The Duke I'm Going to Marry(4)

By: Meara Platt

Not wishing to wake Dillie when she failed to answer, he tried to move his free arm. A mistake, he realized at once, suppressing a yelp as a lightning bolt of pain shot from his waist, straight up his arm, and into his head. His temples began to throb and his heart began to thunderously pound against his chest.

It wasn’t only pain making his heart pound. Dillie was temptingly close. He had only to reach out and... better not.

Why had he been settled in Dillie’s quarters? He recalled being carried into the Farthingale townhouse and up the stairs by a team of footmen. What had Dillie said shortly before he’d blacked out? “Put him in my room, Uncle George,” she’d insisted, explaining that the rest of the house had been closed up for the winter, the beds stripped of their linens and the mattresses put out to air.

Her uncle would never have agreed to the arrangement otherwise.

Ian let out a breath as the pain to his temples began to fade and then looked around the room again. The feminine, peach silk bedcovers and peach and white drapery suited Dillie. Sweet summer peaches was her scent, refreshingly light and fragrant.

The furniture seemed a little young for a girl her age. Dillie was nineteen or twenty years old by now, and of marriageable age. He frowned. No doubt the family expected her to marry soon and leave the household. The other four Farthingale daughters were already wed and several had children. Dillie’s identical twin, Lily, had married only last month. Dillie wouldn’t last another season. She was too beautiful to remain unattached for very long. And clever. She’d marry well.

Just not him.

That was for damn sure.

He wasn’t the marrying sort, didn’t want a woman in his life making demands on him. Cheating on him.

Dillie let out another soft snore, revealing she was still soundly asleep. How long had she been sitting by his side? Clinging sweetly to his hand? He liked the gentle warmth of her hand and the way her fingers protectively curled about his.

Felt nice. Too nice.

He carefully slid out from her grasp, but instead of drawing away from the dangerous innocent, he allowed his fingers to drift over the glistening waves of her dark hair. So soft. Unable to resist, he buried his hand in her silken curls, caressing the long, thick strands that fell over her shoulders and down her back. Bloody hell. She felt nice.

Too nice, he reminded himself again.

He stopped, desperate to climb out of bed before he did something spectacularly foolish, such as pulling her down atop him and kissing her rosy, lightly parted lips into tomorrow. No, not just into tomorrow. Into next week. Perhaps into next month. No woman had ever held his interest longer than that. He preferred it that way. Easier to remain unattached. Easier to remain free of messy obligations.

Perhaps that was why Dillie always referred to him as an idiot.

He was one, but not for the reasons Dillie imagined. He was an idiot because he couldn’t seem to get her out of his thoughts. Going on two years now. No doubt because she, unlike all other women, found him completely unappealing. Where others would shamelessly proposition him, would flirt, swoon, scheme, or find any reason to gain his attention, Dillie usually cringed when she saw him coming.

She was a challenge, a beautiful, dark-haired, blue-eyed challenge. Where others succumbed, she resisted. But he knew better than to take up the gauntlet against Dillie. He wasn’t certain he could win. She was different. She was dangerous. One look at the girl and all blood drained from his head to amass in a hot pool between his thighs.

He couldn’t think straight when his loins were on fire. Could any man?

Unfortunately, Dillie managed to set him ablaze every time she looked at him. Didn’t have to be much of a look, just a glimpse was enough. Sometimes the mere sound of her voice got him hot. He even knew her scent, that refreshingly sweet trace of peach blossoms wafting in the air.

When it came to Dillie, he was like a damn bloodhound, able to recognize her presence even amid the heavily perfumed odors that permeated a room. He didn’t know why the girl had that effect on him, for she wasn’t the sort of woman who usually gained his notice. He liked elegant, more worldly women. He usually sought out the married ones who were bored with their husbands, for such women were interested in mere dalliances and expected no promises.

Dillie required faithfulness and heartfelt promises.

Dillie demanded everlasting love.

She disapproved of his scoundrel ways and never hesitated to tell him so. She didn’t give a fig that he was a rich-as-Croesus duke. She wasn’t impressed by his wealth or title.

She wasn’t impressed by him.

Ian moaned.

Dillie must have heard him, for her eyes fluttered open. Those big, soft blue eyes that stole his breath away every time she looked at him.

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