I can’t believe it’s six months to the day that Sarah Mallory featured here on Linda’s Book Bag with an excellent post on researching historical fiction to celebrate The Duke’s Family for Christmas and I’m still waiting to read that one! Today Sarah has another fabulous sounding book out – The Night She Met the Duke and it’s a privilege to share an extract with you.
Published by Mills & Boon Historical today, 27th April 2023, The Night She Met the Duke is available for purchase here.
The Night She Met the Duke
Who is her mysterious midnight visitor?
Hearing herself described as ‘a lady as dull as her name’ is the final straw in Prudence Clifford’s disastrous Season, so she decides to stay with her aunt in Bath. But Pru’s new life is anything but dull when one night she finds an uninvited, devastatingly handsome duke at her kitchen table! Pru knows she will never forget the emotional connection they shared. But it’s their unexpected reunion three months later which will prove truly unforgettable…
The Night She Met the Duke
Setting: Pru had gone down to the kitchen to find the lamps burning and a stranger sitting at the table.
‘What is the meaning of this?’
At Pru’s outraged exclamation the stranger looked up. Her first thought had been that he was a friend of Nicholas, but she quickly changed her mind. A fashionable curly brimmed beaver hat lay beside him on the table and his dark coat was perfectly tailored to fit over his broad shoulders. His white silk waistcoat was exquisitely embroidered and as he raised his head, the candlelight glinted on the diamond nestling in the folds of his dishevelled neckcloth. Despite his craggy features and the dark stubble covering his face, this was no servant.
He did not get up, merely glowered at her from beneath his black brows.
‘The gate to your area steps was open.’
‘That may well be so, but it does not excuse your coming in here.’
‘I fell down the damned steps! Since the door was open, I thought I might as well come in this way, rather than go back up to the front door.’
‘But it is one o’clock in the morning!’ she retorted.
‘Aye. The night is still young.’
From the faint slurring of his words, she suspected he was not quite sober. She blew out her candle and placed it on the table.
She said coldly, ‘I would be obliged if you would leave the way you came. Immediately.’
‘Oh, I don’t think so. You see, I am in dire need of diversion.’
He pushed himself to his feet and Pru quickly stepped aside, keeping the full width of the kitchen table between them.
‘Go,’ she commanded. ‘Get out!’
‘Ah, you are thinking I have no money.’ He glanced down at his clothes. ‘I grant you I am a little dusty from the fall, but be assured, I can afford to pay for my pleasures.’ He threw a heavy purse upon the table. ‘There, does that make my presence more acceptable?’
‘Not in the least,’ Pru retorted. ‘If you were a gentleman, you would go away this minute.’
‘Well, I’m not. I am a duke—’
She gave a scornful laugh. ‘Even worse!’
‘For heaven’s sake, ma’am, I have only come here to play.’
He took a step towards Pru and she snatched up the poker from the hearth behind her.
‘Stay away from me!’ she warned him. ‘Get out now, or, or I will call my manservant.’
The stranger scowled. His black hair had fallen across his brow and he pushed it back with an impatient hand.
‘Hell and damnation, woman, I have no designs upon your virtue! I want to play cards.’
‘Cards!’ Enlightenment dawned, but Pru did not lower the poker. ‘Then you have the wrong house.’
His dark eyes stared at her. ‘This is not Sally Triscombe’s house?’
‘It most certainly is not.’
‘I’ll be damned.’
She winced at his language but replied in chilling accents.‘Very likely, but not here. Now please, go away.’
He ignored her.
‘This is Kilve Street, is it not?’ He rubbed a hand across his eyes. ‘And Sal Triscombe has a house here. A widow lady,’ he added. ‘Very attractive and…accommodating, I am told.’
‘How dare you suggest I would know any such creature.’
‘Are you telling me you don’t?’
Pru bit her lip. She had heard rumours, of course, but no lady would discuss such matters with a strange man. He was looking at her, expecting an answer.
She said carefully, ‘I believe such a person might live in the house two doors along.’
He nodded, but the effort seemed to weaken him. He staggered.
‘I beg your pardon,’ he said, leaning on the table to support himself. ‘I am damnably drunk you know.’
‘I gathered that much.’ Good heavens, what was she doing, talking with this man?
‘I have been drinking with my friends since dawn.’
‘I have no wish to know about your celebrations.’
‘Oh, I wasn’t celebrating,’ he told her, his lip curling. ‘Drowning my sorrows. Although I didn’t tell my friends that.’
But Pru was no longer listening. His head was bowed and he was clearly struggling to stay on his feet.
‘When did you last eat?’ she demanded.
‘I cannot remember. Not today. We broke our fast with wine this morning…’
‘Good heavens.’ She waved him back towards the chair. ‘Sit down.’
‘You need sustenance before you go anywhere.’
‘Believe me you do,’ she told him. ‘I would not wager on you getting more than a few yards in your present state. You are far more likely to collapse and be set upon by footpads. Sit down and I will find something for you to eat.’
With an effort he raised his head and looked at her. ‘Why should you do that?’
‘Because I would not want your death on my conscience!’
With a shrug he lowered himself gingerly onto the chair and Pru bustled about, fetching various foods from the larder. She set before him a knife, fork and a plate upon which she had placed the remains of a game pie. She found bread, cheese and a few jars of pickles and put them on the table before going off to retrieve a ham from the larder.
‘Are you going to join me?’ he asked, as she began to carve the ham.
‘But you are going to watch me.’
‘I certainly do not intend to leave you alone here. Who knows what mischief you might make?’ She placed two thick slices of ham on his plate. ‘There. Make a start on that and I will fetch you a tankard of ale.’
‘What, no wine?’
‘I wish to make you sober, not more drunk.’
‘Then at least pour a drink for yourself.’
Pru was about to make some cutting reply, but she stopped, realising that she would indeed like something to fortify herself.
Five minutes later she was sitting opposite the stranger at the table, sipping at a glass of small beer while her companion feasted on the cold meats and pickles she had provided. How prosaic she was. How ordinary. The heroine of her novel would have fainted off to find an intruder in her house. She would not have fed him.
‘What do you find so amusing?’ Her companion’s voice cut through these wry thoughts. She looked up to find him watching her.
He waved a knife in her direction. ‘You were smiling.’
‘Perhaps not.’ He studied her. ‘Ah, I see now. Your mouth curves up naturally at the corners.’
‘Yes.’ She looked away, saying with a faint sigh, ‘It is a fault.’
‘It is as if you are always on the edge of laughter. How can that be a bad thing?’
‘My mouth is too wide.’
‘I do not think so.’
Pru realised this was not a proper conversation to be having with a strange man and did not reply.
‘May I know to whom I am indebted for this supper?’ he asked her presently.
‘To my aunt, Mrs Clifford. This is her house.’
His eyes narrowed. ‘It is your name I wish to know.’
‘I am Miss Clifford.’
He raised his brows and Pru firmly closed her lips, determined not to tell him her first name. However, after a few moments curiosity got the better of her and she broke the silence.
‘And who are you, sir?’
‘Garrick Chauntry. Duke of Hartland.’
Oo. And now of course, I want to know what’s going to happen between them!
About Sarah Mallory
Sarah Malloryis an award-winning author of over 50 published books, including more than 30 historical romances for Harlequin/Mills & Boon, and she also writes sparkling adventure romances as Melinda Hammond.
Originally from the West Country, Sarah lived for many years high on the Yorkshire Pennines, but in 2018 she ran away to the Scottish Highlands and now lives by the sea, enjoying a whole new adventure.
You can follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahMRomance. You can also visit her excellent website and find her on Instagram or Facebook.