Griffin Stone:Duke Of Decadence(7)

By: Carole Mortimer


Griffin did not pretend to understand the workings of the human mind or emotions, but he could accept that blocking out the memory of who she even was would be one way for this young woman to deal with such painful memories.

For the moment he was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt.

For the moment.

‘Bella.’

She blinked her confusion. ‘Sorry?’

‘Your new name,’ Griffin said. ‘It means beautiful in Italian.’

‘I know what it means.’ She did know what it meant!

Could that possibly mean that she was of Italian descent? The hair flowing down her shoulders and over her breasts was certainly dark enough. But she did not speak English with any kind of accent that she could detect, and surely her skin was too pale for her to have originated from that sunny country?

And did the fact that the Duke had chosen that name for her mean that he thought her beautiful?

There was a blankness inside her head in answer to those first two questions, her queries seeming to slam up against a wall she could neither pass over nor through. As for the third question—

‘I speak French, German and Italian, but that does not make me any of those things.’ The Duke was obviously following her train of thought. ‘Besides, your first instinct was to speak English.’

‘You could be right, of course,’ she demurred, all the while wondering whether he did in fact find her beautiful.

What would it be like to be the recipient of the admiration of such a magnificently handsome gentleman as Griffin Stone? Or his affections. His love...

Was it possible she had ever seen such a handsome gentleman as him before today? A gentleman who was so magnificently tall, with shoulders so wide, a chest so muscled, and those lean hips and long and elegant legs? A man whose bearing must command attention wherever he might be?

He was without a doubt a gentleman whom others would know to beware of. A powerful gentleman in stature and standing. A man under whose protection she need never again know fear.

Fear of what?

For a very brief moment she had felt as if she were on the verge of something. Some knowledge. Some insight into why she had been running through the woods last night.

And now it was gone.

Slipped from her grasp.

She frowned her consternation as she slowly answered the Duke’s observation. ‘Or maybe because you spoke to me in English I replied in kind?’

This woman might not be able to answer any of Griffin’s questions but he had nevertheless learnt several things about her as the two of them had talked together.

Her voice had remained soft and refined during their conversation.

She was also clearly educated and intelligent.

And, for the moment, despite whatever experiences had reduced her to her present state, she appeared completely undaunted by either his size or his title.

Of course that could be because for now she had much more personal and pressing things to worry about, such as who she was and where she had come from!

Nevertheless, the frankness of her manner and speech towards him was a refreshing change, after so many years of the deference shown to him by other gentlemen of the ton, and the prattling awe of the ladies.

Or the total abhorrence shown to him by his own wife.

He had been but five and twenty when he and Felicity had married. He’d already inherited the title of Duke from his father. Felicity had been seven years younger than himself, and the daughter of an earl. Blonde and petite, she had been as beautiful as an angel, and she had also possessed the other necessary attributes for becoming his duchess: youth, good breeding and refinement.

Felicity might have looked and behaved like an angel but their marriage had surely been made in hell itself.

And Griffin had been thinking of that marriage far too often these past twelve hours, possibly because the delicacy of Bella’s appearance, despite their difference in colouring, was so similar to Felicity’s. ‘We have talked long enough for now, Bella,’ he dismissed harshly. ‘I will go downstairs now and organise some breakfast for you. You need to eat to regain your strength.’

‘Oh, please don’t leave! I am not sure I can be alone as yet.’ She reached up quickly with both hands and clasped hold of his much larger one, her eyes shimmering a deep blue as she looked up at him in appeal.

Griffin frowned darkly at the fear he could also see in those expressive eyes. A fear not of him—else she would not be clinging to him or appealing to him so emotionally—but certainly of everything and everyone else.

There was a certain irony to be found in the fact that this young woman was showing her implicit trust in him to protect her, when his own wife had so feared the very sight of him that she had eagerly accepted the attentions and warmth of another man.