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Excerpt for The Homecoming by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

THE HOMECOMING

A Novel of Early America

BOOK ONE



KASEY MICHAELS



Praise for Kasey Michaels’ THE HOMECOMING


“A tale of love and passion... a fast-paced plot and the history of the Lenape tribe, told with poignancy and sensitivity... splendid and worth the read.”

Rendezvous


“Intriguing... Michaels provides vivid description and authentic historical detail... This colonial romance with a dash of English elegance and a touch of Irish sass is an uncommon mix...”

Library Journal


“Kasey Michaels’ obvious adoration for Pennsylvania’s history glows within the pages of The Homecoming. Readers will be fascinated by the colorful details, marvelous characters, and the exciting adventure and passion...”

—Kathe Robin, Romantic Times



Copyright 1996 by Kathryn Seidick

Electronic Edition Copyright 2018: Kathryn A. Seidick

EBook published by Kathryn A. Seidick at Smashwords, 2018

Cover art by Tammy Seidick Design,

EBook Design by A Thirsty Mind Book Design, 2018

All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photography, recording or any information storage and retrieval system without written permission of the author.



To Constance Walker; friend, cheerleader, and author.

Special thanks to Valerie C. Colas,

for both her invaluable research and her willingness

to share that research with a fellow writer.


Table of Contents


Titles by Kasey Michaels

Reader’s Letter

Book One

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Book Two

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Book Three

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

The Untamed excerpt

Titles by Kasey Michaels

About the Author

TITLES BY
KASEY MICHAELS


Alphabet” Regency Romances

The Tenacious Miss Tamerlane

The Playful Lady Penelope

The Haunted Miss Hampshire

The Wagered Miss Winslow

The Belligerent Miss Boynton

The Lurid Lady Lockport

The Rambunctious Lady Royston

The Mischievous Miss Murphy

Moonlight Masquerade

A Difficult Disguise

The Savage Miss Saxon

The Somerville Farce

Nine Brides and One Witch: A Regency Novella Duo

Historical Regency Romances

A Masquerade in the Moonlight (Enterprising Ladies)

Indiscreet (Enterprising Ladies)

Escapade (Enterprising Ladies)

The Legacy of the Rose

Come Near Me

Out of the Blue (A Time Travel)

Role of a Lifetime (A Time Travel Novella)

Waiting for You (Love in the Regency, Book 1)

Someone to Love (Love in the Regency, Book 2)

Then Comes Marriage (Love in the Regency, Book 3)

Just Good Clean Fun Regency Romances

The Straight-Laced Duke Selbourne;

The Just Good Clean Fun version of Indiscreet

The Bedeviled Viscount Brockton;

The Just Good Clean Fun version of Escapade

The Dangerous Mister Donovan;

The Just Good Clean Fun version of A Masquerade in the Moonlight

Historical Early-American Romances

The Homecoming

The Untamed

The Promise

Contemporary Romances

Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You (D&S Security Series)

Too Good To Be True (D&S Security Series)

Love To Love You Baby (The Brothers Trehan Series)

Be My Baby Tonight (The Brothers Trehan Series)

This Must Be Love (Summer Lovin’ Series)

This Can’t Be Love (Summer Lovin’ Series)

Stuck in Shangri-La (The Trouble With Men Series)

Everything’s Coming Up Rosie (The Trouble With Men Series)

Find Kasey’s books here!



Dear Reader—

After dealing for so many years with the Regency period and elegant gentlemen and ladies of the ton, I’ve been asked by many why I’ve decided to uproot a few similarly sophisticated English creatures and plunk them down in 1763 Pennsylvania. I want to tell you why.

Have you ever ridden along a rural highway and looked deep into a stand of old-growth trees, and thought—just for a moment—that you may have glimpsed a proud Native American silently running through the shadows?

I have. Living in eastern Pennsylvania, once the home of the Lenni-Lenape or Original People, I probably couldn’t avoid it. I grew up playing in the small woods behind my house, digging for arrowheads and imagining myself to be an Indian chief.

Eventually I grew up, but around me the physical reminders—except for those that were bulldozed to make way for shopping malls—remained, and the memories lingered.

Then, several years ago, I was asked to compile a history of my township, Whitehall, Pennsylvania. That history began with the Lenni-Lenape, or Original People, and they fascinated me. The colonists who’d braved everything, dared anything, for the chance of living in a free country, fascinated me. I began to see the Lenape, as well as the shawanuk, or White Fathers, who had settled in the area. At times I could even hear them. They wouldn’t leave me alone.

The sites I visited, including the graves, the histories I read that detailed the massacres that had occurred here, how and why they had happened. How life as we know it today was founded on the courage, and sometimes the deceit, of those who came before us.

Over the years, I began to play the “what if” game all writers play. Slowly that game became my ruling passion. What if there was this wise Lenape brave... and what if he befriended a wealthy, mysterious English gentleman who had not so much emigrated to the Pennsylvania colony as he had fled there... and what if that gentleman suddenly found himself saddled with this fiery Irish wife...

And thus were born Lokwelend, and Dominick Crown, and one Miss Bryna Cassidy.

I hope you enjoy their story, set against the history of their times.


Oh, and one more thing. This Colonial America Trilogy was first published in the mid 90s. The books got some lovely reviews, for which I was and am grateful. But there was one review that bothered me. Not for me, but for what was said about one of my characters. The reviewer believed it impossible for Lokwelend to speak English so well, be so wise and articulate. Uh – sorry, but that reviewer was wrong. Capital W wrong. My research took me through dozens of books, memoirs, etc, and the English and other ministers and such who emigrated to America brought their educations with them, and taught the Native Americans that same educated English. The Lenni-Lenape were the thinkers, revered by other tribes, and their history was long and rich before a single white man landed on American shores. My Lokwelend is a composite of so many Native Americans quoted in so many writings of the day, and a shaman, a wise seer, to boot. He’s in my stories because, in real-life history, there was a Native American man who lived a solitary life beside the creek I use in the books, made welcome there by the colonist who had cleared and fenced off the land and believed that made it his.


