Accidentally Compromising the Duke

BOOK: Accidentally Compromising the Duke
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England, 1817.
Miss Adeline Hays is out of options. Determined to escape marriage to a repugnant earl, Adel plans to deliberately allow herself to be caught in a compromising position at a house party with the much kinder man she’d hoped to marry. Instead, Adeline accidentally enters the wrong chamber and tumbles into the bed of the mad duke.

Edmond Rochester, the duke of Wolverton, is seeking a wife to care for his two daughters. A young lady of sensibilities, accomplishment, and most importantly, one who he is not attracted to—a complete opposite of the bewitching beauty who traps him into marriage. But despite the lust he feels for his new duchess, Edmond is resolved to never allow them intimacy, refusing to ever again suffer the tormenting loss of a loved one.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2016 by Stacy Reid. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.

Entangled Publishing, LLC

2614 South Timberline Road

Suite 109

Fort Collins, CO 80525

Visit our website at
www.entangledpublishing.com
.

Scandalous is an imprint of Entangled Publishing, LLC.

Edited by Alycia Tornetta

Cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill

Cover art by Period Images

ISBN 978-1-63375-653-3

Manufactured in the United States of America

First Edition May 2016

Table of Contents

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Epilogue

Author’s Note

Acknowledgments

About the Author

More from Stacy Reid…

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Sins of a Duke
The Royal Conquest
The Duke’s Shotgun Wedding

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How to Bewitch an Earl
One Last Kiss
The Highlander’s Accidental Marriage

For Dusean: I love you

Chapter One

E
NGLAND, 1817

P
EMBINGTON
H
OUSE,
W
ILTSHIRE

The cold press of keys in Lady Adeline’s palm, and the knowledge of why they had been so surreptitiously given, made her feel decidedly wicked, a state she was experiencing for the first time in her twenty-one years. Anticipation and nerves cascaded through her in equal measure at the notion of acting in a manner that was improper, potentially ruinous, and without any doubt, utterly scandalous.

Tonight she would decide her own future—an acknowledged extraordinary feat—and take a very bold step to ensure the gentleman she would marry was the man she deeply cared for and respected—Mr. James Atwood, and
not
the man who had attacked her, taking liberties he had no right to—the Earl of Vale.

“Thank you,” Adel said softly to her dearest friend, Lady Evelyn—Evie to her close intimates. Adel was grateful she had someone assisting her in this escapade; surely her nerves would have deserted her if she acted alone.

Evie leaned in close. “Remember, I will arrange for mother to enter his chamber very soon.”

Adel nodded. “How will you convince her to intrude on Mr. Atwood’s privacy?”

“I urge you not to worry about the
how
. I know Mamma, and with a few whispers, I will make certain the chamber doors are opened at the opportune moment,” Evie said, her voice trembling with excitement. Or mayhap it was trepidation?

Adel buried a groan, flicking an invisible piece of lint from her light green gloves. “This plan of ours smacks of recklessness.”

An unladylike snort sounded. “Do you
want
to be the Countess of Vale?”

Not even if she was to be drawn and quartered. The earl was a repugnant reprobate, and a conceited ass. She would much prefer a quiet life in the country with a man she liked and respected, than the pomp and ceremony of being a countess to a man she loathed. Adel was in possession of two exquisite younger stepsisters whom she adored, who would benefit at their debuts, if Adel was a countess. Even with that added incentive, it was distressing to imagine a life as Lady Vale.

“No, I want to be Mrs. Atwood.” Though Adel felt no shivering excitement at the prospect, there was a distinct appeal of being the lady of her own home. She’d no longer live by the capricious whim of her stepmother, and best of all, never have to endure another year of a failed season.

“Then let’s dispense with the fear,” Evie said with an encouraging smile.

Adel cared little for society’s censure and opinions, being so far removed from the heart of the
ton
, spending most of the year in Somerset at her father’s modest but well-kept manor. However, Mr. Atwood had remarked on more than one occasion, the value he placed on high society’s opinion. “What if Mr. Atwood is outraged at my lack of propriety? When I suggested we elope, he adamantly and most earnestly refused.”

Evie gripped her hand. “He wants to marry you, very much, and if you do not act, you will endure a lifetime of pain as the earl’s wife. I would daresay you and Mr. Atwood will be the only love match of the season, and a few gossips should not prevent such a union. It is not as if you have any intention of making your permanent abode in London. From my experience gossip in the country is nonexistent. I implore you, though, to ensure you are not in a terrible state of
dishabille
. We want a bit of a stir, not a full blown scandal.”

Adel scowled. “Now is not the time to use ‘full blown’ and ‘scandal’ in the same breath. And I have no intention of moving from the door. We only need a hint of impropriety to convince Papa, and I daresay the very notion of me being on the threshold of Mr. Atwood’s chamber is enough. I am a bit anxious at how my actions will affect Helena’s debut.”

Evie plucked two glasses of champagne from a passing footman and handed Adel one. “Your sister is fourteen. She has two more years before facing the gauntlet of the marriage mart. Even if there is a slight stir, it would certainly be squashed by then. With her beauty, the
beaux
of the
ton
will be very agreeable and forgiving.”

Adel sighed. “Very well. Onward with our plan.”

Evie gave her an approving look, then with a wink, she darted away.

Adel turned toward the large potted palm to her left, and with the utmost secrecy, slipped the keys into the neckline at her bosom. There was no chance of them being jostled loose, for it was unlikely she would partake in any of the night’s frivolities.

She strolled along the edge of the ballroom, humming softly to the lively music of the quadrille. She hadn’t been asked to dance all evening, though she had worn the most lavish silken high-waisted gown she owned. Her underdress of palest blue silk had the bodice decorated with tiny forget-me-not flowers embroidered with seed pearls. The three rows of ruched ribbon showed beneath her simple white gauze overdress and she thought she looked particularly fine. She also wore her mother’s pearls in her ears and around her throat, and had caught her hair in a loose chignon with a few loose tendrils cascading in a becoming manner down her neck. A few admiring glances had drifted her way, but none of the young men had made any overtures for even conversation.

With a soft sigh she directed her gaze to the dance floor, an ache building in her chest. When was the last time she had been asked to dance at a ball? Adel was fully cognizant of only being passably pretty without much distinction to recommend her for marriage. But surely the gentlemen of the
ton
could be courteous enough to dance with the young ladies without obvious partners.

She straightened her spine, refusing to dampen her spirits. By this time tomorrow, her engagement would be announced, and she would be free as much as it was possible to be unencumbered as a man’s wife. She suppressed the uncharitable thought, for Mr. Atwood was a dear friend, and when they wed he would treat her with respect and gentle regard, not as property.

She lifted the champagne to her lips and sipped. She had been wondering if she should make Mr. Atwood privy to their plan. Evie had been adamant it be a secret in the event things went awry, but Adel wanted some reassurance from the man she intended to thoroughly compromise.

Compromised
.

Nerves erupted in her stomach and her hands trembled. What if the resultant scandal was so vast, she was unable to return to society? And Mr. Atwood’s ambitions of being a successful barrister were destroyed in the aftermath? And Helena was tarnished by association?

You are being a ninny. Only Lady Gladstone will know,
Adel sternly reminded herself. The countess was very discreet. After all, she had already spied Evie in a shocking embrace with the scarred and aloof Marquess of Westfall, and none in society had been any the wiser. The countess had swept it under the rug, no doubt because of the man’s dastardly reputation.

BOOK: Accidentally Compromising the Duke
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