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Kiss Me, Duke (League of Unweddable Gentleman, Book 5) (Ebook)

Kiss Me, Duke (League of Unweddable Gentleman, Book 5) (Ebook)

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Molly Clare is living her dream. Being a guest in a gorgeous villa while she explores Rome is everything she could’ve hoped for and more. The man who owns the villa is equally charming—and entirely too tempting. At least, that’s what he appears to be. The truth of who and what he really is…well, that’s infinitely more complicated.

Lord Hugh Farley is living a nightmare. Ruined by rumors of indiscretions he didn’t commit and betrayed by his own family, his only option was to leave London. But any hope he had for a quiet Roman exile is destroyed when she arrives. Molly is everything he’s ever wanted…and nothing he can have. But keeping his mind—and hands—off her quickly proves impossible.

Can Molly and Hugh find a way to clear his name and build a future together? Or is their happily ever after nothing but a fantasy?

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Rome Italy, 1829

They had arrived. Finally. Molly stepped out of the carriage and stretched, basked in the warm Mediterranean sun that warmed her blood and healed the many aches and pains from weeks of travel. Rome. Just the thought of where she was sent a thrill down her spine and expectation thrumming through her blood.
So many wonderful places to visit and see, and thanks to her wonderful friends back in London, and the Duke of Whitstone, month-long lodgings at the Villa Maius had been secured for her. The gentleman who resided here was from home, but his servants would care for her and her companion for the short time they would be in the city.
The front door to the villa opened, and a gray-haired, voluptuous woman came out onto the street, her smile as warm as the sun shining down on her back.
“Signora, Molly Clare, welcome. Welcome to Rome. Come, we shall serve refreshments for you. You must be exhausted.”
Molly smiled, relieved to be welcomed so lovingly at the home. She did not know anything of Mr. Farley, who lived here, other than he was friends with the Duke of Whitstone. There had always been a little niggling concern within her that the staff may be annoyed at her arrival, being unknown to them as she was, but it would not seem to be so.
“Thank you for having me. I hope it is not too much trouble that I’m here.” She walked in off the street into a small foyer that led onto a large, rectangular room partly roofed. A fountain sat in its center, a naked cherub squirting water from his mouth. Looking up, Molly noted the opening in the roof sat directly over the fountain, and in ancient times, it would be the place the villa would have collected its water for the family.
“Oh, no no no. We’re very happy to have you here.” The servant ordered a tall, dark-haired man to attend to the luggage while she walked them toward a set of stairs. “Mr. Armstrong is not here. He is away in Naples for the duration of your stay, and we have been expecting you. He informed us all before he left last month to care for you well. You have mutual friends, yes?”
Molly looked about the villa. Mosaic-tiled floors adorned the space, images of Roman life, of agricultural scenes and animals. All lower-floor rooms had their windows open, the curtains billowing with the warm, Mediterranean air. The breeze smelled of salt and spices, of oranges and freshly cut grass. She stopped a moment, taking in the view from one of the windows she could see through a doorway. The courtyard garden, full of olive trees, beckoned her to sit and savor its beauty.
“We do, yes. The Duke of Whitstone. Although I have never met Mr. Armstrong, I am very grateful to him for allowing me to stay here.”
The housekeeper beamed, seemingly well pleased at her compliment of her employer. “He is the best of men whom I’m sorry you shall not have the honor of meeting.” The woman started up the stone stairs. “I’m Maria, my dear, the housekeeper of Villa Maius. Should you need anything at all, merely let me know, and I shall do all that I can to make your stay enjoyable.”
“Thank you.” They climbed the stairs, the second floor opened up to a large, rectangular room with reclining wicker chairs. A balcony stood at the end of the room. Molly could not pass without taking in the view. She stepped out onto the balcony, the breath catching in her lungs. The view overlooked the street they had entered on. At this height, it gave her a better vantage point of the city beyond. Rome. Its glory spread out before her like a gift from the gods. Her fingers curled around the stone balustrade, anchoring herself so she would not run from the villa and see firsthand the ancient city. Sounds wafted up to tease her and urge her to leave and explore.
Soon, she promised. As soon as she had bathed and had a restoring cup of tea.
“The center of Rome is only a short walk from here. At the other end of the villa is another room similar to this that overlooks the river Tiber. I can always have the carriage put at your disposal, however, if you do not want to walk. To see the Vatican, you shall have to avail yourself of the vehicle.”
