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The Girl With The Make-Believe Husband

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While you were sleeping...

With her brother Thomas injured on the battlefront in the Colonies, orphaned Cecilia Harcourt has two unbearable choices: move in with a maiden aunt or marry a scheming cousin. Instead, she chooses option three and travels across the Atlantic, determined to nurse her brother back to health. But after a week of searching, she finds not her brother but his best friend, the handsome officer Edward Rokesby. He's unconscious and in desperate need of her care, and Cecilia vows that she will save this soldier's life, even if staying by his side means telling one little lie...

* *

I told everyone I was your wife

When Edward comes to, he's more than a little confused. The blow to his head knocked out three months of his memory, but surely he would recall getting married*. He knows who Cecilia Harcourt is—even if he does not recall her face—and with everyone calling her his wife, he decides it must be true, even though he'd always assumed he'd marry his neighbor back in England.


If only it were true...

Cecilia risks her entire future by giving herself—completely—to the man she loves. But when the truth comes out, Edward may have a few surprises of his own for the new Mrs. Rokesby.


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1 comment
Abiola Afolayan
I deliberately like this book it teaches me more about love and care nd how i wish I could be able to be reading more topics if the authors
02 April 2021 (02:16) 

Ви можете залишити відгук про книгу и поділитись своїм досвідом. Іншим читачам буде цікаво дізнатись вашу думку про прочитані книги. Незалежно чи вам сподобалась книга чи ні, якщо ви відверто і детально розповісте про це, люди зможуть знайти для себя нові книги, які їх зацікавлять.

Sad Girls

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From Duke Till Dawn

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For Nana Vaz de Castro,

who created a movement.

It's probably a good thing

I can't get Bob’s Ovomaltine shakes

in the United States.

And also for Paul.

There's got to be some irony in the fact that

I wrote about a make-believe husband

while you were gone for three months

climbing Mount Everest.

But that mountain is real. And so are you.

And so are we.



Title Page


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22


About the Author

By Julia Quinn


About the Publisher

Chapter 1

Manhattan Island

June 1779

His head hurt.

Correction, his head really hurt.

It was hard to tell, though, just what sort of pain it was. He might have been shot through the head with a musket ball. That seemed plausible, given his current location in New York (or was it Connecticut?) and his current occupation as a captain in His Majesty’s Army.

There was a war going on, in case one hadn’t noticed.

But this particular pounding—the one that felt more like someone was bashing his skull with a cannon (not a cannonball, mind you, but an actual cannon)—seemed to indicate that he had been attacked with a blunter instrument than a bullet.

An anvil, perhaps. Dropped from a second-story window.

But if one cared to look on the bright side, a pain such as this did seem to indicate that he wasn’t dead, which was also a plausible fate, given all the same facts that had led him to believe he might have been shot.

That war he’d mentioned . . . people did die.

With alarming regularity.

So he wasn’t dead. That was good. But he also wasn’t sure where he was, precisely. The obvious next step would be to open his eyes, but his eyelids were translucent enough for him to realize that it was the middle of the day, and while he did like to look on the me; taphorical bright side, he was fairly certain that the literal one would prove blinding.

So he kept his eyes closed.

But he listened.

He wasn’t alone. He couldn’t make out any actual conversation, but a low buzz of words and activity filtered through the air. People were moving about, setting objects on tables, maybe pulling a chair across the floor.

Someone was moaning in pain.

Most of the voices were male, but there was at least one lady nearby. She was close enough that he could hear her breathing. She made little noises as she went about her business, which he soon realized included tucking blankets around him and touching his forehead with the back of her hand.

He liked these little noises, the tiny little mmms and sighs she probably had no idea she was making. And she smelled nice, a bit like lemons, a bit like soap.

And a bit like hard work.

He knew that smell. He’d worn it himself, albeit usually only briefly until it turned into a full-fledged stink.

On her, though, it was more than pleasant. Perhaps a little earthy. And he wondered who she was, to be tending to him so diligently.

“How is he today?”

Edward held himself still. This male voice was new, and he wasn’t sure he wanted anyone to know he was awake yet.

Although he wasn’t sure why he felt this hesitancy.

“The same,” came the woman’s reply.

“I am concerned. If he doesn’t wake up soon . . .”

“I know,” the woman said. There was a touch of irritation in her voice, which Edward found curious.

“Have you been able to get him to take broth?”

“Just a few spoonfuls. I was afraid he would choke if I attempted any more than that.”

The man made a vague noise of approval. “Remind me how long he has been like this?”

“A week, sir. Four days before I arrived, and three since.”

A week. Edward thought about this. A week meant it must be . . . March? April?

No, maybe it was only February. And this was probably New York, not Connecticut.

But that still didn’t explain why his head hurt so bloody much. Clearly he’d been in some sort of an accident. Or had he been attacked?

“There has been no change at all?” the man asked, even though the lady had just said as much.

But she must have had far more patience than Edward, because she replied in a quiet, clear voice, “No, sir. None.”

The man made a noise that wasn’t quite a grunt. Edward found it impossible to interpret.

“Er . . .” The woman cleared her throat. “Have you any news of my brother?”

Her brother? Who was her brother?

“I am afraid not, Mrs. Rokesby.”

Mrs. Rokesby?

“It has been nearly three months,” she said quietly.

Mrs. Rokesby? Edward really wanted them to get back to that point. There was only one Rokesby in North America as far as he knew, and that was he. So if she was Mrs. Rokesby . . .

“I think,” the male voice said, “that your energies would be better spent tending to your husband.”


“I assure you,” she said, and there was that touch of irritation again, “that I have been caring for him most faithfully.”

Husband? They were calling him her husband? Was he married? He couldn’t be married. How could he be married and not remember it?

Who was this woman?

Edward’s heart began to pound. What the devil was happening to him?

“Did he just make a noise?” the man asked.

“I . . . I don’t think so.”

She moved then, quickly. Hands touched him, his cheek, then his chest, and even through her obvious concern, there was something soothing in her motions, something undeniably right.

“Edward?” she asked, taking his hand. She stroked it several times, her fingers brushing lightly over his skin. “Can you hear me?”

He ought to respond. She was worried. What kind of gentleman did not act to relieve a lady’s distress?

“I fear he may be lost to us,” the man said, with far less gentleness than Edward thought appropriate.

“He still breathes,” the woman said in a steely voice.

The man said nothing, but his expression must have been one of pity, because she said it again, more loudly this time.

“He still breathes.”

“Mrs. Rokesby . . .”

Edward felt her hand tighten around his. Then she placed her other on top, her fingers resting lightly on his knuckles. It was the smallest sort of embrace, but Edward felt it down to his soul.

“He still breathes, Colonel,” she said with quiet resolve. “And while he does, I will be here. I may not be able to help Thomas, but—”

Thomas. Thomas Harcourt. That was the connection. This must be his sister. Cecilia. He knew her well.

Or not. He’d never actually met the lady, but he felt like he knew her. She wrote to her brother with a diligence that was unmatched in the regiment. Thomas received twice as much mail as Edward, and Edward had four siblings to Thomas’s one.

Cecilia Harcourt. What on earth was she doing in North America? She was supposed to be in Derbyshire, in that little town Thomas had been so eager to leave. The one with the hot springs. Matlock. No, Matlock Bath.

Edward had never been, but he thought it sounded charming. Not the way Thomas described it, of course; he liked the bustle of city life and couldn’t wait to take a commission and depart his village. But Cecilia was different. In her letters, the small Derbyshire town came alive, and Edward almost felt that he would recognize her neighbors if he ever went to visit.

She was witty. Lord, she was witty. Thomas used to laugh so much at her missives that Edward finally made him read them out loud.

Then one day, when Thomas was penning his response, Edward interrupted so many times that Thomas finally shoved out his chair and held forth his quill.

“You write to her,” he’d said.

So he did.

Not on his own, of course. Edward could never have written to her directly. It would have been the worst sort of impropriety, and he would not have insulted her in such a manner. But he took to scribbling a few lines at the end of Thomas’s letters, and whenever she replied, she had a few lines for him.

Thomas carried a miniature of her, and even though he said it was several years old, Edward had found himself staring at it, studying the small portrait of the young woman, wondering if her hair really was that remarkable golden color, or if she really did smile that way, lips closed and mysterious.

Somehow he thought not. She did not strike him as a woman with secrets. Her smile would be sunny and free. Edward had even thought he’d like to meet her once this godforsaken war was over. He’d never said anything to Thomas, though.

That would have been strange.

Now Cecilia was here. In the colonies. Which made absolutely no sense, but then again, what did? Edward’s head was injured, and Thomas seemed to be missing, and . . .

Edward thought hard.

. . . and he seemed to have married Cecilia Harcourt.

He opened his eyes and tried to focus on the green-eyed woman peering down at him.


Cecilia had had three days to imagine what Edward Rokesby might say when he finally woke up. She’d come up with several possibilities, the most likely of which was: “Who the hell are you?”

It would not have been a silly question.

Because no matter what Colonel Stubbs thought—no matter what everyone at this rather poorly outfitted military hospital thought, her name was not Cecilia Rokesby, it was Cecilia Harcourt, and she most definitely was not married to the rather handsome dark-haired man lying in the bed at her side.

As for how the misunderstanding had come about . . .

It might have been something to do with her declaring that she was his wife in front of his commanding officer, two soldiers, and a clerk.

It had seemed a good idea at the time.

She’d not come to New York lightly. She was well aware of the dangers of traveling to the war-torn colonies, to say nothing of the voyage across the temperamental North Atlantic. But her father had died, and then she’d received word that Thomas was injured, and then her wretched cousin had come sniffing around Marswell . . .

She couldn’t remain in Derbyshire.

And yet she’d had nowhere to go.

So in what was probably the only rash decision of her life, she’d packed up her house, buried the silver in the back garden, and booked passage from Liverpool to New York. When she arrived, however, Thomas was nowhere to be found.

She’d located his regiment, but no one had answers for her, and when she persisted with her questions, she was dismissed by the military brass like a pesky little fly. She’d been ignored, patronized, and probably lied to. She’d used up nearly all her funds, was getting by on one meal a day, and was living in a boardinghouse room directly next to a woman who might or might not have been a prostitute.

(That she was having relations was a certainty; the only question was whether she was being paid for them. And Cecilia had to say, she rather hoped she was, because whatever that woman was doing, it sounded like an awful lot of work.)

But then, after nearly a week of getting nowhere, Cecilia overheard one soldier telling another that a man had been brought to hospital a few days earlier. He’d had a blow to the head and was unconscious. His name was Rokesby.

Edward Rokesby. It had to be.

Cecilia had never actually laid eyes on the man, but he was her brother’s closest friend, and she felt like she knew him. She knew, for example, that he was from Kent, that he was the second son of the Earl of Manston, and that he had a younger brother in the navy and another at Eton. His sister was married, but she had no children, and the thing he missed most of all from home was his cook’s gooseberry fool.

His older brother was called George, and she had been surprised when Edward had admitted that he did not envy him his position as heir. With an earldom came an appalling lack of freedom, he’d once written, and he knew that his place was in the army, fighting for King and Country.

