Her Roguish Duke of Convenience Preview

About the book

“I do not doubt your capabilities as my wife, but we are only to have a marriage in name.”

With her father’s imminent passing looming over her head and with her reputation now in tatters, Lady Anne is out of options. And as a woman in despair, she is susceptible to any indecent proposals that promise her security.

Justin Rogers would never dream that he would be the Duke of Hawthorn. Or that he would marry his late brother’s betrothed. And even though he seems to get all he’s ever wanted, he can’t overcome the fear of opening up his heart.

Justin quickly regrets offering Anne marriage as an act of mercy. For she, along with her insufferable cats and dogs, is a force to be reckoned with. And even though satisfying his wife’s needs is a task he might begin to enjoy, something sinister begins to cloud their already strained marriage of convenience…

Chapter One

“When we return to the house, you will leave Livingston Manor at once!” Anne shouted. She had waited until they had walked far from any listening ears and watchful eyes to turn and confront Thomas. They were now standing extremely near Lake Livingston, and the only other person around was Lucinda, Anne’s lady’s maid.

“I will do no such thing, Lady Anne, and I beg you to keep your voice down,” Thomas replied coolly, making a hushing motion with his hands.

Anne turned her cool blue eyes toward Lake Livingston which sat to her right. She took a deep breath to calm herself, but it was no use. She was positively incensed. She put her small fists on her curvy hips, and she turned to glare at Thomas.

“My Lord, may I remind you that this is my family’s estate, and I am perfectly within my rights to ask people to leave at any time I wish?” Anne kept her voice low and menacing, but she could see that Thomas was untouched by her words.

He shrugged nonchalantly, pausing to tuck his light brown hair behind one ear. “My Lady, there is hardly any use getting upset over the matter. Your parents adore me.” He glanced toward the house that was looming in the distance and then continued speaking in a languid tone. “Your father, in particular, has already given me his blessing to marry either one of his daughters, and I have decided to pursue Lady Mary this time. Now, I know this may sting your feminine pride as we…”

“My feminine pride?” Anne asked indignantly. “My feminine pride?” Her temper had risen, and she was downright angry. “How dare you speak of my feminine pride! You, who have done everything in your power to tarnish my reputation, have no place talking of my virtues. You have spoken very openly about me, gossiping around town, and now my reputation is in tatters. You have tried to ruin me!”

“Lady Anne, I insist you calm yourself at once,” Thomas ordered. “You are behaving in a way quite unbecoming of a lady.”

“You cannot tell me what to do, My Lord. This is my home, and you are not welcome here. I may behave in any manner I see fit,” Anne was nearly shouting, and she stamped her small foot in unison with her words, trying to make her point. Her little Pekinese dog, Ting Tu, pranced about at her feet, clearly agitated because Thomas was upsetting his mistress. Ting Tu bared his tiny teeth and growled at Thomas. Anne thought the animal had the right of the situation, so she stooped to pet the top of Ting Tu’s head.

Thomas looked to Lucinda, Anne’s lady’s maid and chaperone on this walk, for assistance. “Lucinda, please tell Lady Anne that she is being unreasonable in trying to keep me away from her sister, Lady Mary. As a gentleman, it is my prerogative to visit whomever I wish, and I desire to see her, not Lady Anne.”

Lucinda stuck her nose in the air and sniffed haughtily. “I will do no such thing, My Lord.”

Thomas spread his hands wide as though he had no idea what to do with himself. “Ladies, please try to see it my way. I know that I previously courted you, My Lady, but after receiving those scandalous letters…” He paused and shuddered. “I have come to think of you differently. Now, my affections have changed, and I wish to see Lady Mary.”

“No,” Anne shook her head defiantly, her dark black hair swishing around her, even though it was tightly wound into a neat twist. “You have done me wrong, and I will not allow your influence to continue in this house. I never wrote the letters of which you speak, and so I must conclude that you are trying to ruin my family further by bringing them up now.” Thomas moved as though to interrupt her, but Anne would not be silenced. She continued speaking.

“Furthermore, My Lord, I will never allow you to court my sister. She is too precious to me, and I would never let a scoundrel like you within ten meters of her.”

Thomas tilted his head as he considered how to proceed with the situation. “I know how fiery your temper can get, but you are being quite obstinate. I must encourage you to think of what is best for you and your sister.”

