Skip to product information
1 of 4

Rise of the Duke (Star Frost Lovers Book 2)

Rise of the Duke (Star Frost Lovers Book 2)

Regular price $0.99 USD
Regular price Sale price $0.99 USD
Sale Sold out
Shipping calculated at checkout.



Emma McKinnon must escape an unwanted suitor and his manipulative sister, who won’t take no for an answer. Marriage might save her from destitution, but she’d only be trading one nightmare for another. As a penniless vicar's daughter, she has nothing to lose except ownership of her heart. Emma takes a position as a governess on Star Frost, an elusive island off the coast of Cornwall.
From the moment of his birth, Calvin Stanley West, Duke of Renvere, was blessed. But none of his successes and wealth could have prepared him for the fire that killed his wife and left him and one of his daughters horrifically scarred. Worse still, the same glittering aristocratic society that had bowed in his presence now whispered cruel insults about his children. He abandoned his life, his prestige, and secreted his daughters away to a place where no whispered barbs would reach their precious ears.


Calvin’s prayers are answered when a governess arrives on his doorstep, but this is no ordinary governess. She’s young, beautiful, and she stirs a passion inside him he thought had been burned away forever. Emma swiftly becomes enamored with Star Frost and her new charges. But the duke, though scarred and intimidating, is also kind, dedicated to his children, and the most handsome man she’d ever seen. He makes her long for things she’d been raised to never feel. Is it a trick of the mysterious island or is the duke the one man her heart has yearned for all along? Just when she feels safe and the attraction between them ignites into a passionate affair, the people she ran from have hunted her down, shattering her hopes.

Emma’s instinct is to run again, but if she does, she will have to give up everything she loves or stay and fight for her heart’s desire. The choice should be easy, but is desire enough for her? Can Calvin love her in return or will the memory of his wife turn their passionate affair to ash?

Read A Sample

London, August 24, 1812

Emma circled the room once before taking a chair under the overarching branches of a giant fern. The room buzzed with sophisticated talk. If she had her way, she'd disappear entirely. But Michael and Antonia always knew when she tried to escape. They had an extra sense. Skittish, Michael would say, with a smile to boot, as if it pleased him to know how miserable their elite company made her. As if being reminded of her lower status was some sort of badge of honor or cross, she ought to bear for their amusement.

She was a lowly companion. Emma could never forget that.

“You ought to marry.”

Antonia's voice cut through the murmur. Emma stiffened and then leaned back under the leaves, praying for invisibility. 

“Aristocratic ladies are boring,” Michael replied. “I hate boredom. My tastes are too specific, and my intellect too daunting for most individuals. I don't need anyone's money, either.” He sighed. “Father spoiled you. I'm not his heir, thank God. Geoffrey can keep the title and the responsibility, as long as he pays generously.”

“What is it you want, brother?”

“I think you know.”

A chill slithered down Emma's spine.

“They won't allow it.”

Michael didn't reply. Emma imagined him shrugging in his usual apathetic way. 

“I don't care. I can do what I want with her.”

Antonia snickered. “She isn't a pet.”

“Isn't she? She's your pet.”

Antonia sighed. “Mother thought she'd teach me humility.”

Michael scoffed. “How?”

“Emma's a charity case. They gave Emma a spot at finishing school because her father is the parish vicar. She is amusing and quite pretty. The other girls were so jealous, which made me like her all the more. I became her protector, and she… she did my math lessons. Mother thinks Emma improves me.”

“In a way she does,” Michael retorted. “You are far more tolerable when Emma is present.”

“I think the same of you, brother.” 

They both laughed.

Emma gripped the arms of her wicker chair so tightly her fingernail snapped. She let go. Curling her fingers into fists and waiting. An acquaintance joined them, blocking their view should they have looked in her direction. Emma slipped out of her chair, slumping her shoulders to shrink into the crowd as she headed for the doorway. She slipped past, dodging curious stares and quiet judgment.

Everyone knew who she was.

Antonia's companion. 

Some suspected what she was. 

Michael’s rumored mistress.

Michael liked to tease at such things, but Emma knew if he had his way, he'd make it so. And Emma… she had nothing with which to protect herself. No family, not since her father died. Her distant relatives were far too poor to help her. Emma had only become a burden. She had no prospects for a husband. Emma was a prisoner here. 

A pet.

Just as Michael said.

