Lucy Lane and the Lieutenant

BOOK: Lucy Lane and the Lieutenant
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A dangerous mission; a passionate past…

Nathan Rochefort never understood why his ex-fiancée, Lucy Lane, broke off their engagement. But now, faced with a treacherous mission, he needs her skills more than ever…

Lucy had put her handsome officer and his betrayal firmly behind her. Until Nathan explodes back into her life, a fierce reminder of all the hopes and dreams she once held dear.

In the depths of the Portuguese mountains, Lucy and Nathan succumb to the intensity of their feelings, little realizing that the consequences of one stolen night will link them together—for always.

Lucy's whole body began to tremble as his lips descended to hers, and she sought to forestall what her heart knew was inevitable by reasoning with him.

“This isn't what we planned,” she whispered, shuddering as his lips trailed a hot path across her cheek to seek her ear. “You promised…”

He smothered what she had been about to say with his mouth, kissing her long and deep until Lucy shivered with the waves of tension shooting through her. The instant he felt her trembling response, his arm tightened, supporting her.

“Don't worry, Lucy,” he murmured huskily. “I'll stop whenever you tell me to.”

Imprisoned by his protective embrace, reassured by his promise, and seduced by his mouth and caressing hands, which had found their way under her shirt to bare flesh, Lucy clung to him, sliding slowly into a dark abyss of desire.

Author Note

I read numerous books across all genres. I write historical romance and I am never not writing.

Lucy Lane and the Lieutenant
is set in the Regency period, a time when people lived through one of the most romantic and turbulent ages of British history. Of course, you can’t write about the Regency period without the Peninsular campaign popping up somewhere. When I began writing this book I knew very little about it, but what I did know was that novels about that time must have conflict. I wanted to write a story that touched on the campaign but without the battles, for the conflict to be between my two main characters, Lucy and Nathan. It was for this reason that I chose Portugal as a backdrop, when the country was relatively quiet and the battles were being fought over the border in Spain.

Portugal is a world away from Lucy’s life as an actress on the London stage, but her old love, Nathan Rochefort, a spy in the British intelligence, reappears in her life and asks her to accompany him on an assignment—to rescue a woman and her child being held for ransom by rebels in the mountains in Portugal. Being hounded by creditors and tempted by the money Nathan is offering, Lucy agrees to go with him. It’s a rocky road they travel as they make their way into the Sierras, but then, the road to true love is never easy.

Helen Dickson

Lucy Lane and
the Lieutenant

Helen Dickson
was born and lives in South Yorkshire with her retired farm manager husband. Having moved out of the busy farmhouse where she raised their two sons, she has more time to indulge in her favorite pastimes. She enjoys being outdoors, traveling, reading and music. An incurable romantic, she writes for pleasure. It was a love of history that drove her to writing historical fiction.

Books by Helen Dickson

Harlequin Historical

Seducing Miss Lockwood
Marrying Miss Monkton
Traitor or Temptress
Scandalous Secret, Defiant Bride
Diamonds, Deception and the Debutante
Forbidden Lord
Destitute on his Doorstep
Beauty in Breeches
Miss Cameron’s Fall from Grace
When Marrying a Duke…
The Devil Claims a Wife
The Master of Stonegrave Hall
Mishap Marriage
A Traitor’s Touch
Caught in Scandal’s Storm
Lucy Lane and the Lieutenant

Castonbury Park
Regency miniseries

 
The Housemaid’s Scandalous Secret

Harlequin Historical
Undone!
ebook

 
One Reckless Night

Visit the Author Profile page at
Harlequin.com
for more titles.

Chapter One

1812

T
he elegant, dignified creature who made her way down the stairs was the very epitome of poise and grace, beautiful and refined. Her gown was magnificent, creamy pale gold satin with tight elbow-length sleeves and a low heart-shaped bodice adorned with delicate golden-white lace. Her maid Polly—a nineteen-year-old redhead who fussed over her like a mother hen, seeing that she got the proper rest, the proper food and all the services suitable to a lady of the theatre—had stacked her hair on top of her head in glossy chestnut curls, leaving three long fat ringlets to dangle down between her shoulder blades.

