Read Passionate Pursuit Online
Authors: Tina Donahue
Is their passion strong enough to break her chains?
Andalucía Spain, 1489: Innocent Beatriz is desperate to escape the threat of a miserable marriage to a cruel Marquis. Forced into the betrothal by her ruthless merchant papá, her only hope is to conceal her identity and become a servant in a nearby castle—a life drastically different from her comfortable upbringing.
Tomás doesn’t know what to make of his well-spoken new servant girl. Her beauty and charm captivates the military hero; her mysterious nature intrigues him. And the desire she ignites burns brighter with each glance, as does his longing to claim her for his own.
Beatriz can’t resist Tomás’ passion nor deny the heat of her own. But neither the lush countryside nor the walls of the opulent Moorish castle can entirely protect her—and if he were to discover her secret, she could be torn away from him forever. Yet how can she sustain his love if she’s living a lie?
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Dangerous Desires Series
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Copyright © 2016 by Tina Donahue
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First Electronic Edition: August 2016
First Print Edition: August 2016
To the wonderful authors at Sweet ‘n Sexy Divas.
The moment I was old enough to realize there was a difference between males and females, I’ve been an avowed feminist. As I was growing up, my most frequent question to my parents was – “How come he gets to do that and I can’t?” I was speaking of my older brother.
Researching women’s lives in fifteenth century Spain was a revelation. Although women of that period had few rights, many amazing ladies challenged authority and changed the world. Beatriz’s story shows how spirited a woman can be in the most adverse situations. Tomás proves that a real man wants a strong woman who can stand beside him.
To Penny Barber for her wise and always accurate suggestions.
The castle of Tomás de Zayas
The siege had begun. Not from bloodthirsty Moors. Oh, no. Tomás de Zayas would have welcomed such a prospect. He’d fought Spain’s enemies with ruthless determination during his service to the Crown. Those battles were frequently grisly, but the conflicts had always ended. What he’d face in the coming hours however…
Two carriages approached his estate. The first of many, less than half a league apart, wheels kicking up dust clouds within the heavily vegetated land. Inside each conveyance was a scheming mamá and daughter with naught but marriage on their minds with him the unwilling suitor.
His gut churned. He refused to budge from the parapet until dragged away.
If only he could fly from his castle as jackdaws were doing, their wings outstretched on the mild breeze, sweet scents beckoning. Several birds dipped to spring flowers and lush vegetation shaded from the heavy sun. He longed to ride past the scene, laughing, loving…with the right woman.
The dark-haired beauty he craved was hopelessly out of reach.
He gripped the stone, despising circumstances, dreading the arriving females.
He’d held them off for months, declining invitations to countless gatherings. The mamás had persisted with endless requests to visit his estate, claiming they and their daughters wanted to see how he was doing after his brush with death.
He was hearty as ever and wanted to enjoy life again, though not with them. The woman he desired was already here.
Heat, unbidden and insistent, rushed through him.
“Here you are,” Nuncio said.
Just what he didn’t need. His manservant. An ancient fellow who’d been with the de Zayas family well before Tomás’s birth. Despite Nuncio’s sixty years, the man held himself as erect as a Spanish knight. While his bearing and white hair gave him a courtly appearance, his casual manner was more intrusive uncle than groveling servant.
Nuncio arched a bushy white eyebrow at Tomás’s goblet.
Gleefully, he finished his wine, wanting more to fortify himself against the coming hours.
Clattering horse hooves and wheels quieted.
The first carriage had arrived. Mother and daughter left their conveyance, chattering endlessly. Their voices rang with excitement. Their silly giggles grated.
According to his brother, Enrique, and sister-in-law, Sancha, this was Tomás’s proper future, with someone from his own world. His wayward passion for a woman not of his station couldn’t amount to anything, ever, except trouble and heartache.
He slumped against the railing.
“Are you planning to throw yourself off?” Nuncio sighed tiredly. “Should I be alarmed?”
He would be when Tomás tossed him off the side. “You should do your duty and see to my desires.” He held out his goblet. “I need more wine.”
Nuncio remained planted to the spot, wrinkled hands folded in front, striking a lord of the manor pose. “Your guests might believe otherwise.”
