How to dance with a duke

How to Dance with a Duke by Manda Collins



Miss Cecily Hurston battered her ivory-tipped parasol against the hulking footman who none too gently thrust her through the doors of No. 13 Bruton Street.


“You cannot do this!” She elbowed him to emphasize her point, and smiled in satisfaction at his grunt of pain. “My father was a founding member of this club! I demand you let me in at once!”


“He’s the one whot made the rule,” the beefy man said, putting her down and fending off further attacks with one arm as he backed inside and shut the door.


Cecily stood gaping at the closed door. “He…he…what?”


“You heard me!” The shout was just audible through the heavy door.


She tried again. “Surely in this particular situation you would be willing to bend the rules a bit…”


But after a couple of minutes with no response, she heaved an exasperated sigh, and gave the door one last aggravated kick. The heavy boots she’d worn for today’s visit protected her toes, but did little to protect her wounded pride.


She had hoped considering the circumstances that the members of the Egyptian Explorer’s Club would waive their ridiculous no-unmarried-females-rule. After all, none of them had considered that Lord Hurston would suffer an apoplexy on the return trip from his most recent expedition. She was an unmarried lady, true, but she was also—despite her father’s best efforts to discourage her scholarly pursuits—one of the only people in England capable of translating his idiosyncratic form of hieroglyphics, which he used for all his travel writings in an effort to deter would-be thieves. And without her help, the tale of her father’s final Egyptian tour would be told, for the first time in his illustrious career, in someone else’s words.


Now she would be forced to go to the Duke of Winterson. His brother, Mr. William Dalton had served as Lord Hurston’s personal secretary on the journey and might have kept his own records of the trip. Unfortunately, in another bit of bad luck for the expedition, that gentleman had gone missing during the trip, and had not been seen or heard from since. It would not be the same as her father’s account, but Mr. Dalton’s notes would surely be more reliable than those of any other man who had accompanied them to Alexandria. Still, the thought of using anything other than her father’s words was disheartening.


Defeated, Cecily took a calming breath and straightened her hat, which had been knocked askew in the scuffle. Smoothing her dark hair back from her brow, adjusting her gloves, and yanking her pelisse firmly into place, she turned to face the street below.


Unfortunately her ejection from the club had not gone unnoticed.


His exquisitely fitted attire and gleaming, silver-topped walking stick marked the man gazing up at her as a gentleman. And he was handsome enough to give her pause. Bright blue eyes surveyed her from a face that might well have been stolen from a classical statue, aquiline nose and all. While not normally one to have her head turned by a pretty face—in her experience handsome men, like her cousin, were a selfish breed—even Cecily felt her breath momentarily stop at the sheer elegance of the gentleman below.


But when he raised his beaver hat to reveal a head full of closely cropped dark curls, she had the uncanny sense that he laughed at her.


“Are they not accepting visitors today?” he inquired politely—as if he hadn’t watched Cecily’s forcible removal from the establishment moments earlier.


On her guard, she tried to determine his intent. Was he laughing? Or was he merely obtuse? Probably the latter, she thought to herself. In her experience handsome gentlemen were also lacking in common sense.


As if reading her thoughts, he raised a gloved hand. “I assure you, madam, that my query is sincere. I thought perhaps your…” he cleared his throat, as if trying to determine what to call what had just occurred at the door behind her, “…exit,” he settled upon, “Was due to the Society’s closure.


“No,” she responded, making her way down the first few steps leading to the street below. “They are closed only to me.” She paused at the next to last step, and looked the gentleman up and down, in a rude gesture that would have earned her a boxed ear from her old governess, Miss Milton. “I feel quite sure that someone of your…”


“Sophistication?” he suggested, making no move to ascend the stairs, and effectively blocking her descent.


She took one step down, bringing her to eye level with the stranger. He did not look like the sort of man who would have business with the Club.


Perhaps reading her expression, his sharpened gaze was replaced with a look of playful challenge. “Breeding? Looks?” he enquired.


Tired of their game, and if truth be told a bit unnerved by his attentions, she pushed past him into the street below.


“Sex,” she said, stalking away.


But, to her dismay, the gentleman followed her.


