Read an Excerpt
Deeply in You
THE WICKED DUKES
By SHARON PAGE
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2014 Edith E. Bruce
All rights reserved.
If a governess's wildest fantasy was to take shape and come to life, he would look exactly like the Duke of Greybrooke.
From her vantage point on a bench in Berkeley Square, Miss Helena Winsome surreptitiously studied the duke as he vaulted down from his glossy black carriage with effortless grace. A tall beaver hat added a foot to his already remarkable height. A three-tiered greatcoat fell from broad shoulders and swung open as he walked to the front steps of an imposing town house, giving her a glimpse of trim hips and long legs. His tailor must sew his trousers to him, for they fit like a glove over his muscular thighs.
Unmarried, with a fortune and stunning good looks, Greybrooke was the catch of the year. He had been the catch of the last five years. No lady had snared his heart and tempted him into marriage. But it was said that matrons and widows ardently pursued him for the chance to grace his bed—even just once—and delicate maidens fainted in Hyde Park when he smiled at them.
Sensible Helena had scoffed at the gossip, even as she absorbed every detail. How could a gentleman's smile render a woman unconscious? She had encountered many handsome, young men in her years as a governess to the ton's families, and never once had she swooned at the sight of one.
She squinted, trying to see more.
Would the duke notice her peering at him? The risk of capture made her pulse pound with thrilling nerves. If he saw her looking, what would he do? Come and reprimand her? It would be more likely he would give her a scoundrel's knowing smirk from across the road, then ignore her.
At least she had one thing in her favor. He would never suspect a nondescript governess of being a spy.
She withdrew opera glasses from a pocket in her skirts and flicked them open. Other governesses and nurses strolled through the park, pushing perambulators or holding the hands of small children. The sun-soaked square was busy on this delightfully warm May afternoon. But she had chosen a quiet corner near the street, and she sat on a bench ensconced beneath a large oak. No one looked in her direction.
Her three young charges were sitting on a blanket on the grass beside her—Lords Michael and Timothy played with a ball; Lady Sophie had her nose buried in a book; and their young aunt, Lady Maryanne, sat with them, braiding colored ribbons by the feel of their textures. Although nineteen, Maryanne was still very childlike because she was blind. Helena looked after her too, for the girl had been without her sight since fourteen.
Helena also had a pram, and it was positioned in front of her, which gave her something to hide behind if necessary. If the duke glanced her way, she could quickly turn her attention to fifteen-month-old Lord Edward, slumbering happily amongst his blankets. She had offered to bring Edward since it was Nurse's afternoon off, and he made her look even more innocent. What spy would bring a baby along?
Helena put the glasses to her eyes. They let her magnify detail, and she trained them on the duke.
Her breath evaporated in one swift whoosh.
It wasn't as if she hadn't already watched him whenever she could for the past three weeks, after taking a week to settle into her post as governess to the duke's sister, Lady Winterhaven. But each time she saw Greybrooke, her skin would grow dewy with perspiration, making her uncomfortably hot beneath her corset.
How she now understood the term "loose woman," for she yearned to take off her dress and tear her stays open, she felt so heated.
It must be nerves that made her feel as tense as an over-wound clock. Yet she had taken quite a few risks in her pursuit of scandals, and she'd never experienced anything quite like this oddly anxious feeling before.
Before mounting the steps to Lady Montroy's house, Greybrooke paused to survey the street around him, perhaps to ensure that Lady Montroy's husband wasn't returning to the house early.
His action gave her a full view of his face.
Of full, wide lips that looked scandalously sensuous on an Englishman. His cheekbones were as striking as the Pennines or the cliffs of Dover—high, sharp, and beautiful, with deep wells of shadow beneath. Beneath his hat, his hair was a tumble of coal-black waves. She couldn't see the color of his eyes, but his thick black lashes were unmistakable. That fringe of pure black gave his eyes the arresting quality that robbed her of breath.
Perhaps she could see why less wary, wise, and knowledgeable girls fainted.
His Grace strode to the front door, rapped sharply, and the door opened. A young footman bowed, and the duke disappeared inside.
Helena folded her opera glasses and stowed them away. Her heartbeat galloped, and no amount of controlled breaths could slow it. Ever since she had been given this assignment one month ago, she'd discovered that one could not watch the Duke of Greybrooke and escape unscathed.
For the last three nights, she'd dreamed about him. She, the most pragmatic, practical woman in England; the one governess in the country who did not harbor any fantasy that she might catch a rich man's eye and be whisked from her mundane life to blissful happiness.
But the fantasies her mind invented at night—
About lush caresses she didn't even know she knew anything about, until she had experienced them in scorching, thrilling, naughty dreams.
