All the Sweet Tomorrows
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A pawn in the bitter war between England's Queen, Elizabeth Tudor, and Mary Queen of Scots, Skye must once again, unprotected and alone, fight for her children.
At Elizabeth's command, she marries the Duc de Beaumont de Jaspre, whose Mediterranean principality is vital to England. Her new world, though tortuously cruel at first, is transformed by Skye's hot-blooded desires—only to be shaken with the news that her beloved former husband may be alive in Algiers. Her daring flight into danger leads her ultimately to her heart's true destiny—as bold and sensual as Skye herself.
Contains mature themes.
Release date: May 25, 2011
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Print pages: 608
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All the Sweet Tomorrows
Seamus O’Malley agreed with his niece’s assessment of the situation. She had to go to England for the Tudor wench’s help. The bishop was a realist. He didn’t like the English, but they held the whip hand. He suggested that the news of the Mac-William’s death be kept secret; that he be buried surreptitiously. It was easy enough to do, for the entire castle still slept and the guards on the walls couldn’t see what went on inside the building. With the aid of the family priest and Rory Burke’s personal servant, the body was placed in the family crypt; the final mass was said in the early dawn after Skye had ridden off under cover of darkness.
Then Seamus took up residence in Burke Castle and, in league with the priest, the servant, and Connor FitzBurke, conspired to keep the rest of Ireland from learning of Rory Burke’s death while Skye hurried to gain English aid before little Padraic Burke’s inheritance was stolen.
The lady of the castle, said to be keeping a vigil for the ailing MacWilliam, was in truth galloping across Ireland to Waterford harbor, where several of her ships were presently berthed. The need for haste was so imperative that Skye and Daisy rode eighteen hours a day, stopping only to change horses, to eat a hot meal, and to rest a few hours daily. They stayed only with trusted friends, sleeping in the chilly lofts of their barns during the daylight hours to avoid curious eyes, and more curious questions. Even the most loyal servants gossiped.
At Waterford, Skye took passage upon her stepmother’s vessel, the Ban-Righ A’Ceo (Queen of the Mist). No sooner had the ship cleared the harbor than she commanded the captain, “Kelly! Set a course for Lundy Island.” Then she disappeared into the master’s cabin with her tiring woman.
Daisy sighed with relief at feeling the swell of the open sea and the chill late-winter wind that filled the sails. “Every mile we galloped I thought sure the Dublin English would be after us, my lady.”
Skye laughed, relieved herself. She always felt vulnerable upon the land, but upon the sea none was her equal. “Daisy, you speak as if you were Irish yourself,” she teased her tiring woman. “Have you been with me so long that you’re beginning to feel Irish?”
“I’m English all right, m’lady, but I’m Devon English, and that’s a whole lot better than being Dublin English. In Devon we’re kind people, but those Dublin English are wolves of the worst sort!”
Skye nodded in agreement, and then said, “We’ve a good strong breeze behind us. With luck we’ll make Lundy in two days’ time.”
“He’ll be glad to see you,” Daisy remarked quietly, understanding her lady’s need. Like most trusted servants, she knew all the intimate details of her mistress’s life. They had been together a long time, and if Skye had grown more beautiful with the years, Daisy had changed not a whit. Small and apple-cheeked, her soft brown eyes were loving of Skye and watchful of others. She was no beauty, and never had been, being as freckled as a thrush’s egg; but her gap-toothed smile was warm and merry.
“I have to see him,” Skye replied. “He is the only friend I have left, Daisy, besides Robert Small, and Robbie is at sea. He is not expected back for at least another month. I must talk with Adam.” She curled up on the large master’s bed, drawing a down coverlet over her. “God’s bones, Daisy, but I’m tired! Take the trundle and get some sleep yourself, girl. We’ve ridden hard these past three days.”
Daisy needed little urging to pull the trundle from beneath the bed, unbind her soft brown hair, lie down, and fall quickly asleep; but her mistress, for all her exhaustion, lay awake and thinking. While Daisy snored, making gentle little blowing noises, Skye thought back over the last few years, and of how she had met Adam de Marisco, the lord of Lundy Island.
