Julia stepped around the duke. She couldn’t decide which urge was stronger: the desire to get away, or the wish to be detained.
To her suppressed delight, he stopped her yet again.
“Duels in the plural? You must think me a very naughty—and busy—man.” The words naughty and busy upon his lips conjured heated, dreamlike images of the velvet dark of a bedroom, the silken rustle of sheets. Julia was innocent, but not naive. She knew the specifics of what went on between a husband and wife, though she lacked all experience.
This duke was a true demon. He took no care for her reputation, or her innocence. How infuriating. How exciting.
“I don’t think. I know,” Julia said. “I don’t wish to play your games. I’m here to find a husband, not dally with a seducer.” For the first time, the gleeful light left his eyes. The duke’s whole expression darkened. Had she succeeded in wounding his pride?
“You believe one of those puffed-up dandies in the ballroom has a hope of matching you?”
Her skin prickled with gooseflesh. He sounded almost jealous of the idea.
“I’m afraid I haven’t much choice if I want to marry. I’m no longer some fresh-faced debutante. A spinster, particularly a clever one, must take whatever she finds.” Julia had never bared her true thoughts this quickly to anyone before, not even Laura or Susannah. She was being much too forward. If she wanted to find a husband, then time was running out. “Good evening, Your Grace.”
Julia hurried away, but the man was not done.
“If you want to attract male attention, taking to the floor with me is the wisest decision you could make.”
Julia imagined his arm slipping about her waist as he led her in a waltz. The idea left her breathless.
“One dance with me, and every man in that ballroom will find you fascinating. They’ll lay themselves at your feet,” he said.
“I don’t need all of them,” she replied. “One will do quite nicely.”
“He must be the right one, though.”
The duke’s entire body radiated temptation as he held out his hand yet again. Julia believed that his touch would scorch her, burn its way straight through her glove. She drank in the simmering heat of his eyes.
“Yes. He must be,” Julia whispered. “And he is not here.”
Triumphant, she walked away from the bloody Duke of Ashworth.
Snap. The wobbly heel of her shoe broke when Julia put too much weight upon it. The treacherous heel shot across the hallway, upsetting Julia’s balance. She gasped as she began to fall.
Arms encircled her. The duke held her with the greatest ease.
Well. At least we know he can catch a falling woman.
She remained in his arms. Even after the duke righted Julia he kept her close. Surely he had to feel the way her heart throbbed in her chest. Should she free herself? It was the wisest thing to do, but then the duke lifted her chin to meet his eyes. The force of that gaze was like the ocean coming at her during the height of a storm. Others might have been swept away, but Julia knew how to stand her ground.
She did not budge, which delighted him.
“I don’t think I’ve ever met such an obstinate lady before,” the duke said.
“I assure you, sir. You’ve barely got the measure of me.”
“Oh, I believe that. Nothing’s more attractive than a beautiful, headstrong woman with a smart mouth.”
No man had ever looked at Julia as if she were temptation itself. Every inch of her quivered at the thought that he might…
“That smart mouth,” he growled, “has me hypnotized.”
Julia forgot what she was going to say as he bent his head to hers. At the first touch of his lips, she was lost. The duke kissed as though he were hungry for her, like Julia was a dish that had been long denied him. His lips were soft, and his stubbled jaw scraped her cheeks. Julia should have pushed him away, but instead she wound her arms about his neck and deepened the kiss. Heat pooled between her legs, leaving her sore with wanting as she felt his tongue stroke just once against hers. She moaned, and he growled in reply. She could feel his burning, very masculine pride at reducing her to something so wanton.
Coming December 27th! Preorder your copy today!
The Weatherford Ball is the last chance Julia Beaumont has to escape the clutches of her horrid stepmother. Any potential husband will do—rich, poor, even a reasonably well-groomed walrus. But all of Julia’s matrimonial chances are completely obliterated…thanks to the actions of an infuriating and utterly rakish duke.
Gregory Carter, Duke of Ashworth, would never risk his cherished bachelorhood by flirting with marriage-starved debutantes. But one look at the luscious and refreshingly clever Julia, and he simply can’t resist a stolen kiss—scandal be damned. Then just as things start getting deliciously interesting, the lady flees…leaving only a slipper behind.
And it must have been one dandy of a kiss. Because now Julia has proposed to him. After all, the lady needs a husband, and this roguish duke will certainly do. It’s simply a matter of making him the perfect scandalous offer…
Lydia Drake is a reader of all things romance and a drinker of all things tea. A New Jersey resident, her favorite activities include taking the train to New York City, scouring used bookstores, spending time with her family and wrangling her hyperactive cockapoo puppy. Cinderella and the Duke is her debut novel.