We’re giving our lucky readers a sneak peek at the last book in our Secrets of a Victorian Household quartet. Read on for an exclusive extract of Lilian and the Irresistible Duke by Virginia Heath – out now!
‘I suspect you have been brought here on purpose, Mrs Fairclough.’ The woman before him could be in league with his sister. She wouldn’t be the first to assume he was in need of a wife.
‘Well, if I have, I can assure you it was nothing to do with me!’
A vehement and convincing denial which needed testing. ‘Yet here you are… Right next door to my bedchamber…’ His eyes appreciatively travelled the length of her, settling on the bare toes poking beneath the hem of her dress and back up again to the blush which now stained her delicate collarbone, swanlike neck and the alabaster cheeks his fingers suddenly ached to touch—despite all his rampant suspicions. ‘Looking decidedly interesting.’
‘I was about to get into the bath.’ In her embarrassment, her teeth worried her plump bottom lip, drawing his eyes there as she clutched at her shawl like a shield. ‘Your servants brought me the wrong trunk by mistake. Mine must be with Lady Alexandra.’ As if noticing her bare toes for the first time, she twisted her feet awkwardly to hide them under the copious material of her skirt. ‘I was fetching my soap.’
‘I can fetch it for you—and perhaps help to scrub your back?’
His outrageous flirting had the most wonderful effect. Her green eyes sparkled like emeralds and she threw back her shoulders like an offended queen. ‘No, thank you.’
‘If you change your mind…’
‘I won’t!’ She spun on her bare heel and marched back to her bedchamber, slamming the door loudly, and he found himself frowning as he heard her turn the key decisively in the lock.
A woman determined to seduce a man would have flirted back, not shut him out. Mrs Fairclough had been offended and angry. Exactly like a woman who was as surprised and horrified to see him as he was her.
Pietro winced at his own crassness. He knew he was prone to cynicism and who could blame him? But thanks to the restlessness which continually ate away at him, he was in danger of becoming too cynical and jaded. And perhaps too vain and arrogant, if he was assuming she had purposely been patrolling the hallway in a state of partial undress simply to meet and seduce him.
He would apologise to her later.
Pietro liked to keep his emotions detached from his desires and to do that required distance. Mrs Fairclough was strictly out of bounds henceforth. He had no place flirting with her although she had looked like a woman who needed a bit of flirting in her life. That was probably what had drawn him to her last winter. That and her lovely green eyes. She had seemed burdened then, worried, and he had taken it upon himself to make her feel better. He still had no idea why he had needed to do that. He wasn’t completely heartless, it was true, but he was no Good Samaritan either. Fate had placed them in the same carriage unchaperoned and he had kissed her because…well…he still wasn’t entirely sure how to explain that. Other than it had felt entirely right at the time. She had responded with more passion than her prim, no-nonsense attire had suggested she would. More passion than either of them had expected.