The Duke's Match Girl(Fiery Tales Series)(4)By: Lila DiPasqua
Not since the night they’d consummated the marriage. He’d been gentle with his bride, even while he had a heavy heart and could still taste Suzanne’s lips. Still remember the feel of her skin. All the while plagued by the fact that Suzanne had been the last woman he’d kissed. Touched. Had. And the only woman he’d hungered for then…and ever since.
After the deed was done, he’d found himself with a weeping wife on his hands.
Not exactly the sort of reaction he’d ever experienced after sex.
It had taken some coaxing, but he finally learned the truth behind Constance’s tears. She had been in love with Chermont since girlhood. Her father had refused to consider the match, opting for a future duc for his daughter. Instead of a marquis.
Constance’s words had turned the lingering ache in his chest to a sharp stab.
Her circumstance was far too familiar and resonated deep inside him.
He’d done what was required of him. He’d married the woman he’d been expected to wed to increase his family’s already vast wealth and further advance their political power.
But he’d be damned if he was going to force a woman into his bed who longed for another.
The entire situation was nothing but a stinging reminder of his own deplorable predicament. And what—or rather whom—he’d personally given up in the name of duty.
Leo left for Paris that night, much to Constance’s relief, no doubt, and never lived under the same roof with her again.
Though he’d never wished her dead, the plain fact was that he was a widower.
And now he was free.
Free to pursue what been left unfinished. Since learning from Gilles of Richard Matchet’s passing, knowing Suzanne was alone in the world and surviving on the coins she made as an apothecary, he was even more eager to bring her back to Montbrison.
The timing was finally right. And he was going after this—after her—with a vengeance.
All he needed now was favorable news from Gilles.
“Your Grace?” His servant’s voice grabbed Leo’s attention. At the doorway of the room stood somber-faced Isaac. An elderly, tall, thin man, Isaac had been in service to his family since Leo could remember. “My lords.” Isaac bowed to Bernard and Daniel before promptly returning his attention to Leo. “Monsieur Gilles awaits you in your private apartments, Your Grace.”
Leo was already stalking out of the room before Isaac had finished his sentence. At a brisk pace, he exited the study, crossed the large vestibule, and climbed the stairs two at a time, arriving on the second floor in the east wing in no time.
Throwing open the door to his private rooms, he found Gilles seated in one of the upholstered chairs near the hearth in the antechamber.
Gilles came to his feet in a quick, fluid motion, despite his stocky build.
Upon seeing his man standing there, knowing he had news at last, Leo was hit with a sudden uncharacteristic pang of uncertainty. What if this is a mistake? Perhaps he should have left well enough alone.
Seven years was a long time. People changed.
Suzanne might not be the same person he’d once known. She might be nothing like the woman he craved.
Shoving aside his doubts, he said, “It’s about time. What news have you? Did the lady respond to the offer?”
Gilles’s full cheeks reddened slightly, and he adjusted the cravat around his thick neck. “Yes, Your Grace, she did.”
Leo placed his hands on his hips, wrestling with his patience. “Well?” Dieu. Was he going to have to drag each word out of him? Last night, his dream of Suzanne had been so vivid, he could actually taste her soft mouth, and feel the luscious texture of her skin.
He woke up with his cock as stiff as a spike. Longing for her even more fiercely.
“What did she say? I want to know—word for word,” he demanded.
Gilles cleared his throat. A small bead of sweat appeared on his forehead. “Of course, Your Grace.” He couldn’t have looked more uneasy. Leo had never seen his loyal, ever-competent man so discomposed. “I know how important it is to provide you with an accurate account of her response. And, well, she… You see… She…”
“Yes? Out with it!” Jésus-Christ. How bloody difficult is this?