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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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Alexandra is the woman you're looking for?"

A thought struck James. "How is it that
you
did not

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-

hair?"

"But you
know
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

has changed."

"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

place.

His

English

father

steadfastly

refused

to

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."

Chapter 3

"Read this!" Honoria's voice was shrill above the

gentle sound of morning rain pattering against the library

windows.

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

her shoulders.

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

hands.

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

wealthy merchant."

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

ransom

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

Derrick.

"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,

Your Grace."

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,

my dear!"

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

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