To the Duke, With Love: The Rakes of St. James

To the Duke, With Love: The Rakes of St. James

by Amelia Grey

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Overview

The next lush, romantic novel in the Regency romance series, The Rakes of St. James, from New York Times bestselling author Amelia Grey!

There may be times when a gentleman is desperate to gain a lady’s attention, but a gentleman would never resort to desperate measures to obtain it.

A Proper Gentleman’s Guide to Wooing the Perfect Lady

Sloane Knox, the Duke of Hawksthorn is guardian for his sweet, younger sister. Due to his misguided past as one of the infamous Rakes of St James, Hawk is hoping to avoid the Season by securing a match for her before it begins. He has the perfect gentleman in mind, but for one infuriating—and unexpectedly intoxicating—obstacle: the intended groom’s own sister, Miss Loretta Quick.

Having narrowly avoided her own arranged marriage to an unacceptable nobleman, Loretta is determined that her dear brother—a gentle, good-natured soul—should marry for love. Matching wits with Hawk may be her greatest challenge yet. . .until she realizes it may also be her greatest pleasure. For the young duke’s irresistible charm has not only begun to crumble her stubborn resolve, it has claimed her heart in true love as well in To the Duke, With Love.

“A master storyteller.”—Affaire de Coeur

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250102515
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/05/2017
Series: The Rakes of St. James , #2
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 355,511
Product dimensions: 4.10(w) x 6.70(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Amelia Grey read her first romance book when she was thirteen and she's been a devoted reader of love stories ever since. Her awards include the Booksellers Best, Aspen Gold, and the Golden Quill. Writing as Gloria Dale Skinner, she won the coveted Romantic Times Award for Love and Laughter and the prestigious Maggie Award. Her books have sold to many countries in Europe, Indonesia, Turkey, Russia, and most recently to Japan. Several of her books have also been featured in Doubleday and Rhapsody Book Clubs. Amelia is the author of more than two dozen books. She's been happily married to her high school sweetheart for over thirty-five years and she lives on the beautiful gulf coast of Northwest Florida. Her first book with St. Martin's was The Duke in My Bed.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

There may be a rare occasion when a young lady is wrong, but a gentleman must never resort to pointing out that fact to her.

A Proper Gentleman's Guide to Wooing the Perfect Lady Sir Vincent Tybalt Valentine

Through a hazy drizzle, the stately, two-story house came into view. Sloane Knox, the Duke of Hawksthorn, stopped at the top of a rocky knoll. It was already late in the day. On such a dreary afternoon it would have been nice to see a welcoming light in one of the front windows, hear the warning bark of a dog — anything to keep the massive stone structure from looking so forlorn. The only visible sign of life was a barely discernible plume of grayish-white smoke ascending from a chimney top and quickly dissipating into the moist air.

Hawk had never been a patient man, and today had stretched his limit further than he thought possible. That his current situation was his own impulsive fault didn't help his grumbling spirit. On this cold but bright February day, he'd thought to save time and make the journey faster by leaving his carriage behind and leasing a horse from the inn where he'd lodged for the night. Now, several hours later, not only had the horse gone lame so that Hawk had to walk the poor creature, but the directions he'd been given to Mammoth House were severely wrong and he'd had to retrace his steps more than once. On top of that, a damned chilling rain had been falling on him for the last half hour.

However, if Mr. Quick accepted Hawk's offer and agreed to make a match with Adele, it would all be worth it. Hawk's search for the right man had not been impulsive. Quick was the nephew of an earl, more than average height, and even though Hawk considered him on the lean side, he assumed most young ladies would consider the man handsome enough. And the fellow seemed to always have a smile on his face and a bounce to his step.

What more could his sister want in a husband?

Still confident his plan for Adele was a good one, Hawk hunkered further down into his cloak and continued his slow trek toward the house, leading the limping horse behind him.

After all the trouble his friend Griffin had gone through with his sisters last year, Hawk wasn't going to take any chances with Adele's future. He wasn't one to stand around and wait for something to happen. He was taking matters into his own hands. And as he'd hoped, his sister had agreed.