“I am thinking of my sister,” Anne protested. “Her happiness is foremost in my mind, and I assure you that you cannot persuade me to think that you will be able to give her anything other than troublesome existence.”

“Dear Lady Anne,” he said in a sympathetic voice that irritated Anne even further. “I understand that you have forbidden me from being here, but here I am, nonetheless. I think you are powerless in this situation.”

“Powerless?” Anne echoed, lowering her chin and looking up at him with menace in her eyes.

“Yes,” Thomas continued, taking a step so that he now stood awfully close to her. He looked down at her and made a mocking face. “If I want to see you or your sister for that matter, I do not think you will be able to stop me.”

Anne was standing so near Thomas she could smell the fresh soapy scent that clung to him. Never one to back down from a challenge, Anne refused to be intimidated by his proximity. She raised her head so that she could look him in the eye, and then she took a cautious step forward.

“Lady Anne,” Thomas spoke quickly as he took a step backward. Anne continued advancing on him with little Ting Tu trotting along at her feet. “There’s no need to become upset,” he said as he continued backing up. He put his hands in the air defensively. “I merely meant to say that if I wished to see Lady Mary, you should be obliging. It’s not as if you can do anything anyway and…”

Without saying another word, Anne lifted her arms and placed the palms of her hands on Thomas’ chest. She shoved him roughly, and he tripped over his own feet. Completely taken by surprise, he fell backward into Lake Livingston, landing on his bottom.

“Lady Anne! I never…” Thomas spluttered. He stood quickly as he had only fallen near the shore, and the lake water was not deep there. He looked down at his soiled clothes and gave Anne a perturbed glare.

“I am not powerless, My Lord, and I will thank you to remember that, please,” Anne said, and Ting Tu barked sharply to put an exclamation point on the statement.

Thomas lifted his soggy feet from the lake, and he walked back up onto the shore. He looked from Lucinda to Anne, but neither of the ladies showed him compassion and so he snorted in annoyance. “I think will take my leave now,” Thomas said in an irritated fashion.

Anne curtseyed. “Good day to you, My Lord.”Thomas made a sour face, and then he turned and stomped away from the pair. The ladies stood and watched as he made straightaway for his horse, and when he tried to mount it, he slipped because his breeches were still wet.

Anne snickered, and Lucinda gave her a reproving look. “What?” Anne asked innocently.

“While I do not approve of the way His Lordship treated you, and I certainly do not relish the idea of him courting your sister, it was most unbecoming for you to push him into the lake, My Lady,” Lucinda said, keeping her eyes on Thomas as he was still having trouble climbing into his well-polished saddle.

“But, Lucinda,” Anne said, smiling as she watched Thomas in his struggles, “he came to my house and treated me poorly. That must have deserved retaliation of some sort.”

Lucinda giggled and that surprised Anne. “Yes, but to push a gentleman in the lake? Why, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a sight.”

Anne responded by chuckling as well. “Yes, well, that may have managed the likes of Thomas Gills today, but I will bet we haven’t seen the last of the Viscount.”

“No?” Lucinda asked, tipping her head to the side as though she were considering the concept.

“No,” Anne shook her head ruefully. “I imagine our troubles with Thomas Gills have only just begun.”

Chapter Two

“Anne! Anne! Whatever has happened to Lord Mumford?” Mary, Anne’s younger sister, was standing in the entryway to Livingston Manor wringing her hands together. Her large blue eyes, framed by her long eyelashes, were wide and full of wonder.

Anne picked up her pace, and she felt that Lucinda and Ting Tu followed suit. As she came closer to her sister, she could see that Mary was truly distressed.

“Is anything the matter?” Mary asked. Without waiting for Anne to reply, words tumbled out of her mouth, and she seemed incapable of stopping them. “I just saw him. He was dripping wet and mounting his horse. I tried to call out to him, but he would not stop what he was doing or speak to me in any way. I didn’t even know he was here. Anne…” Mary stopped talking and arched her eyebrow knowingly at her sister. “Anne, what have you done?”

Anne looked back at Lucinda, and the two ladies shared a discreet smile. She turned back to Mary and said innocently. “When he arrived, you were still getting dressed for the morning. He asked me to accompany him on a walk, and I obliged. As we made our way around the lake, he was not watching where he was going and wound up ankle-deep in the reeds.” Had a small laugh not bubbled up through Anne’s lips at that moment, she might have convinced her sister of this story, but it did. Mary looked appalled.

