Foxton Manor had once been James Pollock’s home and safe haven, but now it was his prison. Sitting atop the cliffs of Cornwall, Foxton Manor had once been a beautiful and bright place filled with people and laughter. Now it was practically empty. James told himself that was the way that he liked it. He could never allow himself to think otherwise.
Yet sitting in his study alone that evening, James found himself thinking on how things had once been when his father had been duke, and he had been merely a boy chasing the chickens. That was a long time ago, before his parents had passed and before war had stolen everything from him.
He sat in darkness save for the meagre fire that burned in the hearth. Wrapped in a moth-bitten blanket, he stared into the flames, remembering all too well the fires that he had sat around with his comrades in France. A part of him longed to be back there, the part of him that missed the camaraderie. The other half of him longed for the time before the war when he was just a young man learning the ways of managing an estate and a farm and getting to know the people of the village he watched over.
His thoughts were dark and gloomy, as was his regular mood, and it was made no better by the sound of something clanging against the windowpane to his back. The sound caused his teeth to clench and his hands to tighten into fists. At the first clink, he tried to ignore it. Upon the second, he straightened up in his armchair. By the third and fourth, he was limping from the study to the front door of the manor.
“Damn fools!” he grumbled to himself as he went.
Had he not been so determined to catch the culprits who had hit his windows regularly with stones over the last few weeks, he might have thought to grab his cane from where it rested upon the arm of the chair. Whether they were children or foolish young villagers, he did not know, but he was finished with sitting back and letting them torment him. For weeks he had put up with the looks as he walked through the village on his usual errands. He could not blame the villagers for staring. The wounds he had been left with from the war were enough to make his own stomach twist. Yet it had been months since he had been down to the village, choosing instead to live mainly off his own land and go into the village only when he was in dire need of something.
Why can they not simply leave me be? he asked himself. Yet he knew well why not. He had heard the whispers, the rumours that went about the village, of how there was a monster living at Foxton Manor, a twisted and ugly thing that could only have been touched by the devil himself. James did not need a strong imagination to know who they were gossiping about. He need only look in the mirror to see.
Yanking open the front door the moment that he reached it, he bellowed as loudly as a bull, “Leave me be!”
“You leave us be! You monster!” came the response from a row of bushes not far from the porch. Following it came a shower of stones that could only have been thrown by more than one hand. James did not cower away from the stones. Having been to war, he was no stranger to being pelted with dangerous objects, objects far more dangerous than stones.
Instead, he held onto the door frame so that he could lean down and take up one of the stones that had fallen at his feet. In his anger, he threw the stone back in the direction of the bushes, aiming only into the darkness with no surety that he would hit anyone.
He heard a loud thunk followed by a scream of, “Ouch!” followed by the sound of several pairs of footsteps thundering away from the house. In the moonlight, James could just make out a group of three or four boys, perhaps even young men, who were hurrying away down the hill from the house.
“Let’s get out of here!” one of them screamed as James picked up and threw another of the stones. This one rolled harmlessly off the back of one of the ruffians and clattered onto the ground, the sound drowned out by the pounding of their feet.
“I’m bleeding!” he heard the yelling of one of them and the response of another, but they were getting too far away to hear any more. Guilt clawed at his stomach for only a moment. The thought that he had hurt anyone made him feel sick. He had seen much too much pain in France and had never wished for it to follow him home.
“Just leave me be!” he yelled after them in the hopes that they might finally be frightened enough to leave him alone. Yet he knew the truth. Frightened men often reacted impulsively, and these men were more than a little frightened of him; they believed him touched by the devil, and he was almost certain that they would not leave him be until they had driven him from the manor or worse.
I shall not leave my home, James vowed to himself begrudgingly, determined that he would remain where his father had lived and his father before him and their fathers for generations beyond counting.
Upon returning to his study, he once more realised why they treated him so. Catching sight of himself in the mirror that hung above the fireplace, he felt what was left of the colour draining from his face. Hobbling toward it, feeling like a twisted and foul creature, James allowed himself a rare look at his reflection.
Though the wounds sustained upon the left side of his face were no longer bleeding or raw, they were scared to the point that James knew they would never fade. The scars were raised and welted, reminding him of the burn marks he had once seen on the hands of a blacksmith who had worked for his father.
