The Duke Takes a Bride

By: Suzette de Borja

(Entitled Book 2)


My heartfelt thanks to Mina V. Esguerra, Liliana Rhodes, and Marian Tee for being so cool, supportive and inspiring.

I’ve struck gold with Chrissie Peria and Donna H. Ladies, thank you so much for being so brave reading my first draft.

To Kat S-C, who has always been on Team Julian, thanks for taking my panic-ridden phone calls and talking me through plothole induced anxiety attacks.

To Fatema, thank you.

Thanks to CTC Cover Creations for the gorgeous cover and to the Passionate Proofreader, for the spot on comments and valuable feedback.

And to you dear reader, my sincere thanks for spending a few hours of your time getting to know these characters who lived in my head. I hope you enjoyed getting to know them as much as I did.

Until the next book…

Chapter 1

“I know you don’t like Julian much,” Maggie said, “but he’s made reservations at this fancy new restaurant with a months-long wait list. It’ll be such a shame if he has to cancel it.”

Maggie was insisting Imogen and her big brother celebrate her birthday even if she would be absent from her own celebratory dinner. She was set to fly out this evening for China to replace another junior archaeologist who came down with the flu.

“What do you mean I don’t like Julian?” Imogen averted her gaze from the tabloid magazine she had snapped up from the magazine stand on her way to work this morning. Thank God Maggie was on her mobile. She hadn’t seen how Imogen had been perving on her brother’s broad, tanned chest in its glossy, full-color glory. There were more photos of Julian inside the magazine, showcasing his surfing skills and his glorious six pack, but she would peruse them later, in a more private place than the office.

“Oh, please,” Maggie snorted. “I’m your best friend. Don’t think I haven’t noticed how you always try to make excuses about not seeing him when he’s in town-”

That’s to prevent me from jumping him.

“And when you do, you rarely say a word to him.”

That’s to prevent me from confessing how often he has starred in my wet dreams.

“Jules is a bit arrogant and overprotective at times, but he always means well.” Maggie sounded baffled that anyone could not like her rich, gorgeous, and titled big brother. “Why am I explaining him to you? You’ve known him since we were seven.”

And I’ve wanted him ever since.

Imogen wasn’t a masochist. She didn’t want to be anywhere near Julian. Every time she thought she was getting over her pathetic, one-sided feelings for him, he had to come to Los Angeles and act fraternal towards her. It was sheer torture.

Since Julian’s venture capital firm had branched out to the States a few years ago, he had been most solicitous. He often took Maggie and her out to dinner or coffee whenever he was in the city. Julian would pop in and out of Los Angeles randomly. Imogen didn’t have time to brace herself for his erratic appearances. Maggie would ring her and a few minutes later she and Julian would be outside her office at 5 p.m., whisking her to the latest trendy dining spot.

Julian had the worst timing. It was often a bad hair/grubby underwear/that-time-of-the-month day when he would deign to make an appearance. It always rendered Imogen tongue-tied and awkward around him.

Thus, Maggie’s erroneous conclusion that she didn’t like Julian. I’m a shark. He’s fresh bait. That’s how much I don’t like your brother.

“I just don’t feel like it tonight, Mags.” She hurriedly stuffed the magazine inside her drawer as her boss, the Hudson in Thomas and Hudson Design firm, sauntered past her workstation. He frowned disapprovingly at the clutter of sketchbooks, Sharpies, and sample paper bags on her table. The frown was nothing new. He had been wearing it ever since a client chose the design she did over the one he insisted she follow.

She brought out her sandwich, to remind her boss it was still lunch hour and she was entitled to make calls on her free time, but she lowered her voice when she said, “I broke it off with Richard.” She tracked her boss as he made his way into his partner’s office.

“Broke it off?” Maggie scoffed. “I know how you work, Genie. The minute a bloke starts getting too close, you drop him faster than I can say fake Ming dynasty vase.”

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