Title: Duke du Jour
Author: Petie McCarty
Genre: Historical Romance
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.
“Well, I remember places fairly well, like the manor house and the grounds around here for the most part. Just not people.”
He’s serious. Amnesia is serious.
“Did the doctor examine you?”
“Padwick?” Jared made a face. “That bloody quack stuck a dozen leeches on me while I was unconscious.”
Ariana’s gaze shot to his face again.
“Excuse the language. Again.”
She waved that off. “Your description was frighteningly close to accurate. Padwick thinks leeches to be the cure for everything.”
Jared had stepped closer during their exchange, and only a foot or so separated them.
“I did not grab Lady Wilder,” he said suddenly. “Probably not gentlemanly to carry tales about a lady, I realize, but I wanted you to know that I didn’t start things. I trust you will protect her reputation.”
Protecting that particular reputation is like closing the stable door after the stallion ran out. No, all the stallions.
“I don’t remember her,” he went on, “so I would not have grabbed a complete stranger outright. No matter how beautiful.”
“And I apologize for you having to witness the—”
“Attack?” she blithely offered.
He gaped. “Well, I wouldn’t exactly call it that.”
She raised one skeptical eyebrow.
He grinned. “Then again, maybe she did.”
She suddenly grinned, too. If he did not remember Lucilla, did that mean—
“Do you remember me?” Ariana asked quickly before she lost her nerve.
Jared's expression grew chagrined, and her stomach plummeted. She had hoped, for but a moment. In the next instant, she received the greatest shock of all.
He stepped so close only inches separated them. “But I wanted to remember you,” he said softly. “I wanted to know you right away—the moment I laid eyes on you.”
Her lips parted in surprise. With no prior memory, he had finally noticed her as a woman?
He stared into her eyes. “I feel drawn to you…Ari.”
His voice turned low and husky when he breathed her name, and the sound drifted over her like a lover’s caress. His pupils dark as night, he slowly leaned in. His lips nuzzled hers, softly at first and then with more pressure. His hand cradled her cheek, and her skin tingled with the heat of his touch.
Ari fought the initial urge to flinch at the touch of his lips, so startled was she, and he swept a muscular arm around her back to hold her steady—or bind her in place. She was not sure which, and she didn’t really care. And if she was completely truthful with herself, she had wanted this for a very long time.
Having had but one prior kiss in her life—and that a quick peck on the lips stolen by Baron Dalton, and only a peck, because she had jerked back in shock—Ari was unprepared for the riot of emotions flooding through her. Joy, anticipation, shock, and yes, hunger for something instinctive and quite beyond her reach.
As his lips pressed more firmly to hers, Jared tilted his head and slipped the tip of his tongue gently across her lower lip. The sensual shock made her gasp, and his tongue slid further into her mouth to press and tease against hers. She started to pull back, and Jared’s large hand swept up her back and threaded into her hair. He gently tilted her head back, enabling him to deepen the kiss, and his tongue began a gentle game of tag with hers that left her light-headed enough she reached up to grab his shoulders for support. This changed the tempo immediately, and Jared’s strong arms pulled her tight to his chest. Evidently, he did not want the kiss to end any more than she did, and she smiled against his lips.
Her insides had warmed enough to melt butter, and her arms and legs felt fluid enough to pool in a puddle at his feet. This man looked like the rake Jared, but he was not. She should pull free, but she could not bring herself to try. This Jared was tender and gentle and—when the game of tongue tag turned into a heated waltz—hungry. She had seen the rake Jared kiss a maid once out in the garden at a country dance, and he had not been gentle, more like a boulder rolling downhill, though the maid had not seemed to mind.
Ari heard someone call out a warning and vaguely wondered if it was a human or merely the suspicious voice in her head. If the voice was human, she should worry the two of them would be discovered kissing, which could damage her reputation. In London, she would be quite ruined if caught in a situation such as this, but in the relaxed country society around Dolan, this would merely rate a few gossip sessions about her, and she would be considered a bit fast. Worse still, she could not dredge up the slightest concern over either possibility. All she knew was that she did not want her first real kiss to end. What did that say about her? Was she truly a bit fast?
The warning shout came again and seemed closer, way more than a foggy ghost voice in her mind. The shout was swiftly followed by a definite rumble that she felt all the way to her toes.
Jared noticed immediately, and his head came up despite her whimper of complaint. Without warning, he jerked her off her feet and tossed her into the air.
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Why is your featured book a must-read?
This regency romance enfolds humor, suspense, and even time-travel in a one-of-a-kind love story, which bestirs a unique dilemma for its hero. Save the Duke of Wellington for history’s sake or save the girl of his dreams for his heart’s sake?
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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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