A Knight to Dare: (The Valiant Love Regency Romance) (A Historical Romance Book), page 1
A KNIGHT TO DARE
THE VALIANT LOVE
a historical romance book
Copyright and About the Author
Copyright © 2019 by Deborah Wilson
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Table of Contents
Copyright and About the Author
Join Deborah’s Reader Club
Book List Order
Join Deborah’s Reader Club
Copyright and Disclaimer
* * *
The Duke of Van Dero kissed his wife.
And then undid one of the small pearl buttons to loosen her bodice.
His duchess moaned. Her hands went into Cassius’ hair, urging him on even as her breaths grew hesitant. “Cass.” Her voice shook.
He loved it when she said his name, even the touch of fear, as though she wasn’t sure what he’d do, even though they both knew she loved the passion between them.
Milly’s warm breath brushed his lips. That precious heat trailed down his spine and engulfed him in desire. The hot waves were nothing compared to the July sun that fell upon them in the garden.
They were surrounded by hydrangea bushes and violet asters, which perfumed the air.
Yet in a garden that had been crafted at a great cost and had taken time to cultivate just as he wished, nothing was more beautiful or smelled sweeter than his wife.
She was God’s greatest creation.
After spreading her on the blanket on the grass, he’d taken off her bonnet and spread her black locks out around her.
It had grown in the last year, now touching her waist.
She wanted to cut it. She had a friend with a short style that she admired.
Cass didn’t care what she did, so long as she remained his.
He touched her, and she leaned into him. He stroked his tongue against hers, and she sighed.
“Cassius,” she begged.
It was the only thing he ever let her beg for and only because he liked to hear it. He’d move mountains for her. He rarely denied her anything.
His voice dipped. “Let me see you. Let me touch you.”
“We should stop.”
He plucked open another button and then another. “A little longer.”
He lifted his head and took in the creamy beginnings of her cleavage. Her dress was a pale blue with tiny white flowers on leafy vines. The design was sweet and gentle, much like his wife.
What a blessing. What a treasure. He would faithfully worship the Lord on high for every moment he had with this woman. He was so undeserving of her beauty, kindness, and forgiving nature.
He may have questioned religion before her but not now. Milly had led him on a path in life with meaning and purpose.
He prayed he didn’t stray too far from it.
He ran his fingers over her skin.
Only a few more buttons and then he could spread the halves open and…
She covered her chest. “The doctor suggested we wait longer.” Her dark brows pinched together over starlight gray eyes.
She wanted him.
He wanted her. He was starving for her.
It had been weeks.
“You’re ready.” His head pounded with lust. “I know if I touched you now, I’d discover it was true.”
She smiled. “I always want you, but I just gave birth to your heir. I need to heal.”
Resigned, he rested his head on her shoulder and took deep breaths.
He closed his eyes and breathed in her moist skin. Only she had the ability to excite and calm him in such a short amount of time.
She wrapped her arms around him and kissed his head.
Even if he could never have her again, this would be enough.
Yet he felt himself begin to harden, so he pulled away and rolled onto his back.
She sat up and leaned over him. She blocked the sun, but she was all the light he needed anyhow.
She smiled down at him, and the world was no more.
There was only her.
He’d never been more frightened than the day she’d gone into labor. Had he lost her, he’d have lost himself. She was the wind in his sails, guiding him where he should go, turning him when he got off the path.
Straight is the gate and narrow the way, the Good Book said.
He was trying to be better but faced with all the darkness, it became hard.
Milly said, “I think I shall invite Jane over for dinner, but she’s been so distracted with her new puppies I’m uncertain if she’ll come.”
“Is that what you want? You want Jane to come over for dinner?”
“It would be nice.”
“Then we shall tell her to come.”
Milly squinted her eyes. “When you say tell, you mean invite, don’t you?”
No, he meant command.
Milly touched his cheek. “Cassius, we do not command our friend
“Is this a lesson?” he asked. She’d given him many of those over the last year of their marriage, explaining to him concepts that other men understood naturally.
The only thing that came naturally to him was loving her.
