Rescued By a Lady's Love (Lords of Honor, #3)(2)

By: Christi Caldwell

Squaring her shoulders, Lily took a deep breath.

...And then it began to rain. She blinked several times, slowly, and then drawing her gaze away from George’s home, she looked up at the overcast London sky. Another drop, like a tear from heaven hit her eye, momentarily blurring her vision.

Thunder rumbled, in an ominous display from the heavens above.

“He loves me,” she whispered, as the wind whipped her modest, brown cloak about her ankles.

For the threats of his mother, the regal Duchess of Blackthorne, and her own parents’ volatile fury and seething disapproval, Lily knew he would not betray her. She’d given him her virtue and heart, and he’d pledged his name and love in return.

Some of the fear that had held her breathless for the nearly week-long journey abated. He would marry her. Because he loved her and because that is what he’d pledged. And when a gentleman gave his word, he honored it.

As Lily stepped out into the street, the skies opened in a deluge, momentarily holding her feet frozen there. Rain pelted her cheeks. Another gust of wind blew her bonnet back and yanked her curls free of her braid. Water soaked the strands and ran in rivulets down her cheeks.

Just then, lightning cracked across the night sky in an impressive display of nature’s fury and snapped her into movement.

Valise in hand, Lily sprinted across the cobbled roads. Her booted feet churned up water and the deep puddles soaked her leathered soles. Her teeth chattering loud enough to be heard over the roar of the storm, she dashed up the steps and, dropping the sack bearing her only possessions in the world, she knocked on the door.

Another rumble of thunder drowned out all hint of sound and wind continued to whip the wet fabric of her cloak. A chill ran through her. He will marry me. She pounded hard on the black wood panel. And her mother and father, and his mother with all their vile, ugly beliefs about love and rank above that beautiful emotion would be proven wrong. She raised her hand to again knock, when the door was suddenly thrown open.

A wave of warmth spilled out of the brightly lit foyer, momentarily blinding her with the glow cast by the candles.

She grabbed her valise...and then registered the flash of loathing in the old butler’s eyes. “Beggars around back,” the man said in frosty tones and made to close the door in her face.

Lily shot a hand out with such force, the wood panel knocked backwards. “I-I am no b-beggar.” The blend of fear and cold caused her teeth to knock with such ferocity her jaw ached.

The elegantly attired butler raked a stare over her rain-dampened frame. His lip peeled back in a sneer. “I don’t care who you are. Your kind is not wanted here.”

My kind. Fury rattled around, dulling the now distant hunger and fear.

Anticipating his movements, she jammed her hip in the doorway, just as he made to close it in her face again. She winced as pain radiated from the point of contact and shot down her leg. “I-I am here to see the duke.” She prided herself on that near steady deliverance. After all, it was nigh impossible to maintain one’s pride and dignity when soaked like the kitchen cat tossed in the bath water.

The butler gave another shove. “Go.”

Lily pushed back. “I must s-see him.” She’d faced the condemnation of George’s mother, her mother, and father. She would be damned ten times on Sunday if she let this stranger turn her out.

“I said leave.” He pushed once more.

With a burst of determined energy, she heaved her shoulder into the door with such vigor the old, reed thin man stumbled back and landed on his bottom. Propelled forward by the force of her own movement, she reeled forward, stumbling hard onto her knees. She grunted as her valise sailed forward, skidding across the smooth, Italian marble floor. Dazed by the force of her fall and the blinding perfection of the white floor, Lily blinked.

Belatedly, she registered the old servant climbing to his feet. The determined glint in his hard eyes sent her scrambling to a stand and she rushed to put several steps between them. “I must see His Grace.” For George would make all the ugly right.

The pompous man looked over her shoulder and she followed his gaze to the footman at her back. Her heart clamored into her throat. They’d turn her out without granting her that audience.

She retreated sideways, putting distance between herself and the men eying her like she was a thief come to make off with their employer’s finest jewels. “The duke will see me,” she said, her voice rising to a near frantic pitch. He had to.

Because in all her wonderings of how this exchange would play out. For all the fears her parents had planted in her mind and the Duchess of Blackthorne’s promise of retribution, she’d known the moment she came to him...all would be well. For that was what love did; it made you stronger. It gave you hope and also gave you courage.