Reading this book again, and the two that follow in the trilogy, I realized how much our world has changed, and how much it has remained the same. In how we think, how we look at others... the good, and the damage, that we do.

Itah! Good be to you!


Kasey Michaels



The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said,

This is mine,” and found people naive enough to believe him,

that man was the true founder of civil society.

—Jean-Jacques Rousseau

BOOK ONE


Planting the Seeds

If you can look into the seeds

of time, and say which grain will grow

and which will not, speak.

— William Shakespeare

Stranger in a strange country.

—Sophocles

Chapter 1


New Eden, Colony of Pennsylvania

1763

Where is she?”

Dominick Crown had addressed this question to Alice Rudolph. She had entered the inn close on his heels, still slightly starry-eyed because Mr. Crown had actually helped her down from the wagon—treating her like a lady, and not just Truda Rudolph’s unwanted cripple. Quick as she could, Alice pointed toward the corner, and a small table occupied by the lone female who had arrived at the inn last night.

Not that she had been dressed like a female when she’d arrived. Oh, no. As Alice had told Mr. Crown when her mama sent her to fetch him this morning, the female had shown up on the mail coach, dressed all in breeches and a heavy redingote, and with a muffler tied high round her mouth like it was still the dead of winter. She had been masquerading as a young lad, that’s what she’d been doing—and carrying out her playacting fairly well until she’d heard all Alice’s pa, Benjamin, had to tell her.

Then she had screamed like a mad thing, calling Benjamin a “damned liar” and a few other things Truda Rudolph routinely called her husband but nobody else in New Eden had ever dared.

The female had cursed Benjamin Rudolph a blue streak, she had—until, of course, he’d cuffed her a good one on the ear with one of his hamlike hands. Then she hadn’t said anything at all; not even after Alice’s pa had picked her up from the floor, thrown her over his shoulder, and carried her upstairs. He’d dumped her on a bed, and then left it to Alice to undress the female’s limp body and see that lovely white skin, those perfect legs—so unlike Alice’s own—the lush beauty of the long, vibrant copper curls that had tumbled out from beneath the tricorn hat and hag wig that had previously concealed them.

No, Alice had not told Dominick Crown about any of that. And it wasn’t as if she had to tell him, either, not now that the female was sitting right in front of him. Sitting there all queenlike in the prettiest gown Alice had ever seen, her long, fiery hair piled all in curls, her back as stiff and straight as a poker as she sipped tea and dared, with those strange, almost colorless eyes of hers, for any of the men in the common room to so much as blink at her.

“A rose among thorns, wouldn’t you say, Alice? I can see that a rescue is very much in order, and I thank you again for apprising me of the situation,” Dominick Crown said quietly, and Alice nodded furiously, not understanding half of what the Englishman said, then disappeared into the kitchens.

Dominick motioned to Benjamin Rudolph, who was in his usual position behind the small wooden bar, wordlessly commanding the man to bring him a pint. He then nodded to the half dozen men who sat all on one side of the tables jammed into the low-ceilinged room, their backs to the fire. They had obviously positioned their chairs the better to goggle at the strange female.

“Good morning to you, gentlemen,” he said as he removed his dusty hat. He didn’t care that his one-sided smile told them he had employed the title in jest, or that he was aware that at least two of the men, the Austrians, Traxell and Miller, spoke little English.

“Newton,” he then added coldly, giving one particular man, Jonah Newton, a more personal reminder that he knew the tannery owner was only sitting in his chair, watching, rather than pursuing some greater vulgarity, because he had been warned that the damnable Dominick Crown was on his way to the inn.

Then, aware he had put off the inevitable as long as he could, Dominick started across the dirty wood floor. He halted, he sincerely hoped, a good fear-reducing four feet from the table where the young woman waited, her slim white hand holding the chipped, handleless cup poised halfway between saucer and mouth.

Good Christ, but she was beautiful! How long had it been since he’d been in the presence of a woman half so refined, one quarter so lovely? It seemed like a lifetime. In many ways, it was.

“Madam? Dominick Crown, at your service.” Flourishing his worn, dusty hat in his right hand, and feeling more than slightly ludicrous, he made the young woman an elegant leg, the sort he had mastered in his youth but not had much reason to practice for nearly seven years, since his arrival in this fairly benighted community. “And you are Miss Cassidy, I presume?” he asked as he straightened once more, aware of both his rough clothing and her unsmiling refusal to extend her hand or in any other way return his greeting.

He didn’t actually blame her. After all, Alice had found him already out in the fields, and he had pulled on his deerskin jacket, mounted his horse, and headed straightaway for the inn, choosing speed over respectability when told of the Cassidy woman’s predicament. Leaving a gently bred female alone in Benjamin Rudolph’s common room for any length of time was nothing short of an invitation to disaster, and he hadn’t been of a mind to fatigue himself with having to bare-handedly beat anybody into a jelly this morning.

The young woman’s chin lifted a notch at his greeting, which was quite a remarkable feat, as she already held herself as high as a queen, for all that she was a mere scrap of a thing. When she finally spoke, her voice was cool, and cultured, and entirely devoid of either maidenly awe or mannerly respect. “Yes, Mr. Crown. I am Miss Cassidy. Miss Bryna Cassidy. The only question, sir, is how you presumed to know my name, as we have not been formally introduced.”

Dominick motioned toward the empty chair across from her. At her slight nod, he sat himself down just as Rudolph slammed a mug of ale on the table.

“Pardon my informality, Miss Cassidy. But, as I doubt there is anyone save you and I in this small community who is actually aware of the niceties of social convention, we would have had a long wait for anyone to step forward and do the pretty. But, by way of explanation, Alice Rudolph informed me that you had introduced yourself here yesterday evening as being one Mr. Sean Cassidy. I merely took the chance that, although you are quite obviously an audacious fibber, you are not an extraordinarily inventive one. Although I would have laid down a goodly sum to have seen you in breeches.”