“I beg your pardon,” he said, shaking his head as if to clear it. “I think I misheard you.”


The man was wits-to-let, however appealing his dimples might be, Cecily decided. Pausing, she looked him squarely in the eye and repeated, “I said that I feel quite sure someone of your sex should have no difficulty gaining entrance to the Egyptian Explorer’s Club. Now, if you will please excuse me, sir.”


She continued on her way and was annoyed, but not surprised, to find him trotting along at her side, though a slight limp in his left leg slowed him down a bit.


“Of course that’s what you meant,” her unwanted companion said. “I had not realized that the Club was not open to females.”


“Yes, technically, that is correct,” Cecily said, tersely. “If you would excuse me, sir…”


“Indeed, I am quite certain ladies are allowed into the club because my sister-in-law has mentioned several times that she has attended lectures here.


His conversational tone indicated that he had no intention of leaving her to go on about her business. With a sigh of surrender, she kept walking. By the time she reached her waiting carriage, she decided, he would likely have given up and left her side.


“Then your sister-in-law must be married to a member,” she replied, deciding to keep her tone brisk to discourage further conversation.


“That is true,” he said companionably. “My brother was a member so that probably explains it.”


When they had walked several hundred feet in silence, however, Cecily could stand it no more.


“Sir,” she said, stopping, “I do not know who you are, but as you can see I am in a bit of a hurry and as we have not been properly introduced it is highly irregular for you to escort me down Bruton Street.”


She did not add that if she were to return to her carriage with a strange gentleman accompanying her she had little doubt that her maid would carry the tale back to her step-mama. A circumstance she desperately wished to avoid.


“You disappoint me, madam,” the gentleman said, shaking his head. “Surely the Amazon who kicked both the footman and the door of the Egyptian Explorer’s Club is not concerned with a matter as conventional as the proprieties.”


“Yes, well, the Amazon was overcome by pique outside the Egyptian Explorer’s Club,” she said tartly, resuming her brisk pace. She did not add that it was all very well for a man to ignore the proprieties. He did not have to rely on the goodwill of a distant cousin and a step-mama to keep a roof over his head.


“Your irritation was understandable,” her escort responded. “But you are not overcome by annoyance now, and yet if I were not here, you would be walking unescorted down Bruton Street for all the scandalmongers of London to see. So you are hardly a reliable source for what does and does not constitute proper behavior.”


Cecily opened her mouth to object, but he interrupted before she could speak.


“However, if you are so concerned about our lack of proper introduction, then let us by all means dispense with that nonsense.”


He halted, and out of habit Cecily stopped as well. He made her an elegant bow and Cecily dropped into a curtsey. Which felt exceedingly foolish in the middle of Bruton Street, but then this entire day had devolved into a series of foolish vignettes, one more insane than the last.


“Winterson, at your service, madam,” he said curtly, as if he did not like revealing his name to her.


She looked up abruptly.


“Winterson?” she asked. “The Duke of Winterson? Why on earth didn’t you say so before?”


* * *


How To Dance With A DukeLucas should have known better. The first lady he’d encountered since his return to London with more than a passing acquaintance with her own brain, and she turned out to be just like every other woman he’d met since coming into the dukedom.




It shouldn’t have mattered so much, but it did. As Major Lucas Dalton he had certainly never hurt for female company—though he acknowledged that the scarlet uniform did its part—but once his uncle and cousin had died, leaving him to assume the title, he had found himself the object of an unseemly amount of female attention.


Discovering that his fiery Amazon was just another avaricious harpy was a disappointment, but hardly surprising given his recent interactions with the fairer sex. A different sort of man might have embraced his sudden popularity with enthusiasm, but Lucas had never aspired to more than the life of a military officer. Though there were some parallels between serving as an officer and serving as a peer of the realm, the differences at moments like these were as vast as an ocean.


“Indeed, I am Winterson.” He cast one last look at her shapely form, and mink colored curls, and suiting his actions to his words, turned to walk away. “Now, if you will excuse me, I have just remembered a pressing appointment with…”


A firm hand on his upper arm stayed him. He cast a speaking look, one even his raw recruits would recognize, at the place where her fingers gripped his coat.