The Season was still more than two months away and already Miss Honora Truth's Scandal Sheet was fueling gossipmongers all over London about Adele's debut in the spring. What the tittle-tattle writers didn't know was that Hawk intended to have his sister's betrothal already settled before the first dance of the Season began. That would fool them all, and there would be no opportunities for mischief from anyone who might be seeking to exact revenge on Hawk by pursuing his sister with less-than-honorable intentions.

A gust of icy wind whipped across Hawk's face as he tethered the animal to the hitching post and then strode up the three steps to the door. Knowing someone from inside the house could send a groom to take care of the mare, he rapped the iron knocker before peeling off his damp leather gloves and stuffing them into his pocket.

After a few moments, the door opened slowly. A round-cheeked woman's face appeared. "May I help you, sir?"

"I'm the Duke of Hawksthorn," he stated. "Mr. Quick is expecting me."

With dark, distrusting eyes, she looked him up and down as if she couldn't believe a duke was standing before her wearing a drenched cloak and a dripping hat. She then perused the landscape past him, no doubt wondering where his carriage and entourage were hiding.

"I am alone," he added, removing his hat and dusting off the excess rain.

"You'd best come warm yourself by the fire," she said.

That would be most welcome, he thought, swinging his cloak from his shoulders and giving it a good shake.

The woman opened the door and stepped back, giving the customary curtsy to Hawk as he passed the threshold and into the spacious, cavernous vestibule. It must have been a grand entrance at one time, but now it was hardly more than a large empty room. A worn settee was backed against one wall. Opposite the small sofa stood an ornately carved table with an unlit lamp sitting on one end and an unused candlestick on the other. He couldn't help but think the inside of the house looked as forsaken as the outside, but then he caught the aroma of bread baking in an oven and knew this was a lived-in home.

He handed off his cloak and hat to the short, rotund woman with a ruffle-edged mobcap covering her hair. She laid them on the table and said, "Follow me."

She preceded him down the wide corridor and into a drawing room that was furnished only a little better than the vestibule. Two floral-patterned settees faced each other in the center of the room, and a table barely large enough for a tea tray had been placed between the two. Matching armchairs upholstered in a brown-and-gold-striped fabric were arranged near the fireplace. Against the far wall by a window stood a highly polished secretary and chair. Little else filled the drafty room.

"Wait here," the woman said and left.

Hawk walked over to the fireplace. The flame was hardly more than a few sizzling embers, and while the heat immediately warmed him, it would do little to help dry out his boots or wet collar and neckcloth. Kneeling down, he grabbed the poker and stoked the fire before adding wood to the grate.

"Your Grace."

At the sound of the soft feminine voice, Hawk rose to his full height and turned. A tall, slender young lady was standing near the entrance to the room. She curtsied when their eyes met. She looked pure, sweet, and completely untouched by masculine hands. A sudden, deep rush of desire flamed through him, and the rhythm of his heartbeat changed.

She wore a modest dress of pale-blue wool, void of bows, lace, or any of the embellishments usually sewn on to enhance the common fabric. No jewelry hung around her neck or dangled from her ears. Her light-blond hair was pulled up on each side, but he couldn't see how far down her back it hung, or if there were satin ribbons or fancy combs to hold it in place. What struck him instantly about her was that he'd never seen such a beautiful young lady so unadorned by frivolous accessories meant to enhance her beauty.

"I am Loretta Quick, Your Grace. How can I help you?"

Mr. Quick's younger sister. It should have dawned on Hawk that he might see her, but quite frankly it hadn't. He'd been too caught up thinking only about his own sister. He knew Miss Quick's story, of course. Everyone in Society did. As he studied her lovely face, he was certain they'd never met. He would have remembered those dark-blue eyes that seemed so steady, yet wary. He would have remembered the strong surge of sensual awareness that seared through him at the sight of her.

"Miss Quick," he said with a nod. "I'm here to see your brother."

Her slightly arched brows furrowed with an uneasy expression, and she took a tentative step toward him. "Is something wrong?"

