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The Duke’s Shotgun Wedding

Scandalous House of Calydon Series

He’s cold. He’s ruthless. And he’s undeniably irresistible.
Victorian Era England…

As far as rash decisions go, it was formidable. But Lady Jocelyn Rathbourne’s will remains strong. If the only way to save her family’s estate and reputation is by aiming a small pistol at the Duke of Calydon, then so be it. For Lady Jocelyn demands satisfaction – and she will have it at any cost. Even if it means demanding the hand of the intense and foreboding Duke himself…

But she’s made the first move against a very dangerous opponent…

For Sebastian Thornton is no stripling to be trifled with. The lady has played her hand. Now it’s his turn. For Sebastian is in need of a wife. And to find a wife with spirit and fire – even if she means to only marry for his money – would be a great prize indeed. And he intends to thoroughly take his pleasure with her… and demands his own satisfaction in return.

A 2015 Virginia Romance Writers HOLT Award of Merit recipient for outstanding literary fiction in the Romance Novella category.

Chapter Two

Ah, yes. She would do.

Sebastian Jackson Thornton, the twelfth Duke of Calydon, Marquess of Hastings, and Earl of Blaydon had decided on Lady Jocelyn Rathbourne the instant she drew the derringer from her reticule and pointed it at him so determinedly. Or it could have been when his butler Thomas announced her entry. Her walk had been militant yet provocative and graceful, stirring something that had withered to a cold nothing over the years. He doubted those qualities were natural, as chits like her were trained from the schoolroom how to walk, talk, and entice a man to marriage.

Even though, Sebastian had to admit, she did not appear like many of the simpering misses and ladies of the ton who thought they had only to bat an eye and wield their fan to be captivating.asked blandly, as his eyes tracked the pulse that beat so frantically at her throat.held out the glass of sherry. “Drink,” he commanded, expecting her to obey without question. He suppressed an impulse to smile as her lips flattened, and from the slight spasm of her jaw he surmised she was gritting her teeth. She would make a poor gambler.

He wondered at her eyes—their color and shape. The dark veil that covered them was a source of irritation he meant to remedy. Her hand trembled as she pressed her back closer into the shelves that lined his library walls, filled with thousands of books and tomes. He hoped her bravado was not failing her. It would not do for him to turn around and offer marriage so easily.

“Yes, marriage.” Her voice was a hiss as she straightened her spine and took a tentative step forward. “And I do not desire refreshment.”

Ah, there it was. The spirit that had stoked his intrigue, the sheer boldness that had rushed from her as she confronted him with Anthony’s folly, so different from the simpering flowers the mamas of the ton had been throwing in his path over the years. She vibrated with passion and fire.

“Very well.”

Her gaze slashed from his to the glass of sherry he placed on the desk. His chuckle when it rumbled from his throat surprised even him. The unthinkable deed that he had been contemplating with part rage and sometimes icy detachment suddenly seemed intriguing as he studied her. Slowly, he closed the distance between them.

“Come no farther!”

He halted inches from her, the barrel tip of the derringer brushing against his waistcoat. He ignored her gasp as he reached out deliberately and drew the hat from her head.

“What are you doing?” she demanded, grabbing for it. He held it behind his back.

He liked that her voice did not lose its husky timber even though she appeared rattled, so unlike the high-pitched nasal tone of the many debutantes of the summer season.

He was even more relieved that her voice was not pure throaty seductiveness, or else his disgust would have been instant. Stripped of its veil, her delicate face had blushed crimson, and her gray eyes were like saucers. He feared she may be in danger of fainting.

“It is normal, Miss Rathbourne, for a man to fully gaze upon his intended before committing to marriage, especially under such unorthodox circumstances.”

She took several breaths and lowered the weapon slightly, in line with his waist. He circled her neck with his hand, his thumb teasing the pulse that fluttered at her throat. Her tongue peeked out and moistened her lips. His nostril flared, but he ruthlessly ignored the sudden desire that burned him. She had dressed for their meeting in her riding habit: a green, high-collared shirt with matching skirts that molded her petite but voluptuous figure. From the nerve-racking tutelage he had received from his sister, Constance, about the current season’s fashion, Sebastian determined that she was wearing last season’s habit.

She inhaled sharply as he stepped in close enough to her that she was forced to lower her weapon completely or shoot him. Her eyes widened even further, and Sebastian realized he’d done her an injustice when he’d thought of them as merely gray. They were the color of storm clouds, full and raging with emotion.

“Your Grace, you presume too much!”

“Do I?” Sebastian chuckled as the click of the gun echoed like the crack of a whip. “Brave little thing, aren’t you?”

“You will address me as Lady Jocelyn.” She lifted the derringer again, and pressed it to his ribs. “Unhand me, and summon your solicitor at once. I require him to procure a special license and prepare our marriage contract.”

“Ah.” He reached past her and set her hat and veil on the bookshelf. “In that case, I fear I must insist on first sampling the wares you so boldly offer, Miss…Lady Rathbourne.”

She froze. “Sample? I am not a common doxy!”

“No you are not…nor are you a lady.” He traced his thumb along her jaw. “I have yet to figure out what you are, Jocelyn.”

“Oomph—”

He swallowed her reply in a kiss, an action meant to shock the sensibilities she obviously possessed. But instead, it completely floored him.

The flavor of her lips was like the finest wine, the texture sublime, and her taste could intoxicate even the most jaded rake. She went rigid against him. He clasped her face with both hands and tilted her back, sinking in for a more thorough kiss. She shuddered, and parted her lips on a soft gasp which he took immediate advantage of, dipping his tongue into heaven.

The stab of his own arousal stunned him, yet what he tasted from her infuriated him, sending rage through his blood like poison.

For he tasted innocence.

It was there in the hesitant dart of her tongue as it met his, in the soft moan, the hand that fluttered to his shoulder, clasping him tightly as he deepened the kiss, and her shiver as he slanted his lips over hers. But it was the guileless hunger she responded with that bespoke her innocence. There was no artifice, no seduction…and no expertise behind her natural response. It was pure and unguarded, and it drew him under as nothing else could.

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Copyright © 2014 by Stacy Reid. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.

 

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