Home > The Devil's Own Duke (Wallflowers vs. Rogues #2)

The Devil's Own Duke (Wallflowers vs. Rogues #2)
Author: Lenora Bell

Dedication

 

 

For Rachel, friend and beta reader extraordinaire. You’ve saved me more times than you know.

 

 

Contents


Cover

Title Page

Dedication

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Epilogue

Author’s Note

Acknowledgments

About the Author

Also by Lenora Bell

Copyright

About the Publisher

 

 

Chapter One

 


“It’s time for your grand entrance, Papa,” said Lady Henrietta Prince.

Her father crossed his arms. “I don’t wish to make any kind of entrance, Hetty, much less a grand one.”

“Nonsense. There are a dozen lovely and accomplished duchess candidates waiting to fawn over a handsome lion of a duke.” She fussed with his cravat. “You’re the belle of this ball, please remember.”

An elderly belle with a decidedly mulish expression on his heavily lined face.

“Duchess candidates. Bah! You make it sound like a borough election. Are they going to stand on chairs and make speeches? Am I to cast a ballot to choose a wife?”

Hetty suppressed a smile. “I’ll grant you that the situation is unconventional, to say the least, but we’ve no other choice and you know it. If I’d been born Henry, not Henrietta, the title and lands would be mine. As it is, you must do your duty, remarry, and sire a new heir or we’ll lose everything to the Crown.”

She’d seen what happened when peerages reverted to the Crown. She’d lose Rosehill Park. The monarchy would own her vineyards and plant them over with timber. Their tenants would be subject to indifferent treatment from a land steward with only profit on his mind.

She’d lose her independence, her freedom, and everything she’d worked so very hard for—all because she’d been born female.

The duke frowned. “What right did my brother Walter and his son have to go and get themselves drowned?”

“I don’t suppose they had a choice. Their ship sank and they along with it.”

Her Uncle Walter had been a quiet man, fond of flannel nightcaps and sweet-meal biscuits. He and his son had drowned in a shipwreck off the Channel Islands less than a year ago, leaving the dukedom without an heir.

Hetty shuddered to think of their cold and lonely demise. She’d grieved for them, but she’d also been mourning the loss of certainty and security, the loss of her future.

“Bloody inconvenient, leaving us with no heir to speak of,” grumbled the duke, “not even a sixth cousin twice removed, or some such.”

“Language, Papa. You promised to behave tonight. No drinking whisky and no swearing in front of the ladies.”

“They might want to meet the real me before they decide to become leg-shackled.”

Heaven help them if the ladies saw the real duke. She quite despaired of him most days.

He wasn’t a mean-spirited drunk, only an extremely naughty and highly unpredictable one.

There was the time he’d bellowed a bawdy song during the vicar’s sermon about the sufferings of Job.

Which had been vastly preferable to the time he’d propositioned the poor vicar’s wife. At a funeral.

“You don’t have a flask in your waistcoat pocket right now, do you?”

At his sheepish expression she held out her palm.

“It’s only a few swallows.”

She raised her eyebrows. He handed over the small silver flask.

“We should be hosting balls for you,” he muttered, “not for me. It’s high time you found a husband. Your mother wanted you to marry.”

A memory washed through her mind in a soft, hazy palette of cream-colored satin and pink rosebuds. Sitting at the vanity in this same London townhouse, preparing for her very first ball. Her mother, brown eyes sparkling, tucking a diamond clip into Hetty’s upswept curls.

Her own brown eyes, so like her mother’s, shining back at her from the glass, so hopeful and romantic. The smell of melting beeswax candles interchangeable in her memory with her mother’s scent—warm, sweet, and comforting.

My darling, you’re so beautiful. You’re a woman now. You’ll have your pick of gentlemen. You’ll start your own life away from Rosehill Park. Away from me.

A teardrop falling from her mother’s eyes and landing on Hetty’s shoulder. She could still feel the small spot of damp, the harbinger of tears to come.

She’d never had the chance to begin that new life. Her mother had taken ill with a fever and died within the week.

And her father had started drowning his sorrows at the bottom of a whisky glass.

No time to dwell in the past. There’s work to be done.

“I’m four and twenty and far too busy for marriage. We have the grape harvest next month and then there will be wine to press and bottle, and food to put by for winter, cottage roofs to repair, and—”

“Don’t we employ someone to worry about those things?”

“You’ve sacked two stewards already, don’t you remember? And I never hired a third.”

She’d made do as best she could, learning to manage the estate and attempting to restore her father’s spirits. She’d even continued the work her mother had begun, nurturing their ancestral vineyards into a promising venture, producing sparkling white wine to rival the finest French champagne.

He sighed heavily. “I’m afraid I haven’t been much of a father to you, m’dear. I’ve let you down. Left you too much to your own devices.”

“I like my freedom, thank you very much. And no moping, now.” She needed him to be merry and charming tonight. She threaded her arm through his and gave him a bright smile. “This is a happy occasion. Your duchess candidates await.”

“What do I want with romancing widows?”

“This has nothing to do with romance. This is about saving our family fortune.”

He pulled his arm away, the expression in his eyes turning to near panic. “I can’t do it. I can’t remarry.”

“I know you still miss her terribly,” Hetty said softly. “I miss her too. But she would have wanted us to thrive. She loved Rosehill Park and the vineyards more than anyone. Do this for her, Papa, if not for me.”

“You’re so like her, you know.” He touched her cheek. “Brimming with life, beauty, and ambition.”

“Enough.” Her voice sounded husky and there was a lump in her throat. She wasn’t accustomed to tenderness from her father. “Here, have a sip of wine and then we’ll go down together.”

Hot Books
» House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)
» From Blood and Ash (Blood And Ash #1)
» A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire
» The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air #
» Deviant King (Royal Elite #1)
» Sweet Temptation
» Chasing Cassandra (The Ravenels #6)
» Den of Vipers
» Angry God (All Saints High #3)
» Steel Princess (Royal Elite #2)
» Serpent & Dove(Serpent & Dove #1)
» ENEMIES
» The Sweetest Oblivion (Made #1)
» Credence
» Archangel's War