Home > To Treasure an Heiress (The Secrets of the Isles #2)

To Treasure an Heiress (The Secrets of the Isles #2)
Author: Roseanna M. White

 


Prologue


7 MAY 1650

TRESCO, ISLES OF SCILLY

Prince . . . or pirate? Rupert felt like neither as he stood on the bluff, the sea beckoning him, the wind whirling about him, and the most beautiful woman in all the world pressed against his chest, her cheeks damp with tears. He hadn’t expected this when he came to the Isles of Scilly after being exiled from England for his service to the Crown. He’d expected brothers-in-arms. Compatriots. Soldiers.

“Briallen.” Her name whispered from his lips like a blessing, just as she had whispered into his life, into his heart. Only an island lass—that’s what society would say, were it here to say it. And his family . . . He could only imagine what his family would think of her. His father, German prince Frederick V. His mother, daughter of James VI of Scotland and I of England. They would look on his precious primrose and see only a thorny vine trying to ensnare him.

She was anything but that. She was his wings. She was his soul. She was his heart. The only person in all his one and thirty years to make him crave home and hearth above the next battle, the next adventure. The only person in all his one and thirty years to make him think it mattered not whether he ever had a palace or an estate or a relative on a throne—that he would live on this bare rock of an island all his days, no luxuries beyond his next breath, if he could live there with her.

He pressed a kiss to the lips he had memorized with his own. “I love you.”

“And I you.” Her fingers smoothed back a lock of his hair that the wind had torn free, her gaze following its path as she tucked it back into the binding at the nape of his neck. Her lips pressed tight together.

She wouldn’t ask him to stay, he knew she wouldn’t. But she must be thinking it, even as he was.

His own glance darted to the shore, the water, his ship at the ready there in deeper waters, a rowboat waiting to take him to it. They must sail, and soon. Mucknell had already bidden farewell to his own wife, and neither the tide nor the pirate admiral would wait for any man—even if that man was a prince. “I could stay. What do the courts of Portugal or the waters of the Caribbean have that Tresco does not?”

Briallen breathed a laugh and rested her head against his chest. “Wealth and treasure and enemies of the Crown for you to rout, that’s what.” Her hand pressed there, just above his heart. “You cannot stay, my love. There is nothing for you here.”

“There is you. You are everything.” Sweet words he had never imagined himself saying—or meaning, at any rate. His whole life, it seemed, had been war. Even as a child he’d trained for it. As only a child, he’d found it. One and thirty, but already he’d been fighting seventeen years. What room did such a life have for love? “Come with me, then.”

He’d asked it before. But as before, she shook her head. “To the courts in Portugal? And leave my parents to face the winter on their own? You know I cannot. Perhaps, had we more time to plan for them . . . but I cannot leave them.” His darling pulled away a few inches, tilting her head back so she could look him in the eye. “I will be here when you return for me. I will wait a thousand years if I must.”

A smile teased his lips. It was likely to be two years, at least, before he could return. The waters around the Isles of Scilly had grown too risky for the pirate fleet, what with Cromwell setting so many of his own hirelings to patrol for them. If he meant to work for the uncle who was king, the cousin who would next rule, he must go. Find richer waters to prowl. Do his part to restore England to its rightful heir.

But must held little allure compared to this need to stay with his young bride. His parents would say he shouldn’t have married her. His uncle, his cousin would say the same. They’d say he’d ruined his own future hopes by lashing himself to an island lass. If he did take her with him to Portugal, it would be pure misery for her.

He’d give it all up and more for her. But it was his sworn duty now to provide for her. And to do that, he must go. There was no living to be earned here on Tresco, not anymore. He sighed, pressed one more kiss to her lips, and reached for the bag at his feet. “I have something for you.”

“Rupert.” How could her voice be at once chiding and touched? “You’ve already given me more than I could have ever dreamed.”

“Well, you will have to learn to dream bigger.” Grinning, he pulled out the trinket box he’d long carried with him. Before, it had held cuff links and medallions and buckles and other assorted whatnot. Now, it held all the coins of silver and gold he could scrounge together. He pressed it into her hands. “’Tisn’t much. But enough, I pray, to see you through until I return with a crown or two for that ivory brow of yours.”

She laughed but didn’t lift the lid. She merely traced a finger over his crest, engraved in the wood and leafed in gold. “I will treasure it.”

“Nay—use it.” He leaned down, put his mouth at her ear. Too many sailors loitered on the shore, and one never knew when the wind might snatch one’s words and deliver them to another’s ear. “If it is not enough, if something happens to me, if you need more . . . inside you will also find a key to fortune enough to set you up for life.”

She would know exactly what he meant. But her eyes flashed not with greed but with a stony determination. “Nay. I’ll not be stealing from Mucknell after all he has done for you, dearovim.”

And this was why he loved her. “Only if your survival depends upon it. I would sooner you be a thief than a corpse.”

“And I would sooner die of hunger and fly into the arms of my Savior than feast like a queen in the company of the devil.” The fire in her eyes flamed down again, turned to a merry twinkle. “But perhaps that is too hard for you to understand, Rupert le diable.”

He made a show of wincing at the nickname he had earned by the age of three, given to him by his tutors. Rupert the Devil. Yes, he had been a little terror. And, pray God, he still was, to his family’s enemies. But not to her.

A shout came up from the beach, along with the frantic waving of his first mate’s arm.

Briallen surged forward, pressed a fierce kiss to his lips, and then leapt away, the box clutched to her chest. “Go. Now, before I forget why you must.”

He nodded, pivoted, and started down the sandy path toward his ship, his men, and his only hope of a fortune worthy of her. But he had to pause at the bottom and look up once more.

She stood there on the hillock, the wind whipping her dark hair into a storm of onyx, the sky a startling blue behind her, the box still held tight against her chest. He would picture her just so every day. An image to carry with him. He would imagine her standing just like this every morn, every night, with every tide. Waiting for him.

He hastened away, so that he could hasten back to her side. It may be a year, or two, or three, but he would come back to Tresco again. And he would take his princess with him, wherever next he went.

 

 

1

 


11 JULY 1906

SAMSON, ISLES OF SCILLY

Beth Tremayne crept silently through the creaking doorway of the abandoned cottage as the first strokes of dawn painted the sky over the islands. This had been home for most of the summer—this leaking, moldering hovel that hadn’t been in use for half a century. She’d come through that door with the dawn dozens of times, crawled into that corner to steal a few hours of sleep, keeping one ear always alert to the sound of anyone coming her way. Once or twice she’d had to make a quick getaway.

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