Flustered, as he had intended, she let go of him at once. “Please, your grace, I beg your pardon. But do not go. I have been looking forward to making your acquaintance for some time.”


I’ll just bet you have, darling.


Aloud, he said, “Yes, well, I am in a bit of a hurry, miss.” And without waiting to hear what she said, he stalked back the way they had come, aware that his limp was more pronounced when he hurried, but not really giving a hang.


“But, wait,” she followed after him. “Your grace, pray do not run away…”


He halted abruptly, and dammit if she did not grip his arm again.


“I am not running away,” he said between clenched teeth. “As I told you a moment ago, I have a previously forgotten appointment. And stop gripping me by the arm!”


“If you are not running away then why will you not stop a moment and allow me to introduce myself?” she snapped, her cheeks flushing and her bosom heaving in a show of temper that was, if truth were told, quite becoming.


Perhaps her reasons for ignoring the proprieties were less about ignoring convention and more about where she stood on the social ladder. He took a moment to examine her attire, and noting her plain hat and the drab color of her gown decided that she might be an impoverished widow. His mood brightened considerably at the thought. An unmarried miss might want him for his title, but a widow might be willing to accept a less permanent arrangement.


Another few minutes to hear the lady out would hurt no one, he thought.


At his continued silence, however, the lady lost patience. Throwing up her hands in disgust, she began to walk away.


“I had thought perhaps you and I were after the same thing but at this point it doesn’t matter. You may have your arm back, your grace. I will importune you no longer.”


Ah. So he was right. She had been importuning him. But not for marriage—that was the important thing.


Now he was the one rushing after her, and even with his injury, his stride was so much longer than hers he was able to overtake her quite easily.


“I beg your pardon for my boorish behavior, Miss…or Mrs…?” his voice rose with the question as he mentally crossed his fingers that she would fall into the latter group.

Stopping, she once more dropped into a curtsey, and extended her hand to him. “Miss Cecily Hurston.”




Lucas closed his eyes. When he opened them, she was still there.


“Of course you are,” he said wearily. “The daughter of Viscount Hurston, no doubt?” He had been trying to arrange a meeting with that gentleman for weeks now. The family claimed the viscount had lost the power of speech, but Lucas wouldn’t believe it until he saw the man for himself.


“Indeed,” she returned. “Now you see why I was so eager to stay you, your grace. We have much to discuss.”


Even as he considered using her to get to her father, he dismissed the idea. She would have no influence over the man. It was common knowledge that Lord Hurston disapproved of everything about his daughter. Look at the reception his friends at the Egyptian Club had given her.


“I am afraid, Miss Hurston,” he said calmly, “You are mistaken. What could I possibly have to discuss with the daughter of the man who will not even grant me the courtesy of a face to face meeting about the disappearance of my brother?”


His momentary flight of fancy over, for the first time in his adult life, Lucas Dalton, Duke of Winterson, dismissed common courtesy completely, turned on his heel and walked away.


To his relief, Miss Cecily Hurston did not follow.


How to Dance With a Duke

Ugly Ducklings Trilogy (Volume 1)

Author: Manda Collins





About This Book

How to Dance With a Duke

Manda Collins

What's a wallflower to do when she's suddenly in need of a husband? Use all the pluck...

Book Details

How to Dance With a Duke

Manda Collins

What's a wallflower to do when she's suddenly in need of a husband? Use all the pluck and moxie she can muster to get what she wants…

Miss Cecily Hurston would much rather explore the antiquities of Egypt than the uncharted territory of marriage. But the rules of her father's exclusive academic society forbid her entrance unless she weds one of its members. To clear her ailing father's name of a scandalous rumor, Cecily needs to gain admission into the Egyptian Club—and is willing to marry any old dullard to do it.

Lucas Dalton, Duke of Winterson, is anything but dull. He's a dashing and decorated war hero determined to help Cecily—even if that means looking the other way when she claims the dance card of Amelia Snow, this season's most sought-after beauty. But Lucas has a reason for wanting Cecily to join the Egyptian Club: His brother went missing during one of Lord Hurston's expeditions to Egypt. An alliance with the explorer's bluestocking daughter could bring Lucas closer to the truth about what happened…or it could lead him to a more dangerous love than either he or Cecily could have imagined….

