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The Captain Claims His Lady

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«The Captain Claims His Lady» - Энни Берроуз

Enticed by the mysterious stranger…But can this wallflower trust in their attraction?In this Brides for Bachelors story, shy Lizzie Hutton knows her height and clumsiness alone make her a debutante to avoid. Until she meets tall, strong and striking Captain Harry Bretherton, who takes a surprising interest in her! Their intense chemistry makes him hard to resist—if only it weren’t for the secrecy around his past…
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A mysterious stranger...

Can she trust in their attraction?

In this Brides for Bachelors story, shy Lizzie Hutton knows her height and clumsiness alone make her a debutante to avoid. Until she meets tall, strong and striking Captain Harry Bretherton, who takes a surprising interest in her! Their intense chemistry makes him hard to resist—if only it weren’t for the secrecy around his past...

Brides for Bachelors miniseries

Book 1—The Major Meets His Match

Book 2—The Marquess Tames His Bride

Book 3—The Captain Claims His Lady

“Every book by Annie Burrows is a great read... The Marquess Tames His Bride has strong characters, a fast-moving plot, a devious mystery and a touch of scandal. Readers will be captivated.”

—RT Book Reviews on The Marquess Tames His Bride

“Burrows is a master at Regency romance.”

—RT Book Reviews on In Bed with the Duke

ANNIE BURROWS has been writing Regency romances for Mills & Boon since 2007. Her books have charmed readers worldwide, having been translated into nineteen different languages, and some have gone on to win the coveted Reviewers’ Choice Award from CataRomance. For more information, or to contact the author, please visit, or you can find her on Facebook at

Lord Havelock’s List

A Mistress for Major Bartlett

The Captain’s Christmas Bride

In Bed with the Duke

Once Upon a Regency Christmas

The Debutante’s Daring Proposal

Brides for Bachelors miniseries

The Major Meets His Match

The Marquess Tames His Bride

The Captain Claims His Lady

Discover more at

The Captain Claims His Lady

Annie Burrows

ISBN: 978-1-474-07392-9


© 2018 Annie Burrows

Published in Great Britain 2018

by Mills & Boon, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers 1 London Bridge Street, London, SE1 9GF

All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. This edition is published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, locations and incidents are purely fictional and bear no relationship to any real life individuals, living or dead, or to any actual places, business establishments, locations, events or incidents. Any resemblance is entirely coincidental.

By payment of the required fees, you are granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right and licence to download and install this e-book on your personal computer, tablet computer, smart phone or other electronic reading device only (each a “Licensed Device”) and to access, display and read the text of this e-book on-screen on your Licensed Device. Except to the extent any of these acts shall be permitted pursuant to any mandatory provision of applicable law but no further, no part of this e-book or its text or images may be reproduced, transmitted, distributed, translated, converted or adapted for use on another file format, communicated to the public, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of publisher.

® and ™ are trademarks owned and used by the trademark owner and/or its licensee. Trademarks marked with ® are registered with the United Kingdom Patent Office and/or the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market and in other countries.


New Year, New Life—welcome to the world, Alfie!



Back Cover Text

About the Author


Title Page



Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven


Chapter One

Captain Harry Bretherton ducked his head as he entered the waterfront tavern and ran his eyes swiftly over the occupants of the low-ceilinged, smoky taproom. He hoped that none of his former crew members were drinking here on this dank October night. For the meeting being held in the back room was supposed to be a secret.

Grinding his teeth, he strode through the room that swarmed with dockers and sailors, wondering what on earth the Marquess of Rawcliffe had been thinking, arranging to hold his meeting here, of all places. He certainly hadn’t been living up to his nickname of Zeus, the all-knowing, not by a long chalk.

He’d even picked the most memorable of his footmen to stand guard at the door to the back room. Though Kendall was wearing a drab coat and slouch hat, he still managed to look every inch the footman to a marquess.

Harry looked the man straight in the eye as he drew near, wishing he knew exactly what orders Zeus had given him. If it came to a fight, he wasn’t at all sure he’d be able to get past Kendall. The footman was over six feet tall and extremely muscular, as well as being utterly loyal to his employer. And it had been a long time since Harry had been in his best form.

He’d just have to hope he could bluff his way past.

‘Good evening, Kendall,’ he said, in what he hoped looked like a confident manner.

‘Wasn’t expecting you here tonight, sir.’

No. He wouldn’t. Zeus had arranged the whole affair with Ulysses without consulting him, let alone inviting him to take part. If he hadn’t overheard a couple of conversations between Lady Rawcliffe and Lady Becconsall, he might never have discovered what their husbands had been planning.

Behind his back.

‘Only had orders to let three naval officers in, sir,’ Kendall explained, a touch defensively. Harry drew himself up to his full height and lifted his chin slightly, utilising the single inch he had over Kendall to its full effect. There weren’t many men the footman had to, literally, look up at.