“Yes.” She nodded slowly. “No commanding friends to attend dinners for simple enjoyment.”
Milly knew just what words to use. Cassius had friends. He commanded them to do things all the time, but that was because they worked for him.
There were lines, apparently, do’s and don’ts written in the sand.
The line was usually a million miles behind Cass by the time he realized he’d crossed it.
Thankfully, his friends understood his manner.
“I’ll not command Miss Jane to come over,” he said.
“But if this distraction with the dogs upsets you, we can have them killed and served at dinner.”
Milly gasped and then she looked at him and laughed. “Oh, you are joking.”
“I am.” He wasn’t very good at jesting, but he was getting better.
At least he thought so.
Milly rested a hand on his chest. It pushed her own swollen breasts together. They’d grown bigger since the baby.
The young Marquess of Ellervear was allowed to feed from them, but Cass wasn’t even allowed to play with them.
How was that fair?
“I’m glad it was a joke,” the keeper of his heart replied. “I don’t think dog would taste very good.”
She was teasing him. He knew it, and still, he got serious. “It doesn’t taste so bad.”
Milly stilled. “You’ve eaten dog?”
The hand she’d placed on his chest slipped to his shoulder and then ran down his arm. Her expression was troubled. “It was during your childhood, wasn’t it? After you lost a fight.” Cass had grown up fighting against other boys to severe injury or death.
His uncle denied him food if he lost.
“I was hungry,” he told her, recalling the night he and the other boys who’d gone without food had done the unthinkable.
Though it hadn’t been completely unthinkable to Cass. He’d never understood the attachment between man and animal. To him, a sheepdog could be eaten just as easily as the sheep it protected.
“Well, you don’t have to eat dog anymore,” she told him firmly, her mouth pinched as though she dared anyone to defy her.
He grinned. He liked how fierce his little wife became whenever someone she loved was hurt. She was the first woman to do so since his mother’s death when he was young.
“I’d eat almost anything if it was the choice between finding the strength to protect you or being too weak to fight on your behalf.”
She sighed. “I’d do the same, my love.”
He knew she would, but thankfully, he’d aligned their lives so that the chance was likely to never take place. Cassius was wealthy. He had an army at his disposal, led by a general who’d fought victoriously in war. His enemies were either dead or hiding, and there were few men more unreasonable or suspicious than him.
“Please, kiss me,” he said.
A gleam entered her gray eyes, and she began to lower herself.
But then, suddenly, she turned. Milly gasped and hurriedly did up her buttons.
He wondered who dared to interrupt them. It wasn’t often he had time to do absolutely nothing and always during that time he spent it with Milly.
Their visitor was no visitor at all, but the woman who would be their house guest for the next year.
Cassius sat up and watched the young woman as she came down the path. Miss Vita Castella wore a dimpled smile as she approached, though it was shaky.
“Oh, sorry.” She cringed. Her shoulders bunched. She looked between Milly and the duke. Her gaze was shaky and never lingered on either of them for long. “I hope I’m not intruding...”
“Not at all,” Milly said, cutting off Cassius’ response. She began to redo her hair. “Was there something you needed, dear?” The bonnet was back on seconds later.
Vita had vivid pale blue eyes that stood out even under the hood of her bonnet. There was slight confusion in her gaze when she looked at the duke again, but then it was gone. She wrung her hands together and tried for a smile. Then she dropped the gesture altogether.
Small golden hoops were in her ears. Of all her jewels, the simple adornments seemed to be her favorite.
She was young, only twenty, and by most measures, an innocent girl.
But that didn’t mean Cassius couldn’t see right through to the heart of her.
She’d been their guest for two months and in that time, Cassius had learned much. Behind the scared mouse of a girl and her sweet smile hid an inquisitive mind, a dangerous one.
“I... do have need of something, actually.” Her voice had a light flow to it that reminded Cassius of music. He wondered if it was practiced. “I was wondering if I could... use Lord Van Dero’s office.”
Cassius stiffened at the request.
“His office?” Milly asked curiously. “Whatever for?”