The cup hit the saucer with an audible crack. Bryna Cassidy leaned forward, her eyes narrowed in fury. “You insufferable dolt! Give me at least a modicum of credit, if you will. Or would you have had me travel here from Philadelphia, alone, without disguising myself in some way? I had thought to fashion a false wart for the end of my nose, but a score of warts and even a rash of running sores wouldn’t be enough to dissuade animals like those leering hyenas over there.”

Dominick spared a moment to glance over his shoulder at the leering hyenas, then smiled, spreading his hands wide to show that he, at least, was harmless. “I see your point. However, I wouldn’t have condoned your traveling unaccompanied at all, Miss Cassidy, especially since you are aware of the less than desirable element running rampant here in the colonies. But then I am not in charge of your comings and goings. Now, had I been your father, I would have—”

He frowned, seeing the sudden sorrow in her oddly intriguing eyes, darkly lashed, yet curiously colorless in a way that had first seemed gray, then had flashed a clear, light green when she had defended her descent into breeches. “Yes, well, we’ll leave that for the moment, shall we? I gather from Alice that you’ve already learned about the raid?”

She sat back against the rude wood of the chair, her posture still that of a gently bred female, but suddenly seeming so young, so small, so utterly vulnerable. He gave a slight cough and quickly took a drink of ale, wishing himself out of this conversation, out of this inn, and miles from what looked to be a further complication of his already complicated existence.

“Yes, Mr. Crown, I’ve heard. And in the bluntest of terms. My aunt and uncle, Daniel and Eileen Cassidy, were brutally murdered by savages not three months ago,” she said quietly. “My young cousins, Joseph and Michael, are also dead. Hacked to death the same as Uncle Daniel and Aunt Eileen, I believe Mr. Rudolph said.”

Her gaze was still steady, although he could see tears shining in her once more pale gray eyes, and her small, firm chin had begun to quiver. He felt instantly protective of her, which immediately made him angry, with her or with himself, he wasn’t sure.

“Cousin Brighid,” she continued doggedly, “just sixteen, and my dearest friend in all the world, has been taken by those savages, to be raped and abused. Yet not you, nor any one of those gentlemen over there, has so much as lifted a finger to try to rescue her in all these three months. And little Mary Catherine—” she hesitated, drawing in a long, shuddering breath “—only five years old—whom the innkeeper laughingly called the dummy—is with you. You, Mr. Crown, the grasping, greedy Englishman who barely hesitated an instant before taking claim to my uncle’s beloved farm. History has ever been so, hasn’t it? The English seeing anything Irish and assuming it their God-given right to steal it.”

“I’m sorry.” Dominick winced even as he heard himself mouth those two woefully inadequate words. “Rudolph is an ass, if you’ll excuse me for being frank. I wish you could have learned about your family some other way.”

Her humorless smile blighted him. “Why? Would it have hurt less then, Mr. Crown? I think not. Quick and clean. That’s the way to sever an arm; to break a heart. The captain of the Eagle took an unconscionable amount of time dithering about with meaningless sympathies and maddening inanities before at last informing me that my father had gotten himself roaring drunk and fallen overboard two nights before we docked in Philadelphia harbor. It took Captain Bishop nearly ten minutes to tell me what I knew in an instant, that I was about to disembark in a strange country, alone, with my only chance for sanity residing in the hope of somehow getting myself to the comfort of my father’s brother Daniel.”

She picked up her teacup once more, lifting it to her lips and taking a sip before closing her eyes for a moment, then opening them again, to look at him levelly. All the misery in the world was visible in those two eyes. She seemed to be holding herself so tightly, reining in her emotions with such determination, that if someone were to touch her, Dominick imagined she would shatter into a thousand small, pain-lashed pieces. “Thanks to Mr. Rudolph’s bluntness,” she ended quietly as she put down the teacup, “it took less than an instant to know that, with Uncle Daniel also gone, I am now even more alone than before. And I can assure you, sir, I hurt none the more or the less for Benjamin Rudolph’s quick telling.”

“Christ,” Dominick swore quietly, turning in his chair to once more look over at Jonah Newton and the others. They were still just sitting there, grinning and staring, like bettors waiting for the cockfight to commence.

“See here, Miss Cassidy,” he said, rising and holding out a hand to her. “If you don’t mind, I think it might be best to continue this conversation at my estate. I give you my pledge as an English gentleman that you will be safe there. I’ll see that Rudolph loads your luggage into the wagon, and I can tie my horse to the back. One of my staff will return the wagon later, not that I’m overly concerned on that head. At least then you can see Mary Catherine, and she can see you. Who knows? She might even talk to you.”

Bryna looked at his hand for long moments, then placed hers in it and stood up, proving that his assessment of her size was correct, for she measured no taller than his shoulder. “My bags are already packed, Mr. Crown, and waiting, as I should like above all things to go to my cousin. And then, Mr. Crown, we will discuss mounting a rescue. Or did you think I would leave the baby and Brighid here with these barbarians when I return to Ireland?”

* * *

Dominick Crown wasn’t all that huge. Tall, yes. Obviously strong. But not the total savage he had appeared to be when first he had entered the inn, raised his head after navigating his way beneath the low lintel, and skewered her with a single look.

He had still reminded her of an all-powerful giant as he’d crossed the room toward her, dressed so outlandishly, almost barbarously, in tan, ankle-length leggings gartered just below the knee. A ridiculous double-collared and fringed jacket, which looked as if it had been fashioned with a knife, was cinched at his waist by a multicolored sash, thus nearly concealing the pale blue and quite dirty homespun shirt that showed dark with sweat. He wasn’t even wearing boots, but a sort of slipper made of some soft leather.

