In Vanessa Kelly s captivating series, three young women are descended from royalty in the most improper way. But that doesn’t stop them from pursuing lives rich in adventure. . .
Lia Kincaid, illegitimate daughter of the Duke of York, comes from a long line of notorious women. Raised by her grandmother, formerly mistress to the late Marquess of Lendale, she has little hope of a respectable marriage. But the new Marquess, her childhood friend, Jack Easton, would make a very desirable protector . . . if he weren t too honorable to take her to bed.
It s bad enough being saddled with a title he never desired. Now Jack must resist the beautiful woman he desires far too much. Duty calls, and he is duty-bound to choose a wealthy bride. But then Lia makes another outrageous suggestion: asking Jack to devise some tests to find her the perfect paramour. Tests that involve flirting, kissing, and other pleasurable pursuits. Tests that, in a matter of weeks, could transform friendship into the ton s greatest scandal, igniting a passion even duty can t deny. . .
They heard a quick footfall out in the hall. A moment later the door opened and Lia rushed in.
“Oh, confound it, Jack,” she said. “I had no idea you were here. I ran down from the big house as soon as Merton told me he’d seen you cutting through the gardens.” She rested a hand on his arm and stretched up on her toes to give him a soft kiss on the cheek. “It’s shocking that I wasn’t here to greet you. Please forgive me.”
Jack stared down at her, slightly disoriented, as if someone had given him a knock on the brainbox.
He hadn’t seen her since his uncle’s funeral, when grief and worry had left her pretty face pinched and wan. Enveloped in mourning clothes and heavy shawls to keep out the chill spring rains, Lia had seemed almost like a sad child, sorely in need of a mother’s love and comfort.
Today, though, there was nothing childlike about her, and she was more than merely pretty. His Lia was now full-grown and simply beautiful.
She gazed up at him with peacock-blue eyes alight with affection. Her skin glowed with the warmth of the summer sun and the flush of her exertions. Her enchanting face, with its tip-tilted nose and lush pink mouth, was framed by silky dark hair, some of it falling haphazardly from the simple knot on top of her head. As for her figure, her faded green riding habit with its trim bodice showcased a graceful body that held more than its share of pleasing curves.
When the hell had Lia developed breasts that he actually noticed?
His visits to Stonefell had been rare these last three years, given the fact that he’d spent much of that time on the Continent with the army. In the meantime, his little friend had matured into a woman, with results that were rather astonishing.
Her brow creased and her smile slid into one of perplexity. “Jack, you look as if you don’t know me,” she said with a self-conscious laugh. Then her smile snuffed out completely. “Oh, am I being too familiar?”
She took a quick step back and dipped into a curtsy. “Forgive me, my lord. I let my enthusiasm run away with me.”
Her anxious response jolted him back to himself. He pulled her into a bear hug, all too conscious of how delightful her soft breasts felt against his body.
“Goose, of course not,” he said, planting a brief kiss on the top of her head before letting go. “I was just a bit surprised to see you, that’s all. You’re looking very well, I must say.”
She wrinkled her nose. “That’s a complete plumper. I look a wreck, but I didn’t want to take the time to change and risk missing you.”
Rebecca ran a critical eye over her granddaughter. “You do look rather disheveled, my love. I wasn’t aware you were planning on shoeing the mare yourself, but the soot on the hem of your habit would suggest you were.”
Lia burst into laughter, and the light, clear sound of it loosened the tangled knot in Jack’s chest that had moved in some weeks ago. He’d forgotten how much he enjoyed her laughter.
“I know,” she said. “But poor Markwith is so busy these days. I thought I’d help him by taking Dorcas down to the blacksmith and saving him the trouble of the trip.”
Jack mentally grimaced. In the last year his head groom had been forced to let go two stableboys. That Lia was now acting as a stable hand had the knot in his chest twisting tight again.
“I’m sorry, Lia,” he said. “You shouldn’t have had to do that.”
“You know I don’t mind,” she said as she folded herself onto the footstool at her grandmother’s feet. Rebecca reached out to stroke Lia’s thick hair. They were so close. With the death of Jack’s uncle, the two women truly now had only each other.
“Next time you need something, just tell me,” he said. “I’ll take care of it.”
Her eyebrows arched up. “I will when you’re in residence. But that’s not very often.”
Rebecca gave her an admonishing tap on the shoulder. “That’s no way to speak to his lordship, my love.”
Lia’s eyes rounded with mock horror. “Oh, I do hope I haven’t offended him.” She gave him a comical bow, her nose almost touching the floor. “Forgive my impertinence, Lord Lendale, I beg of you.”
He shook his head. “Brat.”
She grinned. “Sorry, but I can’t help teasing. It’s just so good to see you.” She glanced over her shoulder at Rebecca. “We missed him greatly, did we not, Granny?”
About the Author
Vanessa Kelly is a USA Today Bestselling, award-winning author who was named by Booklist, the review journal of the American Library Association, as one of the “New Stars of Historical Romance.” Her Regency-set historical romances have been nominated for awards in a number of contests, and her second book, Sex and The Single Earl, won the prestigious Maggie Medallion for Best Historical Romance.
Vanessa’s previous series, The Renegade Royals, was a national bestseller. She is currently writing a spin-off series called The Improper Princesses. My Fair Princess, book 1, was named a Goodreads Romance of the Month. Vanessa also writes USA TodayBestselling books with her husband, under the pen name of V.K. Sykes.