Read On a Long Ago Night Online

Authors: Susan Sizemore

Tags: #Romance, #Historical, #Fiction

On a Long Ago Night (7 page)

BOOK: On a Long Ago Night
5.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

located, after all.

She put aside this fantasy and spoke to her father. "I

have an apology to write to Viscount Brislay and Mr.

Marbury, sir. So, if you will excuse me—"

"Marbury!" Her father's annoyance returned. "That's

what I called you here to discuss. I demand you

apologize, Honoria!"

"Yes, Father," she responded. She didn't remind him

that she had already mentioned apologizing. "You are

absolutely right. I behaved abominably. Completely

uncalled for."

"You'll apologize in person to Mr. Marbury."

"But—"

"He's a fine young man. In fact, if Derrick Russell

wasn't back in the picture, I could see you making a

match with my old friend's newfound son."

"But—"

"In person, Honoria. In public. At dinner this

Friday."

"But—"

"You humiliated the lad in public; making it up the

same way is only fair."

Honoria gulped, and accepted her medicine. "Fine.

Of course. As you wish, Father." She told herself it didn't

matter as she walked to the library door. Surely dealing

with Marbury was a minor irritation compared with

facing Derrick Russell after all these years. Never mind

that James Marbury strongly resembled the unlaid ghost

of Diego Moresco. Confronting Derrick would certainly

be easier than meeting Diego Moresco in the flesh once

again.

Fortunately, that wasn't likely to happen in this life.

"
I'll see you in hell, sweetheart," he'd said, just before

he'd drawn her into one last rough and desperate kiss
.

"So you will," she murmured now, and touched her

aching lips. "But in what circle, I wonder?"

Chapter 4

A few hours of deep, dreamless sleep helped. The strong,

sweet coffee his servant Malik brought him as soon as he

woke helped even more. A hot bath, a shave, and fresh

clothes all proved refreshing. James was almost ready to

face another round of life as a peer of the realm when he

came downstairs to join his father in the dining room. The

meal laid out on the sideboard for them was dinner, not

breakfast, but James didn't mind that he'd slept all day.

He doubted he'd missed anything more important than a

visit to his tailor, or a boxing match or fencing match at

his sporting club. While he knew such functions were

necessary for appearance's sake, the whole process of

being part of respectable society was deadly dull. He

could remember too well when he'd possessed no more

than the clothes on his back, and when that back and all

the rest of him had been owned by another man. He

hadn't used a sword or his fists as a form of exercise,

either, but to defend his life.

But he'd fought his way up in the world, making

something of himself, using his brains and cunning as

much as his fighting skills.

"You look as if your thoughts are a million miles

away, James."

His father's voice brought James's attention back to

the dining room. He had to pass his hand in front of his

face as though lifting a veil before he actually saw the

dark shining wood of the furniture, the gleam of silver

serving dishes, the yellow and blue pattern of the dishes,

the cream and burgundy striped wallpaper, the botanical

paintings in their heavy gilded frames, and the slender

man sitting at the head of the table, watching him with

quiet patience.

He realized that he had paused inside the doorway,

and moved to the sideboard to pick up a plate. "Not a

million miles, sir," he said. "Only a few hundred." The

rich aroma of roast pork in wine sauce assailed him, but

he passed over the heaping platter to take a serving of

whole grilled fish. "But in a completely different world,"

he admitted. There was a certain familiarity in the spicy

scent of a dish of poached pears. The rich scents of

nutmeg and cinnamon and cumin spoke to him of the

bazaars of Algiers. He heaped on a double helping of the

warm fruit.

His father sighed as James brought his plate and

took a seat across from him. "It's a hard world to escape,

isn't it?"

James ate in thoughtful silence for a while, finished

off a fresh cup of coffee, then finally replied, "Escape was

all I could think of for eight years."

This time it would work

he knew it. It had to, because

time was running out. He could almost hear his fate

racing close behind him. It carried a sword, or a gun, or

a hangman's rope. That was how the French and English

punished pirates, wasn't it? By hanging them? He almost

asked the Englishwoman he'd had brought to his quarters

for a second meeting. Almost, but he was so used to

keeping discreetly silent that the impulse was caught in

time. That he had an impulse to talk to a woman at all

amazed and confused him. Diego told himself that all his

impulses concerning her were because she was so

important to his plans. He needed to know about her; that

was why he had her brought to him again
.

He should have settled matters when he'd talked to

her the day before, but something had held him back then.

He'd gotten her name from her, but had given her no

explanation of what she must do to save herself. She was

too wildly concerned about the wounded man to respond

rationally. Diego had seen the Englishman's shoulder

wound and thought it no grave matter, but had not

offered her any reassurance. In fact, he'd been annoyed

that the man she kept referring to as "Dear Derrick" was

all that occupied her mind when he'd wanted her full

attention. He'd sent her away after brief questioning.