“Anne! How could you?” Mary was completely shocked. “You cannot behave in such a manner.”

“What?” Anne asked, widening her own eyes, attempting to appear less reckless and more guiltless.

“You pushed him into the lake,” Mary accused, and she narrowed her eyes knowingly. “Why would you do such a thing?” she demanded.

“Dear sister, do not get worked up over a man like Thomas Gills. He is not worthy of your time…” Anne began, but Mary was having none of it. She spun and stalked toward the house, hiking up her cream-colored day dress as she stepped lively.

“Where are you going?” Anne shouted after her, lengthening her own strides to try and catch up with her sister.

“I plan to tell Mama and Papa what you have done,” Mary said over her shoulder. Anne looked at Lucinda, and her lady’s maid made a stressed face. Anne and Lucinda now both moved quickly to catch Mary with Ting Tu yapping at their heels.

“Mama!” Mary called out as she rushed through the door. “Mama!” she said again, sweeping around the hall and coming into the drawing room. As they had received no other visitors this morning, outside of the Viscount, the compartment was empty.

“Mary, wait. Please listen to me first,” Anne said quickly as she tried to reason with her sister, but Mary would not slow her progress through the house.

“Mama!” Mary’s sweet voice rang out again, disrupting the otherwise quiet surroundings.

Penelope Fowley, the Countess of Livingston appeared at the top of the staircase. She was dressed in a very simple white day dress, but the way she held her head made her look almost regal.

“Girls,” Penelope spoke softly, but her voice was enough to still them. The young ladies stood at the bottom of the stairs, looking up at their mother. She took her time descending the staircase, placing one delicate slipper in front of the other. When she reached the landing, her piercing blue eyes accessed the situation by looking first to Lucinda, then to Mary, and finally stopping on Anne. “Come into the sitting room, Ladies,” Penelope ordered, and without any argument, they all followed.

Lady Livingston walked slowly and elegantly into the sitting room. When she reached the brown and white settee that was situated close to the fire, she stopped and settled herself neatly into a very prim position. She sat up very straight. “Lucinda, do tell me the full story first, and then ring the bell for tea.”

Anne snorted. Of course, Mama would make Lucinda tell her everything. By asking the help, Mama would be sure to get the whole story. She also wouldn’t get to hear Anne’s side of it. Anne bit her lip, hoping that Lucinda would do her justice.

Lucinda nodded her head respectfully, and then she plunged into the tale. “As I understand it, Lady Mary is quite distraught because His Lordship, the Viscount of Mumford, came calling early this morning. When she was unprepared to receive guests, Lady Anne and I were obliged to join him on a stroll on the grounds. During our walk, he had the misfortune to step into the lake, and when he left the manor, he seemed to be in a very foul temper. This alarmed Lady Mary, and she wished to speak with you on the matter.”

Anne raised her eyebrows. She was impressed. Lucinda had kept her secret. She tipped her head toward Lucinda secretly, hoping that her companion would understand she was grateful for the concealment. Ting Tu jumped up onto Lucinda’s lap as though he too appreciated the way she had stood by his owner.

Penelope twisted her head ever so slightly so that she could look away from Lucinda and peer at Anne and Mary. She waited a dreadfully long time before replying, Anne thought, but when she did, her words carried weight.

“And so, the Viscount has come calling?” Even though it was a question, it didn’t seem to require an answer, so Anne sat quietly. She folded her hands in her lap to keep herself from fidgeting. Luckily, one of her beloved Persian cats, who she affectionately called Glamour, slinked into the room, came over to her chair, and rubbed her long strands of hair around Anne’s ankles. She bent at the waist, picked up Glamour, and deposited the feline into her lap. She ran her fingers through Glamour’s long ginger-colored hair as she waited for her mother to speak.

“It seems to me that we should all be very accommodating when he comes to visit,” Penelope said at length. “Should he wish to marry one of you girls…”

“But Mama!” Anne protested, unable to listen to her mother’s protracted speech. “He is the worst sort of gentleman. He has ruined my reputation, and now he has set his sights upon Mary. I cannot allow him to—”

Penelope cleared her throat, and Anne hushed her enraged discourse at once. “You will welcome Lord Mumford into our home, and you will show him courtesy.”

