Title: Duke du Jour
Author: Petie McCarty
Genre: Regency Historical Romance / Time-Travel
Jared Langley, thirteenth Duke of Reston, tumbles into a dilapidated fountain in an overgrown section of his ducal estate and awakens in 1816. Reston servants and local villagers think him a dead ringer for his namesake and rakehell ancestor—the seventh Duke of Reston, gone missing at the Battle of Waterloo. Unfortunately, Seven got mixed up with French spies out to assassinate the Duke of Wellington, and an unwary Jared ends up in their crosshairs.
Lady Ariana Hart has loved Jared Langley since she was twelve years old, until the night the rogue broke her heart. Given up for dead, her rakish neighbor makes a miraculous return from France—only he shows up a changed man and threatens to reignite all the feelings Ariana had long ago buried.
Jared is in a race against time. He must waylay the suspicions of his quirky servants and neighbors, get to Wellington before the French spies do, fix his fountain—before Seven shows up—so Jared has a way home, and definitely not fall in love with the beautiful Ariana Hart.
Jared settled back into his seat and tucked Ariana’s tiny dog into his coat pocket, so only her head poked out. Ari’s bonnet tilted back with the wind on her face, and he could see her cheeks flush with color. A sparkle lit her eyes, and her teeth tugged at her bottom lip as she concentrated on handling the ribbons and keeping the blacks in a matched pace.
He thought he had never seen a more beautiful woman and found it remarkable he could want a woman who could drive a sulky—or rather a curricle.
Jared had dated women who shopped for a living, spent money as though it would soon be obsolete. For recreation, they got together with other members of their social set and talked about the women unfortunate enough to have missed the party. The women Jared dated had their own rules of etiquette for membership into their untouchable elite. They did not wait on anyone. They were waited upon. They were driven about. They would never drive themselves in a million years. They certainly would never drive a team of horses. The women he dated would not even come to see him drive his own horses. The women he had dated considered his sulky racing a weird ducal quirk.
Maybe he had been dating the wrong women.
Ari cast a brief glance at him. “What do you find so amusing, Jared?”
“Slow the curricle down.”
“Why? You said I could drive.”
He grinned at her defiance. What a woman!
“And drive you may. I just want you to slow for a moment, if you please.”
The spirited blacks took advantage of her momentary lapse in concentration and tried to break. She snapped her attention back to the ribbons and slowly pulled the horses to a halt. Her agitation had sent high color to her cheeks, and she looked absolutely gorgeous. Jared made a mental note to irritate her more often. She turned to face him so quickly, her bonnet spun back off her head.
“Why did I have to stop? What was so important?” she asked indignantly.
He cradled her cheeks in his hands and lightly touched his lips to hers. Her face was so delicate, his hands stretched from her chin almost to the back of her head. She held herself stiffly for several long moments, but Jared refused to give up and nibbled at her lower lip. He was rewarded when Ari relaxed against him and pressed into the kiss. He smiled against her lips, feeling quite smug. He ran the tip of his tongue slowly across her lower lip. Her resultant gasp at his audacity allowed him the entry he sought. Like a warrior checking battlements for a weak spot.
His tongue gently swept past her defenses and tickled at hers to tease a response. She started again, but he held her cheeks firm until she relaxed, and he wanted to groan with the need her modest acquiescence stirred within him. This was a tender kiss unlike the swift and wild adrenaline-fueled kiss in Harrison’s tavern. If he could be this aroused by the gentlest of kisses, what would happen to him if sweet, remarkable Ari ever fully matched his heat with her own? Spontaneous combustion came to mind.
He eased back, unwilling to endanger his future by being greedy now—at the outset of their sensual relationship.
She blinked, her eyes a little glassy with sensuous haze. Again, the smugness clipped him. He had done that. She had acted disinterested, played hard to get, but—
She blinked again.
Guilt pound at him like a sledgehammer. What was he doing? What had he been thinking? He could not pursue this liaison. Ariana was a virgin. Of that, he had no doubt, and he refused to take advantage of her. Which meant—
The thought of never kissing Ari again, never being with Ari again, never ever having Ari caused a sharp ache at all manner of levels. How had he let this happen? And so very fast?
He knew precisely how it had happened. She was the most delectable, exciting, entertaining, vivacious woman he had ever met, as though God had created the little darling just for him.
She blinked again.
“Why are you frowning? Did I do it wrong?” she asked timidly.
Oh, good Lord. So innocent.
He needed to lurch back into the friendship arena. She could not come with him back to the future, he could not stay here in this deuced century, and he refused to hurt her. Keeping his hands off her would nigh kill him, but he had no choice. Of all the rotten luck. To discover the perfect woman for him two hundred years too soon.
“No, my darling Ari, you did it perfectly. Too perfectly.”
She gave him a sheepish smile, and he felt like a cad when next he said, “I should not have done that. Please accept my apologies. I was out of line.”
Her face fell. The smile vanished, and Jared felt as though he had taken a punch to the gut.
“No worries,” she said, her voice sounding small. “Next time I won’t stop the curricle.”
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Why is your featured book a must-read?
True love waited in the past . . . he belonged in the future.
Jared Langley doesn't time-travel to 1816 as some stranger but arrives as an ancestral-dissolute-rakehell version of himself. Instead of racing back to safety in the future, he lands himself in the middle of a spy plot and is forced to decide. Save the girl of his dreams or save Wellington? Tough choice for the Duke du Jour...
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Petie spent a large part of her career working at Walt Disney World—"The Most Magical Place on Earth"—where she enjoyed working in the land of fairy tales by day and creating her own romantic fairy tales by night, including her new series, The Cinderella Romances. She eventually said good-bye to her "day" job to write her stories full-time. These days Petie spends her time writing sequels to her regency time-travel series, Lords in Time, and her cozy-mystery-with-romantic-suspense series, the Mystery Angel Romances.
Petie shares her home on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee with her horticulturist husband and an opinionated Nanday conure named Sassy who made a cameo appearance in No Angels for Christmas.
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