LAST NIGHT WITH THE DUKE by Amelia Grey
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Amelia Grey is back with the first installment of her new Rakes of St. James series: LAST NIGHT WITH THE DUKE (St. Martin’s Paperbacks; March 7, 2017; $7.99; 978-1-250-10249-2)! Enthralling and enticing, Grey weaves together the seductive story of a naughty Duke and the enchanting woman he falls for.
Could finding love be his greatest scandal of all?
The Duke of Griffin has never lived down his reputation as one of the Rakes of St. James. Now rumors are swirling around London that his twin sisters may bear the brunt of his past follies. Hiring a competent chaperone is the only thing Griffin has on his mind–until he meets the lovely and intriguing Miss Esmeralda Swift. In ways he could never have expected, she arouses more than just his curiosity.
Esmeralda Swift considered herself too sensible to ever fall for a scoundrel, but that was before she met the irresistibly seductive Duke of Griffin. His employment offer proves too tempting for her to resist. She can’t afford to be distracted by his devilish charms because the stakes are so high for his sisters’ debut Season. . .unless one of London’s most notorious rakes has had a change of heart and is ready to make Esmeralda his bride
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Amelia Grey read her first romance book when she was thirteen and she’s been a devoted reader of love stories ever since. Her awards include the Booksellers Best, Aspen Gold, and the Golden Quill. Writing as Gloria Dale Skinner, she won the coveted Romantic Times Award for Love and Laughter and the prestigious Maggie Award. Her books have sold to many countries in Europe, Indonesia, Turkey, Russia, and most recently to Japan. Several of her books have also been featured in Doubleday and Rhapsody Book Clubs. Amelia is the author of twenty-five books. She’s been happily married to her high school sweetheart for over thirty-five years and she lives on the beautiful gulf coast of Northwest Florida. Her first book with St. Martin’s was The Duke in My Bed.
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His praise pleased her. She smiled and remained quiet. “Most of our guests would end up being so flustered by seeing double that they wouldn’t try to get their names right. They would just say ‘my lady.’ ” “Unfortunately, I wasn’t given that option.”
“After you’ve been around for a few more days, you’ll be able to tell them apart no matter how they are dressed.”
“It’s already getting easier.”
“Good. They may look exactly alike at times, but they have different natures. Vera’s nature is more forceful and cantankerous. Sara’s sweeter.”
Esmeralda started to say she agreed completely, but then thought better of it, and simply replied, “But both are lovely.”
The duke faced her. “Did Miss Fortescue teach you how to be so diplomatic?”
“No,” she answered with a teasing smirk. “It’s my nature.”
His smile was natural as he said, “And a temperamen- tal nature it is at times.”
She frowned. “I’ll ignore that comment.”
“But you know it’s true. I’m glad you suggested bring- ing the girls to the park and so is my aunt. And I see you brought Josephine and Napoleon along too.
“You don’t mind, do you? I supposed I should have cleared it with you first.”
“I don’t mind. I can see you aren’t neglecting Sara and Vera. They are enjoying the show too.”
“I think so. Vera showed Josephine how to play throw and fetch with a stick. Napoleon was already quite famil- iar with what to do, so his former owners must have taught him. And the twins were very accommodating to him on our walk over here. They didn’t get upset when Napoleon wanted to check out every doorway, hitching post, and tree along the way.”
He chuckled. “Living a protected life at Griffin for so many years, Sara and Vera have had few occasions to en- joy friendships or relatives their own age. It will be good for them to have you as their chaperone. Except for me, my aunt, and the servants, they’ve had only each other to get to know. It’s made them close, but it also, regrettably, causes a fierce competitiveness from time to time.”
Including the pianoforte and Lord Henry, Esmeralda wanted to say but decided that Griffin didn’t need to know about the earl’s son.
“I’m rather glad they have someone else in the house to interact with now other than each other.”
“And that will change after they meet young ladies at the various parties.”
“Which reminds me,” he added. “I looked into your suggestion of finding out which young ladies who were a part of the wager hadn’t married and also had brothers, uncles, or fathers.”
“Who did you come up with?” she asked anxiously. “Only two names.”
“But didn’t Sir Welby think there were more than two at White’s?”
He nodded. “He did but admitted he couldn’t be sure of anything other than the comments that perhaps the way to get back at me was through my sisters. If you listen carefully enough in a taproom, you can overhear a lot of conversations.”
“But you’re saying we have two young men to watch carefully, right?”
“Yes. For now, anyway. Sir Charles Redding and Mr. Albert Trent are the only gentlemen who have sisters who received a secret admirer letter but never married.”
Esmeralda repeated the names in her mind. They weren’t on any of Lady Evelyn’s lists. And they wouldn’t be. She wouldn’t consider either of them high enough in the heel to offer for the twins.
Why did Esmeralda keep forgetting all she’d been taught when she was living in her uncle’s home? She knew all about the snobbery of Polite Society. She just hadn’t been a part of it for a long time. And now she was on the other side of it.
“I will keep a steady eye on the two should they get near Lady Sara or Lady Vera even for a dance.”
