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Daisy and the Duke

Written by Janice Maynard

Sometimes Ian Furchess hated being the duke of Wolffhampton. Like when he had no idea how to pay for his ancestral castle, which costs more to run than some small countries. Or when his grandmother pressured him to marry—preferably someone rich and titled. Ian hadn't even wanted to be a duke.

So when a beautiful American tourist landed on his doorstep, Ian was caught between his duty and his desire. He knew Daisy Wexler had her own agenda, one that could be the ruin of a duke. And yet, Ian had had his fill of duty. It was time to indulge his desires….

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Chapter one

Ian Furchess, eleventh Duke of Wolffhampton, was feeding pigs. The irony of the situation did not escape him, but in truth, it wasn't a bad way to spend an unseasonably warm February afternoon. The weather chaps were all atwitter with record highs and warm air masses and the like. Ian chose not to analyze his good fortune. It was enough just to feel the hot sun on the back of his neck and to think about something other than his problems.

An importunate sow brushed up against his leg, smearing mud across the thigh of an ancient pair of pants. Ian chuckled, mostly at himself. Here he was, seventy-third in line for the throne of England, communing with livestock.

He took a certain pride in it, actually. It was his own personal rebellion. Ian had never wanted to be Duke. But when his parents and older brother were killed in a sailing accident the year Ian turned twenty-one, his life had changed forever.

He should have been with them on that boat. Instead, he'd been charging with testosterone-fueled determination across the polo field, leading his university team to a championship. A natural horseman, Ian's dream had been to take the fortune he'd inherited from his maternal grandfather and establish a world-class stud farm.

Instead, he now bore the sole responsibility for an aging pile of rock, a stubborn and imperious grandmother, and the future of the entire Wolffhampton progeny.

To use an American phrase that would never cross the lips of a proper duke, life sucked.

"Hellooooo…"

Ian's head snapped up. A trio of soon-to-be-bacon animals scattered.

The woman in the distance drew nearer, her smile sunny. "Can you help me, sir? I'm trying to find the Duke of Wolffhampton. This is his house, right?" She shielded her blue eyes with one hand, brushing away tendrils of blond hair that danced around her face, and glanced up at the imposing lump of granite that Ian called home. Wolffhampton Castle was impressive rather than attractive, but it had served his family well for centuries.

Ian sighed inwardly. "The duke is not available. May I help you?" He'd pegged the young lady right off. Ever since William and Kate married, the countryside had swarmed with single female tourists hoping to snag their own fairy-tale prince. He wondered if they expected to find royalty hiding behind potting sheds.

Her face fell. She hitched her enormous tote higher on her shoulder. "I'm Daisy Wexler. I really need to speak with the duke. It's a matter of some importance." Her accent placed her from somewhere in the American South.

Ian's stomach clenched. "Concerning what?"

The woman was lovely, dressed much like Gatsby's Daisy, all in white—a flowing linen jumper and a simple cotton shirt beneath. But she had added splashes of color in a strawberry belt and a jaunty daffodil scarf that fluttered in the breeze.

She wrinkled her nose, a small frown appearing between perfectly arched brows. "Perhaps an illegitimate child. But without speaking to the duke I can't be certain."

Bloody hell. Ian's internal radar blared a warning. At the rate his bank account was dwindling, he certainly couldn't afford to battle an inheritance claim in the courts, even though he already knew what the outcome would be. He and his grandmother, the elderly duchess, were the only surviving members of the once-prolific Wolffhamptons. That was a fact.

As delicious as the adorable Daisy was, Ian was not about to let himself become embroiled in a fabricated claim to the lineage. "The duke is a very busy man. Perhaps if you called for an appointment…"

Daisy's small chin lifted, adding a hint of stubbornness to her heart-shaped face. "But I have called…repeatedly. No one answers."

Precisely. Ian had disconnected the answering machine for a reason. "I'm sorry," he said, wishing he'd met this delectable creature in other circumstances. "You've wasted your time."

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Janice Maynard

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