Home > A Night to Surrender (Spindle Cove #1)(8)

A Night to Surrender (Spindle Cove #1)(8)
Author: Tessa Dare

He sat forward in his chair. “Sir Lewis, you don’t understand. I cut my teeth on rationed biscuit. I could march before I could speak. I’m not a man to settle down. While England remains at war, I cannot and will not resign my commission. It’s more than my duty, sir. It’s my life. I . . .” He shook his head. “I can’t do anything else.”

“If you won’t resign, there are other ways of helping the war effort.”

“Deuce it, I’ve been through all this with my superiors. I will not accept a so-called promotion that means shuffling papers in the War Office.” He gestured at the alabaster sarcophagus in the corner. “You might as well stuff me in that coffin and seal the lid. I am a soldier, not a secretary.”

The man’s blue eyes softened. “You’re a man, Victor. You’re human.”

“I’m my father’s son,” he shot back, pounding the desk with his fist. “You cannot keep me down.”

He was going too far, but to hell with boundaries. Sir Lewis Finch was Bram’s last and only option. The old man simply couldn’t refuse.

Sir Lewis stared at his folded hands for a long, tense moment. Then, with unruffled calm, he replaced his spectacles. “I have no intention of keeping you down. Much to the contrary.”

“What do you mean?” Bram was instantly wary.

“I mean precisely what I said. I have done the exact opposite of keeping you down.” He reached for a stack of papers. “Bramwell, prepare yourself for elevation.”


Susanna, pull yourself together.

After excusing herself to hurriedly tame her disheveled hair and exchange her torn, muddied frock for a fresh blue muslin and matching gloves—in the process, speaking more sharply to Gertrude than the poor maid deserved—she joined Lieutenant Colonel Bramwell’s companions in the Red Salon.

As she entered, she stole a quick glance in the hall mirror. Her appearance was repaired, as much as it could be. Her composure, on the other hand, remained splintered in a thousand jagged pieces, all of them rubbing and chafing within her. Some jabbed at her pride. Others stirred up the familiar well of dread that always opened whenever Papa and black powder were mingled. The rest made her prickle all over with awareness. It wasn’t a nice feeling.

And it was all his fault. The beastly, teasing, handsome sheep-bomber. Who was the man, and what did he want with her father? Hopefully just a polite social call. Though she had to admit, Bramwell didn’t seem the type for polite social calls.

The downstairs maid brought in the tray, and Susanna directed her to place it on a rosewood table with legs carved in the shape of long-whiskered goldfish.

“Tea, gentlemen?” she asked, pulling her gloves snug as she reached for the pot. Pouring tea was just what she needed right now. Such a civilizing force, tea. She would nip sugar with little silver tongs. Stir milk with a tiny spoon. Tiny spoons were incompatible with a state of sensual turmoil.

The thought comforted her. Yes. She would give the men tea, and perhaps a nice dinner. Then they would be on their way, and the world would return to rights. At least her corner of it.

The formerly half-dressed gentleman—Lord Payne, as she now knew him—had located his coat and cravat, and smoothed his hair. He made a suitably aristocratic ornament, at home among the lacquered cabinets and glazed green vases.

As for the officer—a corporal, she’d gathered from his patches—he stood near the plate window, the picture of unease. He glared suspiciously at the dragon-emblazoned carpet, as if expecting the embroidered beast to strike. If it did, she had no doubt he’d kill it handily.

“Will you take tea, Corporal?”


It occurred to her this might have been the first—and only—word she’d heard from his lips. He was the sort of man one knew, just from looking at him, had an interesting story to tell. She also felt, just as certainly, he would never tell it. Not at knifepoint, much less over tea.

She handed Lord Payne a steaming cup, and he took an immediate, reckless draught. A devilish smile curved her way. “Gunpowder tea? Well done, Miss Finch. I do enjoy a lady with a sense of humor.”

Now this one . . . he was a rake. It was written all over him, in his fine dress and flirtatious manner. He might as well have had the word embroidered on his waistcoat, between the gold-thread flourishes. She knew all about men of his sort. Half the young ladies in Spindle Cove were either fleeing them or pining for them.

Susanna flicked a glance at the closed door to her father’s library, wondering what could be keeping him so long. The sooner these men left, the easier she would breathe.

Payne reclined in his chair, tilting his head to regard the brass chandelier. “This is quite a room.” He indicated a display case mounted on the wall. “Are those . . .” His head cocked. “What are those?”

“Rockets, from the Ming dynasty. My father is an avid collector of antiquities. He takes a particular interest in historical weaponry.” Pouring her own tea, she explained, “Summerfield has an eclectic theme. This room is in the chinoiserie style. We have an Austrian morning room, an Ottoman parlor, and an Italianate terrace. My father’s study takes inspiration from Egypt and the great library of Alexandria. His medieval collections are housed in the long hall. Oh, and there’s a Grecian folly in the garden.”

“Sir Lewis must be a great traveler.”

She shook her head, stirring sugar into her cup. “No, not really. We’d always talked of a Grand Tour, but circumstances were against it. My father brought the world to Summerfield instead.”

And how she loved him for it. Sir Lewis Finch would never rank among the most attentive or observant of fathers, perhaps. But when she’d needed him most, he’d never failed her. He’d moved all their possessions and his entire laboratory to Summerfield, turned down innumerable invitations and opportunities to travel over the years . . . all for Susanna’s health and happiness.

“Good, you’re all assembled.” Her father emerged from the library. Rumpled, as always. Susanna smiled a little, battling the urge to go smooth his hair and straighten his cravat.

Lieutenant Colonel Bramwell followed like a thundercloud, dark and restless. Susanna had no urge whatsoever to touch him. At least, none that she would admit to. As he moved across the room, she noted that he favored his right leg. Maybe he’d done himself an injury earlier, when he’d tackled her to the ground.

“I have an announcement,” her father said, brandishing a sheaf of official-looking papers. “Since Bramwell has failed to muster the appropriate enthusiasm, I thought I would share the good news with you, his friends.” He adjusted his spectacles. “In honor of his valor and contributions in the liberation of Portugal, Bramwell has been made an earl. I have here the letters patent from the Prince Regent himself. He will henceforth be known as Lord Rycliff.”

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