The Duke I'm Going to Marry(6)

By: Meara Platt

“No you weren’t. Children aren’t born cynical.”

“I’m a man now. I’m as manly as they come.”

She rolled her eyes. “I suppose all the women you seduce tell you that.”

“Breathlessly and often.” Damn, she had beautiful eyes. A soft, sky blue.

“You aren’t as manly as you think.” She slipped away from him and rose to grab a clean cloth from a stack beside the basin of water on her nightstand. Grinning mischievously, she dipped it in the water and wrung it out. “I had to hold you down while Uncle George treated your wounds. You cried like an infant the entire time. Waah, waah, just like a baby,” she teased, making a pretense of rubbing her eyes and sniffling like a child who’d fallen and scraped a knee. “Amos, our strongest footman, had to help me hold you down.”

He laughed again, then winced again. “Good try, but not possible.”

“How do you know?” She arched a delicate eyebrow. “You were barely conscious most of the time.”

His merriment faded. “Dillie, you saw my body. These aren’t my first scars, and they’re not likely to be my last.”

She returned to his side and set the cool, damp cloth over his forehead. She didn’t sit down, but remained standing and slightly turned away, as though suddenly troubled. “Very well. You didn’t cry out. Not even once,” she said in a whisper.

“I know.” He’d shed his last tears at the age of four, spent every last one of them wishing... no matter, his life had been changed forever that day and he’d learned to endure.

Were her eyes watering again? He didn’t want her to cry over him or feel anything for him beyond her usual disdain. “Where are my clothes? I have to get out of here.”

She whirled to face him, her eyes wide in surprise. “The ones you wore are ruined. Your valet brought over several outfits. Choose whichever you like, but you’re not leaving here until Uncle George gives his approval.”

“Nonsense. I’m fine.” He sat up and swallowed a howl as he tossed off his covers, swung around to the other side of the bed, and rose to his wobbly feet. Damn! That hurt!

Dillie let out a gasp and clamped her hands over her eyes. “Ian, you idiot! Get back in bed. You’re naked!” Her cheeks were a hot, bright pink.

“What?” He glanced down. No wonder he’d felt a sudden rush of cold air against his chest... and other parts. He was too unsteady to walk and too angry at his infirmity to get back into bed. He wasn’t a doddering old fool who needed porridge and bed rest. He was young, strong. He refused to think of himself as dazed and stupid, but that’s precisely what he was. He hadn’t meant to shock Dillie. She was a decent girl.

Luscious and decent.

Now that she’d seen his naked backside, for one crazed moment he considered turning around and—

No, that would be an incredibly stupid move.

Finding a pebble of sense, which happened to be the only thing rattling around in his foggy brain at the moment, he wrapped the peach coverlet securely around his waist and turned to face her.

As he did so, he saw her fashion a peephole between her fingers. So the girl wasn’t a paragon of virtue after all. She wanted to see him naked. He grinned. “Like what you see?”

She gasped and looked away. “I wasn’t staring at you. Not in that way. My only concern is to keep you from falling and slashing open your healing wounds. You’re an idiot. I hate you. Why can’t you behave?”

Good question. One for which he had no answer. Well, he did have an answer, just not one she wanted to hear.

“Find me my clothes.” He sank back onto the bed, ever careful to keep the covers about his waist. He was loath to admit he was dizzy and had almost fallen, just as she’d feared. He resolved to eat as hearty a meal as he could manage and then get dressed. Once he had regained his balance, he’d walk out on his own. No, not just walk. Run. His damn blood was pooling around his loins again. In another moment he’d be conspicuously hard and throbbing. “Why aren’t you married yet?”

She let out a choking laugh. “I’d hit you if you weren’t already bruised over your entire body. None of your business. Why aren’t you married?”

“Bachelorhood suits me fine.”

“Good, because I have no intention of marrying you.”

“I don’t recall asking you.”

“You raised it. What made you think of marriage?” Suddenly, she gasped. “It’s that Chipping Way bachelor curse. No, no, no. It can’t be true!” She sounded pained. And scared.

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