He thought that an odd question for her to ask but answered, "With what?" "With my brother."

"Not that I'm aware of."

Her gaze continued to search his face as if surely he must be hiding something from her. "So he's not in any trouble?"

That comment gave him cause for concern. Perhaps there was something about the man Hawk didn't know. "Does he often get into trouble?"

"Often?" she asked, clearly dismayed by his question. "No, of course not. Not at all really. Why would you ask that?"

"Because you asked me if he were."

As if taking note of the slight accusation in his tone, her spine stiffened. "It was a logical question to ask."

"How so, if you say he never gets in trouble?"

"What else am I supposed to think?" she asked innocently.

"Perhaps that I wanted to talk to your brother, which I do."

She let out a deep audible breath and took another step farther into the drawing room. "So there are no problems?"

Hawk shook his head in exasperation. "I just said as much. You are frustrating me, Miss Quick."

"And you are the pot calling the kettle black, Your Grace," she said defensively.

Another prickle of awareness rushed through him. It was rare anyone had the nerve to speak their mind so quickly and candidly to a duke. It surprised him, but it also impressed him. "That's a rather rash statement."

He watched her softly rounded shoulders relax a little. "Nonetheless, true. You are the one making this conversation difficult."

"Me?" She was unbelievable. "Does your boldness have no boundaries, Miss Quick?"

"Not where my brother is concerned. But aside from that, what am I supposed to think other than something is wrong when a duke arrives unexpectedly to see my brother."

Unexpectedly? More reason for him to worry.

"We live a little too far from Hawksthorn for a social call, Your Grace," she added as if to give credence to her statement.

Hawk could easily attest to that fact. When he'd started this venture, he had no idea that Mammoth House was so far from the village of Grimsfield and still another half day's ride from London. He had doubts that even a hermit would embrace a place this far from civilization. Living out here took being alone to an extreme.

As the nephew of the Earl of Switchingham, Quick was a socially acceptable husband for Adele. Quick always wore a friendly smile and kept a cheerful attitude, which might become obnoxious to Hawk if he had to spend a good deal of time with the man, but he thought Adele would love it.

While Hawk had no idea what kind of allowance the earl had bestowed on Quick, it really didn't matter. Adele had a generous dowry and, once she married, she'd have access to a home in London as well. She wouldn't have to reside in Mammoth House if she preferred not to, which he was fairly certain would be the case.

With graceful movements, Miss Quick walked the rest of the way into the room to stand in front of him. He could see clearly the tempting shape of her inviting lips and her smooth, delicate-looking complexion, which enticed him to want to reach up and caress her cheek with the tips of his fingers. She had uncommonly long, dark lashes for someone with hair so satiny blond. Her eyes were so expressive he found it difficult to focus on the matter at hand.

Ah, yes. It would be easy to concentrate on the intriguing miss, if not for the important issue before him.

"I don't believe I'm unexpected."

"You must be," she answered without the least bit of hesitancy or caution that she might be wrong.

More impertinence.

"I have an appointment with him, Miss Quick."

"But Paxton isn't here."

Hawk's jaw tightened. He'd just walked for the better part of half a day on cold, rough, uneven ground, and was chilled to the bone for most of it. He was in no temperament to hear that her brother wasn't home. Perhaps Hawk had misjudged the man after all and should go on to one of the other gentlemen he'd considered for Adele's future.

"I know I'm late by a few hours because of unavoidable circumstances, but I would have assumed that he'd wait for my arrival before taking his leave."

Curiosity settled on her delicate features. "Your words puzzle me. I'm certain if Paxton had an arrangement with you he would be here. He's very reliable."

Apparently not.

The fire he'd stirred had caught hot and was warming the backs of his legs. The beautiful and outspoken Miss Quick was warming his temperament.

Hawk wasn't used to explaining himself, but felt compelled to say, "I sent him a post last week stating I'd be here today to discuss an important matter with him."

Her countenance went from inquisitive to affable. "Ah, therein lies the source of your problem."

"My problem?" She just wouldn't give up.

