<All the Duke I Need>


All the Duke I Need
Desperately Seeking Duke #3
April 26, 2022
ISBN 978-0-06291366-1

Raised in the splendor of Carlyle Castle by her doting guardian, the Duchess of Carlyle, Philippa Kirkpatrick is one of the greatest heiresses in England. The duchess is eager to see her wed, but Philippa hesitates to leave the only home she knows.

William Montclair is in London to expand his family’s trading firm, with little progress. Impulsively he takes a job managing the Carlyle estate—for the money, he tells his incredulous brother, and only for a year.

Philippa is shocked by the handsome, scandalously bold new steward. It’s all she can do to prevent the horrified duchess from sacking him on sight. She determines to teach him how to love Carlyle as she does, only to find herself reluctantly charmed by the rogue.

It’s true; Will is falling for everything about Carlyle… including the duchess’s beautiful ward. But he has promises—and secrets—to keep, and telling Philippa would resurrect a devastating family scandal. Not telling her, though, means he must break her heart—and his own.

Order a Copy

Read Chapter One

Reviews

Inside the Story

Reviews & Honors

Posted when available

Inside Story & Bonus Features

The third book in the Desperately Seeking Duke series, following About a Rogue and A Scot to the Heart.

Prologue

<All the Duke I Need>1767

Carlyle Castle

The wedding was small, as it should have been. The bride, after all, was long past the blush of youth, and the groom, even older, was a widower.

But this bride dearly loved a party and was not about to miss a chance to throw one. The wedding might have been small and private, but the celebration which followed was neither.

The bailey court of Carlyle Castle had been transformed, with tents and awnings and a parquet dance floor assembled by a crew of carpenters. A lavish spread of delicacies wrought rapturous praise from the guests, and a string quartet played under the dining room windows. As if to bless the union, the sun shone warmly in a crystal blue sky and a light breeze kept the dancers from becoming heated. When the sun began to set, footmen moved from tree to tent, hanging dozens of lit lanterns until they outnumbered the stars and illuminated the bailey almost as brightly as day.

Sophia Constance St. James, Duchess of Carlyle, presided contentedly over the scene from the largest tent. It was more like a village fair than a London ball, which was exactly how her daughter had wanted it. And there hadn’t been a party at the castle in… goodness, years and years. It was good to hear laughter echoing off the stone walls again.

Her fond gaze found her daughter in the crowd, beaming into her new husband’s face. From the far side of the lawn boomed Stephen’s boisterous laughter. He was probably instigating a game of bowls or even an archery tournament. Her youngest son was like that. He had played a large part in planning the festivities, and he had been responsible for inviting the entire parish of St. Mary’s, where he was soon to take the post of vicar. Every lord, squire, merchant, and farmer within ten miles was here.

As she watched, the bridal couple turned and started toward her. The duchess’s heart almost burst with maternal pride. Her daughter might be old for a new bride—already thirty—but she was still beautiful and filled with joy. She wore a crepe silver gown that glittered in the twilight, and there were pink roses in her piled-high hair. But it was the luminous smile on her face that made the duchess’s throat tighten with happiness.

“Here you are, Mama,” said Jessica happily, sitting on the settee next to her. She held out her arms to her bridegroom. “Give her to me, Miles.”

Miles Kirkpatrick was tall and somber, impressive in his army uniform, his dark hair gone gray at the temples. But his expression was warm and tender as he handed over the little girl he held. Only then did he turn to his new mother-in-law and bow crisply. “An exquisite day, ma’am, of intense happiness. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

She raised her brows. “I only threw the party, Colonel. You and my daughter form the exquisitely happy part.”

He smiled, and Jessica laughed. “Don’t we, though?” She glanced around. “Where is Johnny?”

“He tired and went inside.” The duke had been determined to see his sister wed. He had even walked her to the altar, but that had exhausted his strength. He’d lasted only half an hour under the tents before retiring to the castle.

“Ah,” said Jessica. “I shall go see him tomorrow to thank him.” Another burst of laughter made her look up, across the lawn to where her younger brother held court. “And I would thank Stephen not to start a riot!”

The duchess smiled. “He would never.”

“Not where you could see him,” her daughter murmured archly.

By now she had got the little girl settled on her lap, but at this remark the child opened her mouth and gave a wide yawn. Her father murmured in worry, but Jessica simply stroked the girl’s hair and smiled. “Poor Pippa! We’ve kept you out here so long. Are you very tired, darling?”

