The temporary duchess a.., p.1
The Temporary Duchess: A Jet City Billionaire Serial Romance, p.1Gina Robinson
The Temporary Duchess
A Jet City Billionaire Romance
Three Jays Press, LLC
Also by Gina Robinson
About the Author
Copyright © 2016 by Gina Robinson
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.
Cover Design: Jeff Robinson
The Temporary Duchess/Gina Robinson. — 1st ed.
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The Billionaire Duke Series
Part 1—The Billionaire Duke
Part 2—The Duchess Contest
Part 3—The Temporary Duchess
Part 4—The American Heir
The Switched at Marriage Series
Part 1—A Wedding to Remember
Part 2—The Virgin Billionaire
Part 3—To Have and To Hold
Part 4—From This Day Forward
Part 5—For Richer, For Richest
Part 6—In Sickness and In Wealth
Part 7—To Love and To Cherish
The Billionaire’s Christmas Vows
Gina Robinson’s Contemporary New Adult Romance Series
The Rushed Series
These standalone romances can be read in any order. But it’s more fun to read them all!
Book 1—Rushed, Zach and Alexis’ story
Book 2—Crushed, Dakota and Morgan’s story
Book 3—Hushed, Seth and Maddie’s story
The Reckless Series
Ellie and Logan’s love story begins one hot August night. This series should be read in order.
Book 1—Reckless Longing—FREE
Book 2—Reckless Secrets
Book 3—Reckless Together
Sometimes dreams come true. But would mine? Would I become duchess and save my sister? Find true love with the handsome duke? Live happily ever after? Or would Lady Rose snatch my duke away from me?
The beds in Wareswood Castle were sumptuous and comfortable. Deep and fluffy. Made for sinking in and reveling in complete luxury. Even so, I woke early on Sunday morning after tossing and turning most of the night. Bruised by my dreams as if there had been the proverbial pea beneath my mattress.
My sleep had been haunted by nightmarish images of Riggins proposing to Rose. This might be my last taste of the good life. Worse—it could very well be the end of my hopes for a relationship with Riggins. It sounded melodramatic to say, but my heart would be crushed. For so many reasons.
Riggins. Even his name dancing in my mind made me smile. I had it bad for him. Today was the day. I had to win his favor.
I allowed myself the comfort of lounging in bed, snuggling in beneath the covers, daydreaming about him.
A knock on my bedroom door interrupted the rare and lazy pleasure of lying in bed later than dawn. Sid was still asleep in her adjoining room. Which meant I had to answer it.
I got up groggily. My pajama pants were wrinkled and pushed up around my knees. My hair stood on end. My teeth were unbrushed. I ran my fingers through the tangles of my hair, threw on a fluffy robe that came with the room, and paused just before automatically throwing the door open. I had a second of panic, and delight, an awkward combination, that it might be Riggins. Or maybe the highly proper Mr. Thorne.
I was about to ask, Who's there? when the knocking started again.
"Haley? Haley, it's Rose. Are you there?"
There was no point in hiding out and ignoring her. She'd find me. She'd already interrupted my thoughts of Riggins. What more damage could she do?
I sighed, heavily, and mentally hissed Rose's name, before gently cracking the door and peeking out at her. She was immaculately turned out—hair flowing in dark waves, makeup done, lightly perfumed, and wearing skintight jeans and a sweater. She even had false eyelashes on. Who wears false eyelashes on the weekend? Or any day at this early hour? Personally, if I ever became duchess, or came into those several hundred million, I was going to get lash extensions and not worry about false lashes again. Rose looked ready for a photo shoot or the latest batch of paparazzi to pop out of the bushes and snap her picture.
She was unreal. I half thought she must be made of wax or something, her skin was so perfect. Maybe she was enchanted and a real woman lurked beneath if the spell was ever broken. In the meantime, my chin itched, which meant I was getting a pimple.
"There you are!" She let out a whoosh of breath. "You're in, thank goodness. May I come in? This is an emergency, I'm afraid." For being in supposed crisis mode, she sounded way too cool and collected.
If this was how she handled dire circumstances, I wanted to be her. There was nothing I could do. This was an emergency, after all. Exaggerator. I swung the door open and let her in, closing the door behind us and wondering what kind of emergency she could possibly be having.
She looked around the room, taking everything in. "Isn't your room quaint? You must have a view of the garden. There's not a bad view in the house. I can see the lake from mine."
Yes, and I wished she'd go jump in it, but was too polite to say so aloud. She was clearly hinting that she was Riggins' favorite, since he'd assigned the rooms. And she had a lake view while I had to make do with the garden. At least he hadn't given her an adjoining one to his.
