Pride, lust, envy, and greed . . . vices that could lead a gentleman down the road to ruin. Unless he meets his saving grace in the form of a bespectacled bluestocking . . .
Jared Malcolm Lippincott, the Sixth Duke of Wyndmere, has restored the family fortune. Will his plans to restore the family name mend his pride? An unknown enemy from the past will stop at nothing to ruin him.
Lady Persephone does not wish to marry, cleverly donning the guise of a bespectacled bluestocking to discourage offers of marriage. Fate has other plans the night she falls into the duke's arms, captivated by the sparkle in his brilliant blue eyes. Society is all agog speculating if the two are more than just strangers.
Restoring the family name is not as important as protecting Lady Persephone, who is now in his enemy's crosshairs. A marriage of convenience binds the duke and his lady together, but duty is soon overshadowed by desire.
Will love triumph in this sweet tale of love and second chances?
Contains mature themes.
Release date: January 20, 2021
Publisher: Dragonblade Publishing
Print pages: 336
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Mending the Duke's Pride
Excerpt from Chapter 2
The newly-minted Duke of Wyndmere entered the ballroom and a hush descended, followed by whispers, glances, and the inevitable toadying.
“That’s him!” Lady Phyllida whispered behind her fan. “The new duke.”
Lady Persephone stifled a groan, knowing it would put her beyond the pale if she uttered such an unladylike sound while out in society. “Do tell, Phyllida.” She couldn’t be less interested.
Phyllida’s fan picked up speed, as the tall stately figure dressed in unrelieved black paused to speak with Lord and Lady Hollister.
Persephone tried to ignore her friend’s tittering, but the fan was perilously close to smacking her on the cheek. “Calm yourself,” she cautioned.
“He’s so handsome.”
Persephone eased back a half-step and stared at him. “He’s tall.” Studying the man all of society was in an uproar about, especially matchmaking mammas with an eye on a title, she whispered, “He has an arrogant prideful manner. See the way he speaks to those around him as if they were lesser mortals?”
Phyllida lowered her fan and softly sighed, “My dear, he is a duke, after all, and bound to cause a stir after what that wastrel—his older brother—did.”
Persephone adjusted her borrowed spectacles so she could peer over them without getting dizzy. The cut of the duke’s coat and lack of lace at his collar and cuffs met with her approval, although, she’d never admit it to one of her closest friends.
Turning toward her friend, she kept her voice low, saying, “Time will tell if he is cut from the same cloth as the last Duke of Wyndmere.”
Her friend’s gaze met hers. “Do I detect a note of interest?”
A frown marred Lady Persephone’s brow. “Not in the slightest.”
Phyllida’s soft smile alerted Persephone to the fact her friend was jesting with her. Her question confirmed it. “You wouldn’t want to land a duke?”
“If I were in the market for a husband of consequence and considerable fortune, I might be persuaded. However, I have not changed my mind on the subject of marriage.”
Phyllida’s green eyes gave away her thoughts. “You’d prefer to spend your life alone? Childless? Living off the kindness of others?”
Persephone struggled to contain the urge to laugh at her friend’s dramatics. “You know I prefer solitary endeavors, have a half-dozen cousins living in Sussex, and a substantial dowry my mother has promised I can use to support living in the country.”
“I keep hoping you’ll change your mind,” her friend confided. “Oh, look,” she said as she glanced to the far side of the ballroom. “There’s Cressida. Oh dear, she looks positively awful in that gown!” Phyllida noted.
Persephone could not contain her delighted laughter. “And I thought I’d win the prize for the most hideous ballgown this evening.”
Phyllida smiled, but suppressed her laughter in order to say, “Darling, Cressida’s gown is merely hideous while yours is simply horrifying.” She used her fan to hide their conversation. “Amazingly similar in color to the contents of a cow’s stomach.”
Persephone nearly choked holding back her snort of laughter. She finally managed, “Do tell, when was the last time you had opportunity to observe such?”
Phyllida swept the fan from in front of their faces and swatted at her friend. A sharply indrawn breath just behind them caught their attention. A glance over her shoulder confirmed Persephone’s worst fear. “Mamma, I didn’t see you there.”
“Phyllida,” Lady Farnsworth’s low voice did not attract undue attention, but Persephone felt her mother’s embarrassment keenly.
“Not her fault, Mamma.” Persephone moved to stand in front of her friend to deflect her mother’s censure. “You know I said something to cause her to act in such a manner. Completely my fault.”
Her mother raised one eyebrow in silent reply. Not good.
“Are those spectacles?” The odd expression on her mother’s face—half-horror, half-incredulity had her taking a step back. She nearly trod on Phyllida, who moved out of the way to avoid getting her slippered toes squashed.
Persephone’s squeak of surprise had all heads turning in their direction as she teetered back into a warm solid form. Strong hands banded around her upper arms, steadying her. She drew in a breath—sandalwood—her father preferred sandalwood.
Before she could set the memory aside, a deep voice sounded close to her ear. “Are you injured?”
She spun around, and all thought but one flew out of her brainbox—my mother is going to marry me off to the highest bidder for this. “I…uh…” Persephone couldn’t put two words together with such a worry spinning through her, twisting her up, threatening to drop her to her knees.
She couldn’t possibly marry when not one of the gentlemen who’d offered for her hand could say her name properly. And further—
“Your Grace,” her mother said quietly. “Please accept my apologies for my daughter’s errant behavior.”
His eyes never left Persephone’s as he gave the briefest of nods, accepting her mother’s apology. “Of course. If you’re certain you have come to no harm, Lady—”
“Persephone,” her mother supplied. “Lady Persephone.”
“Ah,” he said, “Lady Persephone.”