Imprint Publisher

St. Martin's Paperbacks



In The News

“Collins' debut delivers a fast-paced, adventurous love story that will enthrall readers. Her dynamic characters, a murder and passion combine with the perfect amount of lively repartee.” —RT Book Reviews

“HOW TO DANCE WITH A DUKE is sensual, compelling and irresistible.” —Romance Junkies

“An excellent debut by Manda Collins that has me desperate for the next book in this trilogy.” —Night Owl Romance on How to Dance With a Duke (Top Pick!)

“Regency lovers have a new author to add to their dance cards! Manda Collins heats up the ballroom and writes romance to melt even the frostiest duke's heart. With sparkling Regency wit, a dash of mystery, and just the right amount of steam, HOW TO DANCE WITH A DUKE is an enchanting debut, sure to sweep readers off their feet!” —Tessa Dare

“Warmth, wit and delicious chemistry shine through every word of Manda Collins's delightful debut. With a heroine to root for and a hero to die for, HOW TO DANCE WITH A DUKE is a romance to remember.” —Bestselling author Julie Anne Long

“Sexy, thrilling, and romantic—whether she’s writing of the mysteries of the heart or of the shady underworld of Egyptian relic smuggling, Manda Collins makes her Regency world a place any reader would want to dwell.” —USA Today bestselling author Kieran Kramer

“Manda Collins writes sexy and smart historical romance, with a big dash of fun. Romance readers will adore How to Dance with a Duke!” —Vanessa Kelly, one of Booklist's new stars of historical romance

About the Creators




Ball in the castle of his Grace the Duke of Vasso

  • Litnet
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  • Ball at the castle of His Grace the Duke of Vasso

Author: Salma Kalk / Added: 01/07/20, 19:01:53

So, the promised visualizations. What I had in mind when I wrote about the first ball of Lizaveta's hitman, which happened N years later than necessary :)))

All the described dances were based on some prototypes that existed in our reality. However, like many other things there :)

Meanwhile, a lady and a gentleman from the duke's entourage came to the center of the hall, and it was announced that they would open the ball with a dance that the great Cesare Bianco had composed especially for Madame Margherita.
- Mrs. Margarita is the same daughter-in-law of the duke who went out to dance, and the cavalier is her husband and the eldest son of his grace, - said Sokol. “She is the daughter of Lord Moretto.
The musicians sitting not far from the host's platform began to play a whimsical melody with a complicated rhythm, the couple curtsied to each other. Then Lizaveta realized that she saw about half of the movements, if she did not do it with her own legs. But the pattern of the dance and the music turned out to be unfamiliar. nine0018 The dance was long, in several parts. The dancers moved together, in turn, facing the audience, facing each other. Normal such a dance of the late sixteenth century - well, as far as Lizaveta imagined these dances.

The dance is called "Alta Gonzaga", in our reality its author's name was Fabrizio Caroso (the dance master's name in the novel is inspired by another great man of that era - Cesare Negri). Described in the book "Nobilita di Dame" (Nobility of the Lady), published in 1600. The book is a dance textbook - descriptions of dances and discussions about dance-related matters. nine0018 The dance is dedicated to a lady named Leonora de Medici Gonzaga (hence the name "Alta Gonzaga" - "Great (High, Noble, Noble) Gonzaga"). The lady was from the Florentine Medici by her father, and by her husband the Duchess of Mantua, having married Vincenzo Gonzaga at the age of 17. In marriage, she gave birth to six children, and only one of them died in infancy, which was a great happiness in those harsh times. She was the sister of Marie de Medici, Queen of France and second wife of Henry IV of Navarre.

The surviving image of a lady by Alessandro Allori:

And, finally, the dance itself. Alas, only a link to the video (PLEASE click on the link) Alta Gonzaga

- And you were cunning when you said you couldn't dance.
- I can walk back and forth to the music - she chuckled. - So, as Mrs. Margarita danced earlier - no, I don’t know how.
- Are you talking about that long dance with a lot of figures that Mr. Cesare came up with for her? You know, there are so many of them that no head can hold them. Let's finish our business, go with me - and learn everything you like. nine0018 No, my handsome prince, I'm not going anywhere with you. And I'll go home - Lizaveta thought so. But today you are with me, and thanks for this to all higher powers.

