Mesmerised by a Duke’s Kiss (Preview)

Chapter One

The house was cold and empty. Silence filled the halls. A wealth of furniture, fine paintings, and grand musical instruments filled the London townhouse, and yet none of it brought its owner any joy. Leopold Campbell, the Duke of Bembridge, sat in the chair that had once been his father’s and stared almost absentmindedly at the piles of paper on the desk before him. On one side were the invitations he had received for balls, dinners, and other social events since his father’s passing, and on the other were the letters of notice calling for all debts to be paid in full. They had been sitting there, piling up for almost two weeks and had got to the point where Leo had thought of simply dashing them into the fireplace and pretending he had never received any of them. 

With a deep sigh, he ran his fingers through his glossy golden-brown hair and tried to decide which pile to tackle first. Neither appealed to him. On the one hand, he would have to be reminded of just how shallow and stupid his father had been for the last few years of his life, and on the other, he would be forced to think of all the social events that he loathed but was responsible for attending now that he had taken his father’s position as the head of the family. 

What family? Leo thought grimly; the urge to swipe his arm across the desk and destroy both piles was growing stronger by the moment. He was the last Campbell. He had already made certain of that, asking his solicitor to look for any blood relation who might be willing to take everything off his hands. There was nobody. His father’s only brother had died almost around the same time as his mother had, probably adding immeasurably to his father’s drinking, gambling, and whoring habits. The man had never had children, and the solicitor had been unable to locate anybody else, so Leo was stuck with no idea of what to do and nowhere to turn. 

When he was growing up, Leo had always wished his parents might have another child, another boy so that he might be able to pass on his father’s title without fear of guilt when he announced that he had no wish to be duke, yet fate had never blessed any of them to be so lucky. 

He still remembered as a child asking his mother why he did not have any siblings. Her answer still rang in his ears whenever he thought of the memory, “We are not all so lucky, my love.”

Maybe being duke now wouldn’t be so bad if I had a brother to help advise me, Leo thought, and the house seemed to grow colder and lonelier. If only his mother were still around, she would know what to do. Yet perhaps if she were, his father would not have drunk himself into an early grave.

When she had first passed after a long and tiring bout of fever, Leo had been able to close his eyes and imagine what she might say to him if she were still there, but now, when he did so, he could barely even remember her face. He felt as though his memories of her were fading just like everything else around him. 

Leo was so deep in his own despairing thoughts that he didn’t hear the sound of footsteps wandering towards the library’s open door. The sound of knuckles rapping on wood caused him to start, and his palm slammed down on the desk’s surface, causing the documents to flutter. 

“Forgive me for startling you, Your Grace,” Samuel Cranson, the Campbells’ butler, apologised as he stood in the doorway, “but Mr Randal has arrived.” 

Leo glanced at the grandfather clock that stood just left of the doorway and then checked it against his pocket watch. It was late for a visit from his solicitor. 

“You had better send him in,” Leo sighed begrudgingly. Though he wouldn’t crawl up to bed for several hours yet, knowing that he wouldn’t sleep even when he did. He was still tired down to his bones and wasn’t sure he had it in him to deal with whatever Mr Randal had come to discuss. The last time they had sat in the library together had been for the solicitor to read his father’s will, bestowing upon Leo everything that had ever belonged to his father, including all his debts. Since then, Leo had taken to corresponding by letter rather than face to face, but it appeared that Mr Randal had tired of awaiting a response. 

“Yes, Your Grace, of course.” Cranson bowed and removed himself from the room to fetch the solicitor. Leo watched the tall man go, wondering not for the first time whether it was time for the butler to retire. He had been in the Campbell family’s employ for as long as Leo could remember, and over the last few years, he had become very grey, and his spine was beginning to curve, making it difficult for him to stand straight or hurry about as he was used to. I suppose it’s my job to discuss such things with him now, Leo said with a sigh, knowing that the dedicated butler would likely be offended or worried that he had done something wrong if he even suggested it. 

Leo was just forcing the thought away, deciding it would be better to handle such a subject in the warm light of day when Cranson reappeared with Mr Randal close behind. 

