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Page 102

“I do.” Daniel slid one hand behind her and tugged her back down to him. “But not, I’m thinking, right this moment.”

This moment was not for the future, it was for finishing the best night of his life. Later they’d face what they needed to face, do what needed to be done. Now was the time to pull Violet close and continue what they’d begun.

Violet softened as she came to him, and Daniel proceeded to savor her all over again.

The house was still dark, the clocks striking five, when Violet crept back to her bedchamber. Daniel had seemed to think it perfectly fine if she were caught in his bed when the servants came in to stir up the fire and open the curtains, but Violet told him firmly that she would go. His kiss good night was long and lingering, but finally, he let her depart.

Violet had resumed her slippers and lit her candle again, not at all surprised to find Venus still lying outside Daniel’s door. The dog snorted as she came awake, climbed to her feet, and yawned. She readily followed Violet down the short flight of stairs to the main landing and up again to the other wing. The house looked exactly the same as when Violet had moved through it a few hours ago, but Violet had profoundly changed.

An icy draft blew up the stairs when Violet was halfway up, as though someone had opened the front door below. The wind extinguished her candle and swirled her nightdress around her ankles.

Violet stopped, freezing in place. Perhaps whoever it was wouldn’t see her and would walk on through the house, leaving Violet alone in the darkness.

Venus, on the other hand, stared down the stairs and wagged her tail, her body wriggling in joy. A heavy tread sounded on the stairs. Violet didn’t move, but she sensed the person come toward her, closer and closer. Before he reached her, Violet realized with some dismay, that he was Daniel’s uncle, Hart Mackenzie, the Duke of Kilmorgan.

What’s more, he’d seen her. The duke stopped next to her and peered sternly down at her through the gloom. “Are you lost, Miss Devereaux?”

Chapter 28

Hart’s golden eyes were shadowed in the dark but still pinned her fast.

“No. I was just . . .” Violet gestured with her flameless candle. “The privy.”

“There’s a water closet at the end of the guest wing. In the opposite direction.”

“Ah. It’s a large house . . .”

Hart laid his hand on her shoulder, turned her, and marched her the rest of the way up the half flight of stairs to her wing. He led her straight to her bedroom and opened the door. How he knew which was hers when this was the first she’d seen of him here, Violet had no idea.

Hart walked her all the way inside. He took the chamber stick from her hand and matches from his pocket and lit the candle.

Violet’s fears came pouring back. Hart was a duke, one of the most powerful in Britain. He could do anything he liked. Violet was clad only in her nightgown, not even a dressing gown to cover her, and it must be fairly obvious what she’d been doing.

Hart set down the chamber stick. The candle flame wavered in the draft from the open door, which he didn’t close.

The draft also brought a scent to Violet that she recognized from being with Daniel. That, paired with Hart’s mussed hair and his lack of greatcoat though he’d been outside, drew her conclusion.

Her heart burned. Did the duchess know he’d been dallying with a woman? The anger at him for betraying his remarkable wife made Violet’s head come up.

“Was there something you wanted, Your Grace?” she asked in icy tones.

“You were with my nephew.”

“Perhaps.”

“No perhaps about it. You’re his lover.”

Violet gave him a haughty look, perfected from her performances. “Daniel is a grown man, and I am a grown woman.”

Hart looked Violet straight in the eye. Ian did that when he had something important to say. Hart did it to unnerve people and keep them unnerved. “I know all about you, Miss Devereaux. Your father was the last son of a poor French family who were excellent at getting something for nothing. Thieves and confidence men, every single one of them, and you with your séances and table turnings are carrying on the tradition. I’m going to ask you bluntly, what are your designs on Daniel?”

Violet’s heart hurt again. “No designs at all. I’m helping with his motorcar, and that will be the end of it. No doubt I will remain in France while Daniel returns here. My mother will join me there. I thank you for looking after her while she resides in London. I take it she is still there?”

Hart ignored the question. “You plan to end your association with my very wealthy nephew? Who recently came into all the money in trust for him?”

Violet kept her head high. “I am not interested in Daniel’s money, regardless of what you think.”

The duke’s gaze roved her, but not in lechery. He was assessing her the same way she assessed him.

“I know Daniel is trying to get you out of an unwanted marriage,” he said. “I don’t mind him doing so. A woman shouldn’t be trapped. But after that, you walk away.”

Violet’s anger caught in her throat. “I intend to. Daniel owes me nothing.”

“No,” Hart said in a hard voice. “He doesn’t.”

Violet knew Daniel could send her away whenever he wished. She’d always understood that. Whatever control he’d let her have in the bed tonight was illusion. If Daniel wanted Violet to stay with him, that would be his choice. But Violet leaving could be hers.

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