A Heiress for the Masked Marquess (Preview)


Grab my new series, "Delightful Dukes and Damsels", and get 2 FREE novels as a gift! Have a look here!

Chapter One



Selina looked around at the exclamation and the sound of breaking crockery. Her maid was standing by the washstand, holding her arm by the wrist rigidly, her entire body stiff. She could hear the whimpering. Putting aside the pins she had been putting into her hair, Selina hurried over.

“What is it, Hilda? Oh, my!”

She could see the problem now. The water jug was broken and had dropped everywhere. Some of it was in the washbowl, and the rest on the floor. And part of it had cut into Hilda’s hand. Blood oozed from her palm, and Hilda’s breath was coming out in sharp pants.

“I… I didn’t… it just broke apart on me…”

The sight of the blood made Selina lightheaded, but she could see that Hilda was in a worse state. She gently led Hilda away from the mess and sat her on the edge of the bed. Then she hurried over to the bell pull and tugged hard, hoping that someone would come and help.

“Mrs. Oliver will be here in a moment,” Selina said as she grabbed one of the cloths she had used to dry herself earlier, returning back to the bed. “She’ll be able to take care of you.”

“I hope so,” Hilda whispered, staring at the blood welling up. “I… I feel sick.”

“I know.” Selina placed the cloth over the cut and pressed down, which made Hilda wince. “It’ll be fine. It’s just a scratch. You’ve had plenty of them before.”

Hilda’s mouth twitched, but it turned into more of a grimace. It had become a bit of a running thing between them. Her maid was probably the clumsiest person Selina had ever come across. How she managed to break something or knock something over all the time was beyond anyone. It was just a trait that Hilda had managed to bring along with her when she first became employed in Selina’s household, and it hadn’t improved over the years. Selina had no idea how she was still standing and hadn’t broken herself to pieces long ago.

“Forgive me, My Lady,” Hilda mumbled, her face still very pale. “I don’t know what happened. I just picked it up…”

“It was an old jug, so it was probably going to break sooner or later. Did you get yourself wet as well?”

“The jug was empty, but some water in the bowl splashed on me.” Hilda shrugged one shoulder. “It’s water. It can dry off.”

Selina was surprised that the bowl hadn’t been broken as well. Another expense to sort out, though. The housekeeper wasn’t going to be impressed, but there wasn’t much they could do about it. Selina was sure that there was more than enough to get a new jug. It was a small price to pay.

In the six months since she had become the sole beneficiary of her uncle’s estate, Selina had learned a lot more than she had anticipated about being financially independent and where money went. It was a surprise that she even understood any of it, but it had been explained to her right at the beginning. Even her uncle had made sure she knew the basics when he was alive, and Selina was grateful for that.

He would probably be chuckling right now at Hilda’s clumsiness. Getting a new jug would be nothing for him.

The door opened after a quick knock, and Mrs. Oliver came in. She stopped suddenly when she saw the pair, Hilda still sitting on the bed with Selina kneeling before her.

“Goodness! What’s going on here?”

“Can you take Hilda downstairs, Mrs. Oliver? She’s just cut her hand, and it needs tending to.”

The housekeeper sighed and shook her head.

“Honestly, Hilda, when are you going to stop getting yourself into trouble? I’m almost worried about letting you help set the table at mealtimes.”

Hilda bowed her head, and Selina felt some sympathy for her maid. She got to her feet, helping Hilda to stand.

“It was just an accident. No harm done otherwise. Would you mind, Mrs. Oliver?”

“Of course. Come along, dear.” Mrs. Oliver reached Hilda’s side and put an arm around her shoulders. “Let’s get you seen to. Then I’ll see if I can find something where you can keep yourself out of trouble.”

Hilda nodded, biting her lip. She looked close to tears, and Selina couldn’t blame her. She would probably be in the same position had it happened to her. It could have been her if she had been washing herself at that point.

Her maid seemed to have all the bad luck.

As the housekeeper led the younger woman out of the room, Regina Garrison entered the bedchamber. She stepped around the pair and gave them a curious frown, but Mrs. Oliver simply nodded her thanks for moving aside and they left. Then Regina turned to Selina.

“What just happened?”

