The Earl of Sutcliffe has a problem – his son, Daniel, prefers men to women.
After two years of marriage to Lady Kathryn Sinclair, Daniel hasn’t produced
an heir. Desperate to continue his bloodline, Sutcliffe turns to his illegitimate
son, Talon Montgomery.
Knowing the prosperous American sea captain will never do as he wishes,
Sutcliffe arranges for his son to be falsely arrested for piracy. Talon is
devastated when he believes his entire crew has been executed. When he
discovers Sutcliffe has interceded on their behalf, Talon is willing to do
anything to keep them safe – even seduce his sister-in-law.
“You've got a visitor, Montgomery.”
Deep in the bowels of Newgate Prison, Talon Montgomery looked up from the corner of his dank, windowless cell. “A
visitor?” His words were little more than a hoarse rasp. He hadn't spoken in months, not since he'd realized nothing he
said would entice the guards to release him.
He shielded his eyes from the glare of the guard's lantern with a grimy hand, blinking and uncertain. A visitor? He’d been
trapped down here for what seemed an eternity, accused of treason and branded a pirate. They claimed he’d been
spying for the Americans, looting English ships for military secrets and wealth.
It was absurd. His ship, The Star of the West, had been a merchant vessel manned by a crew of honest seaman.
Besides, he was an American, by choice, if not by birth. How could anything he’d done against the Crown be treason?
The hulking guard withdrew a key and unlocked his cell. It was the first time that door had been opened since his
mockery of a trial. The grinding rasp of the key brought long dead reflexes to life.
Was he hallucinating? He had to be because freedom lay just beyond that open door. All he had to do was get rid of the
“You wouldn't make it two feet,” the man warned, hauling Talon off the floor with one beefy arm.
Talon fought a wave of nausea and humiliation. The good health he'd taken for granted all his life had deserted him. He
battled to find the strength to remain standing instead of wilting at the man’s feet in an ignoble heap.
The guard grinned. “Not so high and mighty now, are we, Lord Pirate?”
Talon shook off the man's hands, bracing his own against the iron bars for support. “Where are you taking me?”
“There's a fancy gentleman waitin' to have a word with you in the warden's office.” Still chuckling, the guard shoved
Talon toward his cell door. “I don't imagine the bloke wants to be kept twiddlin' his thumbs by the likes o' you.”
Talon let the guard prod him down the narrow corridor, unable to accept the fact that he had a visitor. Who could it be?
His valiant crew had been dead these many months, and he had no one else.
He wondered if this was a ruse, some strange new form of torture to make him confess. If so, perhaps this time they’d
succeed. He could bear anything but false hope.
Halfway to the warden's office, the cobwebs cleared and he realized there was someone in his life with the power to
arrange such a visit. Sudden fury sparked within him, burning away months of apathy and despair.
Sutcliffe! Had he come to gloat? To see Talon broken and humbled once and for all? His anger gave him the strength to
climb the endless flight of stairs.
At last the guard shoved him into a warm, brightly lit room. “Here he is, sir. Let us know when you’re done with him.”
Talon stood in the doorway, blinking against the light, tension coursing through him as he struggled to get a clear look
at the two men who waited inside. One was a giant of a man, dressed in silver and blue livery that bore the Sutcliffe
crest. Hired muscle, Talon thought in disgust, dismissing him.
The other man stood in front of the crackling fire, warming his gloved hands. He didn't turn around when Talon entered
the room, which wasn't surprising.
James Sinclair, the Sixth Earl of Sutcliffe, had first turned his back on his bastard son twenty-nine years ago when he’d
discovered Talon’s mother carried him in her womb.
Talon slumped against the wall, glaring. He'd swallowed his pride and sent his father an impassioned plea for help after
his arrest, only to be completely ignored. If there’d been anything left in him of the boy who’d once yearned for his
father's love, Sutcliffe had killed it then.
“Damn you,” Talon muttered. “Damn you to hell.”
Sutcliffe laughed and turned to look at the son he’d never wanted.
Talon drew in a sharp breath, startled. He hadn't been face to face with the man who'd sired him since he was a lad of
twelve. He’d forgotten how much he resembled the man.
They shared the same unusual coloring, the same inky black hair and icy blue eyes. Sutcliffe's harsh, uncompromising
features were more deeply lined and his ebony hair had turned gray at the temples, but there was no denying they were
father and son.
The earl assessed him with a critical gaze. “I'm glad to see five months in prison hasn't broken your spirit.”