The solicitor was a small man with a long, hooked nose, wire-framed spectacles hanging precariously on the bridge. He almost reminded Leo of a mouse, scurrying into the room with his pocketbook practically glued to his chest as if he thought someone might try to attack him for his paperwork. He bowed, causing his salt and pepper hair to fall like greasy tendrils over his face before he quickly smoothed them back with a nervy hand. Leo had never quite been able to see why over half the noblemen in London and the surrounding areas used Mr Randal as their solicitor, yet his father had insisted that he was a good and clever man, capable of handling all affairs. It didn’t matter much to Leo in any case; he wanted none of what his father had left him. 

“I apologise for intruding upon you at such a late hour, Lord Bembridge,” the man’s voice trembled as though he was fearful that he had upset the duke simply by being present. Though that was not the reason that Leo cringed. 

“Lord Bembridge was my father,” Leo told him firmly, not for the first time, “please, call me Leo.” 

Mr Randal mused over the words for just a moment before offering a curt nod. His eyes darted in the direction of an armchair sitting adjacent to Leo’s desk, and taking the hint, Leo suggested, “Please, Mr Randal, have a seat and tell me what brings you here.” 

Cranson, still standing in the doorway, cleared his throat as if he were attempting to curtly remind Leo of something. 

Oh, yes! Leo thought before quickly adding, “Can Cranson get you anything? A glass of liquor perhaps or maybe something warm?” 

Spring was just turning into early summer, and the weather hadn’t yet begun to heat up. The fireplace still roared with flame making the library cosy, but Leo could tell just from glancing out of the window that it was blowing a gale outside. 

“I am not thirsty at the moment, thank you,” Mr Randal replied, nodding first to Leo before inclining his head to Cranson as if in thanks for the offer on both of their parts. He then turned back to Leo and began to rifle through his overlarge pocketbook, making the duke feel more than a little uncomfortable as to what he might be about to pull out. 

“Your Grace, at your request, I started looking into your options on how you might best be able to pay off your late father’s debts,” Mr Randal explained as he pulled a large piece of folded paper from his pocketbook and leaned forward on the edge of his armchair to hand it to the duke, “and I have come to the conclusion that this might be the best way.” 

Leo raised an eyebrow, silently taking the large paper from the solicitor. He unfolded it and laid it out on what little space was left on the desk in front of him. Looking down at it, he saw it was, in fact, a map. He recognised it almost immediately as the map of his father’s countryside estate just outside London. That is mine now also, he reminded himself grimly. To him, the countryside estate was just something else for him to worry about. It did not feel like it belonged to him, and it was not something he wanted either.

“Thistledown Manor,” Leo huffed begrudgingly, “what of it?”

He glanced up from the map to look at the solicitor, who was peering over the edge of his spectacles at the duke. Mr Randal seemed to suck in a deep breath and clear his throat before daring to speak. “I am of the opinion that it may be wise for you to think of renting some of the surrounding land of Thistledown Manor, perhaps to one or even several of the local farmers.” The solicitor took a brief pause as if he half expected Leo to reject the idea outright. When the duke remained silent, the solicitor went on, “Better yet; it might be an idea to sell some of it off and pay off your father’s debts immediately.” 

The solicitor’s words caused a spark to light in Leo’s mind. An idea so bright he was shocked he hadn’t thought of it before suddenly blazed into life. 

“Why only bother with the outlying land?” Leo questioned, unable to keep the broadening smile from his face. “Why not sell it all? I have no need of it!” 

Not one but two gasps erupted in the room. Cranson appeared to be just as scandalized as Mr Randal at the duke’s suggestion. Yet their reaction only made Leo feel more certain. He had never had any desire for any of it, not the townhouse or the countryside estate, not the wealth or the title nor the pomp and privilege that came along with it. There was only one thing he had ever thanked his father for, and that was his woodwork. He looked back fondly for a moment on the only joyful memories he had of Thistledown Manor when his father had taken him out to the workshop at the far end of the garden, put hammer and chisel in his hand, and begun to teach him how to shape wood into just about anything he could possibly imagine. He would miss that little workshop, though, if he were being truly honest with himself, he had not seen it in several years. I wish to return to those simple days. 

