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Authors: Katherine Bone

Tags: #Romance, #Historical

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Duke of Blendingham. Both Thomas

Sexton, the contrived character he’d

used to his benefit as a member of

Nelson’s Tea, and Percival Avery, his

birthright, came from different societal

molds. Percy had been born into a

privileged life filled with gaiety, leisure,

and fashion. Thomas had been born out

of revenge, into murder and mayhem.

Percy would not harm a hair on the

fairer sex’s head. He would not be seen

cavorting with women of low virtue.

Thomas, on the other hand, enjoyed

plucking sensual women from his

travels, taking what sexual pleasure he

found when he wanted it or it was

presented to him.

Torn between two worlds, Percy

wondered if it was a crime to want the

defenseless woman before him. A

woman who crossed the boundaries he’d

erected around his heart. A woman

sporting the power to bind the two men

he’d become into one.

Percy was tired of fighting, tired of

battling images past and present. He

drew a ragged breath. Lifting the locket

dangling from Constance’s neck, he

opened it. Drops of water trickled out of

the trinket onto her skin. Fascinated, he

watched the rivulets stream across her

flesh. She shivered in response. He

examined her face and then focused on

the image within the locket of a woman

with similar features. Perplexed, he

closed the silver casing, then eased

Constance’s body under the coverlet and

rose from the bunk.

As captain, his men now assumed

Lady Constance was his.
H i s !
An

invigorating

thought.

Blonde,

courageous, the vixen had tried to defy

incalculable odds forced upon her. Her

wit, courage, and size were perfectly

suited to him. Frink was dead. All hope

of finding Celeste’s killer, gone. Yet,

neither of them was out of danger. For

this reason, and this reason alone, his

charade had to continue until they

reached port. He had to do everything in

his power to make sure his men believed

Constance belonged to him in every

way. It was the only way to keep her

safe, from his men — Frink’s men —

from himself
.

Still, Constance’s slumbering form

drew him like a moth to a flame. He

would return her to Simon in due course.

Once in home port, the
Striker
would be

handed over to the war office and

catalogued.

His

men

would

be

dispatched to their own vices and

Thomas

Sexton

would

fade

into

obscurity until called for by Nelson’s

Tea again. But none of the particulars

held meaning now. He was physically

exhausted after not having slept a good

night’s sleep in too long a time. There

was no need to keep watch. Frink was

dead. His men would see to it that he

wasn’t disturbed.

Percy scanned the cabin for a place

to sleep. Dissatisfied by the thought of

sleeping on the floor, he shrugged out of

his wet shirt and cast off his pants,

wincing as the wet fabric brushed

against the forgotten wound at his side.

Testing his bloody flesh, he returned to

the desk and rummaged through it until

he found some bandages. He poured

brandy on the wound, untwined the

gauze, and wrapped the fabric around

his abdomen. Wincing as he stood, he

glanced back at the bunk, and then to the

floor. He was in no condition or frame

of mind to sleep on the floor. He needed

a real bed, no matter that it was already

occupied. The fact that he’d have to

share it with Simon’s niece pricked his

conscience. But the opportunity to share

his body heat with someone who could

reciprocate, especially if that person

was a beautiful female, was irresistibly

appealing.

What would Lady Constance do if

she awoke and discovered him lying

naked beside her? She already thought

him a monster, a debaser of women. He

chuckled softly. As captain, he had

rights. Rights he was more than eager to

exact if his moral compass allowed him.

Constance shivered. He slipped

under the covers and pulled her against

him. She shifted, positioning her upper

leg over his. The intimate gesture ignited

his senses, filling his loins with

undeniable fire.

Sleep would elude him — again.

CHAPTER FOUR

Percy lay awake for four torturous hours,

ever mindful of the slightly shivering

form at his side, Lady Constance, the

untouchable female that helped him

understand the error in baiting a dog.

Except, he was the dog and she was the

tempting morsel.

He lay there in the stillness

agonizing over each breath she breathed,

feather-light, tickling hairs on his chest

where her head relaxed against his skin.

The seconds felt like hours as they

ticked slowly by. Every now and again,

her fingers would flex, grazing his

stomach, shooting sparks of pleasure

from the top of his head to the tips of his

toes. Still, he lay there, unwilling to

move should the leg, draped over his

lower regions, make him all the more

eager to sample her angelical flesh. He

was hungry. Hungry for what he could

not take. Hungry for what every ounce of

his being knew he could not have. He

was not used to waking up next to a

woman or, for that matter, sleeping with

a woman of rank. As a general rule, his

dalliances had been quick, impersonal.

Here, in his arms, however, lay the

conundrum. Constance made him face

the truth. He was a man with needs and

vengeance had denied him the one thing

a man should have at his side — a good

woman.

