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My Virtuous Duke, Dalliance and Dukes, Book 1 (Ebook)

My Virtuous Duke, Dalliance and Dukes, Book 1 (Ebook)

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Dashing Arthur Winter, Duke Beaufort needs an heir, but the path to marriage is as tricky as a waltz. Lucky for him, the witty Lady Deandra Coleridge, his best friend and confidante, steps in to help him win the heart of a debutante. Yet, a simple kiss unravels unexpected desires between them. Will any debutante suffice, or has the one he longs for been by his side all along? Get ready for a tale where love takes the lead!

 

**Please note: My Virtuous Duke was part of the I LIke Big Dukes and I Cannot Lie anthology prior to purchasing**

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“Dee Dee, are you at home?” Arthur called from the foyer.
“In the library,” Deandra, or Dee Dee to her closest friends replied, standing up from behind her desk to meet one of her oldest friends she had not seen since last Season. Too long, since she always loved Arthur's company.
The Duke of Beaufort entered, his smile as warm and wide as hers, and pulled her into a tight embrace. “Oh, how I have missed you." He did not let her go until he had squeezed her, as was their usual greeting after such a long absence.
She chuckled and lifted her head to take in his magnificence, which she had always been fond of, even if never in a romantic light. Well, except for that one time when she was eighteen and enjoying her first Season in town.
“Come and sit," she said. "I shall have tea and cake delivered so we may catch up. I’m certain there is much to discuss now that you’re back in town and the Season has commenced. What took you so long to arrive? I was starting to think that you would never return.”
“Ah, well, as to that, I’ve been at a house party in Surrey, the one Lord Digby holds each year. I met a delightful young lady who’s having her coming-out this year. In fact, she should be in town by now, and if my belief is correct, I should have an invitation waiting for me on my desk for her ball tomorrow evening.”
“Well, that does sound promising,” she said, walking over to the mantel and pulling the bellpull. “So I gather from your conjecture that you fancy the young woman to be a potential bride for yourself. I was starting to wonder when you would marry. You are not getting any younger, after all, Arthur.”
She smiled when the duke scoffed and tried to appear offended, not that he ever fooled her. They had been friends far too long for any secrets to still be between them. “Not everyone marries their first Season like you, Dee Dee. But my uncle has started threatening me with castration if I do not secure the ducal line, and soon. He forever reminds me that his sons are married with boys who can take up the mantle if I'm not man enough to complete the job. Which even I’m loath to fail. My father, dearly departed as he is, would come back and haunt me if I did not secure the line.”
“That would be a shame, yes, especially when the Beaufort line has been strong for over four hundred years.” Deandra smiled at the memory of how proud his mama was of her only child and son. Not that she herself had been blessed with children, no matter how much she and Lord Coleridge had tried during their short marriage.
She shook the melancholy thoughts aside, knowing that while Arthur's ability to sire sons was not hindered by age, hers most certainly was. And at nine and twenty, the same age as Arthur, her time to become a mother had long slipped away. And she was not entirely sure she could carry a child, not after all the disappointments she endured, month after month, failing the one thing that could have given her happiness in the marriage.
“So,” Arthur said, slapping his knees as he sat beside her. “This is one of the reasons why I’m here today seeing my oldest and best friend.” He stared at her a moment, his gaze turning serious. “I need your help, Dee Dee.”
“My help?” she stated, pointing to herself and forgetting for a moment they were the only two in the room. “Whatever do you need my assistance for? You’re a duke, and a wealthy one at that. I would be of little service to you.”
“Ah, but you see, that is where you’re wrong. You are part owner of one of the wealthiest gaming and gentlemen’s clubs in London, and a widow. And with that comes experience and information I think I shall find useful, especially since I have been locked away in Somerset for the past two years taking over the estate after my father’s death.”
Deandra frowned, unsure where this conversation was going or what he wanted from her. “What are you asking? You have me thinking all kinds of things, and none of them comforting.”
“Well, I thought it would be obvious. You know that I’m not like most men.”
