Moontide Embrace (Historical Romance)
with me," he said with feeling. Pulling her into his arms, he tried to kiss her, but she ducked her head and laughed at his attempt.
    "Surely you do not expect the Queen of England to be of easy virtue, Sebastian."
    Judah was so caught up in the woman's spell that he did not realize he was not alone until he heard Liberty speak. "That's my sister, Bandera. Men always think she's beautiful. I just think she's tiresome." Liberty bit into a carrot and continued talking with her mouth full. "All she ever thinks about is clothes and her gentlemen friends. She never has fun because she is too busy trying to look beautiful."
    Judah noticed that the young girl's face had been scrubbed clean and her light-colored hair was now tied back with a ribbon. The shapeless smock she wore was also clean. "And what do you do for fun, Mademoiselle Liberty?"
    She tossed aside her uneaten carrot. "Mostly I like to be in the swamps, but I also like to ride horses and to help out in the stable. But I have to sneak off to do that. I like horses more than most people I know."
    Judah smiled. "So do I, Liberty. So do I. Why are you not dressed in costume?"
    "I am too young to attend the ball this year. My mother says I have to wait two more years before I can participate in the masquerade ball."
    His eyes went back to the balcony where that lovely vision, Bandera, had been joined by three other gentle men. Her laughter was enchanting—everything about her was enchanting.
    "Monsieur, what does it feel like to be an American?" Liberty wanted to know.
    Through lowered lashes, he looked down at her. "Comfortable. I suspect you will find out before long. It is my guess that Orleans Territory will soon become a state."
    "Do you think so?"
    "I do."
    "Is it true that you are Sebastian's cousin?"
    "I suppose that will make us relatives of a sort. It seems almost a certainty that Bandera will marry Sebastian. He is considered a prize catch, you know"—Liberty smiled impishly—" unless, of course, you walk off with the Montesquieu holdings as Madame Tulorose suggested. Should that happen, Bandera will probably try for you."
    Judah glanced back to Bandera and watched her disap pear inside the ballroom. "You aren't being very kind to your sister. You make her sound as if she were only after Sebastian for his prospects."
    "Not at all. I believe it is a game most women play. My mother says when one is pretty, one needs nothing else. As you have seen, Bandera is beautiful."
    He smiled. "How would you classify yourself?"
    "I am reasonably intelligent."
    The self-appraisal was spoken earnestly. Liberty leaned close to Judah. "Bandera says ladies are not supposed to be intelligent. She says men don't want them to be. Can that be true?"
    Judah laughed at the little charmer. "I have very little doubt that you will grow up and outsmart all the compe tition."
    Liberty seated herself on a marble bench and spread her smock out about her. "Is that just a polite way of saying you do not think me pretty?"
    His laughter rang out. "You are about the most preco cious little girl it has ever been my pleasure to meet."
    "I am not a little girl," she insisted. "Just last week I turned — "
    "No, don't tell me—allow me to guess. You have just celebrated your twelfth birthday. You see, I am somewhat of an authority on a young lady's age."
    "I am not twelve," Liberty said indignantly. "I am much older than that."
    "I see." He tried not to smile. "How much older?"
    She gave him a supercilious glance. "I ... am fifteen."
    "Ah," he said, making a gracious bow before her. "Mademoiselle Liberty, you will forgive my ignorance. How can I have been so mistaken? I see now that you are much older than I first suspected. Is there some way I can make amends for my miscalculation?" The smile that played around his lips was quickly hidden as he bent to kiss her fingers.
    When he glanced up, Liberty saw his turquoise blue eyes twinkle with humor. As she stared into his handsome face, she

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