For over a year, Miss Gwendolyn Parkes and the Duke of Sowrith have corresponded. At first an error, the letters quickly became something much more—a friendship forged on like minds and perhaps the hope of something more…. When Gwen is compelled by her employer to attend the duke at his Dartmoor estate, she is devastated to find her beloved friend cold and imperious, even if he is the most handsome man she’s ever seen—despite his scars. Edward, Duke of Sowrith, has longed to meet Gwen. After arranging her passage to his estate, he is tongue-tied when confronted with her quiet beauty. All too aware of the twisted ruin of his face, he allows fear to hold him silent…until Gwen’s safety is threatened. Finally together, they grow closer until it seems they can never again be apart. But can a commoner and a duke find a happily ever after?
Crossing her arms over her stomach, she leaned forward, pressing deep. Good heavens, she was nervous, and excited, and nervous. She was going to meet Edward. One moment soon, he was going to open that door, and she would see him. She would see the man she’d corresponded with for over a year, to whom she’d expressed every thought, and who had expressed his to her. It did not matter that he was a duke, so far above her in consequence as to be laughable. He was her friend, and, at last, they would meet.
Foot tapping wildly, she leaned her head back against the wall. This was all so ridiculous. She was ridiculous to have this unbridled excitement rioting through her. Exhaling, she caught the stare of the gargoyle. The gargoyle knew how ridiculous her thoughts. Its stone features laughed at her, and in a fit of pique, she poked her tongue out.
The study door opened. Leaping to her feet, she swayed as the blood rushed from her head.
Lord Beecham appeared in the door way and, his eyes lighting upon her, crooked a finger. “Miss Parkes. Come.”
Heart beating a rapid tattoo, she bent to grip the handle of her carpet bag. Lord Beecham had abandoned the door by the time she had gathered herself enough to approach, the worn wooden handle of the bag pressing deep into her palm.
Passing through the doorway, Gwen stopped, her jaw slack as she looked about the chamber. Lit only by the flame of the massive fireplace dominating one wall and the wan flicker of a lamp seated on the enormous desk, the room was huge, cavernous even, and dark. So dark. The faint light picked up rows upon rows of books while heavy drapes of an unidentifiable fabric covered what she could only presume were windows. The floor was the same stone as the hall, the only carpet appearing before the fire under the clawed feet of a large armchair.
Her gaze returned to the fireplace. A man stood before it, his back to her, right hand held by his left.
Her heart, already racing, started a wild thud against her ribs. That was him. The duke. Edward.
He did not turn, though she willed him to. Willed him to turn so she could utter that most important of phrases, the one she’d longed to say for an age now.