Waking Up With the Duke
By Lorraine Heath
Copyright © 2011 Lorraine Heath
All right reserved.
Herndon Hall, Leicestershire
I'll consider your debt paid in full if you get my wife
Ransom Seymour, the ninth Duke of Ainsley, struggled
to concentrate as he sat sprawled in a comfortable
armchair in the well appointed library. He'd been
downing excellent whiskey ever since his arrival at the
Marquess of Walfort's country estate for his once
legendary hunt. After three hours, they were both well
into their cups, so surely he'd misunderstood.
"Does your silence indicate your acceptance of the
terms?" Walfort asked.
Ainsley scrutinized his cousin and long time friend,
sitting in that damned wheelchair, where he himself
had placed the marquess three years earlier. Walfort
had aged considerably during that time, his brown
hair having gone white at the temples, his brown eyes
somber enough to chase off any gaiety in the room.
Ainsley released a dark chuckle. "I've had far too much
to drink. You would not countenance what I thought
"Jayne wants a child. I can't give it to her. You owe
Ainsley pushed himself out of the chair. He'd meant
to do so with force. Instead, he staggered and almost
lost his balance as he crossed over to the fireplace. He
pressed his forearm against the stone mantel to steady
himself while he studied the madly dancing flames.
Within them he could almost see the night he and Walfort
had been barreling wildly through the London
streets, the curricle traveling at a dangerous breakneck
He'd wondered but never dared ask the full extent
of Walfort's injuries. They'd seen each other seldom in
the intervening years, that tragic night a guilty barrier
between them. "I owe you your legs. Not my seed."
"You owe me a bloody cock!"
Inwardly, Ainsley flinched, but he allowed none of
his rioting emotions to escape his calm façade. Instead,
he concentrated more intently on the fire. The flames
red, blue, yellow, orangeswirled in a macabre waltz,
no doubt a preview of what his eternity would most
assuredly entail. Writhing within them for his sins,
his poor judgment. He'd been all of five and twenty. A
cursed age for him and his brothers. Westcliffe married
at twenty-five and was betrayed. Stephen marched off
to war, only to return a lost man. And Ainsley, who was
always so damned responsible, managed to destroy a
good man's life. And a lovely woman's. And his own, if
he was honest about it.
"Are you telling me that you can't . . . that you"
He peered over at Walfort. He owed it to his childhood
friend to at least hold his gaze when he asked. "That
you can't bed her?"
"I've got no feeling." Walfort pounded his thighs,
slammed a fist between his legs with enough force to
make Ainsley cringe and the chair creak. "No feeling.
She's tried, bless her, she's tried to make it work . . . but
all it does is cause her to weep."
Ainsley felt as though his heart had been scored with
a thousand daggers. They'd been in London celebrating
that Jayne was at long last with child, was possibly
carrying Walfort's heir.
"I feel remarkably old at twenty-eight," Walfort,
three years Ainsley's senior, remarked. "I want to feel
So they drank and drank and drank. And although
Walfort was married, they even visited the beds of a
couple of lovelies. Ainsley had never understood
Walfort partaking in the latter entertainment. If Jayne were
"Jayne would never agree to this mad notion of
yours. She despises me."
He hardly blamed her for her attitude toward him.
In grief over her husband's near death and debilitating
injuries, she'd lost the child. Now it seemed she had no
hope of ever having another. She was the sort of woman
who should never be denied anything her heart desired.
It was his second thought upon being introduced to
her at the betrothal dinner that had been held in her
and Walfort's honor: If you were mine, you'd never
do without. His first thought had been that he wished
he'd met her before Walfort, so certain was he that he'd
have been able to charm her into his arms. She was the
loveliest woman upon whom he'd ever set eyes. Grace
and poise mirrored her every step. When she smiled, she
made a man feel as though he were all that mattered.
In no hurry to marry, Ainsley had avoided the soirees
of Seasons past whenever possible. Thus he'd missed
the opportunity to meet and court Lady Jayne Spencer.
Although to hear Walfort tell it, he snagged her heart
during their initial dance.
