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WHEN A DUKE DESIRES A LASS
Seductive Scoundrels Book 15
BY COLLETTE CAMERON
The only thing these opposites have in common is a desire to not marry…
Tobias Forsyth, Duke of Heatherston, owes his niece a proper Come Out. But as a confirmed bachelor, he has no idea how to fulfill his commitment. Fortunately, to his astonishment and intense pleasure, the gorgeous widow he’s admired from afar for so long is willing to help. Now, if only he could convince the reluctant object of his affection to give him a chance…
Emily Grenville is bored. But that doesn’t mean she ever intends to marry again. Not with the ugly secret her husband saddled her with before his death. So, she’ll have to continue rebuffing the advances of every interested man—even the ruggedly handsome Scot who has somehow managed to occupy her every waking thought…
It’s not long before their time spent in forced proximity leads to much deeper feelings and desires. But when Emily’s secret is divulged, can the fragile romance she’s only started to enjoy with Tobias survive?
Hyde Park – London, England
23 April 1811
Head bent and deep in thought, Emily Grenville briskly strode Hyde Park’s footpath. Circumstances forced her to take her daily constitutional at the ridiculously early hour of eight every morning, beginning at Grosvenor Gate.
Wrapped in her tangled reflections and a new velvet redingote, she walked alone.
Being alone doesn’t equate loneliness, she told herself for the umpteenth time.
Neither did being surrounded by people shield one against loneliness.
A truth she’d endured for several years with a valiant smile, demure responses, and a battered heart. Only, of late, she’d found it harder and harder to accept her fate—not a destiny of her choosing but one which had been thrust upon her by another’s callous choices and deeds.
Raising her head, Emily scanned the pathways and greens. Ducks swam contentedly in the Serpentine, quacking every now and again. Soon there would be downy brown and yellow ducklings trailing their watchful mothers or sunning themselves on Duck Island.
A lone rider entered the park on the far side, and a pair of women in humble attire hurried along another path, likely to their places of employment.
In general, le bon ton denizens eschewed rising early, let alone taking the air at this hour. Which meant no obligatory exchanges of banal pleasantries and disingenuous smiles. Emily needed this tranquil time to herself and preferred the solitude.
Besides, it wasn’t as if she was a dewy-eyed innocent, fresh from finishing school, or a debutante requiring a chaperone to ensure she wasn’t despoiled or her reputation tarnished. Thirty and widowed, Emily answered to no one but herself, which suited her fine.
Walking cleared her mind, invigorated her, and truth be told, gave her something to fill one of the many empty hours that occupied her days. After her niece and ward, Justina, married the Duke of San Sebastian, and they’d invited Emily to live with them, she had far too much free time on her hands.
Unaccustomed to idleness, of late she’d begun contemplating that it might behoove her to remove herself to her small cottage in Bristol to rusticate or perhaps become a traveling companion to an elderly dame. Justina would undoubtedly object—strenuously—so Emily kept those possibilities to herself.
Emily had discreetly registered with two agencies to test the waters regarding a companion position. It couldn’t hurt to see what might be available. If she decided to strike out on her own again.
Her half boots struck the pavement with a satisfying click-clack, click-clack as she marched along, swinging her parasol in time to her gait. In the morning’s hush, the sharp snap of her heels carried along the solitary path, and a squirrel raised its bushy red tail, flicking the appendage in agitation.
At Emily’s approach, the panicked creature darted across the path and up a tree, where another squirrel raucously scolded from a branch extending a few feet over the pathway. A grayish-brown turtle dove swooped low and landed in the lush spring grass. Its mate gracefully soared to a spot nearby and cooed a greeting.
A nascent smile tipped Emily’s mouth.
Even the birds and squirrels had mates.
Emily didn’t envy them.
She’d tasted matrimonial bliss for a brief spell—two whole months to be precise—and that had been enough for her. Despite a half-dozen marriage proposals since entering widowhood, she eschewed any mention of marriage in connection with her name.
Never mind that the “matrimonial bliss” rendition wasn’t precisely the truth. Regardless, that was the respectable version Emily had told others for many years, and repeating it had become a habit. That, too, was a protective shield against disgrace and on dit. She prayed wagging tongues never latched onto the truth.
That she had, in fact, never legally been Mrs. Clement Glenville. Rather hard to be a man’s wife when he already possessed one who was very much alive.
Picking up her pace, Emily inhaled deeply, appreciating the blossoming trees’ faint fragrance. Normally, London stank, and the perpetual pewter clouds and coal dust, lying like a thick mantle upon the city, enhanced the cloying stench.
She preferred coastal breezes and tangy air to the stale stuffiness of London.
Today, she wrestled with a rare fit of the blue devils.
Perhaps seeing Justina and Baxter so deeply in love stirred dormant longings. Made Emily wish for what could never be. Nevertheless, wallowing in self-pity had never been her way. Instead, she focused on her blessings.
Enjoying God’s creations and nature’s beauty did much to dispel her baffling doldrums. She had much to be grateful for, so why, with each passing week, did discontentment raise its gnarled little head higher and higher?
It was becoming more and more difficult to tamp down her restlessness and she felt herself slipping into vulnerability. An untenable state she vowed to avoid at all cost.
It was enough to see Justina happily married to a good man, as were most of Justina’s girlhood friends—therefore Emily’s friends by default. All had wed to surprisingly decent fellows, everything considered.
Conceding that some men ranked above truffle hogs and clatterfarts was a step forward for Emily. Not so long ago, she’d believed all males were charlatans, scapegraces, and opportunistic bounders. The late Lieutenant Clement Grenville most assuredly had been.
She hadn’t learned the depths of Clement’s treachery until it was too late. Until he’d destroyed her trust in men forever. How he had whispered words of love and devotion and rattled off colossal lies with the same tongue still confounded her.
Resolutely shoving the unpleasant ruminations to a fusty corner in her mind, Emily gripped her parasol’s black carved handle and gave the accessory a rather vicious swing. She would enjoy this outing—would cherish the glorious break in the weather and a chance to clear her head.
A vibrant azure sky and effervescent sunbeams filtering through trees laden with leaves and buds testified to the unusually passive spring weather. Ensconced in this mazarine-blue velvet redingote—another gift from Justina and quite the loveliest thing Emily had ever worn—she felt like an impostor.
A charlatan herself.
She appeared poised, wealthy, privileged…none of which were accurate.
If people, specifically, the ton, knew the truth—knew that Emily’s marriage to the lieutenant had been a diabolical sham… Clement had kept her ignorant of that particular and rather critical detail, the blackhearted bigamist.
A shudder rippled from Emily’s waist to her nape.
The on dit would be ruinous.
USA Today Bestselling, award-winning author COLLETTE CAMERON® scribbles Scottish and Regency historical romance novels featuring dashing rogues, rakes, scoundrels, and the spirited heroines who reform them. Blessed with an overactive and witty muse that won’t stop whispering new romantic romps in her ear, she’s lived in Oregon her entire life. Although she dreams of living in Scotland part-time. A confessed Cadbury chocoholic, you’ll always find a dash of inspiration and a pinch of humor in her sweet-to-spicy timeless romances®.
Links to Collette’s website, blog, books, #ad etc.:
Google Play: https://collettecameron.com/WADDALgo
Thanks, Collette, for sharing your story with us!
Don’t miss the chance to read this book!