As she reached the bottom of the stairs Jack was there to take her hand. ‘Happy birthday, Lucy. You look adorable,’ he said, raising her fingers to his lips.

The startling green eyes sprinkled with gold that glinted from under black eyelashes sparkled and the lovely mouth curled with the suggestion of a smile. ‘Thank you, Jack,’ she answered coolly, wishing she didn’t have to attend this party being held in her own house, a small but charming establishment in Leicester Fields. ‘I can’t help thinking all this is a little over the top and premature. I’m beginning to think it would have been more appropriate to celebrate my gaining the part to play Portia when they see how well I perform the role. The cost of all this has practically ruined me.’

‘It isn’t just about that. It
is
your birthday, darling,’ Jack purred, ‘though how you can be twenty-four when you look much younger defies logic.’

‘And you always were a wretched liar,’ Lucy remarked, laughing softly.

‘You are growing older and wiser, Lucy, I grant you—and more beautiful. Maturity becomes you. Now come along,’ he said, drawing her hand through the crook of his arm. ‘Everyone is waiting for you.’

There was a rousing burst of applause as they entered the tastefully furnished drawing room. Although the house was small, the drawing room was large and airy with windows looking out over a small flower-filled garden. Decorated in shades of white, pale green and gold, with a lovely pearl-grey carpet on the floor, it was an ideal place for entertaining and roomy enough to accommodate several people. A buffet table had been set up, offering a lavish array of food.

They were immediately surrounded and separated, and Lucy found herself being ever so vivacious and charming to a host of actors, writers, poets, romantics and wistful dreamers and a pack of persistent journalists from Fleet Street who bombarded her with questions and compliments. The company would no doubt become rowdier as the evening wore on and more liquor was consumed.

Lucy was one of those lucky people who was hopelessly in love with the very activity from which she made her living and, since her aunt Dora’s savings were now depleted, enabled her to keep the elderly lady in her small but comfortable accommodation. But not for much longer if her finances didn’t improve.

In the theatre nothing was certain and the thought that she might sink into penury was a constant worry for her. The past few years had been a struggle as she sought to achieve some success in the world of theatre—a success that would mean relief from the crushing weight of bills that hounded her daily. Aunt Dora had suggested that she give up her rented house and move in with her, halving the bills, and Lucy knew the day was fast approaching when she might have no alternative. But she had lived with her aunt for most of her life and her independence, which she cherished, had been hard won.

At four and twenty and unmarried, Lucy had been employed as an actress since she was fourteen. Almost a lifetime ago, she reflected somewhat ironically. To play Portia in Shakespeare’s
The
Merchant of Venice
would be her crowning glory. It was a dream she’d nursed since embarking on her career. Opening night was four weeks away. She was terribly excited, but she had much to do before the production took to the stage.

Jack handed her a glass of much-needed champagne. Looking handsome in black-and-white evening attire with an ivory-silk waistcoat, eyelids drooping lethargically over his sleepy brown eyes, his light brown hair neatly brushed, he looked particularly attractive.

‘Thank you for rescuing me, Jack. Those journalists certainly want their pound of flesh—if you’ll pardon the pun,’ she jokingly remarked with reference to Shylock in
The Merchant of Venice
.

Jack cast a casual eye about the crowded room. ‘Nevertheless, those chaps from Fleet Street will grow to adore you. They’ll soon be writing about you, about the most beloved and talented actress that ever graced the London stage—unaffected, a woman who doesn’t give herself airs and graces. Make the most of it while you can.’

Lucy gave him a wry look. ‘They will continue to write about me while my popularity lasts, Jack, but I’m a realist. An actress is only as good as the part she plays. The minute the cream roles begin to dwindle and someone else comes along, prettier and more talented, she will disappear into obscurity. It happens all the time.’

Jack gave her a look of reproach. ‘You are too cynical for your own good, Lucy. Enjoy your fame. It will last, I am sure of it.’

‘You flatter me. Had I been blessed with the talents of Sarah Siddons I could understand it. As it is I am just one of many actresses trying to earn an honest crust.’