"You have a reputation for charming the ladies.
Apply your talents to my wife," Walfort said now,
each word biting, clipped, as though forced between
"You want me to seduce her?"
"I want you to give her what I cannot."
"This is ludicrous." Ainsley shoved himself away
from the fireplace, dropped back into the chair, which
had suddenly become unbearably uncomfortable, rose
and stalked to the window. Unsettled, he refused to
acknowledge how often he'd dreamed of Jayne, but
he'd never acted upon his interest. He lived his life by a
code of chivalry passed down from his ancestors who
had fought alongside Richard the Lionheart during
the crusades. He did not take women who belonged to
others. "Does she consent to this preposterous scheme
"I've not yet discussed it with her. I wanted to ensure
you were in agreement with it before I did."
He faced a man he no longer knew. Had Walfort's
affliction driven him mad? "I can predict her answer
with unerring accuracy. She'll laugh, she'll slap my face,
and then she'll weep. Not to mention the legal ramifications.
If she gives birth to a boy, he will inherit. Even if
all of England knows you are not his sire, you will be
"You and I are not only friends, but cousins. We
both carry the Seymour blood. It would not be such an
"The cousin who is next in line for your title might
"Syphilis is causing him to lose his mind. Besides,
do you honestly believe that every prince who sat upon
the throne and became king was truly his father's son?
I doubt it. And I do not care about blood as much as I
care about Jayne and seeing that she is happy."
But what of himself? Ainsley wondered. To have a son
or daughter whom he could never acknowledge? Did he
owe his cousin such a sacrifice? Although his recollections
were a blur, he knew he'd been driving the curricle.
When it toppled, he was thrown clear, his only souvenir
from the incident a thin scar that bisected the left side of
his chin. Walfort had somehow managed to get caught
up in the rigging. When everything finally came to a
thundering halt, he'd been broken. Ghastly. Irrevocably.
With so much liquor coursing through their veins,
neither of them remembered the infinite details. They
knew only that Ainsley walked away with one small
scratch and Walfort never walked again.
"If I decline your invitation to bed your lovely wife?"
Ainsley asked quietly, the abhorrence of being placed in
this position tautening his gut. He'd never taken a married
woman to his bed. Even the thought was repugnant.
He believed in having a jolly good time with any willing
womanas long as she possessed no husband to whom
she owed her loyalty. He was a man who honored duty
and vows. He held others to his high standard.
"I'll simply ask someone else. And my wife could
very well have a miserable night of it. But you, you've
always had a reputation for being a remarkable lover.
You could provide her with a night to remember."
"She would not welcome my touch."
"I've no doubt you could change her mind on that
"You seem to have discounted the importance of her
not fancying me."
"Not at all. I consider it to our advantage that she
doesn't think well of you. It would reduce the
encounter to a transaction. Unemotional. Detached. But
knowing you, you would find a way to give her pleasure
sureand that would be my gift to her as well. She's
had three years of celibacy. She's never complained,
bless her, but she was all of twenty-two when joy was
brutally stolen from her because of our poor choices.
Why should she continue to suffer and pay the price
for our sins? A night in the arms of London's most
reputed lover? Nine months later a babe suckling at
"You give my reputation too much credit. Even I
cannot guarantee conception with only one encounter."
Walfort shrugged haplessly. Shoulders that had once
been sturdy seemed lost within his finely cut jacket. "A
month, then. Someplace quiet, discreet."
The answers came much too quickly, without hesitation,
as though they'd previously engaged in the argument.
"You've given this considerable thought."
"It's all I think about. How to bring happiness to my
wife. You owe me this, Ainsley. You owe her."
"She'll never agree to it."
"But if she does?"
Before he could respond, the library door opened
WAKING UP WITH THE DUKE 7
and the lady in question strolled in. The first time he
saw her, she'd been smiling, her blue eyes alight with
joy, her beauty transcendent. Now it was as though a
shadow had fallen over her. She was small and delicate,
much too delicate for the burdens she presently carried.
