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The Duke Series, Book Five
Reclusive, cold as ice, the politically powerful Raven, Duke of Ravensmere, denies love after the tragic deaths of his duchess and baby. He is bound by his vow never to allow love to enter his heart again. Samantha Winston permits him to seek refuge in her carriage in a time of need, and what started as a kiss in the name of safety, becomes something more pleasurable and not so safe after all. In spite of every caution, his interest escalates into unexpected desire.
Samantha, a young widow with a secret, irreverent and high-spirited, has constructed impenetrable walls against all men. When she and Raven meet again, strong wills clash. Political intrigues and a dreaded nemesis place his life at risk, and Samantha finds herself in a dire predicament. All the while, passion soars.
Can Samantha’s barriers fall with more kisses? Can Raven be released from his deathbed vow?
Page Count: 452
Word Count: 112815
Samantha bestowed upon him a smile that rivaled the chandeliers in the ballroom. “I have warned Brandon he is not to bid for me. It would be a total embarrassment to have one’s brother do so. My widow status has its drawbacks, you know.” Her light and pleasurable conversation she hoped would make for a welcome change. “I do hope that none of the rakish kind will offer for my basket. Men do feel widows are fair game. I’m not sure how I would handle such rakes. I have insufficient experience, but I suppose I will have to learn.”
“My dear Samantha, do you expect me to believe that in these past three years, you haven’t encountered disreputable men?” He laughed. “I do believe you will have a sufficient amount of reputable young men who will bid on you and your picnic basket. After all, it’s for a good cause, isn’t it? ButI do hope you will keep your conversation light, or you will suffer the young man to have indigestion or apoplexy.”
Impishly, she said, “I deserved that. I like your sense of humor. It’s also good to hear you laugh. We do battle well.” Perhaps he could be a man of consequence?
“Indeed, but I warn you, I have not started my retaliation. When one acquires an enemy, I don’t believe in keeping him or her closer; however, I might make an exception for you.”
“Oh. No, I’m not your enemy, Your Grace. Please don’t consider me as one.”
“Perhaps if you try hard, you can change my mind.” A small grin curled his lips.
“What would I have to do?”
“I leave that to your resourcefulness…and mine…under a starlit night with nothing but our naked imaginations.”
“Sweet heaven,” she muttered.
Without further ado, he guided her around the ballroom floor with ease and confidence.
The music played on, and she wished it wouldn’t end. Samantha comported herself it seemed, and so far she managed not to step on his toes with pointed shoes or barbed words. What strategies could she employ to become his friend? Hmm, Aunt Min would tell her to use feminine wiles.
Aquarians, she thought, as they turned the dance floor again, were intellectual, fair, kind and sometimes progressive. Truth, honor, and valor were his trademarks by his admission. However, the other side, which could be considered the worst, was the ability to be remote, stubborn, arrogant and perhaps distrustful. What did she like best about him? After consideration, she thought him suave. Oh, what a wonderful man.
The dance ended too soon. With exquisite manners, Raven directed her to a quiet corner where they sat on a settee, still in view, but a little more private. “Lady Samantha, we haven’t discussed truth, honor, and valor.” He relaxed his back against the tufted furniture.
She engaged his eyes. “Your Grace, I do apologize as I know that you are true to your sign and that truth and honor are paramount to your standards. It defines you in all you say and do, but pray tell which is more important?”
“They are both important. One does not exist without the other. Valor is thrown into the equation to make it more difficult. You, Samantha, are true to your sign. I believe they are your charm, wit, and a versatile inquisition which is in constant commotion.” He laughed. “I rather like that word commotion. It’s the essence of you.” He paused. “You are constant motion with your lips and mind.”
He spread one arm along the top edge of the settee and cocked his head. “I would also add outspoken and, at times, impolite and irreverent, although I’m not sure it’s your sign. I think it’s just your nature. After your barrage this evening, allow me to enjoy this moment.”
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