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Authors: Karolyn Howard

Devil Disguised (6 page)

BOOK: Devil Disguised
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“It was delicious,” she said in a breathless whisper.

Duncan grinned mischievously. “I was hoping we could share dessert together, but it appears I will have to eat my soufflé alone.”

He looked over at the soufflé still on the counter.

Thank goodness she decided not to eat the other soufflé. She was grateful she had at least put on her robe, but it was nearly as thin as her nightgown. He did not move and she became very aware that his body was still touching hers. Taking a deep breath to steady her racing pulse she smelled Charlotte’s perfume.

Turning her head away from his gaze and the smell of another woman, she slide along the edge of the sink and said, “I am sure you will be able to enjoy this by yourself. You must be hungry after your recent activities.”

The instant after she spoke the words, she wanted to take them back. She moved around the earl, but he gripped her elbow and pulled her back to him.

“I do not appreciate my guests spying on me,” he said harshly.

“Well then, you should not leave a door open when you are engaged in intimate activities.”

He released his hold and stepped back. “I hope what you saw did not hurt your delicate sensibilities.”

She held his gaze and replied, “I have been engaged. Twice. I am well aware of what a man and a woman can do together.”

Again, she wanted to retract her words and fought the urge to step back as she felt heat and power radiate from him.

“Are you?” he teased.

The words seemed more of a challenge than a question as he moved closer to her. It seemed the spacious kitchen has become very small as she inhaled sharply and stepped back. “Enjoy your soufflé, Lord Cavanaugh.”

For the second time tonight, she was running away from the earl. Lily was not sure how much longer that would be something she could manage.

OU CANNOT HIDE
from him forever,” Eleanor said.

Following Eleanor’s gaze, Lily saw Duncan’s unmistakable form in the frame of one of the ballroom’s windows. “No, but I can certainly try. Besides, I have enjoyed eating a full meal in the comfort of my room these last few evenings.”

Lily watched Duncan’s form leave the window’s frame and she recalled the last time she had been in a room with him. She felt her cheeks heat recalling her time with him in the kitchen. Since then, she had managed to avoid him entirely while spending most of her time with his sister.

Eleanor took a deep breath and sat down awkwardly on a stone bench in the courtyard. “Lily, no one likes to eat alone.”

“Oh, I think the earl does and when I am not at dinner, he will not hear any idle chitchat,” Lily scoffed.

Eleanor sighed and said, “Tell me something. When he made that comment to you, did you happen to be talking about London?”

“I may have been.”

Eleanor nodded. “That is a very touchy subject where my brother is concerned.”

Lily sat down and looked into her new friend’s light brown eyes. She was reminded again of the physical similarities between the Cavanaugh siblings. Like her brother, Eleanor had brown hair with eye-catching gold strands that appeared brighter in the light. Also, like her brother, Eleanor was very attractive.

Lily nodded and looked back in the direction of the home. “I know. My uncle said I would have to ask Lord Cavanagh about that myself, but he may not tell me the details.”

“He might not, but I will.”

Lily turned back, gaping. “You will?”

Eleanor nodded and smiled. “Yes, it is not like I am betraying a great confidence. Most of the ton is well aware of what happened. Besides, I think you should know.”

“Why?” Lily was genuinely curious.

“Because I have not seen my brother look at a woman the way he looks at you in a very long time.”

Lily opened her mouth in utter surprise and then closed it.

Eleanor reached out and touched Lily’s gloved hand. “I do not know what my brother is thinking, but the way he looks at you reminds me of the way he looked at his former fiancée, Fiona.”

“Fiona?” Lily tried to sound casual, but was very intrigued.

“Yes. The engagement began as an arranged one and Duncan was very reluctant at first, but then he fell in love with Fiona. The wedding date was set, but Duncan planned to surprise her and announce that he got a special license for them to be wed in just one month. He was so happy and excited he never noticed Fiona’s misgivings. The time had come for the announcement and he brought her to the orchestra stage at one of the most well attended parties of the Season. Anyone could tell she was reluctant when she tried to pull him back, but he moved forward. I will never forget when the music stopped and everyone heard Fiona shout, ‘I will not marry you. I am in love someone else’!”

Eleanor shook her head. “I will also never forget the gasp of the crowd and the look of utter disbelief on my brother’s face. He was devastated. Fiona had also revealed to him that she was carrying the other man’s child. Embarrassed in front of the entire ton and by the woman he held most dear, he vowed never to stay in London again.”

“But, she was the one who should be ashamed of what she did,” Lily said, appalled.

“That would normally be true, but the baby’s father was a duke and he accepted her and the child. In addition, her family remained well respected and somehow, people gave her the benefit of the doubt. What actually helped her was Duncan leaving London. It appeared he was not entirely faultless by his strange actions.” Eleanor shook her head as she stared into the distance.

“He should have stayed,” Lily murmured.

Eleanor’s gaze shifted back to Lily. “I completely agree, but he could not understand how he was so mislead, in addition to having his heart broken. He had been quite notorious before Fiona and I think he was embarrassed that it appeared he could not hold her interest. Fuel was added to the fire by the shocking way the ton found out about the whole episode. All of it together was too much for his pride. I had hoped time would heal his wounds, but he appears more determined than ever to never set foot in London again.”

Lily shook her head. “I cannot imagine. Not only the embarrassment, but I love London. I could not envision never returning there.”