Under Simon Danbury’s service for

nearly ten years as a member of

Nelson’s Tea, Percy could not fault his

commander for the predicament he found

himself in. Simon was an excellent

leader, well-known, especially to those

who defied the law. Under his tutelage,

he’d become a force to be reckoned

with. Indeed, he owed Simon his utmost

allegiance. And he’d shown it. For

Simon’s sake, for Lady Constance’s

sake, he’d killed Frink, severing ties that

lead him to those responsible for

Celeste’s death. Though he’d been

chastised for pursuing Frink’s benefactor

for nearly a year, he’d also been given

the authority and leave to do so. Simon

backed his mission. He trusted Percy’s

instincts even though he did not approve

of the risks Percy took to find

absolution.

Now, in this bed, within his arms,

he held the one person Simon cherished

above all others. Though he wanted to

wake her, seduce her, make her his, to

do so meant destroying Constance’s

future and fracturing Simon’s trust. But,

he was just a man. A man who’d

followed men into hell. A man who’d

mutinied and jeopardized the lives of his

men for a blonde-haired angel. Didn’t he

deserve a reward?

Constance moaned against him.

Percy glanced down at her tussled mane

and touched her golden hair. The

filaments streamed across his chest and

entwined within his fingers, foreign as

silk, reminding him that he knew nothing

at all about the lithe woman in his arms,

but her name.

Who

was

Lady

Constance

Danbury? What led her to lie about her

name? What made her think pretending

to be Admiral Duncan’s daughter would

spare her life? And what had she been

doing on board the
Oct avi a
without

protection?

The stubborn woman couldn’t even

swim. In fact, she was afraid of the sea.

What had happened to justify her

presence on board ship? What would

drive any woman to face her worst fears

head on?

“Henry,” she mumbled.

Percy tuned in to her voice. Was

Henry her lover’s name — her

husband’s name? Lieutenant Henry

Guffald had been aboard the
Octavia
.

Was she calling out for him as a woman

would a lover? Percy thought more in

depth on the subject, which somehow

rankled him, though he had no idea why.

Guffald was a good man. The lieutenant

had certainly fought long and hard in the

Octavia
’s defense. But did Henry have

other reasons for protecting her? His old

friend had certainly never given him

cause to doubt his honorable intentions

before, but even the thought of Henry

protecting Constance displeased him. He

did not want to think of the vulnerable

woman in Henry’s arms, curled against

his body like she was now, or with any

other man, especially not in the throes of

passion.

Percy closed his eyes, realizing his

mistake too late. Images of Constance in

Henry’s arms tormented him with

abandon, sending an unruly amount of

energy surging throughout his limbs.

There was no mistaking the new

sensations stirred when the woman in

question shifted positions, making him

ache for what he dared not take.

Constance fit
him
to perfection. She

was a tempting creature and Percy

wanted to believe that her innocence

wasn’t a façade, that he had every right

to claim her as his own. If he wanted to

believe his men, he’d won that right by

saving her life, by casting aside his

purpose in finding his sister’s killers to

shield her from Frink’s demonic

amusement. She was in
h i s
cabin. She

was his to do with as
he
pleased. She

was part of
his
world now.

Reality

returned

and

logic

prevailed, even as Lady Constance

moved, draping her hair across his chest

when she turned her head. She moved

her hand across his abdomen to readjust

her position and rubbed her inner thigh

against

his

groin.

Percy’s

agony

amplified. Lustful thoughts burned a

fiery hole in his mind. Guilt accused him

of being a cad for becoming aroused by

an innocent.

Another feminine moan caressed

his ears.

Lady Constance was Simon’s

niece, God save him. It took every ounce

of his will to restrain himself from

turning Constance onto her back and

simply taking what he wanted —
needed

— now.

In a perfect world, she would be

married to a notable member of the ton,

preparing to offer her virginal buffet to

an eager, rutting husband. But this was

his
world and it was an imperfect place.

She was with
him
, not a mealy mouthed

lord. She was in a pirate’s bunk on a

pirate ship, not a dandy’s bed. Though

he was a member of the peerage and

could make her a good husband, he

would never surrender his identity, cut

off his ability to chase after something

no woman would ever understand or

allow. God’s truth, he’d even hidden his

activities from his own father.

When he’d joined Nelson’s Tea,

he’d been sworn to secrecy, sworn to

uphold the King’s edict. Serve when

called, no matter the mission or the lives

left behind. The men of Nelson’s Tea

gave up the duties of first son in order to

weave their way into the underbelly of

the nation’s resistance so that Nelson’s

war would be successful at home and

abroad. No one, they’d been told, would

suspect first sons of accomplishing such

feats. No one would get in their way.

Percy had answered every call

Nelson had ever made and he’d done so

without question, until his sister’s

untimely death — until now.

“Henry,” Constance whimpered.

The fact that she called for Henry

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