Duchess in Disguise
As the carriage passed through the Mayfair streets, towards St James, he was surprised to find himself wondering briefly about his child-bride. What would she look like now? He thought. Since she had not married in all these years, she must look like old cheese, or be of so sour a disposition that gentlemen had avoided her. He shuddered at the thought.
She found herself standing close to the entrance, where couples were still trying to edge their way into the ballroom. Conversations from both inside and outside rose to her ears, not in full sentences, but in stilted phrases.
“Married his mistress . . . but she was born before . . .”
“Her mother was born the same . . .”
“Of course her grandfather protected her, but Gloucester couldn’t make her legitimate . . .”
She knew that there was a chance that her former love could be there, in his title as Benjamin Farley, the Duke of Ravensthorpe. She had come to the last party at this house with him, as his partner, but it had ended badly, and she had not been in society since. It had been a humiliation, both for her and for him, but only due to his last act. There had been no difficulties at all, until he had asked her to be his wife.
Seven Years for a Duchess
That was the reason, of course, for her failure to secure a husband. After that first year, a whirlwind of passion that had made her the envy of every woman in the ton, there had been the crushing blow of her beloved’s disappearance. One night, he was there at the ball, to dance with her and sit beside her at dinner, and the next he had just gone.
Wager for a Duchess
I propose that you, Duke of Tempsford, will not be able to obtain Miss Frances Bradley’s hand in marriage.”
The duke laughed. He knew full well that he was a very handsome man—and wealthy. Any woman would be delighted to marry him. “I don’t see why that is worthy of a wager.”