Taming the Duke

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Book: Taming the Duke by Jackie Manning Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jackie Manning
Tags: Fiction, Romance, Historical, Regency
do.”
    Mildred’s smile faded and her thin, black brows arched with concern. With regal bearing, she rose from the desk and took a seat in the blue velvet chaise in front of the broad expanse of windows. “Come, sit down and tell me what troubles you.” She patted the satin cushion beside her.
    Elizabeth took the seat, then shook her head helplessly. “I—I really don’t know how to tell you.”
    She could hear the older woman’s loud sigh. “Just tell me what my son has done this time.”
    Elizabeth willed tears to her eyes. “Dalton has behaved in the most hurtful manner. He’s embarrassed me in front of your daughter, all because of that frightful creature, Alicia Spencer.”
    Mildred’s head lifted and she sat up straighter. “Who did you say?”
    “Alicia Spencer.” Elizabeth met the dowager’s questioning gaze. “Certainly you remember the disgrace when she and Justin Sykes were found alone together at your London town house? It was the evening of the soiree that you held in my honor.”
    The older woman’s mouth clenched sharply. “You must be mistaken, child. There’s no way that woman could be here.”
    “Oh, but she is. She’s here as Dalton’s guest.”
    Mildred’s blue eyes narrowed.
    “I couldn’t believe it, myself,” Elizabeth said, “but there she was, riding with Lady Olivia, this morning. Obviously, she’s Dalton’s latest mistress, although he denied it, of course.”
    Mildred placed her hand at her throat. “Perhaps you only thought—”
    “If you don’t believe me, ask Lord Templestone.”
    The older woman stiffened. “Templestone knows of this?”
    Elizabeth sniffed, satisfied to see the reaction she wanted. “Yes, he and Lord Clitheridge.”
    Mildred rose unsteadily to her feet. “Go downstairs and wait for me in the drawing room, my dear. I need to be alone.”
    Elizabeth saw the dowager pale and a flicker of apprehension coursed through her. If Dalton’s mother became ill or died, then who would control Dalton? Without the dowager, Dalton would never marry her. “Your grace, shall I call your maid?”
    Mildred shook her head, then returned to her desk, lowering herself slowly into the chair. “I’m quite well, Elizabeth. I want a few minutes alone to think.” She closed her eyes and put her fingers to her temples. “I’ll be down shortly.”
    Reluctantly, Elizabeth turned to leave. Damn, this was not the reaction she had expected. She wanted to be included when the dowager made her plans. She left the room and quietly closed the door, then headed for the staircase.
    Ah, but she could wait. She had waited this long. A few more minutes was a small price to pay.
    For the next half hour, Elizabeth waited alone in the long, formal drawing room, trying not to feel dwarfed by the grandeur of the high-vaulted ceilings and magnificent artwork. Even as a child, when her mother had brought her to Havencrest to play with Olivia, Elizabeth had felt overwhelmed by the opulence of the room. Even then, she had hoped to marry Dalton and one day become the mistress of Havencrest. And she would. Dalton was a complicated man, but she knew how to bring him around. If only he would spend more time with her, she would use her feminine wiles to seduce him. Then he’d forget all about that worthless baggage, Alicia Spencer.
    Footsteps echoed along the marble hall. Elizabeth turned and curtsied when the duchess entered the room.
    “I’ve sent for Dalton.” Mildred’s chilly tone and rigid manner gave no hint to what she was feeling. “He’ll join us shortly, then we’ll get to the bottom of this matter, my dear.” She strode toward the overstuffed chairs grouped in front of the fireplace.
    Elizabeth smiled. “Thank you, your grace. I knew I could count on you.”
    The duchess sank into a chair. “Your mother was as dear to me as a sister.” Her blue eyes darkened as she held Elizabeth’s gaze. “I want you to always feel you can count on me.”
    “Thank you, your

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