To Tame a Duke
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by Patricia Grasso
Description: Set against the turbulent historical background of the War of 1812, this star-crossed romance pits a grieving English nobleman, James Armstrong, the fourteenth duke of Kinross, who has come to America bent on avenging the death of his elder brother, the thirteenth duke, who was betrayed to American troops and executed. He is in pursuit of the Gilded Lily, a spy-catcher of formidable reputation and great skill. When he finds his prey, he is dismayed to discover that the Lily is no common soldier; "she" is eighteen-year-old Lily Hawthorn, the beautiful raven-haired daughter of a tavern owner with sapphire eyes and a daring spirit. James kidnaps Lily and her eight-year-old brother and returns with them to England, intending to keep them prisoner until the end of the war. He decides to make her fall in love with him--and then break her heart but all romantic hell breaks out when he himself falls in love.
eBook Publisher: E-Reads/E-Reads, 2001
eBookwise Release Date: July 2010
5 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [415 KB]
Reading time: 258-361 min.
"Inventive and sensuous." - Hannah Howell
* * * *
Boston, September 1804
"Great guardian angel, please intercede with the Father to help my mother recover from this difficult birth."
Ten-year-old Lily Hawthorne stood in the kitchen doorway of her father's tavern, the Four Winds. She took two steps forward onto the bayside of Howell's Wharf and inhaled deeply, savoring the scent of saltwater and the warmth of the sun upon her face.
Brushing several wisps of ebony hair away from her face, Lily gazed at one of her favorite sights, Boston Harbor, and tried to banish the hopelessness settling in the pit of her stomach. Billowy puffs of white clouds dotted the blue horizon, ending only where the sky and the water became one. She heard the shrieking cries of seagulls and shifted her gaze to watch them diving to the top of the water and then flying off again. Overhead, a large squadron of Canadian geese were migrating south in military formation.
Worry troubled Lily's delicate features and an aching sadness filled her chest, making breathing almost painful. Hopeless desperation weighed heavily upon her, and she struggled against the tears threatening to spill.
Weeping would only worry her mother. Though she wanted to throw herself down and cry forever, Lily refused to succumb to instinct. Her appearing with tearstained cheeks in her mother's chamber would only add to her mother's worries.
Her wonderful mother was dying.
Lily sighed raggedly. Her heart railed against what her mind knew to be true. Her mother was dying, bleeding to death from delivering her second child, a son.
She already had an older half brother, Lily thought. So why had her parents needed another child? Her mother's life for her baby brother's didn't seem like an even exchange. But there was nothing to be done for it now, only await the end.
Lily closed her sapphire blue eyes and whispered fervently, "Great guardian angel, hear my prayer and save my mother from death's snare. I'll do anything if you intercede with the Father on her behalf."
Would God be offended by her trying to bargain with Him? Lily wondered, a sudden chill of apprehension running down her spine. What if He punished her by taking away her father and half brother, too?
"God, I'm terribly sorry for trying to bargain with You," Lily whispered, unwilling to take chances with her loved ones' lives. "I only meant for you to save my mother. That is, if doing so wouldn't upset Your grand scheme."
"I heard your mother was dying," said a voice behind her.
Lily whirled around to see Hortensia MacDugal, her personal nemesis, standing there. The only daughter of a tavern owner on the next wharf and the woman who was acting as her mother's midwife, Hortensia was much taller than Lily even though they were the same age. Lily had always envied the other girl's blond hair and cornflower blue eyes, but now she envied the fact that Hortensia's mother was in no danger of dying. Compared to losing her mother, being born with black hair seemed insignificant
Lily stared at the other girl. She supposed the blackest day in her life wouldn't have been complete without Hortensia showing up.
"What do you want?" Lily asked.
"I'm waiting for my mother," Hortensia answered.
"She'll be delayed a while longer," Lily told her, glancing toward the kitchen door. "You might as well go home."
Hortensia wore a mulish expression. "I'll wait."
Suspicious about the other girl's reason for loitering, Lily narrowed her gaze on her and remarked, "I've never known you to cling to your mother like this."
Hortensia gave her a knowing smile. "I heard that Bradley Howell is inside with Seth."
So that was it Hortensia had a fondness for her brother's well-to-do friend, the only son of the owner of Howell's Wharf.
Lily rolled her eyes. "I should have known there was another reason."
"Bradley is so handsome," Hortensia gushed. "I'm going to marry him someday."
"Go away, Hortensia, and bother someone else."
"Are you jealous?"
Lily lifted her nose into the air and said, "I could never be jealous of a tart like you who, as everyone knows, smells like low tide."
"Why, you ..." Hortensia stepped forward with her hands clenched at her sides.
Turning around, Lily saw her brother standing in the kitchen doorway with Bradley Howell. "Is it time?" she asked.
Fifteen-year-old Seth nodded, a grim expression on his face. With a heavy heart and leaden feet, Lily walked toward the kitchen door.
