on September 26th 2017
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After killing his opponent in a duel, Lionel Maitland, Marquess of Axbridge, is known as the Duke of Danger. Tortured by guilt, he shields himself with a devil-may-care attitude. However, when he kills another man in another duel, he’s beyond redemption, even though it wasn’t his fault. He refuses to smear a dead man’s name, especially when he’s left behind a blameless widow who doesn’t deserve an even bigger scandal.
Widowed and destitute, Lady Emmaline Townsend must marry the man of her parents’ choosing or beg unsympathetic relatives for support. The only way out is to ask for help from the one man she’s sworn to hate, the man who owes her anything she asks, the man who killed her husband. They strike a devil’s bargain in which passion simmers just beneath the surface. But her dead husband’s transgressions come back to haunt them and threaten their chance at love.
At last, he heard footsteps. The latch clicked, and the door opened. Lady Townsend quickly stepped inside, closing the door firmly behind her.
She took in the small space and positioned herself as far away from him as possible. That still only allowed maybe four feet between them. “This is rather close.”
He straightened to his full height, pushing off the shelves behind his back. “It’s also out of the way.”
She elevated her chin. “I suppose it is.”
“Forgive me, but I’ve been trying to reason why you’d want to marry me, and I’m afraid I’ve come up with absolutely nothing.”
“I admit it’s a severe plan, but I’m at my wit’s end. I’m destined for a marriage I don’t want, and it’s all your fault. You did say you would do anything to help me. Didn’t you mean that?”
“Of course I did. I’m a man of honor, for better or for worse.” Often for worse, it seemed.
She looked away from him, her jaw tightening. When her gaze found his once more, her eyes were fire and ice, a mixture of hot anger and frigid determination. “Your honor has definitely been worse for me. Which is why I am seeking your help—you owe me.”
“Yes, and I’d planned to demand money to settle Geoffrey’s debts. After I gave you the cut direct. Which I didn’t get to do.” She folded her arms across her chest, and he felt her frustration fill the small space. “Things are not going the way I’d planned.”
“I’m sorry things aren’t progressing as you wanted.” His chest squeezed, and he fought to take a breath. “Your life isn’t at all what you’d expected it would be, and that’s entirely my fault,” he said quietly. “I will give you the money you need and anything else you require.”
“Anything. Yes, you said that last summer too.” Her gaze locked on to his. “My parents have decided I should marry someone I don’t want to. They have already set things in motion. I need you to marry me instead.”
“Forgive me, Lady Townsend, but I find it difficult to comprehend there is anyone you’d rather marry less than me.”
She laughed, a dark, hollow sound that made his guts twist. “Yes, I can see why you’d think that, and if we were to have a true marriage, it would likely be accurate. However, to save me from marrying Sir Duncan, we will wed, and it will be a marriage of utter convenience—for me. I shall be independent to do as I please, you will provide me with ample pin money, and there will be absolutely no intimacy.”
“You want me to accept an agreement of marriage in which I have no children, not even an heir?”
Her icy gaze didn’t waver. “Yes.”
Bloodiest of hells. How could he possibly agree to that? He had a responsibility to his title, his family. Yes, there was someone—his second cousin’s son—who could inherit, but that wasn’t the point. His father, if he were still alive, would be devastated to think that Lionel would trade away their legacy in such a fashion.
And yet…he owed her. He’d promised her. And if he was nothing else, he was, above all, a man of honor.