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THE TRAITOR’S DAUGHTER
A Signet Regency Romance
An InterMix Book / published by arrangement with the author
Signet edition / September 2001
InterMix eBook edition / February 2012
Copyright © 2001 by Elizabeth Peterson.
The Reluctant Rogue
copyright © by Elizabeth Peterson.
All rights reserved.
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SIGNET LOGO REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA
who showed me the way
The actual commander at the Battle of Lissa (1811) was Captain
Sir William Hoste, one of Nelson’s favorite protégés and a brilliant commander in his own right.
Unlike Captain Everly, Hoste did not receive his well-deserved baronetcy until after the battle of Cattaro (modern Kotor) in 1814.
he rising wind carried with it the tolling of church bells. Every peal reverberated through Miss Amanda Tremayne like the dull thud of cannon fire. Half past ten—Harry was late.
The young woman stood on the shore of the Serpentine, oblivious to the curious stares of passersby, her eyes as glassy as the lake’s surface. What if Harry had not gotten her note in time? What if his shipboard duties had delayed him? What if she had to do this without him?
The dank breeze lifted the hem of her cloak and chilled her; she wrapped her arms around herself and gazed up at the oppressive clouds scudding overhead. A storm was brewing, no doubt about that. Children pulled their toy boats from the water with obvious reluctance while their nannies hovered nearby. Equestrians turned their mounts for home. Coachmen pulled up the hoods of fashionable barouches to protect their occupants from the weather. Amanda grimaced and stamped her feet against the cold. Where was he? She couldn’t wait much longer; she needed to get back. Heaven knew she was in enough trouble with her employer as it was.
Her eyes scanned the expanse of park around her with growing agitation, but nowhere did she spot Harry’s tall, lanky form. Another gust knifed through her cloak and beneath her serviceable linsey-woolsey dress. Gooseflesh rose on her skin. She turned her back to the wind. If she were a ship, she would have lowered her sails and sought
safe harbor long ago. Her face was cold, and so were her hands and feet. Enough was enough.
“Blast you, Henry Augustus Morgan,” she muttered through chattering teeth. “You promised. I should keelhaul you.”
“Amanda?” The wind bore words with it. “Amanda, that had better be you. By God, why did you want to met me out-of-doors in weather like this? Have you gone completely around the bend?”
Amanda whirled to meet the source of the voice.
Lieutenant Harry Morgan approached her with long-legged strides, his tall fore-and-aft bicorne worn low on his forehead, his heavy officer’s cloak pulled closely around him. Months at sea had gilded his auburn hair and lined his face, but the most prominent lines this morning came from his downturned mouth and furrowed brow. Amanda would swear he was angry with her for meeting him out in inclement weather. Even after years at sea, Harry was still Harry—ever since childhood, he had blamed her for getting him into scrapes that were as much his fault as hers. Her own temper flared.
“If you’d been on time, I would not have stood here for the past half hour and risked getting pneumonia,” she snapped. “And if I weren’t freezing already, I vow I would box your ears. I told you the matter was urgent!”
The young officer seemed taken aback by her vehemence. “I’m sorry, Amanda—Captain Bennett was delayed at the Admiralty, and I couldn’t just brush and lope without his permission.” He squinted up at the roiling sky. “We’re in for a good blow any minute. We should get under cover.”
The church bells tolled the three-quarter hour. Amanda shook her head. “There’s no time, Harry. I’m supposed to be on an errand, and I’m late as it is. Please, just hear me out.” Her control slipped, and desperation tinged her words.
Harry’s honest hazel eyes widened. “Your grandmother has not taken ill?”
“No, Grandmama is fine. Harry, when I saw you last
you promised you would do anything in your power to help me. Did you mean that?”
“Of course I did.” Affronted pride warred with suspicion on Harry’s tanned face. “What is it, Amanda? I know that look—you’re up to something.”
Amanda bit her lip. Harry knew her well enough that he might see through her fabrication. No time to worry about that now. She took a deep breath and plunged ahead. “I need you to take me to Admiral Locke’s ball tomorrow night.”
The young lieutenant’s expression evolved from concern to confusion to consternation in quick succession. His brows arched skyward, and his eyes widened until the pupils were mere pinpricks in a sea of startled green and gold.
“You want me to what?” He drew away from her. “Is this a joke, Amanda? If it is, it’s in very poor taste.”
She glared at him, her jaw set at a stubborn angle. “This is no laughing matter. I need to get to that party, Harry. I will go alone if I must.”
A gust of wind tried to unseat Harry’s bicorne. He slapped it back onto his head, then steered Amanda beneath the sheltering branches of a nearby oak. “That’s a little better. Now, care to tell me why is this party so important to you?”
“I need to speak with the First Lord.” She cringed inwardly, hating herself for the lie.
Doubt creased Harry’s forehead. “At a party? Why not just go to the Admiralty?”
“I’ve tried several times, but they won’t let me into the building anymore. The guards at the door have standing orders to deny me entrance.” This much was the truth. The memory resurfaced without warning, and tears of shame threatened the corners of Amanda’s eyes. The red-coated marines had been apologetic but unrelenting when they escorted her out into the street. The hateful words of the sneering, self-important prig of a clerk who’d issued the command still echoed in her ears.
“I say,” Harry protested. “They can’t treat you like that—you’re a lady.”
Amanda made a little moue. “You forget that they don’t consider me a lady. Since I can’t get into the Admiralty, and I can’t very well call on Lord Hardwicke at his home, this is my only option. The article in the
said the ball is to be a huge affair, and that many navy officers were invited. He is bound to be there. And I will certainly have more credibility if I’m with you.”
“What about Admiral Locke? He was your father’s commanding officer. Are you not worried that he might recognize you?”
She shook her head. “Admiral Locke has never met me. He won’t know who I am, especially if I attend under an assumed name.”
“To what end, Amanda?” Harry’s tone was gentle. He took her gloved hand in his and squeezed it. “Your grandmother would never approve. This is foolish. Just let it go.”
The young woman pulled away, her shoulders hunched. “I can’t let it go—you know that. I will never accept what happened. And whether Grandmama approves or not, I am determined. I have to discover the truth.”
Harry sighed. “What you’re suggesting is dangerous, Amanda. Admiral Locke is one of London’s most celebrated heroes; the cream of London society will be there. You can’t think to accost the First Lord of the Admiralty at this party—you’ll make a complete cake of yourself.”
“I realize that, you nodcock.” She frowned up at her friend. To hear Locke called a hero turned her stomach, but she could not reveal her purpose—not yet. “I promise to be discreet. I just want to ask him to reopen the investigation. Will you help me?”
Harry rolled his eyes with a hint of growing impatience. “Amanda, you have all the discretion of a first-rater firing a full broadside.”