Home > A Night to Surrender (Spindle Cove #1)(10)

A Night to Surrender (Spindle Cove #1)(10)
Author: Tessa Dare

“Naturally, I’m aware of that. But everyone knows the threat of French invasion has passed. They’ve had no real naval clout since Trafalgar, and Bonaparte’s forces are so depleted after that drubbing in Russia, he hasn’t the strength to invade anyone. As matters stand, it’s all he can do to hold Spain. With Wellington’s forces on the march, even that grasp is tenuous.”

The room went silent, and Bramwell frowned at her, intently. Yet another instance of Mrs. Worthington’s Wisdom proved wrong. If a woman’s intellect was in any way analogous to her undergarments, men should thrill to see it revealed. Strangely enough, Susanna had never known it to work that way.

“You know a great deal about current events,” he said.

“I am an Englishwoman with an interest in the war’s outcome. I take the trouble to inform myself.”

“If you’re so well informed, you should also know we’re at war with not only France, but America. Not to mention, the coastline is rife with privateers and smugglers of every stripe.” With a single fingertip, he drew the model toward him. “I’m astonished this Rycliff Castle has gone unsecured so long.”

“There’s nothing astonishing about it.” Reaching out, she tugged the model right back. “No one would attempt to come ashore here. As my father said, the coast has changed since the Normans invaded. The landslide formed a sort of reef. Only the smallest fishing boats can navigate it, even at high tide. Many a ship has foundered and wrecked in that cove. Not even the smugglers trouble with it.” She looked up at him, pointedly. “Nature affords us protection enough. We don’t need uniformed men. Not here.”

Their gazes locked and held. Something defensive flared in those bold green eyes, and she wondered at the thoughts crossing his mind. Not thoughts of kissing her, she’d wager.

“I’m afraid,” Sir Lewis said, chuckling, “this happens to be a disagreement of the most vexing sort.”

Susanna smiled. “The sort where the woman has the right of it?”

“No, my dear. The sort where both sides have equal merit.”

“How do you mean?”

Her father motioned toward the chairs, directing them all to sit. “Susanna, you are correct,” he said, once all were settled. “The chances of any enemy invading Spindle Cove are so small as to be infinitesimal. However—”

Suddenly, Lord Payne choked and sputtered, replacing his teacup with an abrupt crack.

“What’s the matter with you?” Bramwell asked.

“Nothing, nothing.” Payne dabbed at his spattered waistcoat. “Sir Lewis, did you say Spindle Cove?”


“This place, here. Is Spindle Cove.”

“Yes,” Susanna echoed slowly. “Why?”

“Oh, no reason.” Payne rubbed his mouth with one hand, as if massaging away a laugh. “Please, do go on.”

“As I was saying,” Sir Lewis continued, “chances of invasion are slim indeed. However, Bramwell here will tell you that a solid defense is based on the appearance of readiness, not the probability of attack. Similar points along the coast have been fortified with Martello towers, defended by local volunteer militias. Spindle Cove cannot appear to be the weak link in the chain.”

“There’s nothing weak about our village, Papa. Visitors know it to be perfectly safe. If this militia comes to pass, that reputation can only suff—”

“Susanna, dear.” Her father sighed loudly. “That’s quite enough.”

It wasn’t nearly enough. Papa, do you know what kind of man this is? she longed to argue. He’s a bomber of defenseless sheep, an enemy of flounced muslin frocks, and a kisser of unsuspecting women! A perfect beast. We can’t have him here. We can’t.

Only deep, abiding respect for her father kept her quiet.

He went on, “To be perfectly honest, there is another reason. I am the only other local gentleman, you see. This duty should have been mine. The Duke of Tunbridge is responsible for the Sussex militia, and he’s been hounding me for over a year now to provide a display of our local readiness.” His eyes fell to the carpet. “And so I have promised him one, at this year’s midsummer fair.”

“The midsummer fair? Oh, but that’s not even a month away,” Susanna said, dismayed. “And we’ve always made the fair a children’s festival. Suits of armor, crossbows. A few melons fired out to sea with the old trebuchet.”

“I know, dear. But this year, we’ll have to treat our neighbors—and the duke—to a proper military review instead.” He leaned forward, bracing his arms on his knees. “If Bramwell agrees, that is. If he doesn’t embrace the Rycliff title and take on this militia as his duty . . . the task will fall to me.”

“Papa, you can’t.” The thought alone made Susanna wilt. Her father could not be responsible for embodying a militia company. He was aging, and his heart was weak. And he was her only family. She owed him her life, in more ways than one. The prospect of welcoming this horrid Bramwell and his friends into their safe, secure community filled her with dread. But if the only alternative would endanger her father’s health, how could she argue against this militia scheme?

The answer was plain. She couldn’t.

Her father addressed the officer. “Bramwell, you’ve led entire regiments into battle. I’m asking you to train a company of four-and-twenty men. Believe me, I know full well this is like asking an African lion to serve a barn cat’s purpose. But it is a position of command, and one I’m free to offer you. And it’s only a month. If you do well with it . . . after midsummer, it could lead to something more.”

A meaningful look passed between the men, and Bramwell—now Lord Rycliff, she supposed—was silent for a long moment. Susanna held her breath. A half hour ago, she’d wished for nothing more than to see the back of this man and his party. And now, she found herself forced into a most unpleasant occupation.

Hoping he would stay.

At length, he stood, pulling on the front of his coat. “Very well, then.”

“Excellent.” Rising to his feet, Papa clapped his hands together and rubbed them briskly. “I’ll write to the duke forthwith. Susanna, you’re always fond of walking, and there’s ample time before dinner. Why don’t you show the man his castle?”

“This is the way,” Susanna said, leading the men off the dirt lane and onto an ancient road grown over with grass.

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Sinclairs series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
» Fixed series
Most Popular
» A Thousand Letters
» Wasted Words
» My Not So Perfect Life
» Caraval (Caraval #1)
» The Sun Is Also a Star
» Everything, Everything
» Devil in Spring (The Ravenels #3)
» Marrying Winterborne (The Ravenels #2)
» Cold-Hearted Rake (The Ravenels #1)
» Norse Mythology