The Duchess (Montgomery/Taggert 16) - Page 34

It was a moment before she turned back to gape at him.

“Good morning,” he said brightly.

She sat up, pulled what cover she hadn’t thrown to the floor to her throat. “What in the world are you doing in my room?” she whispered and glanced toward the open door to the dressing room.

He put his finger to his lips and stood.

Her eyes widened when she saw him standing. “Oh, Trevelyan,” she said in a hoarse, sighing whisper. “It’s the philamohr,” she said, giving the Scottish name to the great kilt.

He paused to smile at her, trying his best to not let her see how very, very pleased he was with her reaction. Getting into the contraption had been worth it if she knew what it was, and if she sighed over his name in that tone. He walked quietly to the dressing room and looked in to see Rogers lying prim and proper on her narrow bed. He gave a snort of derision, then shut the door.

“You didn’t tell me you had Rogers for a maid.”

Claire had to get control of herself, control over her feelings at the sight of Trevelyan in the ancient form of Scottish dress. To her surprise, his legs were not thin as she would have thought. His legs were muscled, as those of a man who has spent much of his life walking over rugged terrain. And he wore the plaid with the grace and ease of someone born to it, as though he had worn it since he was a child. Once again pipes began to play in her head, but they were the pipes of the ancient songs, not the new, modern music that she heard when she saw Harry. She was sure all this was because Trevelyan was older than Harry.

Claire shook her head to clear it. “Miss Rogers.”

“Monster, isn’t she? When we were kids we used to do all we could to terrorize her.”

“You couldn’t have succeeded.” The skirt made by the draping of the plaid swirled about Trevelyan’s legs when he walked.

“Not in the least.” He leaned over her and Claire drew back from him, her breath held. He wouldn’t try to kiss her, would he? But he didn’t try to kiss her. He whispered, “Are you ready to go to MacTarvit’s?”

As he moved away from her, she blinked at him for a moment, looked at his lips still so close to hers, then realized what he’d said. “Really? You’ll take me?” she asked, sounding about ten years old.

“If you can get dressed in a hurry. I don’t like to be kept waiting.”

With that she almost knocked him down as she got out of bed and ran behind a screen. “My clothes!” she said in a stage whisper. “You’ll have to hand them to me.”

“You can come and get them,” he said in a mock-seductive voice. “I assure you I won’t ravage you.”

Claire looked at him from around the screen, and put her hand over her mouth to stifle a giggle. “Of course you won’t.” He’d sounded like the villain in a melodrama and Claire knew how they ended: with the heroine unmarried yet with a baby she had to give away to strangers, then the heroine dying alone in a snowstorm. The Trevelyan who walked about the room in the ancient form of dress, the man who leaned over her and whispered to her, was a threat, but the man who leered at her from behind the screen was not a threat.

Still amused, wearing her long-sleeved, high-necked, voluminous nightgown, she left the screen to go to the wardrobe to get her wool walking suit and her lowest heeled, sturdiest walking shoes, then returned to behind the screen and dressed faster than she ever had in her life. She came out from behind the screen still fastening buttons down the front of her jacket.

“Ready?” Trevelyan asked, pleased that his teasing had amused her.

“No,” she whispered back. “We have to adjust you.” With that she set about adjusting the gathers that were made by his belt and settling them into neat little pleats. When she was done, she took her time smoothing the drape of wool over his shoulders. She didn’t look into his eyes as she repinned the brooch.

Trevelyan held his breath while she touched him, wanting to touch her in return. He wondered what she’d do if he were to put his hands on her hips and run them down to her thighs. Probably run, he thought, or worse, laugh at him. What is someone your age doing thinking about things like that? he could hear her saying. He thought he might like to take her to bed and show her that even though he looked to be an old man, he was only thirty-three and not at death’s door as she seemed to think.

“You’re not supposed to wear that brooch, you know,” she said softly. She didn’t want to move away from him. Touching him, she knew he wasn’t thin as she’d first thought. He wasn’t thin; he wasn’t fat.

“What?” he said, pretending he couldn’t hear her so he had to lean closer to her lips.

“That’s the laird’s brooch and only Harry should wear it. See, it has the crest on it but no garter, or belt, surrounding it. The garter shows that you belong to Harry’s clan. This brooch is the clan chief’s.” She put her fingers on the brooch.

“I’ll have to remember that,” he said, clasping her fingertips in his. He wondered what she’d say if he told her the truth, that he was actually the duke and the laird of his family’s clan. Would she fall into his arms and tell him she was in love with him, that she’d thought she loved Harry but now knew that Trevelyan was the man she loved? Trevelyan had never had to resort to a title or anything else to get any woman he wanted, and he didn’t plan to now.

“Ready?” he asked again and she pulled her hand from his grasp.

She started for the door, but he went to the floor-length portrait, picked up the candle, and nodded for her to follow him. He saw her face light up at the impending adventure. She certainly didn’t seem to be cowardly.

Claire followed him down dirty, unused stairs, through cobweb-hung four-foot-high tunnels, up to the roof, across it, back into the house, and at last outside through a door at the end of the east wing.

“Wonderful,” she said. “Just wonderful.”

He smiled at her. “Feel like walking? It’s a long way to MacTarvit’s.”

Tags: Jude Deveraux Montgomery/Taggert Historical
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