<About a Kiss>

About a Kiss
Desperately Seeking Duke #1.5
ISBN 979-8-9862584-0-9

When he accepts a job as Maximilian St. James’s valet, Kit Lawrence doesn’t expect it to last. But then he meets Jennie Hickson, maid to the new Mrs. St. James, and suddenly he’s hoping to be near her for the rest of his life…

A bonus story to About a Rogue

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Praise for the Desperately Seeking Duke series

A- "Caroline Linden never misses … a darned fine romance, and a lovely book that stands among Linden’s best." —All About Romance on All the Duke I Need

"Brilliant story telling." —Buried Under Romance on All the Duke I Need

"A Scotsman discovers he’s the heir to an English dukedom in Linden’s enchanting second Desperately Seeking Duke historical romance… fans will adore this sparkling love story." —Publishers Weekly on A Scot to the Heart

“Linden begins her “Desperately Seeking Duke” series with a beautifully written, sensual tale that combines slow-burn heat, witty enemies-to-lovers banter, and lush detail…" —Library Journal on About a Rogue

Inside Story & Bonus Features

This story is a bonus feature! While writing about Max and Bianca (About a Rogue), I fell in love with Jennie the saucy lady's maid, and it was clear Max needed a good man at his side, who turned out to be the valet he'd poached from a friend.

For a future glimpse of Kit and Jennie, check out Desperately Seeking Duke: The Ultimate Epilogue, which revisits all the characters from the Desperately Seeking Duke series. About a Kiss is too short to be in print on its own, so it's included in the print edition of The Ultimate Epilogue.

Chapter One

<About a Kiss>

The best thing that ever happened to Christopher Lawrence was getting sacked.

He hadn’t thought so at the time, when his employer, Lord Percy Willoughby, was frantically throwing belongings into a trunk and shouting at him to hire a carriage. His main hope, of being paid his wages owed, was dashed when Lord Percy rushed out the door, mumbling a half-hearted promise that he would send for Lawrence as soon as he smoothed things over with his father.

Kit knew that for a lie. Lord Percy would be quite some time explaining this mess to the Earl of Hulme. He had returned from Vauxhall Gardens the previous morning, so drunk he was barely on his own two feet, moaning about a disastrous run of cards. The scribbled debts of honor had been presented the following morning and sent Lord Percy haring back to Northumberland.

Which left Kit unemployed and desperate when Maximilian St. James offered him a position. He’d accepted on the spot.

Aside from recognizing Mr. St. James as a friend of Lord Percy’s, Kit knew little about him. Another gambler, he’d supposed, probably a rogue, too. He’d resigned himself to seeking another position within the year.

It turned out, though, that Mr. St. James needed a valet because he was to be married. Kit was somewhat confused about who the bride was, but when all was said and done, he found himself installed in a quaint half-timbered cottage in the tiny town of Marslip, sharing the laundry and the servants’ stair with a girl called Jennie Hickson, lady’s maid to the new Mrs. St. James.

After that, Mr. St. James could have stopped paying him, cursed him and thrown things at him, and Kit would have stayed. Because Jennie was there.

Jennie Hickson was elated to be promoted to lady’s maid. At Perusia Hall, where her parents were butler and housekeeper and her cousin Ellen was ladies’ maid to the Misses Tate, she had only been Ellen’s assistant. That meant she was assigned the worst chores, like laundry and mending, while Ellen got to learn hair arranging and how to make cosmetics.

When Miss Cathy Tate was supposed to marry Mr. St. James, Ellen had begun instructing Jennie in those skills, somewhat smugly. Ellen was a bit full of herself, soon to be maid to Mrs. St. James, while Jennie would be left behind at Perusia Hall.

Then Miss Tate eloped in the night with the curate, Miss Bianca married Mr. St. James in her sister’s place, and everything was turned on its head. Now Jennie was moving to Poplar House with the new and unexpected Mrs. St. James, while Ellen was left to sulk at Perusia Hall with no lady to attend at all, which reduced her to parlor maid.

“Are you ready for this, daughter?” her mother asked as Jennie excitedly bundled up her possessions.

“As ready as ever, Mam! ’Tis still Miss Bianca, whom I’ve waited on these ten years.”

Her mother raised an eyebrow. “Waited on, when she never wanted her hair done or an elegant dress! You’ve had it easy, Jennie, and now she’s a married lady. It won’t be the same.”

“Mam!” Jennie laughed. “Didn’t you hear her going at it with Mr. Tate this morning? She’s the same as she was.”

Mrs. Hickson frowned in reproof. “Aye, but Mr. St. James is a London gentleman. He’ll want his wife dressed finer than any Marslip lady. And mark my words, no matter how they cut up at each other today”—no one had missed the black looks Miss Bianca had given her new husband at the wedding breakfast—“she’ll come around. Miss Bianca—no, Mrs. St. James!—has a good heart. She won’t stay angry at him forever.”

Jennie rolled her eyes. “I know! And here I am, your own daughter, hoping to hear you wish me luck, instead of hearing all the ways I’m not ready and not good enough.”

At this her mother smiled. “Of course you are! You’re ready, and good, and I am very proud of you.” She hugged Jennie and kissed her cheek. “Say farewell to your papa and be on your way. Mustn’t keep Mrs. St. James waiting!”

Jennie laughed, and her father helped carry her things down the hill to Poplar House and into her little room at the top of the back stairs. The window looked out on the hill toward Perusia Hall. She gazed at it and smiled as her father pointed out that she could see her parents’ windows in the servants’ wing from here. “Give us a wave now and then, Jennie,” he said as he hugged her before heading back to the main house.

She hummed as she unpacked her things. Ellen had bragged about this room, thinking it would be hers. It was neat and comfortable, and larger than her old room in Perusia. Jennie grinned at herself in the small mirror, adjusting her cap. She could hear Mrs. St. James’s voice floating up the stairwell from the kitchen, meaning she had best hurry down.

She stepped out onto the narrow landing and came face-to-face with a man coming up the stairs. “Oh! Sorry!” she said instinctively. 

He stopped cold. “For what?”

Jennie blinked. Down a step, he was the same height as she was. He was young, probably about Miss Bianca’s age, with copper skin and close-cut black hair, and sinfully long eyelashes. “I beg your pardon, miss, but you did me no wrong.” He stepped aside to let her by.

<About a Kiss>Jennie blushed. “You must be Mr. St. James’s man.”

He managed a graceful bow, even in the cramped stairwell. “Christopher Lawrence, miss.”

“Oh!” She laughed from nerves, him bowing to her like she was a lady. “Jennie Hickson, sir. I do for Mrs. St. James.”

He smiled again, his teeth white and perfect. “A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Miss Hickson. Please call me Kit.”

She blushed harder, till she could feel the heat in her face. “Oh, right! Great pleasure. Kit? Kit. Call me Jennie,” she squeaked, and slipped past him.

Down the stairs she clattered, fanning herself with one hand. Goodness, Mam hadn’t warned her about this. Mr. St. James’s man was fearfully handsome.

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