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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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Her bright eyes were full of many conflicting feelings,

and Diego could read them all. "You'll find veils useful,"

he told her and stepped behind the cabin's scarred

writing table. "Come here, Honoria Pyne."

She stood tensely in the center of the cabin for a few

moments, swaying easily with the movement of the ship.

The galley cut swiftly through the calm southern

Mediterranean, the rowers obeying the steady drumbeat

that set the time of their strokes. To Diego the drum was

as familiar as his heartbeat. He perceived it now only

because he noticed the subtle way her body moved to the

primitive rhythm. It was not the sound that quickened his

pulse, but the sensual sway of the woman's beautifully

rounded hips and breasts.

He couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to

see her dance.

"Why are you smiling like that, James?"

James looked at his father's puzzled face, then tilted

back his head and laughed.

"Some things," he said, "a man cannot discuss with

his father."

"Things of a delicate nature, I presume?" James

expected his father to look disapproving, but instead saw

fond amusement in his pale blue eyes. "It's a blessing that

you're still attracted to the young lady." He tilted his head

to one side. "You were thinking of Lady Alexandra, I

trust?"

The question struck James like a blow. His first

thought was,
Who
? He stared at the fish on his plate,

which stared blankly back, because he could not face his

father's discerning gaze as he replied, "Of course."

Lady Alexandra. Who the devil
was
Lady

Alexandra? Haughty, he recalled, stiff as a board, and

proud beyond bearing. There had been no life in her cold

eyes, nothing but disdain in her demeanor. She was a

duke's daughter, too good for the likes of him, and she

knew it. She was also Honoria Pyne. The two were one

and the same, and nothing alike. A rush of pain and anger

went through him with the knowledge that his Honoria

had lied to him. Every word she spoke, every deed, every

look and touch, all the passion, from the moment they

met, had been a lie.

His. Oh, yes. She had been his, in every way a

woman could belong to a man. His lips lifted in a grim

smile as he remembered how alike he and the duke's

daughter were on some basic, primeval level. It wasn't

just in how their bodies fitted so perfectly together; there

was a matching of souls between the duchess and the

pirate. After all, everything he had done was a lie, as

well.

"You should save your smiles for the lady herself,"

Edward Marbury said, and tossed a pile of envelopes

across the table. James looked up questioningly as the

fine, heavy stack of paper landed beside his plate.

"What's this?" He rifled through the pile.

"Invitations, of course," Edward Marbury answered.

"And a few letters."

Letters. James fought the surges of both bitterness

and irony. Everything between them had begun because

of a letter.

"What is this?" Honoria asked, as the pirate thrust

several pieces of paper across the table at her. A bright

smile flashed across his bearded face.

"We should have done this yesterday. How is your

sick friend?"

"
My betrothed," she corrected swiftly. It shamed her

to admit that she reminded herself of the sacred

relationship she shared with Derrick as much as she did

the corsair whose touch
… "

Derrick and I will wed," she reminded the Spaniard
.

"If you make it home."

His tone was a dangerous, frightening purr. Honoria

swallowed her fear. "If?" she asked coolly. "It is my

understanding that there is an unofficial agreement about

the return of captives between His Majesty's government

and the Bey of Algiers."

"Understanding?" He laughed softly. "Sweetheart,

you understand nothing."

She understood that he was large and dangerous

and frightening. She understood that she was in chains,

that the man she was to marry and her best friend were

locked in the hold of a corsair galley. She understood that

she was powerless, and that her captor was looking at

her in a bold way that she could only define as covetous.

It sent unnatural heat through her that shook her resolve

even more than the fear.

That disturbing glitter in his expressive, honey-

colored eyes changed to hard determination when he

said, "You will do as I say."

She eyed the blank pages, and noticed the inkwell

and quill pen, and the man's bright eyes. "What do you

want from me?"

"You can write, can't you? And read?"

She bridled at the hint of suspicion in the Spaniard's

tone. Lifting her chin proudly, she replied with a tart, "Of

course. In several languages."

"He
laughed
," she said. "The—bastard, laughed." How

well she remembered his laugh—lusty, boisterous,
alive
.

And so full of triumph, brimming and bubbling with wild

glee when he laughed at her that afternoon in his cabin.

"The faithless, lying, scheming—!"

"Who, my lady?"

Huseby's voice brought Honoria back to the present,

where she sat at the writing desk in her suite with a great

stack of correspondence laid out before her. She blinked,

adjusted the spectacles on her nose, and frowned up at her

maid. "Have I been talking to myself very much,

Maggie?"

At the use of her first name, the neutral expression

on Huseby's face softened considerably, becoming more

friend than servant. They were alone in the room as

afternoon wore into evening. Honoria vaguely recalled

sending her secretary off to her favorite bookseller with a

long list some time ago. She'd gone through tiring hours

of fittings with her dressmaker in the morning. The

woman and her assistants were still pouting because of

losing the battle over their employer's own taste versus

the
artiste's
longing to try her hand at all the latest styles.