“Hilda cut her hand on something.”

“Again?” Regina sighed. “That girl could cut herself on cloth if she tried.”

“Don’t say that, Regina. It’s only an accident,” Selina pointed out.

“It’s an accident too many.” Regina shook her head, her gray curls bouncing around her face. “I don’t know why you keep her on. She’s always hurting herself, and I’m sure she’s off sick more than she works. You don’t have the time for her.”

This conversation again. Selina understood that Regina meant well, but she had put her foot down on Hilda. Her Uncle Christopher had hired Hilda and had been fond of her, and Selina was content with Hilda being her lady’s maid. She wasn’t about to let her go now. Regina might think that it needed to happen, but Selina didn’t.

It was a good thing that she was the one in charge of the household and not her cousin.

“She is efficient when she’s present, and that’s enough.” Selina went over to the dresser and picked up the pins she had been using. “I’m not going to get rid of her because she drops a few things.”

“She’ll end up breaking something of value, and then you’ll not want her around,” Regina insisted.

“She’s not going anywhere, and that’s final.” Selina shot the other woman a look in the mirror. “Don’t argue about this, Regina. I don’t want to hear it.”

She could tell that Regina wanted to argue further, but she wisely kept quiet. Selina didn’t want to start anything again. Much as she liked Regina, she seemed to think that she had a voice in the house because she was older. It didn’t matter that Selina was the one who had the fortune and was in charge, Regina Garrison saw her position differently. Probably because she had been a close confidant of Uncle Christopher when he was still alive. As cousins, the two of them had been close, and Regina liked to think that Christopher Cotter listened to her. Maybe he did, and Selina did listen as well, but she was not about to be swayed on the decision of keeping Hilda around.

“Alright, I won’t say anything.” Regina approached her, taking the pins from Selina’s hand. “Let me finish. It’s your usual style, yes?”

“Please.” Selina settled on the stool and waited as Regina began to put the rest of the pins into her hair. “My curls seem to be out of control lately, and I don’t want to look like I’ve been dragged through a hedge.”

Regina laughed.

“You mean like the time you actually ran through a hedge when you were playing with your cousins and came back with half of the hedge in your hair.”

Selina groaned.

“I can’t believe you remember that. That was nearly fifteen years ago!”

“I have a good memory. Your curls were adorable back then.”

“Not so much now.” Selina made a face in the mirror. “I don’t want Lady Milbourne to see me in such a mess.”

“You’ve never looked a mess, Selina. You always look a picture.”

“I’ve never understood that expression. It sounds odd.” Selina frowned. “Do you think she’s going to start talking about how I need to choose a husband sooner rather than later?”

Regina raised her eyebrows.

“You believe that’s going to come up?”

“It’s been coming up for the last six months. Any conversation comes back to it, and it’s really annoying.”

Selina liked the Countess of Milbourne, and she was a good friend, but she seemed to be fixated on getting Selina married, especially in the last six months since Selina inherited her uncle’s entire estate. The fact that a woman, and an unmarried one, had inherited something that would normally be passed to a male heir, was practically unheard of and the talk of the ton even now. Uncle Christopher had been one of those people who was classed as eccentric and did things his way, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise. Selina could still remember the shock hearing that she was the sole beneficiary and that was it. The lawyer wasn’t too sure what to do about it, and Selina felt as if nobody knew what to do with her.

She had needed to mature a lot faster than she wanted in recent weeks, just to keep on top of everything.

The last thing Selina wanted was to have suitors pestering her about wanting to court her when they would barely give her a glance before. She had no faith in people outside her small circle anymore.

“Maybe it’s something to think about,” Regina began, and Selina groaned.

“Not you as well, Regina!”

“But you can do that in your own time. You decide when that’s going to happen.” Her cousin fixed the last pin and stepped back. “But we all want to look out for your welfare, that’s all. You understand that, don’t you?”

“I understand it.” Selina stood up and dusted herself down. “I just wish it wasn’t all the time and when it’s not a priority.” She glanced at Regina with a sly smile. “Maybe I should become a spinster and say that marriage isn’t for me.”

Regina laughed.

“Given your beauty, I don’t think that’s going to be a deterrent.”

“You enjoy being unmarried, don’t you?”

