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Excerpt for Devil Take the Duke (Lords of the Night Book 1) by , available in its entirety at Smashwords




Devil Take the Duke



Lords of the Night

Book two







Sandra Sookoo

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.



All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including photocopying, recording or by any information retrieval and storage system without permission of the author.



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Pirating of ebooks is illegal. Criminal Copyright Infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, may be investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is punishable by up to five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.



DEVIL TAKE THE DUKE © 2019

by Sandra Sookoo

sandrasookoo@yahoo.com

Visit me at www.sandrasookoo.com



Published by Blue Tulip Publishing

http://www.bluetulippublishing.com/



ISBN-



Edited by: Angie Eads and Heather Garcia



Book Cover Design by David Sookoo



Couple:– Hot Damn Stock

Background images: Deposit Photos



First Digital Edition: 2019

Dedication



To my husband David. Thank you for your unwavering support and encouragement, on the high days and the low ones. You are now, and always will be, my hero.

Acknowledgements



There is much work that goes into putting out a book, and while the author spends the bulk of that time alone, locked away with their computer and their characters, there are times when it’s essential that friends and readers have a bit of input. I’d like to thank the following people and Facebook friends for all their help and input on various topics while this book was in the writing stage:



For help in choosing what sort of paranormals will inhabit my Lords of the Night series:



Gwen Phifer, Resa Haile, JJ Nite, Alexa Dare, Cate Peace, Beth Caudill, Tammie King, Penny Elliott, Evita Perez, Lindsay Downs





For help in picking a title:



Cindy Bartolotta. Lucinda Poette, Michele Miller, Anna McLain, Kay Springsteen Tate, Gail Hart, Beverly Ross, Heather Garcia, Colleen Thompson, Talina Perkins, Mary Dieterich, Penny Elliott, Christine Warner, Amy Valentini,

Jennifer Gryner Coleman, Lori Farner Dykes, Donna Antonio, Mary Anne Landers, Angie Eads, Michele Jensen, Jessica Coulter Smith



And finally, to all the staff at Blue Tulip Publishing. You have taken my career to the next level and have opened another avenue for me so I can continue my writing journey, and for that I’m eternally grateful. Thank you.

Blurb



He accepts her but doesn’t love her... Donovan James Arthur Sinclair, 8th duke of Manchester, is cursed to roam the Earth as a wolf-shifter. He doesn’t mind the beast most days, for the life of a duke is quite splendid, but it is trying if he’s honest with himself. When he saves a country miss from an out-of-control carriage in a rural village, it occurs to him that he might be wrong.



She loves him but cannot accept what he truly is... Miss Alice Morrowe, is blind and firmly on the shelf, unloved and unwanted by nearly everyone she’s ever met. While she’s happy with her life, she wants acceptance for who she is. When she is thrown to the ground in a tangle of limbs by a very naked man amidst a thunder of hooves, she cannot help but wonder if her life is about to change.



A marriage of convenience that’s anything but... In her, Donovan sees a way to break his curse if he can seduce her into love. In him, Alice finds solace and the thrill of romance. She’s only too happy to wed him and grasp a life she’s always wanted, but is her love what he needs to banish the beast within? Emotions run high when things don’t turn out the way they’ve each planned. Only discovering truth and genuine love can bring clarity, hope… and happily ever after.





The Legend of the Cursed Lords





At least a hundred years ago, a handful of irreverent, spoiled lords had their way with female gypsy travelers in the countryside of England. In a fit of spoiled, drunken revelry, they set fire to a wagon and laughed as it burned while the remainder of the caravan fled in terror. That vehicle was owned by an ancient witch, existing through the years from the magic flowing through her veins. She took high exception to the destruction, as well as the uncaring attitudes of those English lords, and under the light of a full moon, the gypsy witch brought forth a powerful curse onto those unfortunate men.



From here to eternity, you will never know peace, never live the life of a full human man. You will always be a slave to the shifter, the beast, or anomaly within. All women who look upon your face will turn away in disgust, for in moments of high emotion, they will see the truth; there is no hiding from that. You will be held in terror once your secret is revealed—for tell them you must. And though you might marry, you are destined for the coldness of a joyless union, unless you find the very heart and secret of life. You will carry the burden alone, for this curse will only belong to you and cannot be transferred or shared with a mate.



