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Authors: Suzanne Enoch

The Black Duke's Prize

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The Black Duke's Prize
Suzanne Enoch

ILL FORTUNE
Exiled to London by a disreputable uncle, Katherine Ralston arrives for the Season in despair--certain that her scheming guardian intends to sell the family manse in her absence. Helpless to prevent the outrage, she is caught up in the mad whirl of balls and galas--only to discover herself dancing with the notorious "Black Duke" of Sommersby.

LUCKY IN LOVE
Though his boudoir escapades are the talk of the ton, Nicholas Varon swears he is done with amorous dallying--yet he takes an immediate interest in the spirited Katherine and her singular dilemma. No innocent waif, Kate naturally suspects trickery. But it may well be the miss has truly captured the rogue's heart--a most unforeseen happenstance that could transform the Black Duke into her dashing white knight.

 

 

 

"You wanted to see me . . . alone?"

Nicholas asked,
a wicked smile spreading across his face.

Kate took an
involuntary step back.

"Close the
door, please."

He complied and
came farther into the room, his expression becoming serious. "Any reason
in particular? You're not in trouble, are you?"

"No. But
you are." She lifted the pistol in the air.

"Good
God!" he exclaimed, a look of complete astonishment on his face.
"What are you-"

"Damn you,
sir! I won't let you steal my home away from me!"

"Steal—?
Crestley Hall. I should have realized." Nicholas took a step closer, and
she leveled the pistol at him. He paused,a grim smile coming to his :face.

"Don't
smile," she hissed angrily' "I mean to do this."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SUZANNE
ENOCH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you purchased this
book without a cover, you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It
was reported as "unsold and destroyed" to the publisher, and neither
the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this "stripped book."

THE BLACK DUKE'S PRIZE
is an original publication of Avon Books. This work has never before appeared
in book form. This work is a novel. Any similarity to actual persons or events
is purely coincidental.

AVONBOOKS A division of

The Hearst Corporation

I350 Avenue of the
Americas

New York, New York I00I9

Copyright @ I995 by
Suzanne Enoch Published by arrangement with the author

Library of Congress
Catalog Card Number: 94-96572

 

ISBN: 0-380-78052-6

 

All rights reserved,
which includes the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form
whatsoever except as provided by the U.S. Copyright Law. For information
address Barbara Lowenstein Associates, Inc., I2I West 27th Street, Suite 60I,
New York, New York I000I.

First Avon Books
Printing: May I995

AVON TRADEMARK REO. U.S.
PAT. OFF. AND IN other COUNTRIES, MARCA REGISTRAA, HECHO EN U.S.A.

Printed in the U.S.A.

 

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To
my sisters, Nancy and Cheryl,

for
endless reading and for

laughing
at all the right places—

I owe
you each a quarter.

 

 

 

1

 

 

I
t was one thing to dream about being a lady in
distress, Katherine Ralston had recently realized, and quite another entirely
to be one. Particularly troubling was that a white knight, who never failed to
make a timely appearance in fictional realms, was in this instance nowhere to
be found. She would have to make do on her own, and though she was becoming
accustomed to that idea, it did not make the circumstance any more pleasant or
comforting.

". . . so,
you see, it's already done, m'dear. The passage was purchased a week ago."
Simon Ralston looked up briefly from the papers he was shuffling across his
late brother's dark-mahogany business desk and then lowered his head again when
Kate made no reply. "All taken care of," he went on after a moment.

"I'm not
leaving," Kate grumbled, her eyes focused on the rose-patterned carpet
that she had played on as a child and her fists clenched so that she wouldn't
be tempted to do any of the unladylike things she was contemplating. ''This is
my home."

"Well,
m'dear, me being your guardian, as named by your dear father, it's mine for the
next two years, and I'll run it as I see fit, thank you very much. And you
won't have any say anyway, young miss, because you are going to London, at the
kind invitation of your godparents."

Kind and
convenient, more like, Katherine thought bitterly. As soon as she was out the
door Uncle Simon would likely sell off Crestley Hall piecemeal and pocket the
profits. She had never liked her father's younger brother, and in the months
since her mother's death her aversion had deepened to hatred. What had
possessed her father to name Simon her guardian until her twenty-second
birthday she couldn't imagine, though at the time the will had been drawn up the
idea that Sir Richard Ralston would be killed in a carriage accident and his
wife, Anne, would die of pneumonia two years later had seemed absurd. Now, however,
Katherine found her home and her life in the hands of a man who would sell
either for a good gambling stake.

He didn't even
look like a Ralston, she decided as she stared at the wiry brown hair on top of
his head, the only part of his face she could see now that his shuffling of papers
had resumed. Both Kate and her father had the same fair complexion and wavy
black hair as all the other Ralstons she had ever heard of. Her own tresses
cascaded down to her waist when she brushed them out.

The one feature
that her father and Simon did share was their brown eyes, so gentle and
good-humored in her father and so stony in his brother. She herself, she
thought thankfully, took after her mother's blue-eyed Irish ancestors, and the
lack of resemblance between her and Uncle Simon had lately become something of
a comfort. The less she had in common with him the better she liked it.

"You'd
best take your sulks upstairs and finish packing, because I won't have another
outburst of that damned temper of yours. Coach leaves first thing in the
morning." Simon Ralston didn't even glance up this time.

After a moment
of deliberate disobedience she stood and left the room. They had argued over
her leaving several times during the past week, and she had known that
nothing she said was going to change his mind. She had therefore completed what
little of her packing there was to do. She was being sent away with what she
could carry, and she more than doubted her uncle's word that the rest of her
"necessities". would follow her to London.

Most of the
servants had been let go during the course of the nine months since her uncle's
arrival, a forced exodus that had begun as soon as her mother had become too
ill to notice and Katherine too concerned over the Lady Anne's failing health
to inform her of the doings. That night the house seemed even quieter than had
become usual, and she wondered if its dead emptiness pressed on her uncle as it
did on her. She dearly hoped so, but after a moment's reflection she doubted he
would notice such a thing.

She had been to
London only once before, when she had begun her Season two years earlier. The
death of her father had ended the festivities after only a fortnight, and she
didn't care if she ever went back again. Her current reason for going, as her
uncle had made clear, was to get her away from Crestley. She wondered fleetingly
if he had somehow arranged the invitation that had arrived a month ago from the
Baron and Baroness of Clarey, her mother's dearest friends and her godparents,
but swiftly brushed the thought away. The idea that Lord Neville or Lady Alison
could be manipulated for even one moment by the likes of Uncle Simon was
unthinkable, even to someone of her rather fanciful imagination.

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