And if she didn't escape, she'd become something worse. Trapped as… a mistress or a wife? Two equal hells in Emma's mind. They refused Michael nothing, and he took a perverse pleasure in flaunting Emma's humble beginnings to his acquaintances. Why? Emma didn't understand. His friends looked just as baffled as she often felt. But Emma suspected it had to do with their ability to control her. Antonia and Michael spoke of themselves as if they had somehow rescued Emma from peril. How distasteful to be a vicar's daughter. To be poor.

And since the moment Emma had met Antonia, Antonia had made sure Emma never forgot her circumstances. Her father had died and left her with no legal guardian. Mrs. Galveston, the headmistress of their finishing school, had agreed with Antonia's idea that Emma should go home with her. 

No one bothered to ask Emma what she wanted. They just assumed they knew better as her superiors.

Emma had been too distraught to argue. At first, she'd been grateful to have a place to go. A fancy house in Mayfair, no less. But she soon learned what it meant to be indebted to Miss Antonia Fitzpatrick.

For four years, Emma had lived this way. A strange half-life. She was not her own person. She lived in a perpetual state of anxiety about what the future would hold. And then, Michael returned from his trip. For the last year, he'd preyed upon her. At first teasing and cajoling, but now his attention held new meaning. He caught her alone. To touch her arm or caress her cheek. Moving closer, little by little. And watching her.

Always watching.

She could hardly undress in her room without feeling spied upon. 

Emma went to the servant stair to make her way to her room. Before she could reach the first landing, someone caught her elbow.

“Sneaking away again?”

Emma whirled around, her heart in her throat.

He held a finger to his lips and climbed the stairs, urging her up to the next landing.

“There now. Much more private.”

“We don't need privacy.”

He smiled. “Why do you pretend you don't know of my interest?”

Her heart dropped to her stomach. “I—I don't know what you mean.”

He shook his head with a pleased smile. “Are you truly so innocent? Would you like me to show you?”

“You must return to your guests,” Emma said, hating the way her voice shook. She'd never been this frightened of him before. But it was like she could feel a noose around her neck, and every day it got tighter and tighter.

“They won't miss me. Antonia can entertain them.”

“I'm only fetching my fan. The conservatory is dreadfully warm with all those…”

He continued to stalk her as she took each stair, gripping the railing to keep herself from tripping.

“Bodies. Yes. Too crowded for my tastes.” He reached out and caught her hand. Pinning it to the banister.

“Why do you always run away from me?”

“I—I'm not.”

“Don't lie to me.”

“I… I don't know what you want of me.”

“More lies.”

Fear crept into her heart. “I'm beneath you. You should have nothing to do with me.”

“I conceded we exist on different tiers of society, but that is precisely what fascinates me. I'm everything you're not.”

Emma bit her lip.

“Our inequality adds a certain flavor to our relationship, doesn't it? You need me and I… I like being needed. I enjoy the position you are in. The power I have over you.”

Emma swallowed.

He reached for her, and Emma jumped backward up a stair, yanking her hand from his hold so forcefully, the buttons at the wrist popped off and clattered down the stairs.

He frowned. “You are frightened of me.”

She shook her head.

“Don't be. I care for you. I know I've said things—I… alluded to things, but in my heart, I know that you as my mistress would never be enough. As my wife… I'd own you completely. You could never leave me.”

Emma shivered. “No.”

“You see? Noting to fear. I'll take care of you, and in return, you'll be mine forever.”

His pet.



But he'd never accept rejection. She had to get away. She had to run so far he would never find her. Michael always got what he wanted.

But not this time.

* * *

That night Emma packed a small bag. When all the house was asleep, she slipped out the back door and into the alley. She only had a few coins to her name. She wasn't a paid companion. The house keeper slipped her pin money out of pity. She wore Antonia's leftover clothing. Emma altered them herself to fit. She'd hardly gained a stone since Antonia had taken her from her home. But her bust had grown, and her hips had spread. She didn't have Antonia's slender frame, but she made due. Emma walked, spine stiff, hands curled around the handles of her bag in fear as she headed toward the darker parts of London. She prayed for safety, for courage, for invisibility until she found a lively posting inn and claimed a table near the fire. Emma bought a piece of bread and an ale and kept her gaze on her table.

She nibbled the bread and pretended to sip the ale as the hours wore on. Perhaps it was divine protection, or perhaps she appeared too strange to approach, trembling with fear, but no one bothered her. Only the barmaid dare approach to see if she needed anything. In the early morning, the barkeeper told her she had to leave. 

“Please. I just need to wait until morning,” Emma begged.

