Chloe flopped back down on the settee and fought her irritation. "Is that what you want Jude? To
be an officer?"
He faced her, his expression one of despair. "I haven't exactly met my full potential as a
She couldn't disagree with that, for Jude had much potential but seemed completely content to
live a life of indolent ease. There was no desire to better himself, to forge ahead and make his
own way. Since meeting him, he had done little to divert from the well-worn path of his ancestors.
That particular path was littered with debauchery and womanizing.
"Perhaps you could change that?"
"How?" he asked, raising a dark brow. "I have been groomed for uselessness."
"I don't know, Jude." She felt like throwing her hands up in hopelessness. "What are your
aspirations? What is something you'd like to do? If you truly want to be a soldier, then I support
His features visibly slumped. "I don't want to be a soldier. I want to continue doing what I'm doing.
I like my life. I like to hunt, to fish, to laugh and spend time with you."
She shook her head. "You're content then to do nothing."
"I hardly call bedding Lady Archmont nothing. It was hard work. The game took me all of last
summer and much of the fall to win."
His flippant reminder had her stomach aching. "All you did was chase after a notorious harlot.
That in itself could not have taken much effort. Is that what you want to be remembered for?"
Another reason she'd hardly ever consider giving her heart to him. He wasn't trustworthy, that
was a certainty.
"And what's wrong with that? Most men in my position do exactly what I'm doing. And if they're
not, they wish they were."
"Oh Jude." She shook her head disapprovingly. "I think the world of you, you know that. But if you
plan on doing nothing of substance, then you may as well marry the dowager. She will bankroll
your lifestyle and have as little expectation of you as you do for yourself."
She stood and pressed her hand to her stomach, hoping to quell the upset. "I'm going to retire.
I'm tired and full of despair for you. Do whatever you must, but know I wish more for you and from
Jude's jaw tightened, the tension in his face turned his usually light and pleasant demeanor dark.
"Are you turning against me, too?" he asked. "I never thought I'd see the day you and Mother
agreed upon anything."
She met his gaze. "No, I want what's best for you, but I can't make you into the man I know you
can be. That's a decision you have to make on your own."
"Are you saying I'm not a man?" He came closer to her, so close she could feel the anger
emanating from his core. His stare pierced her heart, for mixed with his rage was anguish and
hurt. His gaze so pained that she ached for him. Had she done that to him? Had she hurt him
without meaning to?
A guilty lump filled her throat. "I-I don't know what I'm saying."
He leaned in close, the whisper of his breath enticing against her cheek. "It doesn't matter what
Mother thinks. It doesn't matter what society thinks, but Chloe, it does matter what you think."
"Why's that?" she asked, taking in a deep breath, alarmed by his seriousness.
"Because I'm in love with you."
Three years ago, Chloe allowed her heart's desire to leave her. Now Jude is back, but between his mother,her
father and the Baron von Richter, is she destined to become an unwilling baroness?