“Your Grace, I would advise against …” the solicitor began to object, but Leo quickly raised a hand, palm out to stop him. He shook his head and glanced down at the map in front of him again. That little workshop wasn’t even marked on the map. It was as though it had never existed. With a sigh, Leo folded up the map and returned it to the solicitor, who took it with a shaking hand. 

“Sell it all,” Leo insisted with a heavy heart. It was the end of an era, the end of his parents and his family, the end of everything he had ever known. He was more than ready for something new, ready to start over again without all the pressures of society. If he could leave quietly and pay off his father’s debts in the process, then he would do so. 

“I assume that you mean to keep Cedar House,” Mr Randal said, gesturing around him. Leo gritted his teeth to stop himself from snapping at the solicitor. He was almost entirely sure the man had chosen not to hear him. 

“No, Mr Randal, I meant what I said,” Leo responded, pushing himself to his feet with his hands on his desk. He leaned over, looking the solicitor directly in the eye as he added, “Sell it all; Thistledown Manor, Cedar House, and everything in between.” 

“Your Grace, I would advise …” Mr Randal began again, but Leo simply rolled his eyes and cut him off once more. He was already well aware of what the solicitor would advise. If the worst came to the worst, he would advise Leo to rent out Thistledown Manor until he could recoup some of his losses, but what need did Leo have of such a large and expensive manor house when he had not a single family member to invite to stay with him? 

“Do as I have asked, Mr Randal,” Leo instructed. He straightened up to his full height, towering over his desk as he added, “Cranson will show you out. I find I am exhausted and in need of my bed.” 

Leo almost cringed at how alike his father he sounded at that moment, offering Mr Randal no chance at all to try and change his mind. Even Cranson looked beside himself, no doubt fearful of what would happen to both himself and the rest of the staff who worked beneath him if the duke were actually to go ahead with his suggestion. 

I will see they are all well compensated for their time spent here, Leo promised himself, though he couldn’t imagine there would be much left to work with after Mr Randal had done his duty. The debt notices were piling up by the day, and Leo was sure they wouldn’t stop coming. He would be surprised if anything were left at the end of it all. 

Leo skirted around the desk intending to leave to retire to his bed chambers until the solicitor had got over his shock and left the premises. But Mr Randal called him back with a question, “Where will you go, Your Grace?” 

The answer came to him as if on the wind that howled outside the floor-to-ceiling library windows. He paused at the doorway and looked back at the solicitor to offer him a smile. “I have always wanted to live in Cornwall.” 

He continued to smile to himself as he left the room, knowing that the statement was one that his mother had often said when she had been alive. Though her wish had never come true, Leo felt as though starting anew in the very place she had always wished to live might just be the very thing he needed. 

“What could a penniless duke seek to do in Cornwall?” he heard Mr Randal ask, almost as if he were speaking to Cranson. Leo could imagine the two older men looking at each other quizzically, neither having the faintest idea of the answer. 

With another smile, Leo called over his shoulder, “I intend to take up carpentry!” 

***

Chapter Two

At the height of summer, the small brook that marked the edge of Lord Duckworth’s land all but dried up, but that time had not yet come, and for now, the earl’s daughter was content to stand barefoot in the water, enjoying the feel of the silt squelching between her small toes. Arabella was unlike any other earl’s daughter, or so her brothers had often told her when they were younger. She had followed them around as if she were a sheep, throwing stones across the pond, wading into the stream in her undergarments, climbing trees barefoot as if she were a squirrel. She often smiled now, remembering how her governess had often chased her screaming through the house whenever she traipsed mud inside, refusing to do her needlework lessons because she had been having far too much fun in the gardens with her brothers. Poor Mrs Marsdon had had her hands full, and although she was long gone to look after some other nobleman’s children, Arabella remained, still doing the very things that the governess had tried to punish out of her. 

Having allowed the stream to cool her feet, Arabella stepped out from the water, releasing the skirt of her cornflower blue dress to pick up the book she had left resting against the roots of a nearby tree. Her copy of Sense and Sensibility, stolen several years earlier from her father’s library, was worn and withered, but it was one of her favourites. She must have read it almost a hundred times over, but this was one of her favourite places to read, and she had yet to find another book that quite caught her attention so vividly. 