As she neared him, Bradley stepped out of her way and whispered, "Be brave, Lily."
She nodded, acknowledging his words.
From behind her, she heard Hortensia say, "Oh, Bradley, could you possibly walk me back to my own wharf?"
"I'd be honored," he answered.
"May the saints forgive me," Lily muttered, brushing past her brother, "but I do despise that girl."
Lily and her brother walked through the kitchen into the tavern's common room. The silence in the usually bustling chamber weighed oppressively on her, reminding her that her mother was dying.
Feeling as though she was living in a nightmare, Lily slowed her pace as they started up the stairs. If she didn't go inside the bedchamber to bid farewell to her mother, perhaps her mother wouldn't die. No, she knew that wasn't true.
"I don't want to go inside," Lily said, hesitating outside her parents' bedchamber.
"Are you afraid?" Seth asked, crouching down to be at eye level with her.
"You know better than that," Lily replied. "I'm not afraid of anything."
"You are afraid of the dark," he reminded her.
Lily shook her head. "No, the dark merely worries me."
"Are you worried now?" Seth asked.
Her truthful admission brought the hint of a smile to his lips. "Your mother has something to give you before she--"
Knowing what he'd been about to say, Lily bit her bottom lip.
"Are you going to cry?"
Lily shook her head, not daring to speak lest she start weeping.
"Crying will only upset her," Seth told her. "Can you be brave for her sake?"
Lily squared her shoulders, lifted her chin a notch, and nodded. "I will do anything to ease her passing."
"That's a good girl," Seth said, touching her shoulder. He stood then and opened the door for her.
Lily stepped inside. With the shutters closed, the room was dark. Mrs. MacDugal, Hortensia's mother, stood in one corner of the chamber and held the infant. Her father sat on the edge of the bed beside her mother.
"Emmett, she's here," her mother said, glancing toward where Lily stood near the door.
"Very well, Sarah," her father said, rising from his perch on the edge of the bed. He looked at Lily and said, "Sit here. Mother has been waiting for you."
Lily crossed the chamber and sat in her father's place. Tears welled up in her sapphire eyes as she looked at her mother. Hopelessness and desperation filled her until she felt that she was drowning in those emotions.
"Please don't cry," her mother said, and gave her a wan smile. "None of us really dies. Our spirits move to a better place, and our memory lingers on in the hearts of our loved ones."
Her mother's gentle tone and words conspired against Lily. Momentarily losing control, she grabbed her mother's hand and cried, "Don't leave me, Mama."
"God is calling me home," came the simple reply.
"Tell Him to wait!"
Her words brought a smile to her mother's lips. "No one can order the Almighty. Besides, I'm so very tired."
Lily studied her mother's face, consigning it to memory. Her mother did appear as if she needed a long rest. That realization made Lily feel guilty about trying to keep her mother with her. She knew it was selfish, but how could she live without seeing her mother's face or feeling her embrace? How could she get along without her mother's loving guidance?
"My only regret is not seeing you grow into womanhood," her mother said, as if she knew her daughter's thoughts. Then, "I have a gift for you."
Lily watched her mother remove the necklace she always wore, a necklace passed down to her from her own mother, and her mother before her. On a delicate gold chain hung an unusual cross of gold adorned with the Greek letters alpha and omega.
Beckoning her closer, her mother set the chain of gold over her head, and it fell into place around her neck. Almost reverently, Lily reached up to touch the cross, her mother's legacy to her.
"Alpha and omega mean the beginning and the ending," her mother told her. "That which is, which was, and which is yet to be."
"I don't understand," Lily said, puzzled by her mother's words.
Sarah Hawthorne smiled lovingly at her daughter. "You do not need to understand," she told her. "Only remember that your own true love will be the first and the last for you. Alpha and omega."
Lily fingered the cross and announced with all the confidence of youth, "That will be Bradley Howell, of course."
"I want you to name your new brother," her mother said, turning the subject away from true love. "Then I'll let you hold him."
"Today is the feast of Saint Michael," Lily said without hesitation. "He must be named Michael in honor of Michael the Archangel."
After glancing at her husband, who nodded in agreement, Sarah Hawthorne turned a somber expression on her daughter. "I need you to take my place with him. Will you do that for me?"
"I'll guard him with my life," Lily promised, proud to be chosen for such a trusted position. Raw, aching emotion caught in her voice when she added, "I'll tell him about you, Mama. I won't let him forget his mother."
"You're a good girl." She looked at Mrs. MacDugal, who gingerly placed the infant into Lily's arms, saying, "Hold his head steady."
With the baby cradled in her arms, Lily studied his face for a long moment and then looked at her mother in surprised confusion, exclaiming, "His eyes are slanted."
"Your brother is a special gift from God," her mother said, confusing her even more.
Lily looked from her mother to her brother. She failed to see anything different about him except his slightly slanted eyes. "Why is he special?" she asked.
Her mother was silent for a long moment and then answered, "Children like Michael make God smile... ."