Nay. A thousand times nay, and yet as the words echoed in his mind, Baron Drake knew they must be true. There could be but one Viscount Nicolas betrothed to Lady Elizabeth. And yet, Drake knew he had killed the man himself. His own sword had dealt the fatal blow.
He’d heard the rumors that Viscount Nicolas was alive, and in fact, had come here simply to reassure the Duchess that those rumors were merely stories told by young lads in training. But Lady Elizabeth’s sister spoke with such assurance.
He would find out the truth. Viscount Nicolas was dead, there was no doubt in his mind. So who would dare attempt to take his place? Drake glanced over at the lovely Elizabeth. “With the Duchess indisposed, I have decided to remain for the Saint Valentine’s Day Festival. Should need arise for my sword, I am happy to give aid.”
The scowl on Lady Elizabeth’s face was one he’d grown accustomed to in their short acquaintance. In some ways he found it endearing, and yet, if it meant she was disappointed that he’d be there as competition with Viscount Nicolas, he found it quite unnerving. The feeling, of course, had nothing to do with Lady’s Elizabeth’s comely features. Nay, he was merely acting out of concern for the young woman. Being betrothed to the real Viscount Nicolas was a nightmare he’d not wish on any lady. But with what surely had to be an imposter in their midst, it was his duty to find out the truth.
“We’d be delighted to have you stay,” the younger one, Lady Patrica, said with an all too eager smile. Aye, she was the one he’d been warned to watch out for, and yet she pleased him not. Comely, perhaps, but lacking the bewitching twinkle of Lady Elizabeth’s eyes.
Especially when vexed. There it was, the twitch at the side of Lady Elizabeth’s mouth. Ah, she was indeed a fine match for him, as the Duchess had pointed out. At least in spirit. Were he in need of a wife, he might consider the Duchess’s proposal. But why had she encouraged him to seek Lady Elizabeth’s hand if she knew that Viscount Nicolas was going to be in attendance? Or did she, too, suspect something was amiss with the man’s sudden return from the grave?
“We wouldn’t want to impede your journey,” Lady Elizabeth said. And then, as though it pained her to speak continued, “but if you’d like to stay, you would, of course, be
If he hadn’t already been determined to stay and solve the mystery of the reappearance of Viscount Nicolas, Lady Elizabeth’s challenge would have solidified his purpose. He had no right to pursue her, not even with the Duchess’s encouragement. There were too many secrets in Drake’s past to make him a fit husband for any woman. Viscount Nicolas’s death was only one of them.
Still, he could not help himself when he grinned at her. “Then I hope you’ll consider pairing my name with yours for the Saint Valentine’s Day festival.”
As her scowl deepened, he told himself that it was only to remain close to her since she’d likely be the imposter Viscount Nicolas’s target. And yet, he also couldn’t ignore the stirring inside him that wished to see that pretty face smile once more.