The Bachelor Duke
by Cecilia Rene
She came face to face with none other than Baron Bromswell. He stalked over to her, causing her to take several steps back. The look on his face was cold and harsh compared to the facade he usually had in place. “Baron Bromswell, what a surprise. I only came in to retrieve my reticule. I’m sure my father is waiting.” She gave him a tight smile. “I wanted to make my intentions clear to you before I spoke to your father. I intend to court you,” he informed her in a clipped tone. His gaze slowly traveled down her form in a snake-like fashion. She clutched her bag tighter to her chest, the fabric providing her some small strength. “And do I have any say in the matter?” “No, not unless you wish to be a spinster, depending on the kindness of your parents for the rest of your life. I’m sure at your size, one can’t afford to be picky.” He stepped closer to her, invading her personal space, increasing the panic she felt since he stalked toward her. “Besides all these other suitors will soon flee once Karrington is done with this little game.” “Game? What game?” Panic and worry crawled up her chest threatening to choke her. She feared that the duke did not want her, that all the whispers and gossips were correct. Bromswell laughed heartlessly. “Did you really think he was interested in you? He has vowed to never marry. I don’t see you changing his mind.”
Livie tried to compose herself, not wanting to show any weakness to the vile man, but the fear was crawling underneath her mask and she wanted nothing more than to run. “I thank you for your honesty. I would rather take my chances on spinsterhood than marry a man who would trap a lady alone and demand marriage. As for the duke’s intentions, that is no concern of yours.” Having nothing else to say to him, she turned around and tried to walk away. He grabbed her roughly by the arm and spun her around to face him. She gasped at the tightness of his grip. Panic and worry ran through her at his ungentlemanly behavior. Baron Bromswell grabbed her by the chin yanking her forward to face him. Her eyes widened, frantically searching for anyone to save her. No one was around, just the two of them. “I do not believe I’m giving you a choice. You will marry me, or I will ruin you. With any luck,someone will discover us shortly.” “Get your hands off her!” The duke pulled Bromswell away roughly, causing Livie to stumble and nearly fall. She caught her balance and placed her hand to her stomach, trying to center herself. “She is no concern of yours,” the baron hissed at the other man. Taking a step toward Bromswell, the duke let out a dark chuckle. “She is my intended, and as such, that makes her very much my concern. So, I suggest you find another lady to play with before I make your life miserable.” The two men stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity before the baron took a step back. His gaze shifted from the duke to Livie, a cat-like smile on his face. It made her shiver in fear, and she wanted to grab the duke and flee the room “Oh, Karrington, you know I like misery.” The baron stalked away, leaving them alone in the ballroom. Walking over to her, the duke’s gloved hand palmed her cheek. “Are you all right?” His tone was soft, unlike the baron’s rough demands. The duke was so overwhelmingly sincere that she was momentarily stunned by his kindness and care for her. “I-I am well. Just startled by his behavior.” She stared up at him, their lips a whisper apart as he inched closer to her, his hand still on her arm. “I promise he will not bother you again.” He inched forward and wrapped his free hand around her waist, pulling her against his hard body. “You did not have to lie.” She searched his handsome face, wondering if what the baron said was correct. Livie averted her gaze, not wanting to show him how devastated she was by the fact that he did not want her as she wanted him. The events earlier in the evening had given her hope that maybe there was a
chance for them. Now, she knew that he was just being kind to her. Any gentleman would surely intercede if a lady was being attacked the way the baron had accosted her. “I did not lie.” The duke’s voice was soft, his breath massaging her lips, causing a shiver to run through her. Her breathing increased, and her eyes fluttered close in anticipation of his lips against hers.