Taken by the Dangerous Duke Preview

About the book

“I don’t love, and I refuse to allow myself to fall for you.”

Duke Arthur is in desperate need of a wife and an heir. And his innocent tenant, Miss Margaret, just might be the perfect candidate. And when she accepts, they agree on one thing: this marriage will be only of convenience. 

Although Margaret has always wanted love, there is no possible way she can reject Duke Arthur’s offer. Even if their marriage is of convenience, she has her own rules; they need to have dinner together, converse, and be open to one another. 

And when they finally and unexpectedly, fall in love, Margaret disappears. And Arthur will do everything to save her…

Prologue


“The doctor says it is good news, Father.” Arthur knelt by his father’s bedside, trying to determine if the color was coming back to his cheeks or not.

“Doctors like to peddle good news when it suits them, and bad when they need to sell you more medicine. It is in his best interest to keep me alive for as long as he can.”

“He just spoke to Aunt Bertha, and she is sure you are going to be out of bed within a week.”

“Who said that?” asked Leonard Bolton. “The doctor? Or your Aunt?”

“Well, Aunt Bertha said it, but she would not have said that if the doctor had not told her it was true, Father.”

“Let me impart another lesson, my boy. Hope is the strongest thing there is, but it can also kill you.” Leonard coughed, the phlegm stuck in his throat. He barely managed to set himself up and wipe his mouth with the handkerchief on the table by the bed.

“Aunt Bertha has been praying for you.” It was an afterthought, but Arthur was sure it would prove something to his father.

“I have been praying too,” admitted Leonard. “I never went to church enough. Come closer so your mother cannot hear.”

Arthur leaned in close, waiting for his father to reveal the secrets of the world.

“Your aunt is a good church-going woman, and so she should be. But, remember this: if you need to go to a building to prove you are a god-fearing man, then you are not.”

“What do you mean?” asked Arthur.

“Look for your beliefs inside yourself and not inside a building of brick and wood.”

“I don’t understand,” admitted Arthur.

“Maybe not now, but you will when you are older.” Leonard reached out a hand and patted Arthur’s arm. “Help me take some water.”

Arthur quickly reached for the pitcher on the table and poured some more into the glass. He noticed that there were flecks of red on the rim where his father had drunk from. Arthur had been praying too, every night with his mother, and alone in bed too. Surely, more prayer meant a better chance.

He helped his father sit up more and pressed the glass to his lips. Leonard brought his hands up to take the glass, but the tremors running through his fingers halted his progress, and he let his son tilt the glass so he could drink. As it had been over the previous week, a raging cough followed the swallowing of the water.

“Thank you,” managed Leonard. “Come closer once more, your mother mustn’t hear this.”

Arthur leaned in again, but something told him he was not going to like whatever his father said next.

“I can feel it,” said Leonard. Before Arthur could reply, his father squeezed his arm, informing him not to speak. “I do not care what the doctor says, nor how much your aunt prays. I am not long for this world anymore.”

“No!” blurted Arthur.

“Shh, shh, shh,” consoled his father. “I have made my peace with it, and you need to also. I can feel it in my bones, and the pain running through my body is so great that I will be happy when it comes. It is my time and that is all there is to it.”

Arthur was at a loss for words. It was too business-like, and that was what silenced Arthur. His father was an adept businessman, and when he made a decision, it would not be changed.

“My name lives on in you now,” whispered Leonard. “You will soon be the last Bolton. I have no brothers to rely on, so I am placing the burden on your shoulders. I know that is a lot, but you are almost a man, and you have already shown me that you are strong.”

“I am strong, Father,” said a determined Arthur.

“Just as I carried on the Bolton legacy through you, so must you carry it on. When you reach manhood, find yourself a good woman and bear her a child. I shall not be around to see my grandson, but I know you will make it happen. You are a good boy, Arthur.”

Chapter One

An Irritating Interruption

London, 1808

Margaret sat in the sunroom with her needlepoint. Or what might pass for a sunroom if her father had not decided to skimp on the glass and buy old factory windows instead of new glass. Sunlight bouncing through brown glass did not have the same luster as translucent glass would.

That thought was disturbed by a quick rap at the front door.

“Margaret!” shouted James, her father.

Margaret knew better than to argue and put her sewing work down on the cushioned table that housed pins and needles. They had not skimped on sewing supplies, at least, but they were for her mother and not strictly for Margaret.

“Are you answering that damn door!” shouted her father.

“Yes, Father. I am on my way now.”