“But Mama,” Anne interrupted once more. This time her voice was less agitated and more tortured. “He has behaved abominably. Because of his accusations, no man may ever want to marry me.” She stopped and sighed heavily. She looked down at Glamour and sadly continued to stroke her fur.

“And it is for that reason that we should not only endure Lord Mumford and his visits, but we should also oblige his every need.”

“I do not understand,” Mary said, sitting up straighter in her chair, no doubt trying to emulate their mother.

“Your father is very ill...very ill indeed,” Penelope broke off and shook her head sadly. She craned her neck to look out the window. “Why, Dr. Blake is set to arrive momentarily, and I fear what news he will bring.” Penelope’s blue eyes began to water, and Anne felt awful. She hated to see her mother so distressed, and the thought that something might happen to her dear father was also quite vexing.

“Mama, you believe Father is very ill?” Anne asked gently, reaching across the space between them, so she could hold her mother’s hand.

Penelope nodded. “He has been growing worse by the days. When Dr. Blake came yesterday…” she paused, and her voice shook. “His prognosis was not favorable.”

“But what does that mean? What does Papa’s illness have to do with Lord Mumford?” Mary asked, looking rather concerned. Discreetly, Lucinda put Ting Tu on the wooden floor. She rose silently and then walked from the room, closing the door quietly behind her.

Dabbing at the corners of her eyes with a lacy white handkerchief, Penelope pulled herself together. She focused her attention back on her daughters. “As you both know, our estate is entailed to the next male heir. Your father…” she paused and cleared her throat lightly, “has made some business investments that were not judicious.” Her lower lip trembled, and Anne thought she had never seen her mother quite so distraught.

“Yes?” Anne prompted, hoping her mother might push ahead, even though she was clearly hurting.

“There is no comforting way to say it, so I suppose I am forced to just speak plainly.” Penelope sighed in resignation. “Your father is terribly ill. It is likely he will not last an entire fortnight. When he passes, your nearest male relation, your cousin, Herbert, may expel us all from this manor if he pleases.” She made a disgruntled face and then continued speaking.

“Furthermore, thanks to your father’s poor investments, your dowries are not guaranteed, so it is paramount that you both marry well and do so with haste.”

“What are you saying, Mama?” Mary asked, clearly perplexed by this onslaught of news.

“I am saying, dear Mary…” Penelope’s eyes softened when she looked at her youngest daughter. “That marrying Lord Mumford would not be the worst thing in the world.”

Anne started to protest, but Penelope held up her hand for silence. “You do not have to marry him, Anne, but should he make Mary an offer of marriage, I would strongly suggest that she considers it.”

“But Mama,” Anne interjected as she could hold her tongue no longer, “he is vile. You cannot think that I would allow my sister to marry such a serpent.”

“You may have no choice in the matter,” Penelope replied stiffly. “Did you not just hear what I just told you? We are unprotected and in a precarious situation.” She stopped and looked at Anne compassionately. “I know that you and Lord Mumford have had your share of disagreements.”

“That’s putting it nicely,” Anne grunted. Her mother continued as though Anne had not interrupted.

“But you must see that he is powerful. He is also quite handsome and charming. That is not to mention the fact that he is the cousin of the Duke. Should our family need a friend, I can think of no one better than him.”

Anne heard her mother’s words, and she did her best to think kindly on them, but her heart would not cooperate. Thomas Gills had hurt her dreadfully, and she did not care if he was the King of England; she would never allow her blameless little sister to enter into a marriage contract with him, even if it would secure her family’s position.

Penelope must have been able to detect Anne’s inner turmoil as she said quietly. “You will try your best, won’t you, Anne? You will do what needs to be done to protect this family?”

“Of course, Mama,” Anne answered without hesitation, and she was in earnest. But when she agreed to protect the family, she wasn’t thinking of wealth, power, or their situation in life. She was thinking of Mary’s prospective happiness, and Anne vowed to do anything she could to secure a bright future for her little sister.

Chapter Three

“Where have you been?” Veronica Rogers, the Dowager Duchess of Hawthorn scolded her grandson, Justin, as soon as he rode onto the gravel walkway that led into the entry hall at Hawthorn Manor. Her steely grey eyes glistened, and Justin could tell even from a distance that she was flustered.

