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Lord Elliot Fitzwalter decided it was time he woke up. He moaned softly and opened his eyes, to behold a pair of surprised and worried gray eyes in a very pretty, almost childlike face topped with a tousle of blond curls. The young woman wore a lace shawl over a pink dress, of plain, albeit good quality fabric.

He gave her a wan smile, and then looked bhind her to the person who was obviously the older sister. Both women had fine and delicate features, as well as smooth, satiny complextion and blond hair. Yet while the curl kneeling beside him looked like a concerned cherub, the older one, with her smooth, golden hair, ringlets, suspicious brown eyes, frowning lips, and severely plain navy blue dress looked like a judgmental angel.

Elliot realized that it was going to require considerably more effort and charm to secure the older sister's aid, and he was absolutely certain she would be the one to decide his fate.

"Where...where am I?" he murmured, putting a hand to his head and contriving to make it sound as if the very act of speaking was an incredible ordeal.

"Barton Farm, Lincolnshire," the elder sister said warily. "I am Grace Barton, and this is my sister. Who are you? How did you come to be lying in the road?"

"Grace, perhaps we shouldn't press him with questions now. Can you sit, sir?" Mercy Barton asked, bending down and putting her slender arms around him.

Elliot allowed her to assist him, secretly enjoying the sensation of her embrace before he glanced at the older woman to see what she thought of this activity. He expected outright disapproval; to his chagrin, her expression was one of the most inscrutable he had ever seen on a woman's face.

She was obviously a cautious creature, so in all likelihood she did not approve.

"I think he can sit without your help," Grave Barton said to her sister before addressing him again. "Where do you wish to go?"

"Grace, please!" the kindhearted Mercy pleaded. "Can't you see he's hurt?"

Elliot thought Grace Barton's expression softened a little, so he gave her a winsome smile, a thing that had stood him in good stead many a time. Several women had confided that his lopsided grin had been instrumental in making them fall in love with him.

"I hope you will understand, sir," she said as calmly as if they were discussing the weather, "that this shed is all we can offer by way of accommodation."

Grace Barton seemed singularly immue to the power of his grin.

Elliot nodded, then decided itm ight be wise to indicate that he had not been without some means before Grace Barton had found him. "My horse...?"

"Gone, I'm afraid," Miss Barton answered, and he thought she thawed a little more.

He saw that slight change with unmitigated triumph, his natural optimism and confidence in his attractiveness to the opposite sex reasserting itself.

His delight was short-lived, as a sudden draft blew in through a large crack int eh wall near him. When he shivered, it was not playacting.

"Oh, Grace!" Mercy cried. "He cannot stay here all night. He'll be too cold. We must let him come into the kitchen."

Elliot watched the two sisters and suddenly realized that if he was adept at manipulation, his skill was nothign compared to the way Mercy Barton was using her large gray eyes to compet her sister to agree. She contrived to create an expression in their depths that was both begging and accusatory. Why, even the msot hard-hearted of men woudl find it difficult to resist.

And then, just as suddenly, he felt hat her efforts on his behalf were somewhat misplaced, and that expression was aimed at someone who didn't deserve it. Grace Barton had already helped him, and with considerable personal effort. Why, her slender arms looked barely strong enough to drag a ten-pound sake of flour any distance, let alone him, and in the rain and through the mud, too. If she now saw fit to refuse a stranger entrance to her house, that was not weakness or cruelty. It was only wise.

Nevertheless, he felt quite pleased when Grace Barton finally spoke. "Very well. This one night."

This the third book in Margaret's "Most Unsuitable Men" series.
The others are THE WASTREL and THE DARK DUKE.

However, Margaret always writes each book to "stand alone" so if you haven't read any of the previous books in the series, you shouldn't feel lost.

Available in the
Confessions collection from

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Cover Copyright © 1997 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited. Text from the book THE ROGUE'S RETURN by Margaret Moore
Publication Date August 1997; ISBN #373-28976-6, Imprint Historicals
Copyright © 1997 by Margaret Wilkins. Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. ® and TM are tradmarks of Harlequin Enterprises Limited and/or its affiliated companies, used under license.