Charles Ashdown, Duke of Densmore, and his closest friend William Kenwood, Duke of Tennison, love gambling and womanizing too much to ever be ensnared by a debutante. Certainly, no decent wife would allow the debauchery they enjoy. But the only woman they've ever loved has returned. Unfortunately, Society, and likely darling Lily, will never accept the sharing relationship they'd like to propose.
Lillian Drew returns to England after her husband's mysterious death and finds solace with her girlhood crushes, Charles and William. Sure, they're as unapologetically crass and self-centered as always, but she loves them both. When her dead husband's creditors come after her, she has no choice but to remarry, though she can't make up her mind which duke she'll propose to. With a toss of one of the few coins she has left to her name, she hopes the loser will understand.
|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|File size:||3 MB|
About the Author
Lorna James is the pseudonym of USA Today Bestselling author Jamie K. Schmidt and award winning NYC publisher, Lori Perkins.
Lori Perkins has been writing since she was six and wrote her first erotica at 12, when she serialized an erotic novel for her classmates in sixth grade. Since then, she has written or edited 30 books, 25 of which have been erotic romance anthologies. She is the founder of both the L. Perkins Agency, an established New York literary agency with numerous books on the New York Times bestseller list, as well as the Publisher of Riverdale Avenue Books, an award-winning hybrid publisher.
USA Today bestselling author, Jamie K. Schmidt, writes erotic contemporary love stories and paranormal romances. Her steamy, romantic comedy Life's a Beach reached #65 on USA Today, #2 on Barnes&Noble and #9 on Amazon and iBooks. Her dragon paranormal romance series from Entangled Publishing, has been called "fun and quirky" and "endearing."
When the team isn't concocting sexy scenes with naughty dukes or writing female centered erotica, they can be found reading, drinking wine, and contemplating the next fantasy they want to share with their readers.
Read all about them at LornaJames.weebly.com and follow them on Facebook as Lorna James and @LornaJWrites on Twitter.
Read an Excerpt
Charles Ashdown, the ninth Duke of Densmore, glared at the upper balcony of Count Hainault's mansion. All the ladies of the court were abuzz about the unexpected return of Lady Lillian Hamilton. Lillian Drew. Her married name was Drew. Charles cursed. He hated her husband, even though he'd never met the bastard. And now it appeared he never would.
His brandy finished, he poured another generous serving from the crystal decanter that was conveniently placed on the ancient side table. He hadn't expected to hear of Lillian ever again. She was supposed to be in the colonies, some blasted place called Massachusetts, not dressed in widow's weeds, hiding somewhere with her wizened old bachelor uncle.
She had never received Charles's letters. That much was apparent from the messages he had received from her over the last five years. Until she had given up on him. On his friendship.
He bit off the top of a cheroot and lit the cigar, shaking the match angrily. After tossing it on the table, he watched the hot tip burn a hole in the white lace doily. That's what he imagined Lily looked like in her black frock — charred and burned innocence.
While Charles didn't like that she'd married another man, he hated the thought of her rumored unhappiness even more. Blowing a smoke ring toward the ballroom, he wondered if her pretty face was still unblemished by time or tragedy. He remembered her inky black hair and her heart-stopping blue eyes. Perhaps they'd faded with time, or perhaps his memory had built her up into an unobtainable beauty. But Charles didn't think so.
He would have to call on her, and soon, but it would have to be done correctly. If he went to her without the proper decorum, it would give those nattering gossips cause to bring up old scandals best left forgotten. He had worked too damn hard to hide his family's failings from the ton. His brother, Sebastian, was just looking for an excuse to see him fail so he could punish Charles for being born first, and Charles would rather cut off his left leg before he gave Sebastian the satisfaction.
"Have you finished the brandy?" William Kenwood, the sixth Duke of Tennison, strolled up to him, still adjusting his clothes.