“Grandmother,” Justin called, dismounting from his horse smoothly and stepping quickly to her side. He bent forward at the waist, elaborately bowing to her. He brushed his lips across the knuckles of her gloved hand. “It has been much too long since we last saw one another,” he said as he raised his head slowly.

Veronica made an impatient sound. “It wouldn’t have been quite so long if you had returned home, as you promised, a month ago.”

“I do beg your leave, Grandmother…” Justin began, but he stopped when he saw the way his grandmother was eyeing him skeptically.

She waved him on. “Go ahead with your flowery speech. I should very much like to hear an explanation of where you have been, what you have been doing, and with whom you have been doing it.” She arched her eyebrow at him knowingly, and he laughed outright.

“Why, Grandmother, do you think so little of me?” he teased.

She snorted delicately. “On the contrary, I think very highly of you, but I do know your reputation…” she paused and arched a fine dark eyebrow at him,“…and I know the way young men rattle about these days, and so until you correct the assumption, I shall be forced to think that you have spent your time in the company of ...well…” Now she faltered. Veronica Rogers was a lady of breeding after all, and even though she was sensible in the ways of modern young men, she wouldn’t deign to speak of their more unsavory pursuits.

“Take care, Grandmother,” Justin said cheerfully, “for I am here now, and I long to hear all about your adventures. We have been separated these past three years, and I now wish to know what you have been doing and with whom you have been cavorting.” He winked mischievously at his grandmother and laughed when she appeared startled by his impertinence.

“I do not know what I shall do with you, Grandson,” Veronica replied with grace. Justin eagerly stepped forward and held out his arm for her to grasp.

“Allow me to escort you back into the house so that we may further discuss my punishment for being so wicked,” Justin suggested and smiled merrily as he could see that his grandmother’s grey eyes had lost some of their steely malice, and they were now sparkling quite brilliantly.

“Oh, my dear sweet boy, I am so glad you have come home at last,” Veronica whispered as she took Justin’s proffered arm, and they turned as one to enter the heavy wooden front door. While he ushered her down the long hall toward the sitting room, he spoke in a hushed tone.

“I apologize, Grandmother. I should not have stayed away so long. It’s just that…” he paused as his eyes floated around the hallway, taking in the grand staircase. “It is very difficult for me to be here.”

“Yes, I imagine it is,” Veronica said comfortingly, patting Justin’s elbow with her hand. He led her into the sitting room, and he was surprised to see that the area had been redecorated. This room that was only used by the family and their closest friends used to be shrouded in heavy blue curtains. The walls had been painted a royal blue hue. Justin had always felt like he was entering a cave when he walked into this area of the house, but now, things were very different. The sitting room was light and airy. The three windows that stood facing the gardens were all open and white wispy curtains billowed in the breeze. The wood floors were polished so that they gleamed, and the furniture was of a comfy variety with plush baby blue cushions on the chairs.

“What has happened here?” Justin nearly exclaimed as he directed his grandmother toward a chair that was close at hand. She perched delicately in the stick chair and settled onto the padded seat.

“I can’t imagine what you mean,” Veronica replied snootily.

Justin laughed, “Come now, Grandmother. I know that I have been gone some three years, and so I did expect some things to change around here, but this…” he paused and swept his hand around the room, “...is quite a remarkable alteration. Why, I shouldn’t even think it was the same room if I didn’t know better.”

“I’m afraid a great deal has changed while you were on a sojourn,” Veronica answered delicately, running her hands down the front of her fresh green day dress. She smoothed the folds into the proper places and then focused her attention on Justin. He could feel her gaze as she observed him closely.

“I do know that being back in this place, your family home, is painful for you my dear boy, and I am sorry for it. First your parents...and then George ...” she stopped and made an aggrieved expression. “I cannot imagine the anguish you must feel at losing all those so close to you.”

Justin walked toward one of the open windows. He stood, looking out into the gardens but not seeing the rows of flowers growing there. His mind was otherwise engaged, thinking over the words his grandmother had just spoken.

As he did not comment, his grandmother pushed forward with her own thoughts. “As I am sure you can surmise, many things have altered in your absence, but now that you are home, there must be further adjustments.”

“Adjustments?” Justin’s ears perked up at the word. He turned from the window to look at his grandmother then he came back to where she was sitting, and he dropped into a chair across from her. “What sort of adjustments?” he asked with a touch of trepidation.