Cecilia supposed that an outsider might have been shocked at the level of intimacy in their correspondence, but she’d learned that war made philosophers of men. And maybe it was for that reason that Edward Rokesby had begun adding little notes of his own at the end of Thomas’s letters to her. There was something comforting about sharing one’s thoughts with a stranger. It was easy to be brave with someone one would never face across a dining table or in a drawing room.

Or at least this was Cecilia’s hypothesis. Maybe he was writing all the same things to his family and friends back in Kent. She’d heard from her brother that he was “practically engaged” to his neighbor. Surely Edward was penning letters to her, too.

And it wasn’t as if Edward was actually writing to Cecilia. It had started with little snippets from Thomas: Edward says such-and-such or I am compelled by Captain Rokesby to point out . . .

The first few had been terribly amusing, and Cecilia, stuck at Marswell with mounting bills and a disinterested father, had welcomed the unexpected smile his words brought to her face. So she replied in kind, adding little bits and pieces to her own missives: Please tell Captain Rokesby . . . and later: I cannot help but think that Captain Rokesby would enjoy . . .

Then one day she saw that her brother’s latest missive included a paragraph written by another hand. It was a short greeting, containing little more than a description of wildflowers, but it was from Edward. He’d signed it


Capt. Edward Rokesby



A silly smile had erupted across her face, and then she’d felt the veriest fool. She was mooning over a man she’d never even met.

A man she probably never would meet.

But she couldn’t help it. It didn’t matter if the summer sun was shining brightly across the lakes—with her brother gone, life in Derbyshire always seemed so gray. Her days rolled from one to the next, with almost no variation. She took care of the house, checked the budget, and tended to her father, not that he ever noticed. There was the occasional local assembly, but over half the men her age had bought commissions or enlisted, and the dance floor always contained twice the number of ladies as gentlemen.

So when the son of an earl wrote to her of wildflowers . . .

Her heart did a little flip.

Honestly, it was the closest she’d got to a flirtation in years.

But when she had made the decision to travel to New York, it had been her brother, and not Edward Rokesby, that she had been thinking about. When that messenger had arrived with news from Thomas’s commanding officer . . .

It had been the worst day of her life.

The letter had been addressed to her father, of course. Cecilia had thanked the messenger and made sure he was given something to eat, never once mentioning that Walter Harcourt had died unexpectedly three days earlier. She’d taken the folded envelope to her room, closed and locked the door, and then stared at it for a long, shaky minute before summoning the courage to slide her finger under the wax seal.

Her first emotion had been one of relief. She’d been so sure it was going to tell her that Thomas was dead, that there was no one left in the world she truly loved. An injury seemed almost a blessing at that point.

But then Cousin Horace had arrived.

Cecilia hadn’t been surprised that he had shown up for her father’s funeral. It was what one did, after all, even if one didn’t enjoy particularly close friendships with one’s relations. But then Horace had stayed. And by God, he was annoying. He did not speak so much as pontificate, and Cecilia couldn’t take two steps without him sidling up behind her, expressing his deep worry for her well-being.

Worse, he kept making comments about Thomas, and how dangerous it was for a soldier in the colonies. Wouldn’t they all be so relieved when he returned to his rightful place as owner of Marswell.

The unspoken message being, of course, that if he didn’t return, Horace would inherit it all.

Bloody, stupid entail. Cecilia knew she was supposed to honor her forebearers, but by God, if she could go back in time and find her great-great-grandfather, she would wring his neck. He’d bought the land and built the house, and in his delusions of dynastic grandeur he’d imposed a strict entail. Marswell went from father to son, and if not that, any male cousin would do. Never mind that Cecilia had lived there her entire life, that she knew every nook and cranny, that the servants trusted and respected her. If Thomas died, Cousin Horace would swoop in from Lancashire and take it all away.

Cecilia had tried to keep him in the dark about Thomas’s injury, but news like that was impossible to keep under wraps. Some well-meaning neighbor must have said something, because Horace didn’t wait even a full day after the funeral before declaring that as Cecilia’s closest male relative, he must assume responsibility for her welfare.

Clearly, he said, they must marry.

No, Cecilia had thought in shocked silence. No, they really must not.

“You must face facts,” he said, taking a step toward her. “You are alone. You cannot remain indefinitely at Marswell without a chaperone.”

“I shall go to my great-aunt,” she said.

“Sophie?” he said dismissively. “She’s hardly capable.”

“My other great-aunt. Dorcas.”

His eyes narrowed. “I am not familiar with an aunt Dorcas.”

“You wouldn’t be,” Cecilia said. “She’s my mother’s aunt.”

“And where does she live?”

Considering that she was wholly a figment of Cecilia’s imagination, nowhere, but her mother’s mother had been Scottish, so Cecilia said, “Edinburgh.”

“You would leave your home?”

If it meant avoiding marriage to Horace, yes.

“I will make you see reason,” Horace growled, and then before she knew what he was about, he kissed her.

Cecilia drew one breath after he released her, and then she slapped him.

Horace slapped her back, and a week later, Cecilia left for New York.

The journey had taken five weeks—more than enough time for Cecilia to second- and third-guess her decision. But she truly did not know what else she could have done. She wasn’t sure why Horace was so dead-set on marrying her when he had a good chance of inheriting Marswell anyway. She could only speculate that he was having financial troubles and needed someplace to live. If he married Cecilia he could move in right away and cross his fingers that Thomas would never come home.

Cecilia knew that marriage to her cousin was the sensible choice. If Thomas did die, she would be able to remain at her beloved childhood home. She could pass it along to her children.

But oh dear God, those children would also be Horace’s children, and the thought of lying with that man . . . Nay, the thought of living with that man . . .

She couldn’t do it. Marswell wasn’t worth it.

Still, her situation was tenuous. Horace couldn’t actually force her to accept his suit, but he could make her life very uncomfortable, and he was right about one thing—she couldn’t remain at Marswell indefinitely without a chaperone. She was of age—barely, at twenty-two—and her friends and neighbors would give her some leeway given her circumstances, but a young woman on her own was an invitation for gossip. If Cecilia had a care for her reputation, she was going to have to leave.

The irony was enough to make her want to scream. She was preserving her good name by taking off by herself across an ocean. All she had to do was make sure no one in Derbyshire knew about it.

But Thomas was her older brother, her protector, her closest friend. For him she would make a journey that even she knew was reckless, possibly fruitless. Men died of infection far more often than they did of battlefield injury. She knew her brother might be gone by the time she reached New York.

She just hadn’t expected him to be literally gone.

It was during this maelstrom of frustration and helplessness that she heard of Edward’s injury. Driven by a burning need to help someone, she had marched herself to the hospital. If she could not tend to her brother, by God, she would tend to her brother’s best friend. This voyage to the New World would not be for nothing.

The hospital turned out to be a church that had been taken over by the British Army, which was strange enough, but when she asked to see Edward, she was told in no uncertain terms that she was not welcome. Captain Rokesby was an officer, a rather sharp-nosed sentry informed her. He was the son of an earl, and far too important for visitors of the plebian variety.

Cecilia was still trying to figure out what the devil he meant by that when he looked down his nose and told her that the only people allowed to see Captain Rokesby would be military personnel and family.

At which point Cecilia blurted out, “I am his wife!”

And once that had come out of her mouth, there was really no backing away from it.

In retrospect, it was amazing she’d got away with it. She’d probably have been thrown out on her ear if not for the presence of Edward’s commanding officer. Colonel Stubbs was not the most affable of men, but he knew of Edward and Thomas’s friendship, and he had not been surprised to hear that Edward had married his friend’s sister.

Before Cecilia even had a chance to think, she was spinning a tale of a courtship in letters, and a proxy marriage on a ship.

Astoundingly, everyone believed her.

She could not regret her lies, however. There was no denying that Edward had improved under her care. She’d sponged his forehead when he’d grown feverish, and she’d shifted his weight as best she could to prevent bedsores. It was true that she’d seen more of his body than was appropriate for an unmarried lady, but surely the rules of society must be suspended in wartime.

And no one would know.

No one would know. This, she repeated to herself on an almost hourly basis. She was five thousand miles from Derbyshire. Everyone she knew thought she’d gone off to visit her maiden aunt. Furthermore, the Harcourts did not move in the same circles as the Rokesbys. She supposed that Edward might be considered a person of interest among society gossips, but she certainly wasn’t, and it seemed impossible that tales of the Earl of Manston’s second son might reach her tiny village of Matlock Bath.

As for what she would do when he finally woke up . . .

Well, in all honesty, she’d never quite figured that out. But as it happened, it didn’t matter. She’d run through a hundred different scenarios in her mind, but not one of them had involved him recognizing her.

“Cecilia?” he said. He was blinking up at her, and she was momentarily stunned, mesmerized by how blue his eyes were.

She ought to have known that.

Then she realized how ridiculous she was being. She had no reason to know the color of his eyes.

But still. Somehow . . .

It seemed like something she should have known.

“You’re awake,” she said dumbly. She tried to say more, but the sound twisted in her throat. She fought simply to breathe, overcome with emotion she had not even realized she felt. With a shaking hand, she leaned down and touched his forehead. Why, she did not know; he had not had a fever for nearly two days. But she was overwhelmed by a need to touch him, to feel with her hands what she saw with her eyes.

He was awake.

He was alive.

“Give him room,” Colonel Stubbs ordered. “Go fetch the doctor.”

“You fetch the doctor,” Cecilia snapped, finally regaining some of her sense. “I’m his w—”

Her voice caught. She couldn’t utter the lie. Not in front of Edward.

But Colonel Stubbs inferred what she did not actually say, and after muttering something unsavory under his breath, he stalked off in search of a doctor.

“Cecilia?” Edward said again. “What are you doing here?”

“I’ll explain everything in a moment,” she said in a rushed whisper. The colonel would be back soon, and she’d rather not make her explanations with an audience. Still, she couldn’t have him giving her away, so she added, “For now, just—”

“Where am I?” he interrupted.

She grabbed an extra blanket. He needed another pillow, but these were in short supply, so a blanket would have to do. Helping him to sit up a little straighter, she tucked it behind him as she said, “You’re in hospital.”

He looked dubiously around the room. The architecture was clearly ecclesiastical. “With a stained glass window?”

“It’s a church. Well, it was a church. It’s a hospital now.”

“But where?” he asked, a little too urgently.

Her hands stilled. Something wasn’t right. She turned her head, just enough for her eyes to meet his. “We are in New York Town.”

He frowned. “I thought I was . . .”

She waited, but he did not finish his thought. “You thought you were what?” she asked.

He stared vacantly for a moment, then said, “I don’t know. I was . . .” His words trailed off, and his face twisted. It almost looked as if it hurt him to think so hard.

“I was supposed to go to Connecticut,” he finally said.

Cecilia slowly straightened. “You did go to Connecticut.”

His lips parted. “I did?”

“Yes. You were there for over a month.”

“What?” Something flashed in his eyes. Cecilia thought it might be fear.

“Don’t you remember?” she asked.

He began to blink far more rapidly than was normal. “Over a month, you say?”

“That’s what they told me. I only just arrived.”

“Over a month,” he said again. He started shaking his head. “How could that . . .”

“You must not overtax yourself,” Cecilia said, reaching out to take his hand in hers again. It seemed to calm him. It certainly calmed her.

