Lessons in Temptation for Lady Josephine – Violet Hamers

No! I won’t do it!” cried Lady Josephine, stamping her little curved foot in its pretty satin slipper. “I won’t be confined to house arrest, rusticating in the countryside here among the cows at Cloverdene! I’m nineteen years of age, a grown woman—” “Then you should behave like one,” said her father, the Duke of Clover. “You have no one but yourself to blame for this debacle. “Running away from Miss Saltonbury’s Academy, spending over a month gadding about London with no chaperone—why, it’s a wonder you have any reputation left whatsoever. What I have had to pay to the headmistress and teachers at Saltonbury’s to hush the gossip over your absence—” “Oh, my lord Papa, you’re one of the richest men in England. I’m sure it was no great amount for you. “And as for a chaperone in London, I had Hermie. She’s twenty-one, she has already been ‘out’ for a Season.” “Lady Hermione is usually a fairly sensible young woman, until she finds herself in your company. She worships you, as you know. If you suggested, my dear, that she should jump into the English Channel, I have no doubt she’d start packing right now for the cliffs of Dover.” “My lord Papa, this is all much ado about nothing. I’m sure Hermie’s mother didn’t care that she was missing for a month. She probably assumed she was off visiting friends at country house parties, making good use of the social opportunities of the Season.” “What I think of Lady Glastonbridge’s mothering skills, not to mention her scandalous behavior as part of the Prince’s inner gaming circle, is not fit to be discussed between a father and daughter.

” Despite the temper she was in, the side of Lady Josephine’s mouth curled into a little, private smile. “Oh, Papa,” she said affectionately. The Duke smiled, too. Father and daughter understood each other very well indeed. How I love this girl, thought the Duke, gazing at his only child, absorbing joyfully her waist-length, nut-brown wavy hair, her dancing hazel eyes and the high color on her rosy cheeks. She has such courage, such a sense of adventure. Nothing fazes her. She reminds me of myself. Not as the world sees me now, but as I was when I was young. And as I still am inside, although I must hide those traits now from most people, for safety’s sake.

Horace Wallace, 10 th Duke of Clover, outwardly appeared to fit the stereotype of the bumbling, inbred aristocrat—easily cheated at cards, easily talked by his acquaintances into too many glasses of port. In short, a wealthy, aging man, good company to be in who was an easy mark for sharpsters and predators. It was a wonder, they said, that his fortune nonetheless seemed to grow by leaps and bounds. Were the truth known, however, ten generations of inbreeding since the days of William the Conqueror had produced not a fool, but one of the sharpest minds in Europe. He was invaluable to his king, George III, and to the Prince Regent. As a double agent, he planted disinformation among Napoleon’s allies—getting well paid by the French for false reports. He then brought priceless information back to the English Court, and he was paid yet again. There were many men on both sides of the English Channel who would have shot him on sight, had they known for certain of his double-dealing. For himself, he cared nothing. He was fearless—indeed, he enjoyed the perilous game.

It made him feel young and alive. But now his beautiful daughter, Josephine, was entering womanhood. It was for her he was afraid. Any of his many enemies might abduct her and harm her, just to punish him in the worst way possible. He had to protect her. “My lord Papa,” Lady Josephine said gently, “you should have more faith in me. I am no light-skirt like Lady Glastonbridge—nor is Hermie. Just because we went off on an anonymous adventure for a few weeks doesn’t mean we would do anything to shame you. “Didn’t you ever feel tempted to do such things when you were young? Change out of your fine clothes and pose for a while as a stable boy or a sailor lad? See how the rest of the world lives?” Of course I was tempted. And I had those adventures too, and many more she will never know about.

But I was not vulnerable in the ways she is…partly because she is a girl, a very rich girl, and partly because my work places her in a great deal of danger. If only I could get her married quickly, to a good man with power and money in his own right, then the world would not so readily identify her with me. She would be much safer. “My love,” the Duke said to his daughter, “I have complete faith in your morals, but somewhat less faith in your good judgment. You are rash. You believe that you are intelligent enough to get yourself out of any foolish scrape you may cause. None of us is that clever, in the long run. “Sit down, Josephine, I need to talk bluntly with you.” Lady Josephine took a seat on a nearby chaise. Her face was anxious—rarely was her lord father so serious with her, it seemed.

“The problem, little one, is more of my making than of your own. You may have heard it hinted that, from time to time, I perform small services for His Majesty and His Royal Highness, both here and overseas? And that you should never, ever speak of these matters to your friends, or even to family?” Lady Josephine nodded. “I have never said anything.” “Good. I trust you. Josephine, both you and I are in danger of our lives. Europe is a powder keg right now, with that dastardly Napoleon Bonaparte aiming to conquer every country he can. There are ‘patriots’ on either side who would shoot or hang me in an instant. Still worse, they would capture or harm you, and then, with you at risk, I would be clay in their hands.” “Worse than house arrest at Cloverdene?” Lady Josephine said grimly.

“Far worse. You have no idea,” said the Duke. “So can you see why I was at my wit’s end when you went missing for a month? You can only guess the horrors I imagined.” Lady Josephine reflected soberly on that. Never in her life had she felt so ashamed or remorseful. Her father loved her more than anything in this world. Yet I put him through more than a month of hell. “Yes. I’m sorry, Papa. I truly am.

I will go back to Miss Saltonbury’s Academy—I will dutifully finish up my last few months of study there, under Ducky’s fearsome watch—” “No. Miss Duckworth has been a loyal maid and lady’s companion to you since you first began putting your hair up and wearing long gowns. She is as worthless as Lady Hermione, though, at keeping you under control. Otherwise, you would never have been able to run away from Saltonbury’s, unobserved. “And there’s little more they could teach you at that school by now, anyway. Time we pulled you out.” The Duke stood up and paced about the room in a quandary. Where would Josephine be safest? Finally, he spoke. “You will move to Clover House in London. Your cousin Lady Seraphina will join you there as chaperone.

I will also be in residence, although I spend many evenings at my clubs. You will join the Season and be presented at Court. “I hope shortly to arrange for you a good husband, appropriately high-ranked and wealthy, who can take you under his protection. I expect you to be wed, or at least engaged, before the Season ends in June. Do I make myself clear?” “Yes, my lord Papa,” Lady Josephine said demurely. The Duke looked over at her sharply. It was unlike Josephine to be so cooperative, when her own liberty was concerned. “You realize there will be no gadding about? You will be under thorough, careful supervision and protection, every hour of every day.” “Papa, I don’t need a nanny or a nursemaid, not at my age!” Lady Josephine protested. “Believe me, this will be no nanny or nursemaid,” the Duke said firmly.

“Nor will it be the compliant little Miss Duckworth. I have found someone much more likely to keep you in line. And he will have my permission to do whatever he needs to do to ensure your obedience.” He left the room with no further explanation. Even with her lord father’s warnings still ringing in her ears, Lady Josephine could only think of returning to London. Join the ongoing Season—certainly! Accept engagement to some suitable lord—not a problem! If those were the prices she had to pay to enjoy just a few more months of freedom back in the teeming, thrilling metropolis—then so be it. She would count the cost cheap. For Lady Josephine had met a man during her few weeks’ stay in London. His name was Ace. She did not know him well enough to say she was dying in love, although that might well be the case.

But truly, for the first time in her young life, she was burning in lust.

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