The little chin set. The child shook her head.

“Now, Pippa, it is time for bed. Where is Asmat?” asked her father, naming the Indian ayah who was the child’s nurse.

<All the Duke I Need>“Don’t know,” said his daughter. She put her arms around Jessica’s neck. “Want to stay with Mama.”

Husband and wife exchanged a glance. Across the grass, the musicians had progressed from stately dances to rollicking country ones, the very sort Jessica loved best.

“Leave her with me,” said the duchess. “No doubt the nursemaid will come soon.”

Hugging the little girl close, Jessica hesitated. “Are you certain, Mama?”

She gave a stern look. “As if I didn’t raise four children. I think I shall be able to handle one small girl.” She waved her hands to shoo them away. “Go! Dance and be merry!”

“If you insist.” Gently Jessica deposited the child on the settee in her place. She bent down to speak to the girl, her fair curls brushing the child’s dark ones. After a moment’s whispered conversation, Jessica rose and took her bridegroom’s arm. “We shall be right over there,” she said—to the duchess or to the child, it wasn’t clear.

“I know where you will be,” said her mother dryly. “Have faith, my dear.”

The colonel went down on one knee and kissed his daughter’s forehead, her face so tiny in his hands. The little girl reached out and held onto a button of his scarlet coat. He murmured something to her, loosened her hand from his coat and kissed her fingers, then rose. “Thank you, ma’am,” he said, bowing again as Lady Jessica made a face of amused impatience at her mother. “Send for Asmat if—”

“Yes, yes.” She flicked one hand again. “One would think you don’t trust me.”

His face blanked with alarm, but Jessica burst out laughing. “Of course we do! We don’t want to put you out. But since you insist…” She gave the child a cheery wave and took her husband’s hand, pulling him back toward the dancing.

The duchess looked at the little girl, who gazed fearlessly back. Jessica had told her Colonel Kirkpatrick had a young daughter, but today was the first time she’d met the child. “You’re Philippa,” she said.

“Philippa Noor un-nisa Kirkpatrick,” was the reply, with surprising confidence.

“Your father calls you Pippa.”

She nodded. “Papa and Pippa.” She was quiet for a moment. “And now Mama, since Ammi is gone.”

Ammi must be her mother, who had died a year ago. Her Grace nodded gently. She knew what it was like to lose someone dear.

“What is your name?”

Her Grace’s brows went up. “Sophia Constance St. James, Duchess of Carlyle.” The little girl’s nose wrinkled in disgust. “Perhaps you will call me something else,” suggested the duchess, amused.

“Are you a daadee?” Philippa asked curiously.

“What is a daadee?”

“Ammi’s ammi. She gave me this before we came here on the ship.” Philippa patted the gold and jade pendant on a string of pearls around her neck. It was far too ornate for a child, but Jessica had been reading voraciously about India, and she said jewels on children weren’t unusual there.

“Ah.” The duchess nodded, but with a twinge. She was not a grandmother—not yet. “Would you like to call me Daadee?”

The little face brightened. “Yes!”

<All the Duke I Need>Her Grace was charmed. “Then I shall be Daadee.”

“Daadee,” repeated Philippa happily.

“Are you pleased to have a mama?”

Philippa nodded. “Mama’s dress is lovely.”

The duchess smiled in delight. “Yes, it is. So is yours.”

Philippa slid off the settee and spun around, watching her yellow skirts bell around her. At the end she gave a couple of hops to make the ribbons flutter. “Papa gave it to me.”

“That was very kind of him.” It was clear the colonel doted on his daughter—surprisingly so, for a man of his age and profession. The duchess had never known army men to be sentimental.

Philippa climbed back onto the settee. “Your dress is lovely, too, Daadee.”

The duchess looked at her own gown of deep blue silk, lavishly embroidered and dripping with Brussels lace. “Thank you,” she replied, amused all over again.

The child sat so primly on the settee, her little feet dangling off the edge. Another yawn almost made her fall over.

“Are you tired?” asked the duchess.

Philippa shook her head. “No, no, no!” Then she ruined it by yawning again.

“Perhaps you would like a cup of milk.”