He pronounced it correctly. No other gentleman had since she’d made her bow to society four years earlier. One would think studying the Classics and having a knowledge of Greece, at least one of them would have. She tilted her head to better see the expression on his face. Quizzical. Amused…perhaps a combination of both.
“If I may?” he asked, pointing to her face.
Baffled and not understanding in the slightest, she glanced past his shoulder at her mother whose face was rapidly turning crimson. Whatever it was that caused that reaction did not bode well. She’d best agree with the duke—besides who would ever argue with such a lofty personage?
She nodded her head.
The Duke of Wyndmere used the tip of his finger to straighten her glasses so they were no longer askew. He bowed to Persephone, her mother, and Lady Phyllida and spun on his heel, retracing his steps back across the ballroom.
Mortified, unable to speak—let alone move, Persephone watched as he bade goodnight to their hosts, Lord and Lady Hollister and their very eligible daughter, Cressida.
A wisp of sound swept through the room, gaining in volume as it whirled and swirled around those in attendance. The Duke of Wyndmere had singled out the worst-dressed, most ill-mannered antidote at the ball—Lady Persephone Farnsworth. Ignoring the Season’s Incomparables, and Lord and Lady Hollister’s own daughter who was not without some redeeming qualities…with the exception of her choice of gown this evening, the Sixth Duke of Wyndmere had left the ball.
“Are you mad?” Earl Lippincott reached his brother’s side as he strode down the long hallway to the front of the Hollisters’ town house.
The duke met his brother’s gaze. “In what way?”
“You cannot simply reach out and touch a lady’s person!” his brother ground out. “We’re not in the country now…and you’re not the second son of a duke any longer. You are the duke!”
Jared held in the urge to chuckle. It was difficult, because he had actually enjoyed himself in the last quarter-hour at the blasted ball. Meeting Lady Persephone had been a welcome diversion.
“Correction, Brother,” he murmured, signaling his coachman. “I touched the corner of a lady’s spectacles. They were in danger of falling off her face after she backed into me.”
When his brother started pacing next to the open carriage door, Jared asked, “Are you coming home with me, or have you found a bit of diversion that will not land you in suds and leave our family’s reputation in question?”
His brother stopped pacing in front of the carriage. “Good God, Jared,” he said. “You’ve managed to do that all on your own.”
“What are you talking about?” he demanded. “I never touched the chit.”
“Yet here you are leaving the ball, while gossip escalates as to your intentions singling out the lady in question. Leaving those to wonder whether or not you are already acquainted.”
“The dark-haired female in the bile-colored gown?” Jared asked. “You’re joking.”
His brother reached out to keep the duke from climbing into the carriage. “I had no idea how inept you truly were going about in society.”
Jared’s stomach twisted at the supposition his younger brother may be correct. “Bloody hell, I told you I needed your help.”
“Yet you did not wait for me to enter the ball with you and introduce you to all and sundry.”
Jared squared his shoulders, assuming a battle stance his brother would well know. “I am the Sixth Duke of Wyndmere—I do not need…”
“Jared,” Edward stared, waiting for him to calm himself.
If he were to become accustomed to all his new role entailed, he had to rely on the wisdom of others. His younger brother may be in dire jeopardy of following in their oldest brother’s footsteps—becoming a wastrel with a tendency toward being a spendthrift—but he knew how to navigate society.
“What can I do? I’ve already paid my addresses to our hosts.”
“Leave it to me,” Edward reassured him. “I will go back inside, speak to Lord Hollister and let him know you had urgent business prior to the ball requiring your further attention.”
Edward’s warning tone was not lost on him. “Very well. How can you mend the other problem I’ve inadvertently caused this evening?”
“I’ll simply remind Lord and Lady Hollister you’re becoming acquainted with all your new duties entail and had a momentary lapse in judgment and deportment. Seeing a lady in distress reminded you of our younger sister, Lady Phoebe. You would have lent your assistance no matter who had been in danger of falling on their face had not you righted the lady’s spectacles so she could see.”
Jared chuckled. “That, dear brother, is a barrowful of sh—”
“Not another word, Duke.” Edward put his hands in the middle of Jared’s back and pushed him toward the carriage. The footman still stood at attention, holding the door open. The duke inclined his head, acknowledging the footman’s service, and climbed aboard.
Edward grabbed hold of the door before the footman could close it. “Oh, and Jared,” he said in a low voice. “Try to keep out of trouble the rest of tonight.”
“I planned to go to Father’s club—”
His brother shook his head at him. “Urgent business—wanted at home. Solicitors are waiting for your arrival.”
“Bloody difficult business this becoming a duke.”
Shutting the door and waving the coachman on, his brother replied, “You have no idea.”
Earl Lippincott was seen reentering the ballroom seeking out Lord and Lady Hollister. A few moments later, more whispers swept group by group until those in attendance were all in the know.
The duke had urgent business he’d set aside in order to honor the Hollisters with his presence. Choosing their ball to make his first official appearance as the Sixth Duke of Wyndmere, although fraught with inconsistencies and questionable behavior, was quite a coup.
From where she stood watching the ripples of excitement, rumors and innuendo, Persephone wondered how she’d ever be able to convince her mother she truly was sorry. Mayhap if she promised never to don the guise of a nearsighted bluestocking again, her mother would let her retire to the country tonight.
A tear slipped past Persephone’s guard as her mother’s words echoed through her aching head. “Your father would be severely disappointed in you. In the morning, I shall go over the list of gentlemen who have offered for your hand—and been denied for whatever ridiculous reason you came up with at the time. You have had your lark, Daughter, now you will do as I say.”
Nothing she said had convinced her mother otherwise.
Tomorrow, she would have to put away her spectacles and odious-colored gowns. Madame Beaudoine would begin creating a new wardrobe for her on the morrow.
“Lord help me.”
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