The Marquess Tames His Bride - Энни Берроуз - Читать онлайн любовный роман

В женской библиотеке Мир Женщины кроме возможности читать онлайн также можно скачать любовный роман - The Marquess Tames His Bride - Энни Берроуз бесплатно.

Правообладателям | Топ-100 любовных романов

The Marquess Tames His Bride - Энни Берроуз - Читать любовный роман онлайн в женской библиотеке LadyLib.Net
The Marquess Tames His Bride - Энни Берроуз - Скачать любовный роман в женской библиотеке LadyLib.Net

Берроуз Энни

The Marquess Tames His Bride

Читать онлайн
Предыдущая страница Следующая страница

2 Страница

Lord Rawcliffe kept his arm round her waist, effectively clamping her to his side.

‘Not another word,’ he growled into her ear as he turned her to follow the landlord. ‘Not until there is no fear of us being overheard.’

She almost protested that she hadn’t been going to say anything. She had no wish to have their quarrel witnessed by the other passengers from her coach, or those two drunken bucks who’d staggered out of the tap at the exact moment she’d punched the Marquess on the nose, or even the landlord.

‘This will do,’ said Lord Rawcliffe to the very landlord she’d been thinking about, as they entered a small room containing a table with several plain chairs standing round it and a couple of upholstered ones drawn up before a grate in which a fire blazed even though it was a full week into June.

‘You will be wanting refreshments, my lord?’

‘Yes. A pot of tea for my fiancée,’ he said, giving her another warning squeeze. ‘Ale for me. And some bread and cheese, too. Oh,’ he said, dabbing at his bleeding nose, ‘and a bowl of ice, or, at least, very cold water and some clean cloths.’

‘Of course, my lord,’ said the landlord, shooting her a look loaded with censure as he bowed himself out of the door.

‘And one other thing,’ said Lord Rawcliffe, letting go of her in order to give the landlord his full attention. Clare didn’t bother to listen to what the one other thing might be. She was too busy getting to the far side of the room and putting the table between them for good measure.

‘Look,’ she said, as soon as the landlord had gone. ‘I know I shouldn’t have hit you and I—’ she drew a deep breath ‘—I apologise.’ She looked longingly at the door. Rawcliffe might have all the time in the world, but she had a stage to catch. ‘And thank you for the offer of tea, but I don’t have time to—’

He was nearer the door than she was, and, following the direction of her gaze, he promptly stepped in front of it, leaned his back against it and folded his arms across his chest.

‘What,’ she said, ‘do you think you are doing?’

‘Clearly, I am preventing you from leaving.’

‘Yes, I can see that, I’m not an idiot. But why?’

‘Because I am not going to permit you to walk into a scandal.’

‘I am not going to walk into a scandal.’

‘You think you can strike a marquess, in a public inn, and get away with it?’

‘I don’t see why not. You might be notorious, but nobody knows who I am.’

His mouth twisted into a sneer. ‘You flew here on angel’s wings, did you?’

‘Of course not. I came on the stage.’

‘Precisely. A stagecoach, crammed, if I know anything about it, with plenty of other passengers.’

‘Yes, but none of them took much notice of me...’

‘That was before you indulged in a bout of fisticuffs with a peer of the realm. Now they will all want to know who you are. And it won’t take them long to find out.’

She thought of her trunk, sitting out in the yard awaiting her connecting coach. The label, bearing her name, tied to the handle. And then, with a sinking heart, the ostler who’d wrested it from the luggage rack and the withering look he’d given her after she’d dropped her tip into his hand. A tip so meagre he’d clearly regarded it in the nature of an insult.

She swallowed.

‘ cannot really matter though, can it? At least, it wouldn’t have,’ she added resentfully, ‘if you had not claimed I was your fiancée.’

