A Devil of a Duke

A Devil of a Duke

by Madeline Hunter

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Overview

Publishers Weekly Best Books of Summer Selection

From New York Times bestselling author Madeline Hunter comes the latest sexy tale of three untamable dukes and the women who ignite their decadent desires . . .

 
HE MAY BE A DEVIL
He’s infamous, debaucherous, and known all over town for his complete disregard for scandal, and positively irresistible seductions. Gabriel St. James, Duke of Langford, is obscenely wealthy, jaw-droppingly handsome, and used to getting exactly what he wants. Until his attention is utterly captured by a woman who refuses to tell him her name, but can’t help surrendering to his touch . . .
 
BUT SHE’S NO ANGEL EITHER . . .
Amanda Waverly is living two lives—one respectable existence as secretary to an upstanding lady, and one far more dangerous battle of wits—and willpower—with the devilish Duke. Langford may be the most tempting man she’s ever met, but Amanda’s got her hands full trying to escape the world of high-society crime into which she was born. And if he figures out who she really is, their sizzling passion will suddenly boil over into a much higher stakes affair . . .
 
Madeline Hunter’s novels are:
 
“Brilliant, compelling. . . . An excellent read.”
—The Washington Post
 
“Mesmerizing.” —Publishers Weekly

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781420143928
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 04/24/2018
Series: Decadent Dukes Society Series , #2
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 100,736
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Madeline Hunter is a New York Times bestselling author with more than six million copies of her books in print. She has more than 30 nationally bestselling historical romances in print, including most recently, A Devil of a Duke, The Most Dangerous Duke in London, The Wicked DukeTall, Dark, and Wicked; and His Wicked Reputation. A member of RWA’s Honor Roll, she has won the RITA Award twice and been a finalist seven times. Her books have appeared on the bestseller lists of the New York TimesUSA Today, and Publishers Weekly, and have been translated into thirteen languages. She has a PhD in art history, which she has taught at the university level. Madeline loves to hear from her readers, and can be reached through her website at www.madelinehunter.com, on Facebook, www.facebook.com/madelinehunter/, and at twitter.com/madelinehunter.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Lady Farnsworth ceased caring about the ton's opinion after her husband, the baron, died. Within a month of his funeral, she took to dressing and behaving as she pleased. Three years later, generous members of society called her an original. The rest employed crueler words.

No one, however, approved of her bizarre decision to hire a female secretary. Some claimed it an indication that the lady had gone quite mad.

The secretary in question, Amanda Waverly, knew only gratitude for her employer's rash act, especially since Lady Farnsworth had taken her on with only the thinnest of references. Amanda sometimes experienced relief along with gratitude, due to knowing more about her background and character than Lady Farnsworth ever would.

That history was in the back of Amanda's mind while she worked at her desk in Lady Farnsworth's library in late May. She used her fine hand to copy an essay that Lady Farnsworth had written. Her source document had seen many changes and cross-overs so she took great care to incorporate all of them in this draft.

The necessary concentration proved difficult because the loveliest breeze glided through the open library window. When she looked out, she could see Green Street and its activity, and the fine carriages that rolled toward Hyde Park. She liked the open carriages best, because they displayed the bonnets and ensembles worn by the ladies. Bits of conversation and gossip entered her window when they passed, but she enjoyed their carefree laughter the most. It created a little music that set her to humming one of her favorite songs.

Normally the view brought her contentment at how well her life had turned out, despite its beginnings. Today, however, that reaction sent her mind immediately to the letter in her reticule, and to an errand she had set for herself this afternoon.

That mission would surely end her advantageous situation should Lady Farnsworth ever learn the reason for it.

"Are you finished with that?"

Amanda looked up to see Lady Farnsworth bearing down on her. Dark of hair and eye and long into her middle years, the lady favored a type of dress that only increased the smug humor about her. Declaring that the high waists of the day looked sad on mature figures, she had taken to having dresses made that resembled those worn forty years ago.