"Depends," Charles said, not taking his eyes away from the gossipmongers, waving their fans as they whispered about his darling Lily. "Have you finished with the countess?" Sebastian would dance in joy if he ever found out that William and Charles preferred to share the women they bedded, even if the ensuing scandal would blacken Sebastian's own prospects as well. Sebastian just wanted Charles's world to burn. But they were very careful, and no one even suspected their lovers serviced both dukes at the same time.
"There's a little left." William smirked. "We waited for you, but you know how she gets."
Charles lifted a shoulder in a shrug and poured a glass for his friend. "Lily's back."
William's hand froze in the act of reaching for the brandy. He tried to look over Charles's head, but Charles knew he couldn't see down into the ballroom without moving. "Has she grown ugly?"
"I don't know. Would it make things easier?"
Charles's heart ached for the girl he had loved and lost. He had stepped aside, keeping his feelings to himself, thinking William loved her, too, and Charles would never take away his friend's happiness. Unfortunately, William was that the same type of noble idiot, and it wasn't until her father married Lily off to a colonist that they had realized their error. Now, neither one of them would ever have her. Unless ...
"Do you think she'd ever consider —"
"Shut your filthy mouth," William snarled.
Charles flinched. William never spoke to him like that.
"She's no Countess Hainault," he said, and then muttered, "More's the pity."
"You're right." Charles sighed. "Lily would likely box our ears and kick our arses out the door."
William chuckled. "Might be worth it. I do miss her."
Charles nodded. She had been their friend since childhood. They grew up together, running wild over the English countryside. If nothing else, Charles missed her smile and her vicious wit. She had always been the first to jump into the pond for a swim and the first to throw a punch when she thought she was being teased. Of course, when she became a lady, her governess and teachers beat that out of her. But every now and then, Charles had caught that hellion look in her eyes, and then it would fade and she would look longingly at the two of them. He had felt guilty that propriety kept them from continuing their adventures. Oh, what he wouldn't give to be seven years old and sticking a frog down her dress.
"I don't think I can walk away from her again," Charles admitted.
"She's a widow now." William elbowed him, his voice scratchy.
Charles nodded. "I don't know why she's come back to us."
"She didn't come back here for us." William chased his bitter words down with a long swallow of brandy.
"I don't care. She's here now and that's all that matters."
Squinting, William asked, "What do you mean?"
"I mean, it's time I take a wife."
Grabbing Charles by the cravat, William tugged him in. "Maybe, it's time I take a wife," he said between his teeth.
Charles rabbit punched him in the gut. It was a cheap shot, but it made the man release him and stagger back. "You ruined the lines of my coat." Charles attempted to put it to rights, but gave it up for a lost cause. "It doesn't matter who marries her. We're both going to share her."
"Leave her out of your perverted fantasies." William wheezed.
William glared at him.
"Look, I know she wouldn't agree to a tryst in a library during a ball, like the countess." He jerked his chin to the room William had come out of. "However, what goes on behind the doors of her own home with her husband's consent is something else altogether. And this time, you or I will be her husband."
Straightening up, William said, "I hope she does box your ears when you proposition her with this."
"If we play our cards right, it will be she who does the propositioning."
William snorted. "You're a daft bugger. But if the lady is willing, who am I to disagree?" He lifted a shoulder in a half shrug, but his eyes were far away. "Speaking of willing women, the countess is awaiting you."
"Let her wait. I'm no longer interested in her charms."
"Are you going to talk with Lily?"
Charles glanced around the ballroom. "Tomorrow. I have something more private in mind. Have you seen Lady Penn?"
"She's not here."
"Perhaps we could call on her and her husband tonight?"
William arched an eyebrow at him. "Richilde is naked one room over, and her husband is occupied in the game room downstairs. You want to meet up with Clara with her husband in the same room?"
"I just want to talk to her. Someone should take dear Lily under her wing."
Sipping his brandy, William regarded Charles thoughtfully. "The esteemed Lady Penn would be an excellent chaperone for a new widow returning from the colonies."
