Y’all I can’t wait to read this one. I’ve been loving this series and this one looks like it could be the best one yet!
The Dukes of War series
by Erica Ridley
Miss Sarah Fairfax is having a wretched year. Her intended perished at war. His child is in her belly. To secure her future, she resigns herself to a loveless marriage. Just as she’s about to say I do, her fiancée returns from the grave to crash the wedding… but he’s no longer the charming, carefree man she remembers.
After being left for dead on the battlefield, Brigadier Edmund Blackpool is scarred inside and out. He fights his way home only to discover his intended before the altar with his best friend. He’ll be the one to marry her, no matter what she wants! But when his new bride disappears with his child, he must reopen his wounds to win the most important battle of his life.
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Edmund flew across the cobblestone streets as fast as the stallion could carry him. Sweat raced down his back despite the bitter March wind. Devil take it. If he was too late… If the woman who’d haunted his dreams ended up someone else’s wife…
He lowered his head against the wind and urged the stallion as fast as he dared. ’Twas wretched out. The streets were slippery with icy pockets of snow. Teeming with carriages and pedestrians. The stench of horse manure and dirt. Edmund hated it all. The clamor, the crowds, the chaos. London was repellant.
It was too much like war. Like being lost. Like the endless nightmares of chasing after his brother, running toward the other soldiers, and always being left behind. He’d woken in cold sweats then. No wonder he was reliving it now.
But a wedding was underway, and he had to stop it.
Sarah was the one bright light in the darkness of his world. Pure and sweet and beautiful, she was everything he desired. Everything he’d longed for all those lonely nights. The heat of her skin. The scent of her hair. The feel of her body as he lifted her slender form above him and—
Ravenwood House rose against the blinding sunset like a dragon unfurling its wings. It was not a small part of a crescent of row houses. Its three floors and two annexes were the crescent.
Edmund’s jaw tightened. The stallion reared at the sight as if it, too, sensed danger lurking within those elegant walls.
There were no longer pedestrians crowding the pristine road. No life of any kind. Any visiting carriages had already been tucked out of sight inside the mews. And of course, nothing so gauche as a hired hackney dared sit idle before the grand ducal estate.
Tough. Edmund tucked his head and raced his horse right over the manicured grass of the front lawn. If Ravenwood’s perfect garden got mussed, so be it. There was no time to waste.
As Edmund neared the front door, servants streamed out of the estate in alarm. He leapt from the stallion and tossed the reins to the closest gaping footman before shouldering his way inside the mansion.
Of course the servants wouldn’t invite him to enter. He hadn’t been to Ravenwood House since he’d purchased his commission four years ago, so the staff was unlikely to recognize him.
He also knew he looked a fright. Tattered, mismatched clothing. Scarred face covered by a five-week beard. A scowl fierce enough to terrify the devil himself—and with good reason. If Edmund was too late to stop the ceremony…
“Where’s the wedding?” he snarled to the housemaids.
One of them keeled into the others in a dead faint.
A male voice broke in. “Sir, I’m afraid you’ll have to…”
Edmund whirled to face Ravenwood’s butler, whose jaw dropped with the shock of recognition. “Master Blackpool?”
“Where are they?” Edmund demanded, his voice hoarse. “I have to stop the wedding.”
“Master Blackpool, it is splendid to see you alive and… well, alive, sir, but I cannot in good conscience allow you to thwart His Grace’s wishes, particularly on this day of—”
“The alcove of the back parlor,” gasped one of the maids. “The blue one, next to the billiards room.”
“Agnes.” One of the other servants grabbed the maid’s arm. “You’ll be sacked for this!”
“But it’s all so romantic…”
Edmund missed whatever else was said because he was already tearing down the corridor toward the rear of the mansion.
He hadn’t forgotten the way. As a young man, he, his twin brother, and their three closest friends—Xavier Grey, Oliver York, and the Duke of Ravenwood—had spent many a lazy evening drinking the duke’s port and battling for temporary dominance over the billiards table. It had all seemed terribly important and worldly when Edmund was but a young buck of seventeen years.
He was now six-and-twenty and this particular battle for dominance would determine the fate of the rest of his life.
His breath quickened. On the ride over, he hadn’t let himself think of anything except getting back to Sarah. No good would come of wondering how she’d wound up in the arms of Edmund’s (better looking, better moneyed, better mannered) lifelong friend. It didn’t matter. She was his.
The fact that Edmund’s own brother had apparently come along to witness the unholy event also did not bear contemplating. There was no room in Edmund’s atrophied heart to feel betrayed or wounded, when he was so bloody thrilled to discover his brother was even alive. The rest would come later. He and Bartholomew were twins. The best of friends. Inseparable and indistinguishable. Edmund had dreamed of being reunited with his brother almost as often as he’d dreamed of being reunited with Sarah.
And he would not let the Duke of Ravenwood stop him.
Edmund flung open the parlor door and charged forward bellowing, “Stop!” as he raced up the makeshift aisle.
The first thing he saw was her hair. Thick and chestnut and familiar, the long tresses had been gathered up in a shiny mass and pinned to the back of her head, just as it had been in Bruges. She was his siren. He could already smell her soap and feel the softness of her dark brown curls as he plucked the pins free one by one.
As if responding to the force of his thoughts, the power of his love, Sarah turned to face him.
Edmund pulled up short. His stomach dropped, his jaw dropped, his bloody heart dropped because Sarah was… pregnant.
Not just pregnant: hugely pregnant. His slender, innocent, doe-eyed bride had doubled in size since last he’d seen her. His stomach dropped. No wonder there was a wedding.
He cut a furious glance toward Ravenwood, who held up his palms and shook his head.
The vicar clutched the cross hanging from his neck and backed away.
“Not Ravenwood,” Sarah said, her voice cracking. “The baby is yours.”
Edmund’s ears roared. If anyone was speaking, he could not hear them. Sarah was pregnant. The baby was his. Sarah was pregnant. He was going to be a father. Sarah was right there in front of him, waiting for his reaction with tears in her eyes.
Edmund’s position had not changed. His will had only been reinforced.
“Stop the wedding.” He marched forward, his gaze locked on hers. “She marries me.”
Erica Ridley is a USA Today best-selling author of historical romance novels. Her latest series, The Dukes of War, features charming peers and dashing war heroes who return from battle only to be thrust into the splendor and madness of Regency England. When not reading or writing romances, Erica can be found riding camels in Africa, zip-lining through rainforests in Costa Rica, or getting hopelessly lost in the middle of Budapest.