Love Match

Love Match by Maggie MacKeever Read Free Book Online

Book: Love Match by Maggie MacKeever Read Free Book Online
Authors: Maggie MacKeever
Tags: Regency Romance
    Elizabeth stared at the expanse of chest revealed by the duke’s nightshirt. She recognized that it was a fine specimen of a chest, despite her lack of experience with such things. His Grace didn’t resemble the slavering beast of Maman’s cautions. Although he was a little wolfish with his hair uncombed and that strange expression on his face.
    She swallowed. Her mouth had gone dry. What had St. Clair asked her? “Maman does not approve of dancing. She says it is vulgar and causes one to grow overheated.”
    Justin doubted Lady Ratchett would approve of her daughter’s wet and revealing nightgown. His duchess, if tall and slender, was excellently formed. “Your mama does not approve of perspiration? A pity. There are any number of pleasant things that might raise one’s temperature. Perhaps Lady Ratchett simply does not approve of pleasant things.”
    Elizabeth was definitely perspiring, which was not surprising, since she had never before seen a gentleman clad in his nightshirt and robe. Nervously, she chuckled. “It is certain Maman would not approve of your saying so, Your Grace.”
    Her hair was lovely, loose like that, tumbling down her back. Justin’s fingers itched to smooth away the tangles. “I believe this is the first time I have ever heard you laugh.”
    Elizabeth’s brief good humor faded. Was her husband telling her that laughter was now on the list of things she was not to do? “We have not had much time together, Your Grace,” she said awkwardly. “Either you and Maman were negotiating, or I was being ill.”
    Did she dare reproach him? “Or you were sleeping,” Justin responded coolly. “You must have been exhausted, wife.”
    He had come to her bedroom last eve? Had not the fair Magda slaked his husbandly appetites? Maybe Daphne had been mistaken in believing Magda the duke’s mistress. Even Charnwood’s oldest friend had called him a curst cold fish. Mr. Slyte might take back his words if ever he saw the duke tousled and unshaved and wearing little more than his dressing gown.
    What was she thinking? Elizabeth wrenched her attention away from the duke’s mesmerizing chest and stared instead at the birdcage. Birdie edged along the perch toward her. “Biscuit?” the parrot inquired.
    “You have had quite enough biscuit, you greedy creature.” Elizabeth crumbled another, nonetheless. Did St. Clair intend to claim the privileges of marriage to which he was entitled now, in the bright light of day? Privileges which according to Maman were at best repulsive and at worst rather painful, but had to be endured, because the satisfaction of base urges was imperative for a gentleman’s good health? At the same time gentlemen were by nature perverted, or so Maman said; given half a chance, would engage in a variety of the most revolting practices, and Elizabeth must therefore beware.  Since Maman hadn’t gone into detail about what constituted either a base urge or a revolting practice, Elizabeth wasn’t sure what she was expected to endure . She suspected that her husband could explain it all to her, dared she ask.
    Justin was growing cross. He had received a warmer response from Birdie, who was currently making a great mess with biscuit crumbs, than from his bride. Indeed, Elizabeth appeared considerably more interested in that wretched parrot than himself. He gave in to impulse and smoothed her golden curls. “Do you make a habit of taking laudanum, wife?”
    Elizabeth dared not move. One of the duke’s hands was on her shoulder, and the other was tangled in her hair. Where would he place his hands next? She managed to mutter, “I had a headache, Your Grace.”
    Justin had two headaches. He doubted an opiate would make either go away. “You will not take laudanum again,” he said sternly. “It is not good for you. You must come to me the next time you are in pain.”
    Elizabeth lowered her lashes and wished that she might swallow an entire bottle of laudanum all at

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