I hope you enjoy.
“Be calm, my friends,” the duke laughed, a carefree sound, and turned to the men. “The south pavilion houses the Musée des Douanes and not only displays the history of Bordeaux as a port town, but models of different ships, various navigational instruments and much more. I thought it might interest my lord Vidal and your friend Juan.”
When both men hesitated the duke held their gaze and shook his head. “Both ladies are safe in my care. Shall we say,” he pulled his watch from his pocket and studied it. “An hour? Perhaps more? I believe it has extensive displays, we will enjoy a stroll and find somewhere to enjoy another sample of the local wine.”
Reluctantly the men set of in the direction of the museum.
“That was very naughty of you,” Honor offered a smile with her mild rebuke.
When Consuela ran ahead the duke turned a serious face to her. “It has come to my notice that my enemies are closing in.”
Not a trace of humour remained in his eyes or round his mouth. He stopped walking and placed a preventative hand on her arm. Not knowing what to say, or what the duke expected from her, she remained silent.
“While you need not fear your wretched brother-in-law any more, I am afraid he managed to spread his rumours far and wide before he left England.”
“So you told me.” Her empathy ebbed with his reminder of what lay in store for her once she reached home.
“There is little I can do that will not exacerbate the situation, and it might amuse you to learn that while he betrayed his brother, and you, he also betrayed me, too.”
“He told you?” Vidal had warned her of Cedric’s villainy, but this? She watched the duke’s lips tighten, his eyes grow hard.
“Indeed, almost his last words were his boast that he’d been paid twice for the same information.”
“Then surely they are nothing more than idle threats of an evil man bent on causing mischief to the end.”
“So I thought,” the duke agreed. “Sadly, this time he did not lie. If I return to England there will be no room for explanation. There is, I believe a bounty on my person, and so it grieves me to admit that I will not be visiting your country anytime soon if ever again.”
“What does this have to do with me?” A quick glance revealed Consuela studying some wares displayed outside of a building across the square.
“I have done what I can to restore your good name, but, as I said, now my own position has been compromised, it may not be enough. Indeed it could work against you.” He looked down, real regret in his eyes.
“I told you, did I not, that I have only one mistress?”
“You did.” Honor confirmed. “Your country.”
“I knew I could rely on your good memory for I have a confession to make. One I hope will not distress you, rather you will remember with a little fondness.” He let go of her arm, and dug into his pocket once more.
“I once thought myself in love with a woman, but she taught me well never to trust her gender again, and until I met you I never deviated from that vow.”
Puzzled more than embarrassed Honor shook her head in semi denial of what she knew was coming.
“I will not go so far as to describe what I feel for you as love, rather that no other woman has touched my heart the way you do, and that is why I have taken it upon myself to escort you and your friends through France.” He looked round at the people. “I intended to use my yacht to send you across the Channel a final damning of your character in the eyes of your authorities. Now I find I cannot do it, so I have arranged for another vessel to carry you from France to England. Remember the name, it is important. Marie Anne. You will ask the captain 'if this is the Marie Anne, not the queen'. Only then will he let you onboard.”
“But will you not be there to see us set sail?”
When the duke shook his head, Honor couldn’t identify the feelings swirling through her. She’d feared him, loathed him, been grateful to him for the provisions he’d left them, and more than a little wary of his motivation for meeting them at Irun and escorting them across France.
“No, my dear, it is unlikely I will be there when you set sail.”
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