A Spinster to Reform the Duke Preview

A Historical Regency Romance Novel

About the book


Perhaps a wounded heart is not beyond repair after all..

Rebecca is an heiress. Something she realized is both a blessing and a curse, when she found out that her former betrothed only wanted her for her wealth. After getting her heart broken, she vowed to stay away from anything having to do with marriage. Most of all eligible, dashing dukes.

Timothy Fletcher is ready to settle down. He is in search of an obedient bride of convenience, one he would not have to explain his whereabouts to, or have her meddle in his affairs. So why is Lady Rebecca, a very outspoken spinster, the one haunting his dreams?

As their initial disdain turns into something more, Rebecca must decide whether she can trust Timothy with her carefully-guarded heart. And Timothy must decide if this spinster might be worth changing for.

Chapter One

London, England


“Oh, Rebecca, I do not think I have ever known such excitement. I fear my heart may burst out of my corset.”

“Pray keep it in, sister, it may make quite a mess.” Rebecca’s jest pulled a laugh from her sister as they stepped into the ballroom. “Though I must say I do not know why you are so excited.”

“How can you not? It is my debut after all. How I have longed to go to such events as these! Oh my…” Eliza broke off, her voice fading away with awe as her eyes turned around the room.

Rebecca tried to summon the same kind of happiness that her sister had, but she found her body numb of any such warm feeling. Where the crystal candle-lit chandeliers, draped with mistletoe and wintry evergreen boughs brought a smile to her sister’s face, they left Rebecca empty.

“Have you ever seen such a beautiful room?” Eliza asked, gesturing not only to the decorations, but the myriad of guests that had gathered inside.

Rebecca’s eyes flitted across the guests. Many ladies were draped in the most fashionable of gowns, some even bearing cream turbans, the highest of fashionable statements, where others wore jewels and diamonds that glittered at their ears and throats like fallen stars from the sky.

“Do you not find it all a little false?” Rebecca asked with a sigh.

“False?” Eliza asked, crinkling her brow as she spoke.

“It reminds me of the theatre. Each person putting on an act, a character they wish people to see.”

“You think quite harshly of the world, Rebecca.”

“I have good reason to,” she muttered under her breath, speaking so low that Eliza couldn’t hear her.

“Will you be so downcast the whole night?” Eliza’s disappointed words made Rebecca turn her focus back to her sister. The dark blonde curls were set tightly around her face, framing the pretty features and green eyes perfectly. Seeing the smile fall from her sister’s face, the guilt bloomed within Rebecca.

“I would not dare be so,” Rebecca assured her sister. “I am here for you tonight.” She looped arms with Eliza once more and drew her forward, further into the room, following the same path she had seen their parents take a few minutes before. “I am determined your debut shall be a splendid one, and that you shall enjoy your time with the ton far more than I enjoyed mine.”

“Dear sister, it is a ball,” Eliza said with a giggle. “You speak of it as if we are to go to war like soldiers.”

“With our fans as cutlass swords and our glares like musket shots? Hmm, I have to say I rather like the idea. One could send any unwanted suitor scuttling away in an instant,” Rebecca spoke quickly, putting on a jesting voice that pulled another laugh form her sister. Deep down though, Rebecca was not jesting.

It is true, I would feel safer here if I had such powers.

She tucked the dance card on her wrist further up her arm, hoping to hide it beneath her three-quarter sleeve. She rather suspected it was the only power she had that night, to deny dancing with anyone.

“You should have heard our mother talking earlier today of this ball,” Eliza gushed as they moved toward the drinks’ table. “She was so excited. She seems quite determined I shall find my future husband tonight.”

“So soon?” Rebecca choked on nothing at the words. She peered ahead through the crowd, searching out her mother’s face. Across the room, she found the same dark blue eyes that were in her own face, as they glistened with laughter. Amelia Felton, the Marchioness of Birkston, was a hopeless romantic. No matter what words of caution Rebecca had to offer, they never dissuaded her mother. “Our mother has a rather romantic view of life, Eliza. Do not be carried away by it.”

“How can I not be?” Eliza asked with a giggle. “Has our mother not led a happy life with our father? She met him at her debut after all.”

“Not all men you meet at your debut are angels,” Rebecca said wryly as they made their way through the crowd. “In my experience, demons can wear angels’ wings very well, until it suits them to tear them off their body and reveal who they really are. Just remember my warning. Be wary of any man that asks you to dance after hearing your name. He only has one motive in mind.”

“I think you need a drink,” Eliza said with a smile. “I’ll be sure to fill it halfway, then ask you if it is half full or half empty.”

“You will wish me to answer half full, I know it,” Rebecca teased her sister.

As they closed in on the drinks’ table, Eliza was so distracted, pointing at the finest of decorations that laced the table, she clearly didn’t see there was a body ahead of her. Rebecca saw it, all too easily. There was a rather tall man in her way, with dusky blond hair, and his head turned away.

