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Authors: Patricia; Potter

Dancing with a Rogue

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PRAISE FOR THE WRITING OF PATRICIA POTTER

“Patricia Potter is a master storyteller, a powerful weaver of romantic tales.” —Mary Jo Putney,
New York Times
–bestselling author

“One of the romance genre's finest talents.” —
Romantic Times

“Patricia Potter will thrill lovers of the suspense genre as well as those who enjoy a good romance.” —
Booklist

“Potter proves herself a gifted writer as artisan, creating a rich fabric of strong characters whose wit and intellect will enthrall even as their adventures entertain.” —
BookPage

“When a historical romance [gets] the Potter treatment, the story line is pure action and excitement, and the characters are wonderful.” —
BookBrowse

“Potter has an expert ability to invest in fully realized characters and a strong sense of place without losing momentum in the details, making this novel a pure pleasure.” —
Publishers Weekly
, starred review of
Beloved Warrior

“[Potter] proves that she's adept at penning both enthralling historicals and captivating contemporary novels.” —
Booklist
, starred review of
Dancing with a Rogue

Dancing with a Rogue

Patricia Potter

Prologue

London

1792

Something terrible was about to happen.

Gabriel felt it in every nerve of his ten-year-old body as he heard the door shut securely behind him.

He stood still, clutching the piece of paper his father had just given him.
Remember, his father had said. Remember these names. Someday you will reclaim our honor. Someday …

His father's voice faded away …

His father's face was fixed in his mind, but it wasn't the face he knew so well. The one usually wreathed in smiles and laughter. He loved his wife and his son. He was a good and honorable man. Everyone told Gabriel Manning that.

Yet moments ago, his father's face was painted with grief and bitterness.

Everything in Gabriel's world had changed in the past few days.

His parents were not wealthy, but unlike many of his friends his mother and father loved each other. He was the firstborn and only surviving child. Of the two other children, one died during childbirth and the other of a lung ailment. The loss of the two made their love for Gabriel that much stronger.

But now something black and wicked had affected the world he so loved.

They'd tried to keep it from him. At first, anyway. But he saw things: secretive sessions in the study, the maid in tears, a number of the servants suddenly dismissed after years of service, a father who no longer had time for him, his mother's face aging in front of him.

And then this afternoon his father had called him into his study.

His usually jovial face was lined. Tears were in his eyes.

“Sit down, Gabriel,” he said.

Stunned by his father's evident despair, he did so.

His father looked down at a paper on his desk. His hands shook. Then he very carefully sealed it with wax and handed it to Gabriel.

“Keep this,” he said. “Keep it until you are twenty-one. Then I want you to open it and consider what is inside.”

Gabriel looked at it, knowing deep within that his life was changing forever.

“Swear it,” his father said. “Do not tell your mother about it. Do not show it to anyone.”

Gabriel knew his eyes opened wide. “But why?”

“Your mother would not approve. But she is not a man. She doesn't understand the requirements of honor.”

Gabriel thought his mother would, indeed. She was the most admirable woman he'd ever known, much more so than any of his friend's mothers. But his father's piercing stare kept him from protesting.

He nodded.

“You will hear things, Gabriel. People will call me a thief. Perhaps a traitor. I am neither. A fool, perhaps, but not a traitor. Never a traitor.”

“I know.” Gabriel wanted desperately to comfort him, but those were the only words that came to him.

“I cannot go to prison. Or to a penal colony. I cannot put your mother through a trial.”

He hesitated. “You must be very strong, Gabriel. I have made arrangements to send you and your mother to America. Look after your mother. Protect her. Always know I loved her, and you, more than life itself.”

His head dropped. “This letter names men I brought into the company so we could expand. They betrayed me, and they betrayed England, though I can't prove it.”

He stood and went over to where Gabriel sat. “You will have to be a man hence. I am so sorry. I wanted you to have everything. I wanted you to have the shipping company.”

Gabriel's heart stopped beating for a moment. There was such sadness in his father's voice. “Come with us to America.”

