Sinfully Bound to the Enigmatic Viscount – Scarlett Osborne

The Duke of Domnall was frowning at Diana angrily. He was very handsome, with ice blue eyes and hair the color of sand. To his credit, however, he had not lost his temper. He had just asked Diana to marry him. “I’m confused, My Lady,” he said slowly. “Your father gave me his permission. And, our interactions have led me to believe that we are well-suited for each other.” He was standing close to her, closer than she felt comfortable with. “But you failed to get my permission,” she replied. She was shorter than he was, and didn’t like that she had to look up, so she looked away, at the green flocked silk wallpaper. “I cannot marry you, Your Grace, because I am not in love with you.” The moment she said it, she could sense the finality of it all, like the lid on a coffin slamming shut. She glanced back at him. The Duke nodded, slowly. His eyes were on the wall behind her.

Then, he raised his chin proudly. “Then I shall take my leave. I wish you all the best, My Lady.” “And I wish you the same, Your Grace.” Diana remained where she was, watching as he left and closing the door to the parlor after him. She closed her eyes and breathed a sigh of relief. Her heart was pounding in her chest. She could hear voices, in the distance. Likely, the Duke telling her father what had just transpired. Now, I must wait for the inevitable.

She sat down on the blue velvet settee. She listened to the soft ticking sound of the clock over the mantel. She heard the sound of her father’s boots in the hallway. She steeled herself, her eyes on the curtains as they blew gently in a warm breeze from the window. Outside, she could see the green fields of her father’s estate at Lutterhall. Finally, the door opened and he entered, shutting the door firmly after him. Diana steeled herself for what was about to happen. Barnabas Dunkeld, the Earl of Lutterhall, stared at her, as though he didn’t recognize her. “You’ve turned down the Duke of Domnall?” he demanded. Her father was a gentleman of average height, though he was also a gentleman of a larger than usual temper.

He adjusted his glasses, through which his brown eyes glared at her. He had dark circles underneath his eyes, which seemed darker than usual. “I don’t love him.” Diana and her father had already had this same conversation, four times prior. “Love doesn’t exist,” her father said, running his fingers through his brown hair. “You don’t have the luxury to pretend that romance exists and you can wait for it. After what happened to Eleonora, I want you married, as soon as possible. It’s for your own good.” “You don’t know what happened to Eleonora,” she pointed out. “No one will ever know.

” Six months prior, her older sister had been in an accident. No one knew why she had been out that night—none of the family had known that she was even gone. Now, with Eleonora’s partial memory loss from her injuries, even she couldn’t say. “The Duke of Domnall is perfect for you,” he went on. “He has a good title, and wealth.” “I’ve turned him down, so I imagine he won’t be back.” She looked down at her hands, which were folded in her lap. The Duke was an honorable gentleman, and he would not offend her by presuming that her mind could be changed by continued pursuit. “He won’t.” Her father was scowling, staring out of the window, watching the Duke of Domnall climb into his barouche-landau.

“I will find you another.” Diana sighed. “I will not marry unless I am in love,” she repeated, then stood up. “Where are you going?” “I am going to retire to my room. I am weary.” Diana’s heart was heavy. She left the room without another word. Alone, in the hallway, she exhaled as she began the short journey to her bed chamber. She wanted to cry. She couldn’t imagine marrying a gentleman who she merely esteemed.

Her father wouldn’t listen to her. Why does everything always have to be a battle? Her father had always imposed restrictions on Diana, and her sister. Their mother had died in childbirth when they were very young. With no one to challenge his strict parenting style, their father had been a bit of a tyrant. They had lived a very sheltered life. Until, for some reason, Eleonora had snuck out. Their father suspected that she had gone into the woods that evening to meet up with a secret beau. That was why he was so determined for Diana to marry. He wanted to prevent her from making a similar choice. Diana was sure that Eleonora would never hide such a thing from her.

I don’t know that for sure, though. She knocked softly on the door to her sister’s room. Diana was dressed in a yellow silk gown, her feet in tiny dancing slippers, made of stiff silk. They were new, and pinched her toes a little. Her auburn hair was piled on top of her head, with ringlets framing her cheeks. Around her neck, she wore two strands of freshwater pearls. She was holding her gloves, ready to put them on before leaving the house. “Come in,” Eleonora called out. Diana opened the door, to find her sister seated on an armchair by the window. She was wrapped in a gray shawl.

Her hair had been closely cropped to her face. In the months since her accident, it had thinned. Eleonora was still the fine lady that she had always been, though her energy these days was not what it had been. She was pale, with dark circles pressed underneath her eyes. She turned to see Diana, a grin passing over her face. “Diana,” she said. “You look lovely.” She frowned. “Is there a ball this evening?” “Yes, my love,” Diana said. “I promised you that I’d show you my gown before I head over to Forstall Hall.

” She did a bit of a twirl, so that her skirts swished luxuriously about her hips. She did a full turn, so that her sister could do a full inspection. Eleonora beamed, the smallest hint of a glint in her eyes. “You look perfect.” She glanced over at Sarah, who was preparing a bath for her. “Doesn’t she look a dream, Sarah?” “That shade of yellow suits you very well, My Lady,” Sarah agreed. “Auburn hair and lemon certainly go together.” “Thank you, Sarah.” Diana turned toward her sister. “I wish you could come,” she said.

Her sister had once been the belle of every ball. Her hair had been thick and full, and she was tall and willowy. She had caught the eyes of all the gentlemen. Had she wanted, she could have been married to any one that she chose. Eleonora held out her hand, which Diana took. “Someday, I will be well enough again, I hope.” A cloud passed over her face. “Although, it won’t be the same anymore, will it?” “Why do you say that?” Diana tilted her head to the side, studying her sister. Hope filled her—that perhaps, Eleonora was getting her memories of the night of the accident back. As far as they could all tell, there was a large gap in her memory, of that night, as well as the months leading up to it.

Eleonora’s eyes were far away. She shook her head. “I don’t remember, Diana.” She covered her face with a shaking hand. “I wish I could, though.” Her voice was quavering, as though she were about to cry. Diana felt awful for having reminded her of the accident. “Is there anything that I may get you?” “No. Sarah is here.” A tear slipped down Eleonora’s cheek.

She had turned back toward the window. Diana nodded. She leaned in, kissing her older sister on the forehead. “You’ll tell me all about it, tomorrow?” Eleonora asked hopefully. “Of course I will. I’ll come and find you after I have breakfast.” Eleonora patted her on the hand. Diana knew that her sister might forget. Her memories were scattered. It was hard to say what she would remember, and what she would not.

Diana smiled at Sarah, who curtsied. Then Diana turned to leave. As she reached the door, she looked back. Her sister’s gaze was faraway. Diana’s heart broke. There were no assurances that Eleonora would ever get better. There was the chance that her sister’s health was declining, and the thought frightened her. They had lost their mother in childbirth, as well as their baby sister, who had not lived long after her birth. Diana couldn’t imagine losing Eleonora, as well. Although, they had come very close to it.

She had been insensible for a few days after the accident. She had survived, though. That gave Diana hope.

.

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