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Rufus Drake: Duke of Wickedness

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«Rufus Drake: Duke of Wickedness» - Кэрол Мортимер

A tantalizing bargain…When innocent Anna Bishop finds herself in a compromising position, the only person who can save her is Rufus Drake, notorious rogue, new Duke of Northamptonshire and the man upon whose lands she’s trespassing! But the duke’s help comes with conditions…The deal: a single kiss in exchange for his assistance.The complication: that one kiss unleashes an insatiable desire and, suddenly, a single taste can never be enough…for Rufus or for Anna!Dangerous Dukes: rakes about town!
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Rufus Drake: Duke of Wickedness

A tantalizing bargain…

When innocent Anna Bishop finds herself in a compromising position, the only person who can save her is Rufus Drake, notorious rogue, new Duke of Northamptonshire and the man upon whose lands she’s trespassing! But the duke’s help comes with conditions…

The deal: a single kiss in exchange for his assistance.

The complication: that one kiss unleashes an insatiable desire and, suddenly, a single taste can never be enough…for Rufus or for Anna!

Dangerous Dukes

Rakes about town

Rufus Drake: Duke of Wickedness

Carole Mortimer



www.millsandboon.co.uk

Author Note

Welcome back to the world of the Dangerous Dukes!

Sorry for the long gap in between the 3rd and 4th books—it takes a while to write and research these Regency books, and I thought you would appreciate having 4, 5 and 6 out in close succession.

As usual with the Dangerous Dukes, all three of these stories will have danger, lots of sensuality and, most of all, love. There will also be glimpses and news of the first three Dangerous Dukes.

I hope you enjoy being back in the world of the Dangerous Dukes as much as I have enjoyed being on their journey with them.

For Peter, as always.

Contents

Cover

Back Cover Text

Title Page

Author Note

Dedication

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

About the Author

Copyright

Chapter One

Late July, 1815

Northamptonshire, England

“Sir, are you aware that you are trespassing on the Duke of Northamptonshire’s estate?”

Rufus Drake, who was the aforementioned Duke of Northamptonshire, had very recently jumped down from his horse on this warm July day. He’d undressed down to his drawers, with the intention of swimming naked in the pool situated in the woods of said estate, in the hopes it would refresh him after the dusty and tiring two days of riding up from London.

He instantly froze in the action of unfastening his drawers at the sound of the disembodied female voice, and instead gave a narrow-eyed glance about him to locate the owner of the huskily pleasant voice.

“I am up here, sir. And I would appreciate it if you would cover yourself before continuing this conversation!”

Rufus surveyed the surrounding trees, his dark brows rising above his vivid green eyes as he spotted a pair of female legs dangling down from a nearby horse-chestnut tree. Completely bare and very curvaceous female legs.

He abandoned the idea of removing his drawers, but did not replace his shirt as he strolled over to stand beneath the tree, slightly taken aback as he looked up into the dappled green branches and saw the young and beautiful owner of those legs. Her missing stockings and dainty cream boots were resting upon her knees as she perched on the branch slightly above his head.

Her slender fingers clutched the branch for balance, and were completely bare of rings, indicating she was an unmarried lady. Nor was there maid or companion with her anywhere that Rufus could see. Meaning she was very much alone here in the woods.

With him.

Huge blue eyes looked down at him from a flushed heart-shaped face, her nose slightly upturned, her lips surprisingly full and sensual. Riotous blonde curls were secured upon the crown of her head, with several damp tendrils falling about her creamy white shoulders above a white muslin gown decorated with tiny green leaves.

A gown that currently appeared to be caught on the branch above and behind her as she once again attempted, and failed, to pull the material down to cover her legs. The loosened bodice of the gown gaped open as she bent forward, to reveal the tops of full and creamy breasts.

A state of undress which would seem to indicate, added to her damp tendrils of hair curling at her throat and nape, that she had also recently been tempted by the lure of a cooling swim in the pond.

Rufus’s appreciative gaze returned to that obviously discomforted face. “It would seem that you are in almost as much of a state of undress as I,” he drawled dryly.

The blush deepened in her cheeks. “And I would appreciate it if you would stop ogling, sir!”

He gave an unapologetic grin as he continued to look up at her appreciatively. “Are you perhaps a wood nymph?” he teased.

Her eyes snapped with impatience. “There is no such thing as a wood nymph.

“No?”

“Absolutely not,” she assured him with a practicality totally at odds with that throaty, seductive voice.