“I do, but not in the beginning. It’s lonelier than you think.” Regina looked towards the clock. “We’d better get going. You’re going to be late for the Countess of Milbourne if we don’t hurry.”

Selina wondered if being a spinster wasn’t as lonely as her cousin made it out to be. She had reached her fifties without a romantic partner in sight, as far as Selina was aware, and said that she was fine with her life. While being a spinster with her current situation sounded like a good idea, Selina didn’t think that she would be able to do the same.

Not that it was on her list of priorities right now. Keeping her estate in order was more important than finding love.



Peter looked out over the landscape before him. From the top of the hill, it was perfect. The rolling fields and the river traversing below was soothing, no matter what time of year it was. And in early autumn, there was something fascinating about it. Peter loved to look at the trees going from green to gold and then brown. At the right moment, it made his father’s estate look like burnished gold was touching everything.

He didn’t think he would be able to find anything as beautiful as this in any part of the world. The Medford estate was always going to be his home, his favorite place. Even with some memories that he would rather not have, it was what Peter loved the most. If it was possible to take it around with him, he would do that.

“My Lord!”

Peter could hear the words float through the air, and at first, he thought it was just the wind. Then he heard the sound of a horse, and he looked behind him. Coming up the slope was a man on a horse, navigating the bumpy terrain rather awkwardly. He joined Peter at the top of the hill, leaning on the saddle with sweat making his forehead practically glow in the sun.

“I didn’t think you would be this far out, My Lord.”

Peter smiled.

“If you can’t find me, Jim, I’m more than likely going to be out here.”

“You must have ridden like the wind. You didn’t leave that long ago.” Jim was panting hard, trying to get his breath in. “If I’d known, I wouldn’t have offered to come and get you.”

“You’re our carriage driver. How are you out of breath riding out here when you’re around horses all the time?”

“I drive the horses, My Lord. I don’t sit on one. They’re completely different things.”

Peter laughed. Jim Huston was probably the most agile man he had ever met, and he struggled to ride a horse. He never thought the family’s carriage driver would struggle with that when he was in charge of four horses, at the very minimum, and a huge carriage. Surely, that would be harder to handle?

Evidently not, given how out of breath he was.

“What did you want me for, anyway? Couldn’t you have waited until I got back?”

“I’m afraid not. Your father wishes to speak with you.”

“Father does?” Peter frowned. “When did he get back?”

“Shortly after you left. He was rather agitated and demanded to see you immediately.” Jim shrugged, brushing his dark hair out of his face as it fluttered in the wind. “I wasn’t about to ask why, just told him that I would find you.”

Peter was worried now. His father, the Duke of Medford, had been rather reclusive lately. He had pulled away from everyone, including his trusted servants, spending all of his time in his study. Then a week ago they came to Durham. Peter hadn’t questioned him about it, suspecting that he would find out eventually. It didn’t stop him worrying, but it was clear that the duke had a lot on his mind.

“Alright. I’ll come back.” Peter turned his horse around. “Then you can go and have a lie down. Riding a horse for you must be so difficult.”

“Very funny, My Lord.”

Laughing, Peter rode away, back towards the house. The brief mirth at teasing Jim faded as he thought about his father and what the problem could be. Was it his health? It hadn’t been good lately. Then again, Medford’s health had been deteriorating slowly since his wife’s death two years before. He had dearly loved his wife despite the frostiness coming from her, and it had torn him to pieces when she fell ill and passed away.

Peter had tried to be supportive of his father, but it had been difficult. His mother had been a cold woman, barely showing emotion towards him. She was lively and vibrant with other people, including other members of her family, but when it came to her husband and son it was decidedly cooler. And that was on a good day; Peter couldn’t remember a time when his mother had been kind to him or had a nice word for him. It was like she would prefer that he didn’t exist.

He could understand, in some way, why she would feel negatively about him. They had never discussed it, Peter not willing to confront the duchess about her attitude for fear that he would hear something he didn’t like, but he suspected that his mother didn’t care for children. She didn’t like children, and she had to provide her husband with an heir. Perhaps childbirth was too much for her or traumatic? Or something happened and she wasn’t able to bear any more children? It had to be something like that.

