Read The Orphan and the Duke Online

Authors: Jillian Chantal

The Orphan and the Duke

BOOK: The Orphan and the Duke
13.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Table of Contents

THE ORPHAN AND THE DUKE

JILLIAN CHANTAL

SOUL MATE PUBLISHING

New York

THE ORPHAN AND THE DUKE

Copyright©2016

JILLIAN CHANTAL

Cover Design by Victoria Vane

This book is a work of fiction.  The names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual events, business establishments, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved.  No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher.  The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law.  Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials.

Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

Published in the United States of America by

Soul Mate Publishing

P.O. Box 24

Macedon, New York, 14502

ISBN: 978-1-68291-179-2

www.SoulMatePublishing.com

The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

To Katherine Bone

for her encouragement in turning me

into a Regency writer. I love you, girl!

Acknowledgements

Researching the story of the Princess of Monaco who really died in The Terror during the French Revolution was my inspiration for this tale. I imagined what would have happened if the pregnancy she faked in order to delay her date with Madame Guillotine had been true and if the baby had survived. Sadly, the lady’s false condition was discovered and she was one of the last of the victims of the Reign of Terror. Her story spoke to me because she was safely away from the fray but returned to Paris because she missed her children. I’d like to acknowledge her sacrifice in the name of love.

I’m grateful for the assistance I received from Katherine Bone in brainstorming this story. One evening in a hotel room helped me to put this story together. I’d also like to thank Deb Dixon for her wonderful workshops I attended that helped me to hone this story as well.

Chapter 1

This is absolutely diabolical. It is. No self-respecting man of the ton should be seen in a dressmaker’s shop.
Basil Staunton knew he’d never live it down if he were discovered, but he was sure he would be. That was the way his life worked.
Someone will come in. Probably the biggest gossip in London. Yes, I’m sure of it.

Basil ducked his head as he stood in the corner in the dim light near the fireplace
If I don’t make contact with anyone, maybe I won’t be noticed.

He stood so close to the flames he was sure the smell of the smoke was in his linen as well as his coat and breeches. Baxter, his valet, would not be pleased with him.

Basil wasn’t intimidated by his valet, but he still had so much to learn, even after two years, that he didn’t like to cause unnecessary problems.

Recalling himself and shaking off his reverie, Basil glanced around the room, keeping his eyes downcast.
How did it come to this?

Didn’t fate punish me enough when my parents and the heir to the dukedom died in a carriage accident?
Having to step in and become the duke when my older twin was killed was bad enough, but becoming guardian to two fourteen-year-old hoydens was worse
. They hadn’t matured any by turning sixteen the previous month.
They will be my undoing. I’m sure of it.

“Basil, Basil, come and see what Saffron is trying to order for her gown.” The younger of his twin sisters, Jonquil, poked her blond head out from behind the curtain where she and her sibling had disappeared earlier.

Great. She’s calling my name so loudly that no one will fail to learn of my presence now
.

He took four large strides to close the distance between them in the hope she would quiet down, but the fates were not on his side. Not only did Jonquil not stop her incessant chattering, but she brought out her sister to join her.

“Look at this lovely ribbon, Basil. I want it on my gown, but Jonquil says I cannot. She says there are strict rules about being presented at court, and this won’t do.” Saffron stamped her foot and stuck her bottom lip out. “She’s not in charge. Who made these rules anyway?”

Unsure what rules she spoke of as he was trusting the mantua maker to create his sisters’ presentation gowns, Basil was at a loss as to how to respond to his petulant sister.

A woman in a plain brown dress stepped forward. “Excuse me. I couldn’t help but overhear.”

Of course she couldn’t. Saffron and Jonquil could wake a hundred-year-old corpse and send it running in frustration from the cemetery.

Basil bowed to the woman beside him. Up close, she looked younger than she had when he noticed her standing by herself earlier. The drabness of her costume made her seem older. Her face was pleasant and had a smattering of freckles across her nose and cheekbones. She appeared to be only a couple of years older than the twins, but she was so sedate and quiet she gave the impression of being older.

“I apologize for my sisters. They mean no disrespect. Their mother is deceased, and they’ve been allowed to run wild.”

“And who exactly allowed that to happen, Basil?” Saffron asked with a sassy grin.

He shook his head. “See how much trouble they are?”

“I don’t think I can help you there, but I can assist in the ribbon choosing.”

“Then you’ve been presented at court?” Jonquil asked.

“Oh no. Not me. My cousin. She was presented two years ago, and now my younger cousin will have her season this year. I am here assisting her.”