“Sorry, Mrs Marsdon for what I am about to do.” Arabella chuckled to herself, knowing that the now elderly governess would likely blanch to see her twisting the skirt of her dress up and around her waist so that she could tuck it into the front of her undergarments, leaving her legs free to climb the tree. 

She could just hear her brother now, yelling at her as he had done when they were children, “Arabella! Be careful, or Mrs Marsdon might begin to think she is an animal keeper, not a governess! You look like a monkey!” Harold, her older brother, and David, her eldest brother, were likely with her father right now, discussing business, as they had been forced to grow up the moment they reached manhood and were sent off to Oxford to finish their education. On the other hand, Arabella had learned to get her own lessons finished at home before she was left to her own devices to go about whatever business she wished. In a way, she envied her brothers for their ability to go out into the world and learn all that was taught at Oxford. But she knew they likely envied her just as much for her ability to still come to the woods at the bottom of the gardens and climb trees to her heart’s content.     

Though she often missed them stomping about below her, play fighting with whatever sticks they had managed to find in the brush, Arabella had become accustomed to the quiet in which she could read her books with only the sound of bees humming to distract her. She found her way up onto the lowest branch and settled herself into the crook against the tree trunk, allowing one leg to hang, dangling freely as she opened her book to the correct page and began to read.

She was humming gently, the stream water long since dried on her feet, when she felt something collide with the foot that she was kicking absentmindedly back and forth. 

“Ouch!” The exclamation caused her to jump, and the book slipped from her fingers. 

“No!” she screeched, terrified that her book would be ruined. Instinctively, she began to climb down from the tree. She practically dropped, swinging down from the branch effortlessly to land beside the book and hurriedly pick it up from the sandy bank of the stream where it had landed perilously close to the water. 

When she straightened up, her breath instantly caught in her throat. The man looking back at her appeared just as startled as she was at seeing him. Quickly, she pulled her twisted-up skirts from the front of her undergarments and smoothed them down, her cheeks flushing red with embarrassment. Luckily for her, she was sure that the man could not have seen all that much because he was clutching his left eye with the palm of his hand, his handsome face twisted in a look of astonishment and pain. In his other arm, he clutched a pile of sticks to his chest, giving Arabella a good hint at whom he must be … The new carpenter! 

“You know, you should probably watch where you are walking when collecting your wood,” Arabella said, hoping she sounded much more confident than she felt. His handsomeness was unnerving. The last carpenter that her father had hired had been an old man with grey balding hair, a widower with a twisted spine who looked as though he would be better off with a cane in his hand than a hammer and chisel. 

“If I had known I would be attacked from the trees, I might have been more inclined to glance skyward from time to time,” the man retorted grimly. Arabella was puzzled by the man’s lack of respect. He did not bow or even lower his gaze. Though he still covered one eye as if she had kicked him in it, his other stared right back at her. The single iris she could see was a bright moss green that contrasted well against his olive skin. 

“You must be the new carpenter,” she observed, gesturing to the wood that he still clutched in his hand. The man simply nodded, and squinting his injured eye shut, reached into his breast pocket for a handkerchief to wipe away some of the involuntary tears that had begun to cascade down his cheek. 

“Yes, and you must be the woman who almost took my eye out,” he remarked almost mockingly, though there was obvious amusement in his voice. “What were you doing climbing trees anyway?” 

“I was merely minding my own business,” Arabella responded defensively, “perhaps you should learn do to the same.” 

“I was exactly expecting to be ambushed for collecting wood for my fire.” Finally, the carpenter removed the handkerchief from his eye, and Arabella struggled not to cringe when she saw how red it was around the rim. Had she not been so defensive at him finding her in one of her most private moments, she might have felt a little more sympathetic towards him. 

“I have every right to climb the trees on my …” she began to defend herself once more, about to say her father’s land, when she was cut off by the sound of someone calling from some distance away. The hair on the back of Arabella’s neck instantly began to stand on end. She recognised that voice all too well. 

