Griffin Stone:Duke Of Decadence(5)

By: Carole Mortimer

Distasteful as that thought might be, Griffin could not deny that it was one explanation for both the bruises on her body, and those marks of restraint.

Except, to his certain knowledge, there was no asylum for the mentally insane situated within fifty miles of Stonehurst Park.

‘At least tell me your name,’ he said again, more gently this time, for fear of alarming her further.

‘I cannot.’ The tears now flooded and overflowed, running unchecked down her cheeks and dampening her hair.

Griffin frowned his frustration, with both her tears and her answer.

He was well aware that women cried for many reasons. With pain. In fear. Emotional distress. And to divert and mislead.

And in this instance, it could be being used as a way of not answering his questions at all!

But perhaps he was being unfair and she was just too frightened to answer him truthfully? Fearful of being returned to the place where she had been so cruelly treated?

It would be wrong of him to judge until he knew all the circumstances.

‘Are you at least able to tell me why you were running through the Shrawley Woods in the dead of night wearing only your nightclothes?’ he urged softly. He was not averse to using his height and size to intimidate a man, but knew only too well how easily those two things together could frighten a vulnerable woman.

‘No!’ Her eyes had widened in alarm, as if she had no previous knowledge of having run through the woods.

Griffin placed a gentle finger against one of her bandaged wrists. ‘Or how you received these injuries?’

She looked blankly down at those bandages. ‘I— No,’ she repeated emotionally.

Griffin’s frustration heightened as he rose restlessly to his feet before crossing the room to where the early morning sun shone brightly through the windows of the bedchamber, the curtains having remained undrawn the night before.

The room faced towards the back of the house, and outside he could see the stirrings of the morning: maids returning to the house with pails of milk, grooms busy in the stables, feeding and exercising the horses, several estate workers already tending to the crops in the far fields.

All normal morning occupations for the efficient running of the estate.

While inside the house all was far from normal.

There was an unknown and abused young woman lying in the bed in Griffin’s guest bedchamber, and he knew that his own mood was surly after the long days of travel, and the upset of the collision followed by lack of sleep as he’d sat at her bedside.

Griffin was a man of action.

If something needed to be done, fixed, or solved, then he did, fixed or solved it, and beware anyone who stood in his way.

But he could not do, fix or solve this dilemma without this woman’s cooperation, and, despite all his efforts to the contrary, she was too fearful at present to dare to confide so much as her name to him.

He knew from personal experience that women often found him overwhelming.

He was certainly not a man that women ever turned to for comfort or understanding. He was too physically large, too overpowering in his demeanour, for any woman to seek him out as their confidant.

No, for their comfort, for those softer emotions such as understanding and empathy, a woman of delicacy looked for a poet, not a warrior.

His wife, although dead these past six years, had been such a woman. Even after weeks of courtship and their betrothal, and despite all Griffin’s efforts to reassure her, his stature and size had continued to alarm Felicity. It had been a fear Griffin had been sure he could allay once they were married. He had been wrong.

‘I am not—I do not—I am not being deliberately disobliging or difficult, sir,’ she said pleadingly. ‘The simple truth is that I cannot tell you my name because—because I do not know it!’

A scowl appeared between Griffin’s eyes as he turned sharply round to look across at his unexpected guest, not sure that he had understood her correctly. ‘You do not know your own name, or you do not have one?’

Well, of course she must have a name!

Surely everyone had a name?

‘I have a name, I am sure, sir.’ She spoke huskily. ‘It is only—for the moment I am unable to recall it.’

And the shock of realising she did not know her own name, who she was, or how she had come to be here, or the reason for those bandages upon her wrists—indeed, anything that had happened to her before she woke up in this bed a few short minutes ago, to see this aloof and imposing stranger seated beside her—filled her with a cold and terrifying fear.

Chapter Two

The Duke remained still and unmoving as he stood in front of the window, imposing despite having fallen silent after her announcement, those chilling grey eyes now studying her through narrowed lids.