"Yes." She folded her arms across her chest in a comfortable pose and nodded. "Paxton has been gone almost three weeks. We only receive mail once a week, when Mr. Huddleston takes the carriage into the village for purchases. Paxton has had correspondence arrive but, of course, I don't open his private letters."

A few words that were not appropriate for Miss Quick's ears tumbled to the tip of Hawk's tongue, but he held them silent. What were the odds this would happen? He'd come all this way to the middle of nowhere and Quick was gone. That was damned inconvenient. Still, Hawk was a fair person. If Quick had never received his post, he supposed he couldn't fault the man for not being here to meet with him.

"Perhaps all is not lost," she said, lifting her chin and looking more solidly into his eyes. "Maybe I can help with whatever it is you wanted with Paxton."

"That would be unlikely, Miss Quick."

She dropped her arms by her side and assumed an air of authority. "I am quite capable of handling many things, Your Grace, and take care of most things here at Mammoth House."

He wasn't indifferent to her assertion. He believed her. She was strong and seductive, and he hadn't seen an ounce of fear in her. But neither her abilities nor her appeal had any bearing on his mission. He'd be damned before he'd let her admirable qualities let him stray from that.

"That I don't doubt in the least. Yet it is your brother I came to see. Where is he?"

Undaunted by his determination, she responded casually, "Paxton doesn't make me privy to all his goings and comings. He has several friends that he visits with from time to time. Besides, I'm not certain I would divulge Paxton's whereabouts even if I knew, when I don't know the reason you want to see him."

If she thought to discourage him, she was mistaken. If Hawk could arrange a betrothal for Adele before the Season began, her future would be settled. He wouldn't have to worry about her falling victim to a prankster or any bachelor hoping to get even with him for his past misdeeds.

It wasn't often he'd met an innocent who wasn't afraid to speak her mind. Perhaps he never had. And Miss Quick was a lively young lady to converse with, but they were not making much progress.

"Must you challenge me on every issue?"

She crossed her arms again. "When you aren't forthcoming about your reasons, yes. Dukes are very powerful. It's only natural for me to be concerned."

Hawk wondered what made her so wary. "It's not for nefarious purposes that I want to see him, I assure you. I have a proposition to make to him, and I'd rather do it sooner than later."

She tilted her chin upward again. "Oh. Then you won't mind if I ask what it is?"

Yes, actually, he did mind her asking. However, much to his chagrin, her imperious expression was more engaging than defiant. It took great courage to ask a duke what his business was with another man — even if she was asking about her own brother.

Hawk supposed there was no harm in telling her. If he did, it might speed up her telling him the whereabouts of her brother so he could get on with the matter of getting this business settled as quickly as possible. He wanted to find Adele a suitable husband and then get back to doing some of the things he wanted to do. Hawk was fairly certain Quick hadn't been in London the past week. He would have seen the blade at White's.

"Very well," he offered. "My sister will be making her debut this spring, and I'd very much like to arrange a betrothal between her and your brother before the Season starts."

Miss Quick went very still. "Surely you must know that arranged engagements don't end very well in this family."

There was no malice in her tone, just a statement of fact. Hawk summoned what he remembered about her and wondered how much of it was rumor and how much was true. The Earl of Switchingham had arranged for her to marry Viscount Denningcourt. Apparently, all the guests and the viscount had arrived at the church for the ceremony, but the bride never made an appearance.

Her uncle took a very harsh view of her rejecting his choice of husbands for her. If the rumors were true, she had vowed to never marry. The betrothal was broken and shortly thereafter the viscount married a different young lady. As far as Hawk knew, Miss Quick hadn't been seen in Society since.

"I heard," he said, "but I aim to change that. I've put a good deal of thought into this, Miss Quick, and your brother is the husband I want for Adele. I've never seen him too deep in his cups, and he never gambles more than a handful of dollars at the tables. I've never heard a harsh rumor about him at White's; nor have I heard Mr. Quick complain about anyone else. By all accounts he's a fine gentleman who prefers books over swords, poetry over carousing, and tea over brandy."

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "To the Duke, with Love"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Amelia Grey.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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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