Marcus Wilding: Duke of Pleasure, page 1
In this scintillating prequel novella to her Dangerous Dukes miniseries, USA TODAY bestselling historical author Carole Mortimer delivers a feast for the senses!
He’s the most accomplished lover in England, and the finest tutor in pleasure that ever lived!
Lady Julianna Armitage is on a mission:
The goal: Discover passion and learn the true art of lovemaking, something she never experienced in her short, loveless marriage.
The teacher: The devastatingly handsome Marcus Wilding, Duke of Worthing; the one man she could never have...until now.
The outcome: Pure, decadent, indulgent satisfaction!
Julianna is determined to maintain control, but as Marcus unleashes a sensual siege that awakens her every sense, it soon becomes clear that losing control can be the most delicious thing of all!
Don’t miss the first title in this shockingly seductive new series from legendary bestselling author Carole Mortimer:
ZACHARY BLACK: DUKE OF DEBAUCHERY
Coming October 2014 from Harlequin Historical
Rakes about town
Rakes about town
Carole Mortimer introduces London’s most delectable dukes in her latest Harlequin Historical miniseries.
But don’t be fooled by their charm, because beneath their lazy smiles they’re deliciously sexy—and highly dangerous!
ZACHARY BLACK: DUKE OF DEBAUCHERY
Available October 2014
DARIAN HUNTER: DUKE OF DESIRE
Available November 2014
Duke of Pleasure
This ebook novella is the introduction to my new Regency quartet, Dangerous Dukes.
All of the books in this miniseries are set in the time immediately before, during and after Napoleon’s escape from Elba, and the chaotic hundred days that followed that escape.
Bad as well as dangerous, these fearless dukes all wage war against the Corsican in their own unique way, some openly, some not so overtly, and they somehow all manage to meet and fall in love with the woman meant just for them! Fiesty and independent heroines, who are a perfect match for these Dangerous Dukes.
Books three and four will appear in 2015, preceded by another ebook prequel.
I realize that actually makes six Dangerous Dukes in all, but once I started writing the series I just couldn’t seem to stop at four!
Peter, my forever hero.
Worthing House, London
‘Forgive me, Lady Armitage, but for a brief moment I was sure I heard you request that I tutor you in the art of making love to and with a man before you take a lover!’
Julianna remained unmoved by the hard and derisive smile that accompanied Marcus Wilding’s drawled dismissal of such a notion ever being possible. ‘There is nothing wrong with your hearing, Your Grace. Except perhaps for me to add that I made a statement of intent, rather than a request,’ she added with the same determination she knew to be evident in the sharp tilt of her chin.
The Duke of Worthing’s brows rose up beneath the rakish fall of his ebony hair as he now regarded her with icy and pale green eyes through narrowed lids. ‘“A statement of intent”?’
Julianna was not fooled for a moment by the mildness of the duke’s tone, or the relaxed way in which his long and elegant length lay sprawled in the chair opposite her own in the blue salon of his London home. She was only too aware that this particular gentleman was at his most threatening when he appeared to be at his most reasonable.
He and her own brother, and three of their closest friends, were not known in society as The Dangerous Dukes because of their pleasing and easygoing natures. Nor were they named such solely on the basis of their reputation on the battlefield. Their exploits in the bedchamber were equally as scandalous. Enough so that most of society’s marriage-minded mamas knew better than to allow their daughters anywhere near the rakish bachelors. And Julianna had good reason to suspect Marcus Wilding was the most dangerous of them all.
Not that she cared a whit about his reputation; remarrying was the very last thing on her mind where Worthing, or any other gentleman, was concerned.
Nevertheless, she was still glad that she had refused to relinquish her black cloak to the duke’s butler on her arrival. That garment was succeeding not only in covering her completely from shoulders to ankles, but also in hiding the trembling of her gloved hands beneath its voluminous folds. Her pale grey bonnet, unfortunately, only concealed the vibrant red of her hair, and not the pallor of the face beneath its brim.
A face that Julianna now forced to appear calm and composed as she looked across at Marcus with unflinching dark grey eyes. He had been a friend of her brother, Christian, and so she knew this gentleman well enough to know he was perfectly capable of exploiting any sign of weakness. ‘A statement of intent,’ she confirmed evenly.
‘Indeed.’ He continued to look at her with those pale green eyes between dark lashes that were wickedly long and thick, his face having the grace and beauty of a fallen angel—or was that devil? ‘Might one ask why, having been a married lady and now a widowed one, and so yes, perfectly at liberty to take a lover rather than remarry, if that is your choice—’
‘It is,’ she stated firmly.
He nodded. ‘And do you have any specific gentleman in mind to become this...lover?’
‘Not as yet, no.’
He frowned. ‘Then my question must be why have you chosen to come to me, and invited me to be the one to undertake the scandalous enterprise of becoming your sexual instructor?’
