The Duke I'm Going to Marry(7)

By: Meara Platt



Not as scared as he suddenly was. What if the curse did prove true? “I don’t believe in it either.”

“But you ran down my street. And now you’re worried that you inadvertently fell into the Chipping Way trap.” She sounded horrified. “For pity’s sake, why did you do it? There are a thousand streets in London. You could have chosen any of them. Why mine?”

“It wasn’t intentional. I was running for my life, and you should have been back in Coniston. Don’t tell me you’re the superstitious sort. You can’t believe in that silly curse. Your sisters would have met and married their husbands no matter what. They fell in love. I’m not loveable. I’m a dissolute who intends to stay that way.”

She paused to study him, her expression a little too thoughtful for his liking. “Why did you just say that?”

“Say what? That your sisters would have met and married—”

“No, about your not being loveable.”

He laughed and shook his head. “No one on this earth cares about me. No one ever did. Not even me.”


***

Dillie came around the bed to face Ian, wanting to be angry with him and at the same time wanting to throw her arms around him to assure him that someone cared. Someone must have loved Ian at some point in his life. His parents. His siblings. A sweetheart?

She felt a pang in her heart. It wasn’t jealousy. She’d have to care for Ian in that way to feel such a thing. She didn’t care for him and never would. Absolutely not. “I’ll fetch your clothes.” It was of no moment that looking at his broad, lightly tanned chest and the soft gold hairs that lined its rippling planes was making her lightheaded. She glanced away from his dangerously gleaming, gray-green eyes.

Ian knew how to make women swoon.

Fortunately, she never swooned. She was too practical for such nonsense.

Nor did his muscled arms make her body tingle. She was merely responding to the ugly, red gashes crisscrossed on them.

He wasn’t in the least attractive. Not after three days of sweating out a high fever. Besides his ragged growth of beard, he had a large cowlick sticking up from his matted honey-gold hair. It didn’t matter that some of those gold curls had looped about his neck and ears in a manner that made her fingers itch to brush them back. The cowlick made him look ridiculous.

Ridiculously handsome.

No! She refused to find him attractive. Absolutely not. Not in the least. Yet, the casual way he dismissed his wounds tugged at her heart. He was used to pain, used to hiding deep, ugly scars. The horrible sort, the unseen ones capable of destroying one’s spirit.

Who had done such a thing to Ian? The elephant gun was still loaded. She wanted to hunt down those wicked people and shoot them with both barrels.





CHAPTER 2


AFTER BREAKFAST the next morning, Dillie decided to sit down and play the piano. She needed to clear her mind, and anyway, she hadn’t practiced in months. There had been too much to do to help her twin sister plan her wedding. In truth, she and their mother had done most of the planning while Lily was, as usual, absorbed in her baboon research. Then all those Farthingale relatives had descended on their townhouse from all over the British Isles to celebrate Lily’s big day and Dillie had been enlisted to help her mother entertain them all.

Dillie entered the music room, looking forward to the solitude. It was a cold, rainy day, the sort of day to sleep late or cozy up in a chair by the fire to read a good book. She’d looked in on Ian earlier. He was sleeping comfortably, his forehead cool. His valet had delivered a leather pouch full of important papers that Ian would review when he awoke. Her uncle had allowed it now that Ian was no longer delirious. However, he hadn’t allowed Ian to leave their home, for he wasn’t completely out of danger yet.

Ian’s fever had returned last night.

Fortunately, he was cool by this morning and looked stronger. Dillie could tell he was on the mend because he was frustrated, impatient, and eager to climb out of bed.

Mercy! The sight of him as he’d lunged out of bed yesterday, not a stitch of clothing on his muscled torso, still had her heart in palpitations.

With Ian’s health improving, Dillie realized she was no longer needed to tend him. Ashcroft, his valet, would now take over nursemaid duties. She was glad for the change, and glad that he would be gone by the end of the week, for the sight of London’s most eligible bachelor occupying her bed, his big, hard body taking up most of its width, had left her moon-eyed, witless, and vulnerable.

However, she would miss him.

Would he miss her? Of course not. Ian had a beautiful mistress and a circle of dissolute friends who would quickly occupy his time.

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