Skye’s third husband, Geoffrey Southwood, the Earl of Lynmouth, had died in a spring epidemic, along with their younger son. Their older son, Robin, had been put in the custody of the Queen’s favorite, Robert Dudley, the Earl of Leicester. Dudley, however, had used his office to rape Skye, and when she had complained to the Queen, Elizabeth had bluntly told her that if she made Dudley happy, then that was that. Outraged, Skye had decided to wage her own private war on Elizabeth Tudor, to pirate the ships and the cargoes that England needed so badly to enrich its coffers. She had enlisted, for a share of the profits, the pirate lord of Lundy Island. Adam de Marisco had fallen in love with her, but believing that she could never fall in love with him, he had settled for being her friend. She had, for a brief time, been his mistress.
When, after her marriage to Niall Burke, she had been arrested by Elizabeth Tudor for piracy, it was Adam de Marisco who had come up with the plan to free her from the Tower. She knew, despite his denials, that he still loved her. Perhaps now it was unfair of her to seek him out. Although she frequently wrote to him, it had been well over a year since they had met, and so much had happened during their separation; but he would understand why she came. She did need him so much! She needed to hear his deep, booming voice calling her “little girl”; to feel his lean hardness against her. If only she might love him the way he had always loved her—but no. It was better that she didn’t. She had been widowed four times. She was bad luck to the men who wed her. “I will never marry again,” she said drowsily to herself.
She had not realized how tired she actually was. Padraic’s birth followed by Niall’s murder; the MacWilliam’s death; her breakneck race across Ireland to the sea. It had all taken its toll. She fell into a deep sleep; her last thoughts were of Eibhlin and whether she had breached the walls of St. Mary’s.
* * *
Eibhlin had, and now stood quietly before the Reverend Mother Aidan, born Aigneis O’Brien. The Reverend Mother was a short, plump woman with a plain, expressionless face. “It is very good of you to see me, Reverend Mother,” she said smoothly. She could see that she was not very welcome at St. Mary’s.
“We could scarcely refuse our lord bishop,” was the icy reply. Reverend Mother Aidan’s smooth white hands, adorned with her plain gold wedding band and the more ornate ring of her office, moved restlessly in her lap.
“You know why I am here?”
“I do, but I do not understand it, my sister. Lord Burke’s death was admittedly a terrible tragedy, but your investigation cannot bring him back.” Her hands clutched at each other in an effort to still themselves. Good, Eibhlin thought, she’s nervous. I wonder what it is she hides.
“The bishop wishes to know why Sister Mary Penitent lured Lord Burke to this convent to murder him, Reverend Mother,” Eibhlin said provocatively.
“She did not lure him!” came the quick reply. “Dear Heaven, my sister, you make Sister Mary Penitent sound like a loose woman.” Reverend Mother Aidan flushed beet red at the boldness of her own words.
“Perhaps lure is not a good word, Reverend Mother. Nonetheless she brought him here under false pretenses.” Eibhlin shifted her weight from one foot to the other. She was tired, having traveled all night.
“That has not been proven!” The denial had a hollow ring.
It has. The bishop has in his possession the message that Sister Mary Penitent sent to Lord Burke. In it she declared that she was dying, that she wished to make her peace with him before she returned to God. Reverend Mother, be sensible,” Eibhlin said with far more patience than she was feeling. “Lord Burke had not seen Sister Mary Penitent since the day she left Burke Castle to return here. He wanted their marriage no more than she did. If she was injured by the union then so was he. He held no grudge. Obviously she did, else she would not have killed him. That is not madness. That is revenge.”
“She is mad, my sister,” came the Reverend Mother’s shaky voice, “and what is worse, she is cursed. I am not sure that this convent is not cursed as well.” The Superior was pale now, and her breath came in shallow pants.
Ah, Eibhlin thought, here is something new. “Please explain yourself, Reverend Mother. The bishop is most interested. And so am I.”
“Sit down, sit down, my sister,” the Reverend Mother finally invited Eibhlin, who willingly complied. When both women were settled the convent’s Superior began her story. “From girlhood Sister Mary Penitent was always more devout than the others. Her devotion almost bordered on the hysterical. Still, she was obedient and gentle, a perfect daughter of the Church. When she returned to us after her marriage was annulled we received her joyfully; and although more nervous than she had been in the past, she seemed to readjust quickly to our simple convent life.
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