More Than Charming

More Than Charming by Jomarie Degioia Read Free Book Online

Book: More Than Charming by Jomarie Degioia Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jomarie Degioia
virtue, something of which she’d have no knowledge.”
    James blinked. “She didn’t.”
    “You know my wife. Lady Brookdale has ceased spreading her lies, I’m happy to say.”
    “Good.”
    “You must come to stay at the manor, Roberts. Michelle will send out the invitations when we’re more firm in our plans.”
    James could only nod. No doubt Catherine would be in attendance, but to refuse his friend would seem strange in the least and rude in the worst.
    “I’ll try my best to get away.” He rose. “I’ll leave you to your speeches.”
    “Good day, Roberts.”
    James took his leave. He peeked cautiously into the parlor as he made his way to the front door, but he didn’t find Catherine within. Relieved and disappointed, he headed out into the August sunshine.
     
    *     *     *
     
    Two weeks later James sat in the parlor of his family estate, passing teatime with his father. James had access to all the holdings that went along with his title, but he preferred spending time at Bradford Hall. It was a grand home, but it was also full of warm memories for him. He looked over at his father, a still-handsome man in his early sixties. The Earl of Bradford coughed, causing James to jump to his feet.
    The earl caught the motion and smiled. “Easy, my boy. I merely felt a tickle, is all.”
    “You’re feeling better these days, Father. Aren’t you?”
    The earl nodded, adjusting the wool blanket that lay across his lap. “Yes, son. I must say that having you here is quite a tonic for me.”
    James smiled and sipped his tea.
    “And how did you leave London?” his father asked.
    “Hmm?” James started. “Fine. Why do you ask?”
    The earl got a gleam in his eye. “Did you enjoy the company of any particular lady while in town?”
    James’s eyes widened, a reaction his father didn’t miss.
    “I knew it,” the earl said.
    “And what is it you believe you know?”
    “You’ve been brooding quite a bit of late, James.” He grinned. “Not like you in the least.”
    A smile teased the corner of James’s mouth. “Never mind.”
    “Who is she, son?”
    James stood and crossed to the window. Catherine’s image floated before him, not as he’d seen her at Paul’s home but as she’d left him at his own. The pain visible in her violet eyes . . .
    “Well?” the earl prodded. “Do I hear wedding bells?”
    “What?” James said, turning to face his father. “No, no.”
    “Are you not fond of her?”
    “Of course I’m fond of her. But she won’t suit.”
    “Whyever not?”
    James stared out the window once more, quiet.
    “Is she married?” his father asked.
    “No.”
    “A commoner?”
    “No.”
    “Too young?”
    James shook his head.
    “Too old, then?”
    “No, no,” James said in irritation. “She’s none of those.”
    “Son, if she’s none of those, what’s stopping you from pursuing her?”
    James let out a long sigh, sitting down once more. “It’s impossible.”
    “I’ve never seen you like this.” His father shook his head. “You need to listen to your heart.”
    “How on earth can I trust my heart to tell me what to do?” James frowned. “I thought myself in love before and nearly ruined two people’s lives because of my ridiculous declaration.”
    “You weren’t in love with Kane’s wife, James.”
    “I know. Thank God they know, as well. But how do I know what I feel for this girl isn’t infatuation?”
    His father didn’t answer, but James knew it didn’t feel the same. He wanted Catherine with a passion he hadn’t felt for Becca. He also wanted to protect her and keep her safe. But did he love her? And if he thought he might—how could he be sure? On the other hand, did it matter? Love was the last requirement in a ton marriage. His friends had made love matches, but he was a fool to expect to have their good fortune. Worse, if he openly courted Catherine and it didn’t work out, then he wouldn’t be any better than that scoundrel Waltham. Not

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