“Enough of that lip, Margaret!” shouted her father from the drawing room.

“Sorry, Father,” replied Margaret, trying to control her emotions. Their house was large enough that they should have had at least three of four staff, but they made do with one, a young maid who seemed to work around the clock. They had let go of three staff in the last two months, partly due to financial worries, and also because they could have Margaret do some of the work to save some pennies.

So, Margaret was forced to go to the door whenever someone knocked, no matter what time it was or what she was doing. And, she knew better than to argue with her father about it.

She had suspected for a long time that her father had gambling debts, but no one would know it from how he presented himself. On the outside, he was a merchant of great wealth, but the brown-stained windows and a daughter who was forced to answer the door told a different story.

The knock came at the door again, more impatient this time.

“Margaret!” came the shout from the drawing room again.

“I am going, Father.”

“Margaret!” came the shout again, and Margaret could not be sure if he was angry that she had not made it to the door yet or angry that she had dared reply to him.

She did not respond this time and quickened her step to get to the door before she faced more of her father’s wrath. When she opened the door, she only became more annoyed.

“Yes?” she demanded, forgetting her manners, though her father had a way of doing that to her.

“Yes?” asked the man. “Are you not the maid or housekeeper? Is this how you address a guest?”

“The maid? No,” stated Margaret. “I live here. And, who are you?”

She looked the man up and down and realized that she might have made a mistake, but she did not care. The man might have been well dressed, but he had a scowl on his face that matched her mood.

“Not that I need to explain myself, young lady, but I am Arthur Bolton—The Duke of Garriot, and I would advise you to hold your tongue.”

Margaret did not respond to that. Years of experience dealing with her father had taught her that most responses only antagonized men like this more. She placed her hand on her hip, angled her body against the door frame, and waited.

If he removed the scowl from his face, he might be passably attractive for an older man. He must be closing in on thirty years, and he was well-built, but the way he held himself let him down. He moved nervously as if he did not know what he wanted in life. Margaret chewed on the inside of her cheek as she waited for the man to speak.

The green eyes shone out from the scowling face like two stars alone in the night. And again, if it were not for his expression, he might be a handsome man, but the combination of how the man was acting and the fact that she had to answer the door at all put her in a foul mood. Not even his chiseled jaw and aquiline nose could pull her from her mood.

“Is your father home?” asked the duke.

“Yes,” replied Margaret.

That only annoyed the duke further, and they tested each other by both remaining silent. It was Arthur who finally spoke again.

“Can I speak to him?” asked the duke.

“Father!” shouted Margaret. “There is a duke at the door who wants to speak with you.”

“Well, ask him what he wants!” shouted her father in return.

Margaret rolled her eyes, not quite knowing if she was rolling them at her father, the duke, or the situation. “What do you—”

“I heard,” interrupted Arthur. “Will he not come to the door?”

“He might if there is some money involved,” commented Margaret. “Are you here to repay some money to my father? If that is the case, I am sure he will be delighted to see you. But, if you are here to demand money from him, I am sure you will find that he is nowhere to be found.”

Margaret knew that her father was likely listening to the conversation, and she knew she should not speak about her father like that, but she could not help it sometimes. Not when he treated her far worse. He liked to degrade and punish her for no reason, so better to give him one and let her emotions out at the same time.

There was a lot that she should not be doing. She knew that she should not be speaking to any man who came to the door like she was, especially not a duke. And, she knew that she should not be answering the door at all. There was some embarrassment in her heart for having to do so instead of having a butler or a housekeeper to take up such tasks. And, she was livid that her father had not come to the door yet. That might save the situation.

“This is not about money,” said the duke. “Look, I really would prefer to speak to your father instead. So, if you would mind fetching him, I would be grateful.”

Margaret held her ground, staring into rich green eyes that might have been more joyful if they were not creased around the edges by his frown, nor lacking the joy that most people in these parts had.

“I shall try my best,” sighed Margaret. “Give me a moment.”

Margaret left the duke standing at the door while she went to go and talk to her father. She knew that he would only be angrier at her than he already was, but there was a duke at the door, and she did not feel right about disobeying him either.

When she reached the drawing room, her father was sitting in his chair reading the newspaper. He had a long, thin cigar sticking out of his mouth, a slight wisp of smoke winding its way up toward the ceiling, and there was a crystal glass (the only crystal glass in the house) on the table beside him, a decanter of cheap whisky beside it.

“The Duke of Garriot is at the door, Father,” murmured Margaret.

