Rescued By a Lady's Love (Lords of Honor, #3)

By: Christi Caldwell
Author’s Note


When I was a graduate student at the University of Connecticut, I had the privilege and honor of interviewing men who’d served in World War II. These veterans, true heroes in every sense of the word were, in some cases, more than fifty-years removed from their battlefield experience. And yet, sitting in their homes and discussing the war with them, I came to find that those moments, for some were as fresh now as they had been years earlier. It forever shaped them.

When I met Derek Winters, the Duke of Blackthorne in “Captivated By a Lady’s Charm”, on the surface, I saw a snarling, angry man. And if you look at him on the surface that is all you’ll see. Which is why I was so intrigued by him. I wanted to peel back the layers, and when I did, I came to a man who bore the physical and emotional scars of his experience.

The Duke of Blackthorne and his heroine, Miss Lily Benedict, are two equally broken individuals whose lives intersect. Their story is one of struggle and darkness... but ultimately, I believe from some of our darkest moments, comes light.

I hope you enjoy Derek and Lily’s story.





Prologue


London, England

16 November 1813

Miss Lilliana Bennett was terrified.

She was also hungry.

Not, necessarily in that order.

Her stomach rumbled loudly in the nighttime quiet, muffled a moment later by a passing carriage.

Standing on the darkened, cobbled streets across from the lavish Mayfair townhouse awash in candlelight, huddling in her cloak, Lily really thought she preferred hunger to the terror that had gripped her the whole cramped mail coach ride from Carlisle.

For the pain of a nearly empty belly prevented her from thinking of the terror of being turned out by her parents; the two people who were supposed to love her above anything. On her sixteenth birthday, no less.

Terror licked at her senses, ultimately defeating the gnawing need for food. Just as it had twisted at her insides since she’d made the long ride by mail coach, alone, for the first time in her life. It had been with her through the leers and improper glances cast her way by the male passenger seated on the opposite bench.

And standing here, outside the London home of George Winters, the Duke of Blackthorne, it was even stronger now—fear. To calm the rapid pounding of her heart, she pressed her eyes closed a moment and drew forth the memory of his easy smile and gentle teasing.

I will marry you, Lily Bennett...

His pledge had not come after they’d been discovered by the parish busybody, Mrs. Rutgers, but before. Fury surged through her veins. That nasty gossip. Foolishly, Lily had clung to the hope that the woman would say nothing, if for no other reason than the Duke of Blackthorne’s identity. He’d been gone not even a day, on his way to London for business, when Mrs. Rutgers proceeded to share every sordid detail with Lily’s parents...and any villager who would listen.

Lily hugged her valise closer. When they were married, none of it would matter. If he intended to do right by you, why has he been gone more than two months...?

As soon as the poisonous thought slid in, she thrust aside the faithless misgivings.

It was not his fault.

Just as her parents had been powerless when the ruthless Duchess of Blackthorne had swept into their modest cottage, brandishing Lily’s notes to the young duke, and threatened Papa’s livelihood if he did not “deal with his daughter”. Mayhap Papa would have braved the whispers of the villagers, but he’d never brave the wrath of the venerable, revered Duchess of Blackthorne.

Lily curled her fingers around the handle of her bright floral valise. The wood handle bit into her hand and she welcomed the slight sting of discomfort. It prevented her from thinking of the haste with which Papa tossed her upon a mail coach and scuttled her off like yesterday’s refuse.

Wind howled mournfully through the darkened streets and she huddled deeper into her cloak.

Stop it! It was wrong to doubt George’s faithfulness because of the seeds of misgivings planted by their families. She steadied her trembling jaw. A man with the face of an angel, who’d given her gentle words of love, could never be guilty of treachery. No, she’d not allow them to cast doubt on what they shared. Just as Lily would be damned if she allowed his coldhearted mother to keep them apart.

Dukes do not wed the daughters of vicars, and they certainly do not marry whores who spread their legs without the benefit of marriage...

Her mind echoed with the force of her father’s booming voice. The muscles of her stomach knotted all the harder. He would marry her. For he’d promised it, along with his heart. He just did not know the day she’d given herself to him on the edge of the forest, they’d been observed in the most humiliating of ways.

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