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The Duke's Magnificent Bastard

The Duke Series, Book Four

The Wild Rose Press

Heat Rating: STEAMY
Word Count: 105,985
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After three years in England, Thorn Wick, the duke’s bastard son, perfectly flawed, still fights for acceptance in his father’s world as a renowned Argamak Turk horse trainer. Just when he starts to believe in fairy tales, another obstacle looms to thwart his plans: on a dangerous mission to Barbados, Thorn is stunned when secrets are revealed about his mother. Will he exact revenge for the foul deed?

Alicia Montgomery, ward of the duke, is in love with Thorn. Strong willed and adventurous, she determines she can convince him to admit his feelings. But the reality of loving Thorn too much almost destroys her.

Can Alicia quell Thorn's demons and prove love can pave the way to their happiness?

Excerpt

“You’ll find yourself well occupied with gentleman callers, I’m sure. I promise to be back for your introduction to society for I’ll be your first dance.”

She smiled with delight, and he leaned in to give her a tender kiss on her forehead. Could the man be made of Gibraltar rock? Alicia raised her head in perfect alignment with his lips, and a kiss meant in tenderness turned into an explosion of desire. When he entered her mouth with his wicked tongue, she answered with all the longing in her body.

He withdrew, inhaled a long breath, exhaled, and again cautioned, “Never let anyone do that to you, and don’t tempt me again, my dear. It cannot be between us.”

She sensed the regret in his tone and pulled at his greatcoat. “Why not, Thorn? We are so well suited for each other. Don’t we always enjoy our time together? Give me one good reason why, and I’ll stop dreaming of you.”

The back of his hand touched her cheek, and slid to the cleft in her throat. “Another good admonition: don’t dream of any man at night. That will lead to inappropriate consequences.”

Thorn moved away, and her face became outlined in the semi-darkness of the coach. She was the sweeping vista that justified his secret beliefs. Yes, he wanted her to dream of him. If she knew how much he craved to be in those dreams, he’d not be able to contain his desires—or hers.

His gaze went to the tapestry walls of the luxurious green carriage then returned to her. She reminded him of some innocent wild thing that waited for life to open her caged doors. When it did, he would regret her flight to where her heart wanted to go. “Fly high,” he muttered, “so you can never be taken down if it’s away from me.” In the depth of his soul, Alicia’s ultimate romanticism endeared her to him.

“Did you say something?”

He shook his head.

“Then give me one good reason?” she asked again.

“Because,” he fibbed, “you are an innocent virgin.”

“Liar.” She huffed; her breath flipped the ribbon of her cloak. “Nonetheless, you are a handsome man I want to know better. Your kiss wasn’t that of a brother. I want more. Please don’t deny me. If not you, I’ll be forced to sample other men. You get to choose, but please don’t wait too long.”

The horses slowed, and the coach stopped. Thorn looked out the window to find they’d arrived at their family home.

“I tire of all your cautions and admonitions. I choose you to educate me in the ways of a woman in a man’s bed. Shall I give myself to someone else?” Alicia’s sophisticated tone became an irritation.

He firmed his voice. “Don’t give yourself to any man until you are married. You would disappoint me if you did.” He would kill to be lost in her warmth.

The footman opened the coach door. Thorn stepped down and reached for Alicia. She accepted his hand, but imparted one last word. “Coward.”

“I’m not a coward,” he answered in a soft tone. “I don’t believe in fairy tales.”

“I do, so posh on you. You’re in for an adventurous journey. If you can’t see what we mean to each other, it’s pitiful. I’ll not wait forever. Spinsterhood holds no appeal for me.” She raised her head high.

The couple climbed the steps to the family’s London townhouse where Chester held the door. They entered the foyer and left their accessories with the butler.

Thorn reached for her hand, took it. His lips lingered at the touch until he spoke. “I’ll be gone three months on this mission. Your persistence tells me I’ve been away much too long. Promise you won’t be rash until I can protect you.”

“Who will protect me from what I feel for you, dear Thorn?”