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Duke In Disguise
by Gayle Callen
Book 2 of the "Sisters of Willow Pond" trilogy
(The books do not have to be read in order.)
Who is this man?
The Duke of Thanet may have hired Meriel Shelby as a
governess to his six-year-old son, but there is something…different about the man
standing before her today. He seems to study
her with an intensity she never noticed before, and he is certainly more
charming than the last time they met. Was there always an alluring glint in his
dark eyes? But the duke has a notoriously scandalous reputation, and Meriel
will not let herself succumb.
Masquerading as the duke was not the simple solution Richard
O'Neill had envisioned. When his ailing half-brother, the real duke, asked him
to protect his young heir from a greedy enemy, Richard agreed. But he never
thought he'd be attracted to the inquisitive governess, or that each moment in
her intoxicating presence would tempt him. Letting down his guard could prove
dangerous…especially to Richard's own heart.
"Callen demonstrates her unique ability to create a taut mystery
an equally wondrous love story, proving why she's a master of the
Romantic Times Magazine
(The following is the property of the author and Oliver Heber Books, and cannot
copied or reprinted without permission.)
(Set up: Meriel was hired as a governess by the Duke of
before. He has just returned to his estate for the first
has asked to see his six-year-old son, Stephen, who is accompanied by
Ramsgate, England, 1844
Little Stephen opened the door, and to
he entered at a walk instead of a run. The room had long tall windows
cast sunshine across the floor. It took her a moment to see the duke's
in a corner, surrounded by bookshelves and glass cabinets. The last
she'd met the man, he'd seemed very bored with the need to interview a
governess. He'd been talkative, but so easily distracted by anything on
desk, or an everyday item he'd never noticed in the room before. He'd
only a man she needed to impress; titles had never overawed her. And
he'd been recently ill. She'd warned Stephen to be prepared for
But now something was different. The
duke had obviously
recovered. Indeed, he was a picture of good health, as he lounged to
side in his leather wingback chair. His head rested against the back,
posture as casual as she remembered it. He had black, close-cropped
but gone were his muttonchop sideburns and his mustache. His face
strangely bare-masculine cheekbones above a mouth thin and sensuous.
Sensuous? Where had that come from?
His dark eyes seemed to study Stephen
with an intensity
that she would never have thought him capable of. It vanished a moment
leaving her to question if she'd really seen it.
Why did she feel
so…off-balance? She'd met the duke
before; other than his facial hair, nothing had changed. But now she
nervous, and staring at him too much, and she wanted to fidget. The
seemed too hot.
"Stephen, it is good to see you," the
duke said, rising
to his feet.
She'd once thought his gracefulness a
art, but now it seemed very much a part of him.
What was wrong with her?
The duke came around the desk and stood
in front of them.
Meriel had to look up at him. She was short in stature, which made him
all that tall for a man, but he seemed…taller, powerful,
the shoulders, stocky through the chest. He was dressed as immaculately
before, in bright patterned London colors, a man who obviously took
in the clothing that adorned him like the brushstrokes necessary to a
She wanted to groan. Since when had she
become a secret
poet? She was a woman with a head for figures: mathematics was her
She taught literature only because it was expected of her. Words were
something that called to her soul.
But she found she wanted
to…describe the duke. Luckily,
his attention was for his son.
Stephen stared up at his father, and
Meriel found herself
touching the boy's shoulder. He remembered to bow then, but he still
up at the duke with curiosity. How long had it truly been since they'd
"Hello, Father," Stephen said, wariness
making his voice
sound even higher than normal.
Meriel was glad to put all her
concentration back on
her pupil, where it belonged. He would need her comfort when his father
him. Mrs. Theobald had warned her about the duke's disregard.
To her shock, the duke knelt on one
knee to look in the
"You are well, Stephen?"
"Of course, Father." The little boy was
tense, his fidgeting
"I see you've begun your studies. I
hope you've been
behaving for your governess."
"Yes, Father. I like her."
They discussed her as if she wasn't
there. Even after
all these months, it still took Meriel a moment to remember that she
almost a servant now.
"She likes numbers, just like I do,"
his words rushing faster and faster as if he might be stopped. "We go
long walks and we even find things in the woods, like birds' nests and
and flowers. Miss Shelby knows everything."
A blush swept from her chest up to her
face as Stephen's
praise caused the duke to look up at her. Under his regard, she tried
remind herself of his poor reputation, of his preference to look at
servants. But his black eyes, fringed with more lashes than a man had a
to, trapped her within his gaze. She couldn't look away, couldn't
to feel affronted by his regard.
"Miss Shelby is an accomplished
teacher," the duke said
He got to his feet and moved away, and
she breathed a
sigh of relief. He looked out the window with a restlessness that made
feel more at ease.
Stephen followed him and began to talk
about their studies,
his reading and writing and the simple history she'd begun to interest
with. He had a good mind, and she knew she could teach him much, if
he could focus better. He'd spent so much of his young life in the
that she tried to set at least one lesson outside each day.
But although his father looked out the
window as if the
grounds interested him more than his son, they spoke together for
minutes, both of them used to doing the speaking. They each gestured
their hands. Meriel found herself backing away to sit in a corner of
room, not wanting to disturb this small amount of time Stephen had with
To her dismay, there was a part of her
that knew when
the duke was looking at her. Never before had she met a man who could
her attention, who could make her know deep inside that he was man.
She had thought she was learning to
conquer her traitorous
emotions. Her heart had betrayed her where her parents were
hadn't seen the truth until it was too late. She'd vowed that only
logic would rule her life. But her reaction to the duke confirmed her
fears. She was once again leading with her emotions, rather than her
It was a weakness she could not afford. She would conquer it.