“Justin,” Veronica said softly as she reached out to take his hand, “you must assume your duties now that you have come home. You must not be the Duke of Hawthorn in mere title alone any longer but also in your deeds.”

He nodded glumly. He had expected as much. “Yes, Grandmother, I understand. I know that I have neglected my duties, and so I shall try to do better.”

“You must do more than try,” Veronica said, squeezing his fingertips for emphasis.

He was startled by her forceful gesture. “Whatever do you mean?” He asked, wondering what else she could demand of him. Justin had been raised as a second son, and so, he wasn’t prepared to take over the title that was now his. He would have a tough enough time managing the estate and his other duties without his grandmother throwing other obligations at his feet.

His grandmother looked seriously at him, and she lowered her voice. “It is time for you to give up your gambling parlors and your places of ill-repute. You must eschew your painted ladies…” she paused as even saying the words aloud seemed to be distasteful to her, “...and you must behave properly, befitting of your title and station in life.”

Justin felt his muscles tensing. He loved his grandmother, but he did not feel it was her place to tell him where he could go and who he could see. “I appreciate your concern, Grandmother,” Justin said through gritted teeth.

“And ...” Veronica went on as if Justin had never spoken, “it is high-time you got a haircut.”

Justin laughed reflexively. While he had not been certain what his grandmother might say next, he had certainly not thought she would speak of his hair. He brushed the long brown locks away from his face and continued to chortle. “You are just full of surprises today, Grandmother. Pray, tell me why you think I need to cut my hair. All the young men are wearing it in this fashion nowadays and...”

Veronica interrupted sharply, “No, they are not, my dear boy. I will concede that the dandified young men of this age are wearing their hair long, but your locks look ...” she stopped as if searching for the correct term. “Why, they look much like a bird’s nest.”

This made Justin laugh again. He ran his hand through his hair and made a show of ruffling the ends, just to see if he could irritate her. “Oh, Grandmother, I will admit that I have missed you,” Justin said at last.

“I have missed you as well, Grandson, and I am glad you have come home. Once you have groomed yourself properly, I should be quite pleased to show you off to the ladies of the ton.”

Justin groaned. “I will consent to cut my hair, but I do not wish to spend time with your gossiping friends.”

Veronica looked affronted. “My friends and I are not gossips, and I would thank you to remember it. Besides, I have no intentions of forcing you to endure an evening with my acquaintances. Rather, I was thinking of taking you to the Harvest Ball that is to be held at Bedford Lodge.”

Justin looked at his grandmother incredulously. “A ball? At Bedford Lodge? Don’t tell me old Lord Bedford is still holding that annual gathering.”

“Actually...the ball is being hosted by Reginald, the son of Lord Bedford. It seems he is in the market for a wife, and he has arranged for many eligible ladies to be present at the event.”

Justin was slightly irritated. “And now we have come to the point, haven’t we, Grandmother? You wish for me to make myself presentable so that you may take me across the countryside to attend a ball and find myself a proper wife. Admit it,” Justin challenged, “that is your intention.”

“I have no wish to deny it,” Veronica said primly, lifting her nose into the air with pride. “I want you to settle into your home, and the challenge of managing this estate will be much more bearable if you have a capable woman by your side.”

“But Grandmother,” Justin protested, “I do not wish to marry.”

His grandmother stood abruptly, and that startled Justin. He rose belatedly. “And I never said you would have to marry someone tonight, but you will embrace your duties. As the duke, it is your responsibility to go to this ball and make merry. You will dance with the ladies, and should one strike your fancy, you may feel so inclined as to begin a courtship with her.”

“That seems highly unlikely,” Justin said snidely.

Veronica arched her eyebrow. “It is not so unheard of as you might think. More than one hasty marriage has been arranged after an evening of dancing at Lord Bedford’s Harvest Ball. Why do you think he continues having them?”

Justin laughed lightly. “I’m sure I don’t know. I can’t fathom any reason why a person would wish to attend such a function.”

“You know…” Veronica said thoughtfully, “your cousin, Thomas, is planning to be there.”

“Thomas Gills?” Justin said, thinking of the cousin with whom he had been close many years ago.

“Indeed,” Veronica replied, “he does not seem to mind the idea of making merry and dancing with several very pretty ladies. He rather appears to enjoy the pursuit as I have noted.”Justin smiled at his grandmother’s inability to keep her opinions to herself.

