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Excerpt: Lord Shallow

Book 2: Maitland's Rogues

Gwynna had prepared herself to face an old man who might wish to set things right in the twilight of his years. Instead, she had this aloof aristocrat.

Pretentious fop or no, the Duke of Claremont was something else as well: Beautiful.

As handsome a man as Gwynna had seen. That touseled hair was probably the height of fashion. The classical slope of his brow, the chiseled jaw, the slight stubble that gave him a dangerous air—made it nigh impossible to look away.

Moreover, he was immense. Measuring him with her Welshwoman’s eye, which could judge at a glance whether there was meal in the larder to last the month, Gwynna decided he was nearly half a foot taller than any man she knew.

And strong. That broad chest had been unyielding as she flailed at it, and he had needed but one hand to control her. For all that, his figure was lean and elegant, not coarse.

No doubt his tailor did worship him. Ladies must swoon when he entered a room.

Yet his eyes—she couldn’t fix the color—held a cool intelligence. He was no one’s fool.

Despair swept her. She might have faced down an old man preparing to meet his Maker, but she’d never persuade this too-perceptive aristocrat—whose features had only hardened since discovering her gender—that she was a member of his family.

Still, she was an Owen. He was but an Englishman. Welsh did not give way to English.

“I am the daughter of Megan Glendower Owen of Anglesey,” Gwynna said. “It’s an island off North Wales. It’s there William and my mother met. They fell in love.”

His gaze narrowed. “How the devil do you know that?”

That was the rub. She had no proof.

The duke looked down that patrician nose. “You Welsh are storytellers, are you not? Doubtless you felt compelled to put a lovely bow on something sordid—”

“It was love,” Gwynna insisted. “A man with your lofty self-regard cannot possibly fathom how passion can sweep all else aside.”

He stiffened. “You know nothing of me.”

A frisson of uneasiness swept her. They were all but alone in this dreadful castle.

His gaze hardened. “There’s no reason to believe a word of your tale, especially since you’ve been engaged in pretense from the first.”

“I pretended to be a boy because I couldn’t travel alone as a woman.”

“Those ruffians were on the verge of unmasking you.”

“I would have prevailed. Owen was with me.”

The duke frowned. “The only person I saw at your side was your terrified friend. Owen, whoever he may be, was nowhere —”

“Owen is Prince of Wales.”

He blinked. “If I recall correctly, England already has a Prince of Wales. Just the one, mind you, and his name isn’t Owen. Moreover, he would be the last person to rush to any woman’s defense.”

“You refer to the Regent—English royalty,” Gwynna said. “I do not regard him. Owen was the last true Prince of Wales. I am his blood descendant.”

“Ah. He would be dead, then?”

She glared at him. “His spirit lives. I’ll have what I’m due by rights, Englishman. And while I am certain every woman in England finds you a catch, I have no use for puffed-up peacocks.”

Brandy had loosened her tongue.

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