A DUCHESS IN NAME
by Amanda Weaver
The Grantham Girls #1
Victoria Carson never expected love. An American heiress and graduate of Lady Grantham’s finishing school, she’s been groomed since birth to marry an English title—the grander the better. So when the man chosen for her, the forbidding Earl of Dunnley, seems to hate her on sight, she understands that it can’t matter. Love can have no place in this arrangement.
Andrew Hargrave has little use for his title and even less for his cold, disinterested parents. Determined to make his own way, he’s devoted to his life in Italy working as an archaeologist. Until the collapse of his family’s fortune drags him back to England to a marriage he never wanted and a woman he doesn’t care to know.
Wild attraction is an unwanted complication for them both, though it forms the most fragile of bonds. Their marriage of convenience isn’t so intolerable after all—but it may not be enough when the deception that bound them is finally revealed.
She cleared her throat and leaned forward to set her untouched sherry on the table, but his hand shot out to close around her wrist. Her breath stalled as he slid his fingers down to cover hers, gently plucking the glass from her hand. He set it down for her, and his own as well, but he didn’t lean back. The scent of his bay rum tickled her nose, and she was close enough to see the faint dark stubble beginning to form on his jaw. Surely, this close to her, he could hear her heart pounding.
His hand found her wrist again and he traced his way up to her elbow, curling his fingers around her upper arm. She burned everywhere he touched. She should get up and leave. His intentions were clear and the longer she sat here, the more awkward it would become. The moment for decision was past as he slid his hand back into her hair, holding her head gently between his palms. She wanted to push him away and flee, but she couldn’t seem to make herself move, not when he was so close, staring into her eyes this way.
“Victoria, we’ve had a bad start, you and I.” His thumb caressed her cheekbone and slowly, inexorably, he drew her face closer to his. “I’m not returning to Italy this summer. I’m staying here. And I’d like us to start again. As a real husband and wife.”
She was stunned into silence, absorbing his words. Staying. Invading. This was her place and he was forcing his way into it, asking her for the impossible.
The implications of it were still reverberating in her heart when he caught her off guard and kissed her. The shock of it all made her slow to respond, and she didn’t push him away when she should have. She held still long enough to notice how different this was from the other kisses they shared. He wasn’t drunk, there was no anger. This wasn’t a kiss to punish, this was a kiss to seduce—
And that was when she finally found the wherewithal to move.
“No, please don’t.