Orphaned and abandoned by family, Lady Cassandra Montgomery yearns for love. Beautiful and innocent, she attracts the attention of a renowned rake, the Duke of Althorn. When her security is threatened, she offers him a proposal for an arranged marriage in exchange for his guarantee of safety for her and her ward. After her first taste of desire in his arms, she finds the sexual attraction irresistible. Finding herself in a family way, she leaves his home, unsure of his love.
The Duke is at first enraged by the brazen behavior, yet he sees Cassandra as a captivating caregiver for his mother and impossible to resist. He agrees. The arrangement becomes inconvenient because love and sex enter the equation.
Will she believe her husband truly loves her and return to his waiting arms?
Will the Duke admit his love and use his rakish skills to woo Cassandra back to his bed?
It was time he schemed, too. “I’ll select a gown for you, if you like. I’ll be proud to have my two duchesses by my side in their jeweled tiaras. Your maid will bring all to you as befits this special occasion. The King’s ball demands no less of us.”
“Thank you.” A smile curled her lips, her eyes glistened. “I appreciate there is no ill will between us.” She turned her face away.
“You’d be surprised at how much more there’ll be between us, my wife.” He turned to the dowager. “I do believe my mother tires.”
“Shall I have a servant escort you, Mother?”
Before she could offer to leave the table with Lady Madelaine, his brow arched in contained fury; his gaze shot across the length of the table. Cassandra’s lips stilled.
“Thank you, Gordon.” The dowager arose and a servant walked behind her as she took to the steps.
He simply stared at Cassandra, perused her body, and how her generous bosom invited his attention even in the simple frock she wore. His face couldn’t hide his anger.
“You have left my bed of your own accord. That is a serious dereliction of duty on a wife’s part in England, punishable by beatings…and other dire measures.”
“It wasn’t the intent of our agreement to chain me to you and your bed.”
He poured more cognac into his snifter. “Now that conjures a seductive thought—perhaps you would enjoy such activity?”
“Stop it, Gordon. You are like a two-sided coin. One side is gracious and the other side is lascivious.” She clasped her hands in her lap.
“Did you expect me to jump for joy at the prospect of your early departure from my house on a permanent basis? After all we’ve shared, Cassandra? Did it mean nothing to you? Did you simply use me as a connoisseur of decadent lingerie?” He rose from his chair, glass in hand and walked the long length to her position.
“No, but I did not expect you to display fits of anger. It couldn’t have been a surprise to you.”
“Cassandra, allow me to recollect. You proposed the agreement. I originally refused and because I took pity on you,
I agreed to our business arrangement, as you put it.”
“You took pity on me? Is that what changed your mind? I didn’t need you as much as you needed me to care for your mother and get her well. You ass.”
“I might well be an ass since I trusted you, but you have stolen from me, my wife.”
She stood and faced him with defiance. “I have stolen nothing and only taken those items that were mine. Gowns, jewelry, coins, all are left behind.” Her napkin dropped from her lap.
“You are a thief, Cassandra. You have stolen the love of my mother, stolen the love of my dog, stolen the affection of my staff, and you claim you’re not a thief?”
“I did not steal them. It was theirs to give and I accepted—all to please you. You’re a dolt.”
“Hmm, did you take the lingerie you designed?”
“Yes, they were mine. I paid for them before I met you, Gordon.”
“Do you intend to put them to future use?” he asked, and moved an alcohol-braced whisper’s breath away from her.
“How do I know? If you want them, I’ll leave them for you to lavish on one of your other women.”
His hand slid around her waist. “There have been no other women since I met you. You are aware of that fact, aren’t you?”
“I hadn’t given it a thought. You’ve kept me so occupied, I don’t have free time to think.”
“I believe you lie to yourself, however, I indicated I wouldn’t stop you if you wished to leave, and that is so.
Yet, I wonder if you would entertain one last night with me for a final end to a four month marriage of convenience that has suddenly turned inconvenient.”
“I’d rather sleep in a stable than by your side,” she spat.
“I would never force myself on you, but perhaps you could be coaxed to have mercy on your poor husband who’ll be left without any conjugal rights available to him?”
“Then one last kiss? The memory of it will warm me on cold nights.”
“If you do take to cold nights, a servant can bring you a warm brick, and perhaps you can strike yourself on the head with it.”
Then a simple thing happened. They laughed. He extended his arm. She accepted as they walked out of the room. Together.
As they ascended the steps, there were snickers and smiles. He pointed Cassandra to her chambers, opened his bedroom door, and closed it.
He would win her back, if it killed him.
TO WIN AN eCOPY OF HER DIVINELY DECADENT DUKEENTER AT RAFFLECOPTER. THE GIVEAWAY IS OPEN FOR SEVEN DAYS AND THE WINNER WILL BE NOTIFIED SHORTLY AFTER THE CLOSING DATE.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Retired executive, Sandra Masters, rose from a humble beginning in Newark, NJ, a short stay at a convent in Morristown, NJ, to the board rooms of NYC, and a fantastic career for a broadcasting company in Carlsbad, California, to the rural foothills of the Sierras of Yosemite National Park, she has always traveled with pen and notebook. It’s been the journey of ten thousand miles. She left her corporate world behind and never looked back.
Nothing she expected, but everything she dreamed.