A dance that Lizaveta was lucky to get into - a pavane.

Sokol put down his fork, put down his glass and stood up.
- Let's go, my lady.
- Where to? Lizaveta stared at him.
"Dance," he said.
- I can't!
- And here you don’t need to know anything. Step, put, step, put. Maybe a couple of variations. You can do it. nine0021

Ceremonial procession dance, very simple, accessible even to elderly queens, suitable for seeing people and showing off. There are practically no specific recorded schemes; modern reenactors have at their disposal mainly descriptions of steps and music.

An example of such a dance (Tyk to the link): Pavane on the French steps of the end of the 16th century

The drummer set the rhythm, she curtsied - as taught, in four counts. Look - half a step back - slightly spread your knees - put your foot down, he smiled admiringly and answered the same. And forward, with the left foot. nine0018 Yes, yes, yes, everyone walks like that - left, they put it, right, they put it. Some rise on their toes, some squat and pull their legs, but not all, there are enough of those who simply walk forward. And the manager commanded - forward, forward again, turn, back, forward, turn, forward ...
... The music died down, the drummer beat the last four counts. The dance is over. You could go back to your corner and eat further.
Falcon led her to a chair and bowed. Lizaveta answered the bow and sat down. nine0018 - Thank you. I'm happy.

Then the heroes watch the process from their corner, and in the hall they dance a dance for three.

The gentleman had to invite two ladies to the next dance. Lizaveta and Sokol laughed, looking at how other gentlemen were running around the hall and looking for the lady missing for the troika. Fortunately, no one looked into their corner.
- Look, your girl with the boys, - Sokol pointed to the very center of the hall.
Exactly, they are! And they solved the question of a trio in a non-trivial way - two gentlemen plus a lady. However, Lizaveta did not remember the contraindications to such a solution to the issue. nine0018 Tilechka's eyes flashed first at one, then at the other, an embroidered short cloak flowed behind Antonio's back and gracefully waved behind him in a bow, Ruggiero held out his hand, half hidden by a lace cuff. Rhythmic introduction - curtsey - flew. More precisely, the line came to life and began to move.

The prototype of this dance is called "Leggiadria d'Amore", which can be loosely translated as "Lightness of Love". It comes from the book by Fabrizio Caroso already known to us "Il Ballarino", which means "Dancer". Book of 1581 edition. And it is actually danced by three people - two ladies and a gentleman, or two gentlemen and a lady. nine0011

Video (Tyk to the link) Raz. Two ladies and a gentleman

and Two. Two gentlemen and a lady

Step left, step right, half turn, half turn. Synchronously, as if they had been training together for a long time. Now, Tilechka, who was standing in the center, went ahead, easily looking back at one or the other. They follow her, all turned in one direction, the next phrase - together. Eight around each other - also, it turns out, an opportunity to smile at both one and the other, and easily hold hands. Then they ended up in an equilateral triangle - the corners converged, diverged and turned. And then they again gathered in a line, and made each other a final curtsy. Antonio raised Tilechka's left hand, which he held in his own, to his lips, and Rugerdero whispered something directly into her right ear. Well, well, let's see how and what will happen next. nine0021

And then everyone began to dance the galliard.

History has preserved for us many variations of the galliard, both French, from Tuano Arbo's textbook "Orchesography", and Italian, from the treatises of various authors. This is either improvisation to the music - who will dance whom, or just in turn, or a dance by some agreement - with common parts and solos.

