In the second in New York Times Bestselling Author Karen Ranney’s scintillating series, society’s most coveted duke finds the one thing wealth and position cannot buy—the perfect partner…
For years, Martha York has been fascinated by a man she’s never met—Jordan Hamilton, the new Duke of Roth and protégé to her inventor father. Could the elusive gentleman possibly live up to his brilliant letters? When Martha travels to his estate to carry out her father’s last bequest, she discovers that the answer is a resounding yes, for the duke’s scientific mind belies a deep sensuality…
Jordan was determined to complete his prototype alone, but it’s impossible to resist the alluring young woman who shows up at his door. Working together, they grow ever closer, until a case of mistaken identity leaves him bound to another. A woman’s heart may be more complex than the most intricate invention, but Jordan must find a way to win Martha’s, or lose the only woman who can truly satisfy him…
July, 1871 Griffin House, England
Martha York stared down at the letter her sister had just handed her.
For months she’d been trying to satisfy her father’s bequest. He’d asked her to see that his work was given to the Duke of Roth. That’s all. Except it hadn’t been easy, had it?
She’d been writing to the duke for nearly a year and never received an answer. Not a note. Nothing dictated to a secretary. Not one small sliver of information. She’d kept writing and he’d kept ignoring her.
“Aren’t you going to open it, Martha?” Josephine asked.
She nodded, staring at the distinctive emblem on the reverse before removing the seal.
Part of her never wanted him to write back. There, a bit of honesty. She hadn’t wanted to relinquish all her father’s precious diaries, all his prototypes, all his notes.
“What does he say, Martha?” Josephine asked. “Has he invited us to Sedgebrook? Has he?”
Martha frowned at her sister. “Of course he hasn’t.” “But what has he said? Are you going to read it to us?” Josephine asked, her glance encompassing their grandmother.
Gran didn’t say a word, but she was looking over at Martha. Normally, nothing could divert her attention from her crochet work.
“He says he doesn’t want Father’s bequest. He does send his condolences on Father’s death. A year late.”
“He has to take it,” Gran said calmly. “Shall we just send everything in a wagon? He’d have no choice but to accept everything.”
“I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if something happened to Bessie,” she said, referring to her father’s latest prototype. “Why he thought the duke would want it, I’ve no idea.”
“They were friends,” Gran said. “Matthew didn’t spare the time for many people.”
Martha only nodded. Gran’s son, their father, had been a hermit, but a happy one. He went to the cottage situated at the end of the lawn every day, content to tinker there surrounded by his inventions, and al- lowing his imagination to take him where it would.
The unlikely friendship between Jordan Hamilton and her father had begun before the man had become the Duke of Roth. He’d been a naval officer then, curious about her father’s work, and writing with his questions. That had sparked an intense correspondence, one that lasted until pneumonia had taken Matthew suddenly and unexpectedly.
“At least he finally deigned to answer my letter,” Martha said. “Which is the most he’s done all these months. He probably got tired of me writing.”
“What are you going to do?” Gran asked, her crochet work forgotten on her lap.
“I could simply keep writing him until he agrees to come here.”
“Or we could take Father’s bequest to him,” Josephine said.
She glanced up at her sister.
“That’s out of the question,” she said, staring down at the distinctive handwriting. She knew it well. She’d read every one of the duke’s letters to her father.
She hadn’t expected him to repudiate her father’s gift. Doing so was worse than a slap in the face. His ignoring her letters ridiculed the relationship that Matthew York had valued so much. She’d thought the Duke of Roth had felt the same, but evidently he didn’t.
“Why is it out of the question?” Josephine asked. “Josephine, please sit,” she said, looking up at her sister.
Each time Josephine passed in front of her, perfume wafted in her direction. Ever since her mother had departed Griffin House, Josephine had taken to wearing Marie’s favorite French perfume. It was, according to her sister, a sophisticated fragrance. Martha thought it was overbearing and too flowery.
Perhaps Josephine wore it to remind her of Marie. No doubt that was the same reason her sister gravitated to the Rose Parlor. Her mother often sat here, staring out at the lawn, her gaze impenetrable and almost troubling to witness.
The room was filled with all those things Marie loved, but evidently not enough to remain at Griffin House. Needlepoint sat in a frame, patiently waiting to be finished. Needlepoint pillows were arranged on the sofa. Footrests upholstered in needlepoint sat at their feet while needlepoint pictures of flowers framed in gold hung on one wall. Even the draperies had needlepoint tiebacks.
She couldn’t help but wonder if Marie truly had an affinity for needlepoint or if it was only an outlet for other feelings.
The Rose Parlor had been decorated by her step- mother. The sofa and love seat, as well as the curtains that framed the view of the back lawn and the lake were pink. The pillows that weren’t covered in needlepoint were pink as well. The round carpet beneath her feet consisted of overblown lush roses—in pink, of course—with a contrasting green border.
Josephine loved the room. Martha felt slightly bilious in it. Gran didn’t seem to mind, being as involved in her crocheting as Marie had been in her needlepoint.
As for herself, when she wasn’t in her own room, she was in her father’s cottage. Although not quite a laboratory, it truly wasn’t an office, either. Instead, it was a combination of the two with tall skinny windows looking out over the lake.
She was his assistant and one of her tasks was to record his thoughts and experiments for the ages as well as to serve as his sounding board.
He’d been a good man, a truly inventive one. If he was more involved in his pursuits and less his family, perhaps that was to be expected.
No one, least of all her, had been that surprised when Marie had hied off to France six months after his death. According to the letter she had written Josephine, she was madly in love with a French count.
Of course I will send for you, my love, she’d written.
As soon as Pierre and I are settled at his estate. You will love the château. It’s so much more to my taste than Griffin House ever was.
Marie was French, a fact that Josephine seemed to recite more and more often of late. As if being half- French was something preferable to being completely English.
“Well?” Josephine asked. “What are you going to do?”
Martha looked out at the lake, placid in the July morning, remembering her father’s words. “Wherever there’s a mystery, you can’t help but feel excitement. Always seek to find a mystery. The sheer act of solving it will keep you happy.”
The mystery that had occupied her mind ever since his death was finding how that final experiment had been successful. He’d been so happy when he’d come in from the storm. He’d been drenched but ecstatic, telling her that his vessel had leveled off, heading directly for the target.
But he hadn’t told her how.
In this instance there were no notes. No thoughts or idle speculation. Nothing to give her any clue.
She was determined that his life’s work would be finished, even if she had to turn over all his notes and work to the duke.
“We have to go,” Josephine said, interrupting her thoughts. “It’s what Father would have wanted. Besides, it’s the Duke of Roth! Can you imagine, Martha? We could see Sedgebrook!”
About the Author
Karen Ranney wanted to be a writer from the time she was five years old and filled her Big Chief tablet with stories. People in stories did amazing things and she was too shy to do anything amazing. Years spent in Japan, Paris, and Italy, however, not only fueled her imagination but proved she wasn't that shy after all.
Now a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, she prefers to keep her adventures between the covers of her books. Karen lives in San Antonio, Texas.