back and breathed a sigh of relief as he
quickly read the paper. Everything would be all right
now. Her papa would deal with everything. She could go
back to the country and forget all about—
The Duke of Pyneham lifted his head and gazed on
her with a bright, benign smile. "This is wonderful news,
Honoria sat down. That there was no chair nearby
had no effect on her action. She could not stand, therefore
she sat, landing with a hard thud on the Turkey carpet
before the desk. She could not draw breath and lights
danced before her eyes. "Wha-wha-wha…?"
Her father helped her up and to a seat near the
hearth. "Good gracious, child," he asked worriedly.
"What's gotten into you in the last twenty-four hours?"
She did not know what had gotten into her, either.
She was behaving most uncharacteristically. She had
shown her emotions in public, put on a display of temper,
and cried and raged and shouted. And for what? A pair of
worthless men. It had to stop, and it would. Right now.
Honoria put her hand over her heart and drew in a
deep breath. She would be calm. She would not allow the
man—any man—to rob her of her self-control! No, and
no, not ever again. She was poised, self-possessed, cool,
and impervious, above such petty, foolish things as
emotions. Upset? Her? Never.
"I think, sir," she told him, "that I should ring for
tea." But when she rose from her chair, it was not to
summon the butler as she'd intended. She walked first to
the desk, then to the hearth, where she tossed the letter
onto the fire.
Honoria gave a small shake of her head. "Oh, dear,"
she murmured very softly. "Another dramatic gesture."
She blushed hotly at the memory of slapping poor Mr.
Marbury, and told herself the warmth that burned through
her was from being so close to the fire. She did not want
to think about Mr. Marbury. Not about what they had
done last night; certainly not about what they had done—
"That was another man, another place." She took
another one of those deep, calming breaths, which did not
help steady her racing pulse at all. She tried to make
herself believe that Marbury and Moresco were not one
and the same, because it was illogical to believe