“I agree, but now you know the reason he stays away from the city.” Eleanor shivered as a cool gust of wind brushed across them and remarked, “I am chilled, let us go inside.”

Lily nodded and helped her friend stand.

Eleanor wrapped her arm around Lily’s. “I hope you join us for dinner tonight. The doctor said I would soon be on bed rest, so I may not be able to dine with all of you very much longer. Also, Lady Livingston will be here and I would like to talk to someone else.”

Lily stopped and stared at her friend. “But, I thought you enjoyed talking with Charlotte.”

“She is nice enough, but she has been chasing after Duncan ever since her husband passed away and is not even shy about it. Duncan would never marry her and the way they carry on sometimes makes me squeamish.”

“Oh.” Lily was surprised by Eleanor’s candor.

“Beg pardon. While my brother is very private, I have the uncanny ability to say and do things I should not.”

“Please do not apologize. I appreciate your candor more than you realize,” Lily said.

Eleanor glanced sideways at Lily as she whispered, “I thought you might. I hope you give my brother another chance. Beneath his refined exterior and pompous ways is a man like any other who can be vulnerable and sweet.”

Lily stepped aside to let Eleanor walk in the house and said, “I cannot see the vulnerable or sweet side of him at all, but I will join you for dinner tonight.”

After Lily spoke the words, an image entered her mind of her first meeting with Duncan. She had not missed that he tripped on the stairs upon seeing her. Maybe there was something vulnerable about him.

She gasped when Eleanor suddenly embraced her and then stepped back to say, “Wonderful. Oh, and wear something blue. That color looks marvelous on you.”

Lily went into her room to select a gown for dinner. She was lucky to have a seamstress in London who did a wonderful job on her wardrobe. Her mother was her inspiration as she always knew just what to wear. Lily felt a familiar tug of sadness as she looked over her dresses, but knowing her mother would not want her dwelling on unpleasant memories she focused her thoughts on the present. Picking one of her favorite dresses, she summoned Dot to help her get dressed.

A strange excitement came over Lily as she went downstairs. Walking in the dining room, she recalled her conversation with Eleanor. Standing near the hearth she smiled as she remembered Eleanor’s comment that
Duncan had looked at her a certain way. Staring into the fire, she heard a masculine voice say, “Good evening.”

Gasping, she spun to see Duncan standing right beside her. She had not even heard him approach.

“Did I frighten you?” He asked, amused.

She flushed as she glanced down and replied, “Pardon. I did not hear you enter the room.”

“You appeared to be deep in thought, but I did not mean to startle you. What were you thinking about so intently?”

“You.” Lily thought, but thankfully, she did not speak out loud. Instead, she looked up to see amusement remain over his features as she struggled to find words. She suddenly felt too close to the heat coming from the fireplace and stepped sideways.

Eleanor entered the room and exclaimed, “Good evening! Lily, I am so glad you are here!”

Duncan held her gaze a few moments longer before he turned to look at his sister. Lily exhaled a breath she did not realize she had held as Duncan greeted his sister. “Good evening, El. How are you feeling?”

Eleanor replied, “I am very well, thank you. Is Lady Livingston joining us?”

“Of course I am!” Charlotte glided into the room and greeted the group. “Good evening everyone!”

Everyone sat down as dinner was brought in almost immediately. Lily looked up from her plate of food to see Duncan watching her. The amusement she had seen was gone from his features and his mask of almost calm indifference was firmly back in place. Lily wondered how Eleanor could even discern his almost constant neutral
expression to be one of anything other than boredom. Yes, he looked at her often, but it was not easy to guess what he was thinking.

Glancing back down at her food, she heard Charlotte say, “So Eleanor dear, how are you faring? Have you heard from Andrew?”

Eleanor replied, “I am wonderful, but I get so very tired. The doctor wants me to spend more time resting, which I should start to do soon. Andrew has made it safely to India and I hope he can conclude his business quickly so he can be here before this little one will be crawling, but I am happy to be here until then.”

Eleanor looked at her brother and smiled. Duncan smiled in return and Lily realized it might have been the first genuine smile she had ever seen from him. It softened his features and made him appear like a carefree rogue; her heart skipped a beat.

Charlotte glanced at Duncan and said, “Well, I must say you are in very good hands.”

Lily choked on her bite of food and reached quickly for her wine glass. She tried to hide her smile at the indiscreet comment and looked down at her plate.

“Lady Montgomery, you must know something of the earl’s hospitality. I do not recall you mentioning it the last time I saw you, but tell me, why are you staying here exactly?” Charlotte asked sweetly.

Lily took another sip of her wine so she could gather her thoughts before she replied, “My guardian is also on a trip to India, similar to Andrew’s, and we decided that I should stay here until he returns.”

“Guardian? My dear, what happened to your parents?”

“They died in a carriage accident almost two years ago. My uncle has been my guardian ever since.”

“What a tragedy! But, how kind of your uncle to look after you.”

Eleanor said, “Yes, Charles is a wonderful man and one of Duncan’s oldest friends.”

Charlotte looked at Duncan and said, “I see.” Then she turned her gaze upon Lily. “Well, you must miss London very much. I hope your uncle returns before the start of the Season as I am sure you must be the belle of every ball. I am surprised you are not already spoken for. Do your friends know you are staying here with Lord Cavanaugh?”

BOOK: Devil Disguised
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