Peter wished that he had asked, but his mother’s behavior towards him made him nervous. He liked to avoid it when he could. His father was closer to him, but even with him, Peter hadn’t been able to bring it up. It was like a topic of conversation that hovered around in the room but was never addressed… as if it didn’t exist.

Maybe this was something they could discuss when they were talking. Peter knew it was past the point of knowing, but he deserved to have some sort of explanation. At least it would make him feel more grounded in knowing why the Duchess of Medford thought he was something sent from the devil himself.

It didn’t take long to get back to the house, and Peter left his horse with the stable lad to sort out. Normally, he would do it himself—he found the process soothing—but it sounded like his father wanted to speak with him urgently, and Peter wanted to get to him as quickly as possible.

As usual, the duke was in his study. He was standing at the window, hands clasped behind his back as he looked out across their gardens. Living in the Durham countryside, there were no neighbors for miles, so their garden merged with the rest of the estate with no fences. It made their land look far larger than it actually was.

But, from what Peter could tell as he hovered in the doorway, his father wasn’t looking at any of that. It was as if he wasn’t really paying attention to it at all, just staring into the distance. With his normally tall frame hunched over, his white hair not looking as thick as usual, and the fact that he appeared to be thinner, there was something on his mind.

“Father.” Peter stepped into the study and closed the door. “You wanted to see me?”

For a moment, he thought that his father hadn’t heard him. When his father spoke, it made him jump.

“Can you sit down, Peter? We need to talk.”

Now Peter was more nervous. He wasn’t comfortable with this at all. What were they going to discuss? Nevertheless, he went over to the chairs by the cold fireplace and sat down. It was beginning to feel more uncomfortable by the minute. He waited, resisting the urge to squirm. He was a grown man, not a little boy. He needn’t revert back to when he was a ten-year-old about to get a scold because he played a prank on his governess.

Somehow, though, it felt just like that.

“How was the ball at the Earl of Berwick’s?” Medford asked suddenly.

“The ball?”

“You went there last night, didn’t you? I recall that the date was yesterday.”

Peter groaned. He had hoped that his father wouldn’t ask about it.

“I didn’t go,” he admitted.

“What?” Medford turned. “Why not?”

“Because I’m not comfortable being around the earl. He keeps talking about his daughter and how beautiful and eligible she is.” Peter made a face. “I don’t want to start talking to him about it again, and I’ve told him to stop.”

Medford frowned. He didn’t look happy.

“You really refused to go because we’re trying to match you with his daughter?”

“We?” Peter stared. “You agree with this as well?”

“Of course! You need a wife, Peter, and this dukedom needs an heir.”

“I’m the heir. You don’t need to worry about that.”

“I mean after you. Then I know I can relax about the future of my title.”

This again. They had been through it many times. Peter sighed. He was fed up with explaining himself over and over.

“I thought we discussed this, Father. I don’t want to marry out of duty. If I do marry, it’s because I’m in love with the woman.”

“This again?”

“Yes, this again. While Lady Margaret is a sweet young lady, I’m not in love with her. I don’t feel anything for her, if I’m to be honest.” Peter shook his head. “If I’m going to be with one person for the rest of my life, the least I can do is make sure that it’s someone I actually love. It will make the time more enjoyable, and I will actually want to be around her.”

“You can grow to love her after the wedding.”

“That’s not how I want it to happen, Father.”

Medford looked pained as he rubbed his hands over his face, pacing across the room.

“You’re aware that you can’t remain a bachelor forever, aren’t you, Peter?”

“Of course I am, but I shouldn’t be forced into something I don’t want,” Peter shot back. “I saw what happened with you and Mother, and I don’t want that for my family.”

Medford flinched. Peter frowned. Had he hit a sore spot? Surely, his father knew that their marriage wasn’t good.

“What makes you think your mother and I married out of duty?”

“Come on, Father, I saw how she was towards you and how she treated me. She couldn’t stand the sight of either of us. How you two produced me, I have no idea.” Peter gestured at himself. “I don’t want that for me. I want to be happy, not miserable. That’s not good for anyone, least of all me. Lady Margaret would make me resent her if I pursued her now with no romantic feelings.”

Medford now looked pained.