Basil didn’t want to ask why the young woman couldn’t have her own season. That seemed too impertinent to him, but he was willing to accept her assistance with the ribbon dilemma. “Thank you so much for your offer. I am at a loss myself when it comes to these things, but I surely don’t want the family name to be despoiled by some breach of etiquette.”

“Each young lady must be presented by a female who has already been presented. Do you have that arranged?”

“Oh, no, Basil. You think Jonquil and I are going to ruin the family name. You don’t even know what to do to make sure we don’t walk in and curtsy to some old piece of armor by mistake.”

“Do you have the proper headgear?” The woman addressed Saffron.

“What proper headgear?” Saffron’s face reflected sheer terror. Basil would’ve enjoyed the look if the situation weren’t so serious. His sister was never afraid of anything, so it was a new phenomenon. He couldn’t take the time to revel in her insecurity. Instead, he needed to see if he could obtain some assistance.

“I say, Miss—”

“Mandeville. I’m Miss Mandeville.” The lady smiled slightly, and Basil realized he’d committed a faux pas. Though she hadn’t been presented at court, she was undeniably of class, and he’d addressed her as if he were already acquainted with her.

Taking a bow and backing up slightly, he said, “I beg your pardon. Please forgive me.”

“What?” Jonquil asked. “We need help, Basil, and you’re going to get all stuffy like you’ve been doing since our parents died.”

“We are not acquainted with this young woman, sister. Therefore, we are imposing upon her.”

“If you would recall, sir, I offered my assistance.”

Basil wasn’t sure if Miss Mandeville blushed. It was still unbearably dark in the shop, and he didn’t have a good view of her once he moved away, but he thought perhaps she did.

“I
do
recall, but it appears we need a lot more aid than you can supply in one visit to this shop. Perhaps I should hire someone until my sisters have been presented.”

“What about you, Miss? You seem kind and knowledgeable.” Saffron smiled at Miss Mandeville.

“I’m sorry. I have to attend to my cousin.” As soon as the word
cousin
was out of her mouth, a short brunette entered the room from the back of the shop. The new arrival was the complete opposite of the young lady they’d been speaking to—a tall, slim blonde. One would hardly think they were related.

“Time to go, Amelia. Father will be by to get us, and you know he hates to be left waiting.” The younger lady sashayed past them imperiously.

Amelia turned to Basil. “Please excuse me, sir.” She smiled in the general direction of the twins.

The brunette stopped in her tracks and turned to gape at Amelia. “What are you doing addressing the Duke of Darnley? Don’t you know your place?”

Jonquil stepped out of the shadow of the curtained area. “Excuse me, miss, but Miss Mandeville said she is your cousin. We have all been enjoying her company, and it is not well done of you at all to berate her in public.”

“And who do you think you are?” The younger lady sneered.

“I am Lady Jonquil Staunton, daughter of the recently deceased Duke of Darnley and sister of the current duke.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Lady Jonquil. I’m Susan Mandeville.” The girl dipped a small curtsy. “I’m pleased to make your acquaintance.”

Saffron stepped out into the open. “I’m Lady Saffron Staunton, and I’m curious why you think it’s acceptable for you to introduce yourself to my family but it’s not acceptable for your cousin, who shares the same last name, to do so.”

“Wait. There’s no need for all this.” Basil was truly concerned. The shop was suddenly filled with people who had nothing better to do than listen to the altercation being played out in front of them. It seemed as if everyone came to a standstill to hear what was happening with the new duke. He half expected one dowager, who was leaning so far forward because of her deafness, to fall over on her ample bosom at any second.

He wasn’t sure if he was merely being self-conscious now that he was the holder of a title that didn’t fit well on his shoulders or if he was correct in assuming they
were
the center of attention. All he wanted to do was return home . . . more than ever.

“Come along, Amelia.” Her cousin’s face was mottled and nearly puce. She latched onto Amelia’s arm so hard the other woman cringed.

Basil felt almost as sorry for the hapless Amelia as he did for himself, though he knew the incident wouldn’t cause her to be the stuff of gossip all over town. As soon as the thought dashed through his head, he pushed it back.
There is no reason to think her angst over this embarrassing situation is any less important than mine merely because I’m a duke and she is a miss.
In the old days, he would have been gallant and made her smile. He would have done something outrageous to deflect attention away from her and onto himself, but dukes weren’t supposed to behave the way younger sons did.

Deciding he could relax for a trice, he said, “Excuse me, Miss Mandeville.”

Susan Mandeville, the vile cousin, turned and said, “Your Grace?”

“I’m sorry. I was addressing Miss
Amelia
Mandeville.” Basil stepped closer to the young lady with the freckled nose, removed her arm gently from the grasp of her cousin, and pulled her aside to the front door of the shop.