Five months. Five months since he'd taken a breath of air that wasn't fouled by the odors of death and decay. Five
months since he'd felt the sun and wind on his skin or eaten a decent meal.
It had seemed far longer.
Talon's fury burst through the dam that had held it, a torrent of all the injustices he'd suffered since his arrest. He
pushed off the wall, hell bent on murder.
Sutcliffe's footman stepped forward, but Sutcliffe stayed him with an arrogant wave of his gloved hand. “Leave us,
Lionel. He's far too weak to do me any harm.”
Lionel pinned Talon with an intimidating glance then shrugged and left the room.
Talon burned with mortification. He hated his obvious weakness, hated that his father was right. He was in no shape to
strike fear into anyone. “What are you doing here?”
Sutcliffe gave him an arrogant smile. “Arranging your pardon, of course. You're a free man, Montgomery. All you need
to do is walk out that door.”
Despite his hatred, Talon couldn't contain the dizzying sense of hope his father's words provoked. He wanted out of this
place. He wanted to lift his face to the sun just one more time...
It would be worth any price he had to pay. And the watchful look on Sutcliffe's haughty face assured him there would be
The truth of it hit him like a fist in the gut. Sutcliffe had left him to rot for a reason. He'd wanted to make certain Talon
was desperate enough to agree to whatever he was about to demand.
“What do you want from me? You wouldn't help me when I needed it. Why bother now?”
Sutcliffe smiled again, but the smile didn't reach his eyes. “I've been busy. I attended to this as soon as I was able.”
With those few careless words, Sutcliffe managed to express how utterly unimportant he found the life of his bastard
“I didn't ask you to help with my release. I needed you to use your influence to intervene on behalf of my crew. It's the
only thing I've ever asked of you, and now seventy good men are dead.”
“Don't work yourself into a state,” Sutcliffe said. “Your disreputable crew is safe and sound, sailing one of my ships to
Barbados as we speak.”
Relief washed over Talon with the force of a hurricane. He'd been haunted with guilt, knowing his men had died while he
still lived. Now he swayed dizzily with the knowledge that Sutcliffe had saved his crew from the gallows.
Sutcliffe frowned and shoved a chair in Talon's direction. “Here, boy. Sit down before you fall.”
The last ounce of Talon's strength deserted him. He had no choice but to take the offered chair. Sutcliffe ensured his
capitulation by handing him a tray loaded with fresh bread, cheese, and wine.
Talon's stomach growled, brought to life by the sharp, wonderful scents. He lifted a piece of crumbling bread to his lips
with a trembling hand, eyeing Sutcliffe warily lest he try to snatch it away.
“You're far too thin and filthy as hell, but that can be remedied,” Sutcliffe mused while Talon devoured the food he'd
Talon paused long enough to raise a sarcastic brow. “If you needed me fat and clean, you should have arranged for my
release months ago.”
Sutcliffe threw back his head and laughed. “By God, boy. There's more of me in you than I'd imagined, but I'm glad to
see it. You're perfect for what I have in mind. Absolutely perfect.”
Sutcliffe's words should have alarmed him, but the warmth of the room, coupled with the solid feel of good food in his
stomach, stole over him, filling him with lethargy. Sutcliffe had spared his men. He was willing to listen.
“What am I perfect for?” He was curious despite himself. Why would a man like Sutcliffe go to so much trouble to ensure
the cooperation of an American sea captain? It made no sense.
“I need an heir.”
Talon straightened, unamused. “You have an heir.”
Sutcliffe waved his hand dismissively. “Lansdowne is an embarrassment to me. I procured him the loveliest bride in the
land, hoping to dissuade him from his perverted ways, but I don't think he's so much as touched her hand in passing
during the two years they've been married.”
Nausea twisted in Talon's gut. He had an inkling of where this was leading, and he didn't like it, not one bit. He knew of
Viscount Lansdowne’s preference for men. He'd once stalked his half-brother, Daniel, through the streets of London,
curious to see what his life might have been like if his mother had been the earl’s wife instead of his mistress. He'd seen
far more than he'd wanted to. “What does this have to do with me?”
“I want you to escort Lansdowne and his young wife to my plantation in the Carolinas. He's become a liability. I don't
want him to return until Lady Kathryn manages to conceive a child.”
The utter ruthlessness in Sutcliffe's eyes when he spoke of banishing his only legitimate son sent a shiver up Talon's
spine. Perhaps he was the lucky one after all.
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