Rules to Catch a Devilish Duke
SHE BREAKS ALL THE RULES...
Sophia White knows she will never marry into polite society. The illegitimate daughter of a nobleman, she works at the Tantalus Club, a discreet establishment for gentlemen—and her only suitor is a pastor who wants to save her soul. So when Sophia is invited to spend the holidays at the estate of Adam Baswich, the devilishly handsome Duke of Greaves, she is delighted—and determined to enjoy her last nights of freedom before surrendering her hand...
TO CAPTURE A NOBLEMAN'S HEART
Inviting Sophia for Christmas is a daring courtesy on Adam's part, but he soon finds the pleasure is all his. Sophia is beautiful, courageous, and stubbornly self-sufficient despite her scandalous circumstances—and not at all the kind of woman he could possibly marry. Adam knows he must find a wife by his thirtieth birthday or he will lose his fortune. But can he defy convention—and convince Sophia—to risk it all in the name of true love?
There were some pieces of advice, Sophia White reflected as she clung to the overturned coach's wheel in the middle of the half-frozen river Aire, that one should simply not ignore. Heaven knew she'd been warned that this particular journey was a poor idea, and at the moment she could certainly attest to the fact that her friends had been correct about that.
Above her on the partly submerged left-hand side and now roof of the mail coach, the driver seemed far more interested in retrieving satchels of correspondence than in the dozen people splashing about around him. "Stop that and give me your hand," she ordered, the rush of the cold water leaving her breathless.
"I already lost the horses and the Christmas turkeys," the driver grunted, his voice thready through the wind and blowing snow. "If I lose the mail, it'll be my job."
"But you can lose your passengers?"
"If I was you, miss, I'd stop arguing and swim to shore like the others. It ain't that deep."
Shivering, Sophia opened her mouth to protest that the top—or side—of the coach was much closer than the shore, but a whipped-up wave of water poured into her lungs. Coughing, she decided that the coachman's advice fell into the "should be followed" category. And since she'd missed her chance to listen to her employer and all her friends who'd told her not to journey to Yorkshire in the middle of December when she already had an obligation in Cornwall in mid-January, this time she needed to pay attention.
Her legs were numb, but with a deep breath she pushed off from the coach and began a half-swimming walk to the nearest shore. Chunks of ice dislodged by the coach's demise and the swift current pushed at her, sending her flailing toward the solid section of ice beyond. Most of the men were already on shore; evidently chivalry didn't include fishing freezing women out of chest-deep water during a snowstorm.
Abruptly beginning to worry that the water would shove her under the jagged-edged ice and drown her, Sophia clenched her chattering teeth, hiked her dragging, tangled skirts up around her hips, and pushed forward. A drowned turkey bumped into her bare thighs, making her lose her footing. Her shoe lodged into a pile of tumbled rocks, and with a curse she stepped out of it. Her next footstep, though, found the bottom missing, and she went down.
Icy water closed over her head. The slight amusement she'd felt earlier at the pure absurdity of the moment vanished along with her air. Oh, she should have stayed in London. She should have listened to Lady Haybury when that wise woman had told her she would find more trouble than welcome in York. She knew that the Duke of Greaves had only invited her to a holiday party because he liked to make a stir; asking to have the Duke of Hennessy's bastard daughter in attendance wasn't an act of kindness. But a chance to see an old friend, to experience one last, magnificent holiday, would have been worth it—though her plans would hardly matter if she drowned.
Someone grabbed her shoulder and hauled her upright. Sophia gasped air into her lungs, her drenched hair draping across her face. She seized onto the arm that had caught her and squeezed it while she fought to get her feet back under her.
"Steady," a deep voice ordered. "I have you."
Even through the shock of the icy water she recognized the voice. "Your Grace?" she gasped, shoving her drenched, twisted red hair out of one eye.
The lean, handsome face just inches above hers looked at least as astounded as she felt. "Sophia? Miss White, I mean. Are you injured?"
"No, Your Grace. Thank you for inviting me to Christmas." With her standing chest deep...