“I don’t remember . . . I was in Connecticut?” He looked up sharply, and his grip on her hand grew uncomfortably tight. “How did I come to be back in New York?”

She gave a helpless shrug. She didn’t have the answers he sought. “I don’t know. I was looking for Thomas, and I heard you were here. You were found near Kip’s Bay, bleeding from your head.”

“You were looking for Thomas,” he echoed, and she could practically see the wheels of his mind spinning frantically behind his eyes. “Why were you looking for Thomas?”

“I’d got word he was injured, but now he’s missing, and—”

Edward’s breathing grew labored. “When were we married?”

Cecilia’s lips parted. She tried to answer, she really did, but she could only manage to stammer a few useless pronouns. Did he actually think they were married? He’d never even seen her before this day.

“I don’t remember,” he said.

Cecilia chose her words carefully. “You don’t remember what?”

He looked up at her with haunted eyes. “I don’t know.”

Cecilia knew she should try to comfort him, but she could only stare. His eyes were hollow, and his skin, already pallid from his illness, seemed to go almost gray. He gripped the bed as if it were a lifeboat, and she had the insane urge to do the same. The room was spinning around them, shrinking into a tight little tunnel.

She could barely breathe.

And he looked like he might shatter.

She forced her eyes to meet his, and she asked the only question that remained.

“Do you remember anything?”

Chapter 2

The barracks here at Hampton Court Palace are tolerable, more than tolerable, I suppose, although nothing to the comforts of home. The officers are housed two to a two-room apartment, so we have a bit of privacy. I have been assigned to live with another lieutenant, a fellow named Rokesby. He is the son of an earl, if you can believe that . . .

—from Thomas Harcourt to his sister Cecilia

Edward fought to breathe. His heart felt as if it were trying to claw its way out of his chest, and all he could think was that he had to get off this cot. He had to figure out what was going on. He had to—

“Stop,” Cecilia cried, throwing herself on him in an effort to keep him down. “You must calm yourself.”

“Let me up,” he argued, although some tiny rational part of his mind was trying to remind him that he didn’t know where to go.

“Please,” she begged, transferring her weight to her grip on each of his wrists. “Take a moment, catch your breath.”

He looked up at her, chest heaving. “What is happening?”

She swallowed and glanced about. “I think we should wait for the doctor.”

But he was far too agitated to listen. “What day is this?” he demanded.

She blinked, as if taken off guard. “Friday.”

“The date,” he bit off.

She didn’t answer right away. When she did, her words were slow, careful. “It is the twenty-fifth day of June.”

Edward’s heart started pounding anew. “What?”

“If you will only wait for—”

“It cannot be.” Edward shoved himself into a more upright position. “You are wrong.”

She shook her head slowly. “I’m not wrong.”

“No. No.” He looked frantically about the room. “Colonel!” he yelled. “Doctor! Anyone!”

“Edward, stop!” she cried, moving to block him when he flung his legs over the side of the bed. “Please, wait for the doctor to see you!”

“You there!” he ordered, pointing a shaky arm toward a dark-skinned man sweeping the floor. “What day is it?”

The man looked to Cecilia with wide eyes, silently asking for guidance.

“What day is it?” Edward said again. “The month. Tell me the month.”

Again, the man’s eyes flicked to Cecilia’s, but he answered, “It is June, sir. End of the month.”

“No,” Edward said, falling back to the bed. “No.”

He closed his eyes, trying to force his thoughts through the pounding in his skull. There had to be a way to fix this. If he just concentrated hard enough, focused on the last thing he could remember . . .

He snapped his eyes back open and looked straight at Cecilia. “I don’t remember you.”

Her throat worked, and Edward knew he should be ashamed of himself for bringing her so close to tears. She was a lady. She was his wife. But surely she would forgive him. He had to know . . . he had to understand what was happening.

“You said my name,” she whispered, “when you woke up.”

“I know who you are,” he said. “I just don’t know you.”

Her face trembled as she rose to her feet, and she tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear before clasping her hands together. She was nervous, that much was easy to see. And then the most disjointed thought popped into his head—she didn’t look very much like that miniature her brother carried about. Her mouth was wide and full, nothing like that sweet, mysterious half moon in her portrait. And her hair wasn’t golden either, at least not the heavenly shade rendered by the painter. It was more of a dark blond. Rather like Thomas’s, actually, although not quite as shot through with brass.

He supposed she didn’t spend as much time in the sun.

“You are Cecilia Harcourt, aren’t you?” he asked. Because it had just occurred to him—she had never actually confirmed this fact.

She nodded. “Yes, of course.”

“And you’re here, in New York.” He stared at her, searching her face. “Why?”

He saw her eyes flick toward the other side of the room, even as she gave her head a little shake. “It’s complicated.”

“But we’re married.” He wasn’t sure whether he’d said it as a statement or a question.

He wasn’t sure if he wanted it to be a statement or a question.

She sat warily on the bed. Edward didn’t blame her for her hesitance. He’d been thrashing about like a trapped animal. She must be quite strong to have been able to subdue him.

Or else he’d become quite weak.

Cecilia swallowed, looking very much as if she were steeling herself for something difficult. “I need to tell you—”

“What is going on?”

She jerked back, and they both looked over at Colonel Stubbs, who was stalking across the chapel with the doctor in tow.

“Why are the blankets on the floor?” the colonel demanded.

Cecilia rose once again to her feet, moving aside so that the doctor could take her place at Edward’s side. “He was struggling,” she said. “He’s confused.”

“I’m not confused,” Edward snapped.

The doctor looked at her. Edward wanted to grab him by the throat. Why was he looking at Cecilia? He was the patient.

“He seems to be missing . . .” Cecilia caught her lip between her teeth, her eyes flitting back and forth between Edward and the doctor. She didn’t know what to say. Edward couldn’t blame her.

“Mrs. Rokesby?” the doctor prodded.

There it was again. Mrs. Rokesby. He was married. How the hell was he married?

“Well,” she said helplessly, trying to find the correct words for an impossible situation. “I think he doesn’t remember, ehrm . . .”

“Spit it out, woman,” Colonel Stubbs barked.

Edward was half out of the bed before he realized what he was about. “Your tone, Colonel,” he growled.

“No, no,” Cecilia said quickly. “It’s all right. He means no disrespect. We are all frustrated.”

Edward snorted and would have rolled his eyes except she chose that moment to lay a gentle hand on his shoulder. His shirt was thin, almost threadbare, and he could feel the soft ridges and contours of her fingers settling against him with cool, quiet strength.

It calmed him. His temper did not magically evaporate, but he was able to take a long, even breath—just enough to keep himself from going for the colonel’s throat.

“He was not sure of the date,” Cecilia said, her voice gaining in certitude. “I believe he thought it was . . .” She looked over at Edward.

“Not June,” he said sharply.

The doctor frowned and took Edward’s wrist, nodding as he counted his pulse. When he was through he looked first into one of Edward’s eyes and then the other.

“My eyes are fine,” Edward muttered.

“What is the last thing you remember, Captain Rokesby?” the doctor asked.

Edward opened his mouth, fully intending to answer the question, but his mind stretched before him like an endless expanse of gray misty air. He was on the ocean, the steel blue water unnaturally calm. Not a ripple, not a wave.

Not a thought or memory.

He grabbed the bedsheets in frustration. How the hell was he supposed to recover his memory if he wasn’t even sure what he did remember?

“Try, Rokesby,” Colonel Stubbs said gruffly.

“I am trying,” Edward snapped. Did they think he was an idiot? That he didn’t care? They had no idea what was going on in his head, what it felt like to have a huge blank space where memories ought to be.

“I don’t know,” he finally said. He needed to get ahold of himself. He was a soldier; he had been trained to be calm in the face of danger. “I think . . . maybe . . . I was supposed to go to Connecticut Colony.”

“You did go to Connecticut Colony,” Colonel Stubbs said. “Do you remember?”

Edward shook his head. He tried . . . he wanted to . . . but there was nothing. Just the vague idea that someone had asked him to go.

“It was an important journey,” the colonel pressed. “There is much we need you to tell us.”

“Well, that’s not likely now, is it?” Edward said bitterly.

“Please, you must not put such pressure on him,” Cecilia intervened. “He’s only just woken up.”

“Your concern does you credit,” Colonel Stubbs said, “but these are matters of vital military importance, and they cannot be put aside for an aching head.” He glanced over at a nearby soldier and jerked his head toward the door. “Escort Mrs. Rokesby outside. She may return once we finish questioning the captain.”

Oh no. That was not happening. “My wife will remain by my side,” Edward bit off.

“She cannot be party to such sensitive information.”

“That’s hardly an issue, since I have nothing to tell you.”

Cecilia stepped between the colonel and the bed. “You must give him time to regain his memory.”

“Mrs. Rokesby is correct,” the doctor said. “Cases such as this are rare, but it is very likely he will regain most, if not all, of his memories.”

“When?” Colonel Stubbs demanded.

“I cannot say. In the meantime, we must afford him all the peace and quiet that is possible under such difficult circumstances.”

“No,” Edward said, because peace and quiet was the last thing he needed. This had to be like everything else in his life. If you wanted to excel, you worked hard, you trained, you practiced.

You didn’t lie in bed, hoping for a bit of peace and quiet.

He looked over at Cecilia. She knew him. He might not remember her face, but they had exchanged letters for over a year. She knew him. She knew that he could not lie about and do nothing.

“Cecilia,” he said, “surely you must understand.”

“I think the doctor must be correct,” she said quietly. “If you would only rest . . .”

But Edward was already shaking his head. They were wrong, all of them. They didn’t—

Goddamn it.

A searing pain shot through his skull.

“What is wrong?” Cecilia cried. Edward’s last sight before squeezing his eyes shut was her looking frantically toward the doctor. “What is happening to him?”

“My head,” Edward gasped. He must have shaken it too quickly. It felt as if his brain were slamming into his skull.

“Are you remembering something?” Colonel Stubbs asked.

“No, you bloody—” Edward cut himself off before he called him something unforgivable. “It just hurts.”

“That’s enough,” Cecilia declared. “I will not permit you to question him any further.”

“You will not permit me?” Colonel Stubbs countered. “I am his commanding officer.”

It was a pity that Edward could not bring himself to open his eyes, because he would really have liked to have seen the colonel’s face when Cecilia said, “You are not my commanding officer.”

“If I might intervene,” the doctor said.

Edward heard someone step aside, and then he felt the mattress dip as the doctor sat beside him.

“Can you open your eyes?”

Edward shook his head, slowly this time. It felt as if the only way to fight the pain was to keep his eyes tightly closed.

“It can be like this with a head injury,” the doctor said gently. “They can take time to heal, and are often very painful in the process. I’m afraid it does no help to rush things.”

“I understand,” Edward said. He did not like it, but he understood.

“That’s more than we physicians can claim,” the doctor replied. His voice was a bit quieter, as if he’d turned to speak to someone else. “There is much we do not know about injuries to the brain. In fact, I’d wager what we don’t know far outweighs that which we do.”

Edward did not find this reassuring.

“Your wife has cared for you most diligently,” the doctor said, patting Edward’s arm. “I recommend that she continue to do so, if possible out of hospital.”

“Out of hospital?” Cecilia echoed.