She avoided looking at Ainsley as she approached her
husband. Her black hair was upswept. Flowing back
and tucked neatly into place was the river of white she'd
acquired near her temple three years ago as she dealt
with the loss of her babe and her husband's mobility.
Her violet gown outlined her slender frame to perfection,
and Ainsley had an unconscionableand unforgiveable
vision of easing that gown off her shoulders
and skimming his mouth over her creamy skin. She
would not consent. He knew she would not consent.
He was a blackguard to give even a second's thought to
how he would carry her into a sensual realm where only
She was his friend's wife, for God's sake, and Walfort,
wallowing in that damned wheelchair, simply was
not thinking properly. Jayne would set him straight
right quick, and then she would no doubt hold Ainsley
responsible for her husband's ludicrous suggestion.
Smiling softly, she bent at the waist and pressed a
light kiss to Walfort's cheek. "Hello, darling."
When she straightened, she gazed at Ainsley as
though he were a bit of excrement she'd recently scraped
off the bottom of her shoe. "Your Grace."
He bowed slightly. "Lady Walfort. May I say that
you look lovely?"
"You may say whatever you wish."
For him, she had no smile, no soft eyes, and no gentle
tone. Walfort had indeed lost his mind if he thought his
wife was going to welcome any sort of intimacy from
Ainsley. He suspected she would derive more pleasure
from ramming a dagger through his heart than from
experiencing his practiced touch.
"Dinner awaits, gentlemen."
"Good. I'm quite famished," Walfort announced.
"Ainsley, will you escort my wife into dinner?"
"I don't need an escort," she said quickly. "However,
Randall is not presently available, so perhaps His Grace
would be kind enough to assist you."
Her eyes as they met Ainsley's held a challenge and
more. He knew she wanted to remind him of what his
foolishness had wroughtas though he could ever
"It would be my honor," he responded succinctly,
striding toward Walfort.
As he pushed the chair forward, he was surprised to
discover how much lighter it was than he remembered.
His friend was frailer than he'd realized. Knowing he
was responsible, the guilt gnawed at him like a ravenous
dog with a bone.
His guilt increased when he found himself enticed by
the lure of Jayne's hips gently swaying as she preceded
them from the room. He didn't want to contemplate the
hell that awaited him if she consented to her husband's
insane notion to get her with child.
Sitting at her vanity several hours later, Jayne Seymour,
Marchioness of Walfort, brushed her hair, marveling
that she'd managed to sit through dinner without
making any nasty comments to Ainsley. She'd not been
pleased when Walfort told her that he invited the duke
to arrive a day earlier than the rest of their guests so
they might have some private time together. That he
still saw the man at all astounded her. She couldn't for-
give Ainsley for the careless disregard with which he
lived his life.
Each time she first set eyes upon him, it was like
receiving a solid blow to the chest, nearly crippling her
with its force. Her stomach cramped with the reminder
of what she'd lost due to his selfish actions and his
penchant for indulging in all sinful pleasures. Her babe and
the man whom her husband had been.
She'd never deluded herself into believing it was
anything other than her sizable dowry that had first
attracted Walfort to her. His coffers were quite empty
when he began to court her, but it had not taken long
for him to win her heart as well as her hand in marriage.
Theirs had been a comfortable arrangement. She
was fortunate. They were compatible. They cared for
each other. They enjoyed each other's company. They
never argued. She managed his household. He visited
his clubs. Life had been calm, pleasant.
Four years into their marriage, she found herself
with child. She'd been nearly three months along when
she finally told Walfort, who promptly went off to
boast about it to his longtime friend and cousin, the
Duke of Ainsley. She was unfamiliar with the particulars
of what followed. She knew only that both men had
celebrated the good news with far too much drink and a
dash through the London streets that cost her husband
his legs and his ability to sire another child. The grief of
his injuries, the strain of caring for him, the emotional
turmoil of accepting how their lives were affected, had
all been too much. She lost the child. His one hope for
an heir. Her one hope to be a mother.
Excerpted from Waking Up With the Duke by Lorraine Heath Copyright © 2011 by Lorraine Heath. Excerpted by permission of Avon. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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