Rules Are Made to Be Broken...
When Garrett Lynch bursts the glittering Raynewood ballroom a Wild mail, a hapless footman clinging to each powerful arm, Lucinda Devering is equally appalled and impressed. How uncivilised! How barbaric! How... stirringly strong and manly! Then she learns he′s the Iong-lost heir of the Duke of Raynewood -- and that it′s her job to transform him into a proper Englishman. And if she fails this impossible task, the duke will reveal her desperate secret, ruining her forever.
Lucinda Devering may be the loveliest woman Garrett′s laid eyes on, but her eternal rules and regulations about proper behaviour are enough to drive a man mad. Which should he believe? That stiff spine, or those soft curls and big brown eyes? One thing is certain: that lush, prissy mouth needs loosening up -- and he knows just the way to do it! But soon he wonders which is more important: winning this game, or winning, Lucinda′s hand?
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Excerpt from A Necessary Husband
Raynewood Abbey, Hampshire
All hope hinged upon tonight's success. As Lucinda Northcott Devering walked through the ballroom of the Duke of Raynewood's ancestral estate, every conversation died as she approached. The silence lasted just long enough for her to pass by before the whispers rose again in her wake. Gossip swept through the room like a gust of wind up from the London docks, rank with the stench of rumor.
"...died in his mistress's bed..."
"...no one was surprised..."
"...barren, the poor thing..."
"...really couldn't blame him, I suppose..."
Lucinda held her head up high, her impeccable breeding evident in the board straightness of her spine and her dignified poise. The calmest of smiles played about her lips, as if everyone were not talking about Harry Devering's ignominious death in the bed of his mistress, or the fact that his widow was making her first social appearance in over a year.
The skirt of her shimmering gold dinner dress swished in gentle accompaniment to her unhurried pace as she made her way toward the dance floor. It was a small assemblage, only forty people, made up mostly of local gentry. The duke had arranged the intimate dinner party with dancing to follow as the debut for his American granddaughter. An informal affair, it was merely to give the girl a chance to practice the manners she had learned from Lucinda these past several weeks. The real thing, Meg's grand debut in London, would follow.
For Lucinda, it was a test that must be passed at all costs. Her very future depended on it.
For an instant, as she stood watching the couples on the dance floor, she experienced a pang of regret. Once she, too, had danced so gaily without a care in the world. Before she had been so foolish as to believe herself in love. Before she had married and discovered that she had nothing to offer a man, but her sterling breeding. Over the past eleven years she had become known as a paragon of dignified propriety, and never again would she deviate from that course. The cost was much too high.
Still, her heart ached with the longing to dance and flirt with a man. More than that, to be held by a man, kissed by him, made love to by him. But it was not to be. Lucinda Devering was not a woman who drove men to passion.
Shaking off her despondent thoughts, she turned her gaze to the dance floor, where Miss Margaret Stanton-Lynch, the granddaughter of the Duke of Raynewood, danced with the young Earl of Coucherton.
Meg was all that mattered now. With Meg's success would come her own.
On the other side of the dance floor, the elderly duke was watching his granddaughter dance with a fond smile on his sharp-boned face. Despite the fact that Meg had only recently made the acquaintance of her grandfather, there was genuine affection between the two that warmed Lucinda's heart. Meg was as sweet-natured as she was pretty, and both qualities would make her quite sought-after in the marriage mart.
That, and the fact that she was the granddaughter of one of the wealthiest and most prestigious noblemen in England.
The duke looked over and met Lucinda's gaze, then gave her a subtle nod of approval. Lucinda let out a relieved sigh. Meg had made no social blunders; perhaps this madcap plan would work after all. Perhaps Lucinda's future would be assured, despite her dire straits.
Then a crash sounded in the hallway, and the doors to the ballroom slammed open.
"Get your damned hands off me!"
A huge man burst into the room, long dark hair flying about his face and his jaw shadowed with a day's growth of beard. A footman clung to each arm, trying to stop the brute, but he dragged them along with him into the ballroom. Blood trickled from one servant's lip, and the other had lost his powdered wig.
Lucinda placed her hand over her pounding heart. Good heavens, were they to be robbed? Was the ruffian insane, to break into the home of the Duke of Raynewood in such a manner? What sort of lunatic would dare do such a thing?
"Garrett!" Meg gasped, stopping right in the middle of the dance.
Lucinda's mouth dropped open. Garrett? This was Meg's brother, the one she could never stop talking about?
She moved toward Meg, keeping her gaze on the windblown wild man. The footmen struggled to hold back the American by the arms, and with a roar of rage he shrugged off his coat, sending the footmen stumbling backward. As the hapless servants crashed into Stephens, the hovering butler, Garrett Lynch faced the crowd n his shirtsleeves with fists clenched, magnificent chest heaving with exertion, blue eyes glittering with the light of battle.
Lucinda's heart pounded. This was the Marquess of Kelton? This was the Duke of Raynewood's heir?
Copyright © 2002 Debra Mullins
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