Read The Lion's Daughter Online

Authors: Loretta Chase

Tags: #Fiction, #Historical, #Romance, #General, #Regency

The Lion's Daughter

Berkley
Sensation books by
Loretta
Chase

MISS
WONDERFUL MR. IMPOSSIBLE

Other
Regency romances by
Loretta
Chase

ISABELLA

THE
ENGLISH WITCH

VISCOUNT
VAGABOND

THE
DEVIL'S DELILAH

THE
SANDALWOOD PRINCESS

KNAVES'
WAGER

The
Lion's
Daughter

LORETTA
CHASE

BERKLEY
SENSATION,
NEW YORK

THE
LION'S DAUGHTER

A
Berkley Sensation Book
/
published
by arrangement with the author

PRINTING
HISTORY

Avon
Books edition
/
October
1992
Berkley
Sensation edition
/
January
2006

Copyright
©
1992
by
Loretta
Chekani.

Excerpt
from
Lord
Perfect
by
Loretta
Chase
copyright
©
2006
by
Loretta
Chekani.

Cover
art by Judy York.

Cover
handiettering by Ron Zinn.

Cover
design by George Long.

Interior
text design by Stacy Irwin.

AH
rights reserved.

No
part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any
printed or electronic form

without
permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of
copyrighted materials in

violation
of the author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

For
information address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

a
division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

375
Hudson
Street, New York, New York
10014.

ISBN:
0-425-20950-4

BERKLEY®
SENSATION

Berkley
Sensation Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,

a
division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

375
Hudson
Street, New York, New York
10014.

BERKLEY
SENSATION and the “B” design are trademarks belonging to
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

PRINTED
IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

10
987654321

If
you purchased this book without a cover, you should be aware that
this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and
destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the
publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”

Prologue

Otranto,
Italy, mid-September
1818

JASON
BRENTMOR PUT AWAY THE NOTE HIS sister-in-law had given him. His
glance swept unseeingly across the blue Adriatic, glistening in the
early autumn sun, and around the stone terrace of his brother's
palazzo
until
he met Diana's blue gaze. Then he smiled.

“I'm
relieved to learn my mother hasn't gone soft in her old age,”
he said. “Doesn't waste a word, does she? You'd never know she
hadn't laid eyes on me in twenty-four years. To her, I'm still the
reckless boy who gambled away his inheritance and ran off to live
with the barbarous Turks.”

“The
prodigal son, rather,” came Diana's amused response.

“Indeed.
I've merely to creep to her on hands and knees and beg forgiveness,
and I and my half-breed daughter will be restored to the bosom of the
Brentmors. What on earth did you write her, love?”

“Only
that I'd met up with you in the spring in Venice. I also enclosed a
copy of my new will.” Diana gestured toward the elaborate chess
set that stood on a table near her chaise
longue.
“The set was yours once.
Now it shall be Esme's dowry.”

“That
was my wedding gift to you,” he said.

“I'd
rather had
you,”
she
answered. “But we spoke all our regrets in Venice, didn't we?
And we had three glorious weeks to make up for it.”

“Oh,
Diana, I do wish—”

She
looked away. “I hope you will not become maudlin, Jason. I
really cannot abide it. We've both paid a high price for our
mistakes. Still, we had Venice, and you're here now. The past is
done. I don't want our children to go on paying for it, as though
they existed in some ghastly melodrama. Your daughter needs a proper
home and a husband

in
England, where she belongs. The set's been appraised. It will bring
her a large sum.”

“She
doesn't need—”

“Of
course she does, if you want her to marry happily. With the dowry and
your mother's backing in society, Esme may take her pick of eligible
bachelors. She's eighteen, Jason. She can't remain in Albania to be
shut up in some Turkish harem. You said as much yourself. Now, just
take her home and make up with your mama, and don't argue with a
dying woman.”

Jason
knew she was dying. He'd suspected it by the time he left Venice;
otherwise, he'd not have attempted a second visit to Italy so soon.
In the interval, his golden-haired Diana had faded to a wraith, her
graceful hands so sadly frail, the blue veins throbbing weakly under
nearly transparent flesh. Yet she was determined to appear strong.
Proud and stubborn, as she'd always been.

He
moved away from the stone railing and, looking away from her still
beautiful face, took up the black queen from the chess set. The
minute gems of the elaborately carved Renaissance costume sparkled in
the sunlight. Though the chess set was supposedly more than two
hundred years old, it was complete and in fine condition.