“You are not a wood nymph, and obviously you cannot be the Duke of Northamptonshire himself, so surely you must also trespassing?” he drawled pointedly.

Another firm shake of her riotous golden curls. “I have the duke’s permission to…to stroll through the woods here.”

Rufus raised an eyebrow beneath the fall of his ebony-dark hair. “Indeed?”

“Yes.” She nodded emphatically.

As Rufus had never so much as set eyes on this enchanting female in all his two and thirty years, he knew that it was not this

Duke of Northamptonshire who had given his permission.

Of course it could have been either of his two cousins, or perhaps their father, his paternal uncle, before them.

As the only child of the second son born to the previous, previous, previous Duke of Northampton, Rufus had not expected to ever hold the title himself. Except that Rufus’s own father had died shortly after he had been born, and unfortunately his uncle along with both his cousins had also perished in the past three years. The former to a seizure of the heart, his elder cousin to influenza, and the younger when he succumbed two days later to the injuries he had received at the battle of Waterloo.

Nor had either of his two cousins ever married and produced an heir. The elder because his inclinations ran in quite another direction, and he had refused to even contemplate the taking of a wife. The younger cousin, David, should have been married but had died before the wedding could take place.

Which had left Rufus, as the only Drake still alive, to inherit the Northamptonshire title and estates.

And damned irritating it was too, after all his years spent about Town as the infamous and rakish Mr Rufus Drake, the unashamedly vastly wealthy business entrepreneur. As the untitled third grandson of a duke, it had been required that Rufus provide his own fortune. Which, if he did say so himself, he had succeeded in doing exceedingly well, helped along by a small inheritance left to him by his maternal grandmother. He was now one of the wealthiest gentlemen in England.

His maternal cousin Zachary Black, the Duke of Hawksmere, had laughed uncontrollably when informed that Rufus was now the Duke of Northamptonshire. Mainly because Rufus had teased his cousin unmercifully over the years at Zachary’s certainty of inheriting their grandfather Black’s title, while Rufus could continue merrily on, free of such responsibilities.

Admittedly, Hawksmere, once that humour had passed, had then invited Rufus to be an honorary member of the Dangerous Dukes, an exclusive group of gentlemen consisting of Zachary and his four closest friends. As an aside to that honorary membership, Rufus had further been invited to join them as an agent for the Crown. Which was Rufus’s main reason for being in Northamptonshire at all.

Rufus had received a letter just days ago from Matthew Turner, the estate manager Rufus had personally hired the previous month to oversee the Banbury Hall estate, after receiving word that the previous estate manager, Jacob Harker, had absconded into the night. Turner had since discovered that Harker had also taken that month’s rents from Rufus’s tenants with him when he left, and suggested in his letter that perhaps Rufus might himself wish to look into the matter more fully himself.

Rufus had no interest in the pittance that had been stolen, but the previous estate manager’s sudden disappearance was now of deep interest to him after what he had learnt from his cousin Zachary a week or so ago.

It transpired that just weeks before the battle of Waterloo there had been a plot afoot to assassinate the Prince Regent, and so throw the country into chaos. It had been discovered that several government secretaries along with servants in prominent households in England had been involved in that plot.

Rufus had decided it was now incumbent upon him to look more closely into why his previous estate manager had absconded so suddenly and, if possible, ascertain as to whether or not he had been part of the ring of spies working against the Crown.

That being so, Rufus had risen very early yesterday morning, instructed his valet to pack up enough of his clothes for months, just in case, and to then travel to Northamptonshire by coach. Then Rufus had set off alone on horseback for his ducal estate.

He had travelled a long way yesterday, and the inn he had stayed at the previous night had been passable at best. After another overly warm morning of travel he had been tempted, upon arrival at his estate, to take a dip in the pool he remembered so affectionately from his visits there as a child.

This delay was partly because of the need to refresh himself, but also, he admitted, to a reluctance on his part to actually make his presence known at Banbury Hall for a while longer.

Was it possible the enticing nymph in the tree was the daughter of his new estate manager? He vaguely recalled that Turner had told him that he was widowed but had a daughter. Although what the age of that daughter might be, Rufus had not enquired; a month ago he had merely been relieved to pass on the onerous task of running Banbury Hall to someone other than himself.

The young lady perched so prettily above him certainly looked as if she might be that worthy gentleman’s daughter; whilst her gown was not of the finest quality, it was nevertheless modish in style, as was the set of her golden curls, and the cream leather boots were surely too fine to belong to a daughter of one of his tenants.

“May I enquire as to your name, miss?” he prompted huskily.