But I am benevolent, men with no hearts, no morals, and less feelings. Every five years, during one full moon each quarter, the curse might be broken, if you are wise enough to come out of the shadows and see the error of your ways. Beneath the light of that one full moon when the kiss of unselfish, pure love crosses your lips, and pride, fear, and ego falls, then you might know the freedom of living as a full human with your affliction broken and your offspring unhindered. For yes, unless the curse lifts, any male children you might have will suffer too.



Tread carefully, accursed ones, else you will forever go through life cold, unloved, feared, and isolated.



To this day, those men are referred to as the Cursed Lords of England—the Lords of the Night—and until they find themselves hopelessly and helplessly in love so deep that they cannot survive without winning the heart of their lady, they are doomed to walk the earth hand in hand with their beastly halves, alone.











CHAPTER ONE





September 11, 1815

Shalford, near Guildford, Surrey, England



The chill of the early autumn ground seeped into his paws while the crisp air ruffled through the thick fur on his back as he ran.

Donovan James Arthur Sinclair, 8th duke of Manchester, crested a small hill and loped to a halt. Illumination from a half moon filtered through the tree leaves, frosting everything on the ground faintly with silver. Each blade of grass, each leaf, each groove in tree trunks was thrown into sharp relief. He threw back his wolf head, filled his canine lungs with air, and then let out a wild howl that echoed throughout the countryside.

As his hackles rose with anticipation, he bounded into movement once more. Every muscle in his body bunched and released as he ran. His claws dug into the soft earth with each footfall. Snout to the ground, he snuffled for the scent of prey through a few dry, fallen leaves and rotting vegetation.

On nights like this he felt at one with his beastly half, and when the freedom of running overtook him, he could ignore the curse that sent him shifting into the wolf every night.

As his tongue lolled out of his slightly gaping jaws, the sharp metallic taste of blood hit his palate. He’d recently killed a deer to assuage his hunger, and though his belly was full, the urge to hunt still raged, for it also amused him, and he hadn’t run all the way to Surrey from London for nothing. No doubt there were still a few animals for him to bedevil. A trip that would take a few hours by carriage, he accomplished in nearly sixty minutes.

There’s something to be said for becoming the beast within.

His wolf half howled into his mind with a sound he interpreted as laughter. Let me always be like this. Running free as the beast.

Donovan uttered a snort. I beg to differ with you. I rather enjoy my human form.

As a duke, he was afforded certain privileges that other men of the ton didn’t possess. At a position just beneath royalty, he maintained a lofty title, had accumulated two fortunes of his own in his lifetime through clever investments and the sweat of hard work, and he had only to arch an eyebrow or crook a finger if he desired a woman’s company in his bed. He wanted for nothing; his existence unfettered by demands of a spouse or children.

A twinge moved through his innards. Children that he’d been careful not to father for fear that males would be cursed as well and further besmirch his name through society. If the line stopped with him, so be it, but he refused to have anyone else trapped by shifter blood for something they—or he, or hell, even his grandfather—didn’t do.

I’m not that selfish.

He snickered. But he was selfish enough to live only for his pleasure. He was a duke, after all, and it was his God-given right. Life was perfect, or it would be if not for the damn curse he’d struggled with every day of his five and thirty years, fought against the whims of the beast within. He narrowed his wolfish eyes. Just like seven dukes of the same title before him, he’d had no choice except to submit to the demands of his beast when the desire to shift came upon him.

But he made damn certain to keep tight control on that aspect of his life. He refused to kill people, and in that, at least the shift remained civilized, for he’d learned much about himself during his stint in fighting Napoleon. In those years, he’d allowed the beast free reign. The wolf had killed many French; it was war after all. Afterward he’d despised himself even more for what he’d done, and he’d vowed to never again let the wolf override his human logic and thinking.

Being cursed was his lot, and he attempted to make the best of it, even if he hated it at times, but he didn’t need to reduce himself to a beastly mentality. If he didn’t have his wolf, he’d never know the joy of running through the English countryside or the freedom found with escaping the confines of London and the responsibilities that came with the title.

Those that were still valid in the places where he was accepted and not black-listed. Another “benefit” that came with the curse.