Edward still hadn’t opened his eyes, but he heard a note of panic in her voice.

“He is no longer feverish,” the doctor said to her, “and the wound on his head is healing well. I see no sign of infection.”

Edward touched his head and winced.

“I wouldn’t do that,” the doctor said.

Edward finally pried his eyes open and looked down at his fingers. He’d half expected to see blood.

“I can’t remove him from hospital,” Cecilia said.

“You will be just fine,” the doctor said reassuringly. “He cannot hope for better care than from his wife.”

“No,” she said, “you don’t understand. I have no place to take him.”

“Where are you staying now?” Edward asked. He was suddenly reminded that she was his wife, and he was responsible for her well-being and safety.

“I’ve rented a room. It’s not far. But there is only the one bed.”

For the first time since he’d woken up, Edward felt the beginnings of a smile.

“The one small bed,” she clarified. “It hardly fits me. Your feet will hang over the side.” And then, when no one said anything fast enough to stave off her palpable unease, she added, “It is a boardinghouse for women. He would not be allowed.”

Edward turned to Colonel Stubbs with rising disbelief. “My wife has been staying in a boardinghouse?”

“We didn’t know she was here,” the colonel replied.

“You’ve obviously known for three days.”

“She was already situated . . .”

A hard, cold fury began to rise within him. Edward knew the nature of the women’s boardinghouses in New York Town. It didn’t matter if he could not recall the wedding, Cecilia was his wife.

And the army let her stay in such questionable lodgings?

Edward had been raised a gentleman—a Rokesby—and there were some insults that could not be borne. He forgot the pain in his skull, forgot even that he’d lost his bloody memory. All he knew was that his wife, the woman he was sworn to cherish and protect, had been badly neglected by the very band of brothers to whom he had devoted the last three years.

His voice was diamond hard when he said, “You will find her alternate lodgings.”

Stubbs’s brows rose. They both knew who was the colonel and who was merely the captain.

But Edward was undeterred. He had spent most of his military career playing down his noble lineage, but in this, he had no such reservations.

“This woman,” he said, “is the Honorable Mrs. Edward Rokesby.”

Colonel Stubbs opened his mouth to speak, but Edward would not allow it. “She is my wife and the daughter-in-law of the Earl of Manston,” he continued, his voice icing over with generations of aristocratic breeding. “She does not belong in a boardinghouse.”

Cecilia, obviously uncomfortable, tried to intervene. “I have been perfectly well,” she said quickly. “I assure you.”

“I am not assured,” Edward responded, never taking his eyes off Colonel Stubbs.

“We will find her more suitable lodgings,” Colonel Stubbs said grudgingly.

“Tonight,” Edward clarified.

The look on the colonel’s face said clearly that he found this to be an unreasonable request, but after a tense moment of silence he said, “We can put her in the Devil’s Head.”

Edward nodded. The Devil’s Head Inn catered primarily to British officers and was considered the finest establishment of its kind in New York Town. This wasn’t saying much, but short of installing Cecilia in a private home, Edward couldn’t think of anyplace better. New York was desperately overcrowded, and it seemed that half the army’s resources went to finding places for its men to sleep. The Devil’s Head would not have been suitable for a lady traveling alone, but as the wife of an officer, Cecilia would be safe and respected.

“Montby leaves tomorrow,” Colonel Stubbs said. “His room is big enough for you both.”

“Move him in with another officer,” Edward ordered. “She needs a room tonight.”

“Tomorrow will be fine,” Cecilia said.

Edward ignored her. “Tonight.”

Colonel Stubbs nodded. “I’ll speak to Montby.”

Edward gave another curt nod. He knew Captain Montby. He, like all the officers, would give up his room in a heartbeat if it meant the safety of a gentlewoman.

“In the meantime,” the doctor said, “he must remain calm and sedate.” He turned to Cecilia. “He must not be upset in any way.”

“It is difficult to imagine being more upset than I am right now,” Edward said.

The doctor smiled. “It is a very good sign that you retain your sense of humor.”

Edward decided not to point out that he had not been making a joke.

“We shall have you out of here by tomorrow,” Colonel Stubbs said briskly. He turned to Cecilia. “In the meantime, fill him in on all he has missed. Perhaps it will jog his memory.”

“An excellent idea,” the doctor said. “I am sure your husband will want to know how you came to be here in New York, Mrs. Rokesby.”

Cecilia tried to smile. “Of course, sir.”

“And remember, do not upset him.” The doctor tipped an indulgent glance toward Edward and added, “Further.”

Colonel Stubbs spoke briefly to Cecilia about her move to the Devil’s Head, and then the two men departed, leaving Edward once again alone with his wife. Well, alone as one could be in a church full of sick soldiers.

He looked at Cecilia, standing awkwardly near his bed.

His wife. Bloody hell.

He still didn’t understand how it had come to pass, but it must be true. Colonel Stubbs seemed to believe it, and he’d always been a by-the-book sort of man. Plus, this was Cecilia Harcourt, sister of his closest friend. If he was going to find himself married to a woman he didn’t think he’d actually met, he supposed she would be the one.

Still, it seemed like the sort of thing he’d remember.

“When were we wed?” he asked.

She was staring off toward the far end of the transept. He wasn’t sure if she was listening.


“A few months ago,” she said, turning back around to face him. “You should sleep.”

“I’m not tired.”

“No?” She gave a wobbly smile as she settled into the chair next to his bed. “I’m exhausted.”

“I am sorry,” he said instantly. He felt like he should rise. Give her his hand.

Be a gentleman.

“I did not think,” he said.

“You have not had much opportunity to do so,” she said in a dry voice.

His lips parted with surprise, and then he thought—there was the Cecilia Harcourt he knew so well. Or thought he knew so well. Truth be told, he could not recall ever having seen her face. But she sounded just like her letters, and he had held her words close to his heart during the worst of the war.

Sometimes he wondered if it was strange that he had looked forward to her letters to Thomas more than he did the ones coming to him from his own family.

“Forgive me,” she said. “I have a most inappropriate sense of humor.”

“I like it,” he said.

She looked over at him, and he thought he saw something a little grateful in her eyes.

Such an interesting color, they were. A seafoam green so pale she would surely have been called fey in another era. Which seemed somehow wrong; she was as down-to-earth and reliable as any person he’d ever met.

Or thought he’d met.

She touched her cheek self-consciously. “Have I something on my face?”

“Just looking at you,” he said.

“There is not much to see.”

This made him smile. “I must disagree.”

She flushed, and he realized he was flirting with his wife. Strange.

And yet possibly the least strange thing of the day.

“I wish I remembered . . .” he began.

She looked at him.

He wished he remembered meeting her for the first time. He wished he remembered their wedding.

He wished he remembered kissing her.

“Edward?” she said softly.

“Everything,” he said, the word coming out with a little more edge than he’d intended. “I wish I remembered everything.”

“I’m sure you will.” She smiled tightly, but there was something wrong about it. It didn’t reach her eyes, and then he realized that she hadn’t met his eyes. He wondered what she wasn’t telling him. Had someone told her more about his condition than she had shared with him? He didn’t know when they could have done so; she had not left his side since he’d awakened.

“You look like Thomas,” he said abruptly.

“Do you think so?” She gave him a puzzled look. “No one else seems to. Well, except for the hair.” She touched it then, probably without even realizing she’d done so. It had been pulled back into an inexpertly pinned bun, and the bits that had fallen out hung limply against her cheek. He wondered how long it was, how it might look against her back.

“I favor our mother,” she said. “Or so I’ve been told. I never knew her. Thomas is more like our father.”

Edward shook his head. “It’s not in the features. It is your expressions.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Yes, right there!” He grinned, feeling a bit more alive than he had just a moment earlier. “You make the same expressions. When you said, ‘I beg your pardon,’ you tilted your head exactly the same way he does.”

She quirked a smile. “Does he beg your pardon so very often?”

“Not nearly as much as he should.”

She burst out laughing at that. “Oh, thank you,” she said, wiping her eyes. “I haven’t laughed since . . .” She shook her head. “I can’t remember when.”

He reached out and took her hand. “You haven’t had much to laugh about,” he said quietly.

Her throat worked as she nodded, and for one awful moment Edward thought she might cry. But still, he knew he could not remain silent. “What happened to Thomas?” he asked.

She took a deep breath, then slowly exhaled. “I received word that he had been injured and was recuperating in New York Town. I was concerned—well, you can see for yourself,” she said, waving a hand toward the rest of the room. “There are not enough people to nurse the wounded soldiers. I did not want my brother to be alone.”

Edward considered this. “I am surprised your father allowed you to make the trip.”

“My father has died.”

Bloody hell. “I am sorry,” he said. “It seems my tact has departed along with my memory.” Although in truth, he could not have known. Her dress was pink, and she showed no signs of mourning.

She caught him eyeing the dusty rose fabric of her sleeve. “I know,” she said with a sheepish pout to her lower lip. “I should be in blacks. But I only had the one dress, and it was wool bombazine. I should roast like a chicken if I wore it here.”

“Our uniforms are rather uncomfortable in the summer months,” Edward agreed.

“Indeed. Thomas had said as much in his letters. It was because of his descriptions of the summer temperatures that I knew not to bring it.”

“I am sure you are more fetching in pink,” Edward said.

She blinked at the compliment. He could not blame her. The sheer ordinariness of it seemed oddly out of place considering their location in a hospital.

In a church.

In the middle of a war.

Add in his lost memory and found wife, and truly, he did not see how his life might get any more bizarre.

“Thank you,” Cecilia said, before clearing her throat and continuing with “But you asked about my father. You are correct. He would not have permitted me to travel to New York. He was not the most conscientious of parents, but even he would have put his foot down. Although . . .” She let out a little choke of uncomfortable laughter. “I’m not sure how quickly he would have noticed my absence.”

“I assure you, anyone would notice your absence.”

She gave him a sideways sort of look. “You haven’t met my father. As long as the house is—excuse me, was—running smoothly, he wouldn’t have noticed a thing.”

Edward nodded slowly. Thomas had not said a lot about Walter Harcourt, but what he had seemed to confirm Cecilia’s description. He’d complained more than once that their father was too content to let Cecilia molder away as his unpaid housekeeper. She needed to find someone to marry, Thomas had said. She needed to leave Marswell and make a life of her own.

Had Thomas been playing matchmaker? Edward hadn’t thought so at the time.

“Was it an accident?” Edward asked.

“No, but it was a surprise. He was napping in his study.” She gave a sad little shrug. “He didn’t wake up.”

“His heart?”

“The doctor said there was no way to know for certain. It doesn’t matter, though, really, does it?” She looked over at him with an achingly wise expression, and Edward could have sworn he felt it. There was something about her eyes, the color, the clarity. When they met his, he felt as if the breath was sucked from his body.

Would it always be like this?

Was this why he’d married her?

“You look tired,” she said, adding before he could interrupt, “I know you said you’re not, but you look it.”

But he didn’t want to sleep. He couldn’t bear the thought of allowing his mind to slip back into unconsciousness. He’d lost too much time already. He needed it back. Every moment. Every memory.

“You didn’t say what happened to Thomas,” he reminded her.

A wave of worry washed over her face. “I don’t know,” she said with a choke in her voice. “No one seems to know where he is.”

