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Playing the Duke's Fiancee

Book 2 in the Dollar Duchesses Series

Excerpt

 

Available 27 July 2021

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As William studied the house in the distance, his attention was caught by a bright flash of movement in the gray-green meadows.  He shielded his eyes from the glare of the light, and saw it was a lady making her way slowly toward the castle.  She wore a blue and white striped gown, the ruffled hem trailing behind her.  Her red hair blew in the breeze like a banner, uncovered by any hat, and she dragged a strange contraption with her, a tripod and a medium-sized box-type thing.  He remembered men with just such a thing at the pyramids, taking photographs, but he hadn’t seen a lady doing such a thing yet.

Aidan’s wife?  She did seem eccentric enough to be an American.  Yet strangely, William hoped she was not.  Something about her, that waving, brilliant hair, like something in a Millais painting, that strong, free independence of her stride and her fearless posture, caught at something inside of him.  He longed to ride down to her, to see her face clearly, to hear her laughter from her wide, red lips that the wind seemed to snatch away.

Who was she?  What was she doing, so close yet so far away?  He watched, enraptured, as she waved one arm as it to test the wind, threw back her head to look up into the sky.  The lace-edged sleeve fell back, revealing a slender arm, a gold bracelet.  As she looked up into the meager light, William could see her more clearly, her face illuminated like a cameo in the gray day.  Her chin was lightly pointed, her cheekbones high and elegant, her full lips curved in a whisper of a smile.  He could even glimpse a spray of freckles over her straight nose.  Her pose was of intelligence, defiance, concentration.

She shook her head, took up her equipment, and hurried away.  William wanted to call her after, follow her, but he stayed frozen where he was.  No lady on a country ramble wanted a gentleman to chase her down, surely even as one as bold as that redhead obviously was.  He was never in the business of frightening ladies, even one who intrigued him so.  And he was so rarely intrigued.

Besides, she might indeed be Aidan’s new wife.  Something sank in him at such a thought.  Not that he himself could marry an American.  He had already told himself that.

He spun Zeus around and galloped back toward Bourne.  It was nearly dinnertime, and perhaps Honoria would know something about the redheaded lady.  He feared he wouldn’t be able to get her out of his mind for quite a while.

**

    Violet had to stop on her path back to the house, caught by the shimmer of the late daylight like rose-gold on the fields.  It seemed to ripple like some rare beaded fabric.  There was no time to set up her camera, so she took a sketchbook from her satchel and sat down to try and catch it in quick pencil strokes to remember later.

    As she drew in the impression of light, caught up in images of rare beauty, she suddenly realized she wasn’t quite alone in the silent afternoon.  A figure on horseback appeared on the pathway below her perch, outlined in sunlight that turned him golden, like a pagan idol.  Violet shielded her eyes to study him.

    And what she saw made her gasp.  That glimmering light made him seem truly godlike, with tousled dark hair over a noble brow, riding so smoothly and carelessly, as if one with the horse, tall and lean and powerful.  She wondered if he was truly real at all.

    For an instant, her fingers froze on the pencil, as if time had stalled.  Then she drew even faster, trying to capture his image before he rode away.  She’d seldom seen anything quite so beautiful. 

    As she sketched in an impression of his features, chiseled as if sculpted just so beneath the brim of his hat, he suddenly raised his hand and waved at her.  Violet was tempted to duck, but then she told herself sternly there was no way he could see her blush from there, no way he could see that she drew his face so she could always remember it.  Instead she waved back, and he laughed before he galloped onward.  That laughter made him even more handsome, made him glow from within.

    Who on earth was he?

 

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