The duke’s eyes swept up and down her face. Fluttering began in Esmeralda’s chest. It was madness that when- ever he looked at her with that intimate intensity radiating from him, she wanted him to pull her into his strong arms, nestle her to him, and kiss her eager lips. She knew he was attracted to her. He had admitted that. But surely she was more aware of his every breath than he was of hers.
“Did you know that out in the sunlight your eyes lose all their brown coloring and are golden?”
With that question, Esmeralda felt the atmosphere change. The noise of the crowd faded away, the cool breeze stilled, and the sun heated her face. It was as if she and the duke were the only two people in the park.
“How could I possibly know that? I have never seen my eyes outside a house.”
“I thought perhaps someone might have told you—your parents, possibly a beau?”
“I’m sure you’ve had countless ladies tell you that your eyes are as blue as a summer sky.”
He ignored her comment and said, “You skillfully de- flected my question, but I’m not going to let you get by with that.”
She evaded him again by saying, “Did you ask one? I thought you were making a statement.”
He gave her an amused smile. “It’s always a challenge with you, Esmeralda. I like that.”
She gasped. “You can’t call me by my given name.”
“I can and will when we are alone and no one around to hear but you. Now, here is a direct question for you, Es- meralda. Have you ever been kissed?”
Her immediate instinct should have been to shy away from such intimate conversation once more and insist he call her Miss Swift at all times. It was on the tip of her tongue to tell him she was outraged he’d ask her some- thing so personal, but staring into his striking gaze as it
brushed down her face to her mouth, she knew she didn’t want to resist him in that way or any way.
Maybe she wanted him to call her Esmeralda and to know that her lips had never been touched by another’s. Maybe she wanted him to know she’d welcome his kiss.
Still, her practical, survival nature came to her rescue and she resisted what her heart desired and said, “I’ve not had time nor opportunity for such things as hugs and kisses.”
“Twenty-five and never been kissed.” His voice was low, and soft. “I find that very intriguing.”
His hold over her intensified. There was something about his unobtrusive interest in her that stirred her wom- anly passions to an anticipation she couldn’t have known existed.
Her throat ached with an increasing need that was al- ways denied—to feel his lips caress hers. Perhaps he found it intriguing she’d never been kissed, but she found it dis- couraging that she’d never had the opportunity to know what it felt like to be kissed. She wanted to know.
Putting all her sensible, inner declarations aside, and willing her voice not to quiver, she asked, “Are you offer- ing to change that, Your Grace?”
Copyright © 2017 by Amelia Grey and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press.
When Benedict Mercer, Duke of Griffin, was a younger man, he and his friends pulled a prank which society took great exception to, and never let them forget. Years later, his twin sisters are about to make their debut, and gossip is circulating that someone is planning to ruin them or their season in retaliation for the long ago misdeed. Griffin plans to escort them to all the evening functions and keep a sharp eye out for any trouble, while their aunt was scheduled to chaperone and watch out for them during the daytime social activities. Unfortunately, Aunt has taken very ill, and won’t be able to leave her sickbed for quite some time. It seems like providence that Griffin happens to be passing an employment agency, and decides to hire a chaperone on the spot. When Griffin enters, he overhears a lady advising and coaching one of her distraught employees. He’s so impressed with her dialogue and the manner in which she handles the situation, that he decides she is the perfect one for the job.
Esmerelda Swift is administrator of the employment agency, and is currently dealing with one of her governesses who is distressed over her current charge’s behavior. Esmerelda is the granddaughter of a viscount, but her mother’s family disowned them when she married against their wishes. Now, with her parents and stepfather dead, Esmerelda has no choice but to work to support herself and her young half sister, Josephine. Esmerelda is more than happy to supply a chaperone for the handsome duke, but it seems that he wants her for the job and no one else will do. Though she argues that she does not take on jobs herself, he is insistent. When he finally agrees to allow her to bring her younger sister and her dog, to supply new dresses, and to pay a handsome salary while she lives in his home for the length of the season, Esmerelda gives in.
Griffin doesn’t try to delude himself – he knows he’s attracted to Esmerelda. He also knows that his own honor prevents him from having any relationship with someone in his employ and thus, under his protection. However, when the season is finished, well, that’s another story. Esmerelda and the twins, Sara and Vera, get along fabulously. She’s determined to watch out for them and avoid any potential mischief. This is a bittersweet scenario for her, as she would have been making her debut and enjoying a season if her circumstances hadn’t changed drastically. Still, she enjoys herself and the time spent with Griffin, and her sister is flourishing with having room to play. I love that she accepts her lot in life with determination, and without bitterness.
The desire that Griffin feels is definitely not one sided, Esmerelda feels the strong chemistry as well. Though they try to be circumspect, they do indulge in a few steamy kisses and caresses. Griffin is seduction personified – just hearing him say, “I’m here for you,” sent my temperature soaring. And he says lots of things like that. I don’t know how Esmerelda could possibly resist him. And while he is confident and determined, he’s also kind and courteous. LAST NIGHT WITH THE DUKE focuses on the romance that develops daily with a hero and heroine that I loved, and who have a sizzling attraction. Griffin, who seemed perfect up to this point, shows that he does have flaws by his actions late in the story, but he redeems himself in fine form. I adore this book, which has the perfect blend of love and steam. I just devoured it, and recommend it highly.