“How is that possible?”

She gave a helpless shrug.

“You spoke to Colonel Stubbs?”

“Of course.”

“General Garth?”

“They would not permit me to see him.”

“What?” This was not to be borne. “As my wife—”

“I did not tell them I was your wife.”

He stared at her. “Why the hell not?”

“I don’t know.” She jumped up from her seat, hugging her arms to her body. “I think I was just—well, I was there as Thomas’s sister.”

“But surely when you gave your name.”

She caught her lower lip between her teeth before saying, “I don’t think anyone made the connection.”

“General Garth did not realize that Mrs. Edward Rokesby was my wife?”

“Well, I told you I didn’t see him.” She moved back to his side, busying herself with tucking his blankets around him. “You’re getting too upset. We can talk about this tomorrow.”

“We will talk about this tomorrow,” he growled.

“Or the next day.”

His eyes met hers.

“Depending on your health.”


“I will brook no argument,” she cut in. “I may not be able to do anything for my brother just now, but I can help you. And if that means forcing you to hold your bloody horses . . .”

He stared at her, drinking her in. Her jaw was set, and she had one foot slightly forward, as if ready to charge. He could almost imagine her brandishing a sword, waving it above her head with a battle cry.

She was Joan of Arc. She was Boudicca. She was every woman who’d ever fought to protect her family.

“My fierce warrior,” he murmured.

She gave him a look.

He didn’t apologize.

“I should go,” she said abruptly. “Colonel Stubbs is sending someone to collect me this evening. I need to pack my things.”

He wasn’t sure how many things she’d managed to collect since arriving in North America, but Edward knew better than to get between a woman and her traveling trunk.

“You will be all right without me?”

He nodded.

This made her frown. “You wouldn’t tell me if you thought otherwise, would you?”

He gave her a quirk of a smile. “Of course not.”

This made her roll her eyes. “I will be back in the morning.”

“I look forward to it.”

And he did. He couldn’t remember the last time he looked forward to something more.

Of course, he couldn’t remember anything.

But still.

Chapter 3

The son of an earl? La-di-da, how you have come up in the world, my brother. I hope he is not unbearable about it.

—from Cecilia Harcourt to her brother Thomas

Several hours later, as Cecilia followed the cheerful young lieutenant who had been dispatched to escort her to the Devil’s Head, she wondered when her heart might finally stop pounding. Dear heavens, how many lies had she told this afternoon? She had tried to keep her answers as close to the truth as possible, both to ease her conscience and because she had no idea how else to keep track of it all.

She should have told Edward the truth. She’d been about to, honestly, but then Colonel Stubbs had returned with the doctor. There was no way she was going to make her confession with that audience. She would have been booted from the hospital for certain, and Edward still needed her.

She still needed him.

She was alone in a very strange land. She was almost out of funds. And now that her reason for holding herself together had woken up, she could finally admit to herself—she was scared out of her mind.

If Edward repudiated her she’d be soon in the streets. She’d have no choice but to go back to England, and she couldn’t do that, not without discovering what had happened to her brother. She had sacrificed so much to make this journey. It had taken every ounce of her courage. She could not give up now.

But how could she continue to lie to him? Edward Rokesby was a good man. He did not deserve to be taken advantage of in such a brazen manner. Furthermore, he was Thomas’s closest friend. The two men had met when they had first entered the army, and as officers in the same regiment, they’d been sent over to North America at the same time. As far as Cecilia knew, they had served together ever since.

She knew that Edward felt kindly toward her. If she told him the truth, surely he’d understand why she’d lied. He would want to help her. Wouldn’t he?

But all this was neither here nor there. Or at the very least it could be put off until the following day. The Devil’s Head was just down the street, and with it the promise of a warm bed and a filling meal. Surely she deserved that much.

Goal for today: Don’t feel guilty. At least not for eating a proper meal.

“Almost there,” the lieutenant said with a smile.

Cecilia gave him a nod. New York was such a strange place. According to the woman who’d run her boardinghouse, there were more than twenty thousand people crowded into what was not a very large area at the southern tip of Manhattan Island. Cecilia wasn’t sure what the population had been before the war, but she’d been told that numbers had surged once the British had taken over the city as their headquarters. Scarlet-clad soldiers were everywhere, and every available building had been pressed into service to house them. Supporters of the Continental Congress had long since left town, but they had been replaced and more by a rush of Loyalist refugees who’d fled neighboring colonies in search of British protection.

But the strangest sight—to Cecilia, at least—were the Negroes. She had never seen people with such dark skin before, and she’d been startled by how many of them there were in the bustling port town.

“Escaped slaves,” the lieutenant said, following Cecilia’s gaze to the dark-skinned man coming out of the blacksmith’s shop across the street.

“I beg your pardon?”

“They’ve been coming up here by the hundreds,” the lieutenant said with a shrug. “General Clinton freed them all last month, but no one in Patriot territories is obeying the order, so their slaves have been running away to us.” He frowned. “Not sure we’ve got room for them, to be honest. But you can’t blame a man for wanting to be free.”

“No,” Cecilia murmured, glancing back over her shoulder. When she turned back to the lieutenant, he was already at the entrance to the Devil’s Head Inn.

“Here we are,” he said, holding the door for her.

“Thank you.” She stepped in and then out of his way so that he might locate the innkeeper. Clutching her meager valise in front of her, Cecilia took in the main room of the inn and public house. It looked very much like its British counterparts—dimly lit, a bit too crowded, and with sticky bits on the floor that Cecilia chose to believe were ale. A buxom young woman moved swiftly between the tables, deftly setting down mugs with one hand as she cleared dishes with the other. Behind the bar a man with a bushy mustache fiddled with the tap on a barrel, cursing when it seemed to jam up.

It would have felt like home had not almost every seat been filled with scarlet-clad soldiers.

There were a few ladies among their ranks, and from their clothing and demeanor Cecilia assumed they were respectable. Officers’ wives, maybe? She’d heard that some women had accompanied their husbands to the New World. She supposed she was one of them now, for at least one more day.

“Miss Harcourt!”

Startled, Cecilia turned toward a table in the middle of the room. One of the soldiers—a man of middling years with thinning brown hair—was rising to his feet. “Miss Harcourt,” he repeated. “It is a surprise to see you here.”

Her lips parted. She knew this man. She detested this man. He was the first person she’d sought out in her quest to find Thomas, and he’d been the most condescending and unhelpful of the bunch.

“Major Wilkins,” she said, bobbing a polite curtsy even as her mind was whirring with unease. More lies. She needed to come up with more lies, and quickly.

“Are you well?” he asked in his customary brusque voice.

“I am.” She glanced over at the lieutenant, who was now conferring with another soldier. “Thank you for asking.”

“I had assumed you would be planning your return to England.”

She gave him a little smile and a shrug in lieu of a reply. Truly, she did not wish to speak with him. And she had never given him any indication that she planned to leave New York.

“Mrs. Rokesby! Ah, there you are.”

Saved by the young lieutenant, Cecilia thought gratefully. He was making his way back to her side, a large brass key in his hand.

“I spoke to the innkeeper,” he said, “and to—”

“Mrs. Rokesby?” Major Wilkins interjected.

The lieutenant snapped to attention when he saw the major. “Sir,” he said.

Wilkins brushed him off. “Did he call you Mrs. Rokesby?”

“Is that not your name?” the lieutenant asked.

Cecilia fought against the fist that seemed to be closing around her heart. “I—”

The major turned back to her with a frown. “I thought you to be unmarried.”

“I was,” she blurted out. “I mean—” Damn it, that wasn’t going to hold water. She couldn’t have got herself married in the last three days. “I was. Some time ago. I was unmarried. We all were. I mean, if one is married now, one once was un—”

She didn’t even bother to finish. Good God, she sounded the worst sort of ninny. She was giving women everywhere a bad name.

“Mrs. Rokesby is married to Captain Rokesby,” the lieutenant said helpfully.

Major Wilkins turned to her with a thunderous expression. “Captain Edward Rokesby?”

Cecilia nodded. As far as she knew, there was no other Captain Rokesby, but as she was already tripping over her falsehoods, she deemed it best not to try to score a point with a snide comment.

“Why the h—” He cleared his throat. “I beg your pardon. Why did you not say so?”

Cecilia recalled her conversation with Edward. Stick to the same lies, she reminded herself. “I was inquiring about my brother,” she explained. “It seemed the more important relationship.”

The major looked at her as if she’d lost her mind. Cecilia knew very well what he was thinking. Edward Rokesby was the son of an earl. She’d have to be an idiot not to press that connection.

There was a heavy beat of silence while the major blinked his expression back into something approaching respectful, then he cleared his throat and said, “I was very glad to hear that your husband had returned to New York.” His brows drew together with some suspicion. “He was missing for some time, was he not?”

The implication being: Why hadn’t she been searching for her husband?

Cecilia injected a bit of steel into her spine. “I was already aware of his safe return when I came to you about Thomas.” It wasn’t true, but he didn’t need to know that.

“I see.” He had the grace to look at least a little ashamed. “I beg your pardon.”

Cecilia gave him a regal nod, the sort, she thought, that might be employed by a countess. Or a countess’s daughter-in-law.

Major Wilkins cleared his throat, then said, “I will make further inquiries about your brother’s whereabouts.”

“Further?” Cecilia echoed. She had not been under the impression that he had made any inquiries thus far.

He flushed. “Will your husband be out of hospital soon?”


“Tomorrow, you say?”

“Yes,” she said slowly, just barely resisting the urge to add, “As I just said.”

“And will you be staying here at the Devil’s Head?”

“Captain and Mrs. Rokesby are taking over Captain Montby’s room,” the lieutenant supplied helpfully.

“Ah, good of him. Good man, good man.”

“I do hope we are not inconveniencing him,” Cecilia said. She glanced toward the tables, wondering if the displaced Captain Montby was seated at one. “I should like to thank him if possible.”

“He’s happy to do it,” Major Wilkins declared, even though there was no way he could have known this for certain.

“Well,” Cecilia said, trying not to gaze longingly at the stairs she assumed led up to her bedchamber. “It was very nice to see you, but I have had a very long day.”

“Of course,” the major said. He bowed crisply. “I shall report back tomorrow.”

“Report . . . back?”

“With news of your brother. Or if not that, then at least an accounting of our inquiries.”

“Thank you,” Cecilia said, startled by his newfound solicitude.

Major Wilkins turned to the lieutenant. “What time do you expect Captain Rokesby tomorrow?”

Really? He was asking the lieutenant? “Sometime in the afternoon,” Cecilia said sharply, even though she had no idea what time she planned to fetch him. She waited for Major Wilkins to turn to her before adding, “The lieutenant is unlikely to have special knowledge of the matter.”

“She’s quite right,” the lieutenant said cheerfully. “My orders were to escort Mrs. Rokesby to her new accommodations. Tomorrow I’m back up to Haarlem.”

Cecilia gave Major Wilkins a bland smile.

“Of course,” the major said gruffly. “Forgive me, Mrs. Rokesby.”

“Think nothing of it,” Cecilia said. Much as she’d like to box the major’s ears, she knew she could not afford to alienate him. She was not certain of his precise job, but he seemed to be in charge of keeping track of the soldiers currently billeted nearby.

