When a Duke Desires a Lass
Seductive Scoundrels Book 12
The only thing these opposites have in common is a desire to not marry…
Tobias Forsyth, Duke of Heatherston, owes his niece a proper Come Out. But as a confirmed bachelor, he has no idea how to fulfill his commitment. Fortunately, to his astonishment and intense pleasure, the gorgeous widow he’s admired from afar for so long is willing to help. Now, if only he could convince the reluctant object of his affection to give him a chance…
Emily Grenville is bored. But that doesn’t mean she ever intends to marry again. Not with the ugly secret her husband saddled her with before his death. So, she’ll have to continue rebuffing the advances of every interested man—even the ruggedly handsome Scot who has somehow managed to occupy her every waking thought…
It’s not long before their time spent in forced proximity leads to much deeper feelings and desires. But when Emily’s secret is divulged, can the fragile romance she’s only started to enjoy with Tobias survive?
See what readers are saying!
“A short clean romance that moves at a fast pace with a mature couple.” ★★★★★ ~ Margaret
“This was a funny, fun, romantic romp & a great finish to the series.” ★★★★★ ~ Lana Birky
“I am again reminded why I enjoy these stories so much. There is amazing character development in a short book, so you can find out a lot of backstory of the main characters involved. There is great hope for the HEA. Beyond all of that, the language descriptions will make you smile because they are just plain fun!” ★★★★★ ~ Joanie
“In this beautiful love story, we learn how sometimes it is better to acknowledge the truth than cower from it becoming tomorrow’s headline. We start to believe again that there is someone out there for each of us if we truly believe in loving and being loved.” ★★★★★ ~ Ghazal
“This book was off-the-charts good. I loved everything about it. It had some angst on the part of Emily, a bit of action, and great characters. It is a short book and able to be read in just a couple of hours; another plus, considering my time is not my own right now.” ★★★★★ ~ Kristi Hudecek-Ashwill
“I was drawn into this story from the start and enjoyed it immensely! Ms. Cameron’s writing style is so captivating with her enchanting prose, her use of humor and fun, a tinge of suspense and a storyline that’s sure to please.” ★★★★★ ~ Daisy
“A well-written delightful story and likeable, engaging characters make this beautiful ending for a very entertaining series.” ★★★★★ ~ PeggyC51
“Collette Cameron has a way of bringing you into the moment with her writing and this book was no different. You can feel Emily’s paralyzing fear as the runaway horse is bearing down on her in Hyde Park. The frustration between Tobias, the Duke of Heatherston and his niece Avery, after the horse incident at Hyde Park is palpable. The expressive writing continues throughout the book.” ★★★★★ ~ Terrie
“This is such a sweet, endearing love story…” ★★★★★ ~ Catherine Burhans
“A thoroughly enjoyable read, this book can be read by itself or after having read the previous novels in the series. A slightly shorter novel, it is a perfect read for curling up with at night and getting lost in the romance the author creates.” ★★★★★ ~ Nancy Patten
Chapter One Excerpt
Hyde Park – London, England
23 April 1811
Head bent and deep in thought, Emily Grenville briskly strode Hyde Park’s footpath. Circumstances forced her to take her daily constitutional at the ridiculously early hour of eight every morning, beginning at Grosvenor Gate.
Wrapped in her tangled reflections and a new velvet redingote, she walked alone.
Being alone doesn’t equate loneliness, she told herself for the umpteenth time.
Neither did being surrounded by people shield one against loneliness.
A truth she’d endured for several years with a valiant smile, demure responses, and a battered heart. Only, of late, she’d found it harder and harder to accept her fate—not a destiny of her choosing but one which had been thrust upon her by another’s callous choices and deeds.
Raising her head, Emily scanned the pathways and greens. Ducks swam contentedly in the Serpentine, quacking every now and again. Soon there would be downy brown and yellow ducklings trailing their watchful mothers or sunning themselves on Duck Island.
A lone rider entered the park on the far side, and a pair of women in humble attire hurried along another path, likely to their places of employment.
In general, le bon ton denizens eschewed rising early, let alone taking the air at this hour. Which meant no obligatory exchanges of banal pleasantries and disingenuous smiles. Emily needed this tranquil time to herself and preferred the solitude.
