To Trust a Rogue (The Heart of a Duke Book 8)

To Trust a Rogue (The Heart of a Duke Book 8) by Christi Caldwell Read Free Book Online

Book: To Trust a Rogue (The Heart of a Duke Book 8) by Christi Caldwell Read Free Book Online
Authors: Christi Caldwell
the manner in which she troubled her too-full lower lip, she was not happy about seeing him. And why should she ? She’d pledged to meet him in Lady Wedermore’s gardens and instead of meeting him, he’d found empty grounds. And when he’d paid call on her the next morning, nothing remained but a note handed him by one of the duchess’ maids.
    Eleanor was the first to break the silence. “My lord,” she greeted. Her voice was a barely there whisper. The frames slipped down the bridge of her nose and she promptly shoved them back into place.
    Good, the lady should be fearful. He folded his arms about his chest and winged an eyebrow up. “Is that all you’ll say, Eleanor? After all these years.” He made a tsking sound and she flinched, the movement nearly imperceptible. “I should expect a far warmer reception.”
    As bold as she’d been when they’d met, she a girl of just eighteen, she squared her small shoulders and tossed her head back. “My lord, thank you for rescuing my aunt’s dog.”
    He bit back a curse. Of course. The eccentric, pug-loving Duchess of Devonshire would ultimately drag her niece from whatever country rock she’d disappeared under when she’d absconded with his heart and happiness. All the old fury, the hurt, and rage that he’d thought safely buried, rose to the surface, threatening to boil over and consume him in a flood of emotions he’d thought dead. He took a step toward her and she backed up. “Never tell me you fear me, Miss Carlyle?”
    She gave her head a frantic shake but continued her retreat, proving her unspoken denial a lie and Marcus delighted in the lady’s trepidation, for it spoke to her guilt, indicated she knew she was culpable of all the charges he could heap on her lying head. Then she came to an abrupt stop, forcing him to cease his forward movement or bowl her over. He stopped so close, a mere hairsbreadth separated them. Marcus registered the rapid rise and fall of her chest, her slightly parted lips and, God forgive him, he wanted her still—
    “Hullo.”
    He blinked, searching about, and then dropped his gaze downward to the wide-eyed girl looking up at him. Seven or eight years of age, with a riot of golden curls, the child had cheeks a cherub would envy.
    Something pulled in his heart and he knew, knew without any confirmation, knew by the kissed by sunshine hue of her tresses and freckles on her nose. In all his imaginings of where Eleanor had gone and who she’d become, he’d never, ever dared consider that in that time, she had become a mother. For that would have made the man she’d chosen real in ways where he’d only previously existed as a shapeless, shiftless imagining. A man whom she’d truly loved and not the mere flirtation that she’d practiced upon Marcus. “Hullo.” His voice emerged garbled.
    The golden-curled girl spoke, jerking him to the present. “What is your name?”
    “That is not polite,” Eleanor gently chided, settling an almost protective hand upon the child’s small shoulders.
    “Marcus,” he said quietly, ignoring the reproach in Eleanor’s tone, and then he thought to add, “The Viscount Wessex.” He dimly registered the duchess’ footman reaching for the leash. With numb fingers, Marcus turned the dog over, his attention reserved for the little stranger. “And who are you?”
    The miniature version of Eleanor dropped a perfect curtsy. “I am Marcia Collins.”
    He paused, as a distant remembrance trickled in. “Who needs a miserable son? I would have a daughter who looks like you…” Eleanor’s laugh, even after all this time, trilled around his memory . “And would you name her Marcia…?”
    The little girl spoke, breaking into the memory from long ago. “Do you know my mama?” With those five words, he had confirmation of a question he’d already had an answer to and, yet, it still sucked the air from his lungs. The woman he’d given his heart to had fled and was even now wed to another. She

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