I forced myself to smile. "There are only two adjoining suites in the castle and this is the best of them." Why was I defending our room assignment to her? "Our rooms were Helen's. At least, that's what Beth told us yesterday.
"How lucky for you. Unfortunately, my room is the American-themed one. All the red, white, and blue, and Americana." She shuddered. "I had to get out of there before I went crackers."
Ha! I almost laughed aloud. Riggins did have a sense of humor.
"Did you have any luck tracking down Helen's mom's ghost last night? Lazer came well equipped for the hunt." I put a small amount of innuendo in my voice, hinting that Lazer had been on the hunt for more than ghosts.
To be honest, I'd been rooting for him to win her affections and take her out of the game. In this weird case, Lazer was my ally. I would have done anything to help him. I watched Rose closely, hoping to see Lazer had disengaged her attention from Riggins.
"Lazer's sweet." She smiled, but I didn't see any glint of lust in it.
Crap. Lazer was losing this battle. Wasn't one billionaire as good as another? Maybe not when one had an obligation to
"But as a ghost-hunting prodigy?" She shook her head. "I've seen better with the ghost hunters who've come to Papa's house over the years. Lazer and I came up empty." She looked neither surprised nor particularly disappointed.
"I haven't good luck with ghosts. They're surprisingly shy around me. Which is surprising, since so few people are. My father's ancestral home is supposedly haunted, but I've never come close to seeing anything vaguely paranormal. Though Papa claims he has, mostly when he was a boy. I think that's boyish imagination and purely fanciful thinking on his part." She shrugged again.
Hmmmm, I thought. I wasn't surprised. "Ghosts, I suppose, are more commonplace in England. Call me chicken, but I actually have no desire to run into one."
"Which exactly means you will! That's how ghosts work, isn't it? You'd better avoid Witham House." Rose's smile was simply too sweet. "It has a reputation for having an active dead community. Ghost stories abound about it! According to historical accounts, several of the early earls met untimely ends. And I wouldn't be surprised if Riggins' Dead Duke has joined the cast. Witham House has an entire tower called the Ghost Tower, and for good reason."
It was clear Rose would use any method at her disposal to scare me off from Riggins.
I ignored her bait. "You said something about an emergency?" Which I was beginning to believe was manufactured just so she could get me out of bed before I had my full beauty rest.
It was one of those odd things, but on days when I didn't have to get up early to go to the bakery, I could sleep until noon. My natural sleep rhythms didn't align with the baker's life and hours.
"Oh! Yes. A female emergency—you don't have a tampon or pad on you, do you? You or Sid? I obviously can't ask Kayla. She'd be no help. I'm afraid things sneaked up on me. I'm all off schedule and still on London time." She laughed. "I hate to ask someone to run out and buy some for me. One or two would get me through to the afternoon."
I thought about playing dumb and telling her we were both completely tampon-free. But I noted her sense of entitlement, as in she wouldn't be dashing off to buy them. She'd send someone else off to do it. And, for good or ill, I had the natural sympathy of a woman caught unprepared.
"I'm sure I have one in my purse." I turned toward the dresser and grabbed my purse to rummage through it. "Ah! Here's one. It's only slightly banged up from bouncing around the bottom of my bag. But it should do."
I turned around to hold it out to her. Rose was standing in front of my open closet, examining my wardrobe, gently fingering one of the dresses I'd decided not to wear last night. And from her posture, she wasn't pleased. She was battle-ready.
She turned to face me. "You brought rather a lot of clothes for this weekend." Her voice was neutral, pleasant, but she couldn't completely mask her surprise. There was that tone that said she hadn't thought I was a clotheshorse and was amazed I knew how to put together a reasonable ensemble.
"And why not?" I laughed lightly. "I shop at Flashionista. Which allows me to afford way more than the average person. I couldn't make up my mind. I just threw a bunch of things in."
Okay, bad me, rubbing it in. I left out the part about having personal Flashionista shoppers provided by Riggins. That was just salt in the wound. I wasn't that cruel, though I wanted to be.
Rose frowned as if it had just now occurred to her that if she wanted to win Riggins' favor, maybe she should be shopping at his company. Well, duh. Common sense, right? Even though being a bargain shopper was probably beneath her.
"Let me check with Sid," I said, returning to the original emergency. "I bet she has a tampon or two she can donate to the cause. I'll be right back."
I slid into Sid's room without knocking. She sat up in bed, sleepily, looking sultry and exotically beautiful. Her dark, straight hair was completely smooth, with no sign of bedhead. Some guy was going to be very lucky to wake up to her morning after morning. I couldn't help being a tiny bit jealous. I never woke looking like that. I always looked more like the Bride of Frankenstein.
"What's up?" She stretched her arms high above her head. "Am I late getting up already? I thought breakfast goes until eleven?"