Excitement thrummed through her veins, and she leaned out over the railing, spying a few people out on the streets, some taking in the sights while others plied their trade. “What a magnificent city. I have always wanted to tour, and now I can. I cannot believe it.”
“I am dreading the return journey, however,” her companion, Miss Sinclair said, joining her and staring down at the city with a disgruntled air. “Shall we have tea?”
Molly was reluctant to leave the magnificent view, one she longed to be part of, and nor would she allow Miss Sinclair’s dislike of the distances they had traversed to dampen her excitement. If her companion did not wish to see Rome, she could stay here at the villa. Molly went about London most of the time on her own, it would not be out of character for her.
“Yes, let’s, and then I can get started on exploring this wonderful city.”
“Would you like to have tea on the balcony, Signora Molly?”
“Thank you, yes,” she replied, seeing the outdoor setting and sitting. Servants bustled about the home, bringing up their trunks to the rooms. Molly could almost pinch herself just to confirm that she was indeed here in Rome. Her time was precious, only a month, and then they would be on the return journey back to England. Travel would take several weeks, and she wanted to visit some other cities on the continent before returning to London and the new Season.
The tea was sweet and refreshing, and lovingly the housekeeper had made some biscuits with almonds through them, which squelched her rumbling stomach.
Molly leaned back in her chair, placing down her napkin, well-sated after the fleeting repast. “Shall we finish the tour of the house, see our rooms and then decide where to go first?”
“Of course, Miss Molly,” Miss Sinclair said, yawning.
It had been a long day, but Molly was too excited, had waited too long to be in Rome to lie down for the afternoon. She wanted to explore, walk the streets, visit the markets, and be part of the culture here in this ancient city.
“If you’re tired, Miss Sinclair, I can always go out without you. I do not mind.”
Miss Sinclair’s lips pursed into a disapproving, thin line. “No, that would never do. You need to have a chaperone and company to keep you safe. I will simply have to endure it.”
“I do not wish for you to endure Rome. I want you to enjoy it as much as I intend on doing.”
“I do not believe that will be possible, Miss Molly. I have an aversion to heat, and if it did not escape your notice, it is very hot outside.”
Molly turned toward the balcony, the slight breeze wafting in through the doors cooled her skin. Yes it was warm, but England was always so very cold. How could anyone not make use of such beautiful weather and explore it?
The housekeeper stepped forward, catching Molly’s eye. “We have a manservant here, Miss Clare. He would be more than happy to escort you about Rome so you may see some of our wonderful city.”
Molly smiled at Miss Sinclair. “See, I shall be perfectly safe. You may have this afternoon to rest and recuperate, and we shall come together for dinner this evening before tonight’s ball.”
“You intend to attend Lord and Lady Dalton’s ball this evening? Even though we only arrived today?”
“Of course I intend to go.” Molly shook her head at her companion, having gained the sense that she did not want to go or do anything while they were here. The prospect was not helpful, nor would it be possible. Molly had four weeks to visit this wonderful city, and she would simply have to ignore her companion’s complaints about seeing everything they could in that time.
“Maria, will you show me to my room, please?”
The housekeeper bustled down a wide passageway until she came to a room that overlooked more of the villa grounds, lawns, and gardens that swam with a variety of colors. The tinkling sound of water carried up to her, and she looked for the fountain but could not see it from her room. She would have to go downstairs to find it herself.
Her room was a tiled mosaic floor that was made out in a variety of blossoming flowers. Her bed was large, opulent with its coverlet and abundance of pillows. She, too, was partial to lots of pillows on beds. It somehow made them look complete. Perfect.
A small writing desk occupied the space before one window, and a large settee sat before her fire. Although she did not believe she would need that at all while she was here in Rome. Not with it being so warm.
“There is freshwater and linens behind the screen for you, Miss Molly. When you’re ready to go out, come downstairs, and I shall fetch Marcus for you. He will keep you safe and show you all the best sites Rome has on offer.”
“Thank you so much. I cannot tell you how thrilled I am about being here.”
The housekeeper smiled before leaving her to her ablutions, the sound of Miss Sinclair’s voice as she was taken to her room echoing down the hall.
Molly walked to the small balcony her room had and glanced down at the garden. She raised her face to the sun, breathing deep. What an idyllic location to live. One could get used to such a place and never return home to rainy, dreary old London.

Main Tropes

  • Road Trip
  • Friends to Lovers
  • Regency Romance
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