Read The Duke in Disguise Online

Authors: Gayle Callen

Tags: #Romance, #Fiction, #General, #Love Stories, #Historical, #England - Social Life and Customs - 19th Century, #Historical Fiction, #Nobility, #Governesses

The Duke in Disguise (22 page)

BOOK: The Duke in Disguise
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"It just arrived today?" she asked.
"Several days ago. Cecil wrote that Hargraves should give it to me when everything was over."
"What does it say?" She found herself whispering.
"It's an apology for getting me into this mess," he said, laughing without any amusement. "Cecil said he knew he was dying, and that he'd made a bargain with Charles, doing the best he could to safeguard Stephen."
She stiffened. "And he expected you to receive this letter after you were dead, a death he practically arranged?"
"No, he never expected me to die," Richard said, looking bewildered and amused and…peaceful. "He put me in the middle of this situation because he trusted that I could defeat Charles where he couldn't. In his naive way, he thought I, his big brother, could fix everything for him."
"And you did," she said, near tears herself. She was so grateful that Richard would not have to live with the knowledge that his brother had wanted him dead.
"Just barely." He held up another piece of paper. "This is a document granting me guardianship."
"Oh Richard, how wonderful! Now you and Stephen will never have to be parted."
She put her arms around him, snuggling as close as she could get, letting him rock her. After several quiet minutes, she broached the subject most on her mind.
Looking up into his face, barely breathing with nervousness, she said, "Will I still be Stephen's governess?"
"No." He smiled down at her tenderly. "But would you be his aunt?"
The grin she wore almost hurt her face, even as her foolish tears started to flow again.
"I hope all this crying is a good sign," he said, "because I love you, Meriel. I never thought I could trust anyone the way I trust you. You not only saved Stephen's life— you saved mine, in every way that matters. You guided me when I needed it, you offered me your support when I didn't deserve it, you— "
"Just stop!" she said, laughing and crying all at once. "You have no idea what you've done for me, Richard. This last year has been so hard. I told myself I could never trust my emotions, that I would let logic guide me. I had only that. And then I met you, and I was drawn to you from the very beginning."
"Is that such a bad thing?" he said gently. "I couldn't stop looking at you from the moment we met."
She stared up into his face, feeling hot tears etch paths down her cheeks. "But I thought you were the duke! I thought you were the kind of man I should never be attracted to, that once again my emotions were leading me in the wrong direction."
He remained silent, stroking the damp curls from her face.
"I had lost so much, Richard— my place in society, my respect for my father, my belief in myself. I replaced it all with a need to control everything— and I don't believe we're so different there."
He laughed.
"But then…I discovered that my intuition about you was right. You were— you are the perfect man for me, and I should have trusted myself— trusted that from the very beginning."
"I hardly inspired trust," he said dryly, using his thumb to wipe away her tears.
"But you did. You proved all of my emotions right. You are a man worth trusting, Richard— and through you, I learned to trust myself again."
"Say the words," he whispered.
Her smile was wobbly with emotion. "Richard, I love you."
His kiss was soft and sweet and full of the promise of a future together.
He cupped her face in his hands, kissing her cheeks and her brow. "Will you mind marrying me and living in this old giant of a house?"
"As long as I'm with you and Stephen, I don't care where we live. We could take trips to Manchester, and show him where you lived."
"But he's the duke. He'll need to be with his people more than anything."
She nodded. "He'll need all their support."
"But not their indulgence. He can be a better duke than his father and grandfather."
"With help from his uncle," she said happily.
They kissed again, and he smiled against her lips.
"What are you thinking?" she asked.
"Cecil may have done a lot of things wrong, but he brought you and me together. Though I thought he was being his usual arrogant self, he always swore he would find the perfect wife for me. I wonder if he realized that when he hired you."
She snuggled deeper into his arms. "And he found the perfect father for Stephen. He created our family, Richard."
"I think we can take it from here," he said. "You're not going to leave me tonight, are you?"
"Never."
Meriel promised herself that Richard would know the joys of family for the rest of his life.

About the Author

After a detour through fitness instructing and computer programming, GAYLE CALLEN found the life she'd always dreamed of as a romance writer. This USA
Today
bestselling author has written eleven historical romances for Avon Books, and her novels have won the Holt Medallion and the Laurel Wreath Award.
Gayle lives in central New York with her three children, her dog Apollo, and her husband, Jim, the Romance Hero. Visit her website at
www.gaylecallen.com com
.
Visit www.AuthorTracker.com for exclusive information on your favorite HarperCollins author.

By Gayle Callen
THE DUKE IN DISGUISE• THE LORD NEXT DOOR
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NO ORDINARY GROOM • HIS BRIDE
HIS SCANDAL • HIS BETROTHED
MY LADY'S GUARDIAN • A KNIGHT'S VOW
DARKEST NIGHT
If You've Enjoyed This Book,
Be Sure to Read These Other
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Copyright

This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author's imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
THE DUKE IN DISGUISE. Copyright © 2006 by Gayle Kloecker Callen. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books.
Palm Reader Maly 2007 ISBN 978-0-06-144822-5
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
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BOOK: The Duke in Disguise
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