The dance requires not only a pumped foot and some grace, but also good physical preparation :)

...the manager announced that now everyone is dancing the galliard, each couple as they wish and as they can. It was interesting, Lizaveta only knew the basic step, and then she did not immediately learn to move her legs at the right speed, and saw many variations that skillful dancers boasted about. How about here? nine0018 It turned out to be chaotic here - couples were created, each of them occupied space in the hall in front of each other, and waited for the music. The characteristic rhythm set by the drummer for six counts again made Lizaveta's heart beat faster.
Each couple danced by themselves. The gentleman started, or asked a variation, or simply showed himself beautiful, and the lady answered - eyes on the floor, legs low. However, not all. Tilechka and the boys remained a trio in the middle of the hall, and their dialogue turned into some kind of hilarious conversation for three, because they laughed incessantly. Now Tilechka ran away, and they caught up with her, then, on the contrary, she ran with light steps after one of the boys. And everyone had fun. nine0021

Video (click on the link) One - dance with some scheme

and Two - dance with elements of solo improvisation

- would you like to try my lady? - Falcon slyly smiles at her. - It seems to me that you know more here than you want to show.
And looks at her fingers, which beat the rhythm on the fabric of the banquette.
“Basic step only.” She shakes her head in fear.
- I think it will be enough - he rises and offers her a hand. nine0018 Lizaveta exhales convulsively, gets up and is next to him. He takes her hand from above. Bow - and flew.
Picks her up and carries her. She does not immediately understand that her legs have already caught the rhythm themselves and do exactly what is needed - one-two-three-four, five-six! Take off, push off, run further.
They fly around the whole hall in a circle in this way, he stops her exhaling, and he takes up variations, his legs fly like that. She can only devour him with her eyes, but as if not with her mouth open. nine0018 Curtsey - he passes her the move. Okay. You can make a circle around him - and he looks and smiles, and then return to the starting point and spin in place, she succeeds in rotations well, she knows this and uses it. Bow, hand over.
But he again takes her hand and leads her around the hall, they fly, fly up to their cherished corner. And then, together with the next phrase, the music ends. Rhythm, mutual curtsy. You can breathe out. Or - in reality, after such a difficult and emotional dance, Lizaveta often rushed to hug. But here, feelings are not publicly demonstrated. nine0021

And if it so happened that you are still unfamiliar with the characters of the book "The Keeper of His Treasures" - why not get to know each other?

The heroes recently found the first part of the treasure and now they are sorting out among themselves and what is next :)))

Are you not with us yet? Join now!

Read "Dance with the Duke" - Dare Tessa - Page 10011

Reprinted with permission from Ballantine Books, an imprint of the Random House, Inc. and literary agency Nova Littera SIA.

© Eve Ortega, 2010

© Translated. E.A. Ilyina, 2013

© Russian edition AST Publishers, 2013

Exclusive rights to publish the book in Russian belong to AST Publishers.

Any use of the material in this book, in whole or in part, without the permission of the copyright holder is prohibited. nine0011

Chapter 1


June 1817

Blackberry frosting!

Amelia d'Orcy bit her lip to hold back an exclamation of glee. Even at such a party as this, a cry of joy that escaped the lips of a well-bred lady would certainly attract everyone's attention, and Amelia did not at all want to explain herself to the young ladies around her. Moreover, the reason for the joy was not at all a win at the card table or a marriage proposal, but just another dish on the lunch menu. nine0011

Amelia even imagined how everything would be.

“Oh, Lady Amelia,” one of the girls would throw up her hands, “only you can think about food at a moment like this.

No, Amelia was not going to stand in the middle of the dance hall and dream about a family dinner in a country estate. It's just that she had been thinking about a new sauce for stewed pheasant for a long time instead of the annoying apple one. Amelia longed for something sweet yet tart, unexpected yet familiar, intricate but not too expensive. Finally, the answer came up by itself. Blackberry glaze. Strained. Mmm ... With the addition of sugar and spices. nine0011

Deciding to write down the recipe in her diary later, Amelia put aside her thoughts about the new dish and put on a polite half smile. Now the Brierbank summer is going to be perfect.

Mrs. Bancombe floated by in a cloud of scarlet silk.

"It's half past ten," sang the hostess of the ball. - Almost midnight.

Almost midnight. Stop thinking about the menu already.

A cherub-faced debutante wrapped in meters of tulle grabbed Amelia by the wrist.

- He will appear any second. How can you remain so calm? If he chooses me, I will surely faint. nine0011

Amelia sighed. Well, it's begun. This happened at every ball, as soon as the clock struck half past twelve.

"You don't have to talk, don't worry," said a young lady in a green satin dress. During the dance, he does not say a word.

– Does he speak English at all? I heard that he grew up in Abyssinia or...