Besides, it wasn’t as if she was a dewy-eyed innocent, fresh from finishing school, or a debutante requiring a chaperone to ensure she wasn’t despoiled or her reputation tarnished. Thirty and widowed, Emily answered to no one but herself, which suited her fine.
Walking cleared her mind, invigorated her, and truth be told, gave her something to fill one of the many empty hours that occupied her days. After her niece and ward, Justina, married the Duke of San Sebastian, and they’d invited Emily to live with them, she had far too much free time on her hands.
Unaccustomed to idleness, of late she’d begun contemplating that it might behoove her to remove herself to her small cottage in Bristol to rusticate or perhaps become a traveling companion to an elderly dame. Justina would undoubtedly object—strenuously—so Emily kept those possibilities to herself.
Emily had discreetly registered with two agencies to test the waters regarding a companion position. It couldn’t hurt to see what might be available. If she decided to strike out on her own again.
Her half boots struck the pavement with a satisfying click-clack, click-clack as she marched along, swinging her parasol in time to her gait. In the morning’s hush, the sharp snap of her heels carried along the solitary path, and a squirrel raised its bushy red tail, flicking the appendage in agitation.
At Emily’s approach, the panicked creature darted across the path and up a tree, where another squirrel raucously scolded from a branch extending a few feet over the pathway. A grayish-brown turtle dove swooped low and landed in the lush spring grass. Its mate gracefully soared to a spot nearby and cooed a greeting.
A nascent smile tipped Emily’s mouth.
Even the birds and squirrels had mates.
Emily didn’t envy them.
She’d tasted matrimonial bliss for a brief spell—two whole months to be precise—and that had been enough for her. Despite a half-dozen marriage proposals since entering widowhood, she eschewed any mention of marriage in connection with her name.
Never mind that the “matrimonial bliss” rendition wasn’t precisely the truth. Regardless, that was the respectable version Emily had told others for many years, and repeating it had become a habit. That, too, was a protective shield against disgrace and on dit. She prayed wagging tongues never latched onto the truth.
That she had, in fact, never legally been Mrs. Clement Glenville. Rather hard to be a man’s wife when he already possessed one who was very much alive.
Picking up her pace, Emily inhaled deeply, appreciating the blossoming trees’ faint fragrance. Normally, London stank, and the perpetual pewter clouds and coal dust, lying like a thick mantle upon the city, enhanced the cloying stench.
She preferred coastal breezes and tangy air to the stale stuffiness of London.
Today, she wrestled with a rare fit of the blue devils.
Perhaps seeing Justina and Baxter so deeply in love stirred dormant longings. Made Emily wish for what could never be. Nevertheless, wallowing in self-pity had never been her way. Instead, she focused on her blessings.
Enjoying God’s creations and nature’s beauty did much to dispel her baffling doldrums. She had much to be grateful for, so why, with each passing week, did discontentment raise its gnarled little head higher and higher?
It was becoming more and more difficult to tamp down her restlessness and she felt herself slipping into vulnerability. An untenable state she vowed to avoid at all cost.
It was enough to see Justina happily married to a good man, as were most of Justina’s girlhood friends—therefore Emily’s friends by default. All had wed to surprisingly decent fellows, everything considered.
Conceding that some men ranked above truffle hogs and clatterfarts was a step forward for Emily. Not so long ago, she’d believed all males were charlatans, scapegraces, and opportunistic bounders. The late Lieutenant Clement Grenville most assuredly had been.
She hadn’t learned the depths of Clement’s treachery until it was too late. Until he’d destroyed her trust in men forever. How he had whispered words of love and devotion and rattled off colossal lies with the same tongue still confounded her.
Resolutely shoving the unpleasant ruminations to a fusty corner in her mind, Emily gripped her parasol’s black carved handle and gave the accessory a rather vicious swing. She would enjoy this outing—would cherish the glorious break in the weather and a chance to clear her head.