The carriage and footmen were off to the side, the women nowhere in sight. Presumably, mother and daughter were within the castle, waiting for what they believed would be a private visit with him.
He offered a pleased smile. “As they have no regard for my feelings, I hardly care what they think. If you remember, I politely declined their requests to come here, until you hounded me about my indifference to their marriage plans with me as their grudging victim. Now, I have a chance to tell the mamás I have no intention of wedding any of their daughters.”
“By gathering all of them here at the same time.”
“Some might say reckless, considering their families are your political allies, though they may not be after today.”
Tomás waved away Nuncio’s comment. “Better to get this over with at one time rather than dragging the matter out through countless visits. Besides, my public declaration will keep gossip to a minimum. None of the women will be able to say I rejected any señorita because of her shrill laugh, slow wit, poor shape, or dull converse. They were all equally lacking.”
Nuncio looked heavenward. He might have even started to pray.
Tomás gritted his teeth. “Equally lacking in my desire for them. Never fear, I shall be unfailingly polite and let each lady know how wonderful she is. More beautiful than stars sparkling in the night sky, more promising than the hint of spring after a brutal winter, more—”
“Forgive me for interrupting, but one would hope they would still be listening at that point.” He squared his narrow shoulders. “Cook prepared a feast for your guests. If any of them have an appetite after your pretty speech, I propose we hide the knives. For your safety, of course.”
“I can take care of myself. And I refuse to settle for less than what Enrique and Fernando have.”
“You mean the families they started.”
Not entirely. However, Isabella had given birth to her and Fernando’s first child, a daughter. They named her Juana after Isabella’s late mother. Sancha hadn’t yet delivered. Given what Enrique had repeatedly said, he didn’t care whether she bore him a son or a daughter. He simply wanted her and the child’s health and happiness.
Nuncio cleared his throat delicately. “If I may be so bold…”
“You will be, anyway. Get on with it.”
“Very well. If you seek children, I advise you wed first as your brothers had.”
“They fought for the women they wanted. Neither let convention get in his way.”
“Your brothers wed women from their own backgrounds.”
“They fell in love with them first and overcame numerous obstacles to be at their sides even though none were originally meant to be together. Have you forgotten Fernando’s betrothal to Sancha was long before she married Enrique instead? What about Isabella pretending to be Sancha and wedding Fernando before he knew the difference between the two sisters? Despite such chaos, all are blissfully happy now.”
“Miracles do happen, though in your case you best not hope for one.”
Tomás shoved his hair back from where the wind had blown it. “As the youngest son, who I end up with, or if I end up with anyone, is of no consequence. Enrique inherits everything from Papá. Building upon the family dynasty is his duty. I can do as I please.”
Nuncio looked off into the distance, his expression suddenly a mask, though the lines in his face seemed to have deepened. “Is this about Beatriz?”
Tomás’s heart slammed into his chest. Lightheaded, he gripped the stone for support and pretended to drink from his empty goblet, since he was unable and unwilling to answer. Above, a jackdaw cried out. Below, wheels rattled against stone, announcing more guests. Three carriages drew near.
He wanted to run. His legs were too leaden to work properly. “Where is she?”
Nuncio shook his head.
Frustration oiled Tomás’s limbs, allowing him movement. Fist clenched, he approached, prepared to thrash Nuncio to get an answer.
He stood his ground and kept his tongue.
Tomás crowded him further. “Answer me. Where is she?”
“Seeing to her tasks as the other servants are doing.”
And would most likely finish her work before Nuncio offered anything more than he had. “Inform my guests I shall be delayed slightly.”
“You plan to clean up a bit? Excellent. I suggest your dark green robe and doublet. The blue you have on hardly does you justice. As to your hose, one in peach, the other in white will work far better than the striped ones you chose. You should also have a shave.”
Tomás slapped his goblet into Nuncio’s palm and hurried down the steps, his shoes ringing on the stone. On the next level, he rushed through the castle once owned by a Moor, the same as Fernando’s castle had been. Their service to the Crown had won them the reconquered estates. Although Tomás’s new home was far smaller than Fernando’s and certainly Enrique’s, he still had to search numerous halls and countless rooms for Beatriz.