“Yes. I believe we’ve already established that,” he responded.

Margaret looked from her father to her mother. She sat six feet from her father, working on a sewing project, perhaps darning a sock. That was the only thing they ever bonded over. Eleanor looked up at Margaret, and she had a softer expression, but it was still one of annoyance, mimicking the emotions of her husband.

“He asked if he could speak with you, Father,” said Margaret.

“What about?” asked James.

“I don’t know.”

“Then stop wasting my time and find out,” ordered James.

“Yes, Father,” replied Margaret. Again, she knew better than to argue, no matter how exasperated she was. Perhaps it was better not to have a housekeeper answer the door. Margaret could not imagine the poor person who would have to deal with her father as she did. Margaret had years of experience to fall back on.

“My father has kindly asked me to find out what it is you want,” said Margaret when she got back to the door.

“Did you speak to him?” demanded the duke. “Can you not do one thing I ask?”

“Ask?” quipped Margaret. “The last time I checked, I was not in your employ. I don’t need to do anything you ask, but for your information, I did ask my father and he probably heard how rude you were being to me and decided he did not want to speak with you. To be honest, I am getting rather annoyed myself.”

“I am sorry to have bothered you then,” replied the duke, rolling his eyes this time. “I did not have to do your family this kindness by coming down here, but I believe that every person deserves some respect. I might have to rethink that assumption.”

“I have already rethought it,” replied Margaret quickly, unable to shroud her emotions.

The duke shook his head. “If your father will not come to the door, then you can pass on a message to him.”

“I might.” Again, Margaret was unable to quell her feelings. They were not toward this man, only toward life, but this provided a good outlet. If she treated her father this way, she would pay for it dearly over the next few days or weeks, depending on how far she had pushed him (though he always deserved it). With the duke, he would be gone once they had finished this interaction, and she might feel less angry.

The duke became more enraged, his face reddening, and Margaret felt some of her own anger dissipate more as if she were passing it onto the duke.

“There have been complaints,” stated the duke.

“Complaints?”

“I might have assumed that they were directed at your father, but perhaps the entire family is involved.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” spat Margaret. The mention of her in the same breath as her father only increased her ire. She was nothing like that man.

“There have been complaints about the noise coming from your house. Late night drunken reveries and gambling sessions that go on through the night and into the early hours of the morning.”

“Reveries? I don’t know anything about that. Perhaps my father has some friends over at times, but they do not make that much noise.” She was aware that her father would still be listening, and how she dealt with the situation would determine how angry he would be with her for the rest of the evening. “Are you disturbed by what little noise there has been?”

“I am not, but my tenants are,” replied the duke.

“Then why don’t they come and speak to us?”

“They have. Multiple times. Apparently, they spoke to your father and he was rather rude to them. I can see that the apple does not fall far from the tree.”

“If you had not accosted me, perhaps I would be more pleasant. So, why are you here? If you don’t mind me asking?”

“I own all of these properties.” The duke waved his hand to indicate the row of houses on the short street. “I did not want to come down here, thinking it was a waste of my time. Your neighbors tried to resolve the issue, and your father was not helpful in any way. Normally, I would send one of my men, but I was visiting the area, so I decided to rectify the issue myself.”

“So, you came all the way down here to tell us to be quiet?” asked Margaret.

“No, I did not come here to ask. I came here to demand,” responded the duke. The number of complaints I am getting is giving me a headache. I don’t relish interactions like this in any way, but this one might give me a little more pleasure. So, if the noise complaints do not stop, you will find yourself evicted.”

“Evicted?” asked Margaret, worry running through her heart.

“Exactly,” replied the duke. “Now, you can pass that onto your father, and he can find me in York if he decides he wants to grace me with his presence. I find most people are good people, but not always. Good day to you, Miss.”

The duke turned and left. Margaret watched him walk away toward the carriage parked a little way down the street.

“Is he gone?” shouted her father.

“Yes,” replied Margaret.

She wished she had not said any of what she had said. She kept telling herself that her father had gotten them into this mess with his late-night drinking sessions with his merchant friends, but it would be her fault if the duke decided to evict them. She had not been able to hold her tongue, and her family may pay the price.


Chapter Two

Attempted Reparations

A good night’s sleep had done nothing to improve the duke’s mood, so a walk was in order, to ease his mind and the pain throbbing deep within his heart. It was almost that time of year, but he preferred not to dwell on it if he could, though that often proved to be impossible.