She was more comfortable setting fashion than trying to

be fashionable, and was not going to pretend to try to fit

in again. People her size didn't fit in, they stood out, and

might as well enjoy the unavoidable.

A housemaid had left a pot of tea and a plate of

sandwiches on a corner of the desk a while ago. The tea

was cooling, and Honoria had no appetite. Another maid

had made up the fire against the evening chill and drawn

heavy velvet curtains, muffling the sound of rain

pattering against the window glass. The room was full of

shadows despite the gas lights glowing in wall sconces.

The brightest spot in the room was around her desk,

where a tall branch of fragrant beeswax candles behind

her head added both light and warmth to the area. A

footman

had

delivered

yet

another

stack

of

correspondence a half hour or so ago, but there was a lull

in the household traffic for the moment.

"Alone at last," Honoria said. She took the

opportunity to stretch her arms tiredly over her head and

out to her sides. She finally brought her hands to rest,

folded demurely, on top of a letter she'd been reading

over and over while her thoughts ranged wildly into her

misspent, misguided past.

Maggie Huseby moved a pile of fabric swatches

Cousin Kate had left and sat down in the chair nearest

Honoria's desk. "You've been talking to yourself quite a

bit since yesterday, my lady," Huseby answered Honoria's

question. "It's a habit I'd thought you'd outgrown."

"So had I," Honoria confessed. She sighed. There

she was, feeling sorry for herself—another bad habit

she'd tried to eschew. She eyed the fabric swatches that

Huseby had put on the desk. The colors and materials

were rich: velvets and brocades in emerald green, royal

blue, peacock, cream, champagne, old gold, turquoise,

silver gray, and midnight.

"You've gotten us quite worried, those of us who're

up from Lacey House," Huseby went on. "We're used to

you sometimes going for days without speaking a word.

Do you recall those two new chambermaids at Lacey

House who thought you were mute?"

Honoria smiled slightly, recalling the incident a few

months before. "I didn't mean to frighten those poor girls,

but I was rather annoyed when they accidentally set fire

to the bedroom. I didn't yell at them until I'd gotten them

to safety, though."

"That's true, my lady. But they swore it was a

miracle that restored your voice."

"The miracle was that I didn't sack them."

"You shouted at them like a fishwife."

"I have never met a fishwife, but I will take your

word for it. Of course I shouted. They very nearly burned

down my home."

Huseby smiled. "Wouldn't want that to happen, my

lady. We Husebys and Pynes have lived there nearly two

hundred years. Fine old families—and their retainers—

need their places."

"I want to go home." Honoria sighed. "I am so

heartsick, Maggie. Homesick!" she hastened to correct

herself. She had surged to her feet, and now sat back

down, her bottom-hitting the chair with a firmness that

was almost painful. This caused her to twitch in a most

indecorous fashion. She swore.

Huseby watched her calmly through all this.

"Homesick," she said with an understanding nod. "Yes.

Of course."

Honoria was annoyed at the woman's mild tone, but

then, everything had annoyed her since she'd come up to

London. She sat back in her chair and folded her hands on

the desktop once more. She sounded as calm as usual

when she said, "Everything is simpler at home."

She kept busy at home. She kept to herself. She

occupied her mind with books. She had enough physical

exercise so that she got a good, honest night's sleep when

she took to her bed from sheer exhaustion. Her days were

orderly, her pursuits intellectual; she occupied time with

good works and charity rather than frivolous social

engagements. She rarely even thought of Derrick Russell.

If Moresco's dark presence was harder to banish from her

soul, at least she didn't go about mistaking every

devilishly handsome, tall, broad-shouldered man with

wavy brown hair and amber eyes she encountered for a

Spanish corsair who'd no doubt been hanged eight years

ago.

Hanged. Without realizing it, a hand went to

Honoria's throat. A fist squeezed her heart, and she

couldn't breathe for a moment.

"Simpler." Huseby nodded. "Your life is simpler

when you've got everything under your control, you

mean."

Honoria took a deep breath. She didn't
know
he'd

been hanged. He was clever enough to have escaped.

"Precisely. Which is just as it should be." She managed to

smile despite the fact that she really wanted to cry. She

hated that tears had been threatening for hours and hours.

Come to think of it, how often, even in London society,

did she encounter devilishly handsome, tall, broad-

shouldered men with wavy brown hair, eyes like warm

honey, and…
his
voice?

"James Marbury," she said, surprising herself. "What

do you know about him?"

Servants knew everything. Huseby didn't try to deny

it. "The butler says he heard that…"

Chapter 5

Overhead the sun blazed down out of a perfect sky. The

whitewashed walls of the Casbah rose above the sparkling bay,

gleaming like a pearl against the forested mountains behind the

ancient town of Al-Jaz'ir. Diego moved from the deck of the moored

galley onto the gangplank, dressed in fresh white robes and a

twisted scarlet and black turban. His clothes proclaimed him to be

a renegade westerner, a corsair under the patronage of the Bey of

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