The Lost Duke of Wyndham (Two Dukes of Wyndham, Book 1)
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"Jack Audley has been a highwayman.
A soldier. And he has ""always"" been a rogue. What he is not, and never wanted to be, is a peer of the realm, responsible for an ancient heritage and the livelihood of hundreds. But when he is recognized as the long-lost son of the House of Wyndham, his carefree life is over. And if his birth proves to be legitimate, then he will find himself with the one title he never wanted: Duke of Wyndham.
Grace Eversleigh has spent the last five years toiling as the companion to the dowager Duchess of Wyndham. It is a thankless job, with very little break from the routine . . . until Jack Audley lands in her life, all rakish smiles and debonair charm. He is not a man who takes no for an answer, and when she is in his arms, she's not a woman who wants to say no. But if he is the true duke, then he is the one man she can never have . . .
She held out her arms, and before Jack knew it, he was there, in her embrace. Sobbing. He had not cried for Arthur. Not once. He’d been so full of anger—at the French, at himself—that he had not left room for grief. But now here it was, rushing in. All the sadness, all the times he’d witnessed something amusing and Arthur had not been there to share it with. All the milestones he had celebrated alone. All the milestones Arthur would never celebrate. He cried for all of that. And he cried for himself, for his lost years.
No! ” the dowager cried out, and she shoved the miniature toward him. “Look! I beg of you, look! His eyes. His chin. His mouth. They are yours. ” Grace sucked in her breath. “I am sorry,” the highwayman said gently. “You are mistaken. ” But she would not be dissuaded. “His voice is your voice,” she insisted. “Your tone, your humor. I know it. I know it as I know how to breathe. He was my son. My son. ” “Ma’am,” Grace interceded, placing a motherly arm around her. The dowager would not normally have allowed such an intimacy, but there was nothing normal about the dowager this evening.
Grace had been left with nothing. No home, no money, and no relations (she refused to count him among the last). Enter the dowager. News of Grace’s predicament must have traveled fast through the district. The dowager had swooped in like an icy goddess and whisked her away. Not that there had been any illusion that she was to be a pampered guest. The dowager had arrived with full retinue, stared down Miles until he squirmed (literally; it had been a most enjoyable moment for Grace), and then declared to her, “You shall be my companion.
Jack had thought both girls had looked youthful, but he had been some distance away. “Twenty-one, I think she is. ” “That old? ” he murmured dryly. “I’m seventeen,” the maid said with a sigh. Jack decided not to comment, as he could not be sure whether she wished to be seen as older or younger than her actual years. He stepped out of the dressing room, putting the finishing touches on his cravat. The maid jumped to her feet. “Oh, but I should not gossip. ” Jack gave her a reassuring nod. “I won’t say a word.
Mr. Audley. “Miss Eversleigh! ” At that Grace stood. This was getting ridiculous. “Yes, ma’am? ” “You sighed. ” “I sighed? ” “Do you deny it? ” “No,” Grace replied. “That is to say, I did not notice that I sighed, but I certainly allow that I could have done so. ” The dowager waved an irritated hand in her direction. “You are most distracting this morning. ” Grace felt her eyes light up. Did this mean she’d escape early? “Sit down, Miss Eversleigh. ” She sat. Apparently not. The dowager set down her newspaper and pressed her lips together.