Authors: June Francis
Tags: #Romance, #General, #Historical, #Fiction
‘God grant you your wish,’ said Rosamund, glancing up at her husband with a question in her eyes.
Alex knew what she was asking of him, but decided that the hour was too late to discuss the matter now. He dragged her up from the settle. ‘Let us go to bed. You have been through a frightening time and need your rest.’
Bridget also rose. ‘Thank you for your kindness in listening to me. I would also like to go to bed now.’
‘I’ll have a servant show you up,’ said Rosamund. ‘I would do so myself, but I do not know where all the rooms are here.’
Bridget smiled. ‘It is of no importance. God grant you a good night’s sleep.’
When Alex and Rosamund reached their bedchamber, he drew her towards him. After the shock of nearly losing her, he wanted her in his arms again. He had not expected that in such a short space of time she would have become so vitally important to his well-being. He kissed her with mounting ardour and she responded with an eagerness that inflamed his senses. He tore at her clothes with impatient fingers and in no time at all she was naked. Only then did he pause to look with blazing eyes at the smooth contours of her body, the skin of which appeared molten gold in the firelight.
‘You are beautiful,’ he breathed.
‘Am I?’ Her voice was just a husky thread.
‘Are you? You still need to ask me that? My God, Rosamund. Accept my word, for I speak the truth,’ he said fiercely. ‘I could not bear to lose you.’
Alex began to unfasten his shirt and then suddenly she was on her knees on the bed up close to him. She brushed aside his hands and took over the task. She eased off his shirt and together they removed his woollen vest. She could feel his stomach quivering as she touched the hard muscles. But she hesitated when her hand rested a moment on the fastenings of his hose.
‘Too much, too soon, to expect you to—touch me—there,’ he croaked.
She lifted her gaze and stared into his face and such a desire to please him welled up inside her. ‘You saved me from Edward’s foul attentions. If it would give you pleasure, my husband, may I continue?’
‘Aye to both questions, wife,’ he answered in a throaty whisper.
She seized his face between her hands and kissed him hard. Then she unfastened his hose and peeled them down the long corded muscles of his shanks and calves and dropped them beside his shirt. It would have been impossible for her to ignore his manhood, but she only had enough courage to touch it once lightly with a fingertip. That was enough for Alex. He flung her on the bed and kissed every delicious curve and sensitive spot of her body before taking her in a storm of passion. Afterwards Rosamund lay in a relaxed state curled up against her husband’s back and almost immediately she fell asleep.
When they woke it was morning and they could hear the patter of rain on the window. Alex got up and drew the curtain and looked outside. It was a dreary day. He smiled at Rosamund. ‘Shall we go back to bed?’
Rosamund held out her arms and he went into them.
Later, whilst they were having breakfast with her godmother and Bridget, they told Lady Elizabeth all that had taken place yesterday. Alex also returned to her the iron box that they had found on the barge. It might not have contained her most expensive jewellery, but there were still many items of value in it. She was delighted to see it and immediately decided to send for her lawyer.
‘No doubt you will need a man of good sense to deal with your stepmother’s lawyer,’ said Elizabeth. ‘Now your stepbrothers are dead, Rosamund, and we have some notion of Harry’s whereabouts, then matters can be put into motion to see that the business and property they claimed illegally is made over to him.’
Alex agreed, but added, ‘Harry has yet to be found and so preparations must be made for a couple of ships to make the journey to Ilha da Madeira to discover if
is still there. It would make sense to talk some more with the mariner who gave the information to Bridget.’
Bridget leaned forward across the table. ‘I beseech you, Baron, that you will allow me to travel on one of these ships?’
Alex said seriously, ‘I will give your request much consideration, Mistress McDonald. It will take a little while before they can be made ready for such a long voyage.
Besides, it would be best to wait until the storms of winter are over before setting sail.’
‘But what if Black Harry’s ship was to leave Ilha da Madeira before then?’ cried Bridget.
Alex said, ‘Harry is too good a sailor to risk setting out in such inclement weather, although it is possible that he might set sail for Sweden or England as my ships head in the opposite direction. It makes sense to wait at least until April to see if he returns. If he does not do so, then my ships will set sail at the beginning of May. God willing they reach their destination—if it is discovered that
had already departed before they arrived there, then surely someone on that island will know Harry’s destination.’
‘It seems a long time to wait,’ said Bridget, frowning.
‘I know,’ said Alex, ‘but it is just as difficult for Rosamund to contain her impatience. Even so, you must both do so.’
Rosamund said, ‘What Alex says is true, Bridget.’
‘In the meantime you must stay here, Mistress McDonald,’ said Lady Elizabeth.
Bridget’s relief was apparent. ‘That is kind of you, Lady Elizabeth. I admit to not having come to a decision about what I was to do before setting sail. Thank you.’ She turned to Alex. ‘What will happen to my uncle and Lady Monica?’
‘They will be brought to trial for treason and attempted murder,’ he said.
‘As is just,’ she murmured.
‘What of Bude and Ingrid?’ asked Rosamund. ‘I presume you had them followed, Alex?’
He nodded. ‘Aye. I am now of the opinion that they will either take refuge at Bude’s place in the country if they
decide to stay together, or, if they decide to separate, then it is possible that Ingrid will seek sanctuary at Syon House and Bude might go north of the border.’ He rose to his feet. ‘In the meantime, if you will excuse my wife and me, Lady Elizabeth…’ he inclined his leonine head in her direction ‘…Mistress McDonald, there are matters we need to discuss,’ he said.
