Declan Deveraux, the Earl of Worthington, is a man who knows one thing for certain - he will never marry for love. With that aim, he pursues only the most vain, and spoiled, women of the Ton. Fate has other plans for him, however, and he’s made guardian to Alex Kendrick, a female he likes – God forbid. Now Declan has to get her suitably married, before he succumbs to the temptation to make this fiery temptress his own.
Alex, a rapier-wielding countess in her own right, doesn’t welcome a guardian and crosses swords with him at every opportunity. In spite of their less than auspicious beginning, she soon discovers Declan’s quick wit and Black-Irish looks inspire an emotion she can’t ignore, love. Now the battle is for Declan’s heart, because Alex will accept nothing less.
“Did you need something?” Declan straightened the stacks of papers he’d been working on and came around to lean on the edge of the library table, avoiding the carved wooden wings of the mythical creatures that cavorted around the sides.
“I was looking for a quill and ink.” Alex began to back away from him, one hand hidden in the folds of her skirt. “I’m sorry to have bothered you.”
She acted as jumpy as a horse at the start of a race. Any minute he expected her to bolt out of the room. “What did you need them for?”
“It’s not that I needed them. I just felt like writing.”
His Alex, writing, because she felt like it? Next she’d be telling him she’d taken up sewing. He raised an eyebrow until she continued in an exasperated tone.
“If you must know, I wanted to add to my list.”
So that was what she’d been trying to hide. It must be of some importance for her to be so touchy. “List?”
“I’m making a list of the qualities I want in a husband. That way I’ll just score each potential candidate. I’ll marry whomever has the greatest number of points.”
He should have expected something like this from her. “Admirable. But have you forgotten I have a say in whom you marry?” He would agree to most anyone who was suitable, just to put her out of temptation’s way, but she didn’t need to know that.
“No,” she retorted. “I intend to choose someone you can’t object to.”
“So, what qualities do you find desirable in a male?” He’d never posed that question to any other woman, but he couldn’t contain his curiosity as to what Alex found attractive in a man. “Perhaps, you’d like an intellectual.” He pretended to ponder his choice, then gave a slight shrug. “Oh, but there wouldn’t be any sport in that. You’d run the poor man through before he’d even raised his weapon.”
“I suppose no man could match you in prowess with a rapier.” Alex perused her list, making an elaborate production out of studying every item. “No, I don’t find arrogance on here anywhere. You’d never be a choice.”
“I wouldn’t be a choice, because I choose not to marry until I must. When I do, it will be a business arrangement, nothing more.” He didn’t want to think about his inevitable marriage. Instead, he turned his attention to the rapier collection near the fireplace. “These weren’t here when I was a child. When did your grandfather start collecting?”
He studied the rapiers with a critical eye. They were of the finest quality, about thirty in all, with various grips and blades. He didn’t know much about antiquated weapons, but some appeared to be from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
“They’re mine.” Alex came to stand next to him. “I would select what I wanted, and Grandfather would purchase them for me. Most vendors have an aversion to selling to women.” She gave him a slight smirk. “Even if I could out-fence every one of them.”
“Now who’s being arrogant?”
“Not arrogant. Confident.” Alex smiled up at him. “There’s a difference.”
“Is there?” Her teasing smile undid him. She was so close he could smell the vanilla fragrance she favored. “Might I find confidence on this list?”
He’d meant to grab only the paper, but somehow ended up taking her hand. Her pale fingers were devoid of jewelry but perfectly formed. Everything about her fascinated him. He lifted his gaze to her luminous green eyes. She was exquisite. He’d known many beautiful women, but they’d never affected him like this. He desperately wanted to feel her pressed against him. “I think I should warn you about arrogant men,” Declan whispered. “They’re liable to take advantage of a situation.” He brought his other hand up to caress the silky hair at the back of her head, and slowly drew her mouth to his.
Known as The Marble Duke amongst the Ton, Garret Weston, the Duke of Kendal sets himself apart from his peers. Nothing will hinder his guilt-driven attempt to become a perfect duke. Nothing that is, save the alluring and imaginative betrothed he’d thought dead. His intended believes-of all things-that she is a Vicar’s daughter. The “perfect” duke needs a “perfect” duchess, but how was he to discern her suitability? Employing her as a governess to his niece seemed like an ideal solution. But whose “suitability” is being tested? His betrothed refuses to see he is beyond redemption. And most grievous of all, she stirs his blood, making him forget what’s important.
Cara believes fairy tales really can come true, until she meets the unrelenting and arrogant Duke of Kendal. He looks like a Prince, but acts like a Beast. Why must he challenge her at every turn? Her greatest peril is her attraction to the vulnerable, seductive man behind the title. A match between them would be impossible. But can she show him, without losing her heart, that “perfect” is in the eye of the beholder?