Dear Reader,

From the moment the Duke of Ainsley walked onto the page as the youngest brother in Passions of a Wicked Earl, I knew he was special and would require a unique story. He has everything: an impressive title, immense wealth, his mother's love, his brothers' devotion. All he touches turns to gold, until one fateful night when everything becomes tarnished. He and his long-time friend, the Marquess of Walfort, are out on the town celebrating that Walfort's wife, Jayne, is finally with child. Too much liquor and a mad dash through the London streets in Ainsley's curricle—with Ainsley at the reins—result in an accident that leaves Walfort paralyzed. The stress of dealing with the aftermath causes Jayne to lose the child and her one hope of ever being a mother.

Three years later, Ainsley is still dealing with the guilt of that night. He owes Walfort a debt he can never repay. But Walfort has a payment in mind: provide Jayne with the one thing she desires—a child.

This is a story of friendship, sacrifice, and love. I hope you enjoy the journey.

Lorraine



Excerpt from Waking Up With The Duke

© Lorraine Heath


After the servant escorted Ainsley into Walfort’s bedchamber, the door closed quietly behind him. In the sitting area near the fireplace, Walfort glanced over at him. “Ainsley, good, we wanted to talk with you...before either of us lost our nerve.”

He immediately sobered. This wasn’t good.

“Please join us,” Walfort continued.

Ainsley wondered if the vacant spot on the settee beside Jayne had been reserved for him. He strode across the room and stood beside the fireplace, resting his forearm against the mantel. The fire was high, blazing, yet Jayne seemed to be shivering. Her toes peeked out from beneath the hem of her nightdress, one foot crossed over the other. She appeared so vulnerable. Unlike her husband, she had yet to look at or acknowledge him. Her gaze was riveted on the flames.

“Jayne had a few questions,” Walfort began.

“About?” His voice sounded rough, raw. All the whiskey burning his throat for the past few hours.

“My plan for seeing that she gains the child she so desperately wants.”

Which judging by the paleness in her features and the bright hue in Walfort’s neither was completely comfortable with. “I don’t think—”

“Where?” she blurted. “Where would this assignation take place? Would you remain here?”

She was gripping her hands so tightly that the knuckles were turning white. He wanted to kneel before her and hold her, comfort her. He wanted to wrap his hands around hers and rub them until she relaxed. Why was Walfort keeping his distance? If Ainsley answered her question, he would reveal that he’d given considerable thought to how he would handle this matter—which would no doubt offend her—but he couldn’t leave her wallowing in doubt.

“I have a cottage. On a lake. To the north. I use it when I seek solitude. It”—is someplace I have shared with few and would welcome sharing with you—“would offer privacy.”

“I’ve been there, Jayne,” Walfort said quietly. “It would provide for a lovely month away.”

“A month?” She looked at her husband then, and Ainsley could see the disconcertedness in her gaze. Apparently Walfort had failed to provide her with details.

“Yes. From the time your next...menses...ends until it’s time for it to begin again. To be sure.”

“A month,” she whispered again, returning her gaze to the fire.

Silence stretched between them, the only sound in the room the crackling within the hearth. Ainsley met Walfort’s gaze. You should tell her, he thought, you should tell her all that you did that night. She’d not hesitate if she knew everything. Yesterday, he’d thought the confession an awful notion, but tonight he knew it would send her running into his arms. God help him, he wanted her there.

Walfort must have known what Ainsley was thinking, because he gave a slight shake of his head and turned his attention back to his wife. “Jayne, I’ve long wanted to give you a child,” he said quietly. “It is not the way I had imagined it coming about, but it will bring me great joy to see your smile once again dancing in your eyes...as it did that afternoon when you told me I would be a father. I’ve never known such happiness. We can have that again.”

Ainsley watched her toes wiggle, her hands loosen. She straightened her spine and took a deep breath. “I have some rules.”

“Rules?” Ainsley repeated.

Her gaze captured his. He’d never seen such determination. “You are to never kiss me.”

“Jayne—” Walfort began.

“You said this was to be a transaction, without emotion. You said I would not be betraying you because I feel nothing for Ainsley. So be it. He is never to kiss me. I will take no pleasure from the act itself. I realize that he must, of course, in order to”—she latched her gaze back onto his—“but you must do what you can to make our encounters as brief as possible. If you can’t abide by the rules then I see no point in continuing on.”

He considered storming out and telling her to go to the devil as he went, but beneath her façade, she was frightened. She was afraid he’d hurt her when it was the last thing he wanted to do. He wanted her to have happiness. He wanted to give her what Walfort could not, regardless of the cost to himself. “I accept your terms.”

He might have laughed at the stunned expression on her face, if this entire matter weren’t so serious. Obviously, she’d expected him to decline, probably wanted him to decline.

“But I have a condition of my own,” he said somberly.

“What would that be?” she asked.

“You must swear that you will love this child.”

“How can you possibly doubt—”

“You despise me, Jayne. My mother, bless her, where Westcliffe was concerned was never able to separate the father from the child. I’ll not have my child suffer a similar fate. Swear—”

“I do. With all my heart. I would never...I will love this child.”

He shifted his gaze to a man he’d once called friend, although at this moment he was closer to being the devil. “I’ll have your word as well.”

“Of course. You have it. The child will never doubt my affection.”

“Then it seems we’ve come to terms.”

With a jerky nod, she rose to her feet. “My menses began today. I shall see you in a sennight.”

She strolled from the room with all the grace of a queen.

When the door closed after her, Walfort said on a rush, “Thank God. I didn’t think she’d do it. Pour us a brandy, will you? You may, of course, ignore all her rules—”

“I have no intention of ignoring her rules.”

“But it will be little more than—”

“Hell for us all, I’ve no doubt.”

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Contest!



Lorraine's got a special contest for ASR Readers!

For a chance to win, please visit Lorraine's website and find the answer to this question-

What are the names of the Duke of Ainsley's brothers?

Then email us at staff@authorsoundrelations.com with your answer by midnight on July 6th, 2011. Be sure to include your full name and mailing address and please mark the subject heading as 'WUWTD-Heath'.

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2nd, 3rd & 4th Prize:the 1st two books in the London’s Greatest Lovers series

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