June 6, 1814…
Mondays. Would they forever be known as the most dreaded day of the week? Even at Stonebridge House, the servants approached all Mondays with a sense of reluctant melancholy.
Personally, I had never thought so. My father tossed me out of his house on a Wednesday on account of my having conceived a child out of wedlock. And the Duke of Stonebridge rescued me, offering me a position in his home, on a Monday, so…
But this Monday, the 6th day of June, my nerves were a jumble of fiery sparks bouncing about in the pit of my stomach and wreaking all sorts of havoc on my digestion as I worked tirelessly to shine the brass railing on the main staircase of Stonebridge House, hoping to make a good first impression on Her Grace. And not by casting up my accounts at her feet, if you take my meaning.
You see today was the first official day that Lady Grace Langley née Radclyffe would take charge as the new Duchess of Stonebridge and Mistress of Stonebridge Park…and we bloody well didn’t know what to expect.
The duke? Well, he was no help at all. When asked, he just smiled and said, “You’ll see,” then wandered off with a whistle and a bounce in his step the likes of which we’d never seen before.
Oh, now, he wasn’t a bad master. Not at all. But he’d never been so…so…jolly afore now. Yes, that’s the word for it…jolly.
Now, I’m not one to bandy words, but…this particular morning, I was near the foot of the stairs and near finished with that stubborn railing when Their Graces came a-walking down the stairs, hand-in-hand, and laughing up a storm. And Her Grace? She actually took a moment to stop and say “Good morning,” to me. I was so startled, I just…forgot to respond. Instead, I just stood there, mute, with my mouth wide open like a candidate for Bedlam. She wasn’t supposed to do that, was she?
And the duchess? She just smiled, threw me a wink, and carried on. I watched all agog as the two of them stopped near the door. They surely didn’t notice my stare for they had eyes only for each other.
After only a few murmured words, the duke left the duchess with a kiss and a “You’ll be marvelous, darling,” and that was that. I couldn’t help but blush on my lady’s behalf. It was clear she was a might nervous, judging by the twisting of her hands in her skirts. Yet it was just as clear the duke had no such reservations.
So anyways, I started to resume my polishing, but wouldn’t you know that the duke marched back in not five seconds later and give her a second kiss? I nearly gasped, I was so surprised.
Then, there was a third kiss. I swear I tried to look away, but they were simply too…sweet…to be ignored.
But then out of the blue he just growled. And swore. And marched back out the door, slamming his hat on his head in the process.
I might have thought he was angry, but the duchess? She just crossed her arms and laughed at his departing back, a little more at ease. Still, I waited with baited breath as she stood there, arms akimbo now, staring at the door.
Was she expecting him to return yet again? I held my breath in solidarity.
Five seconds passed. I thought sure he was gone this time.
Ten seconds. I looked to the duchess, amazed.
Twenty seconds and I was ready to polish again.
But then sure enough, thirty seconds later the duke ran back in, swung his lady up into his arms, and carried her upstairs as if his breeches were on fire.
Lord, I still blush to think on it.
I recall the duchess giggling all the way upstairs…right up until the door to the Master’s chambers closed with a bang!
Ooh – and that was going on 2 hours ago.
I guess, she must not be all bad, right? For him to be so openly carefree with his lady?
-Miss Eliza Smythe
What the Duke Wants
Agents of Change, Book 1
By Amy Quinton
England 1814: Upstanding duke desperately seeks accident-prone wife from trade…
She is from trade. He is a duke and an agent for the crown with a name to restore and a mystery to solve. Miss Grace (ha!) Radclyffe is an oftentimes hilariously clumsy, 20-year-old orphan biding her time living with her uncle until she is old enough to come into her small inheritance. Much to her aunt’s chagrin:
- Reserved – not with her shocking! tendency to befriend the servants…
- Sophisticated – highly overrated if one cannot run around barefoot outside…
- Graceful – she once flung her dinner into a duke’s face… on accident, of course. But she is:
But she is:
- Practical – owning a fashion house is in her future; unless someone foils her plans…
- In love… maybe… perhaps… possibly…
- The Duke of Stonebridge is a man with a tragic past. His father died mysteriously when he was 12 years old amid speculation that the old duke was ‘involved’ with another man. He must restore his family name, but on the eve of his engagement to the perfect debutante, he meets his betrothed’s cousin, and his world is turned inside out… No matter:
He is always:
- Logical – men who follow their hearts and not their heads are foolish…
- Reserved – his private life is nobody’s business but his own…
And he isn’t:
- Impulsive – it always leads to trouble…
- Charming – that’s his best friend, the Marquess of Dansbury’s, area of expertise…
- In love… maybe… perhaps… possibly…
Can he have what he wants and remain respectable? Can she trust him to be the man she needs?
Amy Quinton is an author and full time mom living in Summerville, SC. She enjoys writing (and reading!) sexy, historical romances. She lives with her husband, two boys, and two cats. In her spare time, she likes to go camping, hiking, and canoeing/kayaking… And did she mention reading? When she’s not reading, cleaning, or traveling, she likes to make jewelry, sew, knit, and crochet (Yay for Ravelry!).