‘You wouldn’t starve if you married me,’ he uttered softly. Lifting a glass of port from a tray on the table, Jack studied her décolletage with an appreciative eye.

Taking a sip of champagne, Lucy smiled tightly. ‘Please, Jack, don’t look at me like that. I’ve asked you not to and I’ve given you my answer. I don’t want to marry you. I don’t want to marry anyone just now. But thank you for the flowers you sent. They are lovely, but I do wish you wouldn’t buy me gifts all the time.’

‘Why not? Nothing is too good for my favourite girl. You’re not objecting, I hope.’

‘No, of course I’m not,’ she answered. ‘They are lovely.’

She’d been on the back foot when Jack had asked her to marry him. His proposal had been totally unexpected. From the beginning she had told herself she wouldn’t refuse his friendship, but anything else was out of the question. He was the youngest son of a peer of the realm, an aristocrat. She was an actress and quite beyond the pale in the upper echelons of society. Men like Jack made women like her their mistresses, they did not marry them—and she couldn’t be sure that Jack would honour his promise, once he had got her into bed. He did have one asset to his credit—he possessed a sizeable fortune. But to marry a man for his wealth alone was distasteful to her.

Since they had met one year ago at the theatre she felt as if her life had been taken hostage. Had she given serious thought to the consequences of yielding to his attentions in the beginning, she’d have turned him away right then and there, refusing his gifts of flowers and a book of sonnets. Yet she had been reluctant to be so harsh, for it had been painfully obvious that he was feeling out of kilter since being wounded out of the army. His first visit had led to another and he was soon squiring her about town on a regular basis. Jack was a ladies’ man and popular in any company. He was also fun and delightful to be with, but she was always careful to keep him at arm’s length and out of her bed.

The truth was that his kisses reached no deeper than her lips and the closeness of his body lit no fires inside her. Some other man had already claimed that privilege by touching his spark to all her deepest and most secret passions. With a kiss that had barely brushed her lips he had breathed his life into her and with his touch as light as a sigh he had marked her as his own.

For a moment she was transported back in time into the arms of her handsome lover, so tall and powerfully built, with eyes as warm as the sun and a smile that melted her senses with wicked pleasure. But that was a long time ago. She had moved on since then. Nothing was to be gained by looking back. She had been bitten once and was determined not to let it happen again. She tried not to think of that time—of the man who had broken her heart—but would find her thoughts turning to him of their own volition. And then she would thrust them away, not wanting the spectre of him to spoil what she had now.

At that moment Lucy’s closest friend, Coral Gibbons, a saucy but talented young actress in a fetching low-cut salmon-pink gown, arrived with her latest beau in tow. Jamie Shepherd with his dark blond hair charmingly tousled was a budding young playwright. Coral gave her an affectionate hug, her hazel eyes sparkling and her wide mouth curled with the suggestion of her pixie smile.

‘You’ll be marvellous as Portia,’ she exclaimed. ‘Although I must tell you that I fancied the part myself. Are you excited?’

‘Of course, Coral. What actress wouldn’t be? It’s a role I’ve always wanted to play and I’m so grateful to Mr Portas for offering me the part.’

‘The great theatrical manager knows a good thing when he sees it. You’ll be an enormous success, I just know it. Your last play was brilliant. You deserve all the acclaim you’ve received.’

Lucy laughed. ‘It’s nice of you to say so, Coral, and though I welcome such praise you do have a habit of exaggerating.’

‘Nonsense! You’ll soon have every theatre manager in London wanting you. You’ve worked hard and you deserve it, love. But don’t work too hard and do think about coming to Ranelagh on Saturday night. You’ll love the Rotunda and the pavilion, and the gardens by moonlight are so romantic. Jamie will be our escort and we’ll have a marvellous time. Bring Jack along if you like. The two of you seem to be getting closer. It’s not gone unnoticed that he hardly lets you out of his sight.’

Coral’s remark brought a disgruntled frown to Lucy’s brow. ‘He is attentive, I agree—so attentive that I’m in danger of suffocating.’