Looking upon himself, he again remembered how he had walked through the village several times, the hood of his cloak pulled down over his face in the hopes of hiding at least his scars. Though there was no way of hiding the limp from his wounded leg, no way of hiding the way he cringed and hunched his shoulders with every step as pain lanced through the injured limb. The pain caused him to lean heavily on his cane and made his back humped with the sheer effort it took to walk. And so, they called him a monster, and a monster he was.
Perhaps it is better that they believe me to be a monster, he thought, glaring at himself until he felt the villagers’ hatred as though it was his own. It would be better for everyone if they stayed away from him, better for him if they did so too. He couldn’t bear the thought of seeing the looks on their faces when they saw his. He couldn’t bear the way they looked at him either, with pity or with fear. It was always one or the other.
Turning his face away from the mirror, he did all that he could think of. Though he had never been a very religious man, much to his mother’s shame, he found himself turning to God now. Lifting his face to the ceiling, he closed his eyes and pleaded out loud for the first time since returning to France, where he had found himself pleading with God regularly, “Please, Lord, let them leave me be.”
The smell of herbs was a welcome scent to Rarity, one that she had grown used to over the years of working with her grandmother in the apothecary. As was the scent of blood, and she barely noticed it as the bell above the front door jingled and one of the village’s young men stepped into the shop.
“What can I…” she began from where she had been standing behind the counter, mixing the tonics and poultices her grandmother had instructed her to make before she had left her for a quick trip to the bakery. “Lewis, whatever has happened to you?”
Rarity gasped the moment she saw the young man. He was a short and stout with a mop of red hair and an almost constantly disgruntled expression, but today he looked positively disgusted, his hand pressed to his head. Blood was oozing between his fingers and trickling down his wrist to soak into the sleeve of his tunic.
“It won’t stop bleedin’,” the man announced without bothering to answer her question. He walked forward with his hand still on his head and stood before her, the counter the only thing between them. “Where is Old Nan Stanley?”
Rarity rolled her eyes at the question, her stomach twisting with annoyance. No matter how long she had been working under her grandmother, everyone always continued to ask for the old healer. Ignoring the man’s question as he had ignored hers, she gestured him over to the stool at the end of the counter and insisted, “Sit down and let me take a look at you.”
Reluctantly, Lewis did as she asked. Grabbing a clean cloth from beneath the counter, Rarity handed it to him and instructed him to press it to the wound while she collected a bowl of water and more fresh cloth. She placed the bowl upon the counter beside him and then turned to address his wound, instructing him to remove the cloth. The gash in his head was quite deep, and blood bubbled from it in a way that might have made a lesser woman vomit, but Rarity’s stomach was made of iron, and she barely blinked as she cleaned the wound.
“What happened?” she asked again, she would not allow the man who had been friends with her brother since they were children to leave until he had told her what had happened. Having known him since they were children, she was sure that he had been up to no good.
“I…I fell over is all.” came his reply and the tone of his voice made her even more certain. Just like her brother, he could not look her in the eye when he was lying.
“Was Timothy involved?” she asked, remembering how she had heard her brother sneaking into their small home at the back of the apothecary well after midnight the night before. At the time, she had sighed and rolled over to go back to sleep, but now she found herself wishing she had gotten up and enquired as to where her brother was coming in from so late.
“No, no, I don’t know what you mean,” Lewis insisted, and he winced, offering a yelp as Rarity pressed into his wound a little harder than she had needed to in order to clean it out. Offering an apology, she became silent for a few moments, making sure to hurt Lewis just enough to ensure he would answer her the next time she questioned him.
“What were you doing to get this wound, Lewis? I need to know so I can treat you properly. You wouldn’t want to get an infection or something, would you?” she said firmly, staring him dead in the eye. When she saw that he was still unsure of how to answer, she added, “If you get an infection, you won’t be able to work, and what would your mother and sisters do if you were unable to work?”
She felt only slightly guilty at using the man’s family against him. Constantly working her fingers to the bone, she was well aware of how the man felt. But she also needed to know what her brother had been up to. The older he grew, the more trouble he and his friends seemed to be getting into.
“All right, Rarity. We went up to Foxton Manor to give Old Monster Pollock a bit of a scare,” Lewis finally admitted.