‘You think people would have been less interested in a random woman assaulting me in a public inn? Do you have any idea of the story they would have concocted had I not given them a far better one? You would have been a cast-off mistress, at the very least. Or possibly the mother of a brood of my illegitimate offspring. Or perhaps even a secret wife.’

‘Well, I don’t see how any of that would have been any worse than for them now to believe you have a fiancée nobody knew anything about.’

‘You cannot just say thank you, can you? For rescuing you from the consequences of your own folly?’

She lowered her gaze.

Studied her scuffed boots for a moment or two, weighing his words. She supposed she did ought to thank him. After all, she’d hit him and he hadn’t done anything in retaliation. On the contrary, he’d covered for her behaviour by making up a story about her being an insanely jealous fiancée, so that everyone would believe she was perfectly entitled to waylay him in a corridor and bloody his nose.

‘Very well.’ She sighed. ‘Thank you for attempting to rescue me from myself. And now—’

He let out a bark of laughter. ‘Good God! An apology and an acknowledgement that I have actually managed to do something decent, in your opinion, in the space of five minutes. From you, that is nothing short of a miracle. If you continue at this rate you will become a model wife. Within about fifty years,’ he finished on a sneer.

‘You and I both know I am never going to be your wife—’

‘But I have just announced our betrothal.’

‘Yes, well, I know you didn’t mean anything by that.’ Just as he hadn’t meant anything by it the last time he’d spoken to her of marriage. She gave an involuntary shiver as that particular episode came to remembrance, since it was not exactly her finest hour. She’d been emerging from the duck pond, covered in slime and with ribbons of weed tangled in her hair. And with the sack full of drowned puppies clutched to her chest. She’d been distraught, because she’d taken far too long to find them. Only later did she discover that the reason the sack into which they’d been tied had sunk deep into the mud was because it was weighted down with rocks. She’d been horrified by the cruelty of the wretch who’d thrown those poor innocent little creatures into the pond and there he’d been, bowed over with laughter, holding himself up by propping his hands on his knees at the sight of her. And then to make matters worse, she’d lost her footing as she’d been clambering out and fallen back into the water. To set the seal on her humiliation, her sense of failure, he’d extended his hand and laughingly said something to the effect of having to marry her if this was what she sank to the moment he took his eyes off her.

And her heart had fluttered. Even though she should have known better, should have known that a man as handsome, and wealthy, and elevated in rank as him could never seriously consider marrying a diminutive, red-haired, penniless vicar’s daughter, some pathetic, lovesick part of her had dared to hope. For a moment or two. Which had been the height of absurdity. Because, deep down, she couldn’t imagine any man losing his heart to her, let alone the one man in the county who could have any woman he wanted for the clicking of his fingers—and very probably had.

Which had, thankfully, prevented her from making any sort of reply apart from a haughty toss of her head—which had made him laugh all over again since in doing so it had dislodged a clump of weed—and stalking off with her nose in the air. Leaving her with at least one tiny shred of pride still intact. Because of course it turned out he had merely been teasing her. For if he’d been in earnest, he would have come calling on Father to make a formal offer. Or at least ask if he could start to pay his addresses, until such time as she was old enough to consider marriage.

But he hadn’t.

Because he hadn’t meant a word of it.

Any more than he meant what he’d just said about her becoming a model wife, even if he had put in the bit about it taking fifty years. Men like him didn’t marry girls like her.

It was ridiculous.

‘Did you indeed?’ He pushed himself off the door, and sort of loomed over her. ‘Then why did I say it? Why tell the world you are my fiancée?’

‘I don’t know!’ She backed away. There was something so overwhelming about him. So dangerous. And now that he’d kissed her, she knew what that danger was. A danger to her self-respect which would shrivel away to nothing should she permit the attraction she felt for him to govern her actions. And right now, self-respect was all she had left.

But, oh, how tempting it was to latch on to his carelessly spoken words and make him stick to them, for once. It would serve him right...

But, no.