Suddenly all too aware of how this might look, Arabella quickly took a step away from the carpenter. For the first time, she realised just how close they had been standing to each other. Had she reached out, she could have touched his broad chest. It was then that she also realised just how much he had towered over her. She suddenly felt as if she were seeing sunlight for the first time again, almost blinded by the way it shone through the trees over the man’s shoulder. 

“Arabella! Where are you?” the voice called again, much closer this time. The carpenter continued to gaze at her, almost as if he hadn’t heard a thing. The corner of his lips twitched upward in a smile, and Arabella longed to know what he was thinking. What thoughts were going through that golden-auburn head of his? She had never found herself so fascinated with a woodworker before. Then again, other than old Mr Michelson, she hadn’t exactly met any other woodworkers. 

“Arabella! I know you are out here!” again, the call sounded louder, but Arabella couldn’t bring herself to call back. She wanted to remain standing there at that moment, staring into those mossy green eyes as if nothing else in the world mattered, and it appeared that he did too because he made no attempt to speak or even call out. Arabella held her breath, waiting for the moment to be broken, waiting for them to be found. 

She clutched her now dusty copy of Sense and Sensibility to her chest, remembering well the story written inside, suddenly imagining that she had somehow slipped inside the pages. It was just a passing thought, that of a girl who had read far too many silly novels, as her father would say, but she thought it all the same. 

Sense and Sensibility,” the carpenter commented, a raised eyebrow showing his interest when his gaze finally dropped from her face to the book she was clutching. “I do believe I have read that one.” 

Arabella wasn’t at all sure she had been meant to hear the comment, but she most certainly had, and it intrigued her. Though she hadn’t known all that much about Mr Michelson, she had known he could not read because her father would always send one of the servants down to his cabin in the woods to relay his instructions rather than sending them with a handwritten note. She also knew because of this that many of the young servants in her father’s employ were unable to read either, as even if he had written the carpenter a note, none of the messengers had been able to relay the message through reading. 

“Where does a carpenter find the time to read?” Arabella could not stop herself from asking the question out loud, too curious as to the kind of man who stood before her. His lips twitched again, and Arabella knew that he found her intrigue amusing. The expression on his face told her she would have to work for his answer.  

Unfortunately, she could not get it as the sound of crashing footsteps came hurrying towards them through the brush, and their gazes were forced to part. 

 

***

 

Chapter 2

Leo

 

Although he could hear someone crashing through the woodland behind him, Leo found that he could not take his eyes off the woman standing before him. She looked rather more like an angel who had fallen from the heaven above than a girl who had merely fallen out of the branches above his head. 

She didn’t fall, Leo told himself, remembering how she had swung gracefully down from the lowest branch as if she had done it a hundred times before. 

She stood before him now, looking mildly uncomfortable as the sound of yelling came again. It was so close this time that Leo was sure the voice owner was just on the other side of the bushes behind him. Yet still, he could not bring himself to call out and offer aid. 

The angel before him had jet-black curls that cascaded down over her blue dress. A pair of charcoal grey eyes shone from a creamy porcelain face, and Leo couldn’t help feeling as though she might just be the most beautiful woman he had ever laid eyes upon. Her cheeks were flushed pink, perhaps with embarrassment at being caught climbing trees, or maybe it was the fact that her petticoat had been on show for all to see when she had swung down. Either way, Leo couldn’t help admiring her. She was unlike any woman he had met in London or on his travels since then. Any lady he had met before her had practically cried at even the smaller speck of lint on her dress, and yet here this young woman stood, barefoot and defending her choice of tree climbing. 

“Arabella! There you are!” exclaimed the man who forced his way out of the bushes behind Leo. The man looked exceedingly uncomfortable with his surroundings, cringing as he pulled a thorny branch from where it had stuck in the sleeve of his jacket. “What are you doing all the way out here?” 

Leo couldn’t blame the man for ignoring him. After all, he couldn’t compare with the beauty of such a woman in his plain brown clothing and dishevelled state with his facial hair unshaven and his hair allowed to fall in an untidy mop around his jawline. Not to mention that as far as anyone knew, he was nothing more than a humble carpenter. 

