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Deepest Desires of a Wicked Duke(6)

By:Sharon Page

He gave up. Tried to ignore her. The girl was wriggling on his lap, squealing and giggling, when a sharp female voice demanded, “Unhand that young woman.”

Startled, Sin looked up.

That was when he saw her.

At first, he saw two of her; then the two images coalesced into one surprising one: a respectable young woman, storming into a gaming hell.

A sensible gown and dark blue pelisse covered her figure, but he could see she was slender, with a tiny waist, long legs. Her face was the most striking he’d ever seen. Dark gray eyes, long and narrow and seductively tilted upward at the ends. A tiny nose and a spray of freckles. Her mouth was the most ripe, full red mouth he’d ever seen.

She stalked toward them, stopping in front of him with her hands on her hips. “I am Portia Lamb and I demand that you unhand that woman at once. Please take her off your person.”

As he stared in surprise, she wagged her finger. “She has run away from my family’s foundling home to launch a career as a prostitute. And, of course, there are dissolute men to make that possible. She is but sixteen!”

As Miss Lamb glared at him, he handed the would-be courtesan back. “I had no intention of doing anything to the girl.” His words came out fairly slurred. “I wasn’t even the one to ask her to sit on my lap.”

Miss Lamb hadn’t listened to him.

But he’d fallen in love with Portia Lamb nonetheless that night, while she lectured him about evils, then dragged the young woman out of the gaming hell.

Miss Lamb was so good and noble. She cared about children and rescued them. And she was astoundingly pretty with huge gray eyes and thick, curling, flame-red hair.

After that, he’d pursued her like a besotted fool in a love sonnet. He started following her on her missions into the stews to protect her. Night after night, he spent in her company. Then it became days as well. Days where he visited the home because even minutes away from her felt like too damn long.

Finally, one day, he dropped to one knee in front of Portia and asked her to be his wife.

And she said yes.

“I’ll go and talk to your father,” he promised. “And I’ll introduce you to my grandmother and my cousins. They live in the ducal home in Mayfair.”

In the carriage, he kissed her. They shared hot and passionate kisses, dueling with tongues. He was hard as a brick, panting for her.

She drew back. “Julian, we can’t.” She used his Christian name—she didn’t know about the nickname Sin that Willoughby had given him. He hated his Christian name, but he didn’t want her to call him by the nickname. It was too damned close to the truth about him, a truth he wanted to hide from her.

He held back, trying to be good, be noble. Make her believe that’s what he was. He wanted her, but didn’t kiss her.

Then the carriage stopped. He handed her down.

“Good heavens.” She stared up at the mansion that was Sinclair House in Mayfair. Where he had been living for only a few weeks.

Tucking her hand in the crook of his arm, he showed her the house. They walked through the massive ballroom with its five chandeliers. The music room that boasted two gleaming pianofortes. The gallery filled with paintings. The four drawing rooms.

He watched her beautiful eyes and saw her astonishment. She must be thrilled to become a duchess, to become mistress of all this. Maybe that way she wouldn’t leave him, wouldn’t desert him, if she found out the truth about him.

“I knew your home would be grand, but I’ve never seen anything like this.” She gazed at him with concern on her face. “I . . . I don’t know anything of this world, Julian.”

“That doesn’t matter, Portia.” He walked up to her, drew her into his arms. He could spread the world at her feet because he was a duke. And Portia deserved the world.

She looked up at him, biting her lip, gleaming with innocence. Her lashes were long, flashing over gray eyes. Her hair was a mass of unruly curls. She smiled at him and his heart almost burst. No one had ever loved him before. That this precious woman did—it meant he might be worth loving.

He started taking off his clothes. They were in one of the drawing rooms and he’d locked the door. Breathing hard, he undid his cravat with a quick tug of his fingers. Pulled off his tailcoat, then his waistcoat. He stood in front of her in his linen shirt and trousers, his collar open. He was going to marry her. He could have everything he wanted—

“Julian, put your clothes back on! Nothing can happen until we’re married. I, of all people, can’t make such a mistake. If I let things happen, then you won’t love me anymore. Our foundling home is filled with children because of men who were filled with desire, then, after, wanted only to run.”