The Counterfeit Gentleman

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Authors: Charlotte Louise Dolan
Tags: Regency Romance
and even knowing he’d had no choice, Digory felt pain that it had to end this way.
    But she surprised him yet again. Closing the distance be tween them, she laid her hand on his cheek and, looking down into his eyes, said, “I care not whether you are well born or baseborn. Your actions tell me better than your words what kind of man you are. I believe you are an hon orable gentleman, and I find you more to be admired and trusted than most men who have ancient titles and endless pedigrees.”
    Then she showed herself to be a merciless opponent, for she bent and brushed her lips gently against his. The scent of her filled his nostrils, and so difficult was his struggle not to respond, that he was unable to push her away when she slid her arms around his neck and settled herself on his lap.
     

Chapter Four
     
    “I have been alone and frightened for so many weeks,” Miss Pepperell said, pressing herself so close to Digory that her tears wet both their cheeks. “And I cannot believe the danger will be over in a few more hours.”
    Her fear tore at him, but if he accepted what she was of fering, he would only pull her down to his level, which would, in the end, cause her additional pain. Yet despite his noble resolve, he found himself here and now holding her close, as if determined that nothing and no one would separate them.
    Rocking her back and forth, he tried unsuccessfully to persuade himself that he was only comforting a hurt child. But her kiss, innocent though it had been, had heated the blood in his veins, and her body was too softly curved for him to succeed in maintaining that illusion. What made it even more difficult to stay where he was, was the clear knowledge that she would not offer even a token resistance if he carried her back to his bed, where he knew he could take her far away from all her troubles.
    But the respite would be temporary. In the end he would only be adding to her problems. No matter how he might try to justify it—and he was trying desperately to do so—seducing her was the worst harm he could inflict on her.
    “You will be safe soon,” Digory explained with a confi dence he did not actually feel. “Despite their claims to being honorable thieves, I am sure that once we have caught them, it will be easy to persuade those two black guards to tell us who hired them. With their sworn state ments we can have your villainous cousin thrown into jail, after which you will be free to marry a proper gentleman.”
    He started to lift her back onto her feet, but she immediately tightened her arms around his neck.
    “I am sorry,” she said, a world of misery in her voice, and he knew she was apologizing for being so frightened. She continued to cling to him, and he did not have the heart to refuse her the little comfort she could find in his arms.
    Feeling her terror as if it were his own, a fierce anger burned in him, and he would have willingly paid out every penny he had earned smuggling in return for half an hour alone with the man who had driven her to this state—who had done his best to destroy her.
    Realizing that they had only this night to be together, and accepting that the longer he held her in his arms, the harder it would be to part with her when the time came, he stayed where he was and made no further effort to put a safe dis tance between them.
    After what seemed an eternity but was probably only half an hour or so, he realized she had fallen asleep on his lap. Carefully, so as not to wake her, he carried her back into the other room and once again laid her down on his bed and pulled the covers up around her.
    Sleepily she stirred, stretching out her arms as if reaching for him. Knowing she would not object if he crawled under the covers beside her only made it harder to leave her un touched.
    But he was an honorable man even if he had no right to call himself a gentleman. He might don the clothes of a gentleman and provide common clothing for his guest, but that could not

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