A duchess disguised as a lady’s maid; a gentleman parading as a highwayman.
She’s on the run from a murderer, he’s in pursuit of one…
In a remote Norfolk manor, Phoebe, Lady Cavanaugh is wrongfully accused by her servants of her brutal husband’s murder.
There’s little sympathy in the district for the duchess who’s taken a lover and made clear she despised her husband. The local magistrate has also vowed revenge since Lady Cavanaugh rebuffed his advances.
When Phoebe is discovered in the forest wearing only a chemise stained with the blood of her murdered husband, she persuades the noble ‘highwayman’ who rescues her that she is Lady Cavanaugh’s maidservant.
Hugh Redding has his own reasons for hunting down the man who would have Phoebe tried and hanged for murder. He plans to turn ‘the maidservant with aspirations above her station’ into the ‘lady’ who might testify against the very villain who would see Phoebe dead.
But despite the fierce attraction between Phoebe and the ‘highwayman’, Phoebe is not in a position to admit she’s the ‘murderous duchess’ hunted across the land.
Seizing an opportunity to strike at the social and financial standing of the man who has profited by her distress, Phoebe is drawn into a dangerous intrigue.
But when disaster strikes, she fears Hugh will lack the sympathy or understanding of her unusual predicament to even want to save her a second time.
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Hugh ran his fingers through his curls and tried again. This was not going well.
But she didn’t give him a chance to speak. Angrily Phoebe faced him across the room. “Let me understand this, sir,” she whispered tightly, holding herself up with all the dignity she could clearly muster. “You’ve just had news your sister is arriving unexpectedly and now suddenly I am relegated to the servant’s quarters. Yesterday you were very happy to take what I offered, but now you are sated after twenty four hours of my charms. Like a discarded toy you’ve grown weary of, I am to be sent back where I came from.”
He crossed the room in a few strides and gripped her hands.
“Please don’t be hurt. You make it sound as if I regard you as a novelty when nothing could be further from the truth.” Kissing her knuckles, he was filled with genuine regret. “Phoebe, you’ve bewitched me and that is the truth! But my sister is a gently reared young woman who cannot possibly know you. No gentleman would introduce his….”
She raised an eyebrow at his want of the right word.
“Doxy?” she supplied.
“He shook his head vigorously and a strange and unexpected sensation filled him from his boots upwards. Not lust. Well, not that alone. “Mistress,” he whispered. His mouth parted slightly and he held her back from him, almost as if he were seeing her for the first time. “My mistress, Phoebe. Do you know, I’ve never taken a mistress. Oh, I’ve had women and liaisons that have entertained me for weeks at a time. But I’ve never…”
“Kept a woman as you would a wife only without offering her the security of a marriage contract.”
He shook his head in frustration. “You really do have ideas above your station, don’t you?” But his humour was growing. She really was a wild piece. “You know as well as I do that gentlemen do not marry lady’s maids. But we’ve had some fun over the past twenty-four hours and I am very much anticipating the fun we’ll have for a good deal of time to come.”
He moved to wrap his arms about her but she remained stiff.
“How much time do you anticipate I shall continue to amuse you, sir?”
He pushed her resisting hands down to her sides and gently sprinkled kisses along her jawline. “I can’t begin to tell you when you are so very vexing at the same time as you constantly surprise me with your sweet charm, my lovely Phoebe.” He gripped her shoulders and she sagged against him, resting her head on his shoulder.
He touched her cheek, then, unable to help himself, slid his hand down into her bodice. “Just be assured that I am a gentleman, and I will do what is right by you, but also what is right by my sister,” he whispered as the mere feel of her, and her awareness of him, began to take possession.
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