Dangerous Dukes 1
The scintillating prequel novella to the Dangerous Dukes miniseries!
MARCUS WILDING: DUKE OF PLEASURE
MARCUS WILDING: DUKE OF PLEASURE
Mills & Boon Historical
He's the most accomplished lover in England, and the finest tutor in pleasure that ever lived!
Lady Julianna Armitage is on a mission:
- - The goal: Discover passion and learn the true art of lovemaking, something she never experienced in her short, loveless marriage.
- - The teacher: The devastatingly handsome Marcus Wilding, Duke of Worthing; the one man she could never have…until now.
- - The outcome: Pure, decadent, indulgent satisfaction!
Julianna is determined to maintain control, but as Marcus unleashes a sensual siege that awakens her every sense, it soon becomes clear that losing control can be the most delicious thing of all!
Worthing House, London.
“Forgive me, Lady Armitage, but for a brief moment I was sure I heard you request that I tutor you in the art of making love to and with a man before you take a lover!”
Julianna remained unmoved by the hard and derisive smile that accompanied Marcus Wilding, the Duke of Worthing’s drawled dismissal of such a notion ever being possible. “There is nothing wrong with your hearing, Your Grace. Except perhaps for me to add that I made a statement of intent, rather than a request,” she added with the same determination she knew to be evident in the sharp tilt of her chin.
Worthing’s brows rose up beneath the rakish fall of his ebony dark hair as he now regarded her with icy and pale green eyes through narrowed lids. “’A statement of intent…’?”
Julianna was not fooled for a moment by the mildness of the duke’s tone, or the relaxed way in which his long and elegant length lay sprawled in the chair opposite her own in the blue salon of his London home, only too aware that this particular gentleman was at his most threatening when to all intents and purposes he appeared to be at his most reasonable.
He and her own brother, and three of their closest friends, were not known in society as The Dangerous Dukes because of their pleasing and easygoing natures. Nor were they named such solely on the basis of their reputation on the battlefield, their exploits in the bedchamber equally as scandalous. Enough so that most of society’s marriage-minded Mamas knew better than to allow their daughters anywhere near the rakish bachelors. And she had good reason to suspect Marcus Wilding was the most dangerous of them all…
Not that Julianna cared a whit about his reputation; remarrying was the very last thing on her mind, where Marcus Wilding, or any other gentleman, was concerned.
Nevertheless, she was still glad that she had refused to relinquish her black cloak to Worthing’s butler on her arrival, that garment not only succeeding in covering her completely from shoulders to ankles, but also hid the trembling of her gloved and clenched hands – testament to her nervousness – beneath its voluptuous folds. As her pale grey bonnet completely concealed the vibrant red of her hair, even if it did not conceal the pallor of the face beneath it’s brim.
A calmly composed face from which Julianna now forced herself to look across at Marcus Wilding with unflinching dark grey eyes; as that long-standing friend of her brother Christian’s, she knew this gentleman well enough to know he was perfectly capable of exploiting any sign of weakness. “A statement of intent,” she confirmed evenly.
“Indeed.” He continued to look at her with those pale green eyes between dark lashes that were wickedly long and thick, his face having the grace and beauty of a fallen angel – or devil! “Might one ask why, having been a married lady and now a widowed one, and so yes, perfectly at liberty to take a lover rather than remarry, if that is your choice – “
“It is,” she stated firmly.
He nodded. “And do you have any specific gentleman in mind to become this…lover?”
“Not as yet, no.”
He frowned. “Then my original question was to be why have you chosen to come to me, and invited me to be the one to undertake the scandalous enterprise of becoming your…sexual instructor?”
Julianna was caught off-guard by the mild query in his tone. Indeed, she had been prepared for Worthing’s scorn as a reaction to the statement of her ‘scandalous’ intent rather than the easy tolerance he now displayed.
This man was one of the most eligible gentlemen in England, and she, as Worthing had already stated, had been a wife and was now a widow, both of which had taken their toll on her appearance as well as her spirit.
She had been a young lady of only eighteen summers on her wedding day four years ago, her heart full of optimism for what the future might hold. But three years of that cold marriage, to the adulterous Lord John Armitage, and almost a year of widowhood following his death, had resulted in Julianna avowing she would not remarry when her year of widowhood came to an end in just two weeks time. No, better by far to eventually take a lover, she had decided, one of her own choosing and on her own terms.
As such, who better to tutor her in the art of lovemaking than the gentleman reputed to be the most accomplished lover in England?
It had seemed the perfect solution to Julianna, until she now found herself face to face with that ‘most accomplished lover in all of England’. Seated only feet away from the dangerously mesmerising Marcus Wilding, she now had serious cause to doubt the wisdom of her actions.