He pushed such thoughts from his head. Almost dawn, light had begun to break at the horizon, and those gold and lavender glimmers reminded him that he’d need to turn about soon and return to London if he didn’t wish to be seen as the beast, or worse, naked as he reclaimed his human form.

Stay longer. It is good here, nice for me. Quiet. There is the scent of goodness, of nature.

Donovan quelled the urge to roll his eyes. And London is nice for me. We’re going home. He might be bound to the animal, but that didn’t mean he had to live like one. London could be loud, dirty at times, and crowded, but it was his home.

His wolf remained silent, no doubt in high dudgeon. Amused, he continued his run, intent on cutting through the sleepy village of Shalford before turning back toward the capital. Following the River Tillingbourne, he snuffled along the shallow banks as he came into the small village proper. As he trotted past a grain mill with its water wheel, he had to admit the setting was quaint, if one liked that sort of thing, but he couldn’t imagine cooling his heels in such rustication. Hell, he rarely visited his own country estate, Kimbolton Castle in Cambridgeshire. What was the point?

Much room to run there.

Yet there is little entertainment, he silently reminded his canine counterpart.

His wolf whined. There is more to life than that.

If there was, Donovan didn’t wish to know.

Minutes later, he hit a dirt road that led into what would be a bustling area later in the morning. The tiny commerce section left much to be desired and featured a handful of businesses, namely a bakery, a butcher, a sundry shop, a musty-looking bookseller, and a few more he couldn’t bring himself to take an interest in. What amusement could such a village offer him that London couldn’t top?

Tiring of the pedestrian place, Donovan made his way off the path in favor of following the tree line, and just as he ducked into the foliage, a woman appeared from the direction of the water mill. Bored, but having nothing else to occupy his time, he sat on his haunches while the shrubbery obscured him, and settled in to observe, for a woman was a woman regardless of location.

And he wouldn’t be a red-blooded male if he didn’t appreciate her form.

Her simple day dress of unappealing lightweight gray wool neither hid nor showcased a figure. The fabric rippled in the breeze and occasionally would outline the length of a leg as she walked. A knitted shawl of ivory concealed her upper half, and for that he uttered a soft whine of annoyance. Such a disappointment, hiding one’s bosom with modesty. Those charms were but one asset that made women delightfully delicious. Plus, the rather ugly bonnet trimmed in faded navy ribbons obscured her hair and face.

Damnation. There’d be no fanaticizing this morning. No woolgathering either, for he did adore imagining the slow undress of a woman in his mind. Bedding members of the opposite sex provided entertainment in a world of ennui he’d sunk into, and who was he to turn away the opportunity to slake his desires if the female was willing?

Inside his head, his wolf snorted. Tiresome females. Bed you out of curiosity, desire your coin, wish the fame of being with you, for you are forbidden.

The words had the same effect as having a bucket of icy water thrown in the face. Do shut up. Yes, his title as well as a handful of other “accursed lords” had been black-listed throughout the ton even though they were titles of long-standing. He and his contemporaries were not granted admission to Almack’s nor were they given invitations to the most popular events during the Season, for if there was anything the lauded patronesses and sponsors in society liked more than exuding power it was indulging in gossip and rumors.

Not that it mattered, for he and his friends had created a rather tight social network of their own, including an exclusive risqué gentleman’s club. The proper circles of the ton could go hang for all he cared. I prefer my women on the scandalous side, and the more experienced with bedsport, the better.

His wolf chuffed in his mind. The female is in peril. It was said in a matter-of-fact tone. We must help.

The devil you say. Donovan snapped his full attention back to the ordinary woman on the country lane. From the opposite direction, a curricle raced down the road at breakneck speed. Its driver, still dressed in dark evening clothes that were rather rumpled, held the reins in lax hands, his expression somewhat green about the gills. No doubt a hungover lord driving without care. Bastard. Yet, there had been many times he, himself, had acted the same when he’d escaped a married woman’s bed minutes ahead of her husband returning home.

No matter that the curricle’s wheels crunched and rattled against the ruts and stones in the road, the woman didn’t glance up. She kept her gaze on the ground.

Damn it all. Donovan loped from his hiding spot. He headed in her direction at a run, his heart pounding. Why didn’t she pay attention?

