The Reluctant Duke

The Reluctant Duke by Carole Mortimer Read Free Book Online

Book: The Reluctant Duke by Carole Mortimer Read Free Book Online
Authors: Carole Mortimer
absolutely no doubt that if he were to kiss her—to kiss the granddaughter of the despised Sian Thomas—Lucan would have reason to dislike himself, too.
    What a bitter irony it would be, Lexie realised heavily, if he were to find himself attracted to the very last woman in the world he would ever want to feel such an interest in.
    She gave a disgusted shake of her head. ‘Do you think you could possibly unlock the door so that we can go inside out of the cold?’ she snapped in her impatience.
    Lucan drew in a rasping breath. His first for several long seconds, he realised. The whole of the length of time he had held the softness of Lexie’s body moulded against the length of his, in fact.
    Her breasts beneath her sweater had felt full and lush as they’d pressed against his chest, her thighs in the fitted denims soft and enticing against the hardness of his arousal. Her mouth, those deliciously provocative lips, moist and slightly parted in invitation. An invitation Lucan would have been only too happy to accept.
Would
have accepted, damn it, if Lexie hadn’t pulled away so abruptly!
    For a few brief moments it had been pleasant to anticipate spending the next two or three days—and nights—dealing with the hunger Lucan seemed to have developed for Lexie’s curvaceous softness, rather than with the real reason he was here.
    Except there was really no escaping the fact that Mulberry Hall loomed large and overpowering before him.
    ‘Of course.’ Lucan’s mouth was set grimly as he turned away to climb the last two steps, pausing briefly to draw in a deep and controlling breath before unlocking and pushing open the front door.
    Standing in the doorway, looking into the cavernous marble-floored entrance hall, Lucan instantly detected a slightly musty smell that hadn’t been there a week ago. An indication that the water damage Lucan had seen on the outside of the building had, as John Barton had already warned, actually entered the house.
    The west wing of the house, to be exact, where that damned portrait of his father hung so regally.
    With any luck the portrait would be one of the things to have been damaged!
    ‘Lucan…?’ Lexie prompted uncertainly as he seemed transfixed in the doorway, apparently as reluctant as she was to actually go inside the house.
    ‘Sorry.’ He drew himself up abruptly and stepped aside to allow her to enter.
    It felt slightly warmer as Lexie stepped inside, but not much. ‘Does anyone actually live here any more?’ she turned to ask huskily as she gave an involuntary shiver before wrapping her long coat more tightly about her.
    ‘Not for years.’ Lucan’s expression was as bleak as his tone of voice as he followed her inside, before closing the door behind him to shut out the icy blast of the cold wind.‘Wait for me here while I go to the back of the house and turn up the heating.’ He turned abruptly on his heel and strode off down a hallway without waiting for her to reply.
    Not that Lexie had been going to make one. She was as unnerved at being back at Mulberry Hall as Lucan appeared to be.
    She huddled further down into her coat as she stood looking around the familiar surroundings. She hadn’t actually been inside Mulberry Hall since Grandpa Alex had died, eight years ago, but it didn’t look as if anything had changed in that time.
    The huge cut-glass Venetian chandelier still hung from the cavernous ceiling overhead, and the two doors directly off the entrance hall led, she knew, into a graciously furnished sitting room and a spacious dining room that would seat at least a dozen people at its long oak table.
    Another door further down the hallway opened up into what had once been a mirrored ballroom, big enough to hold a hundred or so guests, but which was now a gym and games room.
    Years ago Grandpa Alex had taught a nine-year-old Lexie to play table tennis and billiards in that room, while an indulgent Nanna Sian looked on fondly.
    Lexie felt an emotional lump in

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