Title: How the Duke Stole Christmas
Author: Alanna Lucas
Genre: Historical Romance/Regency
Can the magic of Christmas melt his frozen heart?
Theodore Winslow, Duke of Greystone, has no wish to celebrate Christmas, but he’s returning to his ancestral home for his widowed mother’s sake. Knowing her mission is to secure him a wife, he’ll be keeping his heart on ice—better that than to have it repeatedly broken.
Patience Leybourne is spending Yuletide at Castle Greystone, hoping to revive the happiness of family Christmases past. When she’s asked by the Dowager Duchess to do the decorations, she’s delighted. But the next morning she finds her mistletoe and garlands torn down. Who could be so lacking in festive spirit?
It’s the Duke of Greystone himself who’s destroyed Patience’s efforts to bring cheer. And there’s no comfort or joy in realizing he’s the mystery man whom she so passionately kissed at a masked ball. How will she manage to endure his company all the way through to Twelfth Night—when that fiery attraction is still burning between them?
The moment sunlight filtered into her room, Patience wanted to run downstairs and see all the decorations in daylight. It took all her patience, which despite her name she did not possess in abundance, to wait until a decent hour to descend.
Everything had looked so splendid bathed in the glow of candlelight the previous evening, she was certain it would be even more wonderful in the full light of day. Just thinking of how all the greenery looked against the pure white marble in the Great Hall was enough to make her giddy.
After checking on her still sleeping aunt, she hurried toward the day parlor. She imagined the light filtering in, dancing against red and silver ribbons through the east facing windows, the sun warming the space on a cold winter’s day, and the fresh scent of pine wafting.
Picking up her pace, she went toward the parlor. As she rounded the corner, she was met with…nothing.
She edged into the room, torn by conflicting emotions. She blinked several times, hoping the sparse walls and empty mantle were just an awful trick of her imagination.
Where had all the decorations gone? Her heart sank and for a brief moment she thought she would cry. What had happened? Had the Dowager Duchess of Greystone been robbed?
That didn’t make any sense. Why would someone steal ivy, holly, and ribbon, but leave valuable figurines and paintings? Confusion laced every thought that coursed through her mind. She stepped further into the room. All that remained was a small scrap of silver ribbon.
She’d bent down to pick it up when a fierce voice demanded, “Who the hell are you, and what are you doing here?”
She instantly came to attention, her hand practically holding her pounding heart in her chest. She clutched the silver ribbon as she turned around. She steeled her nerves, prepared to argue with the intruder, only to come face to face with…her masked gentleman.
It couldn’t be him. What was he doing here?
Oh, no! Panic ruptured in her heart. She tried to find words—even one would suffice— but nothing. For the first time in her life, she was speechless.
Recognition flashed in his eyes before he growled out. “I shall ask only once more.” The tall, imposing figure stepped closer.
She felt like a fox trapped by a hound. She was still trying to wrap her thoughts around the presence of this man, but before reason sank in, Clarice stormed into the undecorated room.
“What have you done, Theodore?”
Theodore? This was Her Grace’s son? This brute was the Duke of Greystone? Suddenly Patience felt lightheaded and entirely out of sorts. Worse, her feet were heavy as stone.
“Good morning, Mother,” His Grace said in a restrained tone laced with more sarcasm than Patience believed she’d ever heard. Clearly, it was not going to be a good morning.
“What happened to all the decorations?” Clarice demanded.
“Will you not return the greeting?”
“Good morning, Theodore,” Clarice offered, matching her son’s sarcasm. “What have you done with my decorations?”
“I ordered them to be taken down.” The Duke’s tone was matter-of-fact, as if the removal of decorations on Christmas Day was a normal occurrence.
Patience stood and watched the episode unfold as if sitting in her brother’s box at the theatre, watching Othello.
Clarice approached her son with a stern look on her face. She pointed one elegant finger at him as she ground out, “You cannot just walk in here and do whatever you want.”
“This is my house and my decision. If I—”
“Theodore.” Her Grace’s firm tone sent a chill down Patience’s spine. She did not want to witness what was certain to be a most ugly argument.
As the Dowager Duchess continued to scold the Duke, Patience backed out of the room one careful step at a time. Guilt settled in her stomach. She had overseen the decorating and now mother and son were at odds with one another because of her.
Only when Patience was safely away from the uncomfortable scene did she allow her mind to contemplate who the Duke of Greystone actually was.
She trudged through the halls in a daze. It was him.
What had she done to earn his wrath? Why had he disappeared before the unmasking? Surely, he remembered the kiss they’d shared? These and a thousand more questions swirled through her mind as reality stormed to the front of her thoughts. He was the elusive duke who rarely showed his face in polite society, and who was known for a trail of illustrious mistresses. Well, this was one woman who would not be fooled by him. Two could play at this game.
Out of the corner of his eye, Greystone watched Miss Leybourne sneak out of the room like a common thief. He would not tolerate such behavior in his home. However, he couldn’t deal with her until he’d set things to rights with his mother.
“Why is she here, Mother?”
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Bestselling, award-winning author, Alanna Lucas pens Regency-set historicals filled with romance, adventure, and of course, happily ever afters. When she is not daydreaming of her next travel destination Alanna can be found researching, spending time with family, volunteering, or going for long walks. She makes her home in California with her husband, children, one sweet dog, and hundreds of books.
Just for the record, you can never have too many handbags or books. And travel is a must.
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