Home > A Night to Surrender (Spindle Cove #1)(12)

A Night to Surrender (Spindle Cove #1)(12)
Author: Tessa Dare

She gasped. “You are a beast.”

“Just a man, Miss Finch. Just a man.”


Bram told himself he was looking out for Miss Finch’s safety as he watched her picking her way down the rocky slope. He told himself a lie. In truth, he was utterly entranced by her figure in retreat, the way her curves gave a saucy little bounce with each downward step.

He would dream of those br**sts tonight. How they’d felt trapped beneath him, so soft and warm.

Blast. This day had not gone as planned. By this time, he was supposed to be well on his way to the Brighton Barracks, preparing to leave for Portugal and rejoin the war. Instead, he was . . . an earl, suddenly. Stuck at this ruined castle, having pledged to undertake the military equivalent of teaching nursery school. And to make it all worse, he was plagued with lust for a woman he couldn’t have. Couldn’t even touch, if he ever wanted his command back.

As if he sensed Bram’s predicament, Colin started to laugh.

“What’s so amusing?”

“Only that you’ve been played for a greater fool than you realize. Didn’t you hear them earlier? This is Spindle Cove, Bram. Spindle. Cove.”

“You keep saying that like I should know the name. I don’t.”

“You really must get around to the clubs. Allow me to enlighten you. Spindle Cove—or Spinster Cove, as we call it—is a seaside holiday village. Good families send their fragile-flower daughters here for the restorative sea air. Or whenever they don’t know what else to do with them. My friend Carstairs sent his sister here last summer, when she grew too fond of the stable boy.”

“And so . . . ?”

“And so, your little militia plan? Doomed before it even starts. Families send their daughters and wards here because it’s safe. It’s safe because there are no men. That’s why they call it Spinster Cove.”

“There have to be men. There’s no such thing as a village with no men.”

“Well, there may be a few servants and tradesmen. An odd soul or two down there with a shriveled twig and a couple of currants dangling between his legs. But there aren’t any real men. Carstairs told us all about it. He couldn’t believe what he found when he came to fetch his sister. The women here are man-eaters.”

Bram was scarcely paying attention. He focused his gaze to catch the last glimpses of Miss Finch as her figure receded into the distance. She was like a sunset all to herself, her molten bronze hair aglow as she sank beneath the bluff’s horizon. Fiery. Brilliant. When she disappeared, he felt instantly cooler.

And then, only then, did he turn to his yammering cousin. “What were you saying?”

“We have to get out of here, Bram. Before they take our bollocks and use them for pincushions.”

Bram made his way to the nearest wall and propped one shoulder against it, resting his knee. Damn, that climb had been steep. “Let me understand this,” he said, discreetly rubbing his aching thigh under the guise of brushing off loose dirt. “You’re suggesting we leave because the village is full of spinsters? Since when do you complain about an excess of women?”

“These are not your normal spinsters. They’re . . . they’re unbiddable. And excessively educated.”

“Oh. Frightening, indeed. I’ll stand my ground when facing a French cavalry charge, but an educated spinster is something different entirely.”

“You mock me now. Just you wait. You’ll see, these women are a breed unto themselves.”

“The women aren’t my concern.”

Save for one woman, and she didn’t live in the village. She lived at Summerfield, and she was Sir Lewis Finch’s daughter, and she was absolutely off limits—no matter how he suspected Miss Finch would become Miss Vixen in bed.

Colin could make all the disparaging remarks he wished about bluestockings. Bram knew clever women always made the best lovers. He especially appreciated a woman who knew something of the world beyond fashion and the theater. For him, listening to Miss Finch expound on the weakened state of Napoleon’s army had been like listening to a courtesan read aloud from her pillow book. Arousing beyond measure. And then he’d made the idiotic—though inevitable—mistake of picturing her naked. All that luminous hair and milky skin, tumbled on crisp white sheets . . .

To disrupt the erotic chain of thought, he pressed hard against the knotted muscle in his thigh. Pain sliced through the lingering haze of desire.

He pulled the flask from his breast pocket and downed a bracing swallow of whiskey. “The women aren’t my concern,” he repeated. “I’m here to train the local men. And there are men here, somewhere. Fishermen, farmers, tradesmen, servants. If what you say is correct, and they’re outnumbered by managing females . . . Well, then they’ll be eager for a chance to flex their muscles, prove themselves.” Just as he was.

Bram walked to the gateway and was relieved to see the wagons approaching. He couldn’t remain lost in lustful thoughts when there was work to be done. Pitching tents, watering and feeding the horses, building a fire.

After one last sip, he recapped his flask and jammed it in his pocket. “Let’s have a proper look at this place before the dark settles in.”

They began in the center and worked their way out. Of course, the current center wasn’t truly the center, since half the castle had fallen into the sea.

Turning back toward the north, Bram now recognized the arch they’d entered through as the original gatehouse. Walls spread out from the structure on either side. Even in spots where the walls had crumbled, one could easily trace the places where they’d stood. Here in the bailey area, low, moss-covered ridges served to mark interior walls and corridors. To the southern, waterfront side, a four-leafed clover of round turrets hugged the bluff, connected by sheer, windowless stretches of stone.

“This must have been the keep,” he mused, walking through the arched entryway to stand in the center of the four soaring towers.

Colin stepped inside one of the dark, hollow turrets. “The staircases are intact, being stone. But, of course, the wooden floors are long gone.” He tilted his head, peering toward the dark corners overhead. “Impressive collection of cobwebs. Are those swallows I hear chirping?”

“Those?” Bram listened. “Those would be bats.”

“Right. Bats. So this inches-deep muck I’m standing in would be . . . Brilliant.” He stomped back into the courtyard, wiping his boots on the mossy turf. “Lovely place you have here, cousin.”

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