Forbidden in February (A Year Without a Duke)
Tagline: Love is a weakness he vowed to avoid, but then he meets her…
Robert Milton’s future as the valet to the Duke of Beckworth is uncertain. His employer has died, leaving no heir in sight. When Robert’s mother also dies, he discovers that her companion has taken over her household.
Isabel Durham’s dream of gaining her independence is almost a reality, but her cousin is determined to see her married to a wealthy but much-older man. Robert’s arrival in London is the answer to her prayers. Neither can deny the very real attraction sizzling between them and if he ruins her, she’ll be free of the unwanted marriage.
But Robert’s very existence has proven to him that romantic entanglements are to be avoided at all costs. His desire for Isabel could cost him the one thing he’s vowed never to lose—his heart.
Forbidden in February is book 2 in the multi-author series, A Year Without a Duke. It is a standalone novella that can be read on its own. (Approximately 22,500 words.)
A YEAR WITHOUT A DUKE
The duke has died. Long live the duke! The only problem is no one knows who the new Duke of Beckworth is. All of England wonders, but no one more so than the people who depend upon Beckworth for their livelihood. In 1816, a year so cold that the word “summer” is a cruel joke, that livelihood is even more uncertain. However, they are all about to find out, with the duke away, there is nothing more warming than scandal and love…
All the A YEAR WITHOUT A DUKE stories can be read as standalones.
Book 1: Jilted in January by Kate Pearce;
Book 2: Forbidden in February by Suzanna Medeiros;
Book 3: Seduced in September by Genevieve Turner;
Book 4: An Affair in Autumn by Jennifer Haymore;
Book 5: A Duke by December by Sabrina Darby
To read more about the other books in the A Year Without a Duke series, please visit the series website at ayearwithoutaduke.com.
“Do you speak?”
The amusement in his voice had her straightening her spine and meeting his gaze again. She didn’t miss the way his eyes swept over her, but she refused to allow this man to cause her further discomfort.
“Of course I do,” she snapped before she could restrain herself. When his eyebrows rose at her rudeness, she took a steadying breath and continued. “I apologize. You caught me by surprise. If I’d known to expect you, I would have received you properly.”
His brows drew together at her words. “I’m sorry, but you have me at a disadvantage. My mother didn’t tell me she had hired a new maid—”
“Oh no, I’m not a maid. I’m Miss Isabel Durham, your mother’s companion.”
What had been confusion changed at her introduction. She wasn’t sure what to make of this stranger in front of her, but the last thing she expected him to do was to fold his arms across his chest and scowl at her.
“I see. Well, it turns out that my mother did mention you.”
His anger baffled her. “I don’t understand, I’ve already apologized for my rudeness. You surprised me, and I didn’t know who you were.”
“Is there a reason why you’re still living here? Wait, let me guess. You’ve decided to move into my mother’s chamber and continue where she left off.”
“Excuse me? I have no idea what you’re accusing me of. I would never move into your mother’s bedroom, nor do I understand what you mean by ‘continuing where she left off.’ I’m only here because I’ve been waiting for your arrival.”
“Why?” he asked, taking a step closer.
He glared down at her for several seconds, and within that time she saw his anger change into something else. Something dangerous that would have had her taking a step backward if the settee weren’t directly behind her.
“You’re not going to pretend to be shy, are you?” He took another step closer, and her heart gave a funny little leap at the intensity of his gaze. “I assure you, I can handle plainness. You don’t need to be coy with me.”
At his next step, she raised her hand to prevent him from coming any closer.
“I think you have me confused with someone else. I said I was your mother’s companion.”
She gasped in shock when he took hold of her hand and pressed it against his chest. His hand was warm over hers, and she had the irrelevant thought that he was, indeed, quite muscular.
“Companion, protégé… I care not what you call it. But what once seemed distasteful to me when my mother first proposed it, now sounds attractive beyond measure. Of course, I won’t promise to be your protector—I’ve seen enough growing up in this household to know how such an arrangement can lead to misery all around—but I wouldn’t be adverse to a discreet affair.”
“What?” The word escaped on a shaky breath. Her legs threatened to give out, and she dropped to the settee. To her dismay, instead of releasing her hand, Robert followed her down, sitting entirely too close for her peace of mind.
“Come now, you don’t have to pretend with me. My mother told me she’d chosen you for me. And you did say that you were awaiting my arrival.”
She tugged her hand from his grasp, relieved when he released it, and rose quickly, moving around to the back of the settee so that the solid piece of furniture stood between them. Her pulse beat frantically as she tried to make sense of his words.
He stood, and when he moved to follow her, she made a small sound of alarm that had him furling his brow again. Fortunately, it also seemed to stop him from drawing nearer.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. I was Mrs. Milton’s companion—only her companion. I certainly am not what… what…” She waved her hand between them. “Whatever it is you are thinking, you can stop right now. When your mother became ill last year, she hired me to keep her company and to help her when she became overtired. Something that happened more frequently as the months passed and her illness progressed. You’d know that if you’d bothered to stay in touch with her at all.”
He opened his mouth to interject, but she continued before he could say a word. “I don’t know why you’d presume to know anything about me, but I can assure you that I most definitely will not be engaging in an affair with you, nor do I desire your protection.”
©2015 Suzanna Medeiros