The Reluctant Duke

By: Carole Mortimer

To Pete


‘HAPPY New Year, Mr St Claire!’

Lucan—the Mr St Claire referred to—stood frowning in front of the huge picture window in his executive office on the tenth floor of the St Claire Corporation building.

It was still early on this cold and frosty January morning, only eight-thirty, but Lucan had been at his desk working since six o’clock, in order to deal with some of the work needing his attention following the long Christmas and New Year break.

At least he had told himself he needed to come in early in order to deal with the work needing his attention. The truth was he had been only too glad to get back to normality after he and his two younger brothers had spent a traditional Christmas at his mother’s home in Edinburgh, before all of them had decamped briefly—but not briefly enough for Lucan!—to Mulberry Hall, the family estate in Gloucestershire, to attend his youngest brother’s wedding there on New Year’s Eve.

Lucan had understood Jordan and Stephanie’s reasons for wanting the wedding to be held there—it was where the two of them had met, after all—but as soon as he’d been able to do so politely, Lucan had made his excuses and gone to Klosters, skiing for three days.

He turned now, that frown still creasing his brow as he looked at the young woman who had just stepped in from the office that adjoined his. The office belonging to his PA. Except the woman standing in the doorway wasn’t his PA. Wasn’t anyone Lucan had ever set eyes on before, in fact!

She was probably aged in her mid-twenties, very slender and a couple of inches over five feet tall. The black business suit and the snowy white blouse she wore beneath it took absolutely nothing away from the gypsy-wild effect of her long ebony hair as it cascaded riotously over her shoulders and down her back. Equally black brows were raised over eyes of a deep sparkling blue, surrounded by thick sooty lashes, and a small straight nose above sinfully and sensually full lips.

Lips that immediately—surprisingly!—stirred Lucan’s body into arousal as his thoughts shifted smoothly to bedrooms, and hot and nakedly entwined bodies. Surprisingly because it was widely acknowledged that successful businessman Lucan St Claire was as ruthless emotionally in the brief relationships he had with women as he was in the boardroom.

Lucan didn’t feel in the least ruthless as he stared at this dark and untamed beauty!

He scowled darkly. ‘Who the hell are you?’

Lexie might almost have felt sorry for Lucan St Claire’s expression of scowling bewilderment if it hadn’t been for the fact that he had so obviously brought this present situation completely upon himself.

If he weren’t so coldly self-absorbed, so arrogantly unable to relate to the people who worked for and with him, then perhaps his PA wouldn’t have decided to walk out on him on Christmas Eve, without even bothering to tell him she was going.


Lexie had a suspicion that Jessica Brown’s interest in Lucan St Claire hadn’t all been business-related, and that his lack of interest in return—or inability to feel any—had been the reason the other woman had finally left so abruptly…

Lexie walked over to stand in front of the imposing oak desk, aware of the ease of power that surrounded Lucan St Claire as he towered on the other side of that desk. Aware of how comfortably he wore the charcoal-grey tailored suit, and the pale grey silk shirt with a darker grey tie knotted meticulously at his throat.

This man wasn’t only tall and impeccably dressed, but aristocratically handsome, too, Lexie allowed grudgingly. Although, in her opinion the dark, almost black, hair could have been worn a little longer than it was, and those powerful good looks—enigmatic black eyes, haughtily long nose, chiselled lips above a square-cut and determined chin—were stamped with a haughty arrogance she didn’t find in the least appealing.

Not that there had ever been any likelihood of Lexie finding anything appealing about a single member of the St Claire family! Her mouth twisted derisively.

‘My name is Lexie Hamilton, Mr St Claire. I’m your temporary temporary PA,’ she said as he still scowled.

Those dark eyes narrowed chillingly. ‘It’s news to me that I’m in need of a temporary PA, let alone a temporary temporary one…’

Lexie’s derision deepened. ‘Your ex-PA called my agency on Christmas Eve to arrange for a temporary replacement until you are in a position to arrange for a permanent one. Unfortunately, the lady most qualified for the position isn’t available for another three days.’

Lucan St Claire looked totally baffled by this explanation—as well he might.

Lexie had decided before coming here that even the curiosity she had always felt concerning the St Claire family should have its time limit. Three days would be quite long enough for her to confirm every bad thing she had ever thought or heard of them.

As it turned out, she had overestimated—three minutes in this cold and haughty man’s company was quite long enough for her to know he believed himself to be arrogantly superior!

His scowl deepened. ‘Exactly why and when did Jennifer make these arrangements?’