“I’ve no interest in whatever you think you know about me.” Max, Duke of Stirkton, forced himself to stay calm.
“But the things I know will surely shock your betrothed,” the countess replied.
“At last, the real reason you’re here. Blackmail. I allow you access to my family papers, and in return you’ll not speak to the girl I’m to marry and not reveal my sordid past.”
“Not all your past will be of interest to your future family members. Merely the procession of courtesans who live in your cottage on Brent Street.”
Max kept his breathing even. He wouldn’t allow any interference with his marriage plans or his vow to wed on his thirtieth birthday. Neither his grandfather’s passing nor the Countess’s arrival would disrupt his plans, one of which was to follow Meacham tradition and sire his heir soon after his thirtieth birthday and while he was in his prime.
Young brides like Lady Alice Johnston expected that a mistress would be part of her husband’s life once they’d gone to bed together enough times to produce a son and heir. Unfortunately, gossip about a duke spread faster than normal and Alice would be embarrassed about the news that her husband had kept a string of mistresses, even if they hadn’t all occurred at the same time.
“I can destroy your reputation.”
Carina threw back her head and laughed. “Your good name will suffer far more than mine, if I reveal your family’s depraved secrets.” She shrugged “My reputation was shredded long ago.”
“Our past is entwined so exposing me will also expose you. Therefore, you shall present yourself here tomorrow morning at ten, when I’ll present you with the first box of papers and you’ll agree to my terms.”
“There’ll be no terms except mine.”
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