“Thank
you,” he said. “I'll take Esme back as soon as I can.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning
I can't just yet,” he said. “But soon, I hope.” He
met her reproachful blue gaze. “I have obligations, love.”

“More
important than those to your family?”

He
put back the queen, then moved to Diana's side and laid his hand
gently on her shoulder. He hated to disappoint her, but he couldn't
lie to her, either. “The Albanians took me in when I had
nothing,” he said. “They gave me a loving wife who bore
me a strong, brave daughter. They gave my life a worthy purpose, gave
me a chance to do some good. Now my adopted country needs my help.”

“Ah,”
she said softly. “I hadn't thought of that. Your life's been
there for more than twenty years.”

“If
it were just the usual thing, I'd not hesitate to leave. I know I've
put it off too long, and that's hardly fair to Esme, as you say. But
Albania is on the brink of chaos at present.”

She
looked up at him.

“There's
always unrest,” he explained. “Lately, though, the
uprisings show a pattern, as though they were being orchestrated.
I've captured a store of English weapons

stolen,
it turns out, and smuggled. There's definitely someone behind it,
someone of considerable cunning who, unfortunately, appears to have
an equally adept supplier.”

“A
conspiracy, Uncle Jason?”

Jason
and Diana turned toward the doorway, where her twelve-year-old son
Percival stood, his green eyes glowing with excitement. Jason had
forgotten about the boy, who had discreetly withdrawn more than an
hour ago with the excuse of trying on the Albanian costume his uncle
had brought him.

“Gracious,
how dashing you look,” said his mother. “And how well it
fits.”

Indeed,
the snug trousers with their distinctive braiding fit perfectly, as
did the short black jacket Percival wore over the loose cotton shirt.

“I
had it made to Esme's size. It's what she usually wears. She's a
terrible hoyden, I'm afraid.” Jason ruffled the boy's dark red
hair. “Do you know, at the moment, you might pass as her twin.
Same hair, eyes—”

“Your
hair and eyes,” Diana said.

Percival
moved away and, with typical boyish disregard for life and limb,
jumped onto the terrace wall. Far below him, the sea lapped lazily at
the jagged rocks of the shore.

“Only
I was never so scrawny,” Jason answered, smiling. “It's
not so bad for a boy, but most exasperating for Esme. Be
cause
she's so small and slight, others
tend to forget she's a grown woman

and
she objects very strongly to being treated like a
child''

“I
wish I could meet her,” said Percival. “I like tomboys.
The other sort of girls are so ghastly silly- Does she
play chess?”

“I'm
afraid not. Perhaps, when we return to England, you'll teach her.”

“Then
you
are
returning,
Uncle? I'm most pleased to hear it. That's what Mama wishes, you
know.” Perched on the wall, his legs dangling over the side,
Percival squinted against the sun at the faint line of peaks just
visible on the opposite shore: Albania's coast. “Every fine
day,” he went on. “Mama and I come out to wave to you and
Esme, and pretend we can see you waving back. Of course, we don't
tell anyone, do we, Mama? Not even Lord Edenmont. He thinks We're
waving to the sailors.”

“Edenmont?”
Jason repeated incredulously. “Not Varian St. George, surely?
What the devil was the fellow doing here, Diana?”

“He
lives here,” she said with a faint smile. “You know of
him, then?”

“I
got an earful in Venice. He was one of Byron's circle. Left England
to escape his creditors

and
proceeded to cut a swathe through the contessas, not to mention-”
Jason recollected Percival's presence. He perched himself on the
chaise
longue
and
whispered fiercely, “The man's a parasite, a libertine, a
wastrel. What do you mean
'lives
here'?”

“I
mean he lives upon my husband.”

“A
parasite, as I said. Hasn't a groat to his name
—”

“Then
obviously he must rely upon others, I think of Lord Edenmont as
ornamental ivy, supporting itself upon an otherwise vulgar and boring
public building

that
is to say Gerald, and others like him. Varian is very ornamental. He
is darkly beautiful in that brooding way so fatal to ferninine
sensibilities
...
and
sense.”

She
glanced at Jason's face and a ghost of a laugh escaped her. “Not
to mine, darling. All I feel for him is pity and
,
occasionally, gratitude. If Lord
Edenmont has sunk to playing foot-boy to an ailing woman and
nurse-maid to her precocious son,

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