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Authors: Kathryn Caskie

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BOOK: How to Seduce a Duke
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Lady
Upperton’s
eyes were flashing. “Lady Jersey, the shawl is badly stained... with what appears to be dried blood. Can you tell us how that came to be and how Mr.
Royle
might have come into possession of your shawl?”

An uncomfortable smile spread over Lady Jersey’s mouth. “There is only one instance I recall when my clothing might have become stained.”

She flicked the shawl with the edge of her reticule, turning it over on the tea table before her. Then she looked up at Lady
Upperton
and laughed.

“I should not say, but since this particular shawl seems to hold great interest for your party, I will tell you. It happened many years ago. The Prince of Wales was feverish and could not be consoled after Mrs.
Fitzherbert
left him for a term. The physicians had no choice. He had to be bled.”

Mary swallowed deeply and listened.

“I was a close friend of his at the time, so I sat with him to ease his nerves whilst a physician opened his arm. He jerked, though, and blood began to spurt rather than trickle. The physician, needing to act quickly, snatched my shawl from my shoulders and tied it around the Prince’s arm to slow the bloodletting.”

“And the shawl?” Rogan prodded. “What became of it?”

Lady Jersey stood up. “I never saw the shawl again. Nor did I care to. I had others.” She looked up at Rogan. “Now, if there is nothing else, Blackstone, I should like to be returned to my lodgings, please.”

Rogan bowed, then turned to his brother. An exchange of glances was all it took for Quinn to take Lady Jersey’s arm and escort her outside to his waiting carriage.

“Well, I am sorry her report was not more encouraging, Miss
Royle
,”
Lotharian
sighed loudly.

“It changes nothing for me. It is not my past that interests me... but rather, my future.” She allowed her gaze to touch Rogan’s face. “Though my sisters might be rather disappointed.” Mary looked at Lady
Upperton
and smiled. “But our stay in London is not finished, and, I daresay, with Elizabeth and Anne poking about, there will be other clues.”

“Mrs.
Fitzherbert
still lives,” Rogan broke in. “I could approach her for you and your sisters.”

“Thank you, but no.” Mary turned, and her gaze locked with Rogan’s. “My sisters and I agreed that we would never approach such an esteemed woman with our story—without irrefutable evidence. We have nothing.” After speaking, she allowed her gaze to linger.

Lady
Upperton
saw the intimate exchange of glances. “
Lotharian
, might I speak with you in the passage for a moment?”

“What, whatever for—”

“I have been having a problem with rodents. Come this way.” With amazing speed, the old woman took
Lotharian’s
arm and led him out of the library and into the passage.

Mary’s eyes flooded as she peered up at Rogan. “I am so sorry, my love. I should have trusted you.” Her voice shook with deep regret, and she could not stop the torrent of tears that began coursing down her cheeks. “I am so sorry—”

Rogan set his fingers over her lips to quiet her. “
Shhh
. Say nothing more. Please, just listen.”

Mary nodded mutely.

Rogan cradled her face in his hands and peered down into her watery eyes as he dabbed away the tears on her cheeks with the pads of his thumbs. “I love you, Mary. With all my heart and all that I am, I love you.”

He bent and pressed his lips to hers, and she melted into his arms.

When he lifted his mouth from her lips, he smiled down at her. “I cannot make you a princess, but if you will have me this night, a duchess you will be.”

Rogan reached into his waistcoat pocket and withdrew a gold wedding ring. He held it before her eyes. “If you love me, as I love you, say you will, Mary. Say you will be my wife.”

“I will.” Mary’s eyes misted as she gazed up at Rogan, but then took on a glimmer. “I still get to wear a tiara, right?”

 

 

Portman Square, that evening

 

The moon shone like a lantern upon the grassy clearing of the garden where the three women stood, their skin smooth and white as marble in the blue glow of the light.

Their snowy gowns draped gracefully from their shoulders, and they were tied with crossed ribbons of ivory silk. The looked like goddesses from another time and place.

One, in particular.

Rogan smiled with pride as he gazed down at Mary, standing at his side. Her sisters dutifully stood to her left, his own brother to his right.

The air was filled with the soft, sweet perfume of newly planted crimson-budded roses, and their scattered petals made a lush velvet carpet for the wedding party.