“Will you and Captain Rokesby be here at half five?” he asked.

She looked him squarely in the eye. “If you are coming with news of my brother, then yes, we will most definitely be here.”

“Very well. Good evening, ma’am.” He executed a sharp bow of his chin, and then said to her escort, “Lieutenant.”

Major Wilkins returned to his table, leaving Cecilia with the lieutenant, who let out a little oh before saying, “I almost forgot. Your key.”

“Thank you,” Cecilia said, taking it from him. She turned it over in her hand.

“Room twelve,” the lieutenant said.

“Yes,” Cecilia said, glancing down at the large “12” etched into the metal. “I will see myself up.”

The lieutenant gave a grateful nod; he was young and clearly uncomfortable with the idea of escorting a lady to her bedchamber, even a married one such as she.

Married. Dear God. How was she going to extricate herself from this web of lies? And perhaps more importantly, when? It wouldn’t be tomorrow. She might have claimed to be Edward’s wife so that she could remain by his side and nurse him to health, but it was clear—appallingly so—that the wife of Captain Rokesby held far more sway with Major Wilkins than the humble Miss Harcourt.

Cecilia knew that she owed it to Edward to end this farce as soon as possible, but her brother’s fate hung in the balance.

She would tell him the truth. Obviously.


She just couldn’t do it tomorrow. Tomorrow she had to be Mrs. Rokesby. And after that . . .

Cecilia sighed as she slipped the key into the lock of her room and turned. She feared she was going to have to be Mrs. Rokesby until she found her brother.

“Forgive me,” she whispered.

It would have to be enough.

Edward had every intention of being upright, in uniform, and ready to depart when Cecilia arrived at the hospital the following day. Instead he was in bed, wearing the same shirt he’d been in for he-truly-did-not-know-how-long, and sleeping so soundly Cecilia apparently thought he’d slipped back into a coma.

“Edward?” he heard, her voice whispering at the edges of his consciousness. “Edward?”

He mumbled something. Or maybe he grumbled it. He wasn’t sure what the difference was. Attitude, probably.

“Oh, thank God,” she whispered, and he sensed, rather than heard, her settle back into the chair next to his bed.

He should probably wake up.

Maybe he would open his eyes and the whole world would be restored to him. It would be June, and it would make sense that it was June. He would be married, and that would make sense too, especially if he remembered what it felt like to kiss her.

Because he’d really like to kiss her. It was all he’d thought about the night before. Or at least most. Half, at least. He was as randy as the next man, especially now that he was married to Cecilia Harcourt, but he also had a working sense of smell, and what he really wanted was to take a bath.

God help him, he stank.

He lay still for a few minutes, his mind resting serenely behind his closed eyelids. There was something rather pleasant about unmoving reflection. He didn’t have to do anything but think. He could not recall the last time he’d enjoyed such a luxury.

And yes, he was well aware that he could not recall anything of the last three or so months. He was still quite certain he had not spent it sifting peacefully through his own thoughts, listening to the muffled sounds of his wife beside him. He was reminded of those moments the day before, the ones right before he’d opened his eyes. He’d heard her breathing then, too. It was different, though, now that he knew who she was. It sounded the same, but it was different.

It was strange, really. He would never have believed that he’d one day be content to lie in bed and listen to a woman breathe. She emitted more sighs than he would have liked, though. She was tired. Maybe worried. Probably both.

He should tell her he was awake. It was past time.

But then he heard her murmur, “What am I to do with you?”

Honestly, he couldn’t resist. He opened his eyes. “With me?”

She shrieked, jumping so far out of her chair it was a wonder she didn’t hit the ceiling.

Edward started to laugh. Big belly laughs that hurt his ribs and squeezed his lungs, and even as Cecilia glared at him, her hand over her obviously racing heart, he laughed and laughed.

And just like before, he knew that this was not something he’d done in a very long while.

“You’re awake,” his wife accused.

“I wasn’t,” he said, “but then someone started whispering my name.”

“That was ages ago.”

He shrugged, unrepentant.

“You look better today,” she said.

He lifted his brows.

“A little less . . . gray.”

He decided to be grateful no one had offered him a looking glass. “I need to shave,” he said, rubbing his chin. How many days’ growth was this? At least two weeks. Probably closer to three. He frowned.

“What is it?” she asked.

“Does anyone know how long I was unconscious?”

She shook her head. “I don’t think so. No one knows how long you were unconscious before you were found, but I can’t imagine it was very long. They said the wound on your head was fresh.”

He winced. Fresh was the sort of word one liked when applied to strawberries, not skulls.

“So probably not more than eight days,” she concluded. “Why?”

“My beard,” he said. “It has been far more than a week since I last shaved.”

She stared at him for a moment. “I’m not sure what that means,” she finally said.

“Nor I,” he admitted. “But it’s worth taking note of it.”

“Have you a valet?”

He gave her a look.

“Don’t look at me that way. I know very well that many officers travel with a manservant.”

“I do not.”

A moment passed, then Cecilia said, “You must be very hungry. I got a bit of broth into you, but that’s all.”

Edward placed a hand on his midsection. His hipbones were definitely more prominent than they’d been since childhood. “I seem to have lost some weight.”

“Did you eat after I left yesterday?”

“Not much. I was famished, but then I started to feel ill.”

She nodded, glancing down at her hands before saying, “I did not have the opportunity to tell you yesterday, but I took the liberty of writing to your family.”

His family. Holy God above. He had not even thought of them.

His eyes met hers.

“They had been informed that you had gone missing,” she explained. “General Garth wrote to them several months ago.”

Edward put a hand to his face, covering his eyes. He could only imagine his mother. She would not have taken it well.

“I wrote that you had been injured, but I did not go into detail,” she said. “I thought it most important that they know you had been found.”

“Found,” Edward echoed. The word was apt. He had not been returned, nor had he escaped. Instead he had been found near Kip’s Bay. The devil only knew how he’d got there.

“When did you arrive in New York?” he asked abruptly. Better to ask questions about what he did not know than to agonize over what he did not remember.

“Almost a fortnight ago,” she said.

“You came looking for me?”

“No,” she admitted. “I didn’t—that is to say, I would not be so foolish to cross an ocean to look for a man who was missing.”

“And yet you are here.”

“Thomas was injured,” she reminded him. “He needed me.”

“So you came for your brother,” he said.

She regarded him with a frank, open stare, as if she was wondering if this was an interrogation. “I was led to believe I would find him in hospital.”

“As opposed to me.”

Her lower lip caught between her teeth. “Well, yes. I did not—that is to say, I did not know you were missing.”

“General Garth did not write to you?”

She shook her head. “I don’t believe he had been made aware of the marriage.”

“So . . . wait.” He squeezed his eyes shut, then opened them. He felt very twitchy, but something didn’t make sense. The timeline was off. “Did we marry here? No, we couldn’t have done. Not if I was missing.”

“It—it was a proxy marriage.” Her face flushed, and she looked almost embarrassed to admit it.

“I married you by proxy?” he asked, dumbfounded.

“Thomas wanted it,” she mumbled.

“Is that even legal?”

Her eyes grew very wide, and he instantly felt like a heel. This woman had cared for him for three days while he was in a coma, and here he was implying that they might not even be married. She did not deserve such disrespect. “Forget I asked,” he said quickly. “We can sort all that out later.”

She nodded gratefully, then yawned.

“Did you rest yesterday?” he asked.

Her lips curved into the tiniest—and the tiredest—of smiles. “I believe that is my line.”

He returned the wry expression. “From what I understand, I have done nothing but rest these past few days.”

She tilted her head, a silent touché.

“You did not answer my question,” he reminded her. “Did you rest?”

“Some. I rather think I’m out of practice. And it was a strange room.” A lock of hair fell from her coiffure, and she frowned before tucking it back behind her ear. “I always find it difficult to sleep the first night in new surroundings.”

“I’d wager you have not slept well in weeks, then.”

At that she smiled. “Actually, I slept very well on the ship. The rocking motion agreed with me.”

“I’m jealous. I spent most of my crossing puking up my guts.”

She smothered a laugh. “I’m sorry.”

“Just be grateful you weren’t there. I would not have seemed such a matrimonial catch.” He considered this. “Then again, I’m no prize right now.”

“Oh, don’t be—”

“Unwashed, unshaved . . .”

“Edward . . .”

“Malodorous.” He waited. “I notice you do not contradict me there.”

“You do have a certain, ah, fragrance.”

“And do not forget that I am missing a small corner of my mind.”

She instantly stiffened. “You should not say such things.”

His tone was light but his eyes were straight and direct on hers as he said, “If I don’t find something to mock in this, I shall have to cry.”

She went very still.

“Figuratively,” he said, taking pity on her. “You needn’t worry. I shan’t break down in tears.”

“If you did,” she said haltingly, “I shouldn’t think the less of you. I—I would—”

“Care for me? Tend to my wounds? Dry the salty rivers of my tears?”

Her lips parted, but he did not think she was shocked, merely perplexed. “I did not realize you were such a devotee of sarcasm,” she said.

He shrugged. “I’m not sure I am.”

She went a bit straight as she considered this, her brow puckering until three lines formed in the center of her forehead. She did not move for several seconds, and only when a little whoosh of air crossed her lips did he realize she had been holding her breath. It came out with a bit of her voice, resulting in a pensive noise.

“You seem to be analyzing me,” he said.

She did not deny it. “It is very interesting,” she said, “what you do and do not recall.”

“It is difficult for me to view it as an academic pursuit,” he said without rancor, “but by all means, you should do so. Any breakthroughs will be much appreciated.”

She shifted in her seat. “Have you remembered anything new?”

“Since yesterday?”

She nodded.

“No. At least I don’t think so. It’s difficult to tell when I don’t remember what I don’t remember. I’m not even certain where the memory gap begins.”

“I’m told you left for Connecticut in early March.” Her head tilted to the side, and that mischievous lock of hair fell out of place again. “Do you remember that?”

He thought about this for a moment. “No,” he said. “I vaguely recall being told to go, or rather that I was going to be told to go . . .” He scrubbed the heel of his hand against one of his eyes. What did that even mean? He looked up at Cecilia. “I don’t know why, though.”

“It will come back to you eventually,” she said. “The doctor said that when the head is concussed, the brain needs time to recover.”

He frowned.

“Before you woke up,” she clarified.


They sat in silence for a few moments, and then, with an awkward motion toward his injury, she asked, “Does it hurt?”

“Like the very devil.”

She moved to stand. “I can get you laudanum.”

“No,” he said quickly. “Thank you. I would rather keep a clear head.” Then he realized what a ridiculous statement that was, all things considered. “Or at least clear enough to recall the events of the last day.”

Her lips twitched.

“Go ahead,” he said. “Laugh.”

“I really shouldn’t.” But she did. Just a little.

And the sound was lovely.

Then she yawned.

“Sleep,” he urged.

“Oh, I couldn’t. I just got here.”

“I won’t tell.”

She gave him a look. “Who would you tell?”

“Fair point,” he conceded. “But still, you obviously need to sleep.”

“I can sleep tonight.” She wiggled a little in her chair, trying to get comfortable. “I’m just going to rest my eyes for a moment.”