She had seen drawings of such attire in books she had read about the colonies before ever leaving Ireland, and knew Mr. Crown’s ensemble to be constructed from the hides of some animal or other. Perhaps that of a deer? Yes. His clothing was barbarous.

But not nearly so barbarous as the man himself. His long, midnight black, unpowdered hair was tied at his nape with a thin strip of leather, a crude device that had not proved sufficient to keep several locks from escaping to hang down straight on either side of his deeply tanned, rather handsomely chiseled face. His eyes were just as black beneath straight, slashing brows, and although they seemed to laugh as he spoke, they revealed nothing of the man she now sat beside on the rough plank seat of the Rudolph wagon.

A man who seemed infinitely well suited physically to play the savage, that was Mr. Dominick Crown, for all his courtly bows and cultured English speech.

And if it hadn’t been for that cultured English speech, and his promise to take her to Mary Catherine, Bryna would have declined his invitation. Not that the idea of remaining at the inn seemed any less dangerous than making her way, alone, through an endless forest that was probably knee-deep in bloodthirsty Indians.

Why had Uncle Daniel come here? Yes, life had been hard in Ireland, but surely not so terrible that he could have considered this desolate wilderness a near “paradise,” as he had written in his letters to her father. And now this paradise had taken not only Uncle Daniel’s dreams, but his very life—and the lives of his beloved family.

And for what? For what?

If this primitive wilderness was the “freedom” Uncle Daniel had spoken of, the “opportunity” he had chased with as much enthusiasm as her father pursued a winning streak at cards—well, she was having none of it! Her malleable English mother had followed wherever Bryna’s loving but feckless father had led. Aunt Eileen and the children had followed where Uncle Daniel led.

But Bryna Cassidy had suffered enough at the whim of men and their dreams. From this day forward, she would direct her own steps, follow her own path. The very moment she had Brighid and Mary Catherine safely in hand, they could board ship in Philadelphia, leaving this tragic land and its cold memories behind them forever.

“I abhor this country,” Bryna said feelingly as one of the wagon’s wheels found an unusually deep rut in the dirt road and she was nearly pitched from the seat.

Dominick Crown turned his head and smiled at her, showing her both his straight white teeth and the small lines that appeared next to his eyes. His smile made him look less a savage and more approachable—if she were idiot enough to be taken in by straight white teeth and laughing eyes. Which she wasn’t. She might be her mother’s daughter in many ways, but she was not the sort to trust her destiny to a handsome face.

“Abhor it, do you? Which, of course, Miss Cassidy, entirely explains your presence in it,” he responded after a long moment in which she glared at him in what she knew to be real hatred directed toward both him in particular and the male of the species in general. He then once more turned his attention to the horses, who were showing a marked tendency to drift toward the side of the roadway, where clumps of tender spring grass seemed to wave an invitation to them.

“I was never to reside anywhere save the relatively civilized confines of Philadelphia, Mr. Crown,” Bryna informed him coldly. She wished she didn’t feel compelled to explain herself, her chin quivering only slightly as she remembered her father’s promises, her father’s unrealistic dreams and schemes, all of which centered on either the throw of the dice or the turn of a card.

“Papa suffered a few slight reverses of fortune in London during the past years, since my mother’s death,” she continued stiffly, not believing it a sin to lie in order to protect her father’s memory. “Business reversals—unwise investments—you understand. In the end, we were forced to accept Uncle Daniel’s kind offer that we reside in his home in Ireland, both before and after Uncle Daniel’s family departed for the colonies last year. We remained in residence there until such time as we could sell the property and bring the proceeds here, where my uncle was to use them to patent the land he had traveled to England and claimed under a warrant granted to him from... from—”

“From Thomas Penn, no doubt,” Dominick said, “son of William, and the most rascally, pernicious piece of mischief to have ever mastered the bending of laws to the benefit of his own deep pockets. He has a long legacy of deceit and dishonor in dealing with the Lenni-Lenape, the Indians native to this land, and the Lenni-Lenape, sadly, have equally long memories.”

“The savages who murdered my family, you mean? You will, of course, excuse me if I do not find it necessary to demonstrate any sympathy toward them.” Bryna looked off into the forest to both her right and left, once more nervously aware that the trees were so dense, the underbrush so thick, that it would be impossible to spot a band of attacking Indians until they were on top of the wagon. “You see, I doubt anything this Mr. Thomas Penn could have done warrants the slaughter of innocent women and children.”

Dominick smiled again, the action carving slashing lines into his thin, chiseled cheeks. “Remind me to tell you of a little ruse of more than five and twenty years ago called the Walking Purchase, Miss Cassidy, the consequences of which, in large part, led to the massacre of your family. Then you will be more able to judge the depth of Thomas Penn’s perfidious nature.”

“Yet you are also a landowner, so obviously you deigned to deal with the man?”

He shrugged. “I wanted land, and the Penns were selling. Thomas is back in England these many years, old and fat and happy, I presume, and counting his money. I, thankfully, dealt directly with a Penn relative, and a far fairer man than Thomas. I met John Penn here, in Pennsylvania, when I patented my own land several years ago, and again when I patented your uncle’s land. Your uncle’s and that of two other properties adjoining mine and, as a result of the recent raids, suddenly without tenants.”

“I see.” Bryna’s heart was pounding hurtfully in her chest, and her lips were stiff, so that she could barely force out her words. “How fortuitous for you, sir, that so many should die.”

He was no longer smiling, and Bryna knew she had gone too far. “Yes indeed, Miss Cassidy,” he said shortly, his precise English more clipped, more formal than before. “I took advantage of what could only be called a tragedy, knowing that my own property was spared an attack because I’d had the foresight to build myself a nearly impenetrable fortress, extending the hand of friendship to the natives while prudently arming myself as well.”

“And prudent as well, you say? I vow, sir, I grow more impressed by the moment.” Bryna shivered, so intense was her hatred for this man that her blood ran cold.

