Learning lessons from the past...
This Regency era battle of wits, wills, and the sexes
features a wily duke determined to see the succession
of his line secured. The duke can’t force his sons to
marry, but he can make their lives miserable until they
do. Resisting his pressure, each gentleman holds out for
The second book in the series features Devlin St. Just, the
duke’s oldest, but illegitimate, son. He arrives at his new
estate weary in body and spirit only to find the previous
owner’s bastard daughter and her beautiful cousin are
his responsibility and making his life almost unbearably
Devlin St. Just, first born bastard son of the Duke of
Moreland and newly minted Earl of Rosecroft, has just
decided to travel south from his Yorkshire estate to visit
his ducal family before winter sets in. He'll leave behind
young Winnie Farnum, the previous earl's by-blow, and
Winnie's cousin and temporary governess, Emmie Farnum. Emmie
has been trying to deny her attraction to St. Just, but even
war weary, growling, and resentful of his title, St. Just
has a charm and steadfastness Emmie is powerfully drawn
After the earl's disconcerting announcement at dinner,
Emmie successfully eluded him for the rest of the evening.
She should have known her efforts were doomed. He breached
all protocol that evening and knocked on her bedroom door
once the house was quiet.
"My lord?" She opened the door halfway but did not invite
"I'd like a word with you, if you've the time?"
"In the library?"
"This won't take long," he said, holding his ground. She
took the hint and stepped back, closing the door behind him.
When he turned to face her, Emmie saw his green eyes go wide
at the sight of her hair loose around her shoulders. Down
and unbound. Not braided, bunned, or otherwise confined.
"You were brushing your hair," he guessed. "Which means
you were almost ready for bed. I apologize for intruding."
He wandered to her vanity and picked up a brush inlaid with
"It was a gift from the old earl," she said, watching him
fingering her belongings. He ran his thumbnail down the
teeth of her comb and picked up a blue ribbon coiled in a
tray of hairpins.
"I have been considering how best to apologize to you,"
he said, winding the ribbon around his finger, "but I'm not
sure exactly what label to put on my transgression."
Call it a kiss, Emmie silently rejoined.
"And was an apology the purpose of this conversation?"
she asked, not knowing where in the room to put herself. She
wasn't about to sit on the bed, and not on the fainting
couch by the cold hearth either. She also didn't want to sit
at her vanity, not with him standing there, acquainting his
big, tanned hands with her belongings.
"I'm not just here to apologize." He smiled a slow, lazy
smile at her. Not one of his company smiles, not a smile
he'd give to Winnie or Lord Amery either. "Come sit, Emmie."
He patted the low back of the chair at her vanity. "You are
uneasy, wondering when I'll say something uncouth or
alienate another neighbor. I regret that." He patted the
back of the chair again, and on dragging feet, Emmie crossed
She seated herself and expected the earl to take the end
of the fainting couch or to slouch against the mantel. He
caught her completely off guard by standing behind her and
drawing her hair over her shoulders.
"I miss doing this for my sisters," he said, running the
brush down the length of her hair, "and even for Her Grace
when I was very young."
"She raised you?" Emmie asked, knowing she should grab
the brush from him.
"From the age of five on. You have utterly glorious hair.
Winnie will be the envy of her peers if she ends up with
hair like this." He drew a fat coil up to his nose and
inhaled, then let it drop and resumed his brushing.
"You should not be doing this," Emmie said, but even that
weak admonition was an effort. "I should not be letting you
"I interrupted you. It's only fair I should perform the
task I disturbed. Besides, I wanted to talk to you about
this trip Douglas has proposed."
Emmie rolled her eyes. "The one he proposed at the dinner
table. In front of Winnie. What was he thinking?"
"He was thinking"--the earl kept up a slow, steady sweep
of the brush--"to alert you to the possibility and to give
you a chance to comment on it. But you did not."
"I said something." Emmie frowned, trying to recall what.
Her common sense told her she needed breathing room--right
this moment she needed breathing room, and in the days and
weeks to come. She'd been trying to keep her distance from
him, to avoid the near occasion of sin, but she couldn't
keep him from her thoughts if he was always underfoot.
"You said nothing that told me what you think of the
idea," he remonstrated. "One braid or two?"
"One. You should do as you please," she said, trying to
rouse her brain to focus on the conversation.
"I hadn't planned on traveling south again until spring,
perhaps when Gayle and Anna's child has arrived." He fell
silent as the brush found a knot in the heavy abundance of
"So why go now?" Emmie asked when she ought to be telling
him to go and stay away until spring.
"I'm not sure." He eased the brush through the knot. "I
miss my family, for one thing. I didn't think I would. I
spent much of the spring in Westhaven's household, and I saw
a fair amount of Her Grace and my father then, too."
"But not your sisters, and you have yet to meet Rose, and
your father is recovering from a heart seizure."
"He is. Easily, if my brothers' missives can be trusted.
But what of Winnie? She is my family now, too, and I won't
go if you think it would upset her too much. She's had a
great deal of upheaval in her life, and I would not add to
"Winnie has given you her blessing." Emmie steeled
herself against a lassitude that was making it difficult to
keep her eyes open. "And Winnie is not a creature who
ignores her own preferences. Just for God's sake do not fail
to return, or I won't answer for the consequences."
"Will you miss me, Emmie Farnum?" He paused in his
brushing, and Emmie felt his hands settle on her shoulders.
She wanted to bolt to her feet and wrap her arms around him,
to tell him not to go. She wanted to bolt to her feet and
order him from her room, to tell him to go and not come
She sat in her chair, stock still, and watched in the
mirror as he hunkered behind her chair and pushed her hair
to the side, exposing the side of her neck.
"I told myself," he murmured, his thumb caressing the
spot just below her ear, "I could behave if I had to track
you to your lair tonight. I told myself that lie and I
He leaned in slowly and pressed his open mouth to the
juncture of her shoulder and her neck. His breath fanned
over her skin, and Emmie had to close her eyes against the
sight of him in her mirror. He rose, but only to let his
hands drift down her arms and back up.
"You aren't stopping me, Emmie," he whispered.
"I will," she said, hoping it was true. But his long
fingers were busy with the ties at her throat, and she felt
her night rail fall open as he bit her earlobe. Soon, she
thought, soon I will stop him, but not just...
"Rosecroft...," she murmured.
"Devlin, or St. Just, or my love, but not the bloody
damned title." He shifted so he was kneeling before her and
threaded his hand through her hair at her nape.
Another kiss, Emmie thought, her heart kicking
into a gallop. Just this once more, and then I'll be good.
He made it a feast, that one kiss, by grazing his nose
all over her jaw, her cheeks, her brow. Everywhere, he
inhaled her scent and teased her with his own. She tried to
capture his mouth, but he evaded such headlong behavior.
"St. Just," Emmie panted, "Devlin, please just kiss
He growled, a sound that held amusement and satisfaction,
but he didn't capitulate to her demands until he'd undone
the ties to her nightgown. Not until he fused his mouth to
hers did he ease the material apart, though, and then he let
his hand drop to her lap, leaving Emmie to focus on the way
he plundered her mouth, stole her wits, and sent her best
intentions and common sense begging down the lane.
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