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The Last Duke

The last duke was dying.

It all started with that one line... and the man who went with it, Pierce Thornton, a thriving gambler who grew up on the streets of Victorian England picking pockets to survive, now hell-bent on rescuing the wretched masses from suffering the same fate. He? Join the ranks of the nobility? Never.

But, as Lady Daphne Wyndham can attest, suffering isn't restricted to the poor, nor to the pocket. It can besiege the wealthy, the heart, and the soul.

And result in the most unexpected twists of fate.

Like this one...

He made no sound, of that he was certain.

Yet all at once her lashes lifted, fluttered, then lifted again.

"Oh!" She sat bolt upright, all semblance of sleep vanishing in a heartbeat. Lightning quick, the bandit reached into his pocket, his fingers closing around the handle of his pistol. Cursing himself for his careless stupidity, he withdrew it slowly, praying she wouldn't force him to use it.

"Don't scream. I don't want to have to hurt you."

The raspy command elicited a bone-melting smile. "You're he, aren't you?" Daphne whispered, climbing from her bed. "You're the Tin Cup Bandit!"

His gaze swept her scantily clad body, then, with the greatest of efforts, returned to her face. "Did you hear me?"

"I was wondering why you hadn't come to Tragmore before now. I racked my brain trying to think of how I might send you a message, suggesting that you visit us."

He started, desire checked by disbelief. "Do you understand who I am? Why I've come ?"

"Of course." Daphne shrugged into a robe, seemingly oblivious to her state of undress. "You can put your gun away. You won't be needing it." Tucking a wisp of hair behind her ear, she crossed the room, gathering up the strand of pearls and exquisitely crafted cameo from her dressing table, and thrusting them at the bandit. "Here. Unfortunately, they're all I have. But Mama has a jewel case filled with lovely gems. I'm sure she'd want you to have them. She's a fairly deep sleeper, so I wouldn't worry about disturbing her. Father, on the other hand-" Daphne broke off, frowning. "Before we resolve that problem, did you retrieve the cash box from the library? I'm certain Father keeps additional funds hidden away elsewhere in that room, but I'm not sure precisely where. I do know that he keeps absolutely nothing of value in his bedchamber." A wry grin. "Fear of burglary, you see. In any case, don't waste your time searching there. Also, I understand you always restrict yourself to jewelry-and money and silver, of course-but we do have a few paintings that would yield a decent sum, as well as some fine fabrics that were terribly expensive. Do you think your contact would be interested in them? If so, I'd be happy to-"

"Stop!" the bandit hissed. Dazedly, he shoved his pistol back into his pocket and took the jewelry from her hand. "One of us is mad. I'm just not certain which."

Please write and let me know what you think of THE LAST DUKE. If you'd like to receive an autographed bookmark and a copy of my latest newsletter, include a legal-sized SASE. I look forward to hearing from you! P.O. Box 5104, Parsippany, NJ 07054-

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