That was very true. In fact, for several months many years ago, Deandra had thought Arthur had preferred the company of his own sex over the fairer one, but his interest soon turned toward the feminine side of society, and so she forgot about such thoughts. But now, what on heaven's door was he talking about?
“I think that the fact you’re not like most men is a blessing, not a sin, but please tell me what you’re after so I can say either yes or no to your request. You are being quite elusive.”
“If I’m being reticent, it’s only because I’m nervous to ask you. Some things regarding men ought to be kept an enigma, and I’m concerned that you will judge me.”
Maybe her past thoughts on his sexual preference were correct after all, and he was going to ask her how to help him overcome that to marry this debutante he’d met. “Arthur, say it now or leave. My patience is waning,” she said, throwing him a pointed stare.
“Very well, I shall ask what I need to and declare something I know you’ll find difficult to believe, but please do not laugh at me, for all I’m about to say is true.”
She schooled her features and nodded. “I promise not to laugh or judge.”
Arthur took a fortifying breath and met her gaze. “While I enjoy female company and have almost kissed a lady or two, not debutantes mind, I do not want to find myself hitched to someone who is not whom I want. I have never actually been with a woman. I’ve not the skills to seduce whom I would like as my bride, and that’s where you come in. My best friend and closest ally who would never do me ill or wrong, now would you, Dee Dee?”
She gaped at him, unsure she heard his words correctly. “Are you asking me to school you in the art of seduction and sex?”
His cheeks turned a bright pink, and Deandra had the answer to her question.
“I fear I shall disappoint whomever I marry, and since you’ve already been married and own a gaming hell where all sorts of trysts occur, you know the intimacies of the bedchamber." He paused. "And, well, we already love each other as friends. I thought, who better to ask than you?”
Deandra stared at him for several moments, the urge to laugh absent even after his absurd question. “Arthur, you’re a natural at whatever you do in life. I’m sure it’ll be the same when it comes to taking things further with your betrothed, whomever that ends up being. You do not need me to school you in such things, and when you mention schooling, do you mean we’re to sleep together? Have sex?”
His eyes widened, and he sat back in the chair, stunned. “Oh dear, no, I would never ask that of you. I merely need you to explain things to me and show me how things work without actually having to do any deeds together. As much as I wished I could have slept with women, and many of them, to this day, I have not. It never seemed honorable, if you understand. To follow through on such an act was tainted and wasteful when it was not with the right woman.”
A little piece of her heart melted at his explanation. She reached out and clasped his hand. “I think you having not ejaculated yourself around London is commendable, Arthur.”
“Oh dear Lord, Dee Dee. That is a visual I do not wish to imagine.”
She chuckled, having thought the imagery quite hilarious herself. “So many men, my husband included, thought it a hoot to squirt all over London, and with some of my friends, no less, even though they think I do not know their treachery. That you have not only makes you more darling in my eyes than you were before, and so yes, I shall help you. Owning the gaming hell, one does see many things others do not, and as a widow, I think I can help you become a master of your art, so whomever you marry will be well pleased.”
“You’re a sweetheart, and I thank you. Now, what shall you teach me first? I must know as much as I can and as soon as possible. Lady Mabel’s coming out ball is tomorrow evening. If I’m to be a leading candidate for her hand, I must be suave and seductive, without being unnerving.”
“I think first I must watch you at the ball, see how you perform without my infusion so I know where your skills may be lacking and where I can help most. So tomorrow night, we shall attend the Ryder ball, and I shall observe. But truly, Arthur, I do not think you’ll need my help. You ought to give yourself more credit for being such a gentleman and coming to a marriage without having rutted half of London. One never wants to marry a man and be fearful of catching syphilis or some such ailment. A fear I, too, held after marrying Lord Coleridge.”
“You did?” he stated, surprised.
She threw him a dubious look. “Do not play dumb with me, even you know what kind of man I married. Now, off you go. I have work to do, and I shall see you at the ball tomorrow evening.”
He leaned over and bussed her cheek. “Thank you, Dee Dee. You are the best person I know.”
She smiled and watched him go. “As are you,” she whispered into the empty room as she heard the front door shut.

Main Tropes

  • Friends to Lovers
  • Scandalous Agreement
  • Regency Romance
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