She looked slightly taken aback. “Are you not going to dress yourself first?”

Rufus held back a grin at her persistence in wishing to avoid looking at the nakedness of his chest. “Your name, miss?”

“I— It is— You may call me Juliet,” she announced grandly.

Rufus knew instinctively that there was something not quite right with that statement. Admittedly, the name was fitting, considering her place above him in the tree. But he was certainly not her, nor any woman’s, doting Romeo! “And is that actually your name?” he drawled sceptically.

“Well, not exactly,” she conceded. “But it is my middle name, and comes from—”

“I am well aware of where it comes from,” Rufus assured dryly. He was not a complete ignoramus; as the grandson of two dukes he had suffered through the requisite years at Eton and Oxford. The fact that this young lady also appeared to have received some education would seem to confirm Rufus’s earlier assumption that she might very well be the daughter of his new estate manager.

“I would simply prefer to address you by your given name.”

She gave a heavy sigh. “It is nowhere near as pretty as Juliet.”

Rufus held back a smile, finding himself exceedingly—and surprisingly—diverted by this young woman. The long years he had spent in London, and just a month of holding the title of duke, had rendered him more than a little jaded where the female sex was concerned. “Nevertheless...”

“It is Anna.” She grimaced. “Plain, uninteresting Anna.”

There was nothing in the least plain or uninteresting about this woman. The opposite, in fact. She was beautiful, diverting, and her state of dishabille was having the most delicious effect upon Rufus’s libido.

“And might I also know your name, sir?”

Rufus had been grandly named after his two ducal grandfathers, his father and his mother’s brother, as Harold Algernon Edward Rufus Drake, but from birth had been known to the family and friends alike by the last of his illustrious names.

“Rufus.” He saw no sign of recognition of his name in her candid blue eyes. “Would you care to explain, Anna, why is it you are currently sitting up in that tree sans your stockings and boots if you were just strolling through the woods?”

* * *

Anna frowned her dismay, sensing, despite his politely enquiring expression, that he was somehow mocking her. And possibly with good reason, when she was indeed so scantily clad. He was also, Anna conceded, a gentleman more disturbing and handsome than she had ever encountered before.

Disturbing, because as an unmarried lady she had never before engaged in a conversation with a gentleman whilst he was dressed only his drawers. Indeed, she had never before seen a gentleman wearing only his drawers.

The skin of his bared torso was a warm olive-brown. His shoulders were broad, his chest and arms muscled. She observed with fascination the silky down of dark ebony that tapered down over his chest and stomach to disappear into the waistband of his drawers. She noted that his waist was lean and narrow above muscled thighs and legs.

From her position above him, Anna was also able to recognise that he was at least ten years older than her own twenty years, as well as exceedingly tall. True, most people were taller than her five feet, but this gentleman would surely tower over her by a foot or more.

He was a gentleman with fashionably overlong and tousled hair as black as midnight, and eyes the green of sparkling emeralds surrounded by thick, lush dark lashes, his nose long and aristocratic, with high cheekbones beneath taut flesh, and his mouth—

Oh dear me, his mouth!

This man had the most wickedly sensual and mocking mouth, the bottom lip slightly fuller than the top, set above a square and arrogant jaw.

As for the reason why she was currently sitting up in this tree, with her gown unfastened down her back and her stockings and boots upon her knees?

Propriety dictated she should not have been walking alone in the woods at all, of course. Nor did she, as she had claimed earlier, have an acquaintance with the new Duke of Northamptonshire.

But the duke was safely in London, and Anna had not considered it would matter, once she reached this secluded pond amongst the woods of Banbury Hall, if she were to take a cooling dip.

Consequently, she had been happily indulging when she had heard the approach of a horse wending its way through the trees. She’d been left with no choice but to hastily wade out of the water and pull her gown on over the dampness of her chemise before hurriedly picking up the rest of her belongings and giving a hunted look about her surroundings.

She had hoped only to need to hide up in the tree until the horse and its rider had passed by, but had instead watched in horror as the man had halted and dismounted when he’d reached the pond.

He had then removed his hat and sat down on the grass to remove his black Hessians. He followed swiftly with his jacket, waistcoat, cravat and shirt, the latter revealing that magnificently muscled chest.

Anna’s heart had begun to pound in her chest when he had proceeded to unfasten and remove his pantaloons. Allowing him to see her own state of dress was completely scandalous, but watching this handsome gentleman undress was surely even more so.

Except Anna had been unable to stop herself enjoying the experience.

.

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