"And she wouldn't mind making herself scarce if we needed to be alone with our Lily, especially if her needs aligned with ours. If you understand my meaning."
"I'll get the carriage," William said, taking the crystal decanter with him. "You give the countess our regrets."
Lady Lillian Drew wondered if her two childhood best friends would visit her soon. Charles and William had to know by now that she was back in London. Everyone else seemed to. There were piles of solicitor letters delivered to her Uncle Jonathan's residence daily, but nothing from either of them.
Perhaps they hadn't heard about her misfortune? That would be the only excuse for their rudeness. Of course, maybe they didn't want to see her. She was widowed, wearing these horrid black crepe frocks. Perhaps they would no longer find her interesting. Or any fun. The thought shouldn't hurt as much as it did.
Or maybe they never really cared for her, as her mother had warned her those many years ago after the three of them had been caught in Charles's father's study, and she had to be hastily married off. After all, they had been so inebriated they'd missed her wedding and had been too late to the dock to see her off when she'd sailed for Boston. It had been five long years now, the last year of which she had been in mourning for her husband. Maybe their friendship had been more one-sided than she wanted to believe.
The thought was depressing, and she paced the woolen rug in her uncle's dark parlor. He had made it clear that the sooner she was out of his home, the better. He was an old, stuffy bachelor uncomfortable with a woman in his home, even if she was his niece, and especially one under the social confines of mourning. But he wouldn't have the scandal of turning her away and having to answer the gossipmongers as to why the only child of his favorite sister wasn't staying in his house.
He'd nearly passed out from apoplexy when her late husband's solicitor's correspondence began arriving at his door. She quickly interceded and hid the letters in her undergarments box, knowing he wouldn't dare intrude. As long as the solicitors stayed in Boston, Lily could pretend everything was fine, but she knew she would have to address the letters. And soon.
"Don't look to me for assistance," her uncle had said, when she grabbed the solicitor's letter from him. "I never thought that American you married was worthy of our family. Your parents, God rest their souls, would be so ashamed of what you have done with yourself."
Lily had almost slapped him. She had never wanted to leave England. Her parents were the ones who had arranged her marriage to the American, George Drew, and the ton had turned their collective back on her once it had been announced. She could only hope that they'd never learn just what type of man he was. Her parents thought they were trading her title for his money. Lily gave a bitter laugh. The money hadn't been his. Charles Drew had been a swindler, a cheat, and a con man. He died at the hands of one of his marks, and if Lily hadn't fled when she did, she would have been next.
She wished her mother were still alive, but she'd succumbed to complications after contracting smallpox, the terrible disease that had killed Lily's father shortly after her wedding.
So much death. Her parents, her husband, her baby ...
Forcing herself to stop that line of thought, Lily took deep breaths. Sometimes she felt like she was dead, too, just passing time until she shrugged off this mortal coil. Other times, she felt like a champagne bottle, corked up and ready to burst. She wanted a life where she was more than existing. She wanted the life she'd dreamed about having as a younger woman — wearing bright colors and spending the day laughing on the lawn with William and Charles.
Today, her uncle was keeping to his rooms and probably pretending that he didn't have an unwanted houseguest. Unable to take the suffocating walls a moment longer, Lily gathered up her somber mourning wrap and ran outside. Part of her wanted to keep running. Maybe if she ran hard and far enough, she could go back in time and find her two friends fishing in the stream behind their homes.
Once she was free from the oppressive house, she took a deep breath of the cold air and came to her senses. Running would accomplish nothing but her being out of breath and having sore feet from where the cobblestones met her black slippers. A carriage rumbled up the drive. When she recognized the crest, her knees wobbled.
The Duke of Tennison.
"William," she whispered.
And before she knew it, she was running again.
