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Forbidden to Love the Duke(98)

By:Jillian Hunter

“And Oliver was after the treasure at Fenwick all along?”

James grimaced. Ivy suspected he might have been trying to grin, but his swollen lip contorted the gesture. “He didn’t realize what the true treasure was. Or who she was, I should say.”

They stepped around the sideboard into the dimly lit drawing room. Ivy sighed. “He didn’t realize that there is no treasure.”

“Be careful where you step,” he said, holding her close to his side. “The moron broke a whisky decanter against—good God. It appears he shot at the chandelier.”

“That moron who broke the decanter would be me. I was hoping to cause a distraction so that I could summon help. Elora escaped. She—”

He lowered his head to hers. “Oliver told me about Elora. I think he might have gone after her to say good-bye. Now, Ivy, please kiss me.”

She hesitated. “Where? Is there a spot on your face that has not been hurt or disfigured?”

“My chin,” he said wryly, pulling her down beside him on the sofa. “What a night it has been, Ivy. I apologize for being rude to you. I found out that Oliver had come to your room at Ellsworth. It did not put me in a pleasant mood.”

Ivy lifted her head, relieved that at last the truth was out. “He told you?”

“No. Mary did.”

“She recognized him?”

“She recognized his voice,” James said grimly. “She thought you were afraid to tell me.”

“I was, James. I knew you wouldn’t let an insult pass unanswered.” She picked up the necklace and earbobs that Elora had left on the sofa. This was a secret that could definitely wait another day. “You look exhausted,” she said, leaning back to stroke his hair. “Why don’t you fall asleep here for an hour?”

He shook his head. “We have to go back to the house. There will be questions to answer, and the children to reassure. I want to sleep beside you. I was insane on the drive here, knowing that Ainsley—”


“I love you dearly, but whatever we do tonight, I don’t think Mary and Walker should see you in your condition. We’ll have to make sure they’re asleep when we go back to the town house.” She kissed his cheek, rising from the sofa. “Don’t run away.”

He caught her skirt, laughing painfully. The jewels slipped from her fingers. “Where do you think you’re going—”

She left the room before he could follow her to the kitchen, meeting him in the hall minutes later with a bowl of lukewarm water and a few towels. “You were gone too long,” he said.

She flinched again at the sight of his face. “James, I trust this is the last time you will scare me like this.”

He preceded her into the drawing room and sat heavily on the sofa. “I scared you? Oliver is not the only man in London who can be accused of reckless driving on your account.”

“Let me wash the blood from your face.”

“If you must.”

“Does your brother have a shirt somewhere in the house you might borrow?”

“I had a wardrobe sent here.” He winced as she dabbed gently at the bruise coming out beneath his eye. “I love you fiercely, you know.”

She smiled. “I know. Please stop fidgeting.”

“Something is poking me in the posterior.” He reached beneath his seat and pulled from the sofa the diamond necklace that Elora had removed from the Duchess Suite. “How the deuce did this get here? I was looking for it at Ellsworth.”

She wrung out her towel. He was starting to look better. “I’ll explain if you hold still a little bit longer. And by the way, I love you fiercely, too.”

Chapter 37

In the end James and Ivy chose to wait to hold the wedding until Curtis had a chance to recuperate and both the bride’s and groom’s families could celebrate at Ellsworth Park. Sir Oliver was invited; he had asked to resume his lease on the gatehouse at Fenwick and the sisters had agreed it was a comfort to have a capable man on the premises.

Lilac and Rosemary did not lack for the attention of gentlemen at the wedding reception, which in honor of the duke and duchess was a masquerade ball. James had invited family members and friends from across England, making it a glittering affair to honor his wife. Rue had been traveling with her viscountess, and promised that although she might be late for the ceremony, she would attend the costume reception.

“That’s how Ivy met your brother,” Lilac confided to Curtis over a glass of apple cider. “At a masquerade.”

Curtis choked down his drink. He had regained most of his strength and his spirits improved every day. He had taken the news of his wife’s desertion better than anyone expected, and he wore his eye patch without complaint. “What masquerade ball was this?” he asked Lilac.