As Phoebe walked along the beach, she spied something on the sand.
She raced toward the body. Reaching him, she feared the man was dead since he appeared so still. He lay face down, a head full of dark hair. She rolled him over with great effort. He was over six feet, with broad shoulders and narrow hips. The wet clothes that clung to him left little to her imagination, his sleek muscles obvious. The tide was up around them, soaking her skirts, as she brushed the thick, wet hair from his face.
He was handsome, though very pale and cold. Her fingers slipped to his throat and she felt the faint pulse.
Phoebe needed to drag him from the water. Now. She moved to his head and tried to lift him under his shoulders. Her attempt failed miserably. The stranger was dead weight. She fought tears of frustration.
And then her eyes fell to his shirt—and the hole in it, blood trickling.
He’d been shot.
The cold water must have stopped the bleeding but now that he no longer was submerged in it, the wound had started bleeding again.
Fear rippled through her. Was he some smuggler who’d been in a dispute with a fellow pirate? Cornwall was full of coves and tales of smuggling. This man could be a criminal. But he was hurt and needed her help. She was all he had.
Phoebe shook him. “Wake up, whoever you are!”
When that didn’t work, she slapped him in desperation.
His eyelids fluttered. Progress. She clutched the abundant hair, lifting him toward her.
Shouting now, she cried out, “Wake up, you bloody fool! If I’m going to save you, I’ll need your help.”
He blinked, his eyes warily studying her now. They were a warm, rich brown with flecks of deep amber. She could lose herself in them for days.
She swallowed and calmed herself, telling the man, “You’ve been shot. You’re half in the water. And you’re far too large for me to get you out on my own. I’m afraid to leave you and go for help. You might bleed to death. Are you going to help me or not?” Phoebe demanded.
A smile crossed his face. She had thought him handsome before but his smile dazzled her. Her heart caught in her throat and, for a moment, she forgot to breathe.
“Then I suppose I need to do my part.”
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Duke of Renown (Dukes of Distinction Book 1) by Alexa Aston
Phoebe Smythe, Countess of Borwick, suffers a tragic miscarriage when she learns her husband and young son have been killed in a carriage accident. The grieving widow retreats to an isolated cottage on the coast of Cornwall, where she finds a smuggler who’s washed ashore, blood leaking from a bullet wound.
Captain Andrew Graham returns home from the Napoleonic Wars after the death of his older brother, finding his father on his deathbed. Soon he becomes the Duke of Windham and must deal not only with numerous responsibilities but his wayward half-brother, who has amassed a mountain of debt and then shoots Andrew so he can become the new duke.
Andrew awakens to an angel of mercy, Mrs. Smith, a middle-class widow who nurses him back to health. She thinks he’s a criminal, which amuses him, but he soon falls in love with her beauty and spirit. On the day he decides to ask for her hand in marriage, she disappears and he has no way to find her—until he spies her across a London ballroom.
Though her heart belongs to the Cornish smuggler she left behind, Phoebe places herself once more on the Marriage Mart. She yearns to be a mother again—which means finding a husband.
What will Phoebe do when she learns that her Mr. Andrew is none other than the famous Duke of Renown?