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Whisper My Name

Whisper My Name by Manderino Tara
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Justin Drake, Seventh Earl of Ashton, and Lucia are both looking for her brother, Roger. She must learn to fit into high society despite her deafness.
Awe-Struck Publishing; April 2002
199 pages; ISBN 9781587491504
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Title: Whisper My Name
Author: Manderino Tara
Lucia felt a moment of unease as they entered Lord Weston's study and wondered why Lord Ashton felt it necessary to bring her there, even though he had been perfectly gentlemanly and removed her hand from his arm as they entered.

Once her eyes adjusted to the light, the first thing Lucia realized was that Lady Charlotte was wrong-Lord Ashton was not old. Not old at all. Instead of the elderly uncle image she expected, she saw a man in his prime, blessed with classical features and a quickness of movement attesting to his years of physical activity. She had not expected that from the bits and pieces of information she had accumulated on the earl. Yet, she seldom erred in understanding what a person's body told her.

With a start she realized she had spent far too much time studying him and as a result probably missed something of import. Hastily, she turned her eyes to his face, and found he was patiently waiting until he had her complete attention before speaking. A small kindness, but one she appreciated.

"I am a very close friend of your brother."

Lucia nodded as she caught his words. "I am aware of that. It is one of the reasons I wanted to meet you."

"I wondered why you agreed to follow me in here."

Lucia grew warm at what he must have thought of her. Even on her own for much of the time she knew women did not go off alone with strange men. She resisted the urge to raise her hand to her cheek. "I know it was very forward of me." Well, she did know it, she reminded herself. She just didn't care. "I had not actually planned to speak to you tonight."

"Why are you speaking now? Using your voice? You had plenty of opportunity out there," he motioned to the study door leading to the foyer, "yet you kept silent."

"I know my voice is very annoying, so I try not to speak any more than I have to." She hated to speak to strangers, and to have to speak to this one made her want to cower in shame, yet she knew she had to find out about Roger and he was her best source. She hadn't heard from her brother in several weeks and that was very much unlike him. Not to mention the pressing problem of the squire.

"It is different, not annoying."

Lucia shrugged. "It doesn't matter. I am not here to discuss my voice."

"Why are you here?"

"To ask for help." Before he could comment, she continued. "I really need to discuss something with Roger, but I have no idea where he is. He always told me to come to you if I needed assistance and he was not about." She didn't like asking for help. Detested it. She certainly wouldn't be here if there had been anyone else to turn to, but there wasn't. While she loved her aunt dearly, she was not exactly the most stable of personalities. She let her gaze drop, studying her fingers as they played with the wrist ribbon of her fan even as she spoke. As a result she missed Ashton's answer.

She felt his hand on her face, forcing her chin up to look at him and wondered at the warmth that spread through her face at his light touch. No matter what she felt, he must not have noted it, because he dropped his hand to his side as soon as he had her attention.

"I do not give my word lightly, Lady Lucia. At the moment, I have some concerns for your brother myself."

"Where is he?"

"I wish to God I knew." When she made no response, merely continued to stare at him with widened eyes, he continued. "I have not heard from him in several weeks. One of my express concerns in the next few days was to meet with his family to see if there is any news."

Lucia cocked her head to one side as if trying to absorb everything he said, and in truth she did try. Too much of what he said was difficult for her to follow, but she thought she had most of it right. She wrapped her arms around herself. It had to be something awful for Roger not to have contacted her, for his friend to search for her, never mind that she found him first. For the first time, she dared to consider her brother might not be alive.

Justin knew the exact moment she thought Roger could be dead. She closed her eyes briefly and hugged herself tighter. He wondered if she were even aware of the small sound of despair that passed her lips. "I don't know exactly what's wrong, so don't..." When she hadn't lifted her head to listen to him, he recalled she would not hear him.

Gently he reached out his hand and used a finger to lift her chin to face him and slowly repeated himself. Justin caught the glint of gold highlighted in her hair. As she raised her head he wondered how he could have thought her hair the same color as Roger's.

"Just because I haven't heard directly from him, doesn't mean he's in trouble. He could be perfectly fine." She watched his face closely, so he took care to exaggerate his words. Even as he said the words he knew they were a lie, yet he couldn't stand to see the distress on her lovely face.

"Somehow, I do not think so, otherwise you would not be worried."

Justin arched one eyebrow at that. "Why would you think I am concerned? Roger is a man used to taking care of himself."

"For quite some time," she agreed. "But, you would not have come looking for me if you were not worried."

A rueful smile lifted the one corner of his mouth. "Very good deduction, Lady Lucia." So, the woman had brains as well as beauty. A very unusual combination in his experience-and a dangerous one.