Today he had sent for her again. He'd spent the

night thinking about her, and not just because she was

crucial to his plan. Some madness from his old life must

have invaded his thoughts, now that he'd formed an

escape plan, some fever of the mind that whispered that

he could have what he wanted. That was the only

explanation he could think of for the compelling

attraction

he

felt

toward

the

tall,

red-maned

Englishwoman who'd haunted him in his empty bed. She

was not the sort of woman he was used to at all, with her

proud carriage and bold eyes behind the horn-rimmed

lenses of her spectacles. It was a pity that her pride would

be broken before all this was over.

You have no time for pity, fool,
he reminded himself

.

"Welcome," he greeted her, and waved her to a seat

with the same courtesy he would show a guest in his

home. She stood just within the doorway after the guard

thrust her inside Diego's cabin and lifted her hands, the

silent gesture graceful and eloquent. "My apologies," he

told her in Arabic, "but you must wear restraints

whenever you are not locked in your quarters."

Her head tilted sideways and she raised an eyebrow,

small, economical gestures that spoke volumes to Diego.

"Why?" she answered him, in Arabic.

The chains were not necessary, except as a tool of

humiliation. It was a way to break the pride and will of

wealthy captives. Instilling fear was important in those

who were used to power and freedom. Fear was very

effective in coercing the largest possible ransom to be

delivered in the shortest possible time. If fear and

humiliation proved ineffective, there were other ways.

"It is as Ibrahim Rais wishes." He spoke in Turkish

this time. He was not proficient in the language of the

Ottomans, but could manage that much.

"I do not think I like your Ibrahim Rais," she

responded, in far better Turkish than Diego's.

Her facility with languages had him practically

dancing with delight, but he showed nothing. He switched

back to Spanish. After all these years among the Barbary

corsairs it was still the tongue he was most comfortable

with, the one he thought and dreamed in. The one he

prayed in, and now those prayers were close to being

answered. If he moved with caution.

"Believe me, lady," he informed her, "when I tell you

that you will know worse punishment than being chained

if you cross Ibrahim Rais. Those who cross my master

suffer for their mistakes." He laughed, a soft, dangerous

sound. "If you cross me I will make the punishment very

personal. Am I understood?"

It was the standard speech given to get prisoners to

cooperate. It was also the truth. He should have gained

satisfaction when the girl's already pale complexion

blanched a dead white with fear and she swayed forward

in reaction. Instead he rushed to her side, lifted her off

her feet before she could fall, and set her down gently in

his own deep-cushioned seat.

"I'm not afraid for myself." She seemed to be

reassuring herself as she whispered the words in her

native language. He gave no clue that he understood

English. Instead, he poured her a cup of water in a blue

porcelain cup, held it to her lips, and made her drink it

down, knowing how refreshing it would be after the

brackish ration Ibrahim Rais allowed to be doled out to

prisoners.

He touched her moistened lips once he'd put the cup

down, and found that he was kneeling in front of her. He

touched her cheek with the back of his hand, then pushed

a fall of bright hair from her face. Her skin was so soft,

as were the silky curls that clung to his fingers. She took

no notice of these liberties but stared past his shoulder,

perhaps at the illusion of freedom offered by the blue sky

and sunlit sea framed by the cabin's small window. His

impulse was to kiss her, to taste her lips to see if that

would get her attention.

He smiled. Oh, yes, if he touched her in the ways he

knew how to pleasure a woman, she would certainly be

aware of him. She might even forget the fear she told

herself was for another. He could make her feel for

herself. He could make her forget her beloved Derrick,

and he would take great pleasure in it.

He took her face gently between his hands. His

thumbs slowly stroked a long, sensuous line down her

throat. He felt her shiver, and waited until her gaze

shifted to his face and her lips parted before he leaned

forward.

Only to drop his hands to his sides as he shot

abruptly to his feet. "What I want from you is not mine to

take." He turned his back on her as he spoke. The words

came out a low, rasped whisper that he prayed she didn't

hear. The need he felt for this woman was strong and

basic, a sudden storm that threatened to overwhelm his

careful planning. Diego scrubbed his hands over his face,

fought to banish the fire from his blood, and made himself

think of Malaga, of the woman he hoped waited there,

and what he must do to get safely home to her. Duty came

first, not desire.

He stared out the window, at the sea and the sky,

and shared the Englishwoman's yearning for freedom,

multiplied by eight. "It has been so many years." He

heard the faint jingle of chains and the rustle of fine

fabric as she stood. He turned back to her. "Too many

years." Her cheeks flamed a bright pink; she would never

be able to hide her emotions with such tender, fair skin.

BOOK: On a Long Ago Night
5.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Messiah Secret by James Becker
The Cassandra Sanction by Scott Mariani
Conversion by Katherine Howe
Southern Comfort by Amie Louellen
The Ghost of Lizard's Rock by J Richard Knapp
The Chimes by Smaill, Anna