- No, no, in Canada. And of course he speaks English. My brother plays cards with him. The second girl lowered her voice. - And yet there is something primitive in it, don't you think? You can see it in the way he moves. nine0011

“I think you attach too much importance to gossip,” Amelia said.

“He waltzes divinely,” the third interlocutor interjected. - When I danced with him, my legs seemed to float above the floor. It's even more beautiful up close.

Amelia smiled indulgently:

– Really?

At the start of the season, the obscenely wealthy and reclusive Duke of Moreland decided to honor society with his presence. A few weeks later, all of London was dancing to his tune. The duke came to the balls as soon as the hands of the clock counted midnight, and chose from all the ladies present one and only. As soon as the dance ended, he escorted his partner to the table and . .. disappeared. nine0011

In less than two weeks, the newspapers dubbed him the Midnight Duke, and representatives of high society began to compete with each other for the right to invite his lordship to their ball. Marriable ladies did not give anyone the last dance before dinner for fear of missing out on the opportunity to dance with the duke. To achieve heightened effect, the housewives put the clock in a prominent place and ordered the orchestra to start playing at exactly twelve o'clock in the morning. According to an unwritten rule, the ball opened with a romantic slow waltz. nine0011

The nightly performance kept the society in sweet anticipation. The less time remained until midnight, the more perfume filled the air, and the atmosphere in the dance hall became more and more tense. Numerous opinions came down to one thing: one day, some blushing, timid debutante will succeed in lassoing a recalcitrant bachelor, laying the foundation for a legend.

The duke's name gave rise to numerous stories and gossip. However, this always happened when a person with such a huge fortune and position in society appeared in the case. nine0011

“I heard he was born and raised in the wild forests of Canada,” one of the girls said.

“And I heard that he was not much different from a savage when his uncle took him into his house,” said the second. He behaved so rudely and unrestrainedly that the old duke had a stroke.

"My brother told me there was an incident at Eton," muttered the lady in green. Whether it was a quarrel or a fight, I don't know for sure. But one young man narrowly escaped death, and Moreland was expelled from the university. Something terrible must have happened, since they dared to punish the ducal heir. nine0011

“You won't believe what I heard,” Amelia said, her eyes wide in horror. The other ladies looked up in interest and leaned forward. “I heard a rumor,” Amelia whispered conspiratorially, “that the duke turns into a bloodthirsty porcupine on a full moon.”

When the laughter subsided, Amelia added:

– No, I really don't believe that the duke deserves such close attention to his person.

- You wouldn't say that if you danced with him just once. nine0011

Amelia shook her head. She had watched the same scene countless times over the past few weeks and was frankly having fun in the shower, without the slightest desire to be in the center of everyone's attention. No, it was not feigned indifference, because Amelia really did not see anything romantic and intriguing in the usual narcissism of a young rake. And who, if not a single, rich and handsome duke, win ladies' hearts? Amelia found him unbearable and very spoiled. nine0011

The girls he chose for the only dance were like two peas in a pod: pretty, but stupid and completely uninteresting debutantes. He wouldn't even look at someone like Amelia.

However, Amelia was a little cunning - she still experienced a slight bitterness.

Time passed, and the moment was approaching when the society would tacitly write her down as an old maid. Every time Amelia recalled with irritation her own unpopularity with members of the opposite sex, when at midnight the eyes of the infamous duke slid indifferently past her to stop at some preening debutante. nine0011

However, the duke had no reason to focus on Amelia. Her dowry could be called decent by a very big stretch, and as for her appearance ... Pretty Amelia could not be called even in the year of her debut. Her eyes seemed too pale, and she blushed easily. By the age of twenty-six, Amelia had already come to terms with the fact that she would never become slim.

Suddenly the girls scattered like a flock of frightened birds, and behind Amelia there was a soft whisper:

– You are amazing today.

Sighing, Amelia turned abruptly.

– Jack. What do you need this time?

The young man pressed his hand to the lapel of his coat and pouted his lips resentfully.

– Well, why do you suspect me of something every time? Can't I compliment my dearest sister just like that?

- No, if it's about you. Besides, the expression "dearest sister" is not a compliment at all. I'm your only sister, and if you need money, come up with something better.

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