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“Get up,” he said sharply, walking over to poke Collins in the chest. The man frowned, brushed Marcus’s finger away, and emitted a loud snore. Marcus poked him again, this time in his soft belly, and he bolted upright, slamming his feet onto the floor, which echoed in the cavernous space of the ballroom.
“I’m up!” he said, brushing his fingers through his hair. “What’s happening? Did Smithfield die?”
“No, not that I’m aware of.” Marcus spared a glance toward Smithfield. Still breathing. He returned his gaze to Collins. “But you both need to leave.”
The good part about being a duke, he’d discovered, was that he didn’t need to explain why anything had to happen. He could just say it. “You need to leave.” “I want strawberries in the middle of winter.” “Swap out all the furniture from one side of the house to the other.” He hadn’t spoken the latter words, not yet at least, but it was a possibility if it seemed that that might, at last, bring him happiness.
He was reserving that last order for when he was well and truly desperate.
“D’ya have someone visiting?” Collins asked, apparently not understanding that being a duke means never having to explain himself.
Marcus didn’t bother to answer, he just went to Smithfield’s sofa and poked him. Unlike Collins, Smithfield’s belly was flat and hard, but it had the same effect; he sat up and blinked, his disheveled hair sticking up in a few gravity-defying directions.
Smithfield nodded and swung his long legs over the sofa to the floor. He stared at the floor for a few seconds, then stood up, wobbling but at least not falling over.
He strode to Collins’s sofa and held his arm out. Collins took it and stood also, both men now, at least, upright.
Smithfield regarded Marcus with a cool, steady gaze. “I hope you find what you’re looking for, Your Grace.” He didn’t wait for any kind of response--good thing, because Marcus didn’t have one because if he did, he’d damned well be off doing that--just took Collins’s arm and led him towards the door.
They halted, however, at the sound of a firm knock.
“Enter,” Marcus said, turning his back to the door as he spoke. Cats couldn’t knock, and that was about the only creature he would tolerate seeing.
And when did he become such a grouchy creature himself? If forced to, he could probably pinpoint the exact moment--he’d been about eight years old, and he’d overheard his father talking about him, saying he wished Marcus was more like his brother Joseph. Less like himself.
One would think that wouldn’t sting as much twenty years later, with everyone but him gone from this world. One would be wrong.
He heard the door open, and his butler clear his throat. That was something, at least; Thompson did not clear his throat for any but the most interesting of reasons. He turned his head and felt his mouth drop open.
This was definitely an interesting reason.
Page Count: 384 pages
Publisher: Avon (November 25, 2014)
All of London knows the Duke of Rutherford has position and wealth. They also whisper that he’s dissolute, devilish, and determinedly unwed. So why, everyone is asking, has he hired a governess?
When Miss Lily Russell crosses the threshold of the Duke of Rutherford’s stylish townhouse, she knows she has come face to face with sensual danger. For this is no doting papa. Rather, his behavior is scandalous, and his reputation rightly earned. And his pursuit of her is nearly irresistible—but resist she must for the sake of her pupil.
As for the duke himself, it was bad enough when his unknown child landed on his doorstep. Now Lily, with her unassuming beauty, has aroused his most wicked fantasies—and, shockingly, his desire to change his wanton ways. He’s determined to become worthy of her, and so he asks for her help in correcting his behavior.
But Lily has a secret, one that, if it becomes known, could change everything . . .
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