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Authors: Doris O'Connor,Raven McAllan

The Dukes' Christmas Abductions

BOOK: The Dukes' Christmas Abductions
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Evernight Publishing ®

 

www.evernightpublishing.com

 

 

 

Copyright©
2015 Doris O’Connor & Raven
McAllan

 

 

 
ISBN: 978-1-77233-620-7

 

Cover Artist: Jay
Aheer

 

Editor: JS Cook

 

 

 

ALL RIGHTS
RESERVED

 

 

WARNING: The unauthorized
reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal.
 
No part of this book may be used or
reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the
case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.

 

This is a work of fiction.
All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual
events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely
coincidental.

 

 

 

DEDICATION

 

To the Chicks,

 

Without you this story
wouldn't have been written.

 

Many thanks :-)

 

THE DUKES’ CHRISTMAS ABDUCTIONS

 

 

Doris
O’Connor & Raven
McAllan

 

Copyright © 2015

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

Haversham House,
Christmas Ball, December, current time

 

“Good
lord, I need a minute. How anyone could breathe with these freaking stays on, I
have no idea.”

Clara
gasped for breath, and rolled her eyes at Vicky’s smirk. Her new-found friend
looked as fresh as a daisy,
dammit,
whereas Clara was sure she was going
to pass out soon, if she didn’t get these torture objects off of her.

“Wuss.
I told you, many ladies in that era didn’t bother with stays but you insisted.”
Vicky rolled her eyes. “Your fault. Me? I had more sense. Hence I didn’t wear
any under my costume.”

Clara
grimaced anew and looked pointedly from her heaving cleavage to Vicky’s nice
tidy handful.

“You
get away with that. Without scaffolding of some sort I’d be wobbling all over
the place even more than I am now. My boobs are too damn big.”

“Rubbish,
and the girls are perfect for a Regency dress. Let’s face it, my 34 As are
blink-and-you’ll-miss-them nonentities. Why do you think I have a supply of
chicken fillets and tissues all over the place? A becomes C. You know full well
most women would kill for your cleavage. As for stays … overrated. Hell, Clo, I
didn't even put a chemise underneath ... you know," she added at Clara's
blank look, "a sort of petticoat under a petticoat. That coal sack you’re
wearing, and complaining it chafes your pussy. At least in Regency times they
weren’t rough and coarse if you were aristocracy, but still, I guess in this
day and age you have to get what the costumier thinks is authentic. But hey
it’s no wonder you’re overheating in that get up. Bet you still got your
knickers on too, right?” Her impossible friend, who was enjoying herself far
too much at her expense, giggled. “I haven’t. What’s the point in daring to go
bare, if you cover it all up? We need to get you out of those awful things you
call knickers. In the meantime…”

She
paused to snare two flutes of champagne off a passing footman, and pressed one
into Clara’s hand.

“Bottoms
up. You’ll feel better once you’ve had another drink.” Vicky winked at her, and
grimacing Clara downed the lot in one go. She wasn’t a huge fan of the bubbly
stuff, but it did lubricate her throat, and left a nice buzz behind. Well,
either that, or the lack of oxygen to her lungs was making her this fuzzy
headed.

“Are
my ladies quite all right?”

James,
Haversham’s resident butler, swooped in with his usual majestic grace. It
always left Clara feeling somewhat inferior, which was ridiculous. She was
curator of this great house, after all. Yet next to the whitehaired, impeccably
mannered James, whose family had been butlers in this house since the beginning
of time—if he was to be believed—she always felt like an imposter. He certainly
never looked at her with the great respect he bestowed Vicky from the minute
she’d arrived.

“Lady
Victoria Hopewell, my pleasure to welcome you to Haversham House.” The voice
wasn’t actually unctuous but not far off.
 
Luckily her friend had held in the giggle Clara was certain she wanted
to give and apart from the twinkle in her eyes, showed no surprise at the
greeting. Instead she got into the spirit of things, bowed her head, and
murmured her acquiescence. Only, once he was out of earshot, she’d dissolved
into fits of giggles.

“Goodness,
he does take this whole Regency authenticity to the extreme, doesn’t he? No one
ever called me Lady Victoria before, or if they have it was so long ago I don’t
remember.”

“Yes,
well, that’s James. He’s just one of the oddities that surround this house. No
wonder their previous curator left. The poor man probably gave himself an ulcer
working around the impossible demands placed in the will of the last Duke of
Hockwell.”