For, not only was Worthing that accomplished lover, but aged two and thirty he was surely also the handsomest, with his dark and overlong curls arranged into a rakishly careless style on his brow and about his ears and nape, long dark lashes surrounded eyes of palest green, sculptured cheekbones either side of his long and aristocratic nose, his mouth – oh lord, that wicked mouth was by far and away his most dangerous feature, his lips both full and seductive, the fuller bottom lip surely indicative of his sensual nature?
Added to which, it was obvious the width of Marcus Wilding’s shoulders, narrow waist, and muscled thighs and long legs in a black evening jacket, grey waistcoat, snowy white linen, and black breeches – evening wear that surely indicated this gentleman could only have returned home but a short time ago from last night’s revelry? – owed nothing to the expertise of his tailor and boot-maker, and everything to the hours she knew this man spent with his closest friends in both the boxing ring and at sword practise.
Nor had this particular gentleman, a man who had been a close friend of her older brother Christian since their schooldays at Eton together, shown even the slightest interest in her since her marriage to John Armitage, other than the necessary politeness shown to her as the young sister of his friend Christian Seaton.
“Surely my choice is obvious, when your prowess in the bedchamber is legendary?” she dismissed uninterestedly.
Those dark brows rose a second time. “Indeed?”
“Oh yes,” Julianna confirmed coolly.
“Your husband did not…introduce you to sexual pleasure?”
Julianna’s mouth tightened even as she felt the warmth of humiliated colour in her cheeks. “My husband was too busy occupying the beds of other, more experienced women, to spare but the minimal of his valuable time in occupying mine, and then only in an effort to secure his heir. A task at which he obviously failed.” She straightened determinedly at mention of her childless state. “I have accepted that love and happiness in marriage is the exception rather than the rule. But hopefully a lover is a different matter. As such, before embarking on such an enterprise, I fully intend to learn to give and receive physical pleasure to and from that lover!”
Whether he was meant to do so or not, Marcus heard a wealth of pain beneath the bitterness of that statement. And humiliation…
And it was his opinion that no woman should ever be made to suffer either of those emotions at the hands of a man. To the point it would seem, that she was determined to take a lover at the end of her year of mourning the husband she had not loved, and whom had not loved her, rather than so much as considering the idea of marrying again.
Julianna had been but five-years-old, and something of a hellion, the first time Marcus had been invited to spend several weeks of the summer holidays at the home of his friend Christian Seaton, the two boys having met at Eton two years earlier. There had been five new boys in the cavernous hallways of Eton that day twenty years ago, and surprisingly all of them heir to a dukedom, an unusual occurrence which had resulted in those same five boys becoming lifetime friends.
Christian’s parents, the previous Duke and Duchess of Sutherland, were indulgent and loving parents, but also often absent ones, leaving their two children in the care of the servants at their country seat during the summer months. And so it had been during most of the times Marcus and the other three boys stayed at Sutherland Park during the next ten years or so, visits when Christian’s irritating little sister had insisted upon following the boys as well as joining in on every adventure, from climbing trees to fishing, uncaring if she suffered a scraped knee or a ducking in the stream, as long as she could be with them rather than in the nursery with her nanny.
Looking at her now, Marcus could see that the hellion, whilst not exactly tamed, was at least subdued beneath her widow’s weeds. But he was only too aware of the slenderness beneath that voluptuous cloak, her face a beautiful ivory cameo beneath her grey bonnet; her cheeks pale, adding emphasis to the magnificent grey of her eyes, her cheeks slightly hollow, and the fullness of her lips unsmiling.
Nor was it difficult to realise that it was her unhappy marriage to Armitage which had brought about these change in Julianna. An unhappiness that Marcus had guessed at, having once overheard a private conversation at a gambling club one evening, when Armitage had boasted to his disreputable group of friends of his preferences in the bedchamber. But it was an unhappiness, no matter how Marcus might have wished differently, that could do nothing to change…
Marcus had spoken to no one four years ago, not even his oldest and closest friend Christian Seaton, of the feelings he had for his sister Julianna. Or the blow Marcus had suffered upon learning, after his return to England following yet another bloody battle against Napoleon’s army, of her marriage to Lord John Armitage some weeks earlier.
Marcus had continued to suffer the inner demons of hell during the years that followed, just thinking of Julianna in the arms, the bed, of another man, even if that man was her husband. Especially if that man was the adulterous and perverted Armitage!
Now, with only a few weeks of her widowhood left to pass, Marcus had fully intended to approach Julianna, as he should have done four years ago – before Armitage had offered for her in his absence, and been accepted! – with a marriage proposal of his own.
Never in Marcus’s wildest dream, in his wildest fantasies involving this particular woman – and some of them had been very wild indeed! – had Marcus ever expected to arrive home after a long night’s gambling to be informed that Julianna was awaiting his presence in the blue salon, unaccompanied by so much as a maid.
Or to now hear that she had come to him with a proposal of her own, not of love and marriage, but that of asking him to become her sexual instructor for the benefit of her future lovers!