The Duchess (Montgomery/Taggert 16) - Page 25

At that she turned on her heel and started back toward the house.

“All right, come on,” he said to her back. “That is, if you can walk. I take no ladylike excursions.”

She turned back and looked him up and down, noting his broad-shouldered frame that had no excess fat on it, the cane that he carried and the obvious difficulty he had with his legs. “I can certainly go wherever you can go.”

“We shall see about that.”

An hour later Claire was almost ready to regret her bragging—almost but not quite. Trevelyan led her up steep, heather-covered hills and across streams. The first time they came to a stream, with its cold, rushing water, she stood where she was and waited for him to help her across. He kept going, not so much as looking back at her. “Wait!” she called.

He turned back. “What’s wrong?”

“How do I get across this?”

“Walk.” He turned away and started up the hill.

Claire had no desire to soak her feet so she looked for some stepping stones or something else she could walk across.

“If you’re afraid, try that.” He had stopped at the top of the hill and was now pointing toward a log that had fallen from one bank

to the other. The log was no more than four inches wide.

“I can’t walk that.”

Trevelyan shrugged and turned away. “Wait!” she called again. “Let me borrow your cane.”

Trevelyan looked from her to his cane, then smiled. Something seemed to amuse him. He walked to the center of the cold stream and held it out to her.

“You could give me a piggyback ride, you know.”

“Whatever that is,” Trevelyan said.

Claire took the cane, then nearly fell into the water from the unexpected weight of the staff. She hadn’t looked at the cane before, assuming it to be wooden, but now she saw that it was iron and weighed about twenty pounds.

She refused to let him see her surprise, but she was also determined that she was going to cross that stream on that very narrow log. She did it. She almost fell twice, and once she cursed him under her breath for not helping her, but she made it to the other side. Smugly, she handed him back his cane.

“A Scots lass wouldn’t have worried about getting her feet wet,” was all he said.

Claire stuck her tongue out at the back of him.

They walked for another hour, and at the second stream, Claire didn’t bother with trying to keep her feet dry: she plowed through the cold stream as though it weren’t there.

“Why aren’t you walking with your duke?” Trevelyan asked her at one point.

“Harry had to go away on business. He left early this morning.”

“And where was he off to?”

“I told you, on business. It takes a lot of work to run this place.”

This seemed to amuse Trevelyan to no end. “More likely he’s off to visit one of his mistresses.”

“I beg your pardon.”

“Maybe Harry should beg yours.”

She didn’t talk to him anymore after that, but she wondered if Harry did have other women. The women in London had certainly liked him well enough. But that didn’t mean he was still seeing them. She gave the back of Trevelyan a hard look and vowed she wasn’t going to spend any more time with him. He put bad thoughts into her head.

But thirty minutes later it was nearly full light and they had reached the west wing of the house. Claire thought of the long day before her. There wouldn’t even be a possibility of seeing Harry. She could always find her mother and spend the afternoon with her. Or she could introduce herself to the other people in the household and…And what? Talk of dogs and horses?

Tags: Jude Deveraux Montgomery/Taggert Historical
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