After a cruel family betrayal, Caroline Engelson vows the wicked duke will never regain her love unless he first earns her respect, no matter how fervently she longs for his kisses.
A serious accident delivers the wicked duke into Caro’s care. He is her long time love but she is shocked and hurt when he refers to her teen years as the ‘brat with tangled curls.’ Caro is all grown up now when the wicked duke tries to take advantage of her emotions, even as he turns the orderly household into total chaos with his ducal roars. To his astonishment, his best friend’s sister is made of sterner stuff. The situation changes when Caro learns of a shocking family secret. Will she tame the wicked duke and allow them to love happily ever after or will the betrayal damage her trust forever?
“Come here and hold my hand, Brat.” She placed her hand into his big one which he held onto firmly then took both their hands and rested them on his chest. A grimace of pain flickered across his face, but was quickly gone.
“Do you hurt, Robert? I can get you more laudanum.” She tried to pull away to reach the bottle, but he tightened his hold on her hand.
“Yes, it hurts like the devil, but no, I do not want to be drugged again. Sit down beside me and tell me what you have been doing all these years. Did you miss me?”
“You know I did. Why did you not come visit me? A sad friend you turned out to be for all you are a duke.” She listened but heard nothing from the sleeping household. Her aunt would not be best pleased to find her alone in a room with a man in his bedclothes, never mind he was a duke and a neighbor.
“I was waiting for you to grow up. When I left you were but a young chit, a bratty girl with dirty fingernails and tangled curls.” He smiled at her as he described the child she had been. She felt a pain shoot through her soul. He only thought of her as a bratty child while she had loved him with all her being. Still loved. Still worshiped and longed for his touch. Inadvertently she squeezed his hand in her distress.
His eyes opened wide as his face turned serious. “Did I offend you, Sweetheart? Never mind, you know I am a wicked duke. Yes, that is my nickname. ‘The Wicked Duke.’ Come closer, Caro.” He tugged her down on his chest. She rested her head and could hear the steady beat of his heart. How wonderful it felt to be this close to the one she loved. She could feel his arm tighten around her as his head rested against her hair.
“You are all grown up now, are you not, Caro? Sweet Caro?” He tilted her face up to him and placed a soft kiss on her lips. Which one of them groaned was not clear to her. Perhaps both.
Caroline sat up slowly. “You know I love you, Robert. You have always known it. But as deep as my love is for you…” She paused and took a deep breath while she withdrew her hand from his. “I will not allow you to ruin me.” With that she stood and rapidly left the room. Tears ran unheeded down her cheeks and she threw herself into her bed. Deep sobs wracked her body. She cried for her love lost now to her forever. It was crystal clear what he felt for her and it was unacceptable. Perhaps once she would have agreed to anything he asked. He was her whole life and she could not imagine another, but her thinking was that of an adult, no longer a child. Her self respect came before her emotions and she would not easily give it up.
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