Tears of joy streaked down Lady
Upperton’s
face, cutting wet tracks in her heavily powdered face. Lord
Lotharian
was beside her, smiling most confidently. However, his gaze seemed to alight on the small leather pouches of wagered coins both
Gallantine
and Lilywhite held in their hands at the ready in the event that the couple actually married as he’d predicted.

The rector prompted Mary’s reply.

“I will,” she replied. She turned her gaze to Rogan’s then, and her smile broadened.

Rogan squeezed her hand. He’d never felt so blissfully happy. Never before had his heart felt so full.

Never had he been so completely in love.

“I love you,” Rogan whispered to her as he slipped the ring of gold over her knuckle and pressed it down to the base of her finger. “And I will, forever.”

“I love you too, and shall, forever,” she echoed.

A warm glow spread through Rogan just then.

He knew the ring would never come off her finger again, because this time nothing could come between them.

They would truly be together... forever.

Epilogue

M
ary leaned against the tufted leather cushion inside the carriage and tilted the pages of her father’s book of maladies and remedies to the light breaking through the window.

“You can’t mean to read
that
book during the entire journey to Blackstone Hall.” Rogan snatched the volume from her hands.

“I cannot stop wondering why my father included this book, of all of the other medical texts in his library, in the document box. Elizabeth is certain there is a clue or some other important information in this book that might assist us in learning the identity of our true parents. My father scrawled so many little notes, underlined segments. There has to be something here. I am just missing it.”

“I thought that book was about how to seduce a duke.”


Mmm
, you remembered that, did you?” Mary grinned back at him. “Well, I studied that particular chapter. Have it memorized, in fact.”

“Have you, now?” One corner of Rogan’s mouth slipped upward, and he flashed that rakish smile of his. “And what does that chapter suggest?”

“Oh, it’s quite simple, really.” Mary reached up, drew the shade down over the window, and turned her most seductive smile upon him. “Just find a carriage.”

 

A footman, liveried in deepest blue satin, stood just outside the circular glow of the candle upon the writing desk.

He was nearly invisible to Lady Jersey as she dipped her pen into a crystal pot of ink and moved it across the page, but she knew he was there. He was waiting to deliver the all-important missive she was hurriedly writing.

She sprinkled sand on the words, then tapped the page on the desk before folding and sealing it with a dollop of red wax. She pressed her ring into the drying wafer, then turned and handed the missive to the footman.

“Take it to her. Hurry. She must know.”

He bowed and disappeared beyond the reach of light.

Lady Jersey leaned her elbows on the desk. The granules of sand bit into her thin skin as she rested her head in her trembling hands and closed her eyes.

God help me.

The babies lived.

They lived.

 
Acknowledgments
 

There are several people to whom I owe a great debt of gratitude for helping me bring this story to life:

 

My wonderful editor at Avon Books, Lucia Macro, who probably has no idea how her hilarious daily e-mails spurred me on when the finish line seemed miles away.

Jenny Bent, my incredible agent, who went above and beyond the call of duty to help me deliver this book on time.

My amazing research assistant,
Franzeca
Drouin
, who was always one step ahead of me.

Regency expert, Nancy Mayer, and also the learned ladies of the Beau
Monde
, especially authors Diane Perkins, Dee Hendrickson, Gaelen Foley and
Tonda
Fuller, who were always willing and able to answer any and all last-minute questions I had about complex period details.

My friend and fellow author, Sophia Nash, who encouraged me throughout the course of writing this book—including making arrangements for a very important revitalizing day at a spa as my deadline loomed.

My sisters, Lisa Sellers and Jenny Byers, and also my own two princesses (when they are old enough to read my books!), who might see glimpses of themselves between these pages.

And to my husband, for proving to me that everyday heroes really do exist.

Thank you all.

 
 
About the Author
 

KATHRYN CASKIE has long been a devotee of history and things of old, so it came as no surprise to her family when she took a career detour off the online superhighway and began writing historical romances full time.

With a background in marketing, advertising, and journalism, she has written professionally for television, radio, the internet, magazines, and newspapers in and around metropolitan
Washington
,
DC
.

How to Seduce a Duke
is her fifth novel.

Kathryn lives in a 200-year-old Quaker home nestled in the foothills of the
Blue Ridge Mountains
with her greatest sources of inspiration, her husband and two young daughters.

Readers may contact Kathryn through her website at
www.kathryncaskie.com.

Visit www.AuthorTracker.com for exclusive information on your favorite HarperCollins author.

 

BOOK: How to Seduce a Duke
2.48Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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