Philippa regarded her with suspicion for a moment before slowly nodding. The duchess raised a hand, and a footman waiting nearby stepped forward. “Bring a cup of fresh milk for Miss Kirkpatrick.” The man nodded and whisked away, returning in a few minutes. The duchess handed it to the child, who lifted the cup with both hands and drank it all. She gave a gusty sigh, and her eyelids drooped.

Of course she was tired. She was all of three years old and it had been a long day. Still, the duchess was impressed by her fortitude. At that age, Stephen would have been a howling demon, throwing a temper fit on the ground, and Johnny likely would have bitten someone by now. Her boys had been wild and energetic creatures.

But then, to Her Grace’s astonishment, Philippa set down the cup and crawled right into her lap. She squirmed around, finding her preferred position, then turned up her head to gaze at the duchess. A little smile creased her plump cheeks, and then those big dark eyes closed and she went to sleep.

For a moment the duchess was frozen. Her arms had gone around the child instinctively, even though it had been a long time since anyone had crawled into her lap. But the little girl heaved a shuddering, sleepy sigh and nestled against her, and Her Grace’s grip tightened.

She sat for some time, inhaling the warm scent of the little girl, marveling at the silky texture of the dark curls brushing her arm. Philippa slept so soundly, so trustingly. At times her mouth worked as if she were sucking her thumb, just as Jessica had done as a child. It brought a fond smile to Her Grace’s face. It would be good to have a young one in the house again—and hopefully there would be more. Jessica was wed now, and Stephen would surely settle down soon.

She only gradually became aware of the whispers behind her. This tent was the most elaborately outfitted, but also now the quietest, as the duke had returned to the castle and most of the guests were clustered around the dancing area. The housekeeper had sent the maids out to start tidying up, and two of them were clearing the tables where guests had earlier dined on collared veal, lobster patties, and a fragrant dish called curry, made from the colonel’s own receipt.

“Brown little thing, ain’t she,” whispered one of the maids.

“I heard her mam was one of those Indian concubines,” whispered the other. “Fair strange for a man like the colonel to bring home a by-blow.”

The first maid giggled. “Sticks out, don’t she?”

“Wonder how long they’ll keep her about,” whispered the other. “Once Lady Jessica has a babe, and this one looks so different.”

“You there,” said the duchess sharply. With a clatter of china, both maids went silent. “Come here, both of you.”

Deathly pale, the two girls hurried to curtsy in front of her. Her Grace looked them both up and down, allowing her displeasure to show. “What is your name?”

“Sarah Wood, ma’am,” murmured the first one in a trembling voice, dipping another curtsy.

“Jane Carter, Your Grace,” whispered the second. She held her apron in a white-knuckled grip.

“Have you so little to do, that you can stand about gossiping?” The duchess raised her brow as they both shook their heads frantically. “Both of you think yourself superior to this child, I take it.”

“No, Your Grace,” said one in a tiny voice. The other girl merely shook her head again, her eyes wide and terrified.

The duchess stared at them coldly for another long moment. “Good. I will not abide that in this house. Sarah Wood, go inside and fetch a blanket for my granddaughter. Jane Carter, take those tablecloths to the laundry before the stains set.”

The maids stammered out apologies as they bobbed more curtsies and fled. Sarah Wood came running back a few minutes later with a blanket, and tucked it carefully around the sleeping girl. Her Grace dismissed the maid with a silent nod, still irate at their conversation.

No one mocked or belittled her guests, let alone an innocent child who was now part of her family. Her Grace studied the angelic little face resting against her arm and felt a piece of her heart melt. Daadee. Not a grandmother, but very nearly. Careful not to disturb her sleeping burden, she settled more comfortably in her chair.

At some point the bridal couple whirled back, Jessica’s silver dress rumpled and the roses in her hair drooping but her face flushed with happiness. The colonel’s own smile vanished when he saw where Philippa was.

“Oh, the poor little dear,” cried Jessica softly.

<All the Duke I Need>“I’m very sorry, ma’am,” said the colonel, reaching for his daughter. “Let me take her.”

“Why?”

He flushed. “I should have found Asmat to put her to bed.”

“I have her.” The duchess raised a brow, looking between the two of them. “Go along and have your fun, my dears. Do not waste your wedding day. Don’t worry about her—or me.”

Jessica smiled. Lightly she brushed one hand over Philippa’s dark curls. “Thank you, Mama.”

“That is too kind, madam,” murmured her husband.

“It is my pleasure,” said the duchess serenely. “I will take good care of her for as long as you need me to.”