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Authors: Karolyn Howard

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BOOK: Devil Disguised
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She murmured, “I apologize. I had no idea that this would be the last time I saw my uncle before he left.”

Duncan spoke evenly as he said, “Of course. As you know, my sister has just arrived as well. I will see you both at dinner. The servants will show you to your room.”

Duncan did a slight bow and walked away from the startled expression on Lily’s face.

ILY WAS LED
up the main staircase and into the first room on the right side of the landing. The room was large, much more spacious than her bedroom back in London. A four-poster bed covered in cream-colored linens was to her left and fires roared in two fireplaces. Two high back chairs were in front of the larger fireplace. A desk, chair and small sofa were near the small corner fireplace. Curtains were pulled back from two large windows that overlooked the property. Wood paneling covered the lower portion of the otherwise cream-colored walls. The overall effect was cozy and comfortable.

The butler was standing next to her and said, “I hope the room meets with your approval, my lady.”

Lily just realized her mouth had been opened in astonishment. “Yes. Of course! Please tell the earl that the room is beautiful. It is perfect. Thank you.”

The butler turned his head sideways as if assessing her and then said, “I will tell him. Is there anything else you need at this time?”

“No, not really, but I would like someone to give me a tour of the home. It will be nice to move around a bit after the long carriage ride.”

“Certainly. I will ask Dorothy to give you a tour of the property.” With a quick bow, he left.

Lily walked to the window and looked outside. Clouds covered the sky, but it was not raining. She opened the window and felt the cool breeze flow over her face. Inhaling deeply, she heard a knock and turned to see a petite dark-haired young woman standing in the doorway. The girl curtsied and said, “Hello, Lady Montgomery.”

Lily moved towards the girl and said, “Hello. Dorothy is it?”

The girl blushed. “Yes, but I prefer to be called Dot.”

“Wonderful. Dot, it is. Will you give me a tour of the earl’s home?”

“Of course, my lady. Please, follow me.”

She followed Dot out of the bedroom. Dot turned away from the staircase and went to the right. Dot nodded in the direction of the doors on the other side of the hallway and said, “Lady Worthington, the earl’s sister is staying here as well. She is in that room.”

Dot walked down the hallway to a large set of French doors. “These open to a balcony.”

Indeed they did. The view as spectacular as deep green rolling hills went as far as the eye could see. In the distance, she could make out a few stone buildings.

Dot pointed and said, “That is the town of Brentwood. You passed through it on your way here. It is the closest town to us.”

Dot turned, closed the balcony doors, moved swiftly down the hallway, and crossed over the landing at the top of the stairs while Lily followed. There was another long hallway on the other side of the landing. “These are his lordship’s rooms. His bedroom and study are here as well as his private library. There is another library downstairs that you can use.”

Lily noticed another set of French doors at the end of the hallway and asked, “Another balcony?”

Dot nodded and then turned to lead her downstairs. There she was shown the salon, dining room, library, study, billiards room, a drawing room, and finally a ballroom. Lily gasped. “I did not expect this.”

Large windows ran along the left side of the room that allowed a view of a beautiful garden with a large fountain. The right side wall was decorated in gold and red wallpaper with several large mirrors spaced evenly along the wall. Dancers would be able to see themselves as well as the outside area. Two large crystal chandeliers hung above the dark wood of the spacious dance floor and a few tables were in place next to an area for musicians along the far wall across from where they entered.

Dot sighed and then answered Lily’s unspoken question as she said, “I love this room, but it is hardly used. The earl hosts only a handful of events each year. However, the staff is hoping that with you and his sister here, there may be a party soon.”

“That would be wonderful,” Lily said breathlessly. She smiled as just seeing this room made the trip away from London just a little more bearable.

Lily released Dot as her guide and walked around the outside of the home alone. It was a grand, stately manor and the grounds were immaculate. There were two trails that went down to a stream, which curved around the property. Looking up at the home, she guessed the earl’s room had a wonderful view of the fountain and garden area. She walked back inside the home to change for dinner.

Her clothes had been unpacked and she chose a simple light blue gown for the evening meal. Dot helped her pin her hair up and then led her downstairs to the dining room. Lily entered the room and was surprised she was alone.

Dot said, “The earl will be here shortly.”

Lily nodded and walked around the room. The walls were covered in dark cherry wood panels, which made the large room more intimate. Wall sconces provided light along with multiple candles that were placed on the elegantly carved dining room table. She was surprised when she only saw two place settings, one at each end of the table. She heard movement behind her and turned.