“I must stay here. Now you go to your mother.”

Gabriel knew protestations would gain him nothing. He recognized the finality in his father's voice.

They heard the clatter of a carriage outside. His father went to the window. Gabriel followed behind him. A carriage stood in front of the house. Four men in dark clothes took the first steps up to the door.

His father stiffened.

“Go, Gabriel. Always remember I am an honorable man and I loved you with all my heart.” He hesitated, then said, “My honor—our family honor—depends on you, son.” A tear rolled down his cheek. “It is a heavy burden. I should not …” He stopped. “Go, boy. Go to your mother.”

Gabriel did not want to leave.

“Go, my boy,” his father said, his voice cracking. “For God's sake, go.”

His father never swore. Never. Stunned, Gabriel reluctantly left the room, the letter clutched in his hand. Once outside, he heard a key turn in the lock of the door behind him.

A pounding came at the front door of the town house.

Gabriel saw William, the last remaining member of the staff, hurry to open the door, but he lingered where he was. He wanted to be near his father.

Then he heard the snap of a gunshot inside the room.

“No!” he screamed.

He was still screaming as men rushed into the hall, smashed open the door; and he saw his father on the floor, blood pouring from his head.

Chapter One

Boston

1815

It was the irony of all ironies.

Gabriel Manning stared at the words on the official document that had just been delivered after months of delay. He had probably been responsible for some of the delay, he and his American privateer, which had captured more than a few British ships.

And now it seemed that the country Gabriel had so recently fought and long blamed for killing his father had made Gabriel Manning a peer of the realm.

He chuckled, but it was a mirthless sound. A marquess, by God. He was a marquess. His enemies were handing him the weapon he would use to skewer them.

He hesitated outside the office of the man who had made everything possible. He knew his news would not be happily met on this first meeting in many months.

Gabriel clutched the missive from a barrister in London, a barrister charged with informing him of the inheritance but who was obviously not eager for him to travel to England to collect it. A barrister whose name he remembered.

There are no funds left
, according to the letter.
Only an encumbered estate that is heavily indebted. I will be pleased to sell what is possible to sell and send the proceeds to your account. There is no need for you to make the long and difficult journey to England.

Oh, but there was need. A very great need.

The war with England was over. He'd spent the last year as a privateer captain and had taken his share of prizes, most of which he turned over to the American government. He knew that on the cessation of hostilities, he would be given a captaincy with the Samuel Barker Shipping Company.

He'd earned the berth the hard way, as had so many American sailors. He'd toiled at the shipyard since he was eleven, squeezing in hours of reading at night. His father had always told him he would never succeed without education.

His father would have been proud. But not proud enough. Gabriel had not yet fulfilled the vow he'd made.

The piece of parchment his father had given him two decades ago had gone around the globe with him. One day he would bury it at his father's grave, but only after he'd accomplished his father's charge.

Gabriel had one of two things he needed to carry out a plan he'd been formulating for years. The war with England had interfered temporarily, but now this title would give him the entrée he needed.

But he needed more funds. He'd handed back prizes to the American government, which had been in dire need of funds. He had saved most of his life and had accumulated nearly twenty thousand pounds, but he suspected it would be less than what he needed.

He'd expected to have several more years to exact justice, but the title wouldn't wait. If he didn't claim it, according to the barrister, a distant cousin was next in line.

He hadn't meant for this news to be his homecoming to Boston.

But the letter had awaited him at the office of a solicitor. And now he had to tell Samuel, the man who had hired him, taught him, even fathered him to a certain degree.

He knocked and the door opened immediately.

“So you have returned in one piece,” Samuel Barker, owner of Samuel Barker Shipping Company, said as he clasped his hand with unusual warmth. “Gabriel, I am glad to have you back. You worried me, my boy. I heard about the chances you took.” He smiled as broadly as his New England heritage allowed. “I have that command and a part ownership in the company ready for you. I've had the papers drawn.”

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