The Duchess (Montgomery/Taggert 16) - Page 81

Claire sniffed. She was lying on her back. There weren’t many tears left in her. “I don’t know.”

“Harry thinks you did. He went to Edinburgh. Didn’t even pack. Just talked to his mother, then got on his horse and left. Only took five servants with him. The others are to bring his trunks and come later.”

There seemed to be more tears in Claire, because they started flowing again. “He shot a buck. I was upset.”

Brat played with the hangings at the end of the bed. “I don’t think Harry’s visit with his mother was very pleasant.”

“I wouldn’t doubt if he wanted to break the engagement,” Claire said. “I was awful today.”

“Maybe Harry wanted out, but I don’t think our mother will allow you to break up with Harry. Do you know how much she’s already charged to your name? To the new duchess of MacArran?”

“I don’t want to know,” Claire said.

Brat walked toward the portrait door. “I have to go now. I hope you feel better.” She paused. “And I hope you make up your mind.”

“Make up my mind about what?”

Brat didn’t answer, just gave her sister a little smile and disappeared behind the portrait.

Claire turned onto her stomach and started crying again. Now she had angered Harry as well as his mother, and everyone in the house knew they’d had a quarrel. But then lovers always had quarrels, didn’t they? Except that Claire knew her quarrel with Harry was no ordinary one.

So, he had gone to Edinburgh and now she was left alone in that house. She would have no company, nothing to occupy her mind, no one to talk to until he returned. She’d have to wait until he returned before she had someone to talk to, to—

She started crying harder, for she knew that she and Harry didn’t talk. When Harry returned she was going to have to make up their argument. She’d have to tell him how very, very sorry she was, then she’d have to…What? Spend her days hunting and seeing more animals killed? Would she come to own a hundred riding habits and six dozen shotguns? Ten years from now would she still be attending tea with her mother-in-law, a tea where she was never so much as allowed to sit down?

Each thought made her cry harder.

Chapter Eighteen

Claire was awakened from a deep sleep by someone shaking her shoulder. She could barely open her eyes, since they were swollen from having cried for the better part of a day. The room was dark except for the candle the man standing over her held. Her head was pounding.

She managed to get her eyes open enough to see the glare of the white clothing Oman wore. For a second she was too groggy to respond, but then she became alarmed.

“What is it?” she asked, trying to sit up, but her muscles seemed to be weak. She was still wearing her damp habit.

“He has been shot,” Oman said in his accented voice. “Someone has made attempt to kill him.”

Claire’s eyes widened. “Trevelyan?” she whispered, and Oman nodded. Claire was out of the bed in a second, but the moment her feet touched the floor, she swayed and put her hand to her head. It had been a long while since she had eaten. She looked at the clock on the mantel and saw that it was a few minutes after midnight.

“Did he send for me?” she asked. “How badly is he hurt? I doubt he’ll have a doctor, will he? Is he going to be all right?”

To all of these questions, Oman merely said, “Come,” and started toward the portrait door.

Claire followed him through the tunnel passages, and out onto the roof. She didn’t think of what she was doing, but followed Oman, her heart pounding with every step.

When they reached Trevelyan’s writing room, the first words she heard were a bellow of rage. “Where the hell have you been? I could have bled to death waiting for you.”

Immediately, Claire smiled in relief. Any man who could yell like that wasn’t yet on his deathbed.

She walked into his bedroom. “I can see that loss of blood hasn’t sweetened your temper. Now let me see what’s been done to you.”

He was staring at her when she reached the side of the bed. The shoulder of his linen shirt was soaked with blood but his color was good and he looked healthy enough.

“What are you doing here?” There was hostility in his voice.

That answered the question of whether he had asked for her or not. “I heard you needed help and I came to give it.” She reached out to touch his shoulder, but he pulled away and in doing so he grunted with pain.

“I don’t need you.”

Tags: Jude Deveraux Montgomery/Taggert Historical
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