DUKE OF STORM is about to make landfall in the first half of December! Just around the corner! If you'd like me to shoot you an email as soon as it goes on sale, sign up for my mailing list here and I'll send you the links to the product page on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. For now, check out this excerpt. Enjoy!
The Lovers Meet!
“Er, Major?” Will turned to face the sitting room, his eyebrows arched high. “There’s a beautiful young lady at your door. Are you at home?”
Always, thought Connor.
Filled with equal parts roguery and suspicion at this extremely unusual news, he sauntered forward from the sitting room and leaned toward the doorway to view their caller.
To his amazement, it was the gray-eyed beauty from the ballroom: the English rose.
What on earth was she doing here? Alone, no less.
“Please,” she said with an innocent blink, gazing past Will to Connor, “if you don’t mind, I should be grateful for a moment of Your Grace’s time.” She glanced nervously over her shoulder, as though making sure she had not been followed.
Then she looked at him again.
Her heart-shaped face was pale by the dim glow of the lanterns flanking the front door. Her gauzy skirts billowed in the breeze. She wore a lacy white shawl now, draped across her delectable shoulders.
She pulled it closer around herself as she stood in the doorway. He could see her shaking…probably not from the chill, but from the boldness of her visit here. Even he was startled by it.
“May I come in?” she asked with a gulp. “We are…neighbors, after all.”
He blinked out of his daze. “By all means.”
What she wanted, Connor could not imagine, but he prowled over slowly to brush the lad aside. “I’ll take it from here, Will.”
Connor held the door for their fair visitor. The girl stared at Will as she tiptoed in warily, looking a little nonplussed at his unconventional butler.
Nestor returned to the bottom of the stairs, watching skeptically.
“I don’t suppose there’s any chance you’re here about the duel?” Connor said, half joking.
He paused to scan the street before shutting the door, then locked it behind her again.
“Actually, I am,” she said, wide-eyed.
“You’re the fellow’s second?” Will exclaimed.
“N-no, of course not,” she said. She pursed her rosy lips. “I’m his…his…”
Connor cocked a brow, waiting, hands on hips. “His what?”
“His…particular lady friend,” she said judiciously.
“I see.” Connor’s smile soured. Suspicion promptly won the inner tug of war with roguery. His mood darkened back to normal. “Let me guess. You’ve come here to plead for the blackguard’s life.”
She blinked. “Well—actually…now that you mention it…”
He smirked. Her words faltered, and she started turning red, like she had in the ballroom.
“Um, could we possibly discuss this in private, Your Grace?”
Connor considered it. Fraternize with the enemy?
Once again, there was no way of knowing who might be involved with the plot against his family. Indeed, if he were out in the field, running a scouting mission or an intelligence-gathering operation, he would find the most unlikely person to send in to make inquiries for him.
Someone the enemy would never suspect. Someone who could serve as a distraction, diversion, spread false information…or do even worse.
Hmm. Connor’s stare homed in on the girl’s dainty gloved hands clutching her reticule.
For a moment, he studied her little tasseled handbag, determining after a few seconds that it was too diminutive to contain even a small pistol.
But that didn’t mean this lovely little confection wasn’t perilous to him in other ways.
Temptation such as this had got Adam and Eve thrown out of the garden, last he’d checked, and this was one alluring red apple, ripe and juicy.
He wanted a taste.
She grew flustered at his prolonged silence. “You are the duke, aren’t you? If there’s someone else I should speak to—”
“Oh yes,” he said absently, curiosity outweighing his caution. He’d hear her out. Why not? “I am Amberley these days, so it would seem. I admit, you’ve come at rather a bad time, but it’s always my pleasure to be of…service to a lady.”
His double entendre went over her clearly virginal head, but he folded his arms across his chest and stared at her, far more entertained than he cared to let on.
“How may I be of assistance, mademoiselle?”
* * *
Every quick, reverberating thump of Maggie’s heart as she held the duke’s stare warned her that she absolutely shouldn’t be here. She was not accustomed to doing rash things, and her current venture, she feared, was nothing short of foolhardy.
How she had managed to sneak away from Delia, she barely knew. The entire ballroom had been in an uproar after the outbreak of violence.
But she was here to stop it, if she could.
And so, Maggie swallowed hard and held on tight to her composure.
It was not easy, pinned in the gaze of such a man.
Amberley had removed his black tailcoat and tugged loose his cravat. The loose, white, billowy sleeves of his shirt cascaded fascinatingly off the rugged breadth of his shoulders, only hinting at the hard, bulging muscles the crisp fabric draped.
His pale striped waistcoat hugged a powerful chest that tapered toward his lean waist. She gulped silently as her gaze slid lower to the manly regions concealed by his elegant black trousers…
Margaret Hyacinth Winthrop! Mind your manners and get your eyes back in your head. At once, she whipped a blushing glance back up to his disturbingly handsome face.
She found the duke looking not at all inclined to believe a word she said, but waiting patiently for her to speak her piece.
The polite curve of his lips was almost a smile.
Flustered by her own wayward noticings, Maggie cleared her throat and cast about for her wits. “I am Lady Margaret Winthrop. I live across the square—well, diagonally from here, more or less—with my sister a-and her husband. On Marquess Row.” She gestured haphazardly toward the closed door in the direction of their terrace house. “Lord and Lady Birdwell?”
“Ah,” said the duke.
She could tell by his blank look that he had never heard of them before.
Delia would be crushed.
“I beg your pardon, Lady Margaret,” His Grace said with a flicker of impatience, “this is rather a bad time for a neighborly visit, so…?”
“Yes, yes, of course.” Maggie nodded briskly and got on with it. “I saw what happened in the ballroom,” she said. “I thought I might be able to help...”
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