NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author
At the top of his game in fencing, cards, and social life, the Duke of Wyatthaven has no interest in marriage. However, Wyatt has just found out he has to marry by week’s end or lose a sizable inheritance from his grandmother. When Wyatt’s solicitor finds the perfect young lady, who also needs to marry, Wyatt considers this little hiccup solved. Miss Hale is suitable to be Wyatt’s wife in every aspect that would be of importance. She’s lovely in countenance, disposition, and intelligence. Most importantly, she prefers the country life to London and is guardian for her late sister’s children, so he doesn’t have to rush to have an heir to make her happy.
Fredericka Hale needs a husband and fast. She’s been caring for her deceased sister’s three young children for over a year. Now, an older married but childless cousin has petitioned Chancery Court to take the children from Fredericka and raise them as her own. Fredericka’s solicitor has assured her she will have a better chance of keeping the children if she is married. The last thing Fredericka wants is a hurried-up marriage to a man she doesn’t love, but she will do it for the children. When the wild Duke of Wyatthaven proposes, she accepts. But things seldom happen as one plans, and circumstances force Fredericka to show up at the duke’s door and announce she and the children must live with him in London as a proper couple and family should. But will the duke give up his bachelor lifestyle and give into the attraction growing between them?
The Duke of Wyatthaven, ‘Wyatt’, needs a wife. Not in a year from now but in a mere seven days or he will lose his fortune. He’s composing a letter to Fredericka Hale proposing marriage. She’s a suitable match and guardian of her sisters three children, who prefers the country to London. In his mind the perfect arrangement so he can continue his gambling and basically his bachelor life in peace.
Fredericka Hale is hoping that if she marries she can thwart her cousin’s petition to take her sister’s children from her. Her solicitor has stated that a husband would definitely turn the tide in her favor. As such she’s been ‘interviewing’ potential candidates. However, the Duke of Wyatthaven is not one of them, and when he arrives, she’s expecting a Mr Maywaring not the Duke.
As chagrined as she is that he mentions marriage in front of the children she listens to what he has to say and the things he would provide for her and the children and agrees to his proposal. The paperwork with the solicitors is handled and the wedding occurs in time to prevent him losing his grandmother’s fortune. However, after the wedding and a delightful exchange in the garden that cumulated in an interesting kiss, he departs to London and a tournament.
The scandal sheets were having a field day over the absence of Wyatt’s wife. Fredericka pays it no mind until her cousin Jane arrives with even more threats to take the children from her. It’s then she decides to go to London and prove that the talk of her marriage is wrong.
What Fredericka didn’t expect was to find her husband not only hosting a ball but to be dancing with a young lady when she arrives.
This is a favorite scene.
Wyatt felt as if a thoroughbred’s hooves pounded in his chest.
He immediately let go of Priscilla as an inexplicable desire to rush to Fredericka, pull her into his arms, and hug her close sparked through him. He was damn glad to see her.
But . . . the emotion he saw in her eyes for a fleeting moment stopped him from doing what felt so natural. Was it betrayal reflected in their depths? How could it be? He was only dancing. Yet his whole body tensed as if he were being pricked with needles.
On one side of Fredericka stood Bella and Charles. Elise was hugging her aunt’s skirts on the other. Fear struck him. His mind raced with the possibility something terrible had happened to bring them to London.
“Fredericka, what are you doing here?” He strode toward her, covering the distance between them as fast as he could.
“Obviously, making a mistake,” she answered in a terse tone as Wyatt cleared the threshold of the drawing room and stopped in front of her.
That was an odd thing for her to say.
He glanced down at the children. Bella lifted her smiling, angelic face toward him, clearly glad to see him. Charles looked at him with what appeared to be wide-eyed confusion, and Elise turned her head away from him and locked her arms tighter around Fredericka’s waist.
No one was bleeding. None of them looked harmed, sick, or in pain, but something must have happened to bring Fredericka to his door in the middle of the night.
Swallowing past a tight throat, he gave his attention back to Fredericka. His heart started beating even faster. Her eyes were swirling with questions. He had quite a few himself.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“I’m sorry, Your Grace,” Burns hurried to say. “When she said she was Her Grace, I asked that she wait in the entry until I—”
“Not now, Burns,” Wyatt said quickly, holding up his hand to halt his butler. “You did fine.”
“But it appears I have not.” Fredericka’s words were icy and her eyes fierce. “It didn’t cross my mind that you might be having a party this evening.”
Wyatt tried not to let his thoughts get ahead of her explanation, but he couldn’t keep his chest from tightening in fear again. “Did you come here straight from Paddleton? Tonight?”
“Yes,” she responded coolly as her flush deepened. “We arrived just now.”
Wyatt’s jaw clenched at the thought of her traveling the lonely, dangerous roads at night. “You shouldn’t have come!” he exclaimed.
Fredericka gasped. So did the bewildered elderly governess standing beside her.
Theirs weren’t the only gasps. An ocean wave of them roared behind him. He looked back. The music had stopped, the chatter had quieted, and it seemed as if everyone in the drawing room had crowded closer to listen.
Suddenly Wyatt realized how unacceptable “You shouldn’t have come!” sounded.
“That’s quite clear,” Fredericka said in a miffed tone as her spine stiffened. “To me and everyone else.”
Hellfire! She was taking his words the wrong way.
“Hurst, Rick, keep the partying going,” he said in a raspy voice. “Burns, close the doors.”
Not waiting for the butler to shut out their audience, Fredericka locked eyes with Wyatt. “However, you are right. I shouldn’t have come without proper notice, and I apologize for intruding on your evening.”
