Except Jared Dunham. Betrothed to this wildcat in a pact that allowed Miranda to remain mistress of her ancestral home off the New England coast, the roguish merchant-adventurer turns his wife's burning rage to searing ecstasy as he fires her most wanton desires.
But times are dangerous—Napoleon is plundering the continents and seas. Miranda's spirited ways and breathtaking sensuality will plunge her into perilous escapades of brutality and discovery—from the war-torn Crimea and a savage slave-breeding farm to a terrifying capture and a grueling trek to Istanbul.
In Miranda Dunham, Beatrice Small has crafted a lusty, legendary heroine to rival the infamous Skye O'Malley. Unconquered is a breathless novel of sensual daring and fiery adventure—and a heroine who surrenders to nothing except her destiny.
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“YOU DO REALIZE,” SAID LORD PALMERSTON SLOWLY, “THAT what you and I are doing could be considered treason by both of our governments? I am, you know, considered somewhat of a maverick because I prefer direct action to all the talk that goes on in Parliament and His Majesty’s cabinet.” He paused for a moment to contemplate the deep red claret in his glass. The etched Waterford crystal sparkled bloody crimson with firelight and wine reflecting onto Lord Palmerston’s handsome face. Outside, the midnight silence was broken by the soft hiss of the rising wind, bringing in streamers of fog from the coast. “Nevertheless,” continued Henry Temple, Lord Palmerston, “I believe, Captain Dunham, as do the interests you represent, that our real enemy in this situation is Napoleon, not each other. Napoleon must be destroyed!”
Jared Dunham turned away from the window, and walked back to the fireplace. The young man was lean, dark and very tall. He was considerably taller than the other man, and Henry Temple was six feet tall. Jared’s eyes were an odd dark green color and his eyelids were heavy, giving the impression of always being half-closed, weighed down by their thick, dark lashes. His long, thin nose and narrow lips helped give an impression of sardonic amusement. He had big, elegant hands with well-pared, rounded nails. They were strong hands.
Seating himself in one of the two tapestried wing chairs set before the cheerful blaze, Jared leaned forward to face Lord Palmerston, the English secretary for war. “And if you would successfully attack the enemy at your throat, m’lord, you would prefer not to have another enemy at your back. Am I correct?”
“Absolutely!” Lord Palmerston stated with complete candor.
A chill smile lifted the corners of the American’s mouth, not quite reaching his bottle-green eyes. “By God, sir, you are honest!”
“We need each other, Captain,” was the frank reply. “Your country may be independent of England these last twenty years, but you cannot deny your roots. Your names are English, your styles of furniture and clothing, your very government is much like ours without, of course, King George. You cannot deny the bond between us. Even you, if my information is correct, are due to inherit an original English land grant and title one day.”
“It will be quite some time before I inherit, m’lord. My cousin, Thomas Dunham, eighth lord of Wyndsong Island, is in excellent health, God be praised! I have no desire to be settled at this point in my life.” He paused a moment, and then continued: “America must have a market for her goods, and England gives us that market, as well as the necessities and luxuries our society requires.
“We have already rid ourselves of the French by purchasing the vast Louisiana Territory, but in doing so we New Englanders have allowed ourselves to be outnumbered by a group of enthusiastic young hotheads who, having grown up on exaggerated tales of how we whupped the English in ’76, are now spoiling for a fight.
“As a man of business, I disapprove of war. Oh, I can make a great deal of money running your blockade, but in the end we both lose for we cannot get enough ships through the blockades to satisfy the demands on either side. Right now there is cotton rotting on the docks of Savannah and Charleston that your factories desperately need. Your weavers are working only three days each week, and you have riots by the unemployed. The situation in both our countries is appalling.”
Henry Temple nodded agreement, but Jared Dunham had not finished.
“Yes, Lord Palmerston,” he went on, “America and England need each other very much, and those of us who see it clearly will work with you—secretly—to help destroy our common enemy, Bonaparte! We want no foreigners in our government, and you English cannot fight a war on two continents right now.”
“However, I am instructed by Mr. John Quincy Adams to tell you that your Orders in Council forbidding America’s trade with other countries unless we first stop in England or another British port must be canceled. It is a supreme piece of arrogance! We are a free nation, sir!”
Henry Temple, Lord Palmerston, sighed. The Orders in Council had been an extremely high-handed and desperate move by the English Parliament. “I am doing what I can,” he replied, “but we also have our share of hotheads in both Commons and Lords. Most of them have never held a sword or a pistol or seen battle, but all are more knowledgeable than either you or I. They still think of your victory over us as cheeky colonial luck. Until these gentlemen can be convinced that our fortunes are bound together, I, too, will have a rough road to travel.”
