The Duke’s Truth – Joyce Alec

“I was sorry to hear of the death of your wife.” Nicholas gave his friend a quick smile, although he did not reply. “That was some time ago, I understand.” “A little over eighteen months,” Nicholas replied, picking up his brandy and lifting it to his lips. He had been glad of a little company lately and having one or two acquaintances join him at his estate for a few days had lifted his spirits a good deal. That being said, he did not want to become melancholy and allow himself to dwell on the past and the pain that lingered there. His brother-in-law, Lord Dewsbury, cleared his throat. “Have you intentions of returning to London at all this Season?” he asked, lifting one eyebrow as Nicholas frowned. “I know you have never been truly eager to involve yourself in society, but it might be a wise idea.” Nicholas threw the suggestion aside at once. “No, I have no intention of returning there,” he replied with a firm shake of his head. “Throwing myself into society and into all that the beau monde does has never been something that entertains me.” Lord Dewsbury shrugged. “I quite understand,” he replied with a nod. “My eldest, Frederica, is due to make her come-out this year.

” Nicholas’ brows rose. His sister, Lady Dewsbury, was ten years his senior, and thus it was almost impossible to believe that her eldest daughter was now ready to make her come-out. “Indeed?” “I can hardly accept such a thing myself, but she is seventeen years of age now and has been eagerly anticipating her first foray into London society.” Lord Dewsbury chuckled. “It has not yet been arranged as yet, however, for my dear wife…” He trailed off, his smile fading slightly as he looked at Nicholas. “My dear wife is due to enter her confinement soon.” Nicholas’ mouth dropped open. He had never expected his sister to be with child again, not when her youngest child was now five years old. “I am hopeful it will be a son,” Lord Dewsbury continued, his voice still a little low. “Whilst I am always grateful to have been blessed with four daughters, I confess that I am eager for an heir.

” “Most understandable,” said one of Nicholas’ other guests. “My hearty congratulations.” “And mine,” Nicholas said quickly. “Goodness, Dewsbury, you have kept that close to your chest.” Lord Dewsbury shrugged again, although a glimmer of a smile pulled at his lips. “As I have said, Frederica is due to make her come-out this year, but we shall have to see what arrangements can be made. I have a companion for her but as yet, no one to chaperone her through London.” He looked back toward Nicholas, his gaze a little firmer than before. “If you should think about returning to London, Ellsworth, then do send word to me.” Nicholas sighed inwardly, fully aware of what his brother-in-law was now suggesting.

If he was to make his way to London, then he might be the one to guide Lady Frederica through London society. She and her companion could reside in his townhouse alongside him quite respectably, which would allow for her to have her come-out and her first taste of London society, whilst permitting Lady Dewsbury to remain at home for her confinement—and Lord Dewsbury to remain with her. Nicholas knew that his brother-inlaw cared deeply for his wife—a trait that he had always admired—and that he would not want to leave her side during her confinement, especially when they had three other daughters to care for. But the truth was, Nicholas had no desire to go to London. He was quite comfortable here, and whilst he did miss the company his late wife had brought him, it was not severe enough for him to consider changing his circumstances at present. Being a duke, he knew that the moment he stepped back into society, he would be met with eager smiles and expectant hands, all plucking at him so that he might join their company. He wanted none of that. He had no intention of marrying again at present and certainly, should he show his face in London, the expectation would be that such a thing was precisely why he had come in the first place. “I—I will consider it,” he said slowly as Lord Dewsbury grinned. “But there is no promise that I shall say yes, however.

As I have said, I am quite contented here at present.” “It is very good of you even to consider it,” Lord Dewsbury replied, picking up his brandy. “And I know that Frederica would appreciate it also.” Nicholas rolled his eyes, knowing very well that Lord Dewsbury was doing all he could to encourage Nicholas without being particularly overt about it. “You say you have a companion for her?” “I do,” Lord Dewsbury replied, having taken a sip of his brandy. “A young baroness. Her husband also passed away a little over a year ago but left her practically penniless. She was known to my wife, and thus I have already secured her as a companion for Frederica.” “You mean to say she resides with you at present?” Nicholas asked, and Lord Dewsbury nodded. “Does Frederica require a companion already?” “It is better than a mere governess and certainly, Lady Foster has proven to be quite remarkable thus far.

She has encouraged Frederica to continue to further herself in some ways and her refinements, in particular, have been much improved.” He shrugged. “I want the very best for my daughter and Lady Foster, given that she has already been in society and has been wed also, knows precisely what is required of Frederica. I have had no concerns as regards Frederica’s companion and am quite certain she will do very well indeed… should the time come.” Hoping that his brother-in-law did not think that he had been questioning his decision over hiring a companion for his daughter, Nicholas nodded quickly. “I am glad to hear it,” he said, fully aware that Lord Dewsbury was still hoping that Nicholas might consider making his way to London for the summer Season. “I am sure that Frederica will make an excellent match and be very contented indeed.” Lord Dewsbury chuckled. “There is no urgent need for her to wed,” he said with a wave of his hand. “The first Season, certainly, can be a time for enjoyment, for dancing and conversation.

Her second, perhaps, might be the time to consider such things.” “You are a very understanding father,” remarked another of Nicholas’ guests as Lord Dewsbury smiled politely. “I am sure your daughter will do very well. All of society will think well of her.” So long as they are true in their attentions, Nicholas considered quietly. The daughter of a marquess is a fine prize for any gentleman. A note of unease settled into his heart and in that moment, Nicholas knew that he would, in fact, return to London for the summer Season, regardless of what he had just said to Lord Dewsbury. Frederica had always been in his sphere, and he had seen her every year since her birth. Of course he would take her to London and, in doing so, would make quite certain that she did not fall foul of any of the nefarious gentlemen who would only pursue a lady in order to gain her dowry. Sighing inwardly to himself, Nicholas threw back the rest of his brandy and set down his glass with a thump.

Despite his reluctance, his misgivings, and even his own desire to stay precisely where he was, it seemed now that he was to be in London this Season. But only for Frederica’s sake, he told himself firmly. And then I shall return home without any particular intention of returning again. Satisfied, Nicholas rose from his chair and went to add another measure of brandy to his glass. No doubt Lord Dewsbury would be delighted to hear the news but, for the time being, Nicholas intended to keep news of his decision entirely to himself. After all, the summer Season was a good few months away and there was no particular urgency. He could only hope that, when the time came for him to re-enter society, he would have a little more eagerness than he currently felt at present. Else what sort of chaperone would he be?

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