“I need to... send some letters to friends and... I find myself enchanted with the room's design but also the light.” She paused and stared like a deer facing an archer. She blinked and blinked. She did that often. “I adore the way the... sun comes into that room in particular. There is no other room in the house like it.” She straightened and stopped herself from fidgeting. “And it has the most stunning... view of the gardens.” She looked at Cassius. “Would you mind if I used the writing desk in there?”
“It does have wonderful light,” Milly said. “I enjoy spending my afternoons in there as well.”
The room was nice. The light was good, but Milly came because he was there. She never went in alone, even though she could. Very few were given such access.
Milly looked at Cassius and waited for his response.
Cassius looked at Vita. “The drawing-room above the office—”
“It’s not the same,” Vita shouted. Then she covered her mouth and cleared her throat. “I mean… your office, truly it has the best light.”
She was begging him to say yes and likely used to getting what she wanted.
Her father was the Earl of Bush. He was away on a trip with his new wife and son-in-law. At first, the man had planned to take his lovely daughter, but then, right before the ship set sail, he changed his mind.
Vita wanted to take part in the Season.
She deserved to show off all the pretty gowns he’d purchased.
Vita was his only living child and needed the best protection in the world.
And who was a more deadly adversary than Van Dero?
Milly had jumped at the opportunity. She’d been moved by the earl’s romantic tale of love’s triumph over time. Lord Bush and Lady Upton had been engaged in a dance of wills and wits for decades.
Each had married other people. Each had buried their spouses. Now, finally, their chance had come, and they were off to see the world.
At first, Vita seemed like a normal lady who would be out on the town both day and night, spending her father’s money and making friends with the best that Society had to offer.
Van Dero had plenty of women acquaintances, upstanding ladies who could chaperone. He’d added a team of footmen and a maid to complete the retinue.
Yet he’d soon discovered that Vita didn’t want to join the Season.
She went to very few parties. She hadn’t shopped once.
What Vita wanted was something in the house.
Van Dero could barely look up without finding her hovering by the door of his office.
At first, Milly thought the girl had some sort of attraction for him.
She’d thought it adorable.
But it had soon become clear to Cass that Vita was after something else.
A truth that
Van Dero had never thought to find himself in such a situation. He had sworn to protect her, yet if Vita didn’t watch her step, he would soon have to address her… and he would not be gentle.
“No,” Cassius told her.
Vita’s eyes widened. Had she truly expected his answer was anything else? “No?” Apparently, she had.
“My office is sacred,” he said. “You’ll have to write your letters elsewhere.”
Milly stared at him but said nothing. Then she smiled at Vita. “The room above the office is just as lovely. I’ll show you.” She used Cassius’ shoulder to stand, which had the effect of also keeping him on the blanket. “Don’t work,” his wife told him. “Stay here. Take in the day a little longer. It’s beautiful.”
It had been more beautiful with her present, but he nodded. He would not refuse her.
“Come.” Milly took Vita’s arm. “I’ll show you my favorite spot.”
Vita looked at the duke and then gave the duchess a short pleased grin. “That sounds lovely. Thank you, Your Grace.”
When he could see them no more, Cassius leaned back on the blanket.
The sun was hot on his face. It felt good.
His wife had told him not to work, but it was all his mind could do when she wasn’t about.
Vita was getting bolder. This was starting to be an issue.
What was Vita after? How to get her after something else?
He could parade eligible gentlemen before her. Marriage would not only distract her but get her out of his house.
He’d tried getting her to go to parties. He’s also encouraged Milly to discover who her friends were and to have them over for tea.
Yet Vita would not give up the hunt.
He would soon be left with little choice.
He’d have to scare her.
But he didn’t want to frighten her to the point that she feared living.
This was hard.
Milly was always encouraging him to give some of his duties to others. After all, he was a duke.
He was wealthy. He had an army at his disposal, led by a general who’d fought victoriously….
Cassius sat up and then he ran toward the house.
He had an idea.
∫ ∫ ∫
* * *
Lord Remy Astger was grabbed by the shoulder just before he was dragged into Cassius’ office.
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