Rarity’s entire body tensed at his answer, knowing that her brother had most likely been involved.. He had not been quiet on his views of the duke who lived at the top of the cliff. As many of the villagers, he believed the man was a monster, touched by the devil with a mangled leg and a twisted and burned face. Rarity had heard the stories, and she had heard the things the villagers spoke of doing to drive him from the village. All she felt was pity for the man, unable to believe anyone could be as bad at all that.
“Lewis, don’t you know better than to go up there?” she demanded of him even as she slathered a poultice onto his stitched-up wound. He winced over and over again as she worked, and she knew from personal experience that the poultice was likely hurting like a thousand bee stings. “That man is dangerous.”
She felt guilty for saying such things but hoped she might be able to appeal to the fear inside him.
“Do you not think that if you continue to torment a man touched by the devil, you will come off with worse than a gashed head?” she added when he did not seem nearly as frightened as she wished for him to be. “You and my brother are men grown now. I had thought you had grown out of this childish behaviour.”
She was at least relieved to see that he had the good sense to look ashamed by her scolding. Perhaps I can appeal to him after all, she thought .
“Please, Lewis, promise me you will stay away from that place,” she insisted, beginning to wrap the man’s head in bandages. “I would hate for something awful to happen to you.”
She stepped back and gazed at Lewis for several moments, hoping that he would listen to her. When he finally sighed and nodded, only to wince in pain as he did, she prayed that she had reached him.
“Was anyone else hurt during your antics?” she asked, her heart clenching at the thought that anyone would have been hurt. For a moment, she wondered whether the duke himself might have been harmed. She would not put it past some of the more zealous young men in the village to take things a little too far. Don’t let my brother be one of them, she thought, knowing that she would have to pull him aside for a word before their grandmother learned of his antics.
“No, just me,” Lewis admitted, looking a little sheepish. Rarity could at least be relieved her brother hadn’t been injured though she was sure she would have known about it by now if he had been. He had always been a big baby whenever it came to being injured. “Are you done? I need to get over to the mine.”
Rarity struggled to contain a cringe at that, not because he was hurrying her but because of his mention of the mines. More and more people had been coming through her grandmother’s shop door as of late with injuries from the mine. She had seen everything from bad lungs to broken limbs, and she was certain there would be more. Terrible places! she thought, though she would never say so out loud. Half the villagers lived off such work in a mining town like theirs.
“You are good to go, but I want you to promise me you’ll be careful and that you’ll stay away from Foxton Manor,” Rarity insisted, wiping her bloodied hands on her apron. “And be sure to tell that stupid brother of mine the same!”
With that, she gave Lewis a clip on the shoulder to send him on his way, hoping he would heed her warning, but almost certain he and the other young men of the village wouldn’t.
Just last week, one of the younger boys had come down from there with wounds all over his arms where he had gotten caught in chicken wire. It had taken a while to get the truth from him but eventually, she had learned that he had let Old Pollock’s chickens out of his coop. Yet another thing that Rarity pitied the duke for. As far as she knew, nobody went up to the cliffside manor simply to offer him their well wishes; all seemed to have been possessed by the church’s tales of a man touched by the devil.
She was just wondering what she ought to do about it all when the jingle of the bell above the door announced the return of her grandmother. Old Nan Stanley was a short and haggard woman though she looked as though she had once been pretty. Her hair was grey save for one strand of white at her left temple, and she had kindly brown eyes much like her son, Rarity’s father had, or so Rarity remembered him that way.
“Is all well?” Old Nan asked as she placed a basket laden with fresh bread on the counter and removed her shawl. Seeing the blood on Rarity’s apron, she pointed and said, “Looks like I’ve missed some fun. Anything serious?”
“Lewis and his boys causing trouble up at Foxton Manor again.” Rarity sighed, removing her apron to bundle it up, ready for the wash. Old Nan rolled her eyes and scowled, looking as though she was waiting for more, but Rarity couldn’t bring herself to admit that her younger brother had been involved. He’s a grown man now, Rarity scolded herself. I shouldn’t have to protect him like this.
“Nothing too serious?” Old Nan repeated.
“Just a gash to the head.”
Old Nan smirked at that and responded, “With luck, it might have knocked some sense into him.”
