Home > A Night to Surrender (Spindle Cove #1)(7)

A Night to Surrender (Spindle Cove #1)(7)
Author: Tessa Dare

He couldn’t be faulted for not making the connection. Save for the blue eyes they shared, she could not have been more different from her father. Miss Finch was slender and remarkably tall for a woman. By contrast, Sir Lewis was thick in the middle and short of stature. His few remaining wisps of silver hair would scarcely brush Bram’s epaulet.

“Be seated,” the man urged.

Bram tried not to betray much visible relief as he sank into a studded leather chair. When Sir Lewis handed him a drink, he rationed the whiskey in small, self-medicating sips.

As he drank, he studied his surroundings. The library was unlike any gentleman’s library he’d ever seen. Naturally, there was a desk. A few chairs. Books, of course. Whole walls of them, populating several floor-to-ceiling mahogany bookshelves. The shelves themselves were separated by plaster columns with Egyptian motifs. Some resembled stalks of papyrus. Others were carved into the shape of pharaohs and queens. And to one side of the room, occupying most of the open space, sat an enormous coffin of solid, cream-colored stone. Its surface was etched, inside and out, with row upon row of tiny symbols.

“Is that marble?” he asked.

“Alabaster. It’s a sarcophagus, from the tomb of King . . .” Sir Lewis ruffled his hair. “I forget his name at the moment. I have it somewhere.”

“And the inscriptions?”

“Hexes on the outside. On the interior, directions to the underworld.” The old man’s hoary eyebrows rose. “You can have a lie-down in the thing, if you like. Good for the spine.”

“Thank you, no.” Bram shuddered.

Sir Lewis clapped his hands. “Well, I don’t suppose you’ve brought two wagons through eight turnpikes just to discuss antiquities over a fine whiskey.”

“You know I haven’t. Idle chatter isn’t my purpose, ever. But I will take the whiskey.”

“And dinner later, I hope. Susanna will have already informed the cook.”

Susanna. So, her name was Susanna.

The name suited her. Simple, pretty.

Susanna. Susanna Finch.

Rather like the refrain of a song. A cheerful, stubborn sort of song. The sort of tune that persisted, dug a trench in a person’s mind and kept merrily chirping there for hours, days . . . even when that person would rather be rid of it. Even when that person would slice off his own great toe just to turn his attention to something, anything else.

Susanna. Susanna Finch. Susanna fair with brazen hair.

He turned his gaze to the window, which overlooked an immaculately tended garden. With each herb and shrub he glimpsed, he identified another element of her intriguing, garden-infused perfume. He saw lavender, sage, hyacinth, rose . . . a dozen other plants he couldn’t name. But through the open window, the breeze carried their scent to him. Lifting his hair with gentle fingers, just as she had.

He gave himself a shake. She was Sir Lewis’s daughter. He could not think of her this way. Or any way.

“So,” he said, addressing the older man. “You received my letter?”

Sir Lewis took a seat on the opposite side of his desk. “I did.”

“Then you know why I’m here.”

“You want your command back.”

Bram nodded. “And while I’m here, I wonder if you’d be interested in an apprentice. My cousin has a knack for destruction, and not much else.”

“You refer to Payne?”


“Good Lord. You want me to take on a viscount as an apprentice?” Sir Lewis chuckled into his whiskey.

“He may be a viscount, but for the next several months he’s still my responsibility. Unless someone gives him a useful occupation, he’ll have ruined us both by year’s end.”

“Why don’t you give him a useful occupation?”

“I won’t be here,” Bram said, leaning forward and giving the older man a pointed look. “Will I?”

Sir Lewis removed his spectacles and set them aside, rubbing his temples with thumb and forefinger. Bram didn’t like the looks of this. Temple rubbing wasn’t the sign of a decision going one’s way.

“Listen, Bramwell . . .”


“Bram, I admired your father a great deal.”

“So did I. So did the nation.” Bram’s father had distinguished himself in India, rising to the rank of major general and earning a great many honors and awards. “My father admired you and your work.”

“I know, I know,” Sir Lewis said. “And I was grieved indeed when news reached me of his death. But our friendship is precisely the reason I can’t help you. Not the way you’ve asked.”

Bram’s gut turned to stone. “What do you mean?”

The older man ruffled his few remaining wisps of silver hair. “Bram, you were shot in the knee.”

“Months ago now.”

“And you know very well, an injury of that nature can take a year or more to heal. If it heals completely at all.” Sir Lewis shook his head. “I cannot, in good conscience, recommend you for field command. You are an infantry officer. How do you propose to lead a battalion of foot soldiers when you can barely walk?”

The question struck Bram in the solar plexus. “I can walk.”

“I’ve no doubt you can walk across this room. Perhaps to the end of the pasture and back. But can you cover ten, twelve, fourteen miles at a grueling pace, day in and day out?”

“Yes,” he said firmly. “I can march. I can ride. I can lead my men.”

“I’m sorry, Bram. If I sent you back into the field like this, I would be signing your death warrant, and perhaps those of others in your command. Your father was too good a friend. I simply can’t.”

His palms went damp. Devastation loomed. “Then what am I to do?”

“Retire. Go home.”

“I don’t have a home.” There was money enough, to be sure, but his father had been a second son. He hadn’t inherited any property, and he’d never found time to purchase an estate of his own.

“So buy a home. Find a pretty girl to marry. Settle down and start a family.”

Bram shook his head. Impossible suggestions, all. He was not about to resign his commission at the age of nine-and-twenty, while England remained at war. And he damned well wasn’t going to marry. Like his father before him, he intended to serve until they pried his flintlock from his cold, dead grip. And while officers were permitted to bring their wives, Bram firmly believed gently bred women didn’t belong on campaign. His own mother was proof of that. She’d succumbed to the bloody flux in India, a short time before young Bram had been sent to England for school.

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