“Eliza, be careful!” Rebecca tried to tug on her sister’s arm, stopping the inevitable collision, but it was too late.

Eliza collided with the stranger, toppling him at such an angle, that he half turned round, throwing the contents of glass away from him, straight onto the very spot where Rebecca stood.

She felt the splash of the champagne on her face, the bubbles stinging her eyes, before she looked down at her dress, realizing it had dampened the neckline and chest of her dress.

“God’s wounds! I am so sorry,” the man said quickly, fixing his eyes on her.

“I…” Rebecca was about to say it was all right when she noticed the true extent of the spill. It had to have been a very full glass indeed, for the droplets of champagne were running down her dress, making her shudder in embarrassment.

“It was my fault,” Eliza declared quickly. “I am sorry, sister, I was not looking where I was going.”

Rebecca felt Eliza’s shawl quickly thrown over her shoulders, the pale blue silk trying to cover up the worst of the spill.

“Nonsense, I am entirely to blame,” the fair-haired man said, stepping forward again. His eagerness to apologize seemed to fade away the moment his eyes landed on Eliza.

Rebecca could have laughed at the sudden change, had it not been for the way she was now clinging to the shawl to cover up her marred dress.

“Forgive me, I seem to have forgotten my manners entirely.” He bowed hurriedly to Eliza.

I think I have rather blended into the background now. Rebecca’s thought made her smile, somewhat startled by the enamored way the stranger was looking at her sister.

“I am the Marquess of Herberton,” he said kindly, never taking his eyes off Eliza.

“Oh, a pleasure, Lord Herberton,” Eliza said, rather fumbling with the words as she hurried to curtsy. “I am Lady Eliza Felton. This is my sister, Lady Rebecca Felton.”

“How do you do,” Lord Herberton said quickly to Rebecca before he returned his gaze to Eliza.

Rebecca bit her lip to stop herself from laughing. It is as if he only sees Eliza!

“Alex? What have you been doing?” a rather deep voice was clearly calling Lord Herberton, for he acknowledged the words with a quick look as another man approached.

“I have been getting into trouble, my friend,” Lord Herberton said hurriedly, returning his eyes to Eliza. “For which I must apologize for again.”

“It was entirely my fault,” Eliza pressed a hand to her chest as she spoke.

Rebecca would have happily pointed out that her dress was the one that had been ruined, not Eliza’s, when she caught sight of the approaching man that had called to Lord Herberton.

“I was about to ask what you have done, Alex, but I think I see just what you have done.” The newcomer turned to Rebecca and laughed.

He laughed! All propensity Rebecca had at that moment to laugh herself had vanished. All she felt was embarrassment and shock at this man daring to laugh at her in her predicament.

He was a striking presence. With hair so black it could have been made out of the darkest of ink. He was tall too, unusually taller than her, a rare thing to find. It was the smile on those rather sharp features in his face that shook her to the core the most though. The problem was it was such a charming smile. She would have been charmed by it more, if she had not been so irked.

“You do know, Alex, you’re supposed to keep the champagne in the glass when you’re not drinking it,” the man said, never taking his eyes off Rebecca’s dress. That look made her wrap the shawl self-consciously tighter around her body.

“It was my fault,” Eliza said hurriedly. “I walked into your friend here.”

“I should have been more careful with my glass,” Lord Herberton was still insisting he was at fault.

“Either way, the dress is wet,” Rebecca said, unwilling to let them continue to argue at who was at fault. With the way the new arrival was staring at her, she wanted nothing more than to retreat to the other side of the room and hide with her sister until her dress dried out. “Come, Eliza, our mother will be wondering where we are.”

“Now?” Eliza asked in surprise, not looking at Rebecca, but still at Lord Herberton.

Good Lord, you’d think they had been cast under a spell! Rebecca reached for her sister’s arm, about to tow her away when Lord Herberton stepped forward, clearly reluctant to let Eliza leave.

“Let me at least attempt to make amends before you leave,” he said quickly. “If your dance card is not already full, Lady Eliza, may I have the next dance?” He extended his hand with the words.

Rebecca chewed the side of her mouth, suddenly feeling tense before she whispered a few words to her sister.

“Remember what I said,” she murmured, yet Eliza didn’t appear to hear her. Earlier that day, Rebecca had warned Eliza again and again about the dangers of young men who were so interested after hearing her name. It meant only one thing. He is interested in your dowry, Eliza. That is all.

“I would be delighted,” Eliza’s reply made Rebecca curse inwardly. It seemed her warning was all for nothing.

“Eliza!” Rebecca said in a hissed whisper as her sister stepped away, taking Lord Herberton’s hand.

“I’ll be back soon, sister.” As Eliza stepped away with Lord Herberton, Rebecca felt watched.

