Griffin Stone:Duke Of Decadence(10)

By: Carole Mortimer

Confirming that Griffin now had no choice but to try and identify her himself.

In the meantime he had no idea what to do with her!

‘Do you play cards?’

She eyed him quizzically as she stepped further into the room. ‘I do not believe so, no.’

Griffin watched, mesmerised, as she ran her fingers lingeringly, almost caressingly, along the shelves of books, his imagination taking flight as he wondered how those slender fingers would feel as they caressed the bareness of his shoulders, and down the tautness of his muscled stomach. How soft they would feel as they encircled the heavy weight of his arousal...

‘You obviously have a love of books,’ he bit out tensely, only to scowl darkly as she immediately snatched her hand back as if burnt before cradling it against her breasts. ‘It was an observation, Bella, not a rebuke.’ He sighed his irritation, with both his own impatience and her reaction.

‘Do not call me by that name!’ Fire briefly lit up her eyes. ‘Indeed, I believe it to have been exceedingly cruel of you to choose such a name for me!’

Griffin felt at a complete loss in the face of her upset. Three—no, it was now four—of his closest friends were either now married or about to be, and he liked their wives and betrothed well enough. But other than those four ladies the only time Griffin spent in a woman’s company nowadays was usually in the bed of one of the mistresses of the demi-monde, and then only for as long as it took to satisfy his physical needs, and with women who did not find his completely proportioned body in the least alarming. Or did not choose to show they did.

His only other knowledge of women was that of his wife, Felicity, and she had informed him on more than one occasion that he had no sensitivity, no warmth or understanding in regard to women. Not like the man she had taken as her lover. Her darling Frank, as she had called the other man so affectionately.

Damn Felicity!

If not for Harker, then Griffin would not have chosen to come back here to Stonehurst Park at all. To the place where he and Felicity had spent the first months of their married life together. He had certainly avoided the place for most of the last six years, and being back here now appeared to be bringing back all the bitter and unhappy memories of his marriage.

But if he had not come back to Stonehurst Park last night then what would have become of Bella?

Would she have perhaps stumbled and fallen in the woods in the dark, and perished without anyone being the wiser?

Would the people who had already treated her so cruelly have recaptured her and returned her to her prison?

For those reasons alone Griffin could not regret now being at Stonehurst Park.

Now if only he could fathom what he had said or done to cause Bella’s current upset.

His brow cleared as a thought occurred to him. ‘I have already asked my housekeeper to send to the nearest town for more suitable gowns and footwear for you to wear.’

‘Suitable gowns and footwear will not make a difference to how I look!’ There was still a fire in her eyes as she looked at him. ‘How could you be so cruel as to—as to taunt me so, when I am already laid low?’

Griffin gave an exasperated shake of his head. ‘I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.’

‘I am talking about this!’ She held up the bareness of her bruised arms. ‘And this!’ She pulled aside the already gaping neckline to reveal her discoloured shoulders. ‘And this!’

‘Enough! No more, Bella,’ Griffin protested as she would have lifted the hem of her gown, hopefully only to show him her abraded calves, but he could not be sure; an overabundance of modesty did not appear to be one of her attributes!

‘Bella.’ He strode slowly towards her, as if he were approaching a skittish horse rather than a beautiful young woman. ‘Bella,’ he repeated huskily as he placed a hand gently beneath her chin and raised her face so that he could look directly into her eyes. ‘Those bruises are only skin deep. They will all fade with time. And they could never hide the beauty beneath.’

Bella blinked. ‘Do you truly mean that or are you just being kind?’

‘I believe we have already established that I am cruel rather than kind.’

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