A Duke Deceived

A Duke Deceived by Cheryl Bolen Read Free Book Online

Book: A Duke Deceived by Cheryl Bolen Read Free Book Online
Authors: Cheryl Bolen
Allan whispered.
    Bonny reached into her reticule. “I have a letter for you from Uncle David. Shall I read it to you?”
    Mrs. Allan’s gray head nodded.
    Bonny unfolded the letter and began reading.

    Dearest Cynthia,
    It pains me exceedingly to know how ill you are and to be powerless to aid in your recovery. But I am not powerless to ease some of your worry. Please know that for as long as she needs it, Bonny Barbara will have a home with me and will be treated as I treat my own dear Emily. With the money our mother left her, you should not need to worry about her future. While my wife has done little to endear herself to either you or to Bonny Barbara throughout the years, please know that I will not tolerate anything less than the most cordial treatment of your daughter from my wife henceforth.
    Your most affectionate brother, David

    “Such a sweet little brother—” Mrs. Allan began to cough.
    Her face pained, Bonny moved closer to her mother.
    Radcliff wanted to pull her away from the menacing cough, to protect her from the disabling disease, but he forced himself to hold back.
    Finally, Mrs. Allan stopped coughing and spoke again. “But he would have you for love of me.” The older woman stopped and took a deep, rasping breath before continuing. “I want to know that when I’m gone, there is someone who loves you as your father and I have loved you.” She gasped for more breath, holding up her hand, a sign that she was not finished talking. “Someone you will love as I loved your father.” The woman’s eyes filled with tears.
    The old woman put to words what Radcliff felt in his heart toward Bonny. Drawn to Mrs. Allan by the deep affection they shared for her daughter, he stepped forward, sucking in his breath and trembling, fearing he would make an utter fool of himself but knowing what he must do to allay the woman’s worries, to free himself of this obsession over Bonny.
    “I will love your daughter, Mrs. Allan, if you will do me the honor of allowing her to become my wife.”
    Bonny spun round, alarm in her eyes as she faced him.
    Cursed, but he had not done that very well, he chided himself. Such a shock it must have been out of the blue to lovely Barbara, who was already in such a distraught state. He should have spoken to her first, which he would have done had his declaration been planned. Whatever had possessed him to rattle off so to the sweet old woman?
    But just as Barbara had been unprepared for his offer, he had been unprepared for the glare of rejection he saw on her face. Did she love Dunsford so? He knew he was taking unfair advantage of her sorrowful circumstances to usurp the Earl of Dunsford. And he knew if given the chance to do so again, he would. Never had he wanted anything as much as he wanted Bonny Barbara Allan, and he would do anything to win her. He vowed to earn her love if she would but give him the chance. He held his breath as he watched her face, trying to gauge her reaction. Was it anger or was it shock?
    He smiled and spoke with a calmness he was far from feeling. “Aren’t you going to introduce me to your mother, my love?”
    Bonny stood frozen with her back to her mother, her face impassive.
    Hoping that Bonny would not betray him, he looked into her mother’s blue-green eyes, eyes that forty years before must have looked like Bonny’s. “I fear you have done too good a job instilling proper manners in her, ma’am, for she still feels awkward addressing me by my first name.” He stepped closer to the bed and bowed. “I am Richard Moncrief, the fifth Duke of Radcliff, your most obedient servant.”
    The old woman looked from him to Bonny and back to him. “I have never tried to speak for my daughter,” she managed to say before another outburst of coughing. When the coughing stopped, she added, “Ask Bonny. Not me.”
    Radcliff’s eyes searched Bonny’s inscrutable ones. “I beg to speak to you privately after you have visited with your mother.” He

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