“Please, Miss Cassidy,” he said, his tone relaxing slightly once more. “I suggest we cry friends for now, as what’s done is done, and there is no recourse save to accept it. Now, as to what we have been discussing—well, I have developed an attachment to my scalp, nothing more. I am a colonist like all the others who have come here, perhaps better off financially, with the desire to grow an estate, a dynasty, here in this country. And the land in New Eden is good, the whole of it. Your uncle’s in particular. Daniel was a hard worker, and more than half the acreage was already cleared and ready for planting. He hadn’t had time to build a house, but the barn they built and lived in with their animals is still standing, if you wish to see it.”

“Is it now? And you’d agree to take me there? Today? How terribly generous of you, I suppose.” Bryna wondered why she was sitting so still in the wagon, her hands folded in her lap, when all she really wanted to do was turn on this arrogant, boastful man and draw her fingernails down his cheeks, scarring him for life with the evidence of her disgust.

Perhaps she was simply too hungry to marshal the energy to do more than snipe at him. She had been conserving her small store of funds as best she could, and that had meant her meals for the past few days had been both scanty and rare. The cup of tea she’d had at Rudolph’s was all the nourishment she’d allowed herself in the past four and twenty hours. Her head pounded as a result of weeping most of the night, and it was all she could do not to lean against Dominick Crown’s deerskin-clad shoulder and beg him for a hot meal and a soft bed.

“Mr. Crown? You haven’t answered me. Will you take me there today?”

“Not today, Miss Cassidy, as I have work to do that cannot wait. Tomorrow, perhaps. Everything is, as I said, still intact, and I doubt that will change between today and tomorrow. The Indians would have set fire to the barn, you understand, but the troops stationed at Fort Deshler had rallied the local militia. They came out in force after seeing the smoke from the O’Reilly homestead, and probably frightened the attackers off, thank God, or else Mary Catherine would have been burned alive. As it was, I didn’t discover her until the following day—tucked up under her parents’ bed where Eileen must have placed her—wide-eyed and silent as a mummy. Which, unfortunately, she remains. I don’t take pleasure in telling you any of this, but as you said it would be no easier for you to hear bad news slowly, I thought it best we get the worst of it over quickly, and before you meet with your cousin.”

Oh God, oh God! Oh. sweet Jesus! Would he never shut up? With her gentle English mother four years in her grave, with her father’s hot-blooded Irish temper springing to the forefront, and with her stomach crying out to be fed, Bryna at last turned to the man, knowing her sharp tongue remained her most dangerous weapon, and dropped into an obviously deliberate, broad Irish brogue. “Ack, sich a tale of wild wonder ye tell, sir, with yourself cast as saint and savior and the smartest of men! And is it proud of yourself you are then, Dominick Crown—crowing of your brilliance like a cock on his own dunghill, then hopping so swiftly into a dead man’s boots?”

His grin was maddening. “Well, hello! And who would you be, ma’am? I was just now speaking with a most imperious young society miss who learned her prunes and prisms in her cradle, and who fairly reeked of respectability. Would you have any notion where’s she flitted off to—leaving in her place a fiery-haired Irish termagant who drips sarcasm and vile accusations exactly as if she wasn’t alone in a strange land, at the mercy of the man who did nothing more than look to increase his estate? While taking in that proud woman’s young cousin, by the by, which wasn’t all that easy a trick, considering the fact that I first had to teach her to keep from biting me each time I came within a yard of her. Would you perhaps care to see my scars?”

“I’d prefer to see the back of you as you walk out of my life.” Bryna was furious with herself for having been so stupid as to show this man a side of herself her mother had striven for many a long year to eradicate. She had nothing in this life, nothing save her pride, her dignity. Now she had sacrificed even that for the sake of getting some of her own back at the one man in this terrible country who had offered her anything more than a leering grin or the back of his hand. “However, as I am grateful to you—after a fashion—I hereby apologize for my outburst. It was uncalled-for.”

Dominick laughed out loud, and she pressed her teeth shut on another sharp retort. “God’s teeth, but I’ll wager that hurt.” he remarked, still laughing. “Very well, your apology is accepted, even though you didn’t mean a word of it. And welcome back, Miss Cassidy—although I do believe you’d be wise to keep the fiery Bryna close at hand. She might be useful to frighten off the hyenas whenever you’re in the village.”

He gave the reins a quick flick, rousing the horses to a trot as he turned them off the dirt track and onto one that was not quite so narrow, and showed the effect of being carefully constructed rather than just carelessly hacked out of the forest. “We’ll be at Pleasant Hill in a few minutes, in case you’re interested.”

“I care only to see my cousin, Mr. Crown. Other than that, we could be heading straight into blazes for all I will be impressed by anything you may have had a hand in building.”

“Do you wish to know something interesting, Miss Cassidy?” Dominick prompted, just as the horses moved out of the overhanging trees and she espied a clear sweep of neatly scythed lawn and a softly rising hill topped by a large, three-storied Georgian mansion fit for London’s finest neighborhood. “I’m beginning to think the wrong Cassidy is mute. Mary Catherine, as I remember her from my visits to Daniel’s homestead, had a most melodious voice. You, however, put me in mind of a carping fishwife, and I believe the world could only be improved by your vow of silence.”

“Go to hell, Dominick Crown.” Bryna exploded, trying not to show any hint of admiration for the glorious house she had just seen peeking through the trees leading up the long drive.

“I already reside there, Miss Cassidy,” he answered smoothly, pointing to his home. “Dubbing it Pleasant Hill is only my faint notion of a joke. And, Miss Bryna Cassidy, if you meant your vow to remain until your cousin Brighid is rescued from the savages who kidnapped her, and unless you harbor a wish to return to the inn, you will be residing here as well. Now, that’s a thought to give a person pause, don’t you agree?”