She turned to see Lord Herberton’s friend had not left at all. He was still standing there, with that insufferable grin on his face, showing how amused he was at her predicament.

“I have a feeling I have already given you enough amusement tonight. Surely you do not require conversation as well. I beg you would excuse me.” She curtsied with her words, intending to walk away from the stranger when he stepped forward, hurrying alongside her.

“You are walking away so soon?” he asked, flicking his dark hair that had grown in an unruly manner around his ears.

“That is what I meant when I asked you to excuse me.” Her rather witty words pulled another smile to his face. This smile was not as insufferable to her as his last one was.

“At least allow me to introduce myself to you before you part.” He moved in front of her, stopping her from going any further as he bowed to her. “It seems my friend struggled to notice you were the injured party in their little incident. At least allow me to apologize for him when he barely apologized for himself.”

“If you must apologize, you could apologize for laughing at my expense.” Rebecca’s words clearly caught him by surprise, for he laughed all the more as he stood straight.

“You speak plainly. How refreshing.”

“I have learned it is the best way.” She spoke rather tightly. There was a time when she had tried to bite her tongue in public, to restrain herself from the witty words that came so naturally to her, but that time was long past. These days, she was not afraid of scaring a gentleman away. It is safer this way.

“May I at least know who I have offended?” he asked with that amused grin still in place. “At least then I could offer an apology properly.”

“Lady Rebecca Felton,” she said quickly, turning her gaze away and hunting for her parents across the room. She was hoping to make her escape from him soon.

“Lady Rebecca?” he repeated, his voice betraying his surprise so much that she looked back to him.

“I see you have heard of me.” This time, she was the one to smile. She had seen this look now so often in strangers’ faces that it was amusing to her. There was something about the way people panicked when meeting someone they had read of in the scandal sheets and heard muttered on gossipers’ tongues.

“A little,” he confessed. “My name is Timothy Fletcher, the Duke of Frampington.”

Rebecca froze. She was unsure which emotion grew worse within her. Should it be the shame that she had been so outspoken to a Duke? Or should it be the fact that she had read his name in the scandal sheets as well?

“I see you have heard of me too.” He took a step toward her, his smile becoming rather lopsided. She found herself gazing at the smile, rather enamored by it.

No wonder he has the reputation he has, when ladies like me cannot stop staring at him!

She tried to snap her gaze away, looking down at the shawl she had firmly around her shoulders instead. She rather imagined those handsome features in the Duke’s face could lead many a lady to their disgrace, and they would go there quite willingly.

“As we already know of each other, perhaps we can avoid the usual small talk and chatter people engage in on evenings such as this,” he said rather jovially, as if amused by his own words. “I’ll come straight to the point instead.”

“Pray, do,” Rebecca said distractedly, hoping she could escape any second.

“Allow me to repair the injury my friend has just done. He should have apologized to you and asked you to dance instead.” He offered forward his hand. Rebecca snapped her gaze down to the hand, confused by it.

“You wish to dance with me?” she asked, practically scoffing. “Even when you know who I am?”

“I do. From what I hear, you do not dance with anyone.”

“And you wish to see if it is true?”

“Let us say this instead.” He took another step toward her, coming so close that Rebecca felt rather swathed by his scent. There was something earthy about it, and it made her reluctant to step away. “I’m intrigued to see your answer. Turn me down and you prove the gossip to be true.”

“And if I say yes?” Rebecca asked, unable to stop herself from making the challenge.

“Then you prove them wrong.” He kept his hand in the air, waving it toward her another time. “What do you say, Lady Rebecca? Dance with me?”



Chapter Two


Timothy wasn’t sure why he was so interested in Lady Rebecca’s answer, but he found himself holding out for it, with his hand still in the air.

Of course, I know of the lady. Who here could not? He had read her name in the gossip columns along with everyone else when her betrothal to a certain gentleman was called off. He could have warned her just what her betrothed was truly interested in, though the scandal sheets had made it apparent it was clearly a surprise to her.

The lady’s eyes flicked down to his outstretched hand again, giving him the freedom to gaze at her a little more. Timothy was no fool. He had seen a beautiful woman many times, danced with many too. It was partly what had earned him the reputation of being a rake, but there was something about Lady Rebecca he found quite fascinating.

It wasn’t just the dark blonde hair that was fastened in a chignon, with a few escaped curls teasing her neck. Neither was it those dark blue eyes, so bold in her face that it was hard to look at anything else. It was the words she had uttered. She had challenged him. Far from being like many of the meek ladies in the room, Lady Rebecca seemed to have a fire in her.

“You would be dancing with a woman wearing a wet gown,” she said, lifting her eyes to him again. “Can you bear that embarrassment?” She teased him with the words, prompting him to smile yet again.

“Would I ask if I could not?” He kept his hand out in such a way that he was beginning to feel something of a fool. She seemed to sigh and lowered the shawl from her shoulders.