Though Rarity laughed along with her grandmother, she couldn’t help but feel a clawing in her stomach that told her things were steadily getting worse up at Foxton Manor. She was well aware that if she suggested so to her grandmother, the healer would warn her to leave things be. They would sort themselves out eventually. And until then, the fools were bringing much-needed work through their door. I forgot to charge Lewis! Rarity realised suddenly, angry both with herself and the fool for declining to remind her. She had been so concerned with her brother’s participation in whatever had happened that she had entirely forgotten to take Lewis’ coin.
The afternoon breeze rolled off the ocean, bringing with it a strong smell of salt, fish, and seaweed. It was one of the things James had missed while away in France, and every day, it was one of the things he took a moment to savour, one of the things he was pleased to be home for.
One of the things he was less pleased to be home for was having to check his chicken coop daily to be sure those foolish villagers hadn’t cut through the fences just to cause him more hassle. It had already happened twice since his return almost six months earlier, along with far worse things like broken windows and the burning of one of the old rundown outbuildings that luckily had no longer been in use. Yet the releasing of his chickens was the most annoying because with his damaged leg, he found it mighty difficult to catch them again, and there was one still missing from the last time. No doubt a fox or a dog had gotten ahold of it if it had not simply wandered off the edge of the cliff.
James had just finished checking that the patchwork repairs he had done from the last time were still in place when he was almost certain he heard a scream from the nearby woods a little way down the cliffside. Ordinarily, he would have ignored it, especially now after all the villagers had put him through, yet today he was feeling generous, and something about the scream had unsettled him. Knowing that if he returned all the way to the manor, he would only spend the rest of the afternoon wondering, he picked his cane up from where it had been resting against the chicken coop and began to wander down to the tree line.
Maybe it’ll be one of the fools, and I can give them a good thrashing, James thought as he hobbled on, the pain in his leg growing with every step. Several times he thought of turning back. After all, no second scream came, and he may have imagined it, after so long alone. Perhaps his mind was as damaged as the rest of him.
He had gone only a few metres into the woods when he found her. The small wooden step that was resting against the trunk of a juniper tree suggested that she had been trying to climb into the damned thing, though whyever for, James did not know.
Had she been one of the village men, he might have left her there, but seeing her laid before him, unmoving and with a trickle of blood oozing from the side of her head, James could not in good conscience do so. Kneeling awkwardly beside her, he whispered, “Miss? Can you hear me?”
When there was no response, James leaned down further and stroked several strands of glossy red hair from the woman’s face. He was instantly struck by her. Though her eyes were closed, she was beautiful with porcelain skin, fiery red hair, and a splatter of endearing freckles across the bridge of her nose. Under that nose, he placed the tips of his fingers, holding his own breath as he waited patiently in the hopes of feeling hers tickling his skin. When he felt it, he breathed a sigh of relief. The last thing he needed was for anyone to die on his property with the villagers already clamouring to see him gone.
“Miss? Can you hear me?” he asked again, laying a hand gently upon her shoulder to give her a gentle shake. His heart hammered at doing so. It was the first time he had touched another person in months.
It was then that the woman’s eyes fluttered open, and James snatched his hand away from her, taken aback by the sheer ice blue of her gaze. Lighter than cornflowers or even the bluest summer sky, her gaze was the clearest aqua he had ever seen, and for a moment, he was stunned into silence. He was even more stunned when her eyes seemed to focus on his face, and she did not instantly begin to shy away. Perhaps it was the fact that she had hit her head, or maybe it was the shadows cast by the hood of his cloak, but she did not appear to see the ruin of his face. If she did, she did not react to it. Instead, her lips twitched upward in a smile, and she muttered, “Are you my saviour?”
James bit back the urge to scoff at that. Though he had fought for king and country in France, nobody had ever called him a saviour before. They had only ever called him a monster.
“You must have hit your head very hard if you believe me to be a saviour, miss,” he grumbled back to her.
