Suddenly a Duke

Her blush remained, but her eyes nar­rowed. “You are still the arro­gant beast you were when I first made your acquaintance.”

Yes, I do recall you men­tion­ing I was arro­gant,” Daniel said cheer­i­ly, know­ing he got under her skin with his tone.

Being a duke has not changed that,” she not­ed. “In fact, I am cer­tain it has made you even more arro­gant than before. That is not a qual­i­ty that appeals to me, Your Grace.”

Lady Mar­garet, there is a fine line between arro­gance and con­fi­dence. I like to think of myself as mere­ly being extreme­ly confidant.”

She gave a very unla­dy­like snort. “Arro­gant and bold,” she observed. “Not exact­ly a way to endear your­self to me. And that is what it would take for me to even con­sid­er kiss­ing you.”

He was glad she was con­sid­er­ing it. It gave him hope. “Have you ever been kissed before?” he inquired polite­ly, as if ask­ing her what her favorite food or col­or might be.

Her jaw dropped. “You did not just ask me that!”

He smiled, a smile he reserved for when he wished for some­thing impos­si­ble. “I believe I did ask you that, my lady.”

You go too far, West­field,” she rebuked. “I know from what both Mama and Dol­ley spoke of that nice women do not go about kiss­ing gen­tle­men. Why, Dol­ley even bragged to me that the first time she was kissed was after her betrothal to Lord Bax­ter. That she had snagged a mar­quess with­out hav­ing to share any­thing of her­self at all with him.”

Pity,” he com­ment­ed. “Kiss­ing can be ever so much fun.”

The kiss was rem­i­nis­cent of the waltz as they moved to a music of their own mak­ing, inti­mate, pas­sion­ate, and dri­ving Fia to yearn for more.

But she was no typ­i­cal mem­ber of the ton—and Lin­ber­ry wasn’t just a titled gen­tle­man. He was a duke, some­one total­ly beyond her reach.

Fia turned her head, break­ing the kiss. When she got up the courage to look him in the eyes, she saw the heat there and knew it was desire.

Desire for her.

She pulled her hand from his and stepped back a few paces.

I am not sor­ry that I asked you to kiss me, Your Grace, but it would be unwise to repeat such an action.”

Dis­ap­point­ment filled his face. “I asked to kiss you, Fia. Not the oth­er way around. I am sor­ry the kiss went so far.”

I’m not,” she said bold­ly. “You have giv­en me a love­ly mem­o­ry, Your Grace.”

He stepped toward her. “What if it did not remain a mem­o­ry? What if it became a dai­ly reality?”

She placed her palm against that rock-hard chest. “There will be no oth­er kiss­es for us. You will wed a woman of wealth and intel­li­gence, while I have no plans to wed at all. My goal is to play at ton events, Your Grace—not dance at them. You and I both know my place is no longer in the glit­ter­ing world of the ton.”

Fia dropped her hand, bereft as the con­tact between them end­ed. “Your duchess may one day be gra­cious enough to hire me to play at a ball you hold in this very room. I might even teach the pianoforte to your chil­dren. But we will nev­er speak of this kiss again, Your Grace. It is as if it nev­er happened.”

With regret, Fia turned away from the hand­some Duke of Lin­ber­ry and left the ball­room, her head held high.

Do not waste my time ask­ing a ques­tion you already know the answer to, Your Grace. I am being paid a good deal of mon­ey to teach you and Her Grace how to move into Polite Soci­ety seam­less­ly. Your father want­ed you to succeed.”

Nalyssa tem­pered her tone. “His Grace knew he had wronged all of you ter­ri­bly by not acknowl­edg­ing you. His last wish was to make it up to you by hir­ing me. He asked me to bring you to Stonecrest, so that we might have these lessons in pri­vate. I intend to hon­or his wish­es. You need to see that you do, as well.”

I owe him noth­ing,” the duke said angri­ly. “He set us aside. We learned to stand on our own, with­out his money.”

She heard anger in his voice—but also hurt. Nalyssa doubt­ed the duke even knew how hurt he had been by his father..

You may feel as if you owe him noth­ing,” she said qui­et­ly. “But you do owe your moth­er and sis­ter the best of you. The impres­sion you make upon Polite Soci­ety will be reflect­ed upon them.”

Nalyssa paused. “If you love them, take my lessons to heart. Become the duke your father nev­er was. Care for and pro­tect your loved ones in a way he nev­er did. Are you up for that task, Your Grace?”













You are sug­gest­ing a false romance?” the duke asked.

If Polite Soci­ety thought we were a cou­ple, that would allow us to move among them freely. It would also help my busi­ness. An asso­ci­a­tion with a duke would not go unnoticed.”

We would have to look as if we cared for one anoth­er, Miss Trent, or we will not fool anyone.”

I believe I can gaze ador­ing­ly at you for a few weeks, Your Grace,” she said, mis­chief shin­ing in her eyes. “Could you do the same?”

Eli­jah knew he was play­ing with fire and that being burnt was more prob­a­bil­i­ty than pos­si­bil­i­ty. Still, to be able to be in Miss Trent’s pres­ence would be worth it. She might even agree to a few kiss­es to make their romance seem all the more real.

He thrust out a hand. “You have your­self a bar­gain, Miss Trent.”

She took his hand in hers, and they shook. The touch between them was electrifying.

Yes, this would take no act­ing on his part.

*Excerpt com­ing soon!

*Excerpt com­ing soon!

*Excerpt com­ing soon!

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