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 Page B

Book: To Trust a Rogue (The Heart of a Duke Book 8) by Christi Caldwell Read Free Book Online
Authors: Christi Caldwell
lips twitched with his first amusement since their entire exchange. “But the Marcus part.” A wide smile wreathed her plump cheeks. “It reminds me of my name. Do you like my name?” Each question and admission from the child’s lips jolted him, throwing his once well-ordered world into greater tumult. “I was named after a powerful, mythical queen who ruled Britain long ago.”
    He forcibly reined in his emotions and offered a bow. “I think it is a splendid name, Miss Collins,” he said, spreading his arms wide in a way that made her giggle. Marcus returned his attention to an unmoving Eleanor. Tension poured off her slender frame in waves and he welcomed the further crack in the lady’s veneer. “In fact,” he confirmed, deliberately needling, “I once said if I were to have a daughter, I would name her Marcia.”
    The little girl’s eyes went wide and she yanked at Eleanor’s hand. “Did you hear that, Mama?” She raised wide, innocent eyes to his. “My mama told me the same thing. She said she’d always known she would have a little girl named Marcia.”
    The muscles of Eleanor’s throat moved, the first crack in her otherwise remarkable composure. And suddenly with Marcia’s innocent admissions, his deliberate attempt to rile Eleanor only jabbed at his own heart with regrets for the way her life had turned out and the way his had not.
    A small yap jerked him to the moment. The duchess’ liveried footman adjusted the leads in his hand. Marcus cleared his throat. “I will leave you ladies to your afternoon.” He sketched another bow. “Miss Carl—” He cut his words short. For she was no longer Miss Carlyle and yet, that is who she would forever be.
    “My lord,” her whispery soft voice was nearly lost to the carriages rumbling by.
    With that empty parting, Eleanor turned on her heel with her daughter’s hand tucked in her own, and her small contingent of servants, and did what she did best—left.

    “I liked him, Mama.”
    Eleanor pretended not to hear her daughter’s insistent words. To acknowledge them only opened the gates for regrets she’d rather not let in.
    “Mama,” Marcia sighed, tugging at her hand. “Did you hear me? I liked the viscount.”
    Everyone had always adored Marcus Gray, Viscount Wessex. He possessed an inordinate amount of charm that was safe to no lady, young or old; her own daughter, included. “You do not even know him,” Eleanor said, her gaze trained forward on the pink façade of her aunt’s townhouse, her feet desperately aching to take flight. She concentrated on each carefully taken step.
    “Do you not like him?” Confusion underscored her daughter’s relentless interrogation. “He said you were friends.”
    Emotion clogged Eleanor’s throat and a sheen of useless tears coated her vision. No, she did not like him. She loved him. Eleanor drew to a stop and, despite herself and good sense which she’d demonstrated a remarkable lack of for the better part of her life, she glanced back to the him in question. Alas, he was gone. Did you expect him to be standing there staring after you like a lovelorn youth? “I like the viscount just fine, love. He—” Is a good man, honorable, charming. Or he had been. A shiver raced along her spine. The man she’d loved was no more. Instead, he’d been replaced with a cold, emotionless stranger she no longer recognized. Which was for the best. In that way, she could keep Marcus properly buried with her broken heart and hopes she could have for them.
    “He is what?” Marcia asked impatiently.
    “He is perfectly acceptable company,” she settled for.
    Eleanor’s daughter scrunched her nose up, indicating just what she thought about that rather empty endorsement of the viscount.
    “Now, come,” she urged, tugging Marcia’s hand toward the townhouse.
    A pained groan escaped her little lips “But you promised we could spend the day at the park.”
    Eleanor bit the inside of her cheek to keep from saying

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