The Duke Before Christmas by Bianca Blythe



THE DUKE BEFORE CHRISTMAS





SHE ACCIDENTALLY PROPOSED to a duke... then he accepted.

Marriage was only supposed to be a business arrangement; Portia wasn’t supposed to fall in love. But then, Colin North, the Duke of Brightling, wasn’t supposed to board the ship to Guernsey either.

Unfortunately, Portia isn’t informed about a clause of her late father’s will that stipulates that if she doesn’t marry by the end of the year she will lose her inheritance, until it is almost too late. She must find a husband herself—one who is not picky and requires money. Fortunately, she finds just the person.

Colin North, the Duke of Brightling, does not require a bride. But when he mistakenly takes the cabin of Portia’s new betrothed on a ship bound for Guernsey, and she insists he marry her, he decides he may as well accept her offer. There’s something appealing about her, and he can’t abide the thought of ruining her life. After a decade of being chased by matchmaking mamas and simpering debutantes, it’s a relief to find someone who doesn’t know he’s wealthy and titled.

Then the chaos begins.

Other books in The Duke Hunters Club series:

All You Need Is a Duke

My Favorite Duke

A Duke Never Forgets

The Duke Meets His Matchmaker (Coming Soon)





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CHAPTER ONE





PORTIA TATE DASHED through the foyer toward the steps leading to her bedroom, ignoring the butler’s disgruntled look. Cranston cleared his throat noisily. The sound thundered through the room, as if he were practicing for the stage. The butler had long ago mastered the art of gravitas and was always finding opportunities to showcase it.

Portia swallowed her sigh and turned toward him. He gave a smug smile, as if she should applaud his discretion, even though Portia personally would prefer he simply say her name when he desired to speak with her.

“Sir Vincent would like to see you,” Cranston said soberly.

“Thank you, Cranston.”

“He’s in the library.”

Portia nodded. She shouldn’t have spent so much time at Daisy’s.

“Perhaps you should tell him that I’m here,” Portia suggested. “I know it’s evening now. I’m—er—sorry I’m late.”

“Everyone is sorry you’re late.”

Portia’s cheeks heated. “I haven’t forgotten about the ball. I’ll be down soon.”

“I suggest you change your clothes. Mrs. Jones is waiting for you upstairs. There is no need to damage Sir Vincent’s library.”

“Er—naturally. Thank you, Cranston. I’ll be right down.” Portia gave Cranston a bright smile, but the butler’s face didn’t echo her expression.

Portia turned to the staircase and reminded herself she was happy, no matter if, after over a year, Sir Vincent’s servants still viewed her with suspicion.

She was lucky Sir Vincent had taken her in after her parents died. Other guardians wouldn’t have moved to London so she might have a season.

She moved up the staircase, careful to lift her hem to lessen the possibility of mud spread, though not to a degree that might cause Cranston’s thick eyebrows to make any further athletic ventures across his lofty brow.

Sir Vincent had bought the townhouse for his new, now dead, bride, and there was something appealing about the high ceilings and white moldings, so prevalent in the 1790s. Unfortunately, Sir Vincent had never spent much time in it after that, and had filled it with heavy dark wood furniture from two centuries ago, the ones which he thought might be comfortably transported from his estate in Northumberland without excessive worry about the risk of highwaymen and treacherous ditches.

The dark furniture squatted awkwardly, as if uncomfortable against the painted walls, and suspicious of the occasional gilt embellishment.

Portia flung her bedroom door open and forced her features to form an apologetic look.

Her lady’s maid rose from a wooden chair and shoved a book into the pocket of her skirt. Portia’s stomach sank. No doubt, Jonesie had been waiting far too long. On the bed lay Portia’s yellow gown.