A Duke for the Road

By: Eva Devon


As she peered out to the horizon, she caught sight of a figure and her breath caught in her throat.

For there on the hillside was a man upon a horse. But it was not any man or any horse.

The black stallion reared up and the man’s black cloak fluttered in the wind. Upon his head sat a jaunty black hat and she could not mistake his figure.

She barely dared believe her eyes or allow herself to hope. But then the figure. . . the highwayman charged down over the hill, and it was impossible to deny the black-masked fellow that she had admired for so long and whose meeting had changed the course of her life. For if she had not met the Gentleman Highwayman, she would never have married Rob. Of that she was certain.

The coachman snapped the reins but she called, “Halt!”

“But Your Grace,” the driver protested, “surely—”

“I know this rogue,” she said brightly, even as her nerves fairly hummed wondering what the Gentleman Highwayman could possibly have to say.

He rode right up to their coach and swung down in a single vault, his boots lightly hitting the thick grass. He strode forward, his eyes flashing with passion and he whipped a dramatic bow before he called, “Stand and deliver, Your Grace.”

“I do not do the bidding of thieves,” she replied.

“It is you who is the thief, Your Grace,” the highwayman replied.

The driver let out a yelp.

“Do not fear, Adams,” she soothed. “This fellow means no harm. Do you, sir?”

“No harm,” the highwayman said seriously. “Not ever again.”

“Oh?” she queried. “And how is it that I am the thief? Are you not the man of the road?”

“You have stolen my heart, Your Grace,” he replied simply. “Will you not come down and assist me? For I find, I am adrift without my heart.”

She could scarcely believe her eyes or her ears. She had not thought she’d see him for months. Or perhaps ever again. Yet here he was. Which meant only one thing. Rob had decided what he wanted. And if he was here. . . as the man of her dreams. . .

She wrenched open the door and jumped down, dismissing ladylike decorum.

“Good thief, you wish me to return your heart?” she asked, playing her part as he played his.

He shook his head, gazing down at her. “I wish you to keep it,” he said, his voice a low rumble.

“Then how may I help you?” Harry could barely breathe, fearing all this would vanish like a dream.

He lifted his gloved hand and brushed a tendril of hair from her cheek then cupped her face. “You can give me yours in turn.”

She gasped. “But—”

He shook his head. “I know what I want, Harriet.”

She gazed up at him, full of fear and hope. “Yes?”

“I want you,” he said gently. “All of you. Your mind, your heart, your hope, and your hand to be in mine until we are old and grey.”

It was so tempting to rest her cheek in his palm but she had to ask. “Have you thought about my question? Do you have an answer?”

“And if I said no?” he asked softly.

“If it was how you truly feel, and not just because of the past, then I will respect your wishes. I love you, Rob. I chose you, come what may. But I need to know this is your decision and not fear driving you.”

“A good friend of mine has recently pointed out to me that our parents have little to do with who we turn out to be,” he replied, his gaze softening. “I do not know how I have been a fool for so long.”

“I do,” she sallied, even as her heart leapt.

“Oh?”

“You’re as stubborn as a mule.”

He laughed, a deep, rich sound. “So I am. But Harriet, my answer is that if it is our destiny to have a child, then I will love that child. And together, we will give it all the hope in the world. The past is the past and we have nothing but the future before us.”

Tears stung her eyes and she nodded, wrapping her arms about his waist.

“Your Grace!” the driver called.

And with that Rob, whipped off his mask and hat. “Just a ruse, Adams. One must keep the wife happy, don’t you know?”

Adams flushed right up to his shaggy red hair. “I see, Your Grace.”

“I’m glad,” Rob replied. “Now, will you take us up to the house?”

“Certainly, Your Grace,” Adams managed to say.

Quickly, Rob tied Sir Valiant to the back of the coach then assisted his wife into the conveyance. He swept up in beside her and placed his mask and hat on the seat opposite.

He pulled her close, gazing down into her eyes.

Harriet could barely believe the happiness that overtook her. “I love you, Rob. I think I always have.”

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