The Duchess (Montgomery/Taggert 16) - Page 114

. Maybe you should show him—”

“No” was all Claire could say, but she kissed Brat on the forehead and slowly walked out of the room.

Harry was waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs. Since he’d returned from Edinburgh two days ago, it was as though he was afraid to allow her out of his sight. As far as she could tell he wasn’t jealous of the time she’d spent with Trevelyan, and she often felt as though he’d rather be outside with her father and the other men, but still he stayed with her. Claire thought that if she had been feeling less miserable, she would have asked some questions. But as it was, she didn’t feel much like bothering about anything in the world.

“You look beautiful,” Harry said softly, looking her up and down.

Claire smiled a bit and thought that Harry was a bit too short, a bit too fair, that his eyes were too light, his hair wasn’t the right length, and why didn’t he grow a mustache? In other words, why wasn’t he Trevelyan?

Harry held out his arm for her. “I want to show you something,” he said, then led her back through the house, past the gold drawing room, past the dining room. He led her to the first-floor ballroom, a room that Claire had seen only once before. She had been appalled at the condition of the room, which had obviously been unused for years. The chairs placed along the walls were dirty and torn. There were cobwebs hanging from the ceiling.

But now, in the early evening, she couldn’t see the dirt or the worn chairs, for the room was lit by hundreds of candles and everything glowed golden. In the corner of the room sat six men with violins.

As Harry led her into the room, he nodded to the men and they began to play a waltz. They weren’t a very good orchestra, in fact they were actually rather awful, which made Claire smile at Harry as he opened his arms to her to lead her in a dance.

As one of the men hit a particularly discordant note, Claire smiled, a genuine smile, the first in days, and Harry leaned forward and softly kissed her cheek. “They were the best I could do on short notice.”

Harry was a good dancer, and he whirled her about the ballroom until she was breathless.

“I will try to be a good husband to you,” Harry said as he waltzed her by the windows.

Claire could hear another man saying that he would no doubt be the worst husband on earth.

Harry whirled her round and round until Claire was nearly dizzy, but she was smiling and Harry was laughing.

It was nearly sundown and the setting sun was glistening on the windows of the ballroom when Claire looked up from Harry’s arms to see Trevelyan standing in the doorway. At once her heart leaped with joy. He had come for her!

But she took one look at his face and knew that the emotion on it wasn’t jealousy at seeing her with another man, nor did he look as though he planned to demand that she leave with him, no matter what her protests. She knew what she did not see on his face, but she couldn’t read what was there.

“Come with me,” Trevelyan said.

“I don’t think I can,” Claire answered, moving back toward Harry. She didn’t like the way he was speaking to her.

Trevelyan gave Harry a look that made Harry push Claire toward Trevelyan. “Go with him.”

“Why do people feel that they must obey him?” she demanded of Harry. She was hurt. She hadn’t seen Trevelyan since their argument in the garden. He had made no attempt to see her; he’d known that she was hourly in the company of another man, yet he hadn’t seemed to care.

Trevelyan was across the ballroom in two strides and he clasped her upper arm.

“You’re hurting me. I don’t want to go with you.”

“Nyssa wants you,” he said.

At that Claire dug in her heels and tried to keep from being pulled. “You ignore me for days, even after what we did, and now you want me to go with you because of your little harlot? I will not go with you.”

Trevelyan picked Claire up and carried her from the room. Claire looked back at Harry, as though for help, but Harry remained where he was. Claire crossed her arms over her chest.

“If you think you can use these tactics on me and get me to change my mind, they won’t work. I’m going to marry Harry and give my family a home. I’m not leaving with you no matter what you say or do to me. If you carry me away from here, I’ll find a way to return. You can’t—”

“Shut up,” he said.

“You cannot talk to me like—”

He stopped walking and looked down at her. He turned the full force of his dark eyes on her, and, involuntarily, Claire’s hands went to her throat. “What is it?” she whispered. “What has happened?”

He didn’t answer, but started walking again.

Claire began to become alarmed. His look had told her there was something more wrong than a lovers’ quarrel. She turned her head and looked at the garden. On a little hill not far away, in what was the very prettiest part of the garden, was a low, three-sided shelter draped in Nyssa’s bright colored scarves. Inside were many pillows, and Nyssa was lounging on them, wearing her embroidered red robe.

Tags: Jude Deveraux Montgomery/Taggert Historical
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