“I don’t know why you thought Imelda and I were matched before marriage. We actually loved each other. I asked her to marry me because I loved her.”


“She loved me, too.” The duke grimaced and glanced away. “I know it sounds hypocritical to tell you to find a wife out of duty when I married someone I loved, but not every love match turns out well.”

Peter was getting confused now. What was going on here?

“You and Mother loved each other? How is that possible? She treated me horribly, and I don’t think she’s said a kind word about you at all that I’m aware of. She can’t have loved you.”

“Oh, she loved me. For the first ten years of our marriage, we were happy. Then I…” Medford hesitated. He looked as if he would rather not say this. “I had a child with someone else. That was when she lost all love for me.”

Peter felt like someone had hit him over the head. What was he saying? That Medford had an illegitimate child out there?

“I have a brother or sister? She turned on you because you had a child with another woman?”

He could understand that. While having illegitimate children wasn’t exactly uncommon, it did tarnish the family involved somewhat. Peter had thought that this could be a reason his mother hated them, but from what he saw Medford loved his wife dearly. And why would she take it out on Peter as well?

“I produced an illegitimate child, but you don’t have a brother or sister.”

“What? What does that mean?”

Medford turned to him, and clarity set in for Peter before the duke said anything.

“You’re the illegitimate child. I produced you.”

Chapter Two


The Countess of Milbourne’s residence was in Buckinghamshire, right on the outskirts of the city of London. Just enough out of the way to keep it secluded, yet only a short carriage ride into town for the various social engagements she had to attend. And Lady Milbourne attended a ridiculous number of them.

Not that Selina minded; it meant that while she was focusing on the estate she had been left with and coming out of her period of mourning, Lady Milbourne kept her up to date with the various gossip and rumors going around. Selina knew to take these lightly and not as gospel, but it didn’t stop her giggling over the antics of other people. It was certainly entertaining.

She needed that most days. Uncle Christopher had been a good man and Selina had adored him. When her parents died, she was only four years old, and her uncle had taken her in and raised her as his ward. He had been very proud of her, and showed her that there was more to life than being a delicately refined lady. He didn’t mind that she was a bit of a tearaway when she was younger, or that she preferred to play with the boys than sit around playing tea parties with the girls. He encouraged her lessons, told her that it was good to have intelligence and a sharp mind, and didn’t care that Selina had independent thoughts and could take care of things herself. If anything, that was what he wanted.

Selina had never understood why until he suddenly passed after suffering from gout for a long time. His health hadn’t been good, but he always said that he was living life to the fullest. Six months on, and Selina hoped that she could do the same.

She had just needed to figure out how to navigate her inheritance, and know who she could have around her. It was surprising how many people came out of the woodwork to woo her, declaring that they had always admired her when they had ignored her before. Money made people do stupid things, and Selina wanted to be careful.

Her mother’s childhood friend, Lady Milbourne, was very good at advising her whenever her uncle couldn’t. And Selina was grateful for that. She liked knowing that someone like the countess was on her side.

As soon as she arrived, Selina was led into the morning room. Lady Milbourne was present, sitting at her writing desk, scribbling something, her pen darting across the paper. She looked up as Selina entered, and gave her a beaming smile.

“Selina, there you are.”

“Forgive me for being a little late, My Lady.” Selina curtsied. “Something came up at home.”

“Oh, it’s fine. I know you’re reliable when it comes to turning up for things.” The countess put her pen down and stood up, striding confidently across the room. “And you don’t need to stand on ceremony with me, Selina. You know I’m always going to be Aunt Vivienne.”

Selina smiled.

“It’s a force of habit, I’m afraid. Now that I’m grown and we’re going to be in public together once my mourning has properly ended, I don’t want to be caught out being overly familiar.”

Lady Milbourne laughed and kissed her cheek.

“You worry too much, dear. I don’t mind, and I’m sure nobody’s going to mind. Come and sit down. The tea was just brought through, so it will still be hot.”

“Is Lord Milbourne not joining us?” Selina asked, taking a seat beside the older woman, as the countess began to pour out the tea.