‘Of course, of course,’ said Lady Elizabeth. ‘There is still much I would hear from Mistress McDonald about her father and I would know why Harry is called
‘I have no idea,’ sighed Bridget. ‘It would be interesting to have that explained.’
Alex tugged on Rosamund’s hand. ‘Come, let us go,’ he said in a low voice.
She went with him. ‘Are we to speak of lawyers, business and property for Harry’s sake?’ she teased.
He smiled. ‘Hopefully Edward has not bled the company dry, but I am certain we will be able to turn it around again if that is so. But rather what is on my mind is that I need to visit my father and report to him my findings at the Palace of Richmond.’
‘May I come with you?’
‘I was not planning on going without you. I would like your opinion of my father.’
‘One of the Earls of Douglas, is he?’ she asked, raising an eyebrow.
Alex smiled. ‘I said you were clever.’
She chuckled. ‘Perhaps he’ll give you the opportunity to get to know him better this time. What do you think about us living in your Scottish house until Harry reappears?’
‘I am glad you can speak so positively of Harry’s return. If it would make you happy then of course we will spend some time in the Scottish house. My father did tell me that he and my mother spent many happy hours there.’
‘Perhaps you will find a sense of your mother’s presence in that place,’ said Rosamund.
‘That thought never occurred to me.’ He sounded surprised.
‘Then think of it now,’ said Rosamund.
He drew her towards him. ‘I will. Perhaps my father will fill in the gaps of my knowledge of her that my grandparents couldn’t.’
They were comfortably silent for a while. Then he said, ‘How long ago it seems since we met.’
‘Yet it is less than a month ago,’ she murmured, raising her head and gazing at him. ‘This time when we set out on our travels I will not run away from you.’
His eyes twinkled. ‘I would only bring you back if you did. I am never going to let you go now you are mine. I love you, Rosamund.’
Rosamund was extremely glad to hear those words. ‘And I love you.’
They kissed, and for a while there was naught else in their heads but the desire to show the other just how much they loved. Their lives had changed so much within this past month and now they had a future together. Yet, although Alex had completed the task that his father had asked of him and he had found the love of his life, he had not completed his self-appointed task of finding Harry.
As if his wife could read his thoughts, Rosamund
suddenly said, ‘Harry must be found. I want him to feel as loved as we both do.’
‘Aye,’ said Alex, remembering that Harry had sailed away in the belief that he was leaving the way open for Alex to be happy. He had achieved what he had set out to do, but not in the way he had intended. Still, if it had not been for Harry’s noble gesture, Alex would never have gone in search of him and found Rosamund. He felt a surge of happiness, but mingling with that emotion was the longing to see his dearest friend. There was so much he had to tell him and he determined to waste no time setting in motion all that was needed to find him.
re you sure about this, Godmother?’ asked Rosamund worriedly for the umpteenth time.
‘As sure as one can be of anything in life, my dear,’ wheezed Lady Elizabeth, tying a scarf over her hat so the sea breezes would not carry it away. ‘Sea air is supposed to be good for one and Bridget must have a chaperon. I know the Baron has decided Joshua Wood is the right man to act as her protector on the journey and he has supplied her with a maid, but Bridget needs a woman of sense to prevent her from behaving in an unseemly fashion. You never heard some of the tales she told me when she sailed with her father.’ The old lady rolled her eyes. ‘He sounds an exciting rogue and I have rediscovered my taste for travel.’
Rosamund could not help but laugh. ‘All right! I accept that you have made the right decision. I only wish that Alex and I were going with you.’
Lady Elizabeth placed a hand on her goddaughter’s belly. ‘My dear, I expect you to take care of this proxy grandchild of mine and the Baron to take care of you.
Hopefully by the time I return you will have been delivered safely and I can take him or her in my arms and my cup of happiness will runneth over.’
‘I pray that it will be as you say.’ Rosamund kissed the old woman warmly and determined to hold her tears at bay.
At that moment, Alex and Bridget approached. ‘It is time to go, Rosamund, or the Master will miss the tide.’
Rosamund faced Bridget and thought that young woman looked both excited and scared. Impulsively Rosamund placed her arms about her and gave her a hug. Then she stepped back and her violet-blue eyes shone with tears. ‘May our Lord and Saviour, His Holy Mother and all the saints be with you on this journey. I pray that your search will be successful and that you all will come home safely.’ Her voice broke and her hand searched blindly for that of her husband’s.
Alex gripped it tightly; although there was part of him that wanted the thrill of adventuring at sea and continuing the search for Harry, himself, the greater part of him knew that he belonged at Rosamund’s side, that her safety and well-being and that of their child was the more important. He had entrusted the task of finding Harry to Bridget, Joshua and Lady Elizabeth and now he must trust them to succeed.
His arm went about his wife’s shoulders and he assisted her down the gangplank. Then they both stood on the quayside, watching and waving until they could no longer see their friends clearly; only then did they both turn and, arm in arm, walk away.
HIS RUNAWAY MAIDEN
Copyright © 2009 by June Francis
First North American Publication 2009
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher, Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
This edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
and TM are trademarks of the publisher. Trademarks indicated with
are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the Canadian Trade Marks Office and in other countries.