“Very well. I suppose I must change the gossip about my name somehow.”

“Gossipers say what they like no matter what we do. Trust me in that, my lady.” He took the shawl from her and laid it down on a nearby chair, before offering his hand again. This time, she took it. Her gloved hand was warm in his as he led her toward the dance floor.

When they took up their place, waiting for the dance music to begin, he didn’t miss the way her eyes kept flicking away from him. She seemed much more focused on watching her sister and Alexander together. He was surprised how much it irked him. My dance partners usually only have eyes for me…

“Something upsets you about their dance?” he asked as he took her hand and led her into a cotillion. They circled around each other, with her eyes at last looking back at him.

“I do not know your friend, Your Grace. I will be suspicious of any man that goes near my sister.”

“Overprotectiveness?” he teased her, rather loving the way her brow wrinkled as she stared up at him.

“No, it’s called sisterly love.” She smiled with her words as they turned and walked round each other in the other direction, this time connecting opposite hands. She gave him the barest touch of her fingers, making him long to hold her entire hand, rather than having that brief teasing touch.

Her eyes drew away from him another time, returning to Alexander and Lady Eliza. That look irked Timothy so much, he was determined to capture Lady Rebecca’s attention.

“The dress is really not so bad, you know,” he said conversationally.

“You are simply trying to cover up for your friend’s error,” Lady Rebecca murmured, still not looking away from her sister. Timothy grew determined to try harder to gain her attention.

“I meant more that it flatters you despite the damage.” This time his words made her look sharply at him, her cheeks coloring. He laughed as he caught her attention. “Is it so shocking to have a gentleman admire you?”

“I would have suspected you of flirting, Your Grace, had I not known it to be an impossibility.” Her words made a new smile grow on his cheeks. This one was indulgent, truly enjoying the way she was flirting back with him.

They turned in the dance, so that Lady Rebecca had to walk into his arms, momentarily placing her hand on his shoulder as he took her waist.

“What if I was? I certainly do not see why it would be an impossibility.” He didn’t know if it was his words or the way he had held her waist that made her bite her lip, but something made her do it, spilling more color into those lips and making him flick his gaze down, imagining what it could be like to steal a kiss from this lady.

What am I thinking of? I barely know the lady.

“You forget I am a tarnished woman, Your Grace. No man would flirt with me.”

“Tarnished? No indeed. If someone’s name being uttered in the scandal sheet was true damnation, then we are all already in hell. Such small gossip is soon forgotten,” he muttered, turning her in his arms so that she was against his side, copying the position of the rest of the couples, with one of his arms around her waist and her hand in his other palm.

“Hell?” she repeated, her brow wrinkled in puzzlement. “Perhaps that is what this is.”

“You think a ball is hell?” he laughed at the idea as he led her through the dance, keeping her in this position as they exchanged places with another couple.

“I certainly do not think it heaven,” she said with a shake of her head. “I do not imagine heaven has so many people in one place making it difficult to breathe easy, nor so many people putting on an act, pretending to be someone they are not.”

Timothy couldn’t help himself. He found himself truly laughing from the gut as he circled Lady Rebecca, beginning their dance pattern again. She appeared equally startled by his laughter, raising her eyebrows as they came back to face each other.

“I amused you.”

“You did. I think it rare to meet anyone who looks at this event as I do.” He explained.

“You do?”

“Oh yes,” he nodded, circling her with her hand in his again. This time, she gave him a little more of her hand. It was still not enough, just her fingers, but it was more at least. “From now on, I shall picture all those I perceive to be putting on an act as demons, wearing masks.”

“Do you separate yourself from this picture?” Her tease made him shoot her a look. He was finding it impossible not to flirt with this woman as his next words tumbled from his lips.

“I am as great a demon as any other man here, though most ladies do not seem to mind my demonic ways.”

“Oh! Proud man indeed,” she laughed as they switched places and walked round each other in the opposite direction. “You openly acknowledge what the scandal sheets say of you then?”

“What would be the point in denying it?” he asked with a shrug. “My name has not been dragged through the mud completely. The writer of such gossip only suspects that I am a…” He struggled for the right word.

“A rake?” Lady Rebecca offered, urging him to look at her with a wink.

“Your word, not mine, Lady Rebecca. I was going to call myself a charmer.”

“A charmer?” She laughed. “You do think highly of yourself.”

“Do you say I have no charm, Lady Rebecca?” he asked, drawing her into his arms. This time, he was careful to pull her a little closer. She clearly noticed it, for her hand gripped his shoulder tighter, as if eager to keep him at a little distance. Yet the way her cheeks blushed told him all he needed to know. She is not averse to me.

“If I was to deny your words, you would simply say I am denying it to frustrate you. If I say you are a charmer, then you win regardless. I cannot win by answering your question,” she surmised quickly, leading him to draw her toward him another time. “Your Grace, you should be releasing me in this part of the dance.”