Amelia looked up at him with terror in her sea-green eyes. It was not what he’d intended. Basil dropped her arm. “I’m sorry about today. We didn’t mean to intrude, but if I may, it’d be my pleasure to hire you to assist my sisters in preparing for their presentation at court. You are obviously well acquainted with the ways of the court, and I am woefully not. We need your assistance.”

She opened her mouth to respond, but he held his hand up to stop her. “I don’t presume to know your situation, but I somehow think we’d each be helping the other.”

“I cannot, sir. I have to tend to my cousin’s coming out.” Amelia touched the doorknob.

“Promise to think about it. I would like to give you a way out of your situation if it is unbearable. You may either take my offer and come to my home on a daily basis, or if you are sorely abused, you may move in as a kind of governess.”

“I am not abused, sir.” The panic on her face was palpable, so Basil decided to let the conversation go. He needed her help, and he imagined she could use a job since her own cousin treated her as if she were a servant. Suddenly recalling where he was, he knew couldn’t pressure her into accepting his offer while people were agog with curiosity about what they were discussing. Taking a step back and speaking loudly, he said, “Thank you, Miss Mandeville. I will definitely see about that glove shop.”

She gave him a blank stare but seemed to recover quickly and nodded. “You’re welcome.”

Turning her back on him, Amelia opened the door to the shop and exited, followed by Miss Susan Mandeville, who didn’t make eye contact with him as she swished by.

As soon as they were gone, the other patrons in the shop returned to their activities, but Basil was still feeling conspicuous and needed to get his sisters home.

“Saffron and Jonquil, I think we need to return another day with someone who can guide us as to what we need.”

“The mantua maker can do that,” Jonquil said.

Basil leaned in and whispered, “Do we really want to trust the most important event of your lives to someone who hasn’t been to court?”

He knew those words would get their attention. They were nothing, if not predictable.

“He’s right. We need to find a woman with more knowledge to assist us.” Saffron put her arm around her sister’s waist. “We’ve been measured and can return to choose fabrics later.”

Since he had them where he wanted them, Basil ushered them out the door and to their carriage.

Their driver made haste to get them to their townhouse in Belgravia. Basil leaned back on the squabs and rubbed his eyes. He had a massive headache and wanted only to be left alone for a half hour with no prattle from young ladies.

The carriage pulled in front of the house. A footman opened the door and handed Jonquil and Saffron down. Basil stepped to the door and groaned. His headache was about to get much worse as Vonda Van Eizenga stood on his porch.
Can this day get any worse?

Amelia tossed her gloves on her dressing table as soon as she walked into her bedroom. Another long day out with Susan had caused a headache between her eyes. Not sure if she could manage the entire season being the one her cousin berated when things didn’t go her way, Amelia knew she had no choice. She’d made it through her elder cousin, Jane’s, season, and the only real shock there was that it only took one season for the girl to receive a proposal. Though it was an impoverished baronet, it was about as good as could be expected for a young lady of her social status.

They weren’t the lowest of the low, but they were barely members of the
haut
ton
. Much of their funds had been earned in trade a couple of generations back. She thought, as she rubbed her forehead, those were the legitimate Mandevilles. For the illegitimate, things weren’t so simple. Though she carried her father’s name, according to her uncle, her parents had never married.

Even though her uncle proclaimed her legitimacy to the world, he and her aunt still made sure she knew she was only allowed a home there with them since he’d promised his dying brother he’d care for her.

Living in terror every minute that she might say or do something to alienate them and be tossed into the streets, Amelia made sure she stayed well-hidden until she was needed. What she would do once Susan found a husband was a major concern for her, as her companionship would no longer be required.

Pacing the room as she thought of the offer made by the Duke of Darnley, Amelia didn’t hear Susan enter until she placed a hand on Amelia’s shoulder.

“Oh, you frightened me.” Amelia jumped a bit as she turned to face Susan.

“How did you get involved in a conversation with a duke? You always act as if you know all about etiquette, and I come out of being measured to find you making a terrible error in judgment.”

“He spoke to me first.”

“Why would he do such a thing? You’re beneath the notice of someone as grand as he.”

“As are you.” Amelia knew she shouldn’t have said it. It wouldn’t be worth it, but sometimes she forgot to bite her tongue, and things came out unbidden.

BOOK: The Orphan and the Duke
13.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Dune Time by Jack Nicholls
Strip by Thomas Perry
A Long Strange Trip by Dennis Mcnally
Lady Lucy's Lover by M.C. Beaton
Raney by Clyde Edgerton
Storm (Storm MC) by Levine, Nina
Thumbprint by Joe Hill
Taming the Wolf by Maureen Smith
Deal With It by Monica McKayhan
Cosmic Connection by Carl Sagan