‘I don’t mind telling you, love, that I worry about you. I really do. A woman as lovely as you should have a dozen beaux, should be going out often. I know you had a very unpleasant experience with that man in the past you told me about—the one you were going to marry and then dropped because you found out he’d been unfaithful, but not all men are like that.’

‘No?’

‘Well...’ Coral hesitated. ‘There are a few good ones out there, I feel sure of it. Still, I don’t mind telling you that if I didn’t have Jamie on tap I’d give you some strong competition for Jack.’

‘Be my guest, Coral. I’ve told him I will not marry him, but he’s the persistent type—at least where getting me into his bed is concerned. I’m no naïve, gullible green girl. I don’t believe for one minute that he’s serious about marrying me.’

‘Neither of us is getting any younger, love. My advice to you is to grab him while you can. As his wife or mistress he would be useful. He’s rich and titled to boot—the answer to all your money troubles. Men like that are few and far between.’

‘You’ve noticed,’ Lucy said.

‘Don’t be modest. A woman is always flattered to learn a man finds her attractive.’

‘As you will know,’ Lucy said laughingly. ‘It’s evident Jamie is head over heels in love with you.’ She glanced at Jamie talking animatedly and loudly to Mr Portas.

Coral looked over at her beau thoughtfully. ‘Jamie’s had far too much to drink already and was vociferously declaring himself the greatest English playwright since Shakespeare as we walked along the street. He’s just finished writing his new play and is testing the great man out to see if he might be interested in reading it, but I don’t hold out much hope. Mr Portas doesn’t like new productions.’

‘That’s because they’re expensive, risky and time-consuming. We both know they can be damned into oblivion by the audience on the first night. The cost of new scenes, costumes and music often make it ineligible to a director of a theatre to accept a new play, especially when it’s considered that the reviving of a good play would answer his end of profit and reputation.’

Coral sighed. ‘Unfortunately I think you’re right. Mr Portas always favours a good old English drama. Duels, brooding heroes and doxies, bloodshed and battles, that’s what the public want. I don’t think Mr Portas will give Jamie a moment of his time, but he lives in hope. I’d best go and rescue him, although I have a favour of my own to ask the great man.’ Leaving Lucy to talk to a cheeky reporter, Coral sidled over to ask Mr Portas, a portly, much-liked dramatist—volatile and mercurial when things weren’t going his way—in a slightly rumpled blue suit, if he would consider her for a walk-on part in
The Merchant of Venice
.

* * *

It was close on midnight when the guests began to depart—some to stagger out in jovial good humour. Lucy was about to say goodnight to Jack when Polly came to her. The girl looked agitated, for she kept wringing her hands.

‘Polly? Whatever is the matter?’ Lucy enquired.

‘There’s a gentleman to see you,’ Polly said hurriedly. ‘He’s in the parlour.’

Lucy looked at her with a measure of amusement. ‘The parlour? Why on earth didn’t he join us?’

‘He said it’s a private matter, Miss Lane. He seemed very anxious to see you, but said he’d wait until your guests had gone.’

Momentarily surprised and curious as to who this visitor could be to call on her at this time of night, Lucy stared at the closed parlour door.

On the point of leaving, Jack came to stand beside her. ‘I think I’d better stay.’

Lucy started to speak, but before she could do so, the parlour door was flung open and a man strode out. He was so tall that the top of his head nearly grazed the door frame under which he instinctively ducked. He wore a black military-style coat with brass buttons and a white linen shirt and neckcloth. His narrow hips and muscular thighs were encased in black breeches and his gleaming black boots came to his knees. His unfashionably long hair was drawn back to the nape and secured. It was as black as his coat. His eyes were as cold as Antarctic ice floes, and gave his face with its high planed cheekbones a harsh expression. His mouth was wide and full, the lower lip with that cruel curve she remembered. A thin scar ran down his left cheek in a tanned face harder than iron and a gaze that could only be described as impudent. The scar only served to add a touch of glamour to the nobility of his perfect features.

BOOK: Lucy Lane and the Lieutenant
13.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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