Bryna lifted her chin imperiously, not answering, for Dominick Crown had said it all, damn him, and there was nothing else to be said.

Chapter 2


There is no greater sorrow than

to be mindful of the happy time in misery.

—Dante



Dominick called for the big brown dog to follow him as he slammed through the foyer and out of the house, intent on heading for the large oak tree behind the building, and as far from the tearful reunion as possible.

Bryna Cassidy had hopped down from the wagon unaided the moment he had brought the horses to a halt, the hood of her deep blue cloak falling back to reveal her copper curls. Holding her full skirts high above slim ankles, she had then swiftly raced up the steps to the house, already calling out her cousin’s name.

She hadn’t bothered to knock. She had simply thrown open the large red door and run inside, past a startled Lucretia—who had been walking through the foyer with Mary Catherine—to scoop up the child and cover the five-year-old’s small, dimpled face with kisses. “It’s all right, Mary Kate,” she had crooned, motherlike. “I’m here now, love, and everything’s going to be all right.”

By the time Dominick had explained the situation to Lucretia, Bryna and Mary Catherine Cassidy were collapsed in each other’s arms on the drawing room floor. Bryna’s skirts formed a puddle of deepest blue against the flowered carpet, and the child’s thin arms were wrapped tightly around her cousin’s neck.

The two had been both sobbing and smiling, oblivious of their audience... and Dominick knew he had to take himself off before his memory was jogged, pulling him back to his own childhood and the world he had lost.

“Gilhooley! Leave off chasing that poor butterfly and come here to me,” Dominick said, patting the ground beside him as he sat down. He leaned his back against the tree trunk, and the dog collapsed on the grass, laying his immense, flat head on his master’s thigh and soulfully looking up at Dominick through huge brown eyes.

“We men are decidedly de trop at the house for the moment,” Dominick told the animal. “And you’d better watch yourself while indoors from here on out, my mangy friend. You know what they say about being as nervous as a dog near an Irishman’s boot. Well, Gilhooley, we’ve got ourselves saddled with yet another true Irish female at Pleasant Hill, so you might want to take those words to heart, as I doubt your name will be enough to save you.”

Dominick sighed, as weary as if he’d put in a full day in the fields alongside the day laborers. He looked out over the sunlit acreage he had worked so hard to claim from the wilderness; the land that was his pride, his comfort, his challenge. With the addition of the Franklin, O’Reilly, and Cassidy homesteads, land he had so foolishly let slip through his fingers in the first place because he’d believed he could patent it at any time, he now owned more property than the Marquess of Playden held in Sussex.

More land, and better land. Fertile land. Rich farming land. Land that stretched to include acreage on either side of the river he used to ship his goods downstream to Philadelphia. Trees enough to keep his sawmill flourishing for decades. Water enough to sustain the cows and sheep he’d imported from England, and a natural spring of sweet, clear water running through a trough in the cellars of his fine house. There was even the stone quarry he’d already tapped in to in order to build that fine, handsome, eminently defendable house.

He had everything, all he’d vowed he would possess the day he’d taken ship in Dover over seven years ago, heading for the colonies. He’d landed first in Virginia, a land as fertile as New Eden, but there was no place for him there. Too many of the landed gentry journeyed back and forth to England, and someone would recognize him sooner or later. So he’d traveled north, taking with him his single servant and Lucretia, the slave he had purchased, then freed, succumbing to a hatred for human bondage he had not known he’d possessed until the day he’d seen Lucretia’s former master beating her on the streets of a small Virginia town.

Philadelphia held its own large contingent of English. To Dominick, it was a city already too large for him to care for the notion of living within the strictures of a society that survived on rumor and innuendo and prejudgments.

So he had moved north once more, until he’d found the small colony of New Eden just sixty-five miles away, with its fair-sized village and its collection of Austrian, Swiss, Irish, and English settlers, none of whom had ever traveled in the first circles in London. None of whom would recognize either his face or his name.

And here he had stayed.

This was a new land, a raw, demanding, at times brutal land, but it held all the promise, and freedom, and hope for a better future that Dominick could have dreamed of when he’d been forced, he’d believed, to choose between his pride and the possibility of a hangman’s noose.

Here, in America, his enemies were clearly defined, easily recognized. His challenges were equally clear. To take up the land, to learn it, to tame it, to nurture it, to grow with it. To build a new life, a better life, and to put the past behind him. Put the memories behind him.

He had been in New Eden for more than six years. Seven years had passed since he had left England. A lifetime since he had stared back at the Dover docks as he stood on deck, his hands gripping the rail until his knuckles turned white, straining for one last look at his mother’s tear-wet face, watching England, his home, fading from sight...

“Master Dominick?”

Dominick flinched, aware that he had been so lost in his reverie that an entire platoon of militia could have come up on him, unheard. He looked up at his valet, his sole connection to his old life, his constant reminder that living in the midst of this undisciplined new land was no excuse to abandon the genteel conventions of the civilized world. “Lucas,” he said, smiling. “Has the house fallen down? I can think of nothing else that would pry you from the safety of those stone walls these last three months or more.”

“They’d be safer still if you’d say yes to keeping the ground-floor shutters locked shut,” the servant said, pouting.

“And damned dark inside, you gloomy-gus,” Dominick replied, pushing Gilhooley away as he stood up, to tower over the much shorter, slighter man. “Lokwelend assures me there is no danger anymore, that the raid was an isolated incident, and will most likely never be repeated. After all, New Eden is laughingly termed civilized, settled land. It’s those to our west, on the frontier, who need to guard their hair. But enough of that. I suppose you’re here to discuss Miss Bryna Cassidy? I suggest, at least for the moment, that we put her in the green room and attempt to pretend she doesn’t exist.”

Lucas sniffed, then pushed at the spectacles that had slipped down the bridge of his nose. “Miss Cassidy has already settled herself in Miss Mary’s bedchamber. She also made it clear that it would not be in the best interests of—as she so rudely put it—my spindly-shanked self to naysay her. I have resigned myself to the situation.”