Vicky
nudged her in the ribs and gesticulated. “Shh, he’s waiting for us now.”

Clara
watched wide-eyed and full of envy as her friend drew herself up to her full
height of around five feet seven. She even looked like a member of the
aristocracy who would have graced this elegant house two hundred years ago.

“I
say, James, would you be so kind as to show us to the withdrawing rooms for the
ladies?” Vicky’s stilted accent shook Clara out of her musings about the state
of Haversham House, and focused her attention back on her friend.

James’s
lined face broke into a wide smile, and he bowed again.

“Certainly,
my lady. If you follow me to the gallery, you will find private rooms off
there.”

Vicky
grinned and grasping Clara by the elbow, hissed in her ear.

“Gallery,
eh? That’s pictures and portraits of the family. Does that mean he’s taking us
to the private wing?” Clara had to smile at the excitement in her friend’s
voice.

“That
means chamber pots and stuff, or is there a loo there?”

“There’s
a loo.” Clara smiled at the look of disappointment that spread over Vicky’s
face. “You don’t really want to pee in one of those gravy boat things you
showed me, do you? Isn’t that taking authenticity a bit far?”

“I
guess but…” Vicky punched Clara on the arm as Clara howled with laughter. The
noise echoed around the gallery and Vicky shh-ed her. “Stop it,” Vicky hissed.
“You’ll get us black balled. No don’t.” Clara sniggered and snorted until tears
ran down her cheeks. Vicky tried to be stern and didn’t make it. “Oh Clo, shut
up or you’ll start me off.”

“B …
black … balled. I thought lack of sex was blue-balled and okay, I’ve zipped it.
Just look around and remember stuff.”

 
This would be excellent research for Vicky’s
next historical romance, after all, and had been the main reason why Clara had
ensured Vicky had received one of the coveted invitations to the Christmas
ball. They were usually reserved for the cream of society. With a glance back
at the crowded ballroom, Clara allowed herself to be led away, satisfied that
the evening went as planned, even if the supposed heir hadn’t turned up.

In
truth, she was quite curious to see the private wing too. James and his wife,
the resident cook and housekeeper, kept the keys for this wing. Clara was due
to catalogue all the items in that part of the great house soon. She hadn’t
managed to do so yet, her attention taken up with the parts of Haversham House
open to the public, and thus paying her wages. Which, should the estate not
sort out this missing heir to the dukedom issue, wouldn’t happen for much
longer.

James
stopped outside the imposing oak paneled door, and unlocked it with great
flourish. A strike of lightning lit up the dark interior before the lights came
on, and Clara jumped.

“It
seems the predicted storm is approaching faster than anticipated. If my ladies
will excuse me, I’d better make sure our guests are taken care of.”

James
inclined his head, and before Clara could get over her astonishment at the fact
that James was leaving them on their own in this sacred part of the house,
Vicky had pushed through the door.

With
an impending sense of doom, and accompanied by a loud clap of thunder, Clara
followed into the dimly lit long hallway. The heavy door clicked shut behind
her. Goosebumps broke out on her skin as the temperature instantly dropped, and
she rubbed her hands up and down her exposed forearms.

Vicky,
who by all accounts ought to be shivering in her barely there outfit, jumped up
and down in excitement.

“Wow,
look at all these old paintings. These must be their ancestors, and I have to
say these two don’t half look yummy. Cousins it says. I think they’ve got the
same great grandfather.
 
So there’s a bit
of a gap, you know second cousins once removed or something,” Vicky said as she
peered at the metal tags on the frames. “But, boy, you can tell they weren’t
born on the wrong side of the blanket. Come here, have a look.”

Vicky
waved her on, and with a sigh of foreboding Clara stepped forward. The entire
hallway lit up in a blinding flash as she did so, and the most enormous rumble
of thunder deafened her. Vicky screamed and darkness descended.

Someone
or something brushed up against Clara’s back, and she barely suppressed a
shriek. She hated the dark with a vengeance, at the best of times. Through the
driving rain lashing against the windows now, she heard the sound of a match
being struck.

“Deuce,
Kit, where the devil are you?”

Spinning
round to the sound of that deep masculine rumble, Clara lost her footing as the
rug on the floor gave way. A strong masculine arm snaked around her waist, and
hoisted her up, against a broad, warm chest.
 
