Authors: Dominique Eastwick
Tags: #Romance, #Anthologies, #Historical, #Regency, #One Hour (33-43 Pages), #Collections & Anthologies, #Historical Romance, #A 1Night Stand Story
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
The Duke and the Virgin
Copyright © 2014 by Dominique Eastwick
Cover art by Cora Graphics
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work, in whole or in part, in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.
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Also by Dominique Eastwick
The Duke and the Virgin
A 1Night Stand Story
Special Thanks to my Lovely editors Val and Kate who believe in me more than I do. And without them my books would be nowhere.
To the Stephanie Laurens Yahoo Group who for years has supported me, pulled out the large wooden spoon to stir things up, and shared my love of historical romance, I would list you all personally but this Captain is terrified of forgetting even one of you amazing ladies. Besides you know who you are :)
To Tracy, Tina, Teresa (the three T's), to Dawn, Tam, Emmeline, Patty, and Dwayne you are the best friends any one could ask for.
And to Nadine who is the best beta reader and friend an author could have. I thank you for always being there for me.
“So you are really going through with it?”
Lady Elizabeth Hamilton looked at her lady’s maid in the mirror as if she had lost her marbles. “Anna, you told me I should do this.”
might be a bit strong, my lady. I need to be convinced that you have your heart and head set. Because once you do this, there is no going back.”
Setting her brush on the dressing table, Elizabeth gave her companion a confident smile, though, to be honest, it was false. “Where is there to go back to? I am not likely to get a proposal this season, any more than I have the seven seasons before. I am helplessly on the shelf. It’s not all bad. I get to be myself now. My aunt seems unconcerned that I might live out my life with her in this house.”
“We all love you, Miss Llysa, even that father of yours does, in his own way. And I know your aunt would love to have you here for as long as you want. But—”
Grabbing her hand, Elizabeth silenced her friend. “Anna, I plan to become a woman tonight. Tomorrow, no one will know the difference but me and you. If I am lucky, the evening will be as magical as those novels my aunt hides in the corner of her library. If not, then I’ll know that I have at least the knowledge that a woman should have and will be missing nothing by not being wed.”
“What about the man? What if he decides to talk?”
“I have to trust Madame Eve. And just in case, I plan to wear this mask.” Llysa held the golden mask aloft, twirling it around by its ribbon. “That way he will never know my identity for sure.”
Her maid replied with a guarded, “I suppose.”
“You hesitate, why?”
“Not many of your class have your figure.”
True enough, her voluptuous figure could give her away. She wasn’t classically thin with the long neck that the true beauties of the ton possessed. Big bosoms and large hips were her lot in life. Llysa liked her cake and it showed. Food and she were old friends. She had always found happiness in it when she could find it nowhere else. During her first season, she’d nearly starved herself to lose a stone, but it had done little good. Only one marriage proposal from a despot who needed nothing but her money had come her way. Before Llysa could even turn down the proposal, her aunt declared she would disinherit her if her niece considered saying yes. Thank goodness. She had always been her favorite relative.
Now, she led a quiet life, keeping her aunt company, reading more books than she could imagine, and eating the delights the kitchen staff prepared for her. That wasn’t to say she did nothing all day. The hours of her days quickly filled between her charitable work, and walks in the park—several a day in fact, even in the rain, with no one around to stop her. She accompanied her aging aunt wherever she wanted to go. But Llysa wanted, nay needed, to know what it would be like to be a woman for one night. Then maybe—she met her reflection in the mirror with a wicked grin—maybe one day she could take a secret lover and he would love her more than the moon.
“You’re daydreaming again. I can see it in your eyes,” Anna scolded.
“No need to apologize to me. Your aunt left for the ball fifteen minutes ago. If you are going to sneak out, I suggest you get to it. The rest of the servants are about to sit down for dinner.”
“Madame Eve sent a carriage?”
“It’s waiting around back. I have the address in case I need to find you. The coachman will wait for one hour after dropping you off in case you change your mind, and will bring you home before sunrise. But he assured me the staff at your destination will be able to find him if at any time you wish to leave.”
“Fair enough. And, Anna…thank you.”
“Don’t thank me yet. You may very well be cursing me for letting you do this, tomorrow.” She picked up Llysa’s long mantle.
“We will deal with tomorrow when it comes.”
Anna nodded then peeked out into the hall. Motioning for Llysa to follow her, she made her way wordlessly through the large house. As expected, all the servants were in the dining room in the lower level, none wandering about. They had hours until their mistress would return.