He matched her stare-for-stare. Anger blossomed in Wyatt’s chest. At her for putting herself and the children in danger of highwaymen, coach accidents, or other perils that could happen in the dark of night, and himself for handling her arrival badly.
“You’re not interrupting—”
“No? You were dancing!” She might have sounded wounded, but her eyes were throwing imaginary daggers at him with every word she spoke.
“With Priscilla,” he answered, having no patience for the accusations she implied. “It’s her—”
“Please,” she cut him off with the single word. “You don’t owe me an explanation about anything.”
“Apparently, I do, Fredericka, and on this we will be clear.” He heard the doors finally shut behind him and the music start again.
“You misunderstood what I was doing and what I said.”
“So, this is my fault because I misunderstood you?”
Tension like he’d never experienced before swirled and sparked between them. She was twisting his words again.
“When I said you shouldn’t have come, I only meant you shouldn’t have traveled at night. Not that you shouldn’t come to my house. What do you mean by such a foolhearted stunt? The roads leading into London from Paddleton are unsafe and riddled with crime at this time of evening.”
“I took precautions,” she challenged, refusing to back down. “I had the groom come with us.”
“A groom?” he barked, and swore under his breath.
“He and my driver are quite efficient with pistols and muskets, and both were well armed. We encountered no trouble. Perhaps the highwaymen took one look at the old carriage and assumed there couldn’t be anything of value inside or just maybe a guardian angel traveled with us. Whatever the reason, we are safe.”
Wyatt had never known such a headstrong lady. She was stubbornly ignoring his concern for what she’d done.
“You are far too independent for your own good, Fredericka,” he retorted. “Whatever the reason you were spared trouble, it doesn’t make the danger you put yourself in all right.”
“Not according to you,” she responded instantly.
“It’s just as well you came to London,” he said, realizing she’d not only stirred his passions when he’d kissed her at Paddleton, but she’d stirred his need to protect her and the children. He softened his expression and moved closer to her. “You need someone to take care of you.”
“I do not, sir. Can’t you just be thankful for the miracle you seem to think it was that nothing villainous happened tonight and let it go at that?”
Yes, he could. No matter how she arrived, the truth was he was happy to see her. Wyatt took hold of her upper arms thinking to draw her near and give her a quick hug of welcome but froze when Elise screamed out, “Don’t hurt her! Please, please don’t hurt her.”
“W-what are y-you doing?” Charles shrieked.
Wyatt let go of Fredericka instantly, stepped back, and held up his hands for all to see, wondering what in the hell he had done to cause the children to react so strongly.
“Wait,” he said cautiously. “I’m not going to hurt her.” Damnation. What was going on?
Fredericka gathered Charles and Bella closer to her, trying to enfold them into the comfort of her arms. “Shh—” she whispered to the children as she kissed the forehead of each one. “Everything is fine, my darlings. There’s no trouble,” she whispered softly to them.
Unsure what to say or how to restore calm, he offered, “See, I’m not touching her or anyone. Everything is all right. It concerned me to hear about you traveling at night. That’s all. Nothing else.”
Needing a moment to figure out what had happened, Wyatt kept his gaze on Fredericka’s, trying to determine if she really thought he meant to harm her in some way. It was apparent the children did. But why?
A childish sniffle caused him to look down. Bella was holding both hands squeezed tightly over her mouth, her shoulders were shaking, and a tear rolled down her cheek. Elise continued to sob pitifully with her face buried in Fredericka’s cloak.
What kind of man was he to make little girls cry?
Their sobs suddenly triggered memories from his past and, unbidden, his thoughts returned to his time at Eton when in the cold dark of night he’d heard quiet whimpers and deep moans from boys struggling with their fears and pains as they lay in their beds.
Because Wyatt hadn’t understood why the boys were crying, he hadn’t known how to comfort them. He’d just turned nine when he arrived at the boarding school and had seldom played with anyone his own age. He didn’t know what to do for them, so he’d stayed in his own bed and never tried to reassure any of them things were going to be all right.
Wyatt swallowed the old, tormenting emotions. He still didn’t know how to comfort anyone. Especially little girls.
But this time he had to try. He wasn’t going to be guilty of hearing a child cry again and not do something about it.
Amelia Grey. Yours Truly The Duke (Kindle Locations 1407-1471). Kindle Edition.
Wyatt does manage to settle the children and with Fredericka’s help gets them sent off with their governess. There’s still much to settle between them but that would be put off until morning.
Things are going to radically change for Wyatt and he’s really not sure he’s ready for any of it. Fredericka can’t lose the children and he’s going to do everything in his power to prevent it.
I love the way this story plays out, from visits to the park to the children relaxing in his presence, to the political intrigue, to more drama with Jane, to the growing attraction between Wyatt and Fredericka this is a page turning read.
I can’t wait to read the next book in this series.
5 Contented Purrs for Amelia!
Amelia Grey (aka Gloria Dale Skinner) grew up in a small town in the Florida Panhandle. She has been happily married to her high school sweetheart for over twenty-five years. She has lived in Alabama, Connecticut, New Hampshire and now lives in Florida.
Amelia has won the coveted Romantic Times award for Love and Laughter, the prestigious Maggie award for best historical and Affaire de Coeur’s best American historical award. She has been a finalist for the Golden Heart and the Holt Medallion awards which are given by Romance Writers of America and numerous other awards. Her books have been sold to many countries in Europe, Russia and China.
Amelia likes flowers, candlelight, sweet smiles, gentle laughter and sunshine.