Leo was well aware of how the woman was slowly edging away from him, moving closer to the other man, and he quickly straightened up, making a show of readjusting the wood he was carrying under his arm. It was then that the other man finally appeared to notice him. He moved to stand beside the woman he had called Arabella and glimpsed Leo up and down before turning back to her, “Are you well?” 

Stomach clenching, Leo had to force himself not to suggest that, of course, she was well. The tone of the other man’s voice suggested that he might have somehow done something to offend or even harm the girl, and he had to remind himself that he was not the kind of man who could openly defend himself without somehow causing more suspicion. 

“Yes, of course, I am well,” Arabella responded quickly, and Leo noticed how she placed a hand upon the man’s forearm. An unfamiliar emotion caused Leo’s chest to tighten at the gesture. It was quickly replaced by anger as the man turned a suspicious gaze upon him. 

“Who is this?” 

Leo instantly disliked the gentleman. It was clear from his fine attire and the pompous air with which he carried himself that he was just that, a gentleman or perhaps even a nobleman. 

“Leop …” Leo began instinctively before quickly clamping his jaws shut. He took a quick moment to clear his throat before starting over again, “I am Leo. Lord Duckworth hired me as the new carpenter a few days ago.” 

He held his hand out formally, already knowing that the man would not take it. The reaction was just as he expected. The man glimpsed down at his offered hand for only a moment before sneering openly. The disdain in his expression only made Leo gladder of his decision to leave that life behind. 

“And you must be … Arabella’s brother?” Leo thought quickly before making the almost hopeful suggestion. Arabella, what a beautiful name. 

Arabella and the other man quickly glanced at each other, a look of amusement passing between the two of them before they began to shake their heads. 

“Oh, no! Fenton is most certainly not my brother,” Arabella said with a chuckle. “Though I imagine he often wishes that he were with the things they get away with!” 

So she does have brothers, Leo noted. Though he had never had any siblings of his own, he was well aware of the protectiveness of brothers, and he was sure that any brother of Arabella’s would likely be twice as bad as any other. After all, the most beautiful woman he had ever laid eyes upon must have suitors lining up for a chance at her hand. 

As if she saw the suspicious expression on Leo’s face, Arabella introduced the newcomer formally, “This is Lord Fenton Mowbray, Earl of Cowton.” 

Leo had to bite the inside of his lip to stop himself from laughing out loud. The earl of where? He had never heard of Cowton, though this Fenton certainly looked proud to be the earl of such a place. It made Leo instantly glad that he had chosen to stay on the edges of society, allowing his father to represent the family. The thought that he might ever have become like this man made him feel sick. Leo had seen his like before, proud and pompous earls who thought they owned the right to everything just because they held a title. It was clear just from the way the man was holding himself with head held high, looking down his nose at Leo, that he thought very highly of himself and also likely the fact that Arabella’s hand was clamped on his forearm. 

“I am most assuredly glad that I am not your brother, my dear,” Fenton responded, staring directly at Arabella with a look that was likely supposed to be adoring and charming, yet Leo could see right through it. To him, the earl was just as pompous as the rest of them and reminded him over and over of why he had chosen to leave that life behind. “But they are on their way. They have been looking everywhere for you.” 

He cast a glance at Leo then. Obviously, a warning that he shouldn’t wish to be found with the sister when the brothers arrived. Leo had no desire to meet them either. Not because he was worried they might see something wrong in how he had come to meet their sister but for the fact that they were just more of what he hated; nobility. 

“I should be on my way anyway,” Leo said, hitching the sticks he held in his arm, “I have more wood to collect.” 

He didn’t like the way Fenton’s face twisted with triumph, obviously believing that Leo had heeded his warning. Leo would have liked to have put the earl in his place, but he had to remind himself of his position or at least the position they believed him to hold. I came here for a fresh start, he told himself firmly, gritting his teeth to stop himself from doing something he might regret. I can’t ruin it on my first week in Cornwall. 

He bowed purposefully to Arabella with a smile, focusing upon her as he said, “I wish you well, My Lady.” 

