The Forbidden Duke (The Untouchables #1) Read Online Darcy Burke

Categories Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance Tags Authors: Series: The Untouchables Series by Darcy Burke

Total pages in book: 52
Estimated words: 49120 (not accurate)
Estimated Reading Time in minutes: 246(@200wpm)___ 196(@250wpm)___ 164(@300wpm)

Spinster Miss Eleanor Lockhart is suddenly homeless and employment is her only option. Ruined after succumbing to a scoundrel’s excessive charm nearly a decade ago, she’s lucky to obtain a position as a paid companion and committed to behaving with the utmost propriety. She definitely shouldn’t be in the arms of a man capable of utterly destroying what little remains of her reputation…
Titus St. John, Duke of Kendal, is known as the Forbidden Duke, a mysterious, intimidating figure who enters Society just once each year at his stepmother’s ball. A decade ago, he was a devil-may-care rake until his idle roguery brought about the ruin of Eleanor Lockhart—and his resulting self-imposed isolation. Now she’s back, and she needs his help. But by “saving” her, he may just ruin her life all over again.


Chapter One

St. Ives, England, February, 1811

Miss Eleanor Lockhart stared at her father in open shock. “You have nothing left?”

Davis Lockhart pulled at his sleeve, a familiar gesture that practically screamed his discomfort with this interview. “Not nothing, but not enough to support this household.” He turned apologetic, murky brown eyes on her. “And not enough to support you.”

Nora stared at him from the recesses of the ancient settee, whose broken leg was propped up with a stack of books. He’d lost all his money—or almost all, apparently—to a bad investment scheme. “What was it again?” she asked, shaking her head.

Father had always been a bit of a scatterbrain, but she hadn’t realized the depth of his ineptitude when it came to financial matters.

He coughed. “A building situation in Sussex.”

That sounded terribly vague. Unfortunately, she suspected he couldn’t provide a more detailed description, likely because he didn’t know one.

“What am I to do, then?” She asked the question plainly, without emotion, despite the thundering of her heart and the fear spreading through her limbs as she contemplated what her future might be. With no husband and nothing but a scandal-laden past to her credit, Nora had few options.

Father straightened and turned toward the window overlooking their small property on the edge of town. He leased the cottage and its surrounding garden. It was home—where Nora and her sister had grown up, where they’d plotted their exciting futures as countesses or duchesses, where Nora had returned, defeated, after leaving London in ruin in the midst of her second Season. It was where Nora had presumed she would live her spinster life, until such time as she had to find her own smaller cottage with the modest income her father left her. However, that was not to be.

“Your sister would surely take you in,” Father said without looking at her.

Nora doubted it, not because Joanna wouldn’t want to, but because her husband, the vicar, would likely disallow it. Nora was a pariah, a loose woman who’d been caught kissing a gentleman who wasn’t her husband or her fiancé. She was not the sort of woman Matthias Shaw would invite to live in his vicarage.

“I find that unlikely,” Nora said softly, her mind working even as her spirit was failing.

“Perhaps Cousin Frederick’s wife will take you in.”

Cousin Frederick who had died five years ago? He and his wife, the daughter of a baron, had sponsored Nora ten years earlier. They’d been kind and generous, and Nora had dreadfully and mortifyingly humiliated them with her scandalous behavior. They’d shipped Nora back to St. Ives immediately following her fall from grace with the explicit instructions that they would not be sponsoring Jo.

Since Cousin Frederick’s death, his wife Clara had remarried, and Nora couldn’t imagine she would reopen her home to the woman whose behavior had utterly embarrassed her. Perhaps when the gates to the Underworld were coated in frost.

Nora didn’t even bother responding to her father’s ridiculous suggestion. Instead, she tossed him a glower and gritted her teeth behind tightly closed lips.

He smiled in return. Rather it was a pained stretching of his mouth which only underscored how much he disliked confrontation, especially with his daughters. “I suppose you could find a position as a lady’s companion or perhaps a governess.”

He made the comment blithely, as if such employment grew on trees and were ripe for the picking. “Just how am I to do that?”

His brow pleated, and his eyes darkened. “How am I to know? You’ll work it all out. You’re a smart gel, like your mother was.” His tone softened. He wasn’t a particularly sentimental father, but Nora knew he’d loved her mother and still missed her, though it had been twenty years since her death.

Nora stood, intending to go and speak with her sister at once. Jo might not have any suggestions, but she at least possessed a sympathetic ear. The only one Nora had.

The afternoon was cool and overcast, but Nora was quite warm from her walk by the time she reached the vicarage on the other side of the village. Jo’s housekeeper, Mrs. Kettler, showed Nora to the small sitting room to await her sister.