“Should I?” he said, purporting innocence as he heard her. “I became rather distracted at having you so near.”

“That is not charm, Your Grace,” she said, though she was clearly trying to hide her smile as she spoke. “It is an attempt at charm.”

He laughed fully once more. He had never had a lady treat him this way. They quite often fell into his arms or gave him a wide berth. He rather liked the challenge Lady Rebecca offered. There was something about her that was very different.

The dance was beginning to come to an end, marked by the slowing music. They released each other and walked around one another, never letting their eyes stray.

“You accused me of flirtation, my Lady, but I rather feel I am not the only one here who has flirted,” he whispered to her, before they were forced to step away, facing each other at a little distance. Her lips parted, as if shocked by his words, as he bowed to her with the closing music.

She hurried to curtsy too, until he stepped forward and took her hand, offering to escort her away from the dancefloor.

“I was not flirting,” she insisted, her tone rather sharp.

“I think you were.”

“I never flirt.”

“Is flirting really such an abominable thing? I rather like it. Especially when it brings a smile to your face.” He looked down as he led her through the crowd that had been watching the dancers, rather hoping to see another smile on Lady Rebecca’s face. He was not satisfied sadly, as she looked up to him with risen eyebrows in a challenge.

“Flirtation is all well and good for you, Your Grace. As a duke, you must have ladies lining up to flirt with you.”

“And you do not have gentlemen lining up for you?”

“No.”

“I find that rather hard to believe.”

“Ha! Do not flatter me, Your Grace,” she said as they came to a stop in the crowd. Timothy didn’t release her, finding himself reluctant to do so just yet. To his relief, she didn’t pull her hand free either. “You have seen the scandal sheets call me a spinster; what man would flirt with me?”

“As you pointed out, my Lady, I just did.” He smiled with his words, rather amused when he saw she was trying to fight her smile.

“You must be fond of momentary distraction and flirtation with strangers. I beg you would excuse me, Your Grace, and I thank you for the dance, but I must return to my parents.” She curtsied, leaving him dumbfounded and unable to issue a proper goodbye.

“Momentary distraction?” he repeated as she walked away. He followed her with his eyes, struggling for his mind to keep up. That’s not what I do. Is it?

“Timothy? Timothy!”

Timothy winced at hearing his name called so many times. He looked away from the retreating form of Lady Rebecca, turning to see his mother approaching him through the crowd. Catherine Fletcher, the Dowager Duchess of Frampington, was a regal presence in any room, with a formidable stature and such dark hair and dark features that she was striking. Yet her exuberance sometimes ran away with her, reminding Timothy of a young girl. This was one such moment.

“Mother, pray be calm,” he whispered as she reached his side, practically bouncing on her toes. “You are rather reminding me of taking a child to the confectioners.”

“Do not tease,” she said, waving away his words before pointing through the crowd at the retreating figure of Lady Rebecca. “Who was that?”

“No one,” Timothy spoke hurriedly. He felt his stomach knot, just as it always did when his mother asked him such questions.

“Oh, do you wish me to believe I saw you dancing with a ghost rather than a real person?” she questioned, raising her eyebrows. “You did not take your eyes off your dance partner the entire way through the cotillion.”

“She was an interesting partner. That is all.”

“Interesting?” She sounded far too hopeful for his liking.

“Not this now, Mother,” he begged, lifting his hand to pinch his brow.

“Timothy, one of these days you are going to have to stop rebuking my pleas,” she said tiredly with a sigh. “You were the one who promised to marry.”

“I know I did.” He lowered his hand and looked to the ceiling for a minute, distracting himself with the evergreens that draped the chandeliers.

“Do you not want an heir?”

“Of course, I do.” He lowered his gaze back to his mother.

“Then you need to marry to provide an heir.”

“Believe me, Mother, the lady I was just dancing with was not my future bride.” Despite his words, he found himself looking across the room, seeking out Lady Rebecca again. “She is not what I hope for in a wife.”

“You have rather foolish expectations of a wife, that is your problem, Timothy.”

“A quiet and dutiful one? No indeed. It is simply the recipe for a peaceful life.” Yet Timothy couldn’t take his eyes off Lady Rebecca now he had found her again.

She was talking to her parents, the Marquess and Marchioness of Birkston. She had no smile, and her eyes were missing life or spark. She appeared rather bored, not at all like when he had danced with her.

As interesting as Lady Rebecca was though, she was certainly not what Timothy had decided upon in a wife. His rakish days were done, and he was determined to marry. Yet he needed a peaceful life with a quiet wife, one that would hopefully not dislike him too much for his rakish past.

“Well, if the young lady you have just danced with does not give you hope, let us look elsewhere.” Catherine took his arm and steered him in a circle, forcing him to drop his gaze from Lady Rebecca and follow his mother. “What about Lady Esther?”

