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When a Duke Pursues a Lady (MF)

Ways of Love

Etopia Press

Heat Rating: STEAMY
Word Count: 83,025
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An innocent woman. A loyal agent to the Crown. A path of deception that tests the bonds of love.

After three years trapped in an abusive and loveless marriage, Lyra Coventry has been arrested for the murder of her husband, the Earl of Weston. Although she's innocent of the crime, she has no one to turn to for help, until Alister Ayles, the Duke of Albright, comes forward to offer his aid. The handsome duke takes her into his custody, saving her from a jail cell. But Lyra doesn't suspect Alister's ulterior motive—to prove her guilty of treason—as she slowly loses her heart to a man who is far more than he seems...

Alister Ayles leads a secret life. To the ton, he is a dullard, the subject of ridicule. But as a highly respected agent for the Crown, he's discovered a higher purpose by protecting his country. Now he's faced with his toughest investigation to date, uncovering a plot against the Crown...and discovering whether or not Lyra, the woman he let slip through his fingers years ago, is a traitor. Nothing is as it seems, and as the plot unravels, the dangers to them increase. He struggles to keep his feelings for her contained, but when it comes down to a test of loyalty, will he stand strong, or fall prey to his desires?

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Excerpt

CHAPTER ONE



London, England

December 5, 1819



Lyra Coventry, Lady Weston, was led out of her townhouse in irons, surrounded by five men in uniform as if she was already convicted as a hardened criminal. It was, by far, the most humiliating thing that she had ever been forced to endure in her life, although she had a sinking feeling that the worst was yet to come.

She supposed such treatment was to be expected when one was charged with the murder of one’s husband, and most notably a peer of the realm. It was a felony that fell just short of the mark of treason.

Apparently, it didn’t matter that she was innocent until proven guilty.

She tried to drown out the determined pleas of her mother behind her, who had dropped by for a visit, a rather memorable one to be sure. “This is an outrage! I shall go to Prinny himself, for this is a horrendous and unforgivable accusation!”

The dowager was thoroughly ignored as Lyra was shoved into the back of the jailer’s wagon.

Lyra couldn’t help but cringe when the door slammed shut behind her with a resounding bang. Even though she was a countess, someone obviously felt she wasn’t worthy of the simple matter of discretion.

As the vehicle jerked into motion, Lyra turned her head to glance out the bars that separated her from the outside world. People were already beginning to line the streets to openly stare, fans fluttering wildly with the gossip that would be smeared across every newspaper and parlor before the day was out. To be fair, Lyra supposed it wasn’t often that such a shocking scene paraded down fashionable Mayfair.

With a heavy sigh, she closed her eyes.

She did her best to keep the pitying tears at bay, but when the carriage finally drew to a halt at the Tower, she felt her courage falter slightly. How many times had she been here to visit the Royal Menagerie or admire the Crown Jewels? Such freedoms seemed rather long ago now, as she was hauled out rather unceremoniously and marched through the historic castle. At this point, she was surprised that she hadn’t been sent down the Thames and forced to enter through Traitor’s Gate.

As Lyra was led up a narrow set of stairs that led to the infamous White Tower, she felt her breath leave her lungs in a rush. That turret was meant to strike fear into the residents of London, and it didn’t fail to seize her heart now. She instantly recalled every story she’d heard through the years about beheadings, being burned at the stake, and torture on the rack. While none of those devices had been in practice for years, the gallows was still a very real threat. She swallowed anxiously at the thought as if she could already feel the coarse hemp cutting into her delicate skin.

Her jailers finally paused at a heavy, wooden door. A set of iron keys rattled in the lock, and the door swung wide to reveal a decent-sized chamber where she would await her dismal fate. While it was her due, as an earl’s widow, to gain a trial in the House of Lords, she wondered if she would even be offered that courtesy, or if she might be forced to stand trial before the assizes, like the common masses.

The jailer gave her a firm shove. She stumbled inside the room as the door clanged firmly shut behind her.

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