Dominick gave a crack of laughter. “Pushy little thing, isn’t she, and with a tongue that could slice cheese. Irish to the marrow, for all her obvious proper English schooling.”

“Yes, she is fairly civilized, sir, I suppose. But only because her deceased mother was English landed gentry born and bred. Although—as Miss Cassidy put it—she considers this an accident of birth only, and no fault of her mother’s. Does she know that your own mother is Irish, sir?”

“You two must have had a charming coze, probably just before she shut the bedchamber door on your foot. And the answer is no, Lucas. Although it will probably upset Miss Cassidy no end to know that we share a somewhat similar ancestry—considering her evident disdain for our English blood—we have not yet had time to exchange family trees. Which we won’t until the time is right, unless you break into the port one fine evening and unhinge your tongue at both ends.”

The valet-cum-butler stiffened, clearly affronted. “Have I ever betrayed you, sir?”

“No, Lucas, you haven’t. Even though you, more than any, had cause to condemn me without a hearing. Forgive me for saying anything, even in jest. Now tell me more of this touching reunion between Miss Cassidy and her cousin. Did little Mary talk to her?”

Lucas shook his head. “She cried, she even whimpered a time or two, like a poor lost soul, but nothing else. I begin to despair that the sweet angel will ever recover her voice, sir, to tell you the truth. And, sir—are you really planning to mount a rescue of the sister, this Brighid person?”

“Miss Cassidy told you that, too, I’ll assume,” Dominick said, starting for the stables, where one of the staff had undoubtedly taken his horse. It was time he was back in the fields, working alongside the day laborers. They were good men, men he’d hired for the season, before they moved on to the West to start their own farms, but they needed direction. “And no, Lucas, I am not about to go haring off into the wilderness to effect a rescue. The militia are handling that, or they will, if they ever get enough of Rudolph’s ale to screw up their courage to the sticking point. I have an estate to run, a crop to put in, acreage to clear, a grist mill to build—”

He took a deep breath, hating himself for the litany of excuses he had just uttered, then let it out in a rush.

“Lokwelend informed me that the girl has probably already been sold to one of the tribes passing through the area. She has also doubtless been moved beyond the mountains, perhaps as far as the Ohio, and is therefore untraceable. Or she’s dead. To be honest, I rather hope for the latter, even if Lokwelend says Lenape slaves are for the most part well treated.”

Lucas skipped along beside his master, taking two steps to Dominick’s one in order to keep up. “You should call him Wayland, you know, with him being a Christian now, and not a godless heathen. He and his children, Peter and Cora. Sir,” he added, his pale cheeks flushing an embarrassed scarlet at his own impudence.

Dominick turned to look at his servant. “Ah, to be a simple man, and live a simple life. How fortunate you are, Lucas, truly.”

The servant halted in his tracks, his recently flushed fair English skin drained to parchment white. “Are you saying, sir, that Wayland is still a heathen, for all that the Moravians have converted him? That he only pretends to be what he is not?”

“Don’t we all, Lucas?” Dominick answered, unexpectedly thinking not just of himself, but of Bryna Cassidy, who presented herself as a finely bred young lady of society, yet who had already showed him that her facade of sophistication was just that—and a much more fiery, intelligent woman simmered beneath that smooth, beautiful surface.

The servant sighed, lifting his thin shoulders, then letting them fall before saying, “Forgive me, sir. I am grown so accustomed to our new life that, at times, I cannot remember there ever was another, for either of us. I will say no more on that head, as it is a time we both wish to forget. You will, of course, be at table this evening?”

Dominick willingly let the subject slide. “I shouldn’t miss it for worlds, Lucas. Have a tub waiting for me at five, if you will, as I would like to show both Pleasant Hill and my own sorry self to their best advantage this evening. It is best to begin as I plan to go on, wouldn’t you say?”

“To go on? With Miss Cassidy, sir? Then she will be staying on indefinitely? I don’t believe she sees herself as more than a temporary, and most unwilling, guest.”

“Ah, Lucas, that’s where you’re wrong, except, perhaps, for that business about being unwilling. Miss Cassidy may not admit it, even to herself, but she has nowhere else to go. Or the funds to get there, if I’m any judge. The question remaining, I fear, is not whether or not she is staying, but just what I am going to do with her.”

* * *

“What am I going to do about that man?” Bryna mused out loud as she sat in the middle of the high, wide bed. Mary Catherine sat cross-legged in front of her, allowing her cousin to run silver-backed brushes through her soft, fiery red curls.

Bryna leaned forward and kissed her young cousin’s cheek. “He has been good to you, Mary Kate, for which I am grateful. But it is one thing to take in the orphaned child whose land he has stolen for his own, and quite another to extend that charity to someone old enough to know him for the greedy, grasping creature that he is. Charity is cold, Mary Kate, most especially when it comes from the English. I know. And yet it’s his charity we both need right now, damn his arrogant hide.”

She continued to brush Mary Catherine’s hair, even as the child shifted so that she was lying with her head in her cousin’s lap, her thumb in her mouth, her huge, Ireland green eyes slowly closing as she drifted off to sleep.

How Bryna loved this little scrap, the last bit of family she had left in the world save her mother’s family in Wimbledon, and a more pinch-mouthed, pinchpenny collection of thin-blooded Englishers she could not imagine.

She could picture herself showing up on their doorstep, a mute child and a damaged Brighid on either side of her, begging entry. There’d be a pope in Canterbury before she’d ever see the day her mother’s family opened their arms and their pockets to any of them. “Lie in the bed you made, Felicia,” her mother’s father had pronounced the single time Bryna had seen her grandparents—during that unfortunate interlude when her papa had been installed in the Fleet for debt. No, Bryna would rather sleep under the hedgerows than ever apply to any of the Harringtons for so much as a crust of stale bread.