He had a few hours to kill before he was due to meet Parker for the whist tournament, the reason he had come to London in the first place. The hustle and bustle of the town reminded him why he liked to remain in the countryside.

The laughter of a child caught his attention, and he was taken from his stupor. Not far to his left, a young lad was climbing a tree and had gotten himself rather high. This would not normally concern Arthur, but they were in the Botanical Gardens, and he was not sure if such a thing was allowed.

Arthur looked around but could not see a parent nearby. The boy must’ve only been eight or nine, and Arthur could still remember the heights he had gotten to climbing trees in his youth, all while his father cheered him on from below. The duke took another deep breath and released it slowly. It was—

The scream disturbed his depressing train of thought, and he quickly looked back to the tree where the young boy was hanging from a branch, his legs and feet scrambling to try and find his footing. One of his hands slipped, and a woman close by screamed, but the boy harried and grabbed back on. His hands were slipping.

Arthur sprinted toward the tree, his shoes making a clip-clop sound on the paved path. There was a circle of cobbles and two benches below the boy—both would injure him immensely from the height he was hanging.

Arthur kept his eyes on the boy as he swung, quickly losing strength, and then he fell. At least two screams rang out as the boy plummeted toward the ground. Arthur stretched out his arms in a last-ditch attempt, and careened into the boy, grabbing him tightly. His momentum thrust him forward, and he spun around so he fell onto the bench in a sitting position.

There was a flutter of applause from the people who had gathered around.

“Are you all right?” asked the duke.

“Yeah, I fell,” said the boy.

“You certainly did. Maybe practice your climbing a little lower before you go up that high again.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir,” said the boy, still in shock.

“Billy!” called out a woman, pushing her way through the crowd.

Arthur let go of the boy like a fisher releasing a fish back into the water. He swam through the gathered people and into his mother’s arms.

“What were you doing?” she scolded.

“That man saved me,” said Billy, pointing back at the duke.

“Thank you, sir,” said the woman, nodding toward the duke.

Arthur nodded back with a smile, glad that the boy was well. There had been a few times through his childhood years where he had fallen from a tree, but never from that height.

Arthur gave a more sheepish grin. He was still sitting on the bench, and the crowd was still gathered around him as if he were a magician who had another trick up his sleeve.

And then the smile left his face. He spotted her in the crowd—a face he never expected, nor hoped to see again. His displeasure was mirrored on her face, the face of the woman whose name he did not even know. Her face had been red the previous day, but only her cheeks were today, and while she had lost her smile, she still looked happy—a stark contrast to how she had been only twenty-four hours previously. It was like looking at a different woman.

She turned to the friend she was with, whispered something, and the two of them walked away. Arthur was glad; he did not want to have a run-in with that woman again. He sat for a moment and watched her walk off. She looked much more petite now that she was out in the open and not commanding a doorway.

Don’t be so boorish, he told himself. She might have been rude, but you were certainly not polite yourself.

Arthur sighed. He was nothing if not a man of good moral character, and he knew he could not leave London with this forever in the back of his mind. He pushed himself up from the bench and strode after the woman, glad that she was not alone or he would feel he was stalking her.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” he said as he got close.

“Yes?” asked the woman when she turned, the same scowl from the previous day returning to her face. “If you expect me to apologize to you because you have a title, then you are sorely mistaken. And do not claim that I was the one who antagonized. You were as much—”

“I know, I know.” Arthur had his hands up in front of him. “I know how I acted yesterday, and I understand why I got under your skin. I wanted to apologize to you for how I acted. My head was not in the right place yesterday, and I fear I took that on you, Miss…?”

“Oh,” she replied. “I thought that—”

“Margaret, where are your manners,” said the second woman, nudging her friend. “I am sorry, my lord. My friend, Margaret often forgets her manners.”

“Miss Margaret,” said Arthur.

“Cynthia, we do not need to—” started Margaret, but the duke was already introducing himself.

“I am Lord Bolton,” he said stoically.

“The Duke of Garriot,” added Margaret, her voice softening a little.

“Yes,” agreed Arthur.

“Your Grace,” said Cynthia quickly, realizing just what title the man had. She turned to Margaret with wide eyes.

“Don’t worry, I don’t expect you to address me as “Your Grace,” quipped the duke.

“I…,” started Margaret.

Cynthia continued to stare at her friend, and an inquisitive smile appeared on her face.

“Anyway, I only wanted to come over and apologize for my character yesterday. It was not becoming of me, and I should not have taken out any of my personal problems on you.”

