Loving the Marquess(3)

By: Suzanna Medeiros

His father had been sixty when he’d first started complaining about headaches. His brother’s attacks had started much earlier, at the age of thirty-two, and his illness had progressed more quickly. Nicholas was only twenty-eight, but he could no longer ignore the fact he was now showing signs of suffering from that same disease.

Pushing back his grim thoughts, he opened his eyes and squinted against the bright light streaming through the window. He began to sit up but froze when he took in the unfamiliar surroundings.

Vague images filtered back to him, most of them featuring a blond-haired, gray-eyed woman hovering over him. He frowned, trying to remember what had happened the night before, but his memory eluded him.

He surveyed the room around him. Where was he? Not in his London townhouse. He remembered receiving a letter from his grandmother the day before. While not unusual, his grandmother’s letters were rare enough to make him wary since she never bothered him with good news.

He closed his eyes and concentrated on the memory. He’d arrived home yesterday afternoon, and a footman had presented him with the letter. He remembered wondering what bad news he was about to read as he proceeded to his study and threw the letter on the desk. He’d poured himself a brandy before picking up the letter again and breaking the seal.

And that was all. Try as he might, he couldn’t remember what his grandmother had written. Nor could he remember anything after that. He must have read the letter. He always did. He’d learned long ago there was no point in putting off bad news.

He opened his eyes at the sound of the door opening to find a woman standing there. Could this be the woman he remembered hovering over him last night? She was younger than he’d thought—not yet twenty if his guess was correct. Her long blond hair, tousled from sleep, trailed over her shoulders.

He frowned. Had he spent the night with her? He must have been truly out of his head, because he didn’t usually dally with girls who were barely out of the schoolroom.

She was rubbing the sleep from her eyes when she entered. When her gaze met his, she froze. Her eyes were blue and wide with shock. Then, to his surprise, she opened her mouth and screamed.

Well, this was different. He’d made many women shriek in his day, but usually with pleasure.

Chapter Two

Louisa had just finished setting the breakfast table when she heard the scream. So much for calmly explaining to her sister what had happened the previous night. Catherine was already awake and she must have gone to her room and discovered the man sleeping in Louisa’s bed.

Her sister burst through the dining room door moments later.

“Louisa,” Catherine said, her voice urgent as she came to an abrupt stop. “There’s a man in your room. In your bed!”

Her sister’s distress was genuine and Louisa tried to keep her voice soothing. “Sit down.”

Catherine followed Louisa’s orders and took a seat at the dining room table, her confusion clear. “You’re not surprised.” It seemed to take a few moments for that realization to sink in. “Why aren’t you surprised?”

The door burst open again and they both turned to see their brother standing in the doorway. He was barefoot, wearing only trousers, a pistol clutched in his hand.

“What happened?” he asked, looking anxiously at the two of them. “Did he try to hurt you?”

Catherine’s bewildered gaze went from John to Louisa, then back again. “Will someone tell me what is happening? Who is that man and why is he in Louisa’s bed?”

“Calm down, both of you.” Turning to her brother, Louisa pointed at his weapon. “Tell me you didn’t go into my room with that thing.”

“Excuse me,” John said, his voice dripping with annoyance. “There’s a strange man in the house, one you insisted on watching over all night without any help from me, so I loaded the pistol in case we should need it. Upon hearing one of my sisters scream, I don’t know why I thought to investigate. When I found neither of you in the room, I came looking for you.”

Louisa grimaced, imagining the scene.

“Well, you can put the firearm away now while I explain everything to Catherine. She was merely surprised.”

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