The Duchess (Montgomery/Taggert 16) - Page 109

She put her hands over her face. “Trevelyan, please don’t do this. Please don’t shut me out. What am I going to do? What are we going to do?”

When he didn’t answer, she looked at him. He was standing there, staring at her. He was so tall, so dark, so far away from her. He wasn’t the Trevelyan who laughed with her. Now he was the Captain Baker of her childhood fantasies, a man as remote from her as a mythical figure.

She put her hands to her side. “I was just one of them, wasn’t I? These last four days have been everything to me. Never in my life have I been so happy. I’ve shared so much with you. No, I thought I was sharing with you. I’ve never had anyone to talk to, not as I can talk to you. I can talk to you about what I read, what I think, what I hope. I can do anything I want with you, yet I was nothing to you.”

She turned and started to walk away, but he caught her arm. “Why do you think you are nothing to me?” he asked softly.

She turned on him, furious. “Oman tells you that Harry has returned and you say nothing. You don’t care that I have to go back to him, that I have to leave you and what we’ve had these last few days. You got what you wanted from me and now I’m just a chapter in your book. Or do American heiresses get whole chapters? Maybe only women like your Pearl of the Moon deserve entire chapters.”

“What do you want from me?”

She shook her head. “If you don’t know, I can’t tell you.” She started to walk away but again he caught her.

He moved so that he was in front of her. “Tell me what you expect of me. Would you like for me to beg you to live with me instead of Harry? Is that what you want? Would you like for me to ask you to give up your dream of being a duchess and go live in a hut on the edge of a jungle with me?”

Claire’s head was spinning. There was a part of her that wanted to go with Trevelyan, wanted to spend all of her life with him, but there was another part that told her that the last few days she’d spent with him weren’t real. There was so much she didn’t know about him. He asked questions but he didn’t answer them.

“I don’t know you,” she said and there was agony in her voice.

“You know me as well as anyone ever has.”

She raised furious eyes to his. “Don’t you understand that I’m not talking about what we’ve done in bed together? I’m talking about love.”

“So am I.”

Claire turned away. She didn’t want to cry now.

Trevelyan put his hands on her shoulders and she rubbed her cheek against his hand. “I don’t know what to do,” she said. “Tell me what to do.”

He turned her around to face him and stared into her eyes. “You have to make your own decision. I can’t make it for you. No one can live another person’s life.”

It wasn’t what she wanted to hear. Why couldn’t he be like other men and tell her that he loved her, that he wanted her? Why couldn’t he say that he’d kill her or Harry or both of them if they so much as looked at each other again?

“Is that what you want?” he said, as though she’d spoken aloud. “Would you like for me to throw you over my horse and take you away from here? Would you like me to kidnap you and take you on my next trip? And if I did that, how long would it be before you began to hate me? Would you start hating me two years from now when you received a letter from your sister saying that your parents had spent every penny of your grandfather’s money and they were now destitute? Or would you begin to hate me before that, when I went away on an expedition and left you behind to imagine what I was doing when you weren’t there?”

“I don’t know,” she said honestly.

His fingers bit into her shoulders. “Do you love me?” he asked. “Me? Not Captain Baker, not some man you think you know because you’ve read his books, but me, Trevelyan?”

She hesitated, and in her hesitation, he moved away from her. “Of course I love you. I couldn’t have done the things I did with you if I didn’t love you. I’ve never done those things with anyone else. How could I have gone to bed with you when I was engaged to someone else if I didn’t love you? If my parents had found out, if Harry knew, it would have hurt them very much. I couldn’t have—”

When he looked at her his eyes were black with rage. He bent so his nose was nearly touching hers. “I have been to bed with hundreds of women. I have done things with them that you could never imagine, but I have not loved any of them, not as I have come to love you.”

Claire took a step away from him. The intensity of him frightened her, and she knew that it was time for the truth. “You ask me if I love you. How do I know if I love you? I don’t know you at all. You keep yourself from me. I know more about Captain Baker than I do about Trevelyan. Where were you born? How are you related to Harry? Why do the crofters treat you with such respect? I never know what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling. You say that you love me. For how long have you known that you love me? Days? Weeks?”

She looked at him, saw that he wasn’t planning to answer her. “You say that I have to make my own decision. Am I to decide that you want me, that you want me to go with you, spend my life with you? How am I to know that you want that? You haven’t told me that you want me. You haven’t told me anything. Nothing! If I weren’t such a snoop I doubt that I’d even know that you’re Captain Baker. I don’t think you would have told me.”

When he spoke neither his look nor his voice had softened. “Do words mean so much to you? If the words are what you want, then I’ll give them to you. I love you. I love you as I have never loved another woman. I think that perhaps I have loved you for nearly as long as I’ve known you. I would like for you to go with me. Now. Tonight. Ride away from here and never look back. I don’t know what will happen in the future. I’m sure that I’ll make the worst husband in the world. I’ll leave you alone for years at a time while I travel. I’m cursed with bad moods. I’m a selfish bastard and I’m sure that I’ll make you cry a great deal. I don’t know what to say to you about other women. I think that monogamy will be difficult if not impossible for me, but I’ll try it.”

Claire knew that if she had any sense she would now throw her arms about him and leave with him. She wanted to do just what he suggested: get on his horse with him and ride away. She would never look back at the MacArran lands. She’d never look back at her present life. How many women had the fortune to have a man like the great, the famous, the world renowned Captain Frank Baker fall in love with them?

But Claire didn’t throw her arms around him. If she left with him it would mean turning her back on her family. She knew that Trevelyan ridiculed her parents, thought they were a worthless pair, but they were her family. Perhaps he could get along with just himself, but could she? Could she walk away, knowing, as he had pointed out, that she would be condemning her sister to a life of poverty?

Trevelyan, watching her, started to walk away.

“Wait!” she called and went to stand in front of him. “I…I don’t know what to do. I want to go with you but—”

“If you wanted to go, you would do so.” His face suddenly softened and he smiled at her. “Your young duke is probably waiting for you. You’d better go to him.”

Tags: Jude Deveraux Montgomery/Taggert Historical
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