Rhys Merrick, Duke of Roydan, is determined to be the antitheses of his depraved father, repressing his desires so severely he is dubbed “the Monk” by Society. But when Olivia Weston turns up demanding payment for gowns ordered by his former mistress, Rhys is totally flummoxed and inexplicably smitten. He pays her to remove her from his house, and mind. But logic be damned, he must have this fiercely independent woman.
Olivia’s greatest fear is becoming a kept woman. She has escaped the role of mistress once and vows never to be owned by any man. Rather than make money in the boudoir, she chooses to clothe the women who do. But when a fire nearly kills her friend and business partner, Olivia’s world goes up in smoke and she is forced to barter with the lofty duke.
As their lives weave together, Olivia unravels the man underneath the Monk, while Rhys desires to expose the lady hiding behind the dressmaker. Will his raw passion fan a long-buried ember of hope within her? Can this mismatched pair be the perfect fit?
What did he expect? Yards of ribbons, ruffles and bows? The demimonde was her niche. And rather than sell herself on her back she chose instead to clothe the women who did.
She raised her chin. “As you see, Your Grace, there is nothing inferior here. I am quite proud of my workmanship, and this design in particular is a favorite of the gentlemen.
“The gentlemen?” The gape collapsed into a scowl.
“Yes. And the ladies as well—my patronesses. In Paris I was quite sought after. I’m sure I will have the same following here in London, as soon as I can properly circulate.”
Was he addlepated? He seemed capable of only one-word rejoinders.
“Yes.” She tried speaking to him as if he were a small child incapable of comprehension. “Mrs. Battersby was a great coup for our shop. But now she has lost your protection, Mrs. Wiggins and I will simply have to begin anew. Now, Your Grace, will you take the gown?”
Reason told her only a few seconds could have passed as they stood, his gaze locked to hers in a stalemate, but it seemed interminable.
Finally his jaw twitched.
“Could you move, please?” Was it her imagination, or was his voice higher than usual? Then what he actually said registered.
“Yes. Could you move across the room? I find to judge a garment, or anything properly, one must see it in motion.” Her face must have reflected horror, for he hastened on, “You would not expect me to buy a horse simply by looking at its lines would you, Mrs. Weston? I would wish to see it run as well. I’m sure you understand.”
Blast him and his bloody horses. She strode forward, happy to vent some of her anger in movement; however, she realized a split second too late there was nowhere to move. The receiving room was not large and was mostly taken up with the cutting table. The only area with any appreciable room was at the far end of the shop where the huge paneled mirrors stood. He was standing directly in the path that would be her best direction. Consequently, she found herself almost flush up against him.
She knew he was tall. Any fool could see the man was at least two or more inches over six feet, but from this vantage point—directly beneath him—he was so very tall. She could smell the starch of his shirt mixed with a faint whiff of smoke and possibly brandy. She slid her gaze over the shirt and waistcoat to his cravat—a conservatively tied Oriental—to the firm, slightly cleft chin, moving on to the lips, very swiftly past those, and finally resting on his eyes. Pure molten gold. Yes, exactly like those of the Burmese tiger she had seen at a menagerie in Paris. His bearing was just as predatory.
“It would appear, sir, in order for me to move, as you require, you will have to bestir yourself as well.”
She thought she saw one side of his mouth shift ever so slightly upward into what might be the merest twitch of a smile. She could not be one hundred percent sure because, to do so, she would have to look at his lips. The duke shifted his weight and made a small bow. Her shoulder brushed the superfine of his midnight blue jacket as she hurriedly squeezed past him.
She strode almost to the mirrors before wheeling around and giving him what she hoped was an accusatory look.
“Well, Your Grace. I hope you are satisfied.”
“Satisfied, Mrs. Weston?” He raised that infernal eyebrow. “Oh no, madam, I am very far from satisfied. However, I am hopeful I will be, in the not so distant future.” Again his gaze raked over her. “Yes, I do live in hope.” He turned and began to gather his things. “You may send this gown to me in the morning.”
“But won’t you want the young woman to come in for a fitting?”
The duke stopped in the middle of donning his left glove. He looked at her as if she was being deliberately obtuse or worse, coy, and once more raised that bloody eyebrow. She chose to ignore his rapier-like weapon.
“Your Grace, this gown is deceptive in its simplicity. It looks uncomplicated, but in fact it requires, at the very least, one fitting to assure it hangs properly. I will not send out a gown that does not fit perfectly. You must understand I have my reputation to think of.”
Hot brandy eyes seared hers. “Madam, believe me, I am very cognizant of your reputation. As a modiste you need not fear,” he said as he slowly drew on his left glove and flexed his fingers. “I assure you the gown will fit like this glove.”
With that, he turned and opened the door.
“I will be back for the next gown tomorrow. Shall we say at the same time?”
He clearly did not need or require an answer. Olivia’s mouth dropped open as the shop door closed, its jangle of bells mocking her frayed nerves.
Oh God, it was not over. Not nearly over. In fact, it seemed the Duke of Roydan had just begun.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jess Russell now Multi-Award Winning and Best-selling author!
As a girl Jess escaped the world of rigorous ballet class and hideous math homework into the haven of toe wriggling romance novels. Now she writes them!
Jess lives in New York City with her husband and son and disappears to the Catskill Mountains whenever she can. She is a sometime actress, award winning batik artist, and accomplished seamstress. Along with her sewing machine, she loves power tools and, what’s more, she knows how to use them.
Jess is currently working on renovating a condo in uptown Manhattan (The Lipstick on a Pig Project) and writing two other stories for the Reluctant Hearts series, Captivated by the Countess and Daft for a Duke.
Jess Russell is a member of RWA, as well as the Beau Monde and the NY chapters of RWA.
THE DRESSMAKER’S DUKE was a double finalist in the National Readers Choice Awards for Best First Book and Best Historical. Also finaled in the Heart of Excellence Readers Choice Contest. The book came in first in the Fool for Love Contest, Golden Apple Awards’ Secret Craving Contest, the Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest and the Golden Rose Contest (also winning the best of the best). And finaled in the Great Beginnings, Emerald City Opener, and the Lone Star Contests.