Surrender to the Earl

Surrender to the Earl by Gayle Callen Read Free Book Online

Book: Surrender to the Earl by Gayle Callen Read Free Book Online
Authors: Gayle Callen
Tags: Romance
simply whisk away his daughter? No. But Robert had another idea . . .
    When the last guest from the village had gone, Miss Collins retired and Mr. Collins led his friends upstairs. Robert stopped their father in the entrance hall.
    “Lord Collins, might we speak privately?” he asked.
    Mrs. Blake was just entering the hall from the back corridor. Her eyes narrowed as he spoke. There was no way to send her a reassuring smile. Realizing he was staring a bit too long, he turned and found Lord Collins frowning at him.
    “We can speak in my study,” Collins said, leading him across the hall to another door.
    His study was lined with books and deep leather chairs, and the occasional masculine knickknacks of rocks, animal skulls, and a mounted deer. Collins indicated a chair for Robert, then went around and sat behind the desk, as if he needed a barrier against whatever Robert had to say.
    But his expression was neutral enough as he asked, “Is something amiss, Knightsbridge?”
    Robert was so used to making a decision and then the necessary physical preparations, it had never occurred to him to prepare a speech. He would definitely need to brush up on that before Parliament opened after Christmas.
    “Collins, I came here with the intention of offering my sympathy to your daughter. I had heard a bit about her from Blake—”
    “You can’t trust a word that scoundrel ever said,” Collins said, frowning. “He abandoned my daughter.”
    “He did, though I didn’t know it. He spoke of her letters as giving him comfort, and in some ways, I think he was surprised by that.”
    The other man said nothing, only steepled his fingers together beneath his chin.
    “I’ve spent two days in Mrs. Blake’s company, and I’ve seen her courage, wit, and intelligence. I cannot express enough my admiration.”
    “What are you saying?” Collins demanded.
    “I wanted to inform you that I will be asking for Mrs. Blake’s hand in marriage tomorrow.”
    To his surprise, Collins began to chuckle, but it slowly died away as Robert didn’t smile in return.
    “You are serious,” Collins said in a flat voice.
    “I am.”
    “You have an earldom to lure any young woman. You’ve only just returned to England. And you want to choose the first woman you’ve spent time with—a blind woman?”
    “I returned two weeks ago,” Robert amended. “I met several debutantes in London, but most are in the country, I know. Your daughter is the first woman to fascinate me, and frankly, after nine years in the army, I’ve learned to trust my instincts.”
    “Her dowry went to Blake,” Collins said smugly, crossing his arms over his chest. “But Blythe has a fine dowry.”
    Robert ignored the mention of the other daughter. “Mrs. Blake told me how her husband took her money and betrayed her. I would never do that. I’ve resigned my commission. I have no need of her dowry. Surely you know that the Knightsbridge estates have been well cared for. But, sir, it is your daughter’s kindness and patience I value, not money. Her acceptance of her limitations, and the courage she shows every single day. The London debutantes want me for all the wrong reasons, my title and wealth. A mature woman like Mrs. Blake would best understand the moods of an ex-soldier.”
    Collins never took his eyes off Robert. At last he said, “I can’t allow this.”
    Robert arched a brow. “She is an adult, sir, a widow. You have no say.”
    “She is an invalid. Any court will agree she’s not capable of making her own decisions.”
    “She would testify on her own behalf and talk circles around any lawyer. You know that. And what will I be doing? I will be explaining to everyone in London about your resistance, and the way you treat her as your servant rather than your daughter.”
    Collins slammed his hands onto the desk, scattering papers. “I will not listen to such words in my own home!”
    “You won’t listen to the truth, you mean? I saw the local gentry

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