At the Duke's Service

By: Carole Mortimer

Angelina’s eyes were wide. “It was never your wish that I be—be schooled to become your mistress?”

“Certainly not! At least…” His hands tightened about hers. “Angel, it is now my dearest wish that you do indeed become my mistress—but only if you will first become my wife.”

She gave a quizzical frown. “You wish me to be your mistress, as well as your wife…?”

He smiled roguishly. “In the usual way of the ton, I believe I would be expected to first take a wife and then a mistress. But in you, my darling Angel, I have found both those things in one saucily seductive woman. Of course, it also helps that I love and adore you,” he added matter-of-factly.

Angelina’s eyes became even wider. “You love and adore me…?”

“To distraction,” Alexander confirmed decidedly. “From the moment I first looked at you, it would seem,” he added self-derisively. “I had not realized how empty my home was until after you had left it yesterday evening, Angel. How soulless. You have brought joy and warmth into my life, into my very household, in a way I had never imagined.” His eyes glittered darkly.

“I have…?”

He gave a rueful nod of his head. “All these years, I have thought my inability to love to be some defect in my character. That there must be a blank space where my heart should be. After you left yesterday evening, I discovered I do have a heart, after all. And that, with your going, you had taken it with you. I do love you so very much, Angel. Do you think you might ever come to love me in return?”

“Miss Bristow advised against any of us falling in love with our protectors—”

“And, in the normal course of things, Miss Bristow was wise to issue such a warning.” He nodded abruptly. “But it is my dearest wish to become your husband, Angel, and not your protector. A husband you will hopefully come to love as dearly as he already loves you.”

She shook her head. “It is too late for that, Xander—”

“Never say that, Angel!” He groaned. “I will wait to make love to you again until you feel the same way about me, I swear. I will court you. Shower you with diamonds. Angel, I cannot bear it if you do not one day come to love me in the same way that I already love you—”

“By all means, court me and shower me with diamonds if you feel you must, darling Xander,” she acknowledged happily. “But abstinence from our lovemaking is going too far!”

His expression softened slightly. “Then I will make love to and with you day and night until you fall in love with me,” he vowed fiercely.

“Make love to me day and night by all means, my darling, but when I said it was already too late to hope that I might one day come to love you, I simply meant it was too late because I already do love you! From that very first moment, too, I believe,” Angelina assured softly. “I had not expected the Duke of Stourbridge to be so young. So tall. Or so arrogantly, wonderfully handsome. His features and body so—so incredibly and magnificently formed! Or his lovemaking ecstasy beyond my wildest dreams! I already love you so very much, Xander,” she repeated quietly.

“My darling!” Joy lit up the previously austere lines of Alexander’s face.

Angelina placed her hands upon his chest as he would have taken her in his arms. “Xander, a duke cannot marry the daughter of a woman who was both an—an actress and a—”

“This duke can certainly marry whom he damn well pleases!” he stated with all the arrogance of that duke, his expression once again softening as he saw how apprehensive his beloved still looked. “Please say you will marry me, Angel. I cannot bear even the thought of living another day without knowing you are to be mine forever!” he admitted gruffly.

Could she? Could Angelina Hawkins, the illegitimate daughter of an actress and a lord, really marry a duke? No, that was not the question. The question was, how could she not marry Alexander, duke or otherwise, when he asked her, when he proclaimed his love for her, when he said he adored her and could not bear to live without her?

Her eyes glowed and her cheeks felt warm. “I do love you so very much, Xander.”


She smiled up at him lovingly. “And I did so enjoy our lovemaking yesterday evening.”

His eyes glittered with the same remembered enjoyment. “And…?”

“And if you are really sure that you want me—”

“Angel, I have never been surer of anything in my so-far jaded existence!” he vowed fiercely.

“Then, my love, my darling Xander, I wholeheartedly accept your proposal of marriage!”

“Angel!” Alexander drew her into his arms and pulled her down onto the chaise beside him before his mouth claimed hers.

“Your aunt…?” Angelina reminded worriedly as those kisses threatened to spiral into another bout of lovemaking.

Alexander stood to cross the room and turn the key in the lock. “Has plenty of other salons in which she might receive her afternoon guests,” he assured dismissively as he returned to her side.

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