He frowned at her with thick bushy brows. “I don't want no trouble.”

“Nor do I. My father, a vicar, died and I must travel to family. But I can't leave until tomorrow.”

He pursed his wrinkled lips. He didn't believe her. Emma was a terrible liar. The effects of being a vicar's daughter. She called to mind an image of her father. Stout like a barrel, dirt caked under his fingers from working in his precious garden. Her eyes stung and tears pooled in her lashes.

“I'll go.”

“Now don't go out like that. You'll get into heaps of trouble. Ye can stay.”

Emma sniffed. “Thank you.”

Emma slowly sat, her bottom sore from the firm wood chair and hours of sitting. But she kept her vigil on the hot coals in the hearth until the sun rose and left. Her next stop was the employment office. She'd only known of its whereabouts because of the upstairs maid.

It wasn't open yet, but she sat on the stupe, her hopes rising with the sun as light transformed the bleak streets into something softer. Less threatening. Antonia would not yet know she was missing. Michael would sleep into the late morning.

For the moment, she was free. Utterly in control of her life. Frightening as it was to have nothing and no one, she had herself; she had her wits.

A woman and a man approached. Emma bolted to her feet and stepped aside as they opened the door. The woman eyed her warily. Emma smiled, and the woman sniffed, putting her nose in the air. She marched inside ahead of the man. The man appeared far kinder, holding the door for Emma.

“Welcome. Are ye looking for employment?”

“Yes, sir.” Emma stepped inside the narrow office. Flyers lined one wall.

“Have you any references?” the woman asked.

“No, ma’am. My father recently died, and I have no family to care for me.”

The woman’s stern gaze softened. “Have you any skill?”

“I… I went to finishing school. I received a gentlewoman's education.”

“But you've no references. ’Tis hard to find employment without references to speak of your character.”

“There's always something for an eager worker,” the man said.

“Please. I'll take anything, as long as its…”

The woman shrewdly stared. “As long as what?”

“I want to be far from London. As far as possible.”

The woman and man shared a glance.

Emma panicked. Was there nothing? She didn't anticipate difficulty in finding work.

“There is one,” the man said.

“’Tis very far,” the woman added.

“That's perfect.”

Very far.”

Her heart raced. “Lovely.” 

“This may be your only hope. No one else dared travel so far for such a position.”

Emma swallowed. That sounded ominous. “What sort of position?”

“A governess, miss. For two young girls.”

Emma exhaled with relief. “That sounds splendid.”

“It's on the Isle of Star Frost, off the coast of Cornwall.”

Emma blinked. “Is that still in England?”

The man snorted, and the woman elbowed him.

“It is,” she replied. “But it may as well not be. No one else has been willing to take the position because of its locale.”

“I'll take it.” Emma's heart tripled in beat as she said the words, and her head grew light.

“You don't know who it's for.”

“I don't care.”

The woman and man raised their brows.

“Please. I'll leave today. How—do you know how much it would cost to get there?” That might be her only problem. She had no money to get to the edge of Cornwall and beyond.

“The fare is paid. You'll have to travel by ship.”

Emma swallowed. She'd never set foot off solid ground. She couldn’t swim. Her father deemed it a useless and provocative venture for a young woman. “Very well.”

The woman turned and opened a drawer, pulling out a bag of coin and a paper. Emma took the coin and weighed it in her hand. “This seems wrong.”

“I'll escort you to the ship,” the man replied.

“When is it leaving?”

“As soon as you board. The duke has held it on retainer in hopes of luring”—his wife elbowed him again—“of obtaining a governess,” he finished.

Emma stared. She didn't know what to do. However, the heavy purse in her palm convinced her not to think too hard about it. This was more money than she'd ever seen in her life. “Let's go.”

The man smiled. “Very well. Mr. Trout is my name.”

“Miss Mc—Grace, Miss Grace.” Her middle name would have to do. She couldn’t risk anyone knowing her first name anymore or her surname. Emma Grace McKinnon had to disappear. It wouldn’t be difficult. Her father had long taken to calling her Grace in lieu of Emma. Her mother was Emma, and her maternal grandmother. He said two Emmas in one house were too difficult, even after her mother had passed when Emma was four.

“Come along, Miss Grace. Do you have any belongings you need to fetch?”

“No sir.”

“Good. Let's be going.”

  • Puchase E-book Instantly
  • Receive Download via Email
  • Send to preferred E-reader and enjoy!
View full details