He offered Fenton a half-hearted bow, barely suppressing a sneer of contempt before he began to walk away. “It was nice to meet you!” Arabella called after him, and Leo struggled not to cast a look back over his shoulder.  

He didn’t stop until he was sure that he was well hidden by the undergrowth and trees. Quietly, he dropped his bundle of firewood down on a dry patch of earth and doubled back in the hopes of catching one more glimpse of the angel who had fallen out of the tree. 

He was just in time to see Fenton helping her up from where she had clearly dropped down onto the roots of the tree to pull on her stockings and boots. She gave the earl a smile of gratitude, but there was something else under the expression, something that suggested she wasn’t entirely pleased by his offer of help. She is unlike any other lady I have ever met, Leo thought again. 

He watched, feeling a pit of jealousy open like a black hole in his stomach, as Fenton began to escort Arabella back through the trees towards Lord Duckworth’s manor. 

“There you are!” he heard a second male voice yell, and he knew that her brothers had found them. Unwilling to run into them all together, 

Leo doubled back once more to collect his firewood and began to head down the stream towards the little log cabin that Lord Duckworth had assigned him as his own. 

It isn’t much, Leo thought when he came upon the cabin, but it is home. The one-room cabin was all he needed for a roof over his head and a small stone fireplace to cook his meals. He had been boarding there for only a week, and yet already it felt more like home than any other place he had ever lived. The first woodwork project he had ever worked on with his father stood atop the mantelpiece, three small wooden soldiers, and a horse. Not one of them was perfect, but they were everything to him. In fact, they were the only thing he had kept of his old life, and he smiled at the soldier with the deep gash in his leg, remembering how his father had joked that battles sometimes left wounds. Of course, this toy soldier had never been to war, but the comment had made the six-year-old Leo feel better about slipping up. 

Having placed the firewood in the hearth, ready to light the fire for his supper later, he picked up the injured soldier and turned him over, thinking not for the first time of his father. 

“I wonder what you’d say if you could see me now,” Leo thought aloud, huffing as he placed the soldier back on the mantelpiece and turned his attention back to his chores. He had plenty of work to get done before he could begin cooking. He could only pray that he could get everything done in time now that he had other things on his mind. Will I ever see her again? was the first thing that seemed to jump into his head, but he quickly pushed the thought away, trying to focus on collecting up all the tools he would need for the rest of his day.



“Mesmerised by a Duke’s Kiss” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Being the daughter of an Earl, the enthralling Arabella is expected to act like a proper lady. However, her only escape from her dull life and society’s pressures is reading in the woods. Until one fateful day, she accidentally stumbles upon her father’s tempting carpenter, and she realises that her wildest dreams can become reality…

Longing for a thrilling romance, will she defy her father’s will?

Upon his father’s death, Leopold Campbell finds himself thrown into the unwanted life of a Duke. Forced beneath the weight of his late father’s debts, Leo turns to his one true love, carpentry, and moves far from London. However, little did he know that his entire world was about to be shaken by his new employer’s tantalising daughter.

What will he do when he finds himself stuck alone with the seductive young Lady during the middle of a thunderstorm?

Torn between a confounding attraction to one another, Arabella and Leopold have no choice but to find a way to be together even if this means breaking all the rules. Will they defy Arabella’s older brothers who wish to tear them apart? When their affair threatens to destroy their lives, will their love go unspoken or will they find a way to be together once and for all?

“Mesmerised by a Duke’s Kiss” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

Get your copy from Amazon!

5 thoughts on “Mesmerised by a Duke’s Kiss (Preview)”

  1. Hello Emily
    I love how this story starts as the disguised duke as the carpenter Leo meets the unruly daughter Arabella in the circumstances and am fascinated how their relationship develops…am looking forward to reading rest of this interesting story!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and support, dear Valerie. I truly appreciate it!

      So glad you enjoyed the story! Make sure to stay tuned because I have more coming!

      Thank you again and have a lovely day!

  2. Wonderful cover!
    Very eye catching!
    Wonderful tease of a preview!
    So lets have the book!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and support, dear Austin. I truly appreciate it!

      So glad you like the story! Make sure to stay tuned because I have more coming!

      Thank you again and have a lovely day!

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