Scents of horse, tobacco, and some woodsy cologne teased her nostrils,
as the unknown invader lifted up the lone candle, placed in an old fashioned
candle holder, seemingly to study her.

“What
have we here? I’m not sure what game my cousin is playing, but I think I shall
keep this bounty.”

The
man, who looked as though he’d stepped straight out of one of those paintings
smirked, and raised one perfectly shaped blond eyebrow at her. A flash of lightning
made the diamond in his cravat sparkle, and the ring with what looked like a
crest on his pinkie shine brightly in the dim candlelight. He bowed from the
waist and took her limp hand in his, to kiss it suavely.

“Daniel
Danvers, Duke of Hockwell at your service, Miss…?”

Pressed
against him as she was, Clara couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think, and for the
first time in her twenty five years swooned like a good old Regency heroine.

****

“Tarnation,
Dan what the hell are you playing at?” Christian—known to all except his mother
as Kit—Capel, the Duke of Aulban, swore as he turned from another candle he’d
managed to light, to see his cousin holding a swooning woman in his arms. “Who
is she?”

Daniel
shook his head. “In truth, I have no idea but she’s a pretty handful. The storm
blew out the candle and, well…” He shrugged and shifted his grip on the
swooning woman to lift her into his arms. “I got one lit and here she is.”

Kit
shook his head. “Just like that? So which debutante is she? I must admit this
is a new way to ensnare a duke. Wait for a storm, blow out the candles and
sneak into the private wing. Thence to be compromised. Welcome to the world of
the leg-shackled man.”

Daniel
glowered. “I’ve no idea who she is but it matters not. It won’t rub, no leg
shackling will occur. I’ll deny it all. After all I was with you all evening.”

Kit
grinned. “Of course. As I was with you. Just in case Marianna Allencroft claims
otherwise.”

Daniel
paused on his way toward the door, which led to his rooms. “Fair Marianna?” He
whistled. “You lucky dog. How was it?”

Kit
considered. “It would have been bland. I scratched the itch once before, but
that was it. She of course was more than satisfied, but I had no intention of
returning for another course. Once over egged dish was enough.” He shuddered.
“She wears so much attar of roses I was almost the one to swoon the time I did
partake.”

“Poor
man.” Daniel’s voice was mocking, and Kit snorted.

“I
assure you ‘tis true. She got to taste my pudding and I declined to sup her
nectar.”

Daniel
kicked open the door. “Only taste, not enclose?”

“I
decided enough was enough. The woman ate me like she was starved.” He paused.
“Although if the gossip mongers are to be believed, Alllencroft isn’t, shall we
say, able to perform. Too many dubious encounters in Portugal.”

“Poor
sot. I suppose I could say poor Mariana but … I can’t say I’ve ever warmed to
her.” Daniel walked through the open door. “Now this handful could be something
different.”

Kit
stared at the unconscious woman in his cousin’s arms. Much too voluptuous for
his liking, but definitely to his cousin’s taste. “I wish you joy.”

“I
wish me cunt.”

****

Vicky
listened with growing anger as the two impeccably dressed men talked so
callously about women. Okay they might have found the perfect costumes but did
they really have to make their performance quite so authentic? Men—well some
men—had moved on surely?

The
door banged behind her friend and the first guy and she jumped as she realized
she was stuck in the semi dark with an unknown man. One who hadn’t clocked her
yet, but it was surely only a matter of time before he discovered he wasn’t
alone? Vicky groped over the shelf of the mantelpiece she’d found in her fumble
along the wall once they’d been plunged into darkness. Clara had been several
yards ahead of her, and in the eye line of the two men. Luckily, Vicky thought,
as she was behind them, her presence hadn’t been noted.

Where
had they appeared from? She could have sworn she and Clara had been the only
two in the room when the lights went out.

Wherever
it was now she not only had to contend with a storm, and boy she hated storms
and always had, but also a drop dead gorgeous, play your cards right and you
can have me guy in front of her, and her friend god knew where with this guy’s
almost double.

It
was enough to make even the hardest woman swoon, and whatever others might
think—and her last boyfriend insisted he knew—Vicky was no ball buster. Oh she
was an outspoken, in your face feminist, and had long thought women got a raw
deal at times, but she also knew given the right man she’d roll over and purr.
Unfortunately Maurice—hedge fund analyst and all out asshole—Endon hadn’t been
that one.

BOOK: The Dukes' Christmas Abductions
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