‘Three other officers, besides myself,’ Harry improvised quickly, ‘I dare say that was what His Lordship meant.’

‘Oh, I see, sir.’ Kendall looked relieved. But then he wouldn’t have wanted to test his strength against a man who’d been a guest in his employer’s home, any more than Harry had wished to start a struggle that would probably have escalated into a full-scale brawl within seconds. He might be an officer, but he was navy. And Kendall clearly wasn’t. The man had never looked more like a footman than when he opened the door to let Harry past.

Having successfully cleared the first hurdle, Harry stepped into the back room.

The four men who were seated round the sticky, blackened table went quiet. Zeus, who was at the head, made his feelings about Harry’s presence known by narrowing his eyes and thinning his lips.

By way of reply, Harry looked at each of the other men seated at the table in turn, before training his eyes on Zeus and raising his eyebrows.

These were the men Rawcliffe deemed acceptable to carry out the investigation into the murder of their former schoolfriend? A drunkard, a bully and an inveterate gambler? Personally, Harry wouldn’t trust any of them any further than he could throw them. Which wouldn’t be all that far, these days.

Rawcliffe met his expression of disbelief with one of bland defiance. Their staring match might have gone on indefinitely, had not Captain Hambleton drained his tankard, slammed it down on the table and belched.

At which point, Rawcliffe wrenched his gaze away from Harry and shot Captain Hambleton an expression of disdain so cold it practically sent a sheet of frost across the tabletop.

Captain Hambleton met that icy gaze with the kind of aplomb that came naturally to a man who’d spent years honing it under fire. ‘Are you going to carry on informing us about the service you wish one of us to perform on your behalf, my lord, or are we waiting on anyone else?’

Harry made the most of the opportunity Captain Hambleton had unwittingly provided, to pull up a chair, sit down on it and fold his arms across his chest.

‘I may as well proceed,’ said Rawcliffe, with resignation, having looked at each of the men now sitting round his table with varying degrees of repugnance. ‘You already know that the service I require from whichever of you I choose is not for the faint-hearted, or squeamish. I made that perfectly clear when I approached each one of you. The task will necessitate acting in a way that many...’ he turned briefly in Harry’s direction, his eyelids lowering fractionally ‘...would consider dishonourable. If that perturbs any of you, then I urge you to leave now, before I make my final selection.’

Nobody moved. But then none of the other men had all that many scruples. Lieutenant Nateby was a brute, renowned for flogging men under his command on the flimsiest pretext. Lieutenant Thurnham was so deep under the hatches, because of his addiction to gambling, that he was willing to do just about anything to stay out of debtor’s prison. And as for Captain Hambleton, Harry rather thought his conscience had long since been pickled in alcohol.

‘Just how do you plan on making your final selection,’ Harry challenged him, ‘from this pool of...talent?’ He could not keep the scorn from his voice. Or the anger. Rawcliffe should never have brought strangers into this. Especially not men like these.

‘How about drawing straws?’ sneered Captain Hambleton.

‘Yes,’ said Lieutenant Thurnham eagerly. ‘Place it in the hands of fate.’

‘Are you sure you only want one man for your...task?’ Lieutenant Nateby said, twirling his brandy glass round and round. ‘If it is as difficult and dangerous as you were suggesting before Captain Bretherton joined us,’ he said, darting a rather sardonic smile at Harry, ‘then it might be easier to accomplish if two of us joined forces.’

‘No,’ said Lieutenant Thurnham. ‘That would mean splitting the fee. Unless you would pay each of us the same amount you mentioned?’

‘This is a job for one man, working alone,’ said Rawcliffe repressively.

‘Oh, well then,’ said Lieutenant Thurnham with a shrug, ‘let us draw straws. Save you the pain of making the decision about which one of us to pick.’

Rawcliffe already knew which one of them he should pick. Dammit, Archie had been one of his oldest friends. If anyone had the right to hunt down his murderer and bring him to justice, it was he. Rawcliffe and Becconsall had no business hiring men to do the job. Not when they knew he, Harry, would have done it for nothing.

‘A sensible solution,’ said Rawcliffe, infuriating him still further. ‘Kendall!’

His footman poked his head round the door. ‘Yes, my lord?’

‘Procure four straws. Three cut short and one left long. Then come back and present them to these four gentlemen one at a time, in the prescribed manner.’

‘Yes, my lord,’ said Kendall, leaving at once.

Harry clenched his fists on his lap. All five men at the table sat in silence, broken only by the grating noise of Captain Hambleton dragging the ale jug across the table, then refilling his tankard.

Good god, did Rawcliffe and Becconsall really consider such a fellow preferable to him? To bring their friend’s murderer to justice? True, Harry had felt, and looked, a mere shadow of his former self when he’d first returned to England. And, admittedly, he’d been drinking too much. But even foxed, and at half-strength, surely he was more suitable, not to say reliable, than any of these three?

