The Inconvenient Duchess

In: Novels

Submitted By ismehijara
Words 82622
Pages 331
Christine Merrill

Chapter One

‘Of course, you know I am dying.’ His mother ex-

tended slim fingers from beneath the bedclothes and patted the hand that he offered to her. Marcus Radwell, fourth Duke of Haughleigh, kept his face impassive, searching his mind for the appropriate response. ‘No.’ His tone was neutral. ‘We will, no doubt, have this conversation again at Christmas when you have recovered from your current malady.’ ‘Only you would use obstinacy as a way to cheer me on my deathbed.’ And only you would stage death with such Drury Lane melodrama. He left the words unspoken, struggling for decorum, but glared at the carefully arranged scene. She’d chosen burgundy velvet hangings and dim lighting to accent her already pale skin. The cloying scent of the lilies on the dresser gave the air a funereal heaviness. ‘No, my son, we will not be having this conversation again. The things I have to tell you will be said today. I do not have the strength to tell them twice, and certainly will not be here at Christmas to force another

6

The Inconvenient Duchess

promise from you.’ She gestured to the water glass at the bedside. He filled it and offered it to her, supporting her as she drank. No strength? And yet her voice seemed steady enough. This latest fatal illness was probably no more real than the last one. Or the one before. He stared hard into her face, searching for some indication of the truth. Her hair was still the same delicate blonde cloud on the pillow, but her face was grey beneath the porcelain complexion that had always given her a false air of fragility. ‘If you are too weak…perhaps later…’ ‘Perhaps later I will be too weak to say them, and you will not have to hear. A good attempt, but I expected better.’ ‘And I expected better of you, Mother. I thought I had made it clear, on my last visit to your deathbed—’ the word was heavy with…...

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