Since she eschewed the corsets of yesteryear as too confining, these dresses made her appear more matronly than she ever would look in the latest fashions.

Over these laced, ruffled, and beribboned garments, she usually wrapped a long shawl. She flung one end of it over the opposing shoulder like a toga. Today, her ensemble consisted of rose raw silk adorned with blue embroidery and white lace, all beneath a multicolored wrap replete with a detailed pattern of pastel blooms. That shawl's fabric bore an unfortunate similarity to the flowers that decorated the upholstered furniture in the chamber.

"I am almost finished." Amanda focused on her pen. "Perhaps an hour more."

"For the first draft? Are you unwell? Normally you are quicker."

"There were many changes. I did complete the two letters, however."

"Allow me to see." A strong hand stretched under Amanda's nose and snatched the papers. "Tosh. You do not need an hour. A quarter hour at best, and this is so well done that we will not require another draft. We will bring this one to the meeting."

"We?"

"Did I neglect to tell you? I want you to accompany me so I can introduce you." She directed a critical gaze at Amanda's dress. "Why are you wearing that sad green thing? I gave you some of my dresses to have remade so you would not have to live in such an unflattering color."

"I appreciate your gifts, truly. As you have seen before, I have made good use of them. I did not want to get ink all over one of them, however." She spoke without faltering even though she had worn this old dress for a different reason and she always donned an apron anyway.

"It will have to do for our visit. No one there will care, but you are so lovely when you do not present yourself poorly." Lady Farnsworth patted her head the way a kindly aunt might. "They all know what a treasure I have found in you, Miss Waverly, and how helpful and competent you are. That is all that will matter."

"I had intended to do some shopping while you went to your meeting. Will that still be possible?" "The shops near Bedford Square should suit your purposes. We will not need you for more than a quarter hour. Now finish that so we can depart in good time. Oh, and sign the letters for me. I daresay you do it even better than I do, and I do not want ink on my garments either."

Need me for what? Amanda assumed all would be revealed in due time. A quarter of an hour's worth. She prayed it would not take longer than that, although Bedford Square would be very convenient to her errand. So convenient that it seemed fortune had smiled on her.

She glanced at her simple knitted reticule. The letter inside, obtained from her mail drop yesterday evening, all but shouted its contents.

She had been too optimistic in thinking that by obeying one command, she might be spared more. An iron edge of rebellion spiked in her at how she was being used, and at the evidence that the scheme was not over yet. Until she learned the name of the person behind it all, she would have to comply, however. Her mother's freedom, maybe even her life, depended upon her.

* * *

Gabriel St. James, Duke of Langford, fumed with impatience while his carriage slowly rolled east through town. At this pace, his visit would take all afternoon.

The slow progress soured a mood less than bright from the day's events thus far. He was damned tired of people congratulating him on doing what was by birth and inheritance his duty. The smiles and acknowledgments were hellishly patronizing. Had he known that giving that speech in the House of Lords last week would result in so much smug approval, he would have drowned the notion in a bottle of good claret.

Now here he was, suffering because his younger brother had bought a house so far out of the way.

Why couldn't Harry have remained right on hand in the family home? There certainly was plenty of space. Or if he insisted on misplaced notions of independence, he could have taken chambers or a house in Mayfair. But no, Harry had displayed his confounding eccentricity by choosing a townhome near the British Museum. It wasn't as if he even needed to visit there. He had been so often that he probably knew every item in its inventory.

Feeling put upon by the world in general, Gabriel tried to distract himself by plotting a few days of decadent excess. Unfettered debauchery always made him feel better. He intended to lure a certain lady into enjoying the indulgence with him. She had been coy thus far, but he knew progress when he saw it and, at their last rendezvous, her eyes had shown all the right signs.

The carriage took a turn and picked up a bit of speed. Not enough, however. Gabriel cursed himself for not riding his horse. That was always faster.