“Who?”

“Lady Esther Baxter? Could you marry her?”

“Mother!” Timothy felt his body tighten as he was drawn by his mother toward this very woman across the room, with the question burning a mark on his mind. Could I marry Lady Esther Baxter?



Chapter Three


“Mama, please, not this again.” Rebecca stuffed the papers she had been working on to the back of the writing desk and looked up to her mother across the room. Beside the Marchioness, Eliza was dancing all by herself in the drawing room, as if with an imaginary partner. “Concentrate your efforts on Eliza instead of me. She is currently dancing with an imaginary person. I’d say that is much more concerning.”

Eliza abruptly stopped, though she still giggled with a great smile on her face.

“I was simply reliving last night,” she said with joy, before promptly starting to dance again, humming a soft tune under her breath.

“Two dances with one gentleman,” Rebecca muttered, turning her eyes back down to the quill in her grasp. “Do not become too excited, sister.”

“Rebecca!” Amelia said, placing her hands on her hips. “Can you not give your sister some encouragement? Some hope?”

“To be fair, Mama, my words have not hampered her in the slightest,” Rebecca said softly with amusement, gesturing toward Eliza with the quill. Eliza appeared not to have heard her, still dancing by herself, humming away. “I merely wish to offer caution. I am protective of my sister. With my experience, can you blame me?”

She flicked her eyes to her mother’s face, seeing those same dark blue eyes somewhat downcast.

“Dearest… it took us all by surprise, you know that, don’t you?” Her mother’s sad voice made Rebecca push the quill away, giving her mother her full attention.

“I know, Mother. The only person to blame is myself.”

“That is not true!” Amelia strode forward, reaching for the chair beside Rebecca and sitting down. “It was his fault. No one else’s.”

“It is good of you to think that, Mama, if it gives you comfort.” Rebecca patted her mother’s hand warmly. In truth, Rebecca knew who was to blame. I should have been more careful. I should have seen the warning signs. “Most men only wish to marry for the sake of earning a dowry. It is simply a shame that he purported to care for me rather than the money attached to my name.”

“He is not worth your concern anymore,” Amelia said firmly, brushing off the mention of that man with a wave of her hand. “Especially when we now only need concern ourselves with gentlemen like Lord Herberton. Look what effect he has had on your sister.” Amelia whispered the latter sentence conspiratorially.

“I know,” Rebecca murmured, chewing her lip with a little fear. “We shall have to stop her soon, Mama, or she’ll fall over the chairs.” As if in answer to her words, Eliza collided with the nearest armchair. Just as Amelia winced, Eliza fell into the chair, laughing away. “Well, I issued my warning too late.”

“Rebecca, there is something I must speak to you about.” Amelia reached forward with her words, taking Rebecca’s hand in hers.

“It must be a grave matter, Mama,” Rebecca said playfully. “The last time you took my hand in such a way, a rabbit had gotten into the house.”

“I am being serious, Rebecca.”

“Very well, I am giving you my full attention.” Rebecca fixed her attention on her mother, finding Amelia’s smile had vanished. Around the lips, a few wrinkles were beginning to show, with the lips pursed together.

“Your father and I were talking last night. With Eliza clearly having an effect on Lord Herberton, and who knows what other gentlemen, it is quite possible one man could ask to court her. Her debut was a very successful one.”

“This is hardly an aberration,” Rebecca said mischievously. When she earned a warning look from her mother, she softened her look. “I am being serious. Eliza is beautiful, kind, and loving. Any man would be lucky to court her.”

“To court either of you, dear,” Amelia said, shaking her head. “As you know, it is traditional for the elder sister to marry first.”

Any temptation to jest left Rebecca. She hung her head, looking down toward the papers she had pushed to the back of the writing desk, longing to be alone with those papers again, instead of having this conversation.

“What do you wish me to do?” Rebecca asked quietly.

“Dearest,” Amelia lovingly entwined her hand with Rebecca’s. “Your father wishes you to marry first, as is the custom. I wish you to stop closing your heart off to the idea. That is all I long for.”

Rebecca couldn’t speak at first. Her mother had always been a kind soul, to the point that Rebecca could see how Amelia was trying to soften the blow.

“Marriage can be something of love. It can be a wonderful thing!” she said gushingly. “Do not let me see you cut your heart off from such a life. Not when I know it can make you happy.”

“Mama, you are very kind to me, but I have a feeling you are trying to mask what my father truly said.” Rebecca stiffened her spine and lifted her head, trying to find some courage. “What did he say?”

“He said…” Amelia faded away for a minute, fidgeting in the chair. She seemed to find other things to focus on for a minute. She looked at the crescent of armchairs and chesterfield settees, each one embroidered with a damask pattern. Then she looked to the curtains nearby too, pale cream and gold, that framed the view out onto the garden beyond, where the ground was dappled with white frost.