“No,” whispered Margaret.

“I will take my leave and allow you two ladies to continue with your day.” The duke tipped his hat toward them both and turned to leave.

“That was quite something you did back there,” said Margaret. “Saving the boy. We saw him from afar, and ran toward him, hoping we might be able to help, but he fell before we could get close, and we could not see what happened because the crowd was in the way. When I saw him in your arms, I was pleased. What you did was admirable.”

“It is only what anyone would do,” said the duke.

“You would think. Perhaps it is different in the countryside where you are from, but in London, sometimes people like to keep to themselves.”

“How did you know I was—oh, yes, I did mention I had come up here from York. Someone was paying attention.”

“And, what is that supposed to mean?” asked Margaret.

“I did not mean anything by it,” said Arthur. “Yesterday, I was not myself. Today, I am a different man. Or, slightly different.” Arthur knew that was mostly the truth. He still held the pain inside, only he could better control it now. The incident with the boy had given him an adrenaline rush, and he felt more alive than he had in a while.

“I find that people don’t often change,” said Margaret.

“Margaret!” gasped Cynthia.

Margaret shifted from foot to foot, looking down at the ground. When she looked back up at the duke, her eyes had a little more sparkle in them.

“I apologize too,” she said. “I was having a bad day, and you reminded me of someone else, and I can see that you are nothing like that. You did save the child, and if my… well, I might have misjudged you.”

“And I misjudged you,” admitted the duke. “Though, your tongue is still as barbarous.”

Margaret smiled this time. “It has gotten me into trouble before, and I fear that it has again. Can you please forgive me for what I said yesterday? My anger was not aimed at you, please believe me. I did pass your message onto my father, but I don’t want my family to be evicted because of my stupidity.”

“Are you the one who is making the noise?” asked the duke.

“Not at all,” she replied.

“Then you have nothing to worry about. Well, as long as the noise is kept down. I strongly insist that you remind your father to listen to my words. I don’t plan on evicting anyone, but if the complaints continue, I will be forced to.”

“I will try to talk to him. No, I will talk to him. I am sure that he sees the gravity of the situation and will see reason when he knows we are facing losing our home.” Margaret was silent for a moment as she thought it through. “Yes, I will make him see reason. This is different from… well….”

“Come on,” said Cynthia. “We should go before my father starts to wonder where we have gotten to.”

“Yes, of course.” Margaret looked back at Arthur. “Just give me some time, please. I will work all of this out.” She turned back to Cynthia. “I will work it all out.”

Arthur felt an understanding pass between both women, and he felt the futility that it conveyed. Without hearing it, he could feel that James Wellington, one of the men who rented his land, was a stubborn and prideful man. He was also an impolite one for not coming to the door and talking man to man.

“Take some time,” said the duke. “I am not going to evict anyone immediately.” He hated even having to think about it. If it were only Mr. Wellington, he could do it in a heartbeat, but this woman was struggling, and he longed to help her. “If he won’t listen to reason, you can contact me, and I will come and speak to him.”

“Thank you,” muttered Margaret, a woman beaten down by life.

“Come on, Margaret,” pleaded Cynthia. “We have to go.”

“Thank you, Your Grace,” said Margaret before she turned and left with her friend.

He watched her walk, the floral dress fluttering carefree in the wind, contrasting the trapped woman below the fabric. He noticed the slight shake side to side of her rear, and he let a smile creep to his lips. She was a fine woman.

 Arthur had evicted people before, and it had all been deserved, and it would again if he had to evict this family, but how could he do that to her? Just one small interaction and he had seen the deep sadness she possessed. She did not seem to have many things in life, and he might have to take whatever was left.

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  • The sparks are already flying between these two! I am looking forward to following their fiery story to see how they resolve their situation. It promises to be a good read so far!

  • Arthur seems to finally understand what his father meant about learning through life lessons and growing into manhood. I greatly anticipate further interactions he has with Margaret.
    Thank you for such an intriguing snippet!

  • Definitely a yes yes need to know more a great start and want to see Margaret have a good life but also want to see why Arthur will only have a marriage of convenience luvely jubbly thank you

  • Great cover!
    I love books about Duke’s!
    This Duke is off to a good start!
    Waiting to see how the story develops!
    Sure it will be 5 stars,as all of your books are!!

  • Wonderful glimpse into what appears to be a Duke being entranced by a young woman in a dire situation! Looking forward to reading the rest of the story!

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