To Trust a Rogue (The Heart of a Duke Book 8)(2)

By: Christi Caldwell


Lizzie froze with the fork midway to her mouth. “You danced with her, Marcus.” She set the silver utensil down and gave him a meaningful look. “Twice.”

“They were nonconsecutive,” he felt inclined to point out.

Then like the veriest determined matchmaker, Lizzie proceeded to tick off on her fingers. “She comes from a respectable family.” It wouldn’t do to point out to his innocent sister that Lady Marianne’s brother was a letch in dun territory that no respectable mama would see their daughter wed—even with his marquisate as a prize. The man was now reliant upon his sister to make a match and save his finances. A flash of pity filled him at the lady’s unfortunate connections. “She is kind and clever and exceedingly lovely.” With midnight black hair and a generously curved figure, Lady Marianne was unlike most of the porcelain, golden-haired ladies of Society. The perfect counterpart to those blonde English misses.

Say, a Miss Eleanor Carlyle, that temptress from long ago with sun-kissed hair and too-full lips. The woman who’d won his heart, and broken it, in short order.

Yes, midnight hair would be preferable—

His sister clapped her hands once. “Do attend me.”

Marcus thrust memories of Eleanor to the furthest recesses of his mind. “Forgive me.” He inclined his head. “You were saying?”

Lizzie let out a beleaguered sigh, and continued. “You are in want of a wife. She is in need of a husband.” Ah, so his sister did know of the dismal financial circumstances her friend’s family faced. Lizzie beamed. “Isn’t that how most wonderful, romantic tales begin?”

“I would not know,” he said, droll humor creeping into his tone. “I’m not in the habit of reading your gothic tales of forbidden love.” He’d tried love in real life once and that foray had proven a remarkable disaster.

Lizzie gave a roll of her eyes. “It is not always forbidden love.” She brightened. “Why, more often, it is a wealthy duke and an impoverished young lady coming together and finding love. Why, what is a more romantic match than that?”

“Indeed,” he drawled.

Lizzie swatted his arm.

Pointedly ignoring her daughter, Mother turned her attention to Marcus. She folded her hands primly before her and spoke like all the tutors she’d personally hired for him through the years. “I do not merely want my children to make a suitable match, though I do. I care for you to make a love match.”

His sister was nothing if not tenacious. “Oh, he could very easily love Marianne.”

He scrubbed his hands over his face. He’d not disabuse his romantic sister of her naïve notions. After Eleanor’s betrayal, he’d learned the perils of trusting his heart to a woman. No, when he ultimately married, it would not be because any emotion was involved—which was why Lady Marianne represented the ideal match. Emotionally aloof, she seduced with her eyes, and revealed a jadedness that matched his own. He could easily imagine that temptress in his bed, but there was little risk of his heart being involved.

“Oh, do stop scowling, Marcus,” his mother said patting her mouth with a crisp white napkin, bringing him back to the present. “You’ll hardly catch any young lady with that terrible glower.”

He sat back in his chair and propped his elbows on the arms. “Oh, and are there young ladies expected or hiding even now in this house who I need worry about at this given moment?” he drawled.

His mother promptly choked.

He narrowed his eyes. “Mother?”

“Do not be silly,” she squawked and in an entirely un-viscountess like move, she shoveled a heaping pile of eggs into her mouth.

“She is lying,” his sister said under her breath.

Marcus cast a glance over at his sister.

“But as long as she is parading ladies before you, I needn’t worry of her parading prospective bridegrooms before me.”

Temporarily distracted from his own impending dire situation, he gave Lizzie a wry grin. For the almost twelve years between them, they’d always been remarkably of like thought where their mother was concerned. It appeared those likenesses extended to the realm of marriage. “Never tell me you are the only lady in the kingdom to not want a husband,” he said from the corner of his mouth.

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