Finally, the carriage stopped in front of his brother's townhome on Bainbridge Street. Gabriel stepped out and eyed the façade.

He did not care for this house and not only because it inconvenienced him. Standing alone, its brick face and limestone window headers and sills might have passed muster, even if, with three levels, it hardly spoke of the home of a lord.

The problem was the next building on this street. A huge house owned by Sir Malcolm Nutley loomed cheek to jowl with Harry's. It was an old one that had been designed in the day when houses had not shown restraint. An abundance of stone carvings marked its age and made it appear even more imposing. They diminished the modest brick dwelling alongside all the more too.

The effect could be seen in the reaction of the woman who had paused to gaze at the architecture. A servant, from the look of her plain green dress, she bent her head back until the deep brim of her straw bonnet angled to the clouds. The old-fashioned gray mansion must have impressed her because she paced away to its far corner to get another view.

Gabriel turned his mind to the matter that had brought him here. This was a brotherly call, a matter of duty but also affection. Harry's heart had been broken for the first time and it was unlikely he knew how to accommodate the disappointment.

Gabriel, on the other hand, possessed wide and deep experience with matters of the heart. Inconvenient though it might be, of course he had to ride across town to help Harry out.

* * *

The house appeared closed. Amanda examined it while half her mind thought about the peculiar quarter hour she had just spent in another house, the one on Bedford Square.

A pretty, delicate blond woman named Mrs. Galbreath had greeted her and Lady Farnsworth. Then they all sat in a library with too many chairs and divans while Mrs. Galbreath gently asked questions of Amanda. They were the sort of questions one might pose to a new acquaintance, only a tad more pointed.

Had she not known better, she would suspect she was being considered for another position. Lady Farnsworth would warn her if she intended to let her go, however. In fact, Lady Farnsworth had looked on indulgently. Only at the end had she mentioned that Mrs. Galbreath was the publisher of Parnassus, that journal she wrote for. Mrs. Galbreath, in turn, had mentioned meeting again soon. Then Lady Farnsworth had excused her to go shopping.

She forced herself to stop ruminating on the peculiar meeting, and brought all her attention to the big house she faced. She moved her shopping basket full of basic household items to her right arm, so it would be visible to anyone in the house. No one inside would wonder why a woman dressed in this poor garment had stopped to gawk at this house while on her way home from the shops.

It helped that Sir Malcolm Nutley lived in a huge house worthy of note. It must date from King Charles's time. Nothing in Mayfair looked like this, and even the famous London mansions like Montagu House and Somerset House displayed less flamboyance. Along with excess decoration, this house also displayed considerable mass. She could not imagine how many chambers it held.

A coach that had stopped at the house next door still stood there. She had seen a tall, handsome man get out and pause while he glanced at this neighbor's pile of stone. He had glanced at her too, but not suspiciously.

She, in turn, had noticed him. Anyone would. He was very wealthy from his dress and equipage. He possessed the bluest eyes she had ever seen. He carried his hat. That was just as well. She doubted it sat easily on the thick, fashionably unruly dark curls decorating his head.

He had entered the house now. She strolled back toward that coach, keeping her gaze on Sir Malcolm's abode. A footman lounged against the hip of the coach while a coachman fussed with a horse's bridle.

She stepped close enough for the gray-haired coachman to notice her. He nodded to her and smiled. She gestured to the big house. "Do you know who lives here?"

"That is Sir Malcolm's house. Sir Malcolm Nutley. Elderly fellow. It's the family home. Don't see many like that. Something papist about it. Not to my taste, but I'm a simple man."

"It is quite fancy and impressive, but not to my taste either. I much prefer this brick one here. I expect a tradesman lives in it."

The coachman grinned. "Did the man I brought here look to be a tradesman?"

"It is his house?"

"No, but he's not the sort to pay calls on a tradesman either. If I had the state coach instead of this one, you would know what I mean." He leaned in confidentially and jabbed his thumb at the brick house. "The brother of a duke lives there, and it was the duke hisself that you might of saw entering."