“I’m afraid not. He had to head over to Birmingham regarding a business matter.” Lady Milbourne sighed. “He seems to spend more time out and about than he does with me lately, but I guess I’m only noticing now that my children have left and are now married. You don’t feel the loneliness until it actually happens.”

Selina could understand. The Earl and Countess of Milbourne had four children, all a little older than Selina, and they had all married and were starting their own families. Both of her sons and one of her daughters lived close by, her other daughter living just north of America, in the Canadas, with her husband. She was the most recent departure. It was no surprise that Lady Milbourne was feeling a little lonely now that everyone was starting their own families.

She was more than happy to accommodate and keep her mother’s friend company. She enjoyed it.

“So,” Lady Milbourne handed Selina a cup and picked up one herself, “you’re going to be out of mourning in a couple of days. Have you decided what you’re going to do? I presume you have a lot of invitations and social engagements to get through, and they’re going to keep you busy.”

“No more than the usual. I’ve got to head to my uncle’s solicitor at some point. They keep sending me letters to come in and sign things, almost to the point I might as well move into their building, so I don’t have to travel so much.”

Lady Milbourne laughed.

“They’re being silly, aren’t they?”

“You could say that. I think I’m just going to tell them to bring the papers to the house, although I don’t want to inconvenience anyone.”

“You don’t need to worry about that. You’re incredibly wealthy now. It’s up to you how you want to do things. They bow to you, not the other way around.”

Selina didn’t like the thought of that. Uncle Christopher had told her that she needed to remain humble when it came to money. She should not let it dictate anything except when it was absolutely necessary. Selina had taken that to heart; she didn’t want to be seen as someone who ordered people around because she was rich. It was still tough to come to terms with the fact that she had been given everything Uncle Christopher had with no one to be her guardian when it came to it. Her uncle trusted her to do it alone.

At the moment, Selina wasn’t sure that she could trust herself. It was taking a while to come to terms with it.

“Anyway, they can wait for now. What I want to know is if you’re going to come out into London for the many social engagements that are being held.” Lady Milbourne sipped her tea, her eyes glinting. “I can let you know what there is if you haven’t any invitations, so you can come along with me if you like.”

Selina frowned.

“But I couldn’t attend without my own invitations, can I?” she pointed out. “Especially in certain places where I definitely need a ticket or invitation to get in.”

“You can come with me. The invitations are always addressed to me and my husband, so you can come in his place. Or I can ask for an invitation to be procured…”

“You don’t need to worry about that. I don’t know if I’d be comfortable throwing myself into it so soon out of mourning.”

“I understand. But when you’re ready.” Lady Milbourne winked. “We can’t have you alone forever now, can we?”

Selina’s mouth fell open, and she almost spilled her tea.

“Aunt Vivienne!”

The countess laughed.

“Sounds like you’re only happy to address me as that when you’re in shock.”

“Just because you’re alone doesn’t mean you should try and matchmake me with anyone.”

“Who said I was going to matchmake you to anyone?”

“You are too obvious. I know you too well.”

Lady Milbourne grinned and reached for one of the biscuits.

“Well, it wouldn’t be too much, would it? Finding love. I know it’s not at the top of your priorities, but it would be nice to have someone around, wouldn’t you say?”

Selina didn’t know what to say to that. This wasn’t the first time since her friend had mentioned finding a husband, and she had hoped that it had stopped. Evidently not.

Much as she loved the other woman, Selina found herself wanting to leave as quickly as she arrived.



Peter thought that he was hearing things. He had to have become momentarily deaf. His father did not just tell him that he was illegitimate, did he? It was just a trick of his imagination.

But it wasn’t. Deep in his gut, he knew that it was. Peter stared at Medford, who looked ashamed, his head bowed as he stared at his hands.

“I didn’t want to tell you about it, but…” The duke went over to a chair across from Peter and sagged onto the cushion, still staring at his hands. He didn’t look like the confident, self-assured man Peter had known in his youth. “This is something you should have known about years ago. It would have saved you some heartache, and maybe you would know why your… your mother… treated you so badly.”

“I… I can’t believe it.” Peter shook his head, not wanting to believe it. “This can’t be true! Are you saying that… I…”

Medford nodded. He still wouldn’t look at his son. Peter really needed him to do that. Then the duke slumped back and closed his eyes. He looked exhausted.

