Dukes Done Wrong

I don’t need your pity, Miss Jen­son,” Miles said harshly.

It isn’t pity I feel, Your Grace. It is sor­row for the injus­tice you suf­fered. Heartache for the help­less lit­tle boy who was uproot­ed from his home and tak­en from every­thing he had ever known.”

His hands tight­ened on hers. “And what do you feel for the man, Miss Jenson?”

Desire,” she whispered.

His eyes dark­ened. “So do I.”

His head bent, mov­ing clos­er until his lips touched hers. A spark flashed between them. He released her hands and took her by the shoul­ders, draw­ing her to him, even as his mouth pressed firm­ly against hers. Her palms moved to his broad chest, feel­ing the hard mus­cles beneath his lay­ers of clothing.

Emery had nev­er been kissed. A hum­ming seemed to invade her body and her sens­es sharp­ened. The feel of his wool coat beneath her palms. The san­dal­wood soap ris­ing from his heat­ed skin. Hers, too, felt on fire as he con­tin­ued to kiss her, mak­ing her heart slam against her ribs and her knees threat­en to buckle.

This was madness.

Emery was kiss­ing a duke. In pub­lic. A man so far above her sta­tion that it caused her head to reel. Though they were in the far cor­ner of the church’s grave­yard, any­one who entered it might see them.

She pushed him away, break­ing the kiss. Her breath came in quick, short spurts, as did his. He gazed at her, those blue eyes glow­ing with need.

My sin­cer­est apolo­gies, Your Grace,” she said stiffly, whirling to return to her horse.

His fin­gers lock­ing around her elbow.

What is your name?” he rasped.

She tried to shake him off but he only tight­ened his grasp.

Your name, Miss Jenk­ins. Your Chris­t­ian name.”


Before Mead­ow could speak, the duke took her hand and slipped it through the crook of his arm. He ush­ered her from the draw­ing room and along the corridor.

Please show me Marshmore’s gar­dens, my lady. I think the fresh air will do both of us some good.”

Her head spin­ning, she brought them to Tilda’s sit­ting room, where they exit­ed from a set of French doors. The gar­dens lay only a few steps away and the duke led her to the entrance and down the path.

They strolled for a few min­utes, no words between them. She didn’t know what kind of con­ver­sa­tion he expect­ed after the dra­mat­ic scene in the draw­ing room. As for her, she was over­whelmed by his sheer size. He was tall and broad and smelled mar­velous. Her body brushed against his slight­ly as they moved, caus­ing her bel­ly to do con­tin­u­ous flipflops, keep­ing her off-balance.

She final­ly stopped their motion. “Why did you wish to speak with me, Your Grace?”

I believe we have a great deal to say to one anoth­er, Meadow.”

The use of her name com­ing from his sen­su­al lips caused an explo­sion of but­ter­flies to flap their wings inside her.

I did not give you leave to call me by my Chris­t­ian name, Your Grace. We are not and nev­er will be that famil­iar with one another.”

I total­ly dis­agree,” he said, his voice a low rum­ble. “I think we will become very famil­iar with one anoth­er, Mead­ow.” His tone had turned flirtatious.

She real­ized he was a rogue. Just like the very ones he had warned her against last night.

If you think I will be lured to your bed like the rakes you cau­tioned me about, you are mis­tak­en, Your Grace. No man will tempt me enough to behave as a wan­ton. I may be a wid­ow but I have my pride and rep­u­ta­tion to con­sid­er. I nei­ther want nor need to have an affair with you.”

He placed his hands upon her shoul­ders, send­ing a rush of heat through her.

Oh, I am not inter­est­ed in an affair, Meadow.”

With that, he low­ered his head. She start­ed to protest. Then his lips touched hers.

He was … kiss­ing her …

She had nev­er been kissed.

Dono­van had nev­er want­ed a woman more than he did Wynter.

And because of that, he had to rein him­self in. Prac­tic­ing self-con­trol was not some­thing he ever exer­cised. Espe­cial­ly around beau­ti­ful women.

But he would do it or be damned for­ev­er. Because for some ungod­ly, crazy, won­der­ful, incred­i­ble, impos­si­ble reason—he saw a future with this woman.

