The Duchess and Desperado

The Duchess and Desperado by Laurie Grant Read Free Book Online

Book: The Duchess and Desperado by Laurie Grant Read Free Book Online
Authors: Laurie Grant
Tags: Romance, Historical Romance, Protector, nineteenth century, American West
all be murdered in our beds.”
    Even as he suppressed a mighty urge to knock the stuckup, mouthy nobleman into the middle of next week, Morgan’s gaze was involuntarily drawn to the matching, square-cut sapphires at her neck and on one elegant finger. He had to admit the man had a point, even if he didn’t suspect how accurate he was. Not that Morgan would ever murder anyone, but stealing just the gems she was wearing right now would probably keep him for a year, if he could sell them for a reasonable price. And if she had more, he might even be able to buy that rancho he was always dreaming about in Mexico.
    But the thought died as quickly as it was born. He wouldn’t steal from this woman. Not if she had all the riches of England and America combined.
    â€œMy lord, that is unforgivably rude to a man who has offered me nothing but kindness,” the duchess snapped. “You will apologize.”
    â€œI stand by my opinion,” Lord Halston retorted. “It is my duty to say it, even if ’tis not what you want to hear, niece.”
    Morgan pretended to ignore the argument and suddenly took the hand she had laid on his wrist into his own. Maybe he could scare her into abandoning the idea, make her realize she was playing with fire, even though he’d love to hear her defy the pompous fool.
    â€œListen to your uncle, Duchess,” he said, staring down at her with a deliberate, predatory air. He rubbed his thumb over the smooth, soft surface of her palm, lowering his voice so that it seemed they were alone in the room. “He could be right. I might steal all your jewelry... and murder you in your bed.”
    The last three words seemed to take on a resonance of their own. He saw the pulse beat quicken in her neck, and felt the faint tremor of the cool hand he held.
    â€œI believe you’re trying to frighten me, Mr. Calhoun, though I cannot think why,” she said. “You already proved you’re to be trusted, even at great risk to your own personal safety. My mind is made up. You’re the man I want for the job, Mr. Calhoun. I can double the salary I was intending to offer you, if that’s all you need to accept.”
    He heard Lord Halston start to sputter behind them, and then she gripped his hand as tightly as he’d been holding hers.
    It would have taken a stronger man than he was to resist that kind of temptation. Maybe he could stay with her for a little while, at least until she got out of Colorado Territory, until whoever was threatening her figured out he’d have to go through a bodyguard to get to the duchess, and got discouraged. And it wasn’t too likely anyone looking for him would think he’d dare to be seen at the side of an English noblewoman, even if she was going to be in the public eye much of the time. Even if it was summer, it’d be nice to be off the outlaw trail for a while, to have good food to eat that wasn’t cooked over a campfire, to be dry and warm, and not have to sleep on the cold hard ground under the stars.
    â€œYou don’t have to double my salary, Duchess. I reckon I’ll take the job.”

Chapter Five
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    S he blinked, and a hectic flush of pink suffused her cheeks, making her look more like an English rose than ever. “Y-you will?” she managed to say at last. “That—that’s awfully good of you. Shall we say four thousand pounds, or would you prefer a weekly amount?”
    He waved the thought of money aside for a moment. “You haven’t heard my conditions yet.”
    â€œConditions?” A trace of hauteur crept back into her voice as she raised an eloquent eyebrow.
    â€œYeah, conditions, Duchess. You need to hire three other men, too. There should be at least three of us on duty during the day and evening, at least two after you’ve gone to bed.”
    She wrinkled her nose in distaste, then shook her head. “That’s out of the question, Mr.

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