“Imelda couldn’t have children. We tried for years, and nothing. We got married when we were barely older than you, and for ten years there were no children. We accepted it, decided to make the most of our future, just the two of us. But then… then I fell in love… with someone else.”

Peter didn’t want to hear this. In the blink of an eye, his world had crashed down around him, and he had no idea how to react to it. It was scaring him that this was something he hadn’t known all his life, and it was only coming out now. Why couldn’t they have told him before?

It felt like he was always going to be the last to know everything.

“Who was it?” he asked tightly. “Who?”

“Her name was Tara. She arrived in the kitchens, a cousin of one of the upstairs maids. She was looking for work, and Imelda said that she could work for us. As soon as I saw her, I was smitten.” Medford winced. “I still loved Imelda, don’t forget that, but there was something about Tara that I couldn’t let go of. I found myself wanting to explore, wanting to be with her. And I… I gave into temptation.”

Peter felt nauseous. He remembered when he was young wondering why there was a tension between his parents. He had thought it was because they were made to marry each other and they didn’t like the other person, but it had been clear that Medford loved his wife. It was Imelda who made the tension clear. And it was because of this? She hated him because he had an affair and had a child?

“We kept it secret for a couple of months, and then Imelda caught us in my bed. She was furious and demanded that Tara be sent away. I agreed, not wanting her to feel my wife’s wrath, and had my valet Winters keep me up to date on her. Not long after, Winters told me that Tara was with child, and she was scared. She couldn’t do this.”

“And did M—” Peter swallowed. “Was Imelda aware of this?”

Medford flinched.

“She was. I was open about it. She was even more furious about it, but after a while she calmed down and said that she would help.”

“She helped?”

“I wasn’t expecting that. I conceived a child with a lover, and I was expecting her to throw a fit about it. But Imelda said it wasn’t the child’s fault, that it shouldn’t have to suffer for what we did.” The duke rested his head back against the chair. He seemed to age as Peter watched him. “She did have a few conditions, though. She would help provide the best care before and during the birth, but once the baby was born, Tara was going to be sent away. Imelda would make sure that she had a stable occupation, and she wouldn’t have to worry about anything, providing that we never made contact again. She would make Tara’s life miserable if she found out that we had exchanged letters. Tara agreed to that, and I had to as well.”

“What about me?”

“That was the other condition. You were to be raised with us.”


Medford nodded.

“Imelda was desperate for a child. She said that this was her only way to have a baby of her own. If it didn’t happen, then she would not help at all. She was steadfast on it. So we agreed. Tara gave birth to you, Imelda let her have a cuddle, and then she left with you.” His voice broke a little. “Tara never saw you again.”

Peter felt like someone had thrown a bucket of water over him. How had this happened? How could he have gone from being the son of a duke to a bastard so quickly? His head was spinning, and his stomach lurched. He gripped onto the arms of his chair.

“So I was raised by you and your wife,” he said tightly. “But your wife…” It felt so strange calling her that after knowing her as his mother. “She never… she barely treated me…”

“We realized that mistake too late. Even though she was desperate to be a mother, Imelda couldn’t get past the fact that you were not hers. She really tried to bond, to remember that it was not your fault in all of this, but she couldn’t. Eventually, she just gave up. She couldn’t bear to look at you.”

Peter knew about that; he had witnessed it many times. At least things made sense now, although he couldn’t forgive the woman he knew as mother for treating him in such a manner. It was a miracle that he hadn’t been thrown out and put in an orphanage somewhere, or sent away to stay with relatives. He was always kept at home, raised, and taught under the same roof. Lady Medford must have hated that after demanding her conditions.

He could understand her pain and hatred now. It didn’t justify anything, but he understood. If only he could tell that to her now.

“I can only apologize immensely for what we did to you, Peter.” Medford sounded close to tears. “You were an innocent in all of this. You didn’t deserve to be raised in this way, but we thought it would be for the best. We thought we were doing the right thing.”

“Why are you telling me this now, Father?” Peter wished that he could keep the tears out of his voice. He hadn’t realized that he was close to crying himself. “You never told me while I was growing up, nor told me the truth when your wife died. If something hadn’t happened, you wouldn’t be telling me this now, would you?”