“Mama?” Rebecca encouraged. “You do not need to worry for me. Please, tell me what father said.” At last, Amelia returned her eyes to Rebecca.

“He loves you dearly, Rebecca, you know that.”

“This is still softening the blow,” Rebecca said with a wince. “Must we wrap me in the softest silks and cotton first before you tell me?”

“Enough jesting,” Amelia said with sadness. “Your father says you must marry, dearest. If you are labelled a spinster for much longer, then it could harm Eliza’s reputation too, and mar her chances of making a good match.”

These words were uttered loud enough to get Eliza’s attention. She sat forward in her chair, looking toward Rebecca.

“Is that true?” she asked, her voice very quiet.

“I cannot magic a man out of thin air to marry me,” Rebecca said, releasing her mother’s hand and turning back to the papers. She dragged them forward, determined to lose herself in the words scribbled there.

“I know, dearest, but –”

“‘But’ does not help us here, Mama. I have been called a spinster for a reason.”

Silence descended on the room. Rebecca could feel her mother’s and sister’s eyes upon her. She could feel their pity and their sadness, boring into her, as if each look really pierced her through her skin.

Most days, Rebecca tried to hide the heartbreak through her jesting. It was just what she did these days, a desperate attempt to mask how much she had truly been hurt by the man she had loved.

He never loved me. Remember that.

Other days, it was difficult to hide what she felt. At this moment, she felt weak, unable to hold the laughing mask in front of her face she usually wore. She turned her eyes down to the papers instead, hiding the temptation to cry as she blinked past the stinging feeling in the backs of her eyes.

In the distance of the house, a bell pull rang, signifying there was someone at the front door.

“Visitors?” Eliza asked, standing to her feet.

“The morning after a ball, who else could it be?” Amelia said, standing too with just as much excitement. “It must be a gentleman come to see one of you.”

Eliza practically squealed with excitement as Rebecca groaned inwardly. I know no one has come to see me.

As the door opened, they hastened to look busy. It was not difficult for Rebecca who had already been engrossed minutes before in the writing on those pages in front of her, but for Eliza and Amelia, they put on more of a show. Amelia thrust some embroidery into Eliza’s hands, clearly trying to make her look busy.

“My Lady Birkston, may I present Lord Herberton,” the butler’s words didn’t surprise Rebecca. She pushed the papers back on the desk as she stood to her feet and curtsied to greet him. After his two dances with Eliza last night, it was abundantly clear that he had a favorite at the ball. “And His Grace, the Duke of Frampington.”

Rebecca snapped her head up so quickly from her curtsy that she cricked her neck. In the doorway, having just walked past the butler, was not only Lord Herberton who had turned eagerly toward Eliza and Amelia to curtsy, but the Duke of Frampington too. The Duke bowed to Eliza and Amelia, before he turned to Rebecca and offered a second bow. She curtsied again, startled by his appearance.

His dark blue eyes found hers, never leaving her, never blinking. She felt almost scorched by that look, as if she were the very thing in the room he had come there to see.

Why on earth is he here?

“Lady Birkston, Lady Eliza. I apologize for calling at this early hour.” Lord Herberton spoke first, hastening toward Eliza with a bouquet of flowers in his hands. Rebecca had to bite her lip to stop herself from laughing at his eagerness, for he nearly tripped over the edge of the rug in his determination to reach Eliza.

“Lord Herberton, they are beautiful,” Eliza said as he pressed the flowers into her hands.

“Forgive me, Lady Birkston, I know yet we have not been introduced.” The Duke stepped forward. “I put it down to my friend’s somewhat enamored state with your daughter.” Eliza blushed instantly at the words as Lord Herberton rolled his eyes.

“You are hardly subtle, are you?” he said, shaking his head at the Duke.

“No,” the Duke said unashamedly, tempting Rebecca to laugh. “Allow me to complete the introductions,” he turned back to Amelia. “It is a pleasure to meet you, my Lady.”

“And you, Your Grace. To what do we owe the pleasure of your company?” Amelia said, hurrying to curtsy to him.

“I came to offer to be a sort of chaperone to my friend,” the Duke said, nodding his head toward Lord Herberton. “To make sure my dear friend doesn’t embarrass himself, as he has been unable to utter a single normal word since last night.”

They laughed at his words, but there was something odd about it for Rebecca, as after her spoke, his eyes flicked toward her. She frowned, almost thinking it was in her imagination.

“How lovely,” Amelia smiled before she turned back to Lord Herberton and Eliza.

Rebecca saw instantly what was in her sister’s eyes. She was looking up at Lord Herberton with the same excitement that Rebecca had once used looking up at a man. Do not fall for him, sister, I pray you. It can only end in pain. Yet her prayer seemed to go unanswered as the two of them sat down together, beginning a rather animated conversation, with Amelia watching on.

