*~~~Nobody’s Duke is almost here + Heartless Duke is on its way!~~~*

The countdown is on to release day for Nobody’s Duke. If you’ve been waiting to read the story of Clay (our beloved not-butler from Her Deceptive Duke) and Ara, the woman he once loved, you only have less than a week to go! It’s a special story, with a special place in my heart.

Clay is a hero who was not originally meant to be a hero. His supporting role in Her Deceptive Duke ended up being so strong that when I began my spin-off series, League of Dukes, there was no question of whose book had to come first.

I’ve got an excerpt for you below, but first, another major announcement: the Duke of Carlisle is finally getting his story! Leo is Clay’s half brother, and many of you will recall him from his cameos in Her Reformed Rake and Her Deceptive Duke.

The aptly titled Heartless Duke releases April 2nd and is available for pre-order now. You’ll find an excerpt for it in the back of Nobody’s Duke and an extended, bonus excerpt in the back of my upcoming rerelease Lord of Pirates (available for 99 cents on pre-order here). And spoiler alert: the Duke of Carlisle may not be that heartless after all, and our girl Bridget O’Malley (also from Her Reformed Rake – Daisy’s half sister) is sure going to knock him on his arse.

Now, without further preamble, here’s that Nobody’s Duke excerpt…

“Why have you returned, Mr. Ludlow?” she demanded in a frigid tone.

His gaze flicked to the servant, who had the beginnings of a fire kindling in the grate, before returning to her. “It is my duty to remain near to your side, madam.”

Something flashed in those violet-blue orbs, but just as quickly, it was gone. “No, Mr. Ludlow, it is not.”

He would not argue with her before the domestic. He did not want the staff to become aware of the enmity between them, for it would undermine his authority in the household, and the last thing he needed was to perpetuate any vulnerability. “I am afraid the matter is not open for discussion.”

She paled. “How do you dare, sir?”

He said nothing, maintaining his silence.

The longer the quiet between them stretched, punctuated by the scraping and toiling of the footman stoking the fire, the more pinched her lips became. At last, a roaring, snapping fire filled the fireplace, sending a burst of warmth into the chamber. The servant bowed and excused himself.

They were alone. Again.

With nothing to stop him from giving in to his instincts to take her in his arms.

Nothing except his sanity, that was.

The door had scarcely clicked closed behind the footman when she unleashed her ire upon him. “If you returned thinking to offer me further remonstration, you may go, Mr. Ludlow. I neither require nor want to hear your warnings concerning the ruffians who plot against me.”

“Ruffians.” The bitter bark of his laughter was torn from him. “The men who want you dead are barbaric murderers, Your Grace. The sooner you acquaint yourself with your new reality, the better each day shall go for you.”

“I am already more than acquainted,” she snapped. “Do not think to condescend to me or I shall contact someone at the Home Office myself and have you removed from this post for insubordination.”

“How amusing, Your Grace.” The smile he gave her was equally dark and mirthless. “Do you not think that I have already attempted to have myself removed from this most unwanted post? Did you not imagine I would have done everything in my power to avoid being tasked with the protection of the woman I loathe?”

She froze at his queries, going paler still at the last. Was it his fanciful imagination, or did he see hurt in her expression for a fleeting moment? And if so, why? She had to know he would hate the sight of her after what she had done. After not only her betrayal but also his scarring. To this day, he did not know whether or not the knife to his face had been her idea or her darling papa’s, but if he ever needed a reminder of why she could not be trusted, he only had to look upon his reflection.

Did she view the evidence of her treachery with shame, he wondered, or with pride? His scar burned and throbbed on his cheek. For a moment, he could feel the blade again, slicing through his flesh, leaving behind the permanent mark of his stupidity. An aide-mémoire he could have done without.

“If you do not wish to be here, then why do you remain, Mr. Ludlow?” Her question cut through the grim silence that had descended.

“Duty,” he answered swiftly. “Unlike most, when I make a vow, I honor it.”

Damn it. He had not meant to speak with such candor. Had not meant to even hint at their shared past. Their shared sins.

She inhaled as if he had struck her. “Forgive me, Mr. Ludlow, but I seem to recall a vow you did not honor. I will ask you again. Why do you remain here if you do not want either this task or my loathsome presence? Why are you here now, within this chamber, with me?”

How dare she suggest he had not honored his every vow? He had made many vows to her, and he had remained true to them all with the exception of one. I vow to you I will always love you, Ara. You will have my heart forever and the century next.

But of course he had stopped loving her. He had needed to after what she had done to him. To them. 

Don’t forget to grab your copies of Nobody’s Duke and Heartless Duke! I’m plotting lots of giveaways and fun to celebrate release day on January 8th! We’ll be partying all day long in my Facebook Reader’s Group, and I’ll be taking over the Historical Harlots Facebook group at 8PM EST. There’s going to be gift cards, books, man candy, and more. Don’t miss it, and until next time, don’t behave!