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One of Daphne Wade's guilty pleasures is to watch the Duke of Tremore as he works, shirtless, on the excavation site of his ducal estate. Anthony Courtland is by far the most exciting and handsome man she has ever known, and she dreams of one day being able to speak with him without getting tongue tied.
Anthony, meanwhile, only sees Daphne as a hard worker on his excavation team. He considers her a plain young lady and says so in a careless remark to a friend, unaware that Daphne is outside the library door, her heart shattering to pieces. So Daphne decides she will not be so silly any longer. She begins to be tutored in the social graces, forcing Anthony to see the beauty who has been right in front of his eyes.
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No one who glanced at Daphne Wade would ever imagine that she had a guilty, secret pleasure. Her countenance was plain, made more so by the spectacles perched on her nose. Her hair was light brown and fashioned into a functional bun at the nape of her neck. All her dresses were varying shades of beige, brown, or gray. Her height was average, and her figure was usually concealed beneath a loose fitting work apron of heavy canvas. Her voice was low and pleasant to the ear, with nothing strident in its tone to evoke anyone's attention.
No one judging her by her appearance would dream that Miss Daphne Wade had the rather salacious habit of staring at her employer's naked chest whenever she had the chance, although most women would have agreed that Anthony Courtland, Duke of Tremore, had a chest worth looking at.
Daphne rested her elbows on the sill of the open window and lifted the brass spyglass. Using the instrument was awkward when she was wearing her spectacles, so she pulled them off. After setting the gold rimmed pair on the windowsill, she once again raised the spyglass to her eye. Through its lens, she scanned the archaeological site in the distance, searching for Anthony amid the workmen.
She always thought of him by his Christian name. In speech, she called him "your grace," just as everyone else did, but in her mind and her heart, he was always Anthony.
He was talking with Mr. Bennington, the excavation architect, and Sir Edward Fitzhugh, the duke's closest neighbor and quite the amateur antiquarian himself. The three men stood in a huge pit of excavated ground amid the crumbling stone walls, broken columns, and other remnants of what had once been a Roman villa. At the moment, they appeared to be discussing the mosaic pavements beneath their feet that had been uncovered by the workmen that morning.
The moment she froze the spyglass on Anthony's tall form, she felt that familiar twist of her heart, that addictive mix of pleasure and discomfort. It was a combination that in his presence always tied her tongue and compelled her to withdraw into herself until she seemed part of the furniture, but when she watched him like this, she always longed to be the subject of his full attention. Love, she thought, should be a pleasant thing, warm and tender, not something that hurt one's heart by its intensity.
Daphne felt that intensity now as she watched him. When in residence at Tremore Hall, he was wont to spend two or three hours each day working alongside Mr. Bennington and the men on the excavation. Sometimes, if she was not on the dig and he found the August afternoon exceptionally warm, Anthony was compelled to remove his shirt. Today was a very warm day.
To Daphne, he almost seemed a part of the Roman excavation around him, for Anthony was one of those rare men who looked like a living statue. With his uncommon height of over six feet, with his broad shoulders and sculpted muscles, he could have been a Roman god carved of marble, were it not for his dark brown hair and tanned skin.
She watched him as the three men continued their discussion of the floor, and she felt that odd, melting sensation that came over her every time she saw him this way, a sensation that somehow made breathing difficult and made her heart race as if she had been running.
Sir Edward bent to move a heavy stone urn that was blocking a portion of the mosaic from their view, but Anthony stopped him and lifted the urn himself. Daphne was delighted by this gallantry, which only served to reinforce her high opinion of him. A duke he might be, but he wasn't so over proud that he would stand by and let a much older man like Sir Edward injure himself.
Guilty PleasuresBy: Laura Lee Guhrke