Duncan walked in the room and she did her best to hide her slight gasp as her heart skipped a beat. There was no clumsiness in his steps now as he exuded power and strength while he walked towards her. He was clean-shaven and his brown hair was smoothed back. She studied his handsome features. High cheekbones led to a full mouth and down to a cleft in his chin. His immaculate
suit and mannerisms made him appear very formal and refined, but there was something about him that made her wonder what was beneath the facade. Maybe it was the natural wave of his hair or the cleft in his chin, but he had a roguish allure. It was easy to understand that he had a reputation with women. Quite simply, he was the most striking man she had ever seen.

His gaze traveled over her quickly and his mouth quirked up into a near smile, but then his expression sobered as he said, “I apologize for my tardiness. My sister was planning to join us, but she is still tired from her journey. Please.” He gestured to the chair now in front of him.

Lily walked over to the chair and he pulled it back for her. She felt the warmth of his breath on her neck as he pushed the chair forward. It sent a chill up her spine as she sat down.

“Thank you,” she murmured, surprised by the breathy sound of her own voice.

She wondered where all the servants were as she watched him walk to the opposite end of the table and sit down. As soon as Duncan pulled his chair forward two servants entered the room carrying trays of food. Her mouth watered as the smell of roast beef and vegetables filled the room. Portions of the food were put on each of their plates as their wine glasses were filled.

She looked up to see Duncan raise his glass as he said, “Enjoy.”

He took a sip of his wine and began eating.

She said, “I was able to see a lot of your home today. It is beautiful.”

Duncan nodded and continued to eat.

“I was very impressed by the ballroom. It would be a lovely place to entertain. It brings back many wonderful memories of the many balls I had attended in London.”

Duncan put his fork down and wiped his mouth with his napkin. “I am glad you like my home, but there really is no need for idle chitchat.”

Lily gaped.

Duncan drank the remainder of his wine and then signaled for his glass to be refilled.

“I was merely trying to exchange pleasantries. The food smells delicious and I will have no trouble finishing my meal in silence,” she scoffed.

“Good.” Duncan nodded again as he took another bite of food.

Lily drank her wine and signaled the nearby servant to refill her own glass. Staring at the man across from her, she saw nothing charming about him now. She was a guest in his home and he appeared to not even notice her. She swallowed a bite of a roasted potato and felt her hunger subside, but eating in silence was making her lose her appetite. She was used to carrying on conversations during meals and enjoyed social banter, but this was ridiculous.

“May I at least inquire as to your sister? How far along is she in her pregnancy?”

Duncan looked up and replied, “I am sure you can ask her the details tomorrow.”

Lily looked down at her food, but she was no longer hungry. Anger coursed through her and she stood up. The earl scrambled to his feet to match her movement.

She glared at him. “Well, Lord Cavanaugh, I can certainly see why you do not want to return to London. Your manners and charm are lacking substantially. I cannot imagine you being welcome in anyone’s home. Excuse me. I am retiring for the night.”

Lily was satisfied by the look of utter surprise etched in the earl’s features. She turned and walked swiftly from the room. A part of her expected him to run after her, but from what she could tell, he had too much pride to do anything of the sort. She walked swiftly down the hallway and away from the dismayed faces of the butler and Dot.

Dot followed her up to her room, but Lily said, “Thank you, but I do not need your assistance at this time. Goodnight.”

Now in the quiet of her room, Lily managed to undo her own corset and dressed quickly for bed. Tired from the long day, she put her head down on the pillow, but had trouble falling asleep. She kept imaging how different dinner could have been if Duncan had been as charming as she expected him to be. Tossing and turning, she tried to sleep, but then her stomach rumbled. Sitting up in the bed, she realized she had not eaten since she had left London and she was now paying the price for her early exit from dinner.

The room was dark and she knew it must be very late, but she put on her robe and decided to go downstairs. The house was silent and no one was about as she went into the kitchen. An apple pie, with one piece missing, was sitting on the counter. Finding a plate and utensils, she took a slice of the pie. Eating the first bite, she moaned,
savoring the taste of sweet apples and cinnamon. Feeling much better after her second piece of pie, she made her way back upstairs to her room and eased herself under the thick covers. She fell asleep instantly.

UNCAN FINISHED A
bite of his buttered biscuit and waved for Simon to enter the dining room. “Good morning, Simon. What did you see yesterday?”

BOOK: Devil Disguised
13.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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