Exiting through the servant’s entrance in the back, Llysa embraced Anna before hopping into the unmarked carriage. Only inside did she don her mask and belatedly wonder what she had gotten herself into.
Madame Evangeline, the woman of myth, talked about in hushed whispers, yet no one really knew who she was, and none spoke of her in polite circles. Llysa had first learned of the woman three years earlier, overhearing two women discuss her in the retiring room at a garden party. Anna, ever her champion, had made discreet enquires about Madame Eve at Llysa’s request. What began as a way to feed both her and her maid’s curiosity eventually turned into a desire to hire the matchmaker’s services. On her twenty-fifth birthday, and now firmly nailed to the shelf, Llysa had decided to find out what she offered and how much. Madame guaranteed one night with a man well-suited to her desires, and with complete discretion.
The fee might not be cheap but Llysa had saved her allowance and had nothing better to spend it on. So, when the letter addressed to her, sealed with red wax and embossed with an E, had been delivered, there had been no going back.
As London passed by, she closed her eyes and let the rocking hackney ease her into rest. If the evening went the way she hoped, she would be having a sleepless night.
His Grace, Wolfe Thane, Duke of Foxhaven and possessing a slew of other titles he cared nothing about, looked up from his book toward the clock on the mantel.
would arrive in less than ten minutes. Having arrived himself an hour ago, he’d confirmed everything was in order for their rendezvous. A lifetime of distrust had taught him never to take anything for granted. And since Madame Evangeline seemed to value her anonymity, he knew she would value his. The residence she’d arranged to carry out the date was akin to an upper-class brothel, without the harlots, thankfully. Nestled in an out of the way area of London, it also offered private access. Whoever owned it must be making a pretty penny on dates such as his. Wolfe didn’t trust anyone he couldn’t look in the eye while speaking, and didn’t trust a great many more he could. He needed to ensure he hadn’t gotten entangled in a big ruse to get him leg-shackled. As if sensing his concern, the underbutler had shown him a number of escape routes on the way to the room.
“None of the servants will see both of you. Those you see now will be replaced when your date arrives, and then, only the butler will be in contact with you through the night,” the young man had informed him.
Ultimately, it didn’t matter what happened that night. Wolfe doubted it would be anything but a brief memory by morning. And certainly, with the Season winding down and everyone about to head to their summer homes, it was unlikely he would think on this again. But boredom surrounded him and anything for a bit of excitement seemed like a plan. When he had beat Lord Railey in a game of poker, the despot hadn’t a thing to pay his debt with except offer arrangements for a date he had made through Madame Eve. Wolfe had the choice to take the voucher from the man for his date, or wait until the idiot’s next allowance came in. Taking said voucher played more to the satisfaction of seeing Railey’s disappointment than Wolfe needing a date. But, as the season and its boredoms became more than he could bear, he’d contacted the elusive woman to arrange to replace Railey for the rendezvous.
He was surprised to learn that although he held a voucher, the date could not be transferred from one person to another. If he wanted to use the service, he would have to pay for it. She sent a minion to inform him she had the perfect date if he was interested. Perfect, well, he would see.
What lonely widow, bored wife, or social outcast would walk through the door? Regardless, it would be one night in hundreds that wouldn’t have a dull beginning. And that alone improved his outlook.
Sounds of someone arriving downstairs brought him out of his musings. After placing his book on the small spindle table nearby, he stood and listened as he walked to the far corner of the darkened bedchamber. That would give him the advantage when she came in, allowing him a moment to assess her before alerting her to his presence. If the servants were to be believed, only one would speak to her. She would be brought to just outside the room, asked if she required anything, and then left to enter or to leave on her own.
The old door creaked open and soft light from the hall filtered in ahead of the shadowed form of a woman. She stepped in and looked around with an assessing air then, appearing convinced of whatever it was she’d been looking for, she closed the door behind her. Still, he waited until she’d turned her back in the act of removing her mantle and let her guard down. Only then did he step from his hiding place.
“A woman not only on time, but early, is a rare quantity indeed.”
Startled, she spun toward him, her face hidden behind a lace demi-mask. Her eyes met his, widened, and, as if by habit, she bowed her head, stopping short of a curtsy. “Your grace.”
Tensing, he took another step closer to his mystery lady. “You know me?”
“Of course. Few of the ton, if any, would say they didn’t.”
To believe his date wouldn’t know him had been a fool’s dream. Anyone who could afford to be there wasn’t likely to be anything but haute ton. “Why the mask, my lady?”
“It would be better, when our paths cross after tonight, that you did not know my true identity.”