Her black wrap fluttered to the ground. Her slippers skidded on the stones, and she nearly lost her balance. All thoughts of propriety fled from her. She was no longer a mature widow of twenty-two years, but a seven-year-old girl running away to play with her friends. But it wasn't William who leapt from the carriage, not waiting for it to stop.
The Duke of Densmore
"Charles!" Joy flooded her. They had come to see her after all. Finally. She didn't care that she was making a spectacle of herself. The events of the last year had numbed her to public shame and scrutiny. Even so, it was just the three of them and their coachman, and the coachman was probably being paid very well to look at the horses, and just at the horses.
Charles skidded to a stop in front of her and grinned. He was a big, handsome lion of a man, with a mane of unruly blond curls and flashing dark eyes the color of topaz. She blinked up at him. He didn't look very ducal and for that she was grateful.
William, not to be outdone, was next out of the carriage bearing an armful of white lilies. They had remembered her! They were the only ones who called her Lily anymore, since her parents had passed away
"Lilies for our Lily," he said, somehow managing to hold the brimming bouquet in one hand and reaching his arm out to her in a bow.
William, his black hair short and neat, was as dark as Charles was fair. He glowered down at her with intensity, nearly vibrating with emotion, and the hairs on her arm rose.
"We have missed you," Charles added.
She pulled her gaze away from William, breathless. "And I, the both of you!" She regarded them both in astonishment. Now men in their prime, they towered over her with grace and power.
Her eyes widened. Five years had filled William out with muscles she hadn't even imagined him having. He winked at her.
Her heart pounded fast from her run and all this excitement as she touched her gloved hand to William's cheek. His face hadn't changed. It was just masculine enough now not to be called pretty. Wide, sensual lips curved into a grin and the wicked gleam in his green eyes should have warned her that he was up to his old tricks. He had always been the instigator.
William's thick eyelashes fluttered down. That was her only warning before his mouth crashed down on hers.
This time her knees did give way. William. This was her William kissing her like he was drowning and she was precious air. Propriety fled as she clung to him, flowers falling to the ground. He was bringing her back to life. Three years of a loveless marriage to a man she couldn't understand. Her parents' death, her child's death ...and widowhood.
Grief choked her and she pushed him. For a moment, she didn't think he would release her. But he wrenched his mouth away and put her at arm's length. Her strong William was trembling, his sides heaving with passion.
"Don't," she said, pressing her fingers to her swollen lips.
Don't stop. Don't ruin things. Don't make me remember. Don't make me cry.
They stared at each other.
Charles bent to pick up the discarded flowers.
"I've missed you so." She flung herself into Charles's arms and the lilies fell again. He held her tight. He rocked her, stroked her hair, and still she cried.
"We came as soon as we heard," William said. "We're sorry for your loss."
She laughed bitterly, which seemed to surprise them both. "My husband was murdered in Boston a year ago. I used the last of my money to return to England, and I'm living here on my uncle's reluctant generosity."
Charles wiped her tears with his thumb.
"If you had a thought for me, you would have known all of this already." She pushed him away, even as she swayed. Too much emotion. Too soon.
"We only found out a few nights ago," Charles said, soothingly.
"Why didn't you write to us, Lily?" William asked. "We would have been on the next ship."
"I did write." She sniffed. "At the beginning. But I stopped when you never answered."
"'Tis you who never answered our letters," William replied.
She cocked her head at him, wondering what game he was playing at. But she saw only sincerity. "The letters must have been lost in the mail, then."
"Or your husband kept them from you," Charles muttered, mirroring her own thoughts.
She clenched her fists. That was one more thing to hate George for.
"Well, please come in." She dusted off her gloved hands. "I'll let my uncle know you are here. It might be the one thing that will please him about me staying with him."
Charles gave her a sympathetic look. He probably knew her uncle preferred his bachelor ways and having a young woman in the house would be upsetting to him.
"No," he said. "We have to leave. We just couldn't stay away another moment."
Excerpted from "Two Dukes and a Lady"
Copyright © 2017 Lorna James.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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.