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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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otherwise. Logic dictated that she deny the sensory

information of her response to his voice, his size, his

eyes, his bold touch. There was an obvious superficial

resemblance between two men of mixed Spanish and

English heritage, and no more. Some odd flight of her

imagination had supplied other resemblances that did not

exist in reality. "Imagination is so inconvenient."

"What did you say, my dear?" Her father sounded

calm, rational. Good.

"Tea," she said, and turned from the fire. This time

she was able to accomplish the

sensible, undramatic task she set for herself. Once

the butler left to fetch refreshments she took her seat once

more, folded her hands primly in her lap, and looked

calmly at her father. "Surely I was mistaken in what I

thought Your Grace said about Captain Russell. It seemed

to me that you were happy to learn that I had received a

communication from someone you once referred to as the

'scum of the earth' and 'that base, vile maggot.'" Honoria

took a certain amount of pleasure in speaking the insults,

though they were mild compared to her thoughts on

Derrick Russell's antecedents, habits, and place in the

order of creation.

"My opinion of the man is colored by your feelings

toward him, my dear," he responded with equal calm. He

leaned forward in his chair, gazing on her with earnest,

loving concern. "I know what the man meant to you once.

What you sacrificed—"

"Do you?" she interrupted. "I sincerely doubt that,

Father."
I pray you do not, Father
, she whispered to

herself.

She clasped Derrick's hand tightly as she knelt beside

him. His flesh was hot with fever. He did not appear to be

awake, but he turned his head toward her and called out,

"Honoria!"

She was thankful that he called her by her pet name.

She had never much liked Alexandra as a first name.

Honoria was for intimate friends and family; it was the

name he called her when they were in private long

enough for him to steal a quick kiss. Strangely, a thought

of what it would be like if the Spaniard were to kiss her

flitted through her mind. Repulsive, no doubt. Never mind

that he was attractive; there was nothing civilized about

his features. His was the beauty of a wild, dangerous

animal. Still, her lips tingled as she pushed away

unwanted speculation.

She put her lips close to Derrick's ear and

whispered, "Your name is Derrick Lacey. Do you

understand?" Lacey House was the name of the Pyneham

family seat, and the best alias she could come up with on

short notice. She prayed that he understood through the

pain and the fever. She glanced up and met the worried

gaze of her maid, who knelt on Derrick's other side. She'd

left Huseby to tend to her beloved when she'd been taken

to the captain's quarters.

"
That took a while," Huseby observed. She looked

Honoria over suspiciously. "What did the corsair want

with you, my lady? Did he do anything
—"

She cut Huseby off with a gesture. "No titles! You

serve Honoria Pyne and her betrothed, Mr. Lacey,"

Honoria whispered. As for Huseby's questions
...
well, she

had no intention of answering them. Simply having been

alone with the Spaniard sullied her reputation, never

mind that he had put his hands on her. Or that she had

found his touch curiously… energizing
.

"But, my la—"

"
Miss Pyne
. Please,
Huseby." Huseby was seven

years older than Honoria, one of many children of a

family that had always served the Pyneham line. Honoria

often thought of Maggie Huseby as an older sister.

Huseby was intelligent, incisive, and very intuitive.

Honoria trusted and loved her, but now she exerted her

will on the reluctant maid. "The disguise is necessary.

For Der

Mr. Lacey's sake
."

Huseby's rebellious look turned thoughtful as she

looked down at Derrick. Slowly her expression soured as

she recognized that their chance of being easily ransomed

was being compromised. She did not argue, but sighed

reluctantly. "I serve you… Miss Pyne."

Honoria reached across Derrick's poor prone body

and squeezed Huseby's hand. "Thank you, Maggie.

Nothing ill will come of this. I promise you." She turned

her attention to Derrick, and wiped beads of sweat off his

brow. His eyes were closed, his breathing light and rapid.

"You will recover, my love. Nothing will happen to you.

Could you fetch more water for him, Huseby?"

Honoria shifted to put Derrick's head in her lap as

Huseby moved away, muttering. Honoria glanced

furtively around the hold once she was settled. While she

was heartsore at what had befallen the crew and

passengers of the ship, for Derrick's safety she was glad

that the captives had been divided up by the pirates. She

did not think anyone else aboard the Spaniard's galley

knew their true identities. Derrick had not worn his

uniform aboard the
Manticore.
The common sailors were

still aboard the
Manticore,
which was being sailed to

Algiers by a pirate crew. The officers and passengers

were being held as prizes to be ransomed by the various

corsair captains. The
Manticore's
captain had been killed

in the battle. She and Derrick, Maggie Huseby, and a few

others had been brought to this ship by the Spaniard
.

There was very little light in the space where the

prisoners were being kept, and there were few amenities.