Kendall returned after only a brief interval. Though heaven alone knew where the fellow could have found any straw in this neck of the woods. He made as if to hand the bunch of straws over to his master, but Rawcliffe held up his hand.

‘No, it is better if you present them to the candidates for the post. Less chance of anyone accusing me of cutting a sham, should they be disappointed.’

‘Seems fair,’ said Thurnham, holding out his hand.

‘Hold hard,’ said Captain Hambleton. ‘We should do this according to rank.’

Kendall raised his brows in a manner that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a drawing room. ‘We will do this,’ he said repressively, ‘according to who’s nearest the door. And that’s this fellow.’ He extended his fist in the direction of Lieutenant Nateby, who gave his senior officer an insolent grin before plucking out one straw.

It was hard to tell whether it was short or long compared to those still clenched in Kendall’s fist. The only thing anyone could tell for certain, when Nateby held it aloft, was that it was about four inches long.

‘Have I won?’

If he had, then why was Kendall offering the remaining straws to Lieutenant Thurnham? The straw he drew was of the same length as Nateby’s. Which meant that Kendall must be still holding a much longer one.

Kendall held out his fist to Harry. ‘Your turn, Captain,’ he said.

Harry studied both remaining straws carefully, his heart pounding sickeningly. He had to pull out the long straw, he just had to. He’d been robbed of too much, these past few years. His command, his liberty, his health, his self-respect and, finally, his timid, yet loyal, friend Archie. He couldn’t lose the right to avenge him, too. It would be...well, the last straw.

He closed his eyes, briefly, took a deep breath and laid hold of one of the two remaining straws clutched in Kendall’s fist. And tugged at it. And kept on tugging as, slowly, the length of it kept on emerging.

He breathed again. He’d got the long straw. And the job.

Kendall ushered the other three men out of the room, amidst much grumbling and cursing. Leaving him alone at the table with the Marquis of Rawcliffe.

A man who claimed to be his friend.

‘I can’t believe,’ Harry growled, ‘that you could even consider hiring anyone else. I was the obvious candidate all along.’

Rawcliffe’s thin mouth clenched into a hard line. ‘No, you were not. I thought you heard me explaining that this task will entail acting in a dishonourable fashion. And you are not a dishonourable man.’

‘You have no idea what kind of man I am nowadays.’

‘We didn’t give you the nickname of Atlas for nothing. You—’

‘You see? You are basing your judgement on the boy you used to know at school. You have no idea how much I may have changed since then. And don’t bring up the letters I wrote bragging about my so-called heroic exploits. Most of them were a pack of lies.’

‘You stayed with me for weeks this spring. Until I married Clare—’

‘And you didn’t notice how much brandy I got through? Or how keen I was to sponge off you? Are those the actions of...?’ He stopped and ran his trembling fingers through his hair, slightly stunned by the fact that he was deliberately trying to persuade a man he was dishonourable, as though it was an asset, when, ever since his release from his French captors, he’d been wallowing in the certainty he was no longer of any use to anyone.

‘You ceased sponging off me, as you like to put it, the moment you knew I was to marry. I know that since then you have been living in extremely reduced circumstances, quite unnecessarily, I might add—’

There he went again—trying to attribute noble motives to account for his actions. When the truth was that since their marriages, both Rawcliffe and Becconsall had been so nauseatingly happy Harry could hardly stand being anywhere near either of them. Or their frilly little wives.

‘Look, Rawcliffe, while you’ve been living in idleness for the last dozen years, I have been sailing all over the world fighting England’s enemies. I’ve employed whatever means necessary to destroy them. Whatever means. There isn’t a dirty trick I haven’t resorted to, if it has meant preserving the lives of my men, or slaughtering our foes. Didn’t you think I’d be prepared to go to the same lengths, to bring Archie’s murderer to justice?’

‘To be frank, no, we didn’t. You didn’t seem to care about anything much, beyond getting to the bottom of the next bottle.’

That took the wind out of Harry’s sails. Even though the jibe had been well deserved.

‘Look,’ said Harry, ‘when you and Ulysses started getting all worked up over the disappearance of some jewels, I admit, I couldn’t get the slightest bit interested.’ What did he care about the baubles that hung round the necks of fat, old, rich women, when out there, on the high seas, men who deserved so much better were daily being ground to pulp by cannon or shredded by flying splinters? Especially when he knew that those same pampered matrons would turn their noses up at the odour those men produced, due to a combination of their hard work and lack of sanitary conveniences? ‘And I could see that Ulysses was just looking for an excuse to impress Lady Harriet, anyway. And that when you went off on that search for the thief, it was a way to relieve the tedium of your existence. In the same way, when Archie went down to Dorset to visit that old relative of his, who seemed to be implicated in some way, I just thought it would do him good to stop hanging on your coat-tails and prove himself.’