"Oh, my! I am sure I have never seen a duke before. My friend Katherine will be so awed on my behalf. Can you tell me which one it was? If I don't know, she probably will never believe me."

"Langford. His brother what lives here is Lord Harold St. James."

She looked back at the bigger house. "I would have expected a lord to live in that one."

"Well, Lord Harold is ..." He rubbed his chin while he searched for the word. "Unusual. Not the sort to notice his surroundings much, is my guess. This house probably suits him just fine. No need for lots of servants and others about to bother him and such."

"He may be a lord, but I would much rather see the inside of Sir Malcolm's. I suppose it is very grand."

"More likely very dusty. Sir Malcolm has not returned to town since he left last summer. Ailing, I hear. Is down in the country where the air is good."

The house indeed was closed. What a stroke of good luck. "Perhaps, if the family is not in residence, the housekeeper would let me see inside."

He gave her garments a long look. "Bold one, aren't you? I would wager a pound she would never allow that."

"It cannot hurt to try."

"Suit yourself."

"I will apply at the service entrance. Katherine will be so jealous if I succeed. Then she will tell me that I have more courage than sense. She always says that." She turned to the big house. "The worst that can happen is I am turned away."

She felt the coachman's gaze on her while she approached the gate on the side of the house. She pushed through, into the little pathway that flanked the house and led back to the garden. Once the gate closed, she stopped.

The pathway was quite narrow, barely a yard wide, and along its other side ran a high wall that separated this property from Lord Harold's. She turned her attention to the windows above her. Even the first-story ones were a good twenty-five feet up.

She fingered the masonry of the side of the house, noting the depth of the mortar between the rusticated stones of the corner quoins. She eyed the deep windowsills above her. While she walked down the pathway, she saw that the windows down here not only were locked but also barred. She turned the corner of the house and found the service entrance.

No one responded to her knock. She bent to peer in a window. The kitchen appeared unused. No provisions on the table, no knives lying about. Nothing. Apparently a cook did not work here if Sir Malcolm went down to the country. If there was no cook, there probably were not more than a few servants either.

She had not really believed that a housekeeper would give her a tour, but it was worth a try. How much easier her task would have been then. Two minutes of distraction and — done.

She examined the door itself. It was made of solid wood, with hinges that indicated it swung inward. Three locks kept it secure. She would not be surprised if a bar also provided security. Sir Malcolm took no chances. He probably knew that a house like this attracted thieves, and his home was not in a neighborhood like Mayfair.

No easy way in. That meant she would have to use a hard way instead.

She returned to the passageway. This time, while she slowly strolled down its length, she examined the brick house next door.

* * *

"I do not think it wise for you to leave town right away." Gabriel voiced his mind while he watched Harry stuff shirts into a valise. One would think Harry did not have a valet, which he didn't as such. However, he did have a manservant who could pack for him, but the man was elsewhere doing whatever general chores menservants did.

"I can't think of one reason to stay," Harry muttered.

"You too readily give in to disappointment. Too quickly admit defeat."

Harry stopped packing. He gazed down at the valise, then over at Gabriel. "I saw her kissing another man last night, in the back of that theater box."

"Then speak to her. After all the time you spent courting her —"

"Emilia did not see it as courting, apparently." He spoke bitterly. "I should have known that after her sister's wedding, once she was out this Season, this would happen. Actually, I did know. I felt it in my heart. It is best if I become scarce. I refuse to be one of those rejected suitors who sits in the corner of drawing rooms, looking poetic and miserable."

Gabriel had to smile. Even in the best of humors, Harry looked a little poetic and miserable. It had more to do with his serious, contemplative nature than with his physical qualities.

They had much in common in their appearances, and probably would all the more as Harry got older. The same blue eyes and dark hair, the same jaw and mouth. Harry was an inch shorter, but still taller than most.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "A Devil Of A Duke"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Madeline Hunter.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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