The Stranger She Married

The Stranger She Married by Donna Hatch

Book: The Stranger She Married by Donna Hatch Read Free Book Online
Authors: Donna Hatch
Tags: Fiction, General, Romance, Historical
contribute. However, I still think he should have been a Magistrate if he wanted to uphold the law."
    "Every family needs a black sheep, I suppose. Only yours has two. A thief-taker and a pirate.” Aunt Livy made a tsking sound. “Why is it that Christian is the only member of the family willing to do as he ought?"
    "The perfectly perfect Christian,” Cole said in the same sing song voice with which they'd taunted the youngest Amesbury brother all his life.
    Aunt Livy waggled her closed fan at Cole. “Don't think you can get away with changing the subject, you naughty boy."
    "Not me. Uncle Andrew brought up Grant.” How did Aunt Livy always manage to make him feel like a six-year old?
    Uncle Andrew smirked. “Perhaps I should go buy Miss Palmer for you, Cole. You could get the whole marrying business over with, produce an heir and then set her up in the country where you can ignore her if you wish. It would save her from all those other unsavory characters. And better yet, it would silence your aunt. I've been trying for thirty-seven years and am starting to believe it cannot be done."
    Aunt Livy whacked his arm smartly with her fan.
    "I don't need your money, Uncle. I certainly have the means to pay off her family myself, if I were so inclined.” Cole realized that they both watched him too carefully. He quickly arranged an uninterested expression on his face and brushed an imaginary spec off his sleeve.
    "Ahh.” Uncle Andrew exchanged meaningful looks with Aunt Livy whose triumphant smile grew in direct proportion to Cole's attempt at appearing bored.
    "It's not what you think.” He knew with growing alarm that nothing he could say now would dissuade them from believing what they wished. “Stay out of this,” he snapped.
    Uncle Andrew cleared his throat. “Cole, there's nothing wrong with developing feelings for a young lady."
    "I have no feelings. Not for her. Not for anyone. And I'll thank you to not bring it up again.” He felt like a petulant child trying to profess his innocence. “Perhaps I've stayed too long. I hear Italy is nice this time of year."
    Aunt Livy leaned across to pat his arm and he had to force himself to not yank back out of her reach. “Don't go yet, dear. I vow I will respect your privacy."
    "Why start now?” he snarled.
    "Because I can see that you are quite vexed by it. You both may consider me silenced.” She pressed her fingers over her mouth and glanced at Uncle Andrew. “In this matter, at least."
    Andrew grinned and kissed her gloved fingers. Their expressions for one another betrayed their obvious affection, despite their banter. They loved each other, despite the years and accompanying illnesses and injuries, and their strong personalities. Or perhaps because of them.
    That he might have such a comfortable relationship with another seemed a tantalizing dream.
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CHAPTER 8
    " Touché ."
    Grinning, Cole lowered his rapier and held out a hand to his opponent. The duke shook it before they removed their protective coverings and handed their rapiers and gear to the servants.
    "Well done, Amesbury,” the other man praised.
    Beads of perspiration ran down Cole's face and back. “And to you, my lord duke. You execute your moves flawlessly."
    Fencing always proved an interesting diversion. Submersing himself in technique and strategy restored a sense of balance to his world.
    "Next time you have the urge to fence, send me word. I enjoy a challenging opponent. So many are unable to offer any real sport,” the duke said.
    "I shall, my lord duke. Thank you.” Cole toweled off his face.
    Over the course of the week-long house party, the duke had proven himself remarkably gracious. A dignified gentleman, the duke was an attentive and generous host.
    Too bad Miss Sinclair and her family were also invited to the same house party. Cole had grown weary of her scheming.
    "Your Grace.” A servant ran into the room.
    The Duke gave a wry smile. “Duties, it

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