Fool Me Twice
Pocket Books / March 25, 2014 / $5.99 print / $1.99 digital
All Olivia Holladay wants is the chance to make a home for herself. When she realizes that the infamous Duke of Marwick might hold the key to her freedom, she boldly disguises herself as the newest and bravest in a long line of the temperamental duke’s housekeepers. Little does she know that the wickedly handsome Alastair de Grey has very different plans for her . . .
Alastair de Grey has suffered a betrayal so deep that he will use whatever means necessary to destroy his enemies — even his brazen and beautiful housekeeper. But his vengeful plan fails to account for his single weakness: an irresistible and growing passion for the enigmatic Olivia...
Olivia Johnson, parlor maid. Olivia Holladay, former secretary. Olivia Mather, blackmailer. While Olivia may be prone to identity crisis, she is sure of one thing—that she would get her revenge against the man whom played a role in her attempted murder seven years ago. That man is her father, Lord Bertram who abandoned her and her mother to start a new family.Olivia has set an elaborate plan in motion to bring down Baron Bertram. She stole letters from her former employer, Lady Elizabeth Chudderley, with which she plans to blackmail Bertram. Her next target is Elizabeth’s brother-in-law, Alastair de Grey, fifth Duke of Marwick, who has also been wronged by Bertram. As it turns out, the late duchess was unfaithful and conspired with Bertram, and Olivia has the letters to prove it. But she needs more information to blackmail him. And, if she’s lucky, an ally. Why wouldn’t Marwick want to destroy the man who had slept with his wife and plotted against him?
Marwick, once a beloved politician, has been brought low by his wife’s infidelities. He has become a recluse, never leaving his rooms. His former friends believe him to be in mourning for his wife. But the truth is, if he ever left the house he would kill those who played him for a fool. He has pulled so far into himself and is so violent even his servants do not enter his rooms. Until Olivia arrives, that is. Olivia needs to have access to his personal papers and they are in his private rooms. She is desperate enough to engage in a battle of wills with her employer, a man who has been broken. A man that she has no idea was so handsome.
Although she is loathe to admit it, her motives for wanting to get Marwick out of his rooms are not entirely selfish. She is concerned about his well being and decides that the bully needed bullying. The ensuing battle of wills becomes a small success for Olivia as she is slowly able to draw Marwick out.
She looked at him now, exhausted and beautiful and locked so deeply inside himself, and some weirdly bittersweet emotion choked her. Was there no way back for him? Did he not realize he made the choice to be alone?
On a desperate stoke of daring, she reached out to touch his face—tipping up his chin, as he had once done to her far less gently. “Look at me,” she said.
To her shock and triumph his lashes rose. It gave her a jolt; as they stared at each other, her every breath felt shallower, harder to draw.
His skin felt warm, rough from his whiskers. He felt human. It was so easy to think of him as a monster—or as a mannequin, too angular, too perfect, to be fashioned from pedestrian flesh. But he was only a man. Only and entirely a man. She felt the slight, irregular tremble that moved through him, and sensed the rigidity in which he held himself still. He was making a great effort to restrain himself—but from what?
Olivia can’t afford complications or feelings to sway her from her mission. Marwick doesn’t need another woman in his life who is willing to betray him. The two are a match made in heaven. When Olivia’s plans backfire, it is Marwick who charges to her rescue, partly because of his hatred of Bertram, but mostly because of his feelings for Olivia. Marwick helps Olivia search for the truth about her parents' relationship and the reason she and her mother were abandoned. They gather the evidence needed to expose Bertram’s betrayals.
What neither expected is that they would develop feelings for one another. Relationships are built on trust, not on betrayal, and by Marwick’s count he had been betrayed not once, but twice. Olivia is everything that Margaret was not, and her passion and resolve draws Marwick to her and makes him realize that the anger he was harboring is not because of her, it was all his. She makes him feel again.
Olivia sees the real Marwick. Not the political golden boy with a promising career and the perfect wife. Not as the man he had once been, but as the man only she knows, a man of honor, integrity and loyalty. A man who shows her passion and admires her for her courage and intelligence, and sees her for who she really is. Although her plan doesn't’t end the way she intended, Olivia’s journey is fulfilling. Strong, independent, intelligent women always win in the end. It’s what we do. Falling in love with an ultra sexy Duke is a bonus.
Learn more or order a copy of Fool Me Twice by Meredith Duran, out March 25:
Stephanie is a high school social studies teacher who enjoys escaping from reality with a good book. She is the mom of two energetic sons and when she isn't chasing herself in circles, she can be found lurking on Twitter @KindlesConsort.