If she ever returned to England, that was. Which seemed highly unlikely, as she had no more than three pounds sixpence tied up in the handkerchief now stuck in the bottom drawer of the fine burled-wood cabinet in the corner of her cousin’s bedchamber.

All her uncle Daniel’s patent money, all of her own small dowry—and all the easy winnings her father had bragged he’d taken away from the table each night they were aboard the Eagle—lay on the bottom of the ocean with Sean Cassidy, leaving her with barely enough money to get herself to New Eden.

She had not a feather to fly with, and nowhere to fly to if she did. Not that she would take so much as one step back toward Philadelphia or aboard a ship heading to either Ireland or England without both Mary Catherine and Brighid by her side. And most certainly not before she searched out and confronted her ex-shipmate, one Renton Frey, which she would most certainly do, as soon as she found her feet. She had hoped for her uncle’s help in the matter, but losing Uncle Daniel did not mean abandoning her self-imposed mission. It had only delayed it, that was all, while she was stuck here, cooling her heels in the back of beyond.

Which brought Bryna back to one Mr. Dominick Crown, and the glorious mansion that seemed so out of place in the midst of this benighted wilderness. What was he doing here, when he so obviously belonged in Surrey, or Sussex, riding his fields, entertaining the local squire and his comely daughters, tooling up to London for the Season, dressed all in satin and with his powdered wig on his head, before traveling to Scotland to fish for salmon?

He was nothing like Benjamin Rudolph, or any of the other ragtag ruffians she had encountered at the inn. He didn’t belong in Philadelphia, with its tidy shopkeepers and newly wealthy bankers and ships’ captains home after months at sea.

Even dressed so outlandishly, aping the appearance of the heathens she had, thankfully, not yet encountered, he fairly oozed London airs and sophistication. His house was totally English, furnished both lavishly and expensively in the best English style. His speech, his manner, were both impeccably English. Even his valet—and, pray, what need had the man of a valet?—was a pattern card of upper-servant hauteur and respectability.

Yet Dominick Crown was here, playing at lord of the manor in the midst of this savage, untamed land—just as if he had brought England with him and done his best to blend that age-old dignity with the raw, rough landscape of a new country. Blend with it, or conquer it.

Lace curtains and deerskin leggings. Fine English china such as she had eaten a woefully small snack from earlier, and heavy inside shutters meant to protect him in times of marauding heathens. Delicate rosewood furnishings, plush Oriental carpets, Chinese wallpapers, an enormous crystal chandelier in the foyer—and at least two long-barreled, fully loaded rifles and containers holding ball and powder positioned alongside every door and window in the house.

He, and his mansion, were studies in contradiction. Who was he? What was he about? And, most important, what was she to do with him?

Bryna carefully shifted Mary Catherine’s warm, slumbering body fully onto the bedspread, then covered her with the oddly patterned wool blanket that lay folded at the bottom of the bed. She slid her bare feet toward the floor, then stood and walked to the window that overlooked the rear of the large house, pushing back the curtain.

She shook her head, frowning in confusion as she once more gazed out over the nearly three acres of neat English gardens and the carefully scythed wide sweep of lawn surrounding them. She instinctively knew none of these improvements could be considered a natural part of any farmer’s priorities when struggling to establish a profitable holding in a new land. Her uncle Daniel had written of the daily labor to clear the land of tree stumps, of his notion of planting corn for the few animals he’d yet been able to purchase. There had been no mention of roses, or rosemary.

Standing here at the window, her toes curled into the deep carpeting, looking out at the immense sweep of garden and lawn, Bryna could not imagine that only three months previously her family had been butchered no more than a mile or so away, set upon by painted savages who wanted not their money or their belongings, but only their deaths.

“And now I am here,” she said softly as she turned to smile at the sleeping child, speaking only to break the quiet. “On sufferance, surely, but I am here, and here, for the moment, I will stay. As much a captive of this land as Brighid, as much a prisoner of my fears as poor little Mary Catherine. But what will I do about Dominick Crown?”

She blinked back a tear, straightened her shoulders, and gazed out the window once more, knowing she must be the most shallow creature on all the earth to be wondering if dinner would be served soon, as the tea and cakes the serving woman, Lucretia, had brought to her had barely made a dent in her hunger.

How she longed for a heaped plate of potatoes and golden roasted onions arranged about a slab of thick, red meat. Every fiber of her being was screaming for meat. Fresh beef, not the salted pork she’d been served at sea. She was so hungry her head was pounding, her arms and legs all trembly inside. Her physical weakness made it difficult for her to concentrate on anything save restraining herself from taking up one of the rifles and racing off to the kitchens to demand a bite out of whatever it was that was filling the entire house with aromas that alternately teased and sickened her shrunken stomach.

She must be a terrible person indeed to be thinking of her stomach when her dear cousin Brighid was probably subsisting on roots and berries and living in a cave, but as it wouldn’t do Brighid or Mary Catherine any good if their cousin should starve—

“Sweet Mother of Christ!” Bryna’s hands flew to cover her mouth as her eyes grew wide at the sight of two dark-skinned savages appearing out of the trees at the bottom of the lawn. They were still more than three hundred yards from the house, but she could already see that they were nearly naked, the pair of them. Their long hair was pulled back and stuck with feathers, their glistening bodies bent nearly in half as, carrying long rifles, they ran straight for the house.

She didn’t bother to hunt for her shoes. She completely forgot the fact that her hair was unbound and she was dressed only in her shift. She simply turned and bounded to the door and into the hallway, racing fast as she could down the winding staircase as she loudly called for Lucas and Lucretia.

She skidded to a halt in the foyer, taking in great gulps of air as her senses swam with her exertion. She struggled to get her bearings, then made her way to the back of the mansion. Somehow, she found herself in a dark-paneled study that boasted a door to the outside. Just as at every door, there were two immensely long-barreled rifles standing at the ready, propped against the wall.


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