The Duke and the Duchess / The Courtship by Grace Burrowes
The first novella to be published by New York Times bestselling author Grace Burrowes features the foundation story for her bestselling Windham series. This is the tender story of love tested and won, and how Percy Windham, the dashing and brilliant man who was never supposed to become the Duke of Moreland, wooed Esther Himmelfarb, the amazing lady who became his beloved Duchess.
THE DUKE AND HIS DUCHESS
In this second prequel novella to the popular Windham series, Grace Burrowes continues the story of the Duke and Duchess of Moreland through the tumultuous and bittersweet first years of marriage and parenthood. Percival Windham is a second son and cavalry officer when he weds the beautiful Esther Himmelfarb. Percy and Esther must grow into the nobility they've been resisting and stand together, or face the threat of destroying their young family and the beautiful love that started out with such promise...
Miss Esther Himmelfarb has been dragooned into attending a house party to make up the numbers, and to keep an eye on a cousin with a penchant for gambling. Little does Esther know Lord Percival Windham will risk all to win her heart.
“Miss Himmelfarb, I believe?” Lord Percival winged an arm and smiled at Esther graciously. “Shall I have us introduced, or in the informality of the occasion, will you allow me to join you at supper?”
A more calculating man would have offered to escort her to whoever had the honor of dining with her, but then, Lord Percival likely did not have to be calculating.
“I will happily accept your escort to the buffet, my lord.” Esther laced her gloved hand around Lord Percival’s arm, only to encounter a small surprise.
Or not so small.
Gossip had not lied. The man was muscular in the extreme, and this close, he was also of sufficient height to uphold the fiction that he’d protect Esther from any brigands or wolves wandering about Lady Morrisette’s parlor.
“Does your family hail from Kent, Miss Himmelfarb? I know most of the local families and cannot recall Himmelfarbs among them.”
The question was perfectly pleasant, and so too was his lordship’s scent. Not the scent of exertion or the standard rose-scented rice powder—he wasn’t wearing a wig—but something elusive…
“You’re twitching your nose like a thoughtful bunny, Miss Himmelfarb. Are you in anticipation of something particularly succulent among the supper offerings?”
He smiled down at her as he spoke, and for moment, Esther could not fashion a reply. Of all the times for Charlotte Pankhurst to be right about a man’s blue, blue eyes…
“I’m trying to fathom the fragrance you’re wearing, my lord. It’s pleasant.”
“If I didn’t know better, I’d think from your expression that you do not approve of men wearing pleasant scents.” His tone, amused, teasing, suggested that sometimes, all he wore was a pleasant scent—and that just-for-you smile.
Lord Percival leaned nearer, as if sharing a confidence amid the noise and bustle of the first night of a lively, extended social gathering.
“Bay rum lacks imagination, don’t you think? I shall wear it when I’m a settled fellow with children in my nursery. There’s cedar in the scent I wear, reminds me of Canada. You’re partial to spicy scents yourself.”
He was inviting a reciprocal confidence from her with that observation. The notion of trading secrets with Percival Windham made something beneath Esther’s heart twang—disagreeably, of course.
“Lavender with a few other things.”
“My dear”—his lordship had straightened only a bit—“why is My Lady Hair Bows staring daggers in this direction?”
My lady…? Then… my dear?!
“I’m not sure what you mean, my lord.”
“You know exactly what I mean, Miss Himmelfarb.” Lord Percival picked up a plate, though they were still some distance from any sustenance. “Now the Needy girl is at her elbow, pouring brandy on the flames of gossip. You and I will be engaged by this time tomorrow, I don’t doubt.”
Did one correct a duke’s spare when he made light of marriage to a woman within staring distance of professional spinsterhood?
Yes, one did.
“Her name is Needham, my lord. And I should think an engagement unlikely when you have yet to ask for my hand and I have given no indication I would accept your suit.”
The light in his eyes changed, going from friendly—yes, that was the word—to something more intent.
“You are an impertinent woman. We shall get on famously, Miss Himmelfarb. I adore impertinent women.”
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