The manacles she'd worn earlier had been removed when

she was brought back to the hold. Derrick had at least

been provided with a pallet. They were in the shadows

enough to hide the impropriety of the intimate way she

held her beloved's head in her lap. No one saw her run

her fingers lovingly through his silken hair as she gazed

into the distance. After a while she scarcely noticed

where she was or what she did. Honoria's senses read

back to her every look, gesture and word that had passed

between herself and the Spaniard during this long, hard

day.

The man was so, so

Honoria gave a start when the sick man suddenly

rasped out, "What did you say to him? Did he ask about

me?"

It took her a moment to catch her breath. Huseby

came back before she could speak, so Honoria took

another moment to resume a more appropriate position

and to get her thoughts in order.

Derrick's intense gaze burned into her when she

looked at him again. He raised himself with great

difficulty to a half-sitting position. It hurt her to see the

effort it took such a strong man to move. She cursed the

Spaniard for causing this good, fine man such pain. His

voice was a barely audible anguished rasp. "What did

you tell him?" Honoria quickly whispered back the names

she had given, and Derrick nodded in satisfaction. "What

a good girl you are. What a clever child." He settled back

down on the pallet. "He likes you, the infidel swine. I

could see it when they boarded the ship and he grabbed

you. That's good."

Is it? she wondered. Why?

"Promise me," he whispered. "That you'll please

him. Do whatever you must for my sake. Promise me, as

you love me."

She had promised as her maid came back with the water.

Huseby had gasped, then taken her aside and explained

exactly what she had vowed. Honoria had neither

understood nor believed her, though it had been the first

time she'd heard Derrick Russell referred to in any but the

most glowing, heroic terms. The earthy Huseby had done

a great deal to increase Honoria's already considerable

vocabulary that night, but Honoria didn't actually learn

anything from what her friend had to say. All the bitter,

painful knowledge of passion and betrayal was something

that came later, and Diego Moresco had done the

teaching.

The butler brought in a heavy tray and discreet

silence reigned while they were served. Honoria took a

cup of tea and sipped it decorously. She chewed and

swallowed a bite of spicy cake. She was neither hungry

nor thirsty, but these were ordinary, proper actions, so she

dutifully did them, though she tasted nothing. It was the

action that mattered.

After the servant withdrew, Honoria's father said,

"You have pined for Derrick Russell for the last seven

years."

Honoria had scraped together enough control not to

drop the cup in shock. She placed it on the table beside

her and clasped her hands tightly in her lap. She said,

calmly and clearly, "I do not pine, Your Grace. For

anyone."

"You try not to show it, but my dear, I am far from

blind. Do you think I don't know why you've hidden

yourself away in the country? Why you fret at the notion

of marrying? You loved and lost."

"True," she agreed reluctantly, though Derrick didn't

have anything to do with all that. Her father knew nothing

about her relations with Diego.

"Derrick Russell meant the world to you once."

"
Once
," she acknowledged with the slightest of

nods. "Briefly, and to my cost. I am long over that

infatuation."

"I think not." Her father was intent on not listening

to her. It seemed she had inherited her overactive

imagination from him. He made an expansive gesture,

and continued his scenario. "You loved him the way I

loved your mother, and have waited for him to realize

that you are indeed the woman for him. And now he

wishes to reconcile. Your patience and fidelity have been

rewarded. I call that delightful news."

"I call that a load of sentimental hogwash."

He merely smiled benignly, obviously not believing

her protestations. It was his urge to make her happy that

blinded him, she supposed.

Honoria allowed her gaze to drift to the rain-pattered

windows and the soaked garden beyond, while her

thoughts ranged in a hundred different places, each of

them leading to a dead end. What to say? What to do?

She was trapped in a maze: trapped by her father's love

and the demands of society, trapped by the past, most of

all. It was best to deal with the present.

"Am I to understand that your sudden fondness for

Derrick Russell has something to do with your desire for

grandchildren, sir?"

"Yes, my dear, it does. It has even more to do with

wanting you to be happy. If Derrick Russell is what you

need, well, then, I'll welcome him with open arms."

Honoria rose. "But I will not."

"There's no need to be stubborn about it, child." Her

father got to his feet as well. "If it were up to me, I'd have

the man tossed out on his ear if he dared to approach my

door, but for your sake I'll welcome him to my home."

"Toss away, sir. I'm all for it."

He frowned mightily, and went on. "I'm going to

invite Russell to the dinner we're hosting on Friday. You

may pretend you don't want him for the sake of your

pride, but once you see him again, you'll rush into his

arms and all will be well."

Despite everything, Honoria couldn't suppress an

ironic smile. "Or you'll know the reason why?"

He smiled back. "Exactly."

Derrick. At her dinner table. She glanced around the

packed library shelves. Surely there were some books on

poisoning somewhere in the room. It was a pleasant

thought. Perhaps she'd find out where the kitchen was

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