Stop this, Helena.
She must remember the reason why she was watching the Duke of Greybrooke in this clandestine manner. This was not one of her usual missions, where she was working to unearth a scandal for her column in her half brother's newspaper—her very popular column, Lady X's Society Papers. She was here to learn everything she could about the duke's habits and his schedule. Here to find out where he went, whom he met, and when he was regularly away from his house. All information she required so she could devise a plan to get the proof she needed.
Proof the Duke of Greybrooke had been a traitor, a spy for Napoleon during the war.
But she was also a governess. She had tucked a book at the bottom of the pram, and now she took it out. She motioned the children to gather. "It is time for a story."
"Not yet!" Michael, the oldest boy, the heir to the Earl of Winterhaven, got up and ran to her. He clutched the cricket ball he'd been tossing to his brother. "Winnie," he said, using his nickname for her, "will you play ball with us first? Timothy is too young to throw. His nose runs all the time."
Four-year-old Lord Timothy tottered up, rubbing his nose on his sleeve.
She laughed. "You, young man, have a handkerchief." Helena drew out the square of linen and pressed it to the boy's small nose. "Now, you must blow."
But Timothy sucked in, then coughed.
She coaxed and blew her own nose, but she could not get the little boy to do it himself. Michael proudly showed that he could do it, and she praised him.
"Of course I can do it," he said seriously. "I have to learn how to be a gentleman, for I'm going to be the earl. I'm already a viscount."
Michael already bore a title—a courtesy title—and he reminded his siblings of it several times each day.
"A gentleman also behaves with some humility," she gently pointed out.
"No, they don't." Michael shook his head, his golden waves tumbling around his face. "Uncle Grey says they don't. He tells me I am going to break hearts when I'm big and that I have to be prepared for the adulation I will eventually receive."
"Oh, he does, does he? That is very wrong of him. A gentleman should not break hearts. That is the behavior of a scoundrel."
Uncle Grey was the Duke of Greybrooke—and the reason she had sought out employment with the duke's sister and brother-in-law. As governess, Helena could hear the servants' gossip and discover all sorts of information about the duke—including the fact that his most recent paramour lived on Berkeley Square.
Her thoughts strayed to the duke. In her mind's eye, she followed him into the house.
Was Lady Montroy, his lover, waiting for him in her bed- chamber? Helena could imagine the duke making his way up the stairs to her ladyship, his long legs taking the steps two at a time.
He would grasp his cravat before he reached her door, yank it open with one tug, bare his throat. Dark stubble would shadow his jaw, and when the countess kissed him on his neck, she would taste his clean skin and smell the exotic sandalwood that imbued his soap, and he would gather her in a passionate, scorching kiss—
But would they do it in the countess's bedchamber? What did people do exactly in clandestine affairs? From studying scandals and love affairs and naughty seductions for the newspaper, Helena knew, in general what couples did.
But how did they actually go about it? How could a woman share a bed with a husband and a lover and not be crippled with guilt? Did they perhaps steal moments of passion on a settee in the drawing room? On the pianoforte bench? In the garden, hidden by the roses?
What would it be like to have a handsome gentleman roll on his back on the soft grass beneath fragrant roses and pull you on top of—?
Lurid descriptions sold newspapers. Helena knew that from experience. But such thoughts were not appropriate here in the park, when her duty was to her four charges and Lady Maryanne.
"No, we will have reading first," she said firmly. She left her bench to sit with the children on the blanket. It proved a challenge in her snug corset and skirts, but she managed it. As Timothy, Michael, and Sophie sat and Helena opened the book, she took one more glance at the countess's house. It towered four stories tall, fashioned of deep red brick. Elegant and sedate, the house gave no hint at the sinful happenings taking place inside.
The duke usually remained there for exactly one hour—he appeared to be a gentleman who lived by a schedule. Something Helena understood but hardly expected in a careless rake.
She had wondered if this might prove to be a good time of day to search his home. The only problem was servants. The duke was unmarried and lived alone in his enormous mansion on Park Lane, but he had dozens of servants.
She read a chapter, with Timothy cuddled up to her left side and Sophie sitting on her right. Michael, who wanted to behave like a gentleman, sat at the edge of the blanket with his back erect and his shoulders straight. Lady Maryanne sat demurely at the other end, her walking stick resting beside her legs.
Helena paused to begin chapter 4 when, across the street, a window shot up with a rattle of its sash. A female scream of fury exploded over the square. "You wretch! I've given you everything and you cannot leave!"