Julianna was caught off-guard by the mild query in his tone. Indeed, she had been prepared for Worthing’s scorn rather than the easy tolerance he now displayed. This man was one of the most eligible gentlemen in England, and she had, as Worthing had already stated, been a wife and was now a widow, both of which had taken their toll on her appearance as well as her spirit.
She had been a young lady of only eighteen summers on her wedding day four years ago, her heart full of optimism for what the future might hold. But three years of that cold marriage to the adulterous Lord John Armitage and almost a year of widowhood following his death, had resulted in Julianna vowing not to remarry when her year of widowhood came to an end in just two weeks’ time. No, better by far to take a lover, she had decided. One of her own choosing and on her own terms.
As such, who better to tutor her in the art of lovemaking than the gentleman reputed to be the most accomplished lover in England?
It had seemed the perfect solution to Julianna, until she now found herself face-to-face with the man. Seated only feet away from the dangerously mesmerizing Duke of Worthing, she now had serious cause to doubt the wisdom of her actions.
For not only was Worthing an accomplished lover, but also he was, at age two and thirty, surely the handsomest gentleman of the ton, with his dark and overlong curls arranged into a rakishly
Added to all of that, it was obvious that the width of Worthing’s shoulders, his narrow waist, and his muscled thighs and long legs in a black evening jacket, grey waistcoat, snowy white linen, and black breeches owed nothing to the expertise of his tailor and boot-maker, and everything to the hours she knew he spent with his closest friends in both the boxing ring and at sword practice.
Nor had Worthing shown even the slightest interest in her since her marriage to John Armitage, other than the necessary politeness shown to her as the young sister of his friend.
‘Surely my choice is obvious, when your prowess in the bedchamber is legendary?’ she said, trying to appear uninterested.
Those dark brows rose a second time. ‘Indeed?’
‘Oh yes,’ Julianna confirmed coolly.
‘Your husband did not...introduce you to sexual pleasure?’
Julianna’s mouth tightened even as she felt the warmth of humiliation colour her cheeks. ‘My husband was too busy occupying the beds of other, more experienced women to spare but the minimum of his valuable time in occupying mine, and then only in an effort to secure his heir. A task at which he obviously failed.’ She straightened determinedly at the mention of her childless state. ‘I have accepted that love and happiness in marriage is the exception rather than the rule. But hopefully a lover is a different matter. As such, before embarking on such an enterprise, I fully intend to learn to give and receive physical pleasure to the best of my abilities.’
Whether he was meant to do so or not, Marcus heard a wealth of pain beneath the bitterness of that statement. And humiliation. And it was his opinion that no woman should ever be made to suffer either of those things at the hands of a man. Especially to the point that she would be intent on taking a lover at the end of her year of mourning rather than so much as considering the idea of marrying again.
Julianna had been but five years old, and something of a hellion, the first time Marcus had been invited to spend several weeks of the summer holidays at the home of his friend Christian Seaton, the two boys having met at Eton two years earlier. There had been five new boys in the cavernous hallways of Eton that day almost twenty years ago, and surprisingly each of them heir to a dukedom, an unusual occurrence which had resulted in a lifelong bond of friendship.
Christian’s parents, the previous Duke and Duchess of Sutherland, were indulgent and loving parents, but also often absent ones, leaving their two children in the care of the servants at their country seat during the summer months. And so it had been during most of the times Marcus and the other three boys stayed at Sutherland Park during the next ten years or so, visits when Christian’s little sister had insisted upon following the boys as well as joining in on every adventure, from climbing trees to fishing. She hadn’t cared if she suffered a scraped knee or a dunking in the stream, as long as she could be with them rather than in the nursery with her nanny.
Looking at her now, Marcus could see that the hellion, whilst not exactly tamed, was at least subdued beneath her widow’s weeds. But he was only too aware of the slenderness hidden beneath that voluptuous cloak, her face a beautiful ivory cameo beneath her grey bonnet—her pale cheeks slightly hollow, adding emphasis to the magnificent grey of her eyes, which sat above full, unsmiling lips.
It was not difficult to realize that her unhappy marriage to Armitage was the cause of these changes in Julianna. An unhappiness that Marcus had guessed at before, having once overheard a private conversation at a gambling club, when Armitage had quietly boasted to his disreputable group of companions of his preferences in the bedchamber. But the past could not be changed, no matter how Marcus might have wished it so, and he could not help but feel responsible for some of her unhappiness.
Marcus had spoken to no one four years ago of the feelings he had for his oldest and closest friend Christian’s sister Julianna. Or the blow Marcus had suffered upon learning, after his return to England following yet another bloody battle against Napoleon’s army, of her marriage to Lord John Armitage some weeks earlier.
Marcus had continued to suffer the inner demons of hell during the years that followed, just thinking of Julianna in the arms, the bed, of another man, especially when that man was the adulterous and perverted Armitage.