Rebecca was so busy worrying for her sister, she barely noticed the Duke of Frampington was approaching her, not until he was by her side.

“Lady Rebecca,” he bowed to her in greeting.

“Your Grace,” she said distractedly, before flicking her eyes back toward Lord Herberton.

“You look at my friend with much suspicion,” the Duke said as he walked around her, coming to stand beside her, as if adopting the same view she had of the room. “Has he done anything to offend you?”

“Not yet,” she murmured. “It is what he may do that worries me so.”

“May I at least vouch for my friend?”

“The word of a rake?” she teased. The words had tumbled from her mouth without much thought. What equally surprised her was the Duke’s reaction as he laughed, urging her to look back at him.

“You think my word doesn’t count for much?” he asked quietly. “Well, may my choice in friends always be my saving grace. It may not count for much at this time, Lady Rebecca, but if you are able to, trust me in this. My friend is the best of men. We have been friends ever since we were boys, and I can think of no kinder man, nor one more loyal. Your sister has no reason to fear his advances.”

Rebecca found herself flinching at the word ‘advances’ as she watched Eliza fuss over the flowers in her hands. She buried her nose in the roses, then sneezed from the pollen.

“He is certainly eager,” Rebecca murmured, still worried as her hands fidgeted together. “His eagerness grew all the more when he discovered her name. No doubt he knew the name and her position.” And her dowry.

“Oh, a cynic indeed,” the Duke said playfully in her ear. He had come so close that Rebecca took a step away, startled by the effect his words had, making a shiver pass down her spine.

He took the chair Amelia had vacated earlier, smiling up at her.

“Are you not here to chaperone your friend?” Rebecca said in wonder, pointing toward the other side of the room.

“Your mother seems to be doing a capable job of that,” he pointed out. “What is the harm in passing the time in conversation with you? I am hardly bad company.”

“You think well of your conversation,” she teased as she sat down in her seat once more. Something in her mind told her it would have been wise to cross the room to escape him, yet she hadn’t. Her body had somehow capitulated, sitting down again. She tried to persuade herself it had nothing to do with the handsome smile.

“Many women would say I am good company,” he whispered the words, as if he knew he was talking of scandal.

“I have not said that yet.” Her challenge was enough to pull a chuckle from him. She rather liked being the one to make him laugh. She was tempted by the idea of making him laugh again when her attention was drawn across the room.

Eliza was talking so animatedly with Lady Herberton that it was impossible to look elsewhere.

“You truly are concerned for your sister, are you not?” the Duke said, his tone somewhat softer and more serious than before.

“Call it good sense.” Rebecca was not going to be deterred from her worry yet. “Forgive me, Your Grace. If you say your friend is a good man, then I am willing to believe you, but I do not yet know him. Neither does my sister. Yet she is looking up at him as if he is the sun himself.”

“She rather is, isn’t she?” the Duke said with a smile. “I cannot hold onto your worries though. I am simply glad someone is looking at my friend with the adoration he deserves.”

“Adoration?” She laughed at the idea. “Is it possible to put adoration into a look?”

“You have never been looked at in such a way then?” he asked, leaning toward her.

“I refer you to my name being in the scandal sheets for your answer,” she spoke tightly, not wanting to enter into this conversation again. It was plain from what they had discussed last night that the Duke knew her name was mentioned in the gossip columns when her betrothal had ended on a sour note. She did not need to go into the particulars. She returned her gaze back to Eliza, not aware what the Duke was doing until she heard a ruffle of papers.

“What is this?” he asked, lifting the papers, before Rebecca could snatch them away from him.

Oh no…no one can see what is written there!

Did you like this preview? Please, don't forget to leave me a comment below!

Want to read how the story ends?

A Spinster to Reform the Duke is live on Amazon NOW!


You may also like

Saved by the Duke
The Duke and the Heiress
Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

  1. Great beginning. I really look forward to reading the rest of this lovely book. Will Rebecca marry first or will Eliza? Maybe a double wedding.

  2. Love this beginning!
    In the ninth paragraph from the end it states that “Eliza was talking so animatedly with Lady Herberton…” should that be Lord Herberton?

  3. Love the beginning! Can’t wait to see how it turns out.

    In the last page it states, “Eliza was talking so animatedly to Lady Herberton…” Should that be Lord Herberton??

    1. Thank you so much my darling! Oops! I always try to keep my novels as error free as possible, but some still spill through the cracks unfortunately..Thank you for letting me know 🙂

  4. Thank you for sharing this preview. I can not wait until your novel is available as I am glued to seeing just how this relationship will grow! I can not see anything but sweet success as this is released. I love your characters and their interaction is simply holding my attention with anticipation as to how they will move forward or not.

  5. I very much enjoyed the preview of your book it was very interesting and amusing also I liked the characters, cannot wait to read the rest of the book.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Join Cobalt Fairy's vibrant community of voracious readers on Facebook