Though the temptation surged swift and strong, she must thrust it aside. She couldn’t marry a man simply to get revenge on him for all the hurts he’d inadvertently caused her over the years. What sort of marriage would that be? Not the kind she read about in the bible...not that she’d ever actually seen anyone in real life attain the state of being an image of Christ and his church. But if she ever did marry, she would at least hope the man would regard the estate as holy and make an effort to be faithful, if not actually be ready to lay down his life for her.

Oh, but she might as well wish for a castle and a chest full of jewels and an army of servants to see to her slightest whim while she was at it.

‘Why do you ever say anything? And anyway, it’s not as if it was to anyone who matters, is it? They didn’t look to me like anybody you knew.’

‘One of those bucks is a member of one of my clubs. The news of my betrothal to a short, red-haired shrew will be all over town within hours.’

‘I am not a shrew!’ He just brought out the worst in her. Deliberately.

‘Only a shrew would have punched me in a public inn, when all I’d done was tease you, the way I have always teased you.’

‘Not the way you have always teased me,’ she seethed. ‘What you said was unforgivable!’

A frown flickered across his brow. ‘I said nothing that I have not said before.’

‘Only now, to say such things about Father, when he is gone, that, that, that...’ She shuddered to a halt as her emotions almost got the better of her.

‘Gone? What do you mean, gone?’

‘Don’t pretend you don’t know!’

‘I am not pretending,’ he said, taking her by both shoulders and looking into her eyes as though searching for the truth. ‘Where has he gone?’

She swatted his hands from the patchily dyed shoulders of her coat and took a step back, before she gave in to the temptation to lean into him and sob her heart out.

‘I was not surprised that you did not attend his funeral. I know you are far too busy and important to bother with—’

‘Funeral? He died? When? Good God, Clare,’ he said, advancing and taking hold of her shoulders once again. ‘You cannot think that I knew? Would have spoken of him in that way if I...’ His fingers tightened almost painfully on her before he abruptly released her with a bitter laugh. ‘You did, in fact, believe that I knew. And, knowing, that I would be cruel enough to taunt you...’ He whirled away from her, strode across to the rather grubby window and stood gazing out.

Now that he wasn’t trying to prevent her from leaving, Clare found herself strangely reluctant to walk through the unguarded door. There was something about the set of his back that, in any other man, would have looked...almost defeated. Weary.

‘If you really did not know...’

His back stiffened.

‘Then I am sorry for thinking that you would deliberately taunt me with...with...well...’ She faltered. He’d never been cruel. Not deliberately cruel. Oh, he might have hurt her time after time, but he’d never been aware, not really, how much power he had to hurt her. He just thought she was funny. A joke. Because, although she tried her hardest to live up to the precepts set down in the gospels, her temper kept on overruling her better judgement. Time after time she fell into scrapes. And somehow he always heard about them and mocked her for them when next he crossed her path.

Unless he actually happened to be present when she was in one, when the chances were he was at the root of it, like today.

‘I suppose...’ she began, on a flood of remorse. But was prevented from making another apology by the return to the room of the landlord and a waiter. Between them they’d brought all the items Lord Rawcliffe had requested. Not that he acknowledged them. He just stood there, with his back to the room, in stony silence while the men set everything on the table.

While she stood by the door, shifting from one foot to the other.

Why were they taking so long to set out a few dishes? Why couldn’t they take the hint that both she and Lord Rawcliffe wanted them to go away?

Because, even though it was highly improper to remain in the room with only Lord Rawcliffe for company, she had too much pride to make her apology to him in front of witnesses.

And too highly developed a conscience to leave without making it.


Получить полную версию книги можно по ссылке - Здесь

Предыдущая страница Следующая страница

Ваши комментарии
к роману The Marquess Tames His Bride - Энни Берроуз

Комментарии к роману "The Marquess Tames His Bride - Энни Берроуз" отсутствуют

Ваше имя


Введите сумму чисел с картинки