It scared him, but he had nev­er been one to let fear manip­u­late him. He dic­tat­ed to it, not the oth­er way around.

What­ev­er it took. How­ev­er long it took. Some­way, some­how, someday.

He was going to wed and bed this woman.

Despite her dec­la­ra­tion of nev­er plan­ning to marry.

In fact, he looked upon it as the great­est chal­lenge of his life, one which would bring the sweet­est reward. Wyn­ter was an amaz­ing woman. She would keep him on his toes. She would nev­er bore him. And sud­den­ly, though he had nev­er giv­en chil­dren a moment of thought, he want­ed to plant his seed deep with­in her. Dono­van want­ed to see Wynter’s bel­ly swell with his child. No oth­er man’s. He want­ed to mate with her. Build a life with her.

And pos­si­bly become the duke Sam would have been.

Pass­ing an alley next to a book­shop he had stopped in a few days ago, Hart saw a group of boys and the back of a woman. One boy moved men­ac­ing­ly toward her and before Hart could act, the woman swung her retic­ule into the boy’s head. Her oth­er arm swift­ly came up and the boy howled as Hart saw blood sprout from his nose.

Hart glared at the boys, who caught sight of him and rushed past the woman. Her head bent and she cooed soft­ly before turn­ing around and spy­ing him. Her eyes widened and he was drawn in by them. They were a bluish-gray and had depths he sud­den­ly want­ed to explore. He took in the rest of her, petite with blond hair and an oval face. She was very pret­ty though her mouth trem­bled. She wore an old shawl and a gown of fad­ed blue which had seen bet­ter days.

A faint meow sound­ed and they both looked to the fur­ball she held close to her. Hart stepped forward.

Is it your kit­ten?” he asked softly.

The woman shook her head, drop­ping her gaze to focus on the black fur­ball. “No, I came across those boys on my way to the book­shop. They were tor­tur­ing the poor thing, light­ing match­es and hold­ing them to it.”

An exple­tive escaped his lips and he apologized.

No need to apol­o­gize, my lord,” she told him. “I have a few choice words to call those ruf­fi­ans myself.”

Hart didn’t cor­rect her. He had been Your Graced enough so that he was sick of hear­ing it. Instead, he touched the pad of his thumb between the ears of the kit­ten. Despite its mis­treat­ment, he heard it purring.

She likes you,” the woman mur­mured, smil­ing at the kitten—and him.

It is your first ball,” Olivia said. “We want you to feel com­fort­able and sur­round­ed by friends.” She smiled. “Are you ready to dance?”

Finch nod­ded. “Thanks to you I am. How many dances do I have to dance to appear sociable?”

Olivia had told him about the card room, where he could retreat, as well as the sup­per room, where some gen­tle­men gath­ered to sip port before or after sup­per was held.

Already try­ing to get out of danc­ing?” Miles teased.

Olivia has me suf­fi­cient­ly fright­ened of the num­ber of peo­ple who might be chas­ing after me this evening, espe­cial­ly dot­ing mamas who wish to see their girls attached to a duke.”

Emery laughed. “Just glow­er at them. You are quite good at that, Finch. That should scare off a large por­tion of them. The ones left are the brave ones. Those are the ladies that might be a chal­lenge to you.”

And why would I seek a chal­lenge, Emery?” he posed.

Because you would be bored oth­er­wise,” Hart sup­plied. “You are bril­liant, Finch. It will take a spe­cial woman to hold your attention.”

You seem to think I should mar­ry quick­ly,” he said.

Not quick­ly,” Miles replied. “But I fan­cy you’ll know your duchess soon after you meet.”

What if I told you I wasn’t look­ing for a duchess?”

Good for you, Finch,” Olivia said. “You don’t need to look for one.”

I don’t?” he questioned.

No.” She smiled. “Delib­er­ate­ly look­ing won’t get you any­where. It hap­pens when you least sus­pect it. In fact, I would say you def­i­nite­ly shouldn’t be look­ing to wed. It is the best way to be surprised.”

Finch want­ed no sur­pris­es. No duchess. He set­tled against the seat and refrained from speak­ing the rest of the way. He would dance a few times. Allow his friends to intro­duce him to peo­ple. But he would not be tempt­ed by any woman.

Tonight or any oth­er night.