He snickered.

“Don’t mock me,” she warned.

“Or you’ll what? You’d never even see me coming.”

She opened one eye. “I have outstanding reflexes.”

Edward chuckled at that, watching as she returned to her expression of repose. She yawned again, this time not even trying to cover it.

Was that what it meant to be married? That one could yawn with impunity? If so, Edward supposed that the institution had much to recommend it.

He watched her as she “rested her eyes.” She really was lovely. Thomas had said his sister was pretty, but in that offhand, brotherly sort of way. He saw what Edward supposed he saw in his own sister Mary: a nice face with all the pieces in the right spots. Thomas would never have noticed, for example, that Cecilia’s eyelashes were a few shades darker than her hair, or that when her eyes were closed, they formed two delicate arcs, almost like slivers of a waxing moon.

Her lips were full, although not in that rosebud way the poets seemed wild for. When she slept, they didn’t quite touch, and he could imagine the whisper of her breath passing between them.

“Do you think you will be able to leave for the Devil’s Head this afternoon?” she asked.

“I thought you were asleep.”

“I told you, I’m just resting my eyes.”

In this she was not lying. She did not so much as lift a lash as she spoke.

“I should do,” he said. “The doctor wishes to see me once more before I go. I trust the room is acceptable?”

She nodded, eyes still closed. “You might find it small.”

“But you don’t?”

“I don’t require grand surroundings.”

“Neither do I.”

She opened her eyes. “I’m sorry. I did not mean to imply that you did.”

“I have spent many a night sleeping rough. Any room with a bed will be a luxury. Well, except this one, I suppose,” he said, looking about the makeshift ward. The church pews had been moved against the walls, and the men were lying in a motley collection of cots and beds. A few were on the floor.

“It’s depressing,” she said quietly.

He nodded. He should be grateful. He was whole of limb and body. Weak, perhaps, but he would heal. Some of the other men in the room were not so lucky.

But still, he wanted out.

“I am hungry,” he suddenly declared.

She looked up, and he found he rather enjoyed the startled look in her amazing eyes.

“If the doctor wishes to see me, he can bl—” Edward cleared his throat. “He can find me at the Devil’s Head.”

“Are you sure?” She gave him a concerned look. “I shouldn’t want—”

He cut her off by pointing toward a pile of fabric—scarlet and tan—on a nearby pew. “I think that’s my uniform over there. Would you be so kind as to fetch it?”

“But the doctor—”

“Or I’ll do it myself, and I’m warning you, I’m bare-arsed under this shirt.”

Her cheeks burned scarlet—not quite as deep a hue as his coat, but impressively close—and suddenly it occurred to him:

A proxy marriage.

Him: Several months in Connecticut.

Her: Two weeks in New York.

No wonder he had not recognized her face. He’d never seen her before.

Their marriage?

It had never been consummated.

Chapter 4

Lieutenant Rokesby isn’t unbearable at all. In fact, he’s quite a decent fellow. I think you’d like him. He is from Kent and is practically engaged to his neighbor.

I showed him your miniature. He said you were very pretty.

—from Thomas Harcourt to his sister Cecilia

Edward had insisted upon dressing himself, so Cecilia took this time to head outside to find them something to eat. She had spent the better part of a week in this neighborhood and knew every shop and storefront on the street. The most economical option—and thus her usual choice—was currant buns from Mr. Mather’s cart. They were tolerably tasty, although she suspected their low price was made possible by the inclusion of no more than three currants per bun.

Mr. Lowell, a bit farther down the street, sold actual Chelsea buns, with spiraled dough and cinnamon spice. Cecilia had never counted their currants; she’d eaten only one, bought day-old, and she’d devoured it far too quickly to do anything but moan with pleasure at the sticky-sweet sugar glaze as it dissolved on her tongue.

But around the corner—that was where one found the shop of Mr. Rooijakkers, the Dutch baker. Cecilia had gone in only once; that was all it had taken to see that (a) she could not afford his treats and (b) if she could, she’d be fat as a house in no time.

If there was ever a time for extravagance, though, surely this was the day, with Edward having awakened and in goodish health. Cecilia had two coins in her pocket, enough for a fine treat, and she no longer had to worry about paying for her boardinghouse room. She supposed she should be saving her pennies—the Lord only knew where she’d find herself in the weeks to come—but she could not bring herself to scrimp. Not today.

She pushed open the door, smiling at the tinkle of the bell above, and then sighing with delight at the heavenly smells wafting toward her from the kitchen in the back.

“May I help you?” asked the ginger-haired woman standing behind the counter. She was perhaps a few years older than Cecilia and spoke with a very slight accent, one Cecilia would not have been able to place had she not already known that the proprietors hailed from Holland.

“Yes, thank you, I’ll have a round bread loaf, please,” Cecilia said, motioning toward a row of three sitting plump and pretty on the shelf, with a mottled golden crust that looked different from anything she’d seen back home. “Are they all the same price?”

The woman cocked her head to the side. “They were, but now that you mention it, the one on the right does look a bit small. You can have it for a ha’penny less.”

Cecilia was already calculating where she might go to purchase butter or cheese to eat with the bread, but then she just had to ask, “What is that delicious smell?”

The woman beamed. “Speculaas. Freshly baked. Have you never tried one?”

Cecilia shook her head. She was so hungry. She’d finally had a proper meal the night before, but it had only seemed to remind her belly how badly she had been mistreating it. And while the steak and kidney pie at the Devil’s Head had been good, Cecilia was positively salivating at the thought of something sweet.

“I broke one taking them off the tray,” the woman said. “You can have it for free.”

“Oh no, I couldn’t—”

The woman waved this off. “You’ve never had one. I can’t charge you for trying.”

“Actually, you could,” Cecilia said with a smile, “but I’ll not argue with you further.”

“I haven’t seen you in the shop before.” The woman said this over her shoulder as she scooted into the kitchen.

“I came in once,” Cecilia said, declining to mention that she had not made a purchase. “Last week. There was an older gentleman here.”

“My father,” the woman confirmed.

“Then you are Miss Rooey—ehrm, Roojak—” Good heavens, how did one pronounce it?

“Rooijakkers,” the woman said with a grin as she came back through the doorway. “But actually I’m Mrs. Leverett.”

“Thank heavens,” Cecilia said with a relieved smile. “I know you just said your name, but I don’t think I could reproduce it.”

“I have often told my husband it is why I married him,” Mrs. Leverett joked.

Cecilia laughed until she realized that she too was holding on to a husband for his name. In her case, however, it was so that Major Wilkins would do his bloody job.

“Dutch is not an easy language,” Mrs. Leverett said, “but if you plan to be in New York Town for some time, you might find it worthwhile to learn a few phrases.”

“I don’t know how long I will be here,” Cecilia said honestly. Hopefully not too long. She just wanted to find her brother.

And make sure Edward regained his strength. She couldn’t possibly leave until she was assured of his welfare.

“Your English is excellent,” she said to the baker.

“I was born here. My parents too, but we speak Dutch in the home. Here”—she held out two pieces of flat, caramel-brown biscuit—“try it.”

Cecilia thanked her again, fitting the pieces together into their original oblong shape before lifting the smaller one to her mouth and taking a nibble. “Oh my goodness! This is divine.”

“You like it, then?” Mrs. Leverett’s eyes went wide with delight.

“How could I not?” It tasted of cardamom and clove and slightly burnt sugar. It was completely foreign and yet somehow made her homesick. Perhaps it was the mere act of sharing a biscuit over conversation. Cecilia had been too busy to realize that she had also been lonely.

“Some of the officers say they are too thin and crumbly,” Mrs. Leverett said.

“They are mad,” Cecilia replied through her somewhat full mouth. “Although I must say, these would be excellent with tea.”

“Not easy to come by, I’m afraid.”

“No,” Cecilia said regretfully. She’d known enough to bring some with her, but she had not packed nearly enough, and she’d run out two-thirds of the way across the Atlantic. By the final week she was reusing her leaves and cutting her rations in half for each pot.

“I should not complain,” Mrs. Leverett said. “We are still able to get sugar, and that is far more important for a bakery.”

Cecilia nodded, taking a nibble of the second half of her biscuit. She needed to make this one last a little longer.

“The officers have tea,” Mrs. Leverett continued. “Not a lot, but more than anyone else.”

Edward was an officer. Cecilia did not wish to take advantage of his wealth, but if he could procure some tea . . .

She thought she might offer up a very small portion of her soul for a good cup.

“You did not say your name,” Mrs. Leverett said.

“Oh, I’m so sorry. I’m quite in a fog today. I am Miss Har—I’m sorry. Mrs. Rokesby.”

The other woman smiled knowingly. “Newly married?”

“Quite.” How quite, Cecilia could not possibly explain. “My husband”—she tried not to stumble over the word—“is an officer. A captain.”

“I had suspected as much,” Mrs. Leverett remarked. “No other reason you’d be here in New York Town in the middle of a war.”

“It’s strange,” Cecilia mused. “It doesn’t feel like a war. If I didn’t see the wounded soldiers . . .” She stopped, reconsidering her words. She might not be witness to actual fighting in this British outpost, but signs of struggle and deprivation were everywhere. The harbor was filled with prison ships, and indeed, when Cecilia’s ship had sailed in, she had been warned to stay below as they passed.

The smell, she’d heard, was too much to bear.

“I beg your pardon,” she said to the other woman. “I spoke most callously. There is much more to war than the front of a battlefield.”

Mrs. Leverett smiled, but it was a sad smile. Tired. “There is no need to apologize. It has been relatively quiet here for two years. Pray God it remains so.”

“Indeed,” Cecilia murmured. She glanced out the window—why, she wasn’t sure. “I suppose I must go soon. But first, please do wrap up a half dozen speculaas.” She frowned, doing a little arithmetic in her head. She had just enough money in her pocket. “No, make that a dozen.”

“A full dozen?” Mrs. Leverett gave her a cheeky grin. “I hope you find that tea.”

“I hope so too. I’m celebrating. My husband”—there was that word again—“is leaving hospital today.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry. I did not realize. But I assume this means he is recovered.”

“Almost.” Cecilia thought of Edward, still so thin and pale. She had not even seen him out of bed yet. “He still needs time to rest and regain his strength.”

“How lucky he is to have his wife at his side.”

Cecilia nodded, but her throat felt tight. She wished she could say it was because the speculaas had made her thirsty, but she was fairly certain it was her own conscience.

“You know,” Mrs. Leverett said, “there is much to enjoy here in New York, even with the war so close. The upper crust still hosts parties. I do not attend, of course, but I see the ladies in their finery from time to time.”

“Really?” Cecilia’s brows rose.

“Oh yes. And I believe there will be a performance of Macbeth next week at the John Street Theatre.”

“You’re joking.”

Mrs. Leverett held up a hand. “On my father’s ovens, I swear it.”

Cecilia could not help but laugh at that. “Perhaps I shall try to attend. It has been some time since I went to the theater.”

“I cannot vouch for the quality of the production,” Mrs. Leverett said. “I believe that most of the roles are being played by British officers.”

Cecilia tried to imagine Colonel Stubbs or Major Wilkins treading the boards. It was not a pretty image.

“My sister went when they did Othello,” Mrs. Leverett continued. “She said the scenery was very prettily painted.”

