Neville Perceval, the bankrupt Duke of Anglesey, has been burdened since youth with more responsibility than one man should handle. He has finally accepted that he needs to marry a wealthy, gracious lady who will ease his burdens and smooth his political path.
Fiona MacDermot, the rebellious, untamed cousin of an Irish earl, has the freedom and independence Neville has never known. Like the duke, she needs cash to help starving villagers and orphans. Unfortunately, she’d rather earn a living than have anything to do with useless men, and the politicians she knows all belong at the wrong end of a rope.
But when the duke is nearly beaten to death, and Fiona’s looms are lost to a murdering thief, their lives are entangled in ways that threaten their futures. Lust shouldn’t factor into their destinies, but it does, and now they have to find their dreams together, or die trying
“Finished with the news sheets, His Grace, Neville Perceval, the Duke of Anglesey drained his brandy glass, picked up his walking stick and high-crowned hat, and set out for home. He had a stack of estate papers on his desk that needed his attention. And his cousin Blanche had yet another mad scheme for improving the Manchester mills that he must discourage in some manner.
He couldn’t believe he was placed in the position of acting as a bloody tradesman just to keep his wretched cousin from sinking all her coins into improbable schemes for benefiting the welfare of mankind. Mankind was scarce worth the effort.
Neville allowed instinct to guide him home while he lost himself in thought. The Anglesey townhouse occupied a rather large chunk of real estate in one of the older sections of town, one where gaslights had not yet been installed. Accustomed to the dark shadows of trees from the park, Neville gave his surroundings little notice. Even the clammy fog obscuring the pavement did not deter him. He could find his way home blindfolded if needed.
Only the sound of a footstep where there shouldn’t be one finally dragged him from his reverie. One too many violent incidents in these past years of political chaos had taught him caution. Had someone followed him from the club? Why?
One of the things he had learned from Michael, Blanche’s new husband, was how to act quickly and defend himself. Over the years, his lessons with Gentleman Jackson had given him a much needed outlet for frustration. Neville needed no more than the snap of a twig to jump from absentminded thought to full alert.
The scoundrel crashing through the shrubbery caught the full force of the gold-plated knob of Neville’s walking stick. The second scoundrel suffered the brunt of Neville’s fist plowing into his face at such an angle that his jaw fell slack. Neville cursed as still a third leapt from the bushes, and footsteps behind him indicated he’d attracted a crowd.
Giving up any pretense of politeness, he flicked open the sword in his stick, slashed at the man advancing from his side, kicked at the one rising from the street, and heard the sweet sound of a groan as he connected with his soft target. Any triumph he might have felt dissipated the moment a cudgel cracked across the back of his skull.
With a growl of fury, Neville swung and slashed at his opponent, but he’d already realized the futility. There were just too many of them.
As someone grabbed his sword and twisted it from his hand, Neville plowed his fist into still another jaw and had the satisfaction of hearing it crack before the club came down on his skull again.
This time, the Duke of Anglesey crumpled to the street, swearing as the blackness of unconsciousness threatened. He had no heir. He couldn’t die.”
FEATURED AUTHOR: Patricia Rice
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