A proper English wife, or the freedom of the sea?Lord James Gresham is the fifth son of the Duke of Langford, a captain in the Royal Navy, and at a loss for what to do next. He’s made his fortune; perhaps now he should find a proper wife and set up his nursery. But the sea calls to him, while his search for a wife leaves him uninspired. And then, a dark beauty with a heart for revenge is swept into his life.He can’t have both, but he won’t give up eitherHalf-English, half-Polynesian Kawena Benson is out to avenge her father and reclaim a cache of stolen jewels. There’s nothing for James to do but protest his innocence and help Kawena search for the jewels, even though it turns his world upside down.
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James had just started his letter to Nathaniel when there was a knock at the door. “Come in,” he called without looking up.
He heard the door open, and a lilting voice say, “Hello.”
James turned in his chair. Kawena stepped through his bedchamber door, shut it, walked over, and sat down in the armchair by the empty fireplace. “I wanted to thank you,” she began.
“You can’t sit here,” James said.
She looked down at the comfortable chair, back up at him. “Why not?”
“This is my bedroom.” The moment he said it, he became acutely conscious of the bed just a few feet away.
“I know. I came up to thank—”
“It isn’t proper,” he blurted out.
“But you are taking some trouble to help me. When you don’t really wish to. I can see that, you know. It is only right that I thank—”
“Not that. You shouldn’t be in a man’s bedchamber. Alone. With him. Me.” He heard himself stammering like a callow youth, and was revolted. She was just so very beautiful. Utterly alluring, really. The effect seemed multiplied here in his private quarters. And she appeared so at ease—as if they knew each other far better than they actually did. James could almost imagine her coming over to him, offering a hand to pull him to his feet, and closer… No, this line of thought was unacceptable. He stood and moved toward the door instead. “It isn’t done,” he added. “Young ladies do not visit gentlemen in their bedchambers.” Well, some did, if what he’d heard about country house parties was true, but that was…irrelevant to this discussion.
“We must speak only downstairs?” wondered Kawena. “Is that an English rule?”
Her honest bewilderment was rather charming. “If a man and a woman are alone in a bedchamber, people assume they’re…up to something improper,” James explained.
“Getting into bed together, you mean?” Kawena replied without a trace of embarrassment. She gazed at the wide four-poster as if it was on exhibit.
James felt his cheeks redden. Years at sea might have left him unused to polite female company, but even his brother, Robert, the town beau, would have been confounded by this quite unusual young woman. “Er, yes.”
“But we are not.”
“No… Not in this case. However—”
“And no people know that I’m here,” she pointed out. “I told no one I was coming up.”
“You can never tell when there’s a servant about,” James replied. The staff at Langford always seemed well aware of everyone’s movements.
“Do they hide and watch?” said Kawena, looking surprised.
James choked back a laugh, and then wondered if maybe they did. How else would that housemaid have seen Sebastian with the frogs…? But that was beside the point. He needed to remove a lovely young woman from his bedchamber—didn’t he? Yes, yes. And wasn’t that a problem he’d never imagined having? When had it become his job to preach the proprieties? He felt like a fool even trying. But if she didn’t go soon, he might not be able to resist… James decided to shift the onus off onto someone else. “This is my brother’s house. I wouldn’t wish to upset him, or his wife.”
Kawena cocked her head. “Your brother and Ariel would not approve of my being here?”
James assumed so. No, of course they wouldn’t. And that was beside the point. He nodded.
To his relief, Kawena rose at once. “I would not wish to offend them. They have been very kind to me.” She shrugged as she moved toward the door. “My father always says…” She paused, swallowed. “Said that it is rude to disregard others’ customs when it does you no harm to observe them.”
“Pr…precisely.” She passed quite close to him on her way out. Her long fall of black hair swayed seductively with each step. Was he really throwing her out of his room? Her initial words came floating back. She’d come up to thank him. Perhaps with something warmer than words? Some marvelous island custom? No. She hadn’t meant that. Clearly, obviously. No sign whatsoever of any such thing, despite her unembarrassed mention of bedding. Besides, it would be an awkward complication, as they were living together in his brother’s house. Not together. As fellow guests. Strangers, in fact.
“Good night,” said Kawena.
“Good night,” James replied, shutting the door firmly behind her.
He leaned against it, listening to her soft footsteps retreat along the corridor. Perhaps helping her wasn’t quite such a burden. It would give him a chance to become better acquainted with one of the loveliest, and most unusual, girls he’d ever encountered. Her courage and fire drew him—now that she’d stopped calling him names. How many women, how many people, would have done as she had, sailing halfway around the world to find justice? Very few, hardly any, really, he thought. She’d looked positively intrepid, stepping out of the shrubbery with her gun. And under his hands, on the turf, she’d felt… James fell into a pleasant reverie. It was some time before he returned to his letter.
Jane Ashford discovered Georgette Heyer in junior high school and was captivated by the glittering world and witty language of Regency England. That delight was part of what led her to study English literature and travel widely in Britain and Europe. She has written historical and contemporary romances, and her books have been published in Sweden, Italy, England, Denmark, France, Russia, Latvia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Spain, as well as the U.S. Jane has been nominated for a Career Achievement Award by RT Book Reviews.
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