If that wasn’t damning with faint praise, Cecilia didn’t know what was. But beggars couldn’t be choosers, and truly, she didn’t often get to see Shakespeare in Derbyshire. Maybe she would try to go.

If Edward was up to it.

If they were still “married.”

Cecilia sighed.

“Did you say something?”

Cecilia shook her head, but it must have been a rhetorical question because Mrs. Leverett was already wrapping the speculaas in a cloth. “I’m afraid we haven’t paper,” the baker said with an apologetic expression. “Like tea, it is in short supply.”

“It means I shall have to come back to return your cloth,” Cecilia said. And when she realized how happy that made her—just the thought of sharing a greeting with a woman her own age—she said, “I’m Cecilia.”

“Beatrix,” said the other woman.

“I’m very glad to have met you,” Cecilia said. “And thank you for—no, wait. How do I say thank you in Dutch?”

Beatrix smiled broadly. “Dank u.”

Cecilia blinked in surprise. “Really? That’s it?”

“You picked an easy one,” Beatrix said with a shrug. “If you wanted to learn please . . .”

“Oh, don’t tell me,” Cecilia said, knowing that she would, regardless.

“Alstublieft,” Beatrix said with a grin. “And don’t say it sounds like a sneeze.”

Cecilia chuckled. “I’ll stick to dank u. At least for now.”

“Go on,” Beatrix said. “Get back to your husband.”

That word again. Cecilia smiled her farewell, but it felt hollow. What would Beatrix Leverett think if she knew Cecilia was nothing but a fraud?

She got out of the store before her tears could prick their way out of her eyes.

“I hope you have a sweet tooth, because I bought—oh.”

Edward looked up. His wife had returned with a small cloth bundle and a determined smile.

Not determined enough, though. It wobbled and fell when she saw him sitting with slumped shoulders at the end of his bed.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

Not really. He’d managed to dress himself, but that was only because she’d placed his uniform on the bed before she left. Honestly, he didn’t know if he would have been able to make it across the room on his own. He’d known he was weak, but he had not realized just how much until he had swung his legs over the side of his cot and tried to stand.

He was pathetic.

“I’m fine,” he muttered.

“Of course,” she murmured unconvincingly. “I . . . ah . . . Would you care for a biscuit?”

He watched her slim hands as she unwrapped her bundle.

“Speculaas,” he said, recognizing them instantly.

“You’ve had them before? Oh, of course you have. I forget, you’ve been here for years.”

“Not years,” he said, taking one of the thin biscuits. “I was in Massachusetts for nearly a year. Then Rhode Island.” He took a bite. God, they were good. He looked up. “And apparently Connecticut too, not that I remember it.”

Cecilia sat on the end of the bed. Well, more like a perch. She had that look of someone who didn’t want to get too comfortable. “Did the Dutch settle all over the colonies?”

“Just here.” He finished off the biscuit and reached for another. “It hasn’t been New Amsterdam for over a century, but most of the Dutch stayed when the island traded ownership.” He frowned. Actually, he had no idea if most had stayed, but walking around town, it felt like they had. Dutch influence was all over the island, from the distinctive zigzag façades on the buildings to the speculaas biscuits and crunch bread at the bakery.

“I learned how to say thank you,” she said.

He felt himself smile. “Very ambitious of you.”

She gave him a look. “I take it you know the phrase, then.”

He took another biscuit. “Dank u.”

“You’re quite welcome,” she said with a little flick of her eyes, “but perhaps you should slow down. I don’t think it’s a good idea to eat too much at once.”

“Probably not,” he agreed, but he ate it, anyway.

She waited patiently while he finished, then she waited patiently while he sat on the edge of the cot, trying to summon his strength.

She was a patient woman, his wife. She’d have to be, sitting three days at his boring bedside. Not much to do with an unconscious husband.

He thought about her journey across the Atlantic. To get word of her brother and then decide to go help him, all the time knowing it would take months . . .

That too bore the hallmark of a patient individual.

He wondered if she sometimes wanted to scream in frustration.

She was going to have to be patient for a bit longer, he thought grimly. His legs were like jelly. He could barely walk. Hell, even just standing was a chore, and as for making their marriage legal in every way . . .

That was going to have to wait.

More was the pity.

Although it did occur to him that they could still get out of this union if they so chose. Annulment on account of nonconsummation was a tricky legal maneuver, but then again, so was a proxy marriage. If he did not want to be married, he was fairly certain he did not have to be.


Her voice tickled at the edge of his mind, but he was too lost in his thoughts to respond. Did he wish to be married to her? If not, he damned well couldn’t accompany her to the Devil’s Head. He might not possess the strength to take her properly to bed, but if they shared a room, even for one night, she would be thoroughly compromised.


He turned, slowly, forcing himself to focus. She was looking at him with concern, but even that could not cloud the startling clarity of her eyes.

She laid a hand over his. “Are you certain you are well enough to leave today? Should I find the doctor?”

He searched her face. “Do you want to be married to me?”

“What?” Something close to alarm raced over her features. “I don’t understand.”

“You don’t have to be married to me,” he said carefully. “We have not consummated the marriage.”

Her lips parted, and oddly enough, he could see that she was not breathing. “I thought you didn’t remember,” she whispered.

“I don’t have to remember. It’s simple logic. I was in Connecticut when you arrived. We had never been in a room together before you came to the hospital.”

She swallowed, and his eyes fell to her throat, to the delicate arc of it, to the pulse quivering under her skin.

God, he wanted to kiss her.

“What do you want, Cecilia?”

Say you want me.

The thought burst through his brain. He did not want her to leave him. He could barely stand on his own. It would be weeks before he’d regain even half his strength. He needed her.

And he wanted her.

But most of all, he wanted her to want him.

Cecilia did not speak for several seconds. Her hand left his, and she hugged her arms to her body. She seemed to be looking at a soldier on the other side of the church as she asked, “Are you offering to release me?”

“If that is what you want.”

Slowly, her eyes met his. “What do you want?”

“That is not the question.”

“I rather think it is.”

“I am a gentleman,” he said stiffly. “I will bow to your wishes in this matter.”

“I . . .” She caught her lower lip between her teeth. “I . . . don’t want you to feel trapped.”

“I don’t feel trapped.”

“You don’t?” She sounded honestly surprised.

He shrugged. “I have to marry eventually.”

If she found this unromantic, it did not show on her face.

“I obviously agreed to the marriage,” he said. He loved Thomas Harcourt like a brother, but Edward could not imagine what might have made him consent to a marriage he did not want. If he was married to Cecilia, he had damned well wanted to be.

He looked closely at her.

Her gaze slipped to the floor.

Was she assessing her options? Trying to decide if she truly wished to be the wife of a man whose brain was not whole? He might remain this way for the rest of his life. For all they knew the damage went deeper than his memory. What if he awakened one day and could no longer speak? Or move properly? She might find herself being forced to care for him as she would a child.

It could happen. There was no way to know.

“What do you want, Cecilia?” he asked, aware that a note of impatience had entered his voice.

“I . . .” She swallowed, and when she spoke again, her voice was a little more certain. “I think we should go to the Devil’s Head. This is not a conversation I wish to have here.”

“Nothing is going to change in the next half hour.”

“Nevertheless, you could do with a meal not made of flour and sugar. And a bath. And a shave.” She stood, but not so fast that he missed the pink flush of her cheeks. “I shall offer you privacy for the latter two.”

“Very generous of you.”

She did not comment upon his dry tone. Instead she reached for his coat, which lay draped like a slash of scarlet across the foot of his bed. She held it out. “We have a meeting this afternoon. With Major Wilkins.”


“He brings news of Thomas. Or at least I hope he does. I saw him at the inn last night. He said he would make inquiries.”

“He has not already done so?”

She looked slightly uncomfortable as she said, “I took your advice and informed him of our marriage.”

Ah. Now it became clear. She needed him too. Edward forced a smile around his gritted teeth. It was not the first time a lady had found his name the most attractive thing about him. At least this lady had unselfish motives.

She held out his coat. With some effort, he stood and allowed her to help him don it.

“You’ll be warm,” she warned him.

“It is, as you say, June.”

“Not like June in Derbyshire,” she muttered.

He permitted himself a smile at that. The summer air in the colonies had an unpleasant solid quality to it. Rather like fog, if one heated it to the temperature of one’s body.

He looked toward the door, took a breath. “I . . . I will need help.”

“We all need help,” she said quietly. She took his arm, and then slowly, without a word, they made their way out to the street, where a carriage awaited to take them the short distance to the Devil’s Head.

Chapter 5

You showed him my miniature? How terribly embarrassing. Thomas, whatever were you thinking? Of course he must call me pretty. He could hardly do otherwise. You are my brother. He can’t very well comment on my freakishly large nose.

—from Cecilia Harcourt to her brother Thomas

One hour later, Cecilia was seated in the front room of the Devil’s Head, methodically finishing her lunch while Edward perused a recent copy of the Royal Gazette. She had also started her meal with a newspaper in her hand, but she had been so startled by the paragraph advertising the sale of “One Negro Man, a good Cook and not a Seasick,” that she’d put it down and instead set her eyes on her plate of pork and potatoes.

Edward, on the other hand, read the newssheet from front to back, and then, after asking the innkeeper to locate an issue from the previous week, repeated the process with that. He hadn’t bothered to explain, but it was clear to Cecilia that he was trying to fill the gaps in his memory. She wasn’t sure that it would help; she rather doubted he was going to find clues about his time in Connecticut in a public newspaper. But it certainly wouldn’t hurt, and anyway, he seemed like the sort of man who would want to keep abreast of the news of the day. He was like Thomas that way. Her brother never excused himself from the breakfast table without finishing the entire London Times. It was several days old by the time it reached them in Matlock Bath, but that never seemed to bother him. Better to be delayed in the news than ignorant altogether, he’d often said, and besides, there was nothing they could do about it.

Change what you can, he’d once told her, and accept what you can’t. She wondered what Thomas would think of her recent behavior. She had a feeling he would have placed his injury and subsequent disappearance firmly in the “accept what you can’t” category.

She let out a little snort. It was a bit too late for that now.

“Did you say something?” Edward asked.

She shook her head. “Just thinking of Thomas,” she said, since she was actively trying not to lie whenever possible.

“We will find him,” Edward said. “Or we’ll get news. One way or another.”

Cecilia swallowed, trying to push down the lump in her throat as she gave him a grateful nod. She was not alone in this anymore. She was still scared, and anxious, and full of self-doubt, but she wasn’t alone.

It was staggering what a difference that made.

Edward started to say something more, but they were interrupted by the young woman who had brought their food earlier. Like everyone in New York, Cecilia thought, she looked tired and overworked.

And hot. Honestly, Cecilia didn’t know how people lived through these summers. The air at home was never this thick with moisture unless it was actually raining.

She’d heard the winters were equally extreme. She prayed she was not still here when the first snow fell. One of the soldiers in hospital had told her that the ground froze through like a rock, and the wind was enough to nip your ears off.

“Sir,” the young lady said with a quick curtsy, “your bath is ready.”

“You need it even more now,” Cecilia said, motioning to his ink-smudged fingers. It went without saying that no one at the Devil’s Head had the time