Now, with only a few weeks of her widowhood left to pass, Marcus had fully intended to approach Julianna, as he should have done four years ago, with a marriage proposal of his own.
Never in Marcus’s wildest dreams, in his wildest fantasies—and some of them had been very wild indeed!—had Marcus ever expected to arrive home after a long night’s gambling to be informed that Julianna was awaiting his presence in the blue salon, unaccompanied by so much as a maid. Or to hear now that she had come to him with a proposal of her own, not of love and marriage, but for him to become her sexual instructor for the benefit of her future lovers.
Marcus rose to his feet, moving restlessly across the room to stand beside the fire, but feeling none of its warmth as he stared down at the leaping flames, and wondered how best to proceed with this delicate situation.
From what he already knew of Julianna’s marriage, and the little she had revealed today, it was clear that she was now cynical toward even the idea of remarrying, and that a quest for the knowledge of physical pleasure, so far denied her, was her only reason for approaching him. The only reason she would ever have contemplated coming to Marcus at all.
Marcus found himself seriously considering becoming her sexual instructor, tutoring Julianna in all the ways of pleasuring a man as well as herself. But he had no intention of letting another man ever become recipient of that knowledge—something he didn’t believe she was ready to hear. Yet.
Was he capable of doing that? Was he strong enough? Could he remain aloof enough, removed enough, in order to instruct Julianna in the art of lovemaking, in the hopes that she might love him as he had loved her for so long?
He didn’t have any other choice, when just the thought of Julianna presenting some other man with the same proposition made him feel sick to his stomach, as well as violently disposed to that nameless, faceless other man.
Julianna had no idea what thoughts were going through Worthing’s handsome head as he stared down at the flickering flames of the fire, but she did not think they could be pleasant ones from the bleakness of his expression. His eyes remained a pale and icy green, lips thin, jaw tense.
She rose abruptly to her just over five feet in height, a proud tilt to her chin. ‘Perhaps I made a mistake in coming to you—’
‘Then why did you?’ Worthing straightened as he looked at her with those unreadable eyes. ‘What possible reason did you have for thinking you might be able to persuade me into becoming your sexual tutor?’
The length of Julianna’s throat moved as she swallowed before answering him. ‘I thought—I have known you for many years ... You are a friend of my brother!’
‘Reason enough not to approach me rather than the reverse, I should have thought,’ Worthing rasped harshly.
‘Perhaps,’ she allowed. ‘But I believed that connection might, at least, ensure your silence on the matter should you choose to refuse.’
‘And are you not afraid, if I do refuse your request, that I might relay the details of this conversation back to your brother, Christian, at least?’
Those green eyes narrowed at her certainty. ‘Why not?’
She gave a shrug of her shoulders beneath her cloak.
‘Because if you did, I should then have to inform Lord Standish exactly where, and with whom, his wife spent the night before the
Marcus stilled at the obvious threat beneath her statement. A threat he may well have deserved if he had not come to his senses in time.
It was the same night he had learnt of Julianna’s marriage to Armitage, and Marcus had been heartsick and ever so slightly drunk. Enough so that he had initially been receptive to Emily Proctor’s proposition that they make love before she married the elderly Randolph Standish the following day.
To his credit, Marcus had put a stop to things and managed not to totally disgrace himself, but it was especially ironic that Julianna was now attempting to use his behaviour that night against him, behaviour brought about by his desire for her.
He raised dark brows. ‘And might I inquire how you could possibly know where, and with whom, Lady Standish spent the night before her wedding?’
Julianna gave a triumphantly scornful smile. ‘Because she told me so, of course.’
Marcus eyed her dubiously. ‘She did?’
‘Oh yes.’ Julianna nodded with satisfaction. ‘Men are not the only ones to boast of their sexual conquests, you know,’ she assured him mockingly. ‘And I have it on Emily Standish’s knowledgeable authority that you more than live up to your reputation of being “the most accomplished lover in all of England”.’
If the deceitful Emily Standish had been within Marcus’s reach at that moment then he believed he would have enjoyed nothing more than to strangle the woman with his bare hands. Except...
It would seem that Emily Standish’s personal, if unknowledgeable, recommendation, along with his reputation as a lover, was the reason Julianna had chosen to come to him now.
He clenched his jaw. ‘And why should you assume it would bother me if you were to go to Standish with this information?’
Julianna gave a challenging smile. ‘Because I know that you and Christian have recently entered into a business partnership with him.’
Marcus frowned. ‘Oh?’
CAROLE MORTIMER SERIES:
Other author's books:
- Knight's PossessionCraving (Regency Lovers 3)Dylan (Dragon Hearts 4)The Master's MistressA Taste of the ForbiddenPassion from the PastOne Chance at LoveThe Taming of Xander Sterne
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