Inside his head, the wolf whined. You aren’t the hero type. A certain amount of sarcasm dripped from the comment.

Don’t remind me of my shortcomings, and I’m not playing the hero. Even you can agree we cannot stand idly by and let the woman be trampled. Rarely did he concern himself with the affairs of anyone else, and philanthropy or charity wasn’t his style. Why should he care when no one showed the same consideration for him? In fact, he’d made rather a habit of remaining aloof and out of the public, for if society didn’t accept him, he didn’t need them.

When the driver of the curricle shouted as his vehicle quickly raced toward her, she finally lifted her head, but though she looked in the direction of the out-of-control equipage, she still didn’t alter her course.

Why won’t she bloody move? Regardless that the curricle’s driver pulled hard at the reins, his forward momentum wouldn’t enable him to stop in time. Donovan pushed himself into a determined sprint. As the carriage bore down upon her location, he jumped, catching her in the midsection with his body. They both tumbled to the side of the road in a blur and tangle of limbs just as the curricle thundered past. The driver flung a string of vulgarities her way but continued his path. Neither did he attempt to inquire as to the woman’s health.

What an arse. Even in his capacity as a duke gripped by boredom and apathy, he would have checked on a person he’d nearly run down on a public road. There were manners, after all.

Regardless, such carelessness deserved a sharp dressing down and a severe warning. He grabbed her skirts in his jaw and pulled her into a thicket that lined the side of the lane, and then down a slight embankment. Shrubberies there more or less hid them both from the road and any curious passerby, not that there was such at this early hour. He loosened his jaws, releasing her, but he remained close, waiting to see if she appeared injured.

She lay, apparently stunned, on the grass, her skirts twisted about her legs, hitched up to show the length of her slender calves encased in ivory stockings. “What in the world happened?” The bewilderment in her soft voice betrayed culture and breeding. Despite her plain clothing, this was no country miss.

Intrigued, but no less annoyed, Donovan called forth the shift, and his body contorted. Pain shot through his limbs, ricocheted through each nerve ending as his bones and organs knitted themselves into his normal form. Claws and snout retracted, replaced by nails and human teeth. Fur vanished in favor of his skin and hair, and when the metamorphosis completed its cycle, he collapsed on the ground beside her while she struggled into a sitting position.

Damnation, but that agony sapped at his strength. Never did he grow used to the trauma. As he shook his head to chase away the last vestiges of the transformation, he regarded his unlikely companion. Her bonnet had been knocked askew and hung at an awkward angle to one side of her head. Rich brown hair met his perusal, and in the rays of the dawn, burnished mahogany highlights glimmered. Though she’d landed her gray gaze, wide and confused, upon him, she didn’t react to his heroic act nor to the undeniable fact of his naked state. There were no words of gratitude or thanks. Neither did she look upon him with any sort of fascination. His ego twinged slightly, for he wasn’t accustomed to being so summarily dismissed.

“Why the deuce didn’t you move away from danger? You must be blind to not have seen such a path of destruction meant for you.” Every inch of the duke rang in his rebuke as he glared at her.

She put a gloved hand to her forehead. Her eyes narrowed. Anger flashed in those gray depths. “For your information, I am blind, but I’m not a simpleton. Though you may be to treat me like you’ve done.” The woman quickly set her bonnet to rights. “I heard commotion but didn’t know where it came from.”

Rendered speechless, Donovan opened and closed his mouth. What did one say to such an answer? He had no experience with sight impairment. So he took refuge in the annoyance that still swirled hot through his chest. “At least I have enough sense not to let a curricle trample me.” He straightened his spine but remained sitting on the grass beside her. How dare this woman think to argue with him.

“I possess manners enough not to shove a lady from the roadway and then proceed to drag her into the brush.” Then her eyes rounded and emotions clouded the stormy depths: confusion, terror… and curiosity. She sucked in a breath. “Do you mean to ravish me, then? You saw what you hoped was a vulnerable target and you pounced?” Before he could contradict the statement, she moved her head from side to side, searching with her gaze that didn’t hold the typical vacancy or blankness of one without sight. “Yet I was certain what knocked me down wasn’t a man at all.” One of her hands flexed. “I thought, for a brief moment, I’d felt fur, like that of a dog…”


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