A Return of Devotion
Available February 2019
Daphne Blakemoor was perfectly happy living in her own secluded world for twelve years. She had everything she needed--loved ones, a true home, and time to indulge her imagination. But when ownership of the estate where she works as a housekeeper passes on, and the new marquis has an undeniable connection to her past, everything she's come to rely upon is threatened.
William, Marquis of Chemsford's main goal in life is to be the exact opposite of his father. Starting a new life in the peace and quiet of the country sounds perfect until his housekeeper turns his life upside down.
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Marlborough , England
She should have been prepared. After all, she’d had two months to imagine this moment, to brace herself for someone new to enter her life. In truth, she’d done little else besides imagine all the possible scenarios, each one worse than the last.
But she hadn’t imagined this.
Daphne Blakemoor stared at the man in front of her and blinked. Repeatedly. Quick, slow, one eyelid at a time, every variation she could think of because it was simply not possible that the man in front of her existed. At least, not for another twenty years or so.
The dark blond hair, straight nose, angled jawline, and deep-set blue eyes in an almost overly symmetrical face were all too familiar. She’d seen the younger version every day for the past thirteen years in the face of a boy on the cusp of becoming a man. At that moment, he was three rooms away, replacing the final section of chipped and scarred dado rail in the saloon.
Discreetly, she pinched her leg through her skirt. She tried to picture a pony standing next to the man, just to see if she was lost in her imagination.
Nothing changed the scene on the porch just outside the front door. The man was still there, his mouth pressed into a stern line while a pucker formed between drawn eyebrows.
She’d seen a similar look on Benedict’s face whenever something confused him. It wasn’t as direct as this man’s—or as disconcerting. In twenty years, though, who could say? The boy was going to look just like this. Well, without the expensively tailored clothing and probably boasting a few more muscles. He was going to be a laborer, after all, not an aristocratic gentleman. The similarity was enough, though, that anyone would think this man was the boy’s father.
He wasn’t, though. Daphne knew. She’d been there.
And while there was a lot she’d forgotten—whether by accident or on purpose—the face of the man who’d fathered her son wasn’t one of those things.
All Daphne’s carefully thought-out plans, all her encouraging talks in the mirror—silent, of course, so her friend Jess didn’t tease her for it—all the practice she’d done getting a speech ready for this moment, all of those things were worthless because in that instant, Daphne couldn’t recall a single word.
What she wanted to do was shut the door solidly in this man’s face and scamper away to hide in the quietest, darkest corner she could find.
What she did was stand there. In the doorway. Doing nothing.
Because if this man was the new owner of her home, she had no idea what the proper course of action was.
The man’s head tilted to the side and the pucker between his brows grew deeper.
Daphne gulped. No one stumbled across Haven Manor. That’s what had made it such a wonderful place to hide for the past twelve years.
This man had to be in possession of explicit directions on how to get here. Since those would have been given to only one person, there was no if about it. This man was the new owner and she was blocking the entrance to the house, staring at him like a goose.
But what else was she to do? Benedict, the brightest spot in her life and the boy who wore a younger version of this man’s face, was inside, and she simply couldn’t let them see each other. Not until she’d come up with a plan and a well-rehearsed speech.
Speech or no speech, she should probably introduce herself.
Minutes of silent gawking didn’t do much to recommend her as an employee. The man was about to speak first and he was starting to look like he was seriously considering having those first words be her dismissal.