Helena jerked her head up. The children gasped and strained to see. The duke was leaving the house, jauntily sauntering down the front steps. His cravat was untied, his blue-black hair tousled and falling over his eyes, and he carried his hat in his hand.
Michael hopped up from the blanket. "It's Uncle Grey!"
Above the duke, white curtains fluttered in the open window. Suddenly, blond hair tumbled out—long, curling tresses of golden hair, falling like Rapunzel's locks. The fairy-tale image lasted only a moment, for the Countess of Montroy leaned forward, revealing her face—scarlet and contorted with rage. "Seducer. Scoundrel. Wretched sod! You made me believe—you told me—I hate you!"
Helena was transfixed, stunned by the countess's terrible behavior. The entire square could hear what was happening. Now everyone knew about the woman's scandalous affair with Greybrooke. The only one who paid no attention was the duke, sauntering toward his carriage—
Michael. Panicked, Helena looked around her. Michael was gone. No, he was there—running along the winding path, racing toward his uncle ... and the street. Helena scrambled to her feet, but before she took a step, she spun around and gave orders. "The rest of you stay here. Lady Sophie, watch the others, watch Lord Edward in his pram."
Sophie paled—at nine, she was young to take charge. But there was no other choice.
Then Helena ran. Her feet flew over the path, but an eight- year-old could sprint terribly fast. Her heavy skirts flailed around her legs, threatening to send her tumbling.
"Michael, stop now!"
Her command only made him run faster.
Lungs burning, she sprinted as she would have done as a young girl, when she used to chase her brother. When Michael was within arm's reach, she released her grip on her skirts and lunged, wrapping her arms around the boy. She whisked him off the ground, hugging him tightly.
Still gasping, she plopped her charge back on his feet. Even when out of breath, a governess must be stern when necessary. She wagged her finger. "Michael, you mustn't run away like that—"
He pointed past her, at the countess's house, and gasped, "Look, Winnie!"
Helena whirled around, pressing her hands on Michael's shoulders to keep him trapped. The countess had leaned out of her window again, but this time she clutched the sides of a large, white pot—a chamber pot—and she held it over the duke's head.
"Your Grace!" Helena bellowed it across the street, which was utterly improper. But she was a governess, accustomed to thwarting disaster before it happened, and she could not simply ignore a mess in progress. "Your Grace, above you! Look up!"
The duke did just that, and with a cry of fury, Lady Montroy turned the chamber pot upside down. Liquid flew downward, and the heavy pot slipped from her grasp. Greybrooke leapt nimbly to the side, landing with a panther's grace at the edge of the street. The fluid—it was too impolite to name—spattered on the sidewalk. The porcelain pot hit the cobbles beside the duke and shattered to pieces.
The duke looked up—but not at his furious lover who retreated from the window with frantic speed. He stared at her. Helena.
Magnetic, even with the distance of the street between them, his gaze captured hers. Slowly, like the spill of sun at dawn, his gorgeous, full lips curved into a devilish grin. She could do nothing but gape at him, her practical half-boots stuck to the spot.
Dimples. Rugged lines that bracketed his mouth. A wicked sparkle in his expression. She couldn't break his spell. All around, there was a buzz and blur of people—a throng of curious onlookers, drawn by the shouting and the smash of the pot.
The Duke of Greybrooke bowed to her in a sweep of elegance. In full view of the busy Mayfair streets that bordered Berkeley Square.
People turned to look at her. Spies were supposed to disappear into the woodwork, not induce the entire world to stare.
The duke straightened, nodded to her, his smile still in place. He turned toward his carriage.
Helena's heart fell faster than the chamber pot. What had she been thinking? She'd failed impetuously, foolishly, miserably. When the duke was about to be soaked and brained by a pot, she hadn't been able to keep silent.
How could she find proof about the duke now? After this, he would notice her if she was within a mile of him.
If she didn't find proof, her family would be ruined.
"Uncle!" Michael jerked forward, bringing her thoughts back from panic. His slim body twisted out of her grip. In her anxiety over the duke, the pot, and her mistake, her hands had slackened on the boy's shoulders.
Like a streak of lightning, Michael shot forward, toward the street.
In a heartbeat, his slim figure vanished between the people who milled on the park's path—ladies, gentlemen, nurses, and governesses, all watching Lady Montroy's house expectantly, as if waiting for her ladyship to return with something else to throw.
Helena ran. "Michael, stop!" she shouted, even though the words would be nothing more than a warning to him that she was on his heels. So many people mobbed together, she could not see beyond shoulders, trousers, bonnets, and skirts.
Excerpted from Deeply in You by SHARON PAGE. Copyright © 2014 Edith E. Bruce. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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