Griffin Stone:Duke Of Decadence(6)

By: Carole Mortimer

As if he was unsure as to whether or not he should believe her.

And why should he, when it was clear he had no idea as to her identity either, let alone what she had been doing in his woods?

What possible reason could she have had for doing something so shocking? What sort of woman behaved so scandalously?

The possible answer to that seemed all too obvious.

To both her and the Duke?

‘You do not believe me.’ She made a flat statement of fact rather than asked a question.

‘It is certainly not the answer I might have expected,’ he finally answered slowly.

‘What did you expect?’ She struggled to sit up higher against the pillows, once again aware that she had aches and pains over all of her body, rather than just her bandaged wrists. Indeed, she felt as if she had been trampled by several horses and run over by a carriage.

What had Griffin expected? That was a difficult question for him to answer. He had completely ruled out the possibility that she’d sustained her injuries from mutual bed sport; they were too numerous for her ever to have enjoyed or found sexual stimulation from such treatment. Nor did he particularly wish to learn that his suspicions of insanity were true. And the possibility that this young lady might have been restrained against her will, possibly by her own family, was just as abhorrent to him.

But he had never considered for a moment that she would claim to have no memory of her own name, let alone be unable to tell him where or from whom she had received her injuries.

‘You do not recall any of the events of last night?’

‘What I was doing in the woods? How I came to be here?’ She frowned. ‘No.’

‘The latter I can at least answer.’ Griffin strode forcefully across the room until he once again stood at her bedside looking down at her. ‘Unfortunately, when you ran so suddenly in front of my carriage, I was unable to avoid a collision. You sustained a bump upon your head and were rendered unconscious,’ he acknowledged reluctantly. ‘As there are no houses in the immediate area, and no one else was about, I had no choice but to bring you directly here to my own home.’

Then she really had been trampled by horses and run over by a carriage.

‘As my actions last night gave every appearance of my having known who I was before I sustained a bump on the head from the collision with your carriage, is it not logical to assume that it was that collision that is now responsible for my loss of memory?’ She eyed him hopefully.

It was logical, Griffin acknowledged grudgingly, at the same time as he appreciated her powers of deduction in the face of what must be a very frightening experience for her. He could imagine nothing worse than awakening in a strange bedchamber with no clue to his identity.

Nor did he believe that sort of logic was something a mentally unbalanced woman would be capable of.

If indeed this young woman was being truthful about her memory loss, which Griffin was still not totally convinced about.

The previous night she had been fleeing as if for her very life, would it not be just as logical for her to now pretend to have lost her memory, as a way of avoiding the explanations he now asked for? She might fear he’d return her to her abusers.

‘Perhaps,’ he allowed coolly. ‘But that does not explain what you were doing in the woods in your nightclothes.’

‘Perhaps I was sleepwalking?’

‘You were running, not walking,’ Griffin countered dryly. ‘And you were bare of foot.’

The smoothness of her brow once again creased into a frown. ‘Would that explanation not fit in with my having been walking in my sleep?’

It would, certainly.

If she had not been running as if the devil were at her heels.

If it were not for those horrendous bruises on her body.

And if she did not bear those marks of restraint upon her wrists and ankles.

Bruises and marks of restraint that were going to make it difficult for Griffin to make enquiries about this young woman locally, without alerting the perpetrators of that abuse as to her whereabouts. Something Griffin was definitely reluctant to do until he knew more of the circumstances of her imprisonment and the reason for the abuse. Although there could surely be no excuse for the latter, whatever those circumstances?

He straightened to his fullness of height. ‘Perhaps for now we should decide upon a name we may call you by until such time as your memory returns to you?’

‘And if it does not return to me?’ There was an expression of pained bewilderment in her eyes as she looked up at him.

If her loss of memory was genuine, then the collision with his carriage was not necessarily the cause of it. Griffin had seen many soldiers after battle, mortally wounded and in pain, who had retreated to a safe place inside themselves in order to avoid any more suffering. Admittedly this young woman had not been injured in battle, nor was she mortally injured, but it was nevertheless entirely possible that the things that had been done to her were so horrendous, her mind simply refused to condone or remember them.