“I see you grinning,” Veronica pointed out before Justin could say anything. “Does that mean you will consent to accompany me to the Harvest Ball in two days?”

Justin shrugged reluctantly, “Do I have a choice?”

“No,” Veronica said quickly, “but I do so want you to feel as though you do, dear.”

Justin bowed politely toward his grandmother. “I am at your service. I will do your bidding.”

“Very good,” Veronica answered, snapping into an attitude of action almost instantly. She gathered her green dress in front of her and made to sweep from the room. At the door, she turned and once again spoke to her grandson. “Oh, and dear, do take these two days to make yourself presentable.”

“Yes, yes, Grandmother,” Justin said, waving his hand dismissively in her direction. “I shall get my haircut.”

“Yes…” she said thoughtfully, “but I do think you should also see the tailor about a new suit, and perhaps even ask the barber to give you a close shave.”

“Is all of that necessary?” Justin asked, feeling agitated by the idea of spending the next two days beautifying himself, so he could attend a ball that he would rather skip.

“But, of course, dear. If you are to attract a wife, you must put your best foot forward,” and with that, Veronica swept from the room completely.

“But I have no intentions of finding a wife,” Justin repeated to the empty room, but the whistle of the warm breeze blowing through the soft curtains was the only reply he received.

Knock. Knock. A soft rap on the heavy wooden door drew Justin’s attention away from the window. Humbert, the butler who had been with the family for more than thirty years, appeared in the entryway.

“Your Grace,” Humbert said in a dull monotone.

“Yes, Humbert?” Justin replied. He noticed that while Humbert was dressed in the same manner he had always been, there was something different about the butler at present. High on his cheekbones, there was a spot of bright red. Humber was embarrassed by something, and that intrigued Justin.

“Your Grace…” Humbert stopped and cleared his throat, “I wish to announce a visitor.”

“Show him in then, Humbert,” Justin replied rather irritably, not wanting or expecting visitors at this time of day or so soon after he had arrived home.

Humbert made an awkward sound again as though he were coughing and choking simultaneously. “Your visitor is a lady, Your Grace.” And without any further explanation, Humbert bowed and exited the room.

“A lady?” Justin whispered, a touch of awe creeping into his voice. Surely, Humbert would not be so astonished by the presence of a lady. Justin was just about to voice his thoughts when a woman dressed in a gown the color of cherries walked into the room. She discreetly shut the door behind her.

“Your Grace,” she giggled as she turned toward him, her dark eyes flashing in the well-lit room.

Justin crossed the space between himself and his mistress in three quick steps. He threw his arms around her, dipped her head backward, and kissed her forcefully. “I did not expect to see you so early in the day, my darling.”

“I couldn’t get away later tonight. My husband has come back to the estate, and...Oh...I just had to see you,” the woman replied, gasping in between kisses.

“Your husband has come home ...” Justin purred as his hands began the work of unfastening the lady’s complicated dress. “Then we shall have to work quickly.”

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Her Wager with the Duke
Loving a Beast of a Marquess
  • Thank you for sharing this preview. It truly is written to keep you turning the pages to see how Lady Ann will, if at all, get revenge on what Thomas has done to her. But more importantly, how Justin chooses her for his wife of convenience and why. Will they clash or will they fall into love? Will Justin and Thomas duel over the injustice done to Lady Ann or will they merely part ways and ignore her deep rooted feelings of what he has done to her. Looking forward to reading on and seeing what transpire as they fall in love.

  • I must say I will definitely have the book on the 24th. The characters are most interesting. Thomas is a gentleman the should find himself in the lake on more than one occasion. Justin seems a man that might help Thomas into the lake, too. I like Anne very much. I do enjoy your books very much and I will be inpatient to see how it all turn out.

  • I love it already and can’t wait to read more. So would it be Justin and Anne then. He has a mistress and that won’t do. His cousin ruined her reputation and now wants to court her sister, that’s strike 2 and 3. Then there is the cousin, that would inherit when her father dies, who may decide to throw them out in the street. I don’t like the unfairness of that era. But, it looks like Anne would have to swallow her misfortune and think of a good way out of it. Oh what a tangled web we weave. Did I say how much I can’t wait to read the story? It’s totally fabulous with a lot of action, intrigue, and soul searching. Fantastic.

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