Now it was Rawcliffe’s turn to flinch. At least, he began to tap his forefinger on the stem of his wineglass, which was the nearest he ever got to displaying agitation.

‘But somebody killed him,’ Harry continued. ‘That changes everything.’

‘Not quite everything. To be frank, neither of us think that you have the stomach to employ the stratagem which Ulysses and I have deemed necessary.’

‘Haven’t the stomach for it?’ That was one thing about himself he’d never doubted. He might have done a lot of foolish things, but nobody could deny he’d fought like a tiger to try and mitigate the results of his mistakes. ‘I am no coward.’

‘It isn’t a question of cowardice. And don’t repeat your excuse about me not knowing you any more. You have been back in England for several months, during which time I have had ample opportunity to discover what kind of man you have grown to be. You were the only one of us, remember, who made any attempt to defend poor Lady Harriet, when we found her in the park, alone, at dawn. The only one to treat her with respect.’

‘Well, that’s different. A female...alone...’

‘Well, that’s just it,’ said Rawcliffe with a touch of impatience. ‘The task of bringing Archie’s murderer to justice is going to involve deceiving a female. A gently born female. It is at the very heart of the plan Ulysses came up with. And unless I’m very much mistaken, seducing a gullible virgin is not something you would be comfortable doing.’

‘Seducing a...?’ He shook his head. Then looked at the straw clutched in his fingers. ‘It’s too late now. It appears to be my fate.’ And anyway, could anything he did make him despise himself more than he already did?

‘Damn fate!’ Rawcliffe slapped his open palm on the table, in a display of emotion that was so uncharacteristic it made Harry jump. ‘I don’t have so many friends I can afford to lose another one.’

Just like that, Harry understood why Rawcliffe had held this meeting in secret. Had made plans with Becconsall behind his back, too. People might assume Rawcliffe was cold-blooded and unfeeling, but he wasn’t. It was all a façade. Behind it beat the heart of a man who detested injustice. He hadn’t changed all that much since he’d been a boy at Eton, either. Not deep down, where it counted. At Eton, they’d given Rawcliffe the nickname of Zeus, not simply because he out ranked them all, but because he really was a natural leader. Just as they’d nicknamed him Atlas, because not only was he bigger and stronger than anyone else in the school, but he’d been willing to take on the burdens of those who needed his protection. And Becconsall, the third of their band of brothers, had been Ulysses. So named for his cunning and intelligence.

He’d never forged friendships like the ones he’d formed at that school, even though he’d been there for such a comparatively short time.

‘Seducing a gullible virgin doesn’t sound all that dangerous.’

‘Going to visit an elderly relative didn’t sound all that dangerous when I let Archie go and do so, either, did it? The point is, there is somebody down there in Dorset who is cunning enough to plan the theft of jewels in such a way that it took years, in some cases, for the theft to even be discovered. And with the connections that enabled him to introduce jewel thieves into the houses of members of the ton, in the guise of ladies’ maids. That person is also ruthless enough to commit murder in order to keep his crimes from being discovered. So we need someone as cunning, and as ruthless, to withstand him.’

‘I have already declared myself willing to do whatever it might take. Even to the point of seduction. Though to be frank, whatever female you have selected for this process would fare better with me than with the likes of Thurnham or Nateby. I, at least, won’t debauch her.’

Rawcliffe looked at him for a second or two, his face blank, though Harry knew it was a mask he adopted to conceal what he was thinking.

‘And Archie,’ Harry continued, ‘was not only a civilian, but a scientist. He had no idea how to spot a liar, or a rogue. Whereas I am not only an experienced fighting man, but have lived in close quarters with some of the most despicable criminals on earth. Men who chose to serve in the navy rather than go to the gallows.’

‘There was a good reason,’ said Rawcliffe thoughtfully, ‘why I sought candidates for the job amongst other naval men. The ability to handle a boat might come in handy.’

Harry’s heart picked up speed. ‘There you are, you see? And you can trust me, which you could not do with the others. They would not have had the zeal I can bring to the table.’

‘You are still not fit for active duty, though, are you? If it comes to a fight...’

‘I am much stronger than I was. Getting stronger every day. And anyway, isn’t it better that our enemy underestimates me?’

Rawcliffe’s cool grey eyes narrowed. ‘Actually, in one way,’ he said thoughtfully, ‘your physical condition is an advantage. It will provide the perfect cover for you to be in Bath. Where the young lady who is pivotal to the investigation is currently staying.’

Harry leaned back in his chair. The job was his.

‘Why don’t you just tell me what dastardly plan you and Ulysses have cooked up between you? And then let me decide if I’m the man to carry it out.’

Or not.


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