A vibrant azure sky and effervescent sunbeams filtering through trees laden with leaves and buds testified to the unusually passive spring weather. Ensconced in this mazarine-blue velvet redingote—another gift from Justina and quite the loveliest thing Emily had ever worn—she felt like an impostor.
A charlatan herself.
She appeared poised, wealthy, privileged…none of which were accurate.
If people, specifically, the ton, knew the truth—knew that Emily’s marriage to the lieutenant had been a diabolical sham… Clement had kept her ignorant of that particular and rather critical detail, the blackhearted bigamist.
A shudder rippled from Emily’s waist to her nape.
The on dit would be ruinous.
Only Justina was privy to the whole sordid tale, and she would never breathe a syllable.
As Emily continued along the footpath, another rider, two nurses pushing prams, and a trio of bewhiskered elderly gentlemen appeared. Others had likely ventured forth to take the air this fine spring morning, but she couldn’t see them from her vantage point.
Another horse burst into the park, its rider obviously struggling to control the large mount. Lifting a hand to her bonnet’s brim to shade her eyes, Emily squinted into the sun’s brightness. A playful breeze teased the curls framing her face and the loosely tied azure ribbon under her chin.
Black mane and tail flying, the gray tore down the pathway she stood upon rather than take to Rotten Row as the other equestrians had.
Her heart skipped a beat, then another.
Surely the horseman would turn his mount aside.
A long-ago memory struggled to the surface of Emily’s mind. One she’d buried under pain, sorrow, time, and pure determination to not recollect.
She’d been six and playing a few feet away from her mother as they watched Emily’s father atop a new stallion. Something—she never knew what—had spooked the massive beast, and the horse had bolted.
Mindless with terror, the wild-eyed animal had charged straight at Emily.
Acrid terror clawed at Emily’s throat as it had that dreadful day, and she broke into a fear-induced sweat. Every limb seemed weighted by stone, and she could not move.
As she had all of those years ago, Emily froze, petrified to the very marrow of her bones. Unable to inhale, unable to look away, unable to move a single muscle, knowing, knowing, she was about to die.
God help me, Emily mouthed, but no sound escaped her parted lips.
She heard her mother’s rasping, strangled gasp of fear. Felt Mama roughly seize her and throw her to the side. Heard Mama’s godawful shriek, cut short by the stallion’s impact.
Papa cursed and shouted, and then… and then… another sound resounded…
A hard, sickening thud.
That wretched day had orphaned Emily, altered the course of her life forever, and left her with a fear of horses she’d never overcome.
She struggled to inhale.
Commanded her leaden feet to move.
Move. Move. Move.
“Are ye daft woman? Run!”
A man’s hoarse shout shook Emily from her hypnotic stupor.
The rhythmic pounding of feet and a man swearing beneath his breath gradually filtered through her muffled hearing.
The horse and rider were almost upon her.
Face waxen, eyes wide with dread, lips pulled into a tense, determined line, and a hand fisted in the horse’s ebony mane, a young man bent low over the horse thundering toward Emily. He’d lost the reins but tried valiantly to grasp one, almost falling from the saddle in his efforts.
A moment later, something—not the horse?—plowed into Emily, knocking the breath from her lungs and her feet from beneath her. She landed partially on her side and partially on her back in the grass beside the path.
Sweet Jesus on Sunday.
Had she broken a rib?
A large, heavy, male form lay atop her, nearly suffocating her.
The horse thundered past, so near she felt the wind against her exposed legs.
Well, at least there wasn’t a crowd to witness her mortification and ignominy.
Emily tried to move but groaned and ceased when pain shot through her hip and shoulder. No doubt about it, she’d be covered in bruises and possibly had suffered a broken bone or two given the size of the behemoth pinning her to the ground.
A surprisingly pleasant-smelling behemoth.
Sandalwood, cedar, and perhaps cloves? Or was it carnation?
Are you mad, Emily?
She’d nearly been run down, and she lay beneath a stranger contemplating the pleasantness of his cologne?
Cracking an eyelid open, she carefully turned her head, waiting for pain to stab her again. None did. Her gaze collided with familiar piercing blue eyes, the color of summer sky, beneath slashing dark-auburn brows.
A groan lodged in her throat.
That clot head had to be her savior?