"Rose needs an emergency tampon."
"There's a pouch of them in my bag on the bathroom counter. Take as many as she needs."
I arched an eyebrow.
Sid laughed and whispered, "Take one less than she needs."
"That's better." I winked and went to the bathroom to get them.
I returned to my room, waving a trio of tampons like they were the grand prize package of the weekend. "Sid had three supers she could spare for the—"
Rose had her hand on the handle of my bedroom door. She struck a pose and threw it open theatrically…
"Rose?" Riggins stood in the open doorway with his hand in his pocket, looking stunned and surprised as his gaze bounced between Rose and the tampon-waving madwoman, me.
Yeah, waving tampons was surely the way to a man's heart. Because men felt so comfortable around feminine protection. Thoughts of menstruation surely turned them on—not. And even though Rose was the one on the rag, I was the one with the pimple on my chin. She couldn't have set me up any better if she'd planned it. And maybe she had.
My face burned. I stuffed the offending super tampons into my robe pocket.
Riggins recovered quickly and smiled in a way that made my heart thump oddly out of rhythm. Like he was mildly amused by the situation. And a little frustrated.
I thought I saw his fist clench in his pocket around something. Something suspiciously square in outline. If we'd been alone, I would have asked him if that was a jewelry box in his pocket or was he just happy to see me. All right, that was a little presumptuous, maybe. Or optimistic. Hope does spring eternal.
I did wonder, though. This weekend was clearly a test. Was he going to crown one of us with Helen's ring by the end? If so, the end was quickly approaching. Or was he just toying with us?
"Riggins! What are you doing here?" A seductive smile lit Rose's face.
If she was displeased about him stopping by my room, she didn't show it. And the traitor completely ignored the tampons and the trouble I'd gone to to get them for her, her emergency completely forgotten.
"I could ask you the same thing." He smiled pleasantly at her and looked around her to me.
I should have done a better job finger-combing my hair. I looked a mess. In a head-to-head competition with Lady Rose, I was so far behind, I came in third even though there were only two of us in the running. I resisted the urge to duck behind the bed.
"I stopped by to see if Haley wanted to go down to breakfast with me," Riggins said.
"Great minds think alike." Rose took his arm. "I stopped by for the same reason."
Big, fat liar!
"As you can see, Haley isn't quite ready. I'll walk down with you." She gently turned him around, calling back over her shoulder to me as she took his arm, "Join us when you can, Haley!"
Rose saved me from making a tactical mistake. On second thought, surprising Haley in her room with a proposal wasn't the most romantic gesture. Or even real clear thinking on my part. Wasn't I the guy who'd refused to propose in a lawyer's office? I had to do better than dragging a woman out of bed to propose a business marriage to her.
Even though this was anything but the romance of the century, Haley deserved to be proposed to when she was at least wide awake and looking her best. Not waving a set of tampons around. Which made me chuckle. She looked so cute when she blushed. I wanted her to be clearheaded enough to weigh the pros and cons of what I was proposing.
I thought Haley looked adorable in her rumpled pajamas and bedhead hair, blushing beautifully as she flashed those tampons. Which were obviously for Rose, who hadn't blushed a
Rose clung to me through breakfast like an anxious child. Probably worried that if she lost sight of me for a second, I'd offer my hand to Haley. She hung on my every word. Looked at me adoringly. And flirted with me very prettily.
Some guys would have eaten her attention up. I couldn't imagine spending any part of my life being constantly fawned over like that. It must have been the practical upbringing by my no-nonsense mom. And the last thing I wanted was to be chased around by photographers who'd been tipped off by Rose about where we were going to be every minute of our lives.
I'd managed to keep the media away from us over the weekend by hiring the best security crew in Seattle to patrol the perimeter of the grounds and keep the riffraff away. They were the same company Flash used. But I'd asked for a double security team and added the extra drone-combating detail to the package. Life married to Rose for any length of time would be one interruption into my private life after another.
Maybe I did share some DNA with the reclusive Dead Duke, after all. His private life out of the spotlight sounded damn appealing after the week I'd had.
Before Haley came down to breakfast, Thorne pulled me aside, asking for a private meeting, saving me from Rose's constant attention.
I excused myself and left her in Lazer's capable hands while I met with Thorne behind closed doors in the library.
"This is a very good room, Your Grace." Thorne looked around at the leather-bound volumes on the shelves. "Not as nice, or as large, as Witham House's. But a very nice collection, all the same. I frequently met with the late duke in the library. It and his study were his favorite rooms. I must say, I quite like the idea of continuing the tradition with the current generation."
I fell in to a deep leather armchair. "Enough beating around the bush, Thorne. What did you want to talk to me about?"
"I wanted to discuss the details of the DNA results."
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