Yet she did not appear to hear him. With a deep and pained sigh, the woman’s beautiful blue eyes rolled back into her head, and unconsciousness claimed her once more. With a sigh of his own, James realised there was no way he could possibly leave her lying there in such a state. Had he been in a better state himself, he might have taken her directly down to the village to find someone to tend to her, but his manor was closer, and so he decided quickly what to do next. Luckily his arms were not nearly as awful as his leg, and his entire body was banded with thick muscle after his years helping on the manor farm and such. He picked the girl up easily though it was not so easy to pick up his cane after doing so, and he found he had to drape the poor girl over his shoulder in order to carry her and drag himself back up the hill with her wrapped in one arm.
She had better thank me for this, he thought grimly as the pain in his leg grew steadily worse, and he was almost sure he would do himself some more irreparable damage before they reached the manor. Though he knew the likelihood of her being grateful was slim to none. After all, none of the villagers had thanked him for anything he had done in his lifetime so far, and he couldn’t imagine she would be any different. I should have left her there, he thought again, trying to tell himself that she deserved it for trespassing in his woods. But even though he could not see her face, he could imagine it. He could imagine those ice blue eyes gazing up at him, and he knew there was no way he could have forgiven himself if he had left her there.
“I shall wait for her to wake up, and then I shall send her on her way,” he told himself firmly, saying the words out loud in order that he might stick to them. It would be better for them both if she did not dally on his land. The longer she remained, the more likely others were to come looking for her, and the thought of that sent annoyance gnawing at James’ stomach. He’d had enough of the villagers to last a lifetime, and he could only imagine what they might do to him if they for one moment believed he had kidnapped the poor girl.
“Tempted by a Scarred Duke” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
On her way to find some herbs for her remedies, the tempting Rarity Stanley will be trapped in a situation that will change her destiny forever. When she realises that the man who saved her is the devilish Duke everyone in her village talks about, she is stunned by how brave and unexpectedly seductive he is. Her fateful encounter with him leads her to accept a cleaner’s job at his place and they soon become entangled in a tempestuous love affair…
Touched by the devil himself, will she be able to resist the temptation?
At his manor atop the cliffs, has long isolated himself, the mysterious Duke, James Pollock. After the war left him injured and with a scarred face, society forced him into alienation as a man marked by the devil. Until he found an enticing damsel in distress in the woods and the unforeseen happened; they unexpectedly and passionately fell in love with each other.
If only his burning desire for her could stop sinking him deeper in despair…
Meant for each other, Rarity and James will soon explore the pleasure of their shimmering feelings. Yet, they know that their flaming love will have to battle the fanatic hatred of their community. When the attacks on James’ house increase, a friend from the past arrives and an unspoken truth gets revealed… Will Rarity and James surpass the malice around them? Will their persistence reward them with a lasting passion?
“Tempted by a Scarred Duke” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.
9 thoughts on “Tempted by a Scarred Duke (Preview)”
Hello there, my dearest readers! I hope you enjoyed this little treat! I will be waiting for your comments here. Thank you 😊
I enjoyed reading your new book, I cannot wait until it comes out to finish it. The first few
chapters hold your attention to keep reading.
I am so glad you enjoyed the preview dear, Deborah! I am happy to tell you that the book had already been released and you can find it on Amazon following this link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0B13S9D6Y
I really hope you enjoy the rest of the book too and I am looking forwrd to your review!
I hate reading just a part of a book . I just read enough of this preview to know that I need the whole book. When is this book coming out?
I am so glad you enjoyed the preview dear, Elise! I am happy to tell you that the book had already been released and you can find it on Amazon following this link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0B13S9D6Y
I really hope you enjoy the rest of the book too and I am looking forward to reading your review!
A very beautiful story of James a scarred Duke injured during the war in France and Rarity a young girl of how they happen to meet in the woods when James rescues Rarity after she fell and hit her head. Will they overcome their class difference and will their love lead to a happy ending. Enjoyed the preview. Looking forward to reading the book.
I am so glad you enjoyed the preview dear, Philip! I am happy to tell you that the book had already been released and you can find it on Amazon following this link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0B13S9D6Y
I really hope you enjoy the rest of the book too and I am looking forward to reading your review!
I REALLY want to read the finished story. Rarity and James both deserve some happiness and together they can fight the war of the community. I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens with Lewis and his friends.
I am so glad you enjoyed the preview dear, Christy! I am happy to tell you that the book had already been released and you can find it on Amazon following this link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0B13S9D6Y
I really hope you enjoy the rest of the book too and I am looking forward to reading your review!