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Christmas Wedding Belles [Secure eReader]
eBook by Nicola Cornick & Margaret McPhee & Miranda Jarrett

eBook Category: Romance
eBook Description: Regency.... "The Pirate's Kiss" by Nicola Cornick: Famous and feared pirate Daniel de Lancey is master and commander of the Defiance. Only one woman makes him want to swap danger for desire, sea for seduction... And with one Christmas kiss, he will make Lucinda his bride! "A Smuggler's Tale" by Margaret McPhee: Masquerading as a smuggler, society's handsome bad boy, Lord Jack Holberton, finds himself protecting young Miss Linden's honor, despite his reputation. But will this rake keep his twelfth-night promise and return to claim her as his own? "The Sailor's Bride" by Miranda Jarrett: War-ravaged Lieutenant Lord James Richardson is about to put in to Naples after a victorious sea battle that has made him a hero but has left its mark on his soul. Young and innocent, Abigail Layton is just the woman to heal his hardened heart...

eBook Publisher: Harlequin/Historical
Fictionwise Release Date: November 2007

7 Reader Ratings:
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Chapter 1

Suffolk, England, November 1808

NOTHING ever happens here

Lucinda Melville sighed and put down her pen. The casement window of her bedroom was open, allowing crisp winter air to flood in. It brought with it the scent of cold sea mixed with the fragrance of pine, and carried the distant sound of breakers on the shore and the hoot of owls down in the forest. A full moon shone bright in the black sky. It was a night made for romance, but Mrs Melville had no time for that sort of thing.

She picked up her pen again.

Nothing ever happens here…But pray do not think that I am complaining, dear Rebecca. I am more than grateful to you for finding me this position with Mrs Saltire. Indeed, I think that when Eustacia marries, as she is set to do in the New Year (to the dull but worthy Mr Leytonstone, just as I predicted), I will seek another governess's post in this locality. Woodbridge is a charming town. We take tea at the assembly rooms and visit the theatre, provided that the entertainment is not too racy, of course. It is all entirely delightful, and very proper for a governess companion.

Lucinda paused again, thinking. There had been a time in her life when matters had not been so staid and unadventurous, but that had been a very long time ago and was soon dismissed again.

She dusted the letter down and closed the writing box. As nothing else had happened she had no more to tell her childhood friend, Rebecca Kestrel. Besides, Rebecca and her husband, Lucas, were to join their party in a couple of months' time, for Christmas at Kestrel Court, so she would save the rest of her news, such as it was, until then.

Lucinda went across to the window and leaned her arms on the sill, resting her chin on her hand as she stared out into the dark. When she had first heard from Mrs Saltire that they were to spend autumn in the Midwinter villages she had been quite concerned, for everyone knew that there had been the most scandalously diverting occurrences at Midwinter a mere five years before, when the members of a dangerous spy ring had been captured. It was not at all the type of environment that Lucinda thought appropriate for her young charge. Miss Eustacia Saltire was a sweet girl, but she was deplorably romantic in her inclinations, and Lucinda was very concerned that Stacey would become quite over-excited by her proximity to people who had actually been involved in the shocking events of those times.

Balanced against the danger of encouraging Stacey's wayward imagination, however, had been the possibilities provided by a family connection to the Duke of Kestrel. Mrs Saltire had the good fortune to be distantly related to the Duchess of Kestrel, and it had been the Duchess who had suggested that Mrs Saltire might like to bring Stacey to Midwinter for a few months. Mindful of the fact that the Duke still had several eligible relatives unmarried, and also that Stacey simply had not taken during her first season in London, Mrs Saltire had eagerly agreed. The journey had been accomplished, made all the smoother by the attentiveness of the ducal servants, and they had now been situated at Kestrel Court for eight weeks.

Lucinda sighed again. It would soon be time for her to start applying for a new post, for Stacey was now betrothed to the worthy but dull Samuel Leytonstone, who had a solid fortune and a manner to match. Secretly Lucinda thought that Stacey could aim higher than a young man who behaved as though he were already in flannel vests, but she kept the unworthy thought to herself. Mr Leytonstone was steady and rich and reliable, and one had to count such matters above trifling things such as passion and gallantry. Lucinda knew all about the dangers of rash youthful passion, and if a tiny part of her still craved excitement she usually managed to ignore it.

Lucinda knew all about Making Do too. In her youth her looks had been no more than tolerable—dark blonde hair and cool blue eyes had been unfashionable at the time—and her parents, an indigent vicar and his social climbing wife, had been delighted when she had become engaged straight from the schoolroom. But then the plan had gone awry.

She had been betrothed for four years to her childhood sweetheart—a man who, humiliatingly, appeared to have forgotten her existence as soon as she was out of his sight, a man with dash and brilliance and the prospect of a glittering naval career. Eventually the most appalling of news had filtered its way back to her, conveyed by the gossips and scandalmongers who made it their business to upset as many people as possible. Her betrothed was a criminal. He had abandoned his promising naval career and had taken up instead as—whisper it—a pirate.

That was the moment Lucinda's heart had broken. So she had married the first man who asked, had been widowed two years later, and now here she was, at nine and twenty, earning her own living and putting youthful folly firmly where it belonged—in the past.

Lucinda spotted a moth that was coming dangerously close to the candle flame. She trapped it gently in her cupped palms and released it out of the window, worrying as soon as it was gone that the night would be too cold for it and it would perish.

As she turned to close the casement a flicker of movement caught her eye, away on the edge of the woods that bordered the garden at Kestrel Court. She stopped, staring into the shadows. The leaves rustled in the slight breeze and the scent of pine mingled with the fresher, salty smell of the sea and the crispness of the frosty night. Lucinda paused, her hand on the window latch. There was no one there. The skipping shadows and her imagination were playing tricks.

Copyright © 2007 by Harlequin Books S. A.

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