The American nodded. “I am off to Prussia and then St. Petersburg in a few days. Neither Frederick Wilhelm nor Tzar Alexander is an enthusiastic ally of Napoleon’s. I will see if my message of possible Anglo-American cooperation can undermine those alliances further. You have to admire the Corsican though. He’s whipped all of Europe into almost one piece.”
“Yes, an arrow aimed at England’s heart,” replied Lord Palmerston with savage hatred in his voice. “If he overcomes us, Yankee, he’ll quickly be across the seas and after you.”
Jared Dunham laughed, but the sound was more harsh than mirthful. “I am more well-aware than you, sir, that Napoleon sold us his Louisiana territories because he very much needed the gold America paid him in order to pay his troops. He could also not afford to garrison such a vast area peopled mostly with English-speaking Americans, and wild red Indians. Even the French-speaking Creoles of New Orleans are more American than French. They are, after all, the relatives of the Ancient Regime wiped out by the revolution that helped to bring Napoleon to power. I know that if the emperor thought he could have both American gold and American territory he would take them. He cannot though, and he would do well to remember the outcome of America’s war with England.”
“Damn me, if you’re not direct and to the point, sir!”
“A distinctly American trait, m’lord.”
“By God, Yankee, I like you!” replied Lord Palmerston. “I suspect we will do quite well together. You have already done quite well for a colonial,” he chuckled, leaning forward and refilling his guest’s glass from the decanter at his elbow. “I must congratulate you on your election to White’s. It is quite a first for them. Not only an American, but one who earns his own keep! I am surprised the walls didn’t come crashing down.”
“Yes,” Jared smiled now. He liked Lord Palmerston’s sense of humor. “I understand that I am one of the very few Americans ever admitted to that sacred grove.”
Palmerston laughed. “True, Yankee, but you realize, of course, that a true gentleman’s riches are supposed to just be there. No matter that too many of our gentlemen are badly debt-ridden, and quite to let in the pockets, they remain nonetheless unsullied by work. You must have powerful friends, Yankee.”
“If I am now a member of White’s it is because you wanted it so, m’lord, so let us not fence with one another, and my name is Jared, not ‘Yankee.’ ”
“And I am Henry, Jared. If our mission is to succeed you must associate with the right people here in London. It would be odd indeed if we were seen together without some obvious, harmless connection. Your cousin, Sir Richard of Dunham Hall, was a good starting point, and then there is your eventual inheritance from the current lord of Wyndsong Manor.”
“And, of course,” remarked Jared wryly, “my very full purse.”
“Noted reverently by the mamas of every fledging making her debut this season,” chuckled Lord Palmerston.
“Good God, no! I am afraid I shall be a great disappointment to the mamas, Henry. I enjoy the bachelor life too much to settle down yet. A skillful divertissement, yes, but a wife? No, thank you!”
“I understand your cousin, Lord Thomas, is lately arrived from America with his wife and two daughters. Have you called on them yet? I hear one of his girls is pure perfection, and already settling the gentlemen of the ton to poetry.”
“I only know Thomas Dunham,” replied Jared. “I have never even been to Wyndsong Manor Island, nor have I met his family. I believe he has twin daughters, but I know nothing of them, and I have no time right now for giggling debutantes.” He drained his glass, and abruptly changed the subject. “I’m after timbermasts in the Baltic. I assume England can use some.”
“Lord yes! Napoleon may be superior to us on the land right now, but England still controls the seas. Unfortunately the only decent timbermasts in quantity come from the Baltic area.”
“I’ll see what I can do, Henry.”
“Will you be back in England afterwards?”
“No. I’ll go directly home from Russia. You see I am expected to be a visible patriot also, and so as soon as I get home I must take my Baltimore clipper out on patrol. I remove impressed American seamen from English ships.”
“Do you indeed?” drawled Lord Palmerston.
“I do,” and Jared Dunham laughed. “Sometimes I wonder if the whole world has not gone mad, Henry. Here I am working as an undercover agent for my government in cooperation with your government, and then upon finishing my mission here in Europe I shall hurry home to do battle with the British navy. You don’t think that slightly mad?”
Henry Temple was forced to join his American guest in genuine laughter. “You certainly have a more unique viewpoint than I do, Jared. It is all madness, but that is due to Napoleon, and his insatiable desire to be emperor of the world. Once we have destroyed him all will be well again between us. You wait and see, my Yankee friend. Wait and see!”
The two men soon took leave of one another. Lord Palmerston slipped first from the private room in White’s Club where they had been meeting, and Jared Dunham departed minutes later.
As he rode in his carriage, Jared felt along the velvet seat for the flat jeweler’s case he had tossed inside earlier that evening. It contained a diamond bracelet of the first quality, his going-away present to Gillian. He knew she would be disappointed, for she was expecting a great deal more than a bracelet. She was expecting something he could not give her.