To Woo a Widow (The Heart of a Duke Book 10)(10)

By: Christi Caldwell

Miles frowned. “And what does she worry about?” There was a hint of something primal and primitive in that inquiry that sent warmth spiraling to her heart. Even her brothers—Alex had seen her more of a burden he didn’t care to chaperone and Gabriel as a miss to be properly married off to a man who’d never harm her—had never been protective in that sense of her as a woman.

She cleared her throat. She’d already said too much. “She wishes to see me happy.” Except that reassurance only brought his ginger eyebrows dipping lower. “She wishes to see everyone happy,” she hurriedly explained. It was simply the manner of child Faith was, that she asked after and worried after everyone else’s happiness.

Some of the tension left Miles’ shoulders.

At last, they reached the waiting carriage and the marquess effortlessly shifted her inside the conveyance. His broad, powerful frame swallowed up the expansive carriage. He paused, their gazes locked and another shock of energy passed between them. “Philippa,” he said for her ears alone.

And then he ducked out of the carriage. An inexplicable rush of disappointment went through her at the loss and she gave her head a hard shake. Silly thoughts. And she was never, ever, ever silly.

Moments later, her daughters and their nursemaid occupying the opposite bench, the driver closed the door. As the elegant black barouche rocked forward, she pulled back the edge of the curtain and stared after the retreating marquess. He, in their brief, chance meeting, had shown more interest in her daughter than her late husband ever had.

Chapter 4

After carrying Philippa to her carriage, Miles returned for his mount.

The chance meeting with the lady with midnight curls, thoughts of the quiet young mother with her expressive eyes, swirled around his mind. Unwelcome thoughts. One about the lady’s bow-shaped, crimson lips and trim, delicate figure. Thoughts he had no right having of her, given the lady’s status as a married woman. For even as most lords took their pleasures with unhappy wives, Miles had never been that man. He’d never been a rogue or rake or deliberate charmer. Mayhap that was why ladies of the ton had never clamored for his notice.

As Miles gathered his reins and made to climb astride and resume his previously interrupted ride, something from the corner of his eye caught his notice. Reins in hand, he walked over to it. Faith’s leather bound volume of The Little Glass Slipper lay forlornly forgotten beside the spot Philippa had fallen.

Miles quickly retrieved it, studying the gold lettering on the front of the tome.

Who was Lady Philippa? His own mother, devoted to her family though she was, had never done something as outrageous as gallivant through Hyde Park. And certainly she hadn’t read to her children. No, there had been nursemaids and tutors to properly attend her offspring. From two exchanges alone, Philippa had shown herself to possess more unrestrained love and emotion and there was something beautiful in that unwillingness to prevaricate.

Miles tucked the small book inside his jacket.

Abandoning his hope of a distracting ride, he mounted Whisper and made for his Mayfair townhouse. As he guided his horse from the park, through the awakening streets of London, the memory of Lady Philippa’s full, crimson lips tempted him. Taunted him. And he thought of all the wicked things he would do with—Miles swallowed a groan. Enough.

Reaching the front of his ivory stucco townhouse, Miles drew on the reins.

The dutiful servant, Gavin, came forward to collect Whisper.

“Gavin, a good day, isn’t it?” he asked as his feet settled on the pavement.

“Lord Guilford,” the older groom with his white, more than slightly receding hairline smiled. “You are late.” Such a statement came from a man who’d long, long ago learned Miles’ daily routine in London of riding early; a routine he’d not deviated from…not even during the winter months.

He grinned. “I was detained.” Thinking of another man’s wife. He made a sound of disgust. Doffing his hat, Miles took the handful of steps two at a time and sailed through the front entrance as the butler opened it. “Terry,” he greeted, tossing the article to the other man who easily caught it.

“My lord.”

With excited energy thrumming inside, Miles whistled and made his way through the townhouse to the breakfast room. He stepped inside and his whistling tune trailed off for a discordant, weak finish. His youngest, unmarried sister, Lettice, sat at the table, staring at him.

He caught her gaze. Go, she mouthed. “Er…” Miles briefly eyed the door and then wheeled around.