The Duke's Shotgun Wedding (Entangled Scandalous)(5)

By: Stacy Reid



He tilted his head and regarded her. “It seems your shrewish tongue is the offset to such angelic beauty, Lady Jocelyn.”

“And you are a libertine!” She had not been in his library thirty minutes and he had accosted her. Her hands trembled and her heart pounded in shock.

Mostly at the startling pleasure of his kiss.

His actions had surprised her so much she had responded with a wantonness not in her nature. How had he wrought such a change in her?

The man was more dangerous than she’d ever imagined.

Heat burned in her entire body as she remembered how the duke had crushed her to him and plundered her mouth as though he had every right.

With an unreadable mien, he turned to watch her, graceful and panther-like in his movements. Her hand itched to shoot him for his arrogance, so much so that she clasped both hands over the derringer in fear she might actually pull the trigger.

His brows arched at her action. “Do you still intend to shoot me, Lady Rathbourne?” he drawled, seemingly unconcerned that she held a gun in her shaking hand.

“I can see where Anthony received his propensity for disgraceful, ungentlemanly behavior.”

His lip curled. “You mistook me for a gentleman? How naïve. For I am still trying to determine if I will take you before you leave.”

She could only gape at him in stupefied amazement. She searched his face, and what she saw shook her to the core. Her hand stilled, and all tremors left her body as her mind endeavored to understand.

He was coldly furious.

She was sure of it. The curve of his lips, and the ease with which he leaned against his oak desk suggested otherwise. But his eyes gave him away. They burned with an intensity she did not understand. She was the wronged party, not him.

She belatedly realized that Calydon was nothing like Anthony, or the few other noblemen who had graced her home in Lincolnshire. He was not like the earnest suitors her father maneuvered her way hoping they would be ensnared by her beauty and title despite the lack of a dowry. This man was not amiable, easily spoken, nor, indeed, a gentleman. He would not be led nor easily deceived. He was a lord, through and through.

Rich, powerful, and ruthless, and Jocelyn feared she was far out of her league, even if her papa claimed her Napoleonic mind had no match.

Restrained strength emanated from him, and a dark sensuality stamped his features. Despite the smile that teased his lips, his eyes remained cold, distant, and aloof.

She rocked back on her heels, and tipped her head to search his face. His reputation for shrewdness and ruthlessness extended to more than business acumen. Apparently it was well-earned. She was not dealing with a rich fop of the revered ton as she had believed.

“You are angry,” she observed, her heart pounding.

She watched his face for signs that she may be wrong. And did her best to block what he had said about taking her. Visions of true ruin had been pummeling her since he’d uttered those threatening words. If he did, she would be more than impoverished, she would be disgraced and cast from society. If not worse. Should he decide to force her, she doubted she could shoot him and remain a free woman. Images of her swinging from the gallows had her paling.

“Because I detest liars.” His voice whipped contempt.

Jocelyn swept down her lashes, shuttering her gaze. “I am telling the truth.” In all that mattered…

“Anthony did not seduce you. And if so, he did a piss poor job at it.”

Her eyes flew open at his crude remarks. “You persist in thinking me a simpleton! I demand satisfaction. I swear on my honor that your brother took liberties and promised me marriage.”

She did not fidget under his cold assessment, despite the riotous emotions that boiled inside her.

“Women have no honor.” His tone was positively glacial, devoid of anything but disdain.

She struggled for a reply, but could say nothing under the judgment that lashed out from his eyes. Fire burned in her cheeks.

“Ah, she blushes. Mortification at being revealed?”

“Blushing is the color of virtue, Your Grace,” she snapped.

“A gun-toting woman who quotes the philosopher Diogenes. Tell me, Lady Rathbourne, what other talents lie beneath such a beautiful face and glorious body? Do you paint water colors or play the pianoforte, perhaps?”

She cursed the weakness that filled her limbs as he slowly perused the length of her, from the tendrils of curls on her forehead, over her breasts, where he lingered a moment, then all the way down to her black boots.

She drew herself up and met his derision with pride. “No. But I do read and write in fluent English, French, and Latin. I don’t know all the great philosophers, only those who had something interesting to say. I am apt in managing a household, and have served as both chatelaine and steward for my father’s estate for years. I swim, I ride, and I hunt. And I shoot very, very well.”

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