The duke didn’t answer, but that hesitation was enough. He would have kept it quiet for the rest of his life. Would he have told Peter on his deathbed? Probably not. Peter wanted to scream, to hit something.

What had happened that he needed to tell his son the truth?

“Don’t lie to me anymore, Father. Tell me why now.”

“It’s about your cousin, Cedric.”

“Cedric? What’s he got to do with anything?”

Medford swallowed and closed his eyes for a moment. Then he opened them, sorrow in his expression.

“I suspect that he’s found out about the fact you’re not a legitimate child of mine.”

Peter frowned.


“I don’t know. I didn’t care to ask. But from the way he’s been talking to me lately, I suspect that he knows more than he’s letting on. That he knows that you’re a bastard.” Medford kept his gaze on Peter. “Which means that your position as heir is under threat.”

Peter understood that all too well. He was perfectly aware that a bastard could not inherit anything from their parents, especially if they hadn’t been legitimized. Seeing as he was only finding out now, there was a good chance that nobody had bothered to make him legitimate. It was a secret they had hoped would be swept under the rug.

Not anymore. If Cedric knew, he would be able to challenge the line of inheritance. He was a slippery one who cared more about money and prestige than anything else, and he made no attempt to hide it. The relationship between him and Peter had never been good. If Cedric was somehow able to prove that Peter was not legitimate, then he could have all of his inheritance stripped away and given to him instead. Medford might protest, but he wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.

Not if he had already passed on, anyway. Peter wouldn’t be surprised if Cedric waited until his father was dead before making a move. Until then, he would be waiting and breathing down their necks.

This was too much to take in. Peter couldn’t sit there any longer. The walls felt like they were closing in on him, and he couldn’t breathe. He had to get out of there.

Staggering as he got to his feet, Peter made his way to the door. The room was tilting, but he managed to stay on his feet.

“Peter? Where are you going?”

Peter ignored his father, flinging open the door and clinging onto the frame as he stumbled through. He didn’t know what to say to his father. Was there anything that he could say that would make things better? Then again, what could anyone say when they found out that they were not someone’s child? How could anyone justify not saying a word about it?

Peter managed to get out into the gardens before his legs gave out on him. The world spun so much that he could do nothing but lie there, staring at the sky. Everything he knew had been a lie. He had been kept in the dark for so long that he didn’t know what was real anymore.

When the tears finally started coming, he couldn’t stop them. Curling into a ball on his side, Peter buried his face in his hands and sobbed.

“A Heiress for the Masked Marquess” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

After inheriting a vast fortune from her late uncle, Selina Cotter finds herself thrust into a world of wealth and privilege. Suddenly having to negotiate with people who only seem interested in her money, Selina yearns for genuine connection and love. When she meets the enigmatic Peter, her guarded heart begins to open. But as her affection deepens, she discovers a shocking truth about his identity that threatens to shatter her trust.

Will Selina be able to reconcile her feelings for him with his secret, or will it drive them apart forever?

Peter Dane, Marquess of Durham, harbors a dark secret that threatens to unravel his carefully constructed life. Disguised as a humble clerk in pursuit of his truth, his path crosses with Selina Cotter, a woman like none he has met before. Yet, as his feelings deepen, Peter grapples with the fear of revealing his identity, knowing the consequences could ruin the fragile connection he shares with this unique woman.

Will he find the courage to tell her the truth before the reality of his situation comes to light?

As Selina and Peter’s feelings blossom, they face relentless scrutiny from society’s elite, including a viscount fixated on Selina’s wealth. With Peter’s true identity on the brink of exposure, and Selina torn between her desire for love and her fear of betrayal, their future hangs in the balance. Will their love conquer the barriers of class and deception, or will the weight of their secrets bring it all crashing down?

“A Heiress for the Masked Marquess” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

Get your copy from Amazon!


Grab my new series, "Delightful Dukes and Damsels", and get 2 FREE novels as a gift! Have a look here!

One thought on “A Heiress for the Masked Marquess (Preview)”

  1. Hello, my dears! I hope you enjoyed this small preview and that it left you yearning for more! I look forward to reading your comments here. Thank you so much! ♥️

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *