In her first Season, Hope Baxendale attracts the interest of a powerful English duke, the husband all debutantes wish for and some will fight dirty to get. If only the handsome Frenchman Daniel Brienne, Duc du Ténèbres doesn’t distract her from her course. Daniel shows little interest in marrying again, and surely, it is only the sadness in his deep brown eyes that pulls her to him?
Daniel yearns for solitude, but he is wanted: by women, for missions, and by those who would see him dead. When his very existence is threatened, he wakes to the possibilities of a life passionately lived. He knows just whom he wants in his future, but the weary hawk, the Duke of Winslow, circles. And is it fair to ask Hope to leave her family and her country for him?
“I have enjoyed reading all three of “The Baxendale Sisters.” The kept me interested and wanting to read more of these sisters and their quests.”
In the crush that followed, Hope became separated from her parents by a press of bodies. She continued to edge forward, but was brought to a halt when she came up against a big body. Exasperated, she raised her gaze from the black coat and striped crimson silk waistcoat hung with fobs and a ducal seal to the face above.
The Duc du Ténèbres smiled apologetically and bowed from the neck, which was all he could manage. “I was seeking to escape the way I’d come in, but we seem to be wedged.”
Her mother and father were still lost somewhere behind her. Hope struggled to edge past him in the confined space. They were so close they were almost at kissing distance. At the sight of the ridge of his strong jaw above her, she quivered and studied the ornate silver buttons on his coat.
A heavyset man halted beside Hope. When his way forward was blocked, he lost his temper and pushed against her. His foot crashed down on her instep, unprotected in her thin evening slipper. Hope cried out in pain, but the man merely ground his shoe into hers to gain momentum and pushed on.
With an angry scowl at the man’s back, the duke took her arm and pulled her sideways. He frowned down at her. “Did he hurt you?”
She grimaced. “My foot is a little sore.”
Hope limped as he drew her toward the open French doors.
When they reached the doors where the curtains flapped in the breeze, they escaped out into the cool, welcoming fresh air. The terrace was deserted. A small party of guests, who had braved the weather, disappeared amongst the trees to admire the gardens lit by braziers.
Hope had left her evening cloak when she’d entered the mansion. She shivered and rubbed her arms. Her foot throbbed horribly, and she’d begun to hobble.
The duke put an arm around her and led her to a garden seat. He shrugged out of his coat and wrapped it around her shoulders. “I’ll fetch your parents.”
Hope clutched his coat, still warm from his body to her chest and breathed in his musky, masculine scent. “It will be difficult for you to locate them in that crush.” She looked toward the open door. “I expect they’ll soon find me.”
“Then please allow me to see the extent of your injury.”
Hope cautiously lifted her gown high enough to expose her foot and ankle as the duke knelt at her feet.
She muffled a gasp as his gloved fingers took a gentle hold of her ankle and his dark head bent over her foot. Her skin tingled where he touched her. The only man who had ever paid attention to her ankle was the groom who’d taught her to ride. The duke removed her slipper, revealing an obvious swelling beneath her damaged stocking.
“You’ll have a nasty bruise, but I don’t think you’ve broken a bone,” he said, lifting his head and pinning her with his deep, soulful dark brown eyes.
She sucked in a breath and fought to compose herself. He didn’t look beguiled. In fact, he sounded like their doctor. She’d thought him quite sociable when they’d last danced, but tonight, there was more distance between them despite his proximity. It was impossible to know what he was thinking. She supposed she didn’t present well from this angle. She now had a big hole in her soiled stocking. “I was to ride in Hyde Park on Sunday. I suppose I shan’t be able to, now,” she said. “And I was looking forward to it.” She closed her mouth firmly, aware she was rambling.