Lessons of Seduction from the Duke Preview

About the book


“Just call my name and I’ll be there…”

Desperate to escape her abusive family who plans to kill her, Lady Edwina makes a risky decision: she runs to the Duke and begs for him to marry her. 

As a rake and scoundrel, Duke Sebastian has vowed to never marry. But when the innocent Edwina knocks on his door in the middle of the night, he can’t refuse her tempting offer…

A marriage of convenience is supposed to be simply. Or so they thought. As they’re trapped in this new life, Edwina’s family will stop at nothing to annul the marriage. But Sebastian will only permit it over his dead body…

Chapter One


It was no secret that Edwina Longrove lived in the shadow of her parents’ ambitions.  While she had her own wants and dreams, they never seemed to stand against the wishes of her mother, or of her father, both of whom could be difficult, stubborn, and awkward. Every afternoon, they took tea together, unless her father was away on business. Her mother, always the matron of the home, would make clear her own support of Edwina’s father’s wishes, and the two would present a united front, much to Edwina’s personal detriment. Her own dreams were secondary to their ambitions, and whether she liked it or not, she was destined to fulfill their desires

“Edwina, do you not understand? You know your mother and I will not be here forever. Someone needs to take care of you and our fortune,” Marcus, Edwina’s father, whom many knew as Baron Hastings of the great Hastings estate in the countryside outside of London, said.

“Father, you know I understand,” Edwina replied.

They were taking tea in the drawing room at Hastings House, and the talk had inevitably turned to matters matrimonial.  Edwina knew it would not fall to her to take care of the estate, but to a husband, whose fortunes would be considerably more favorable than her own.

“Then stop arguing, Edwina. All you do is argue the point,” her mother.

“It is just that…” Edwina replied, stalling by stirring her tea.

It was cold by now. The milk had separated and become cloudy. Her mother was on her second scone, entirely ignoring her daughter’s point of view. 

“What, darling?” her mother prompted her.

Joana Hastings married into the Hastings fortune by pure luck. Years ago, there was a ball thrown by Baron Hastings’ late father, and Joana, along with her five sisters, had been present. Edwina liked to think it was true love that brought her parents together, which is why she couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t allow her the same luxury. Her mother used to tell her stories about their meeting when she was a young child, as a bedtime story. She enjoyed hearing how her mother found her father handsome, and how kind her father was to her. That was why she grew up wanting the same thing as her mother had. She dreamed of a handsome man, of falling in love, and marrying for love. It did not seem such an unreasonable thing to hope for, even as it seemed her mother and father had other plans.

“Nothing, mother. I just feel there may be a better match for me out there, rather than Vincent Beaumont,” Edwina sighed.

She sipped her tea and winced at the bitterness. Her mother always made it more bitter because her father liked it that way. She longed to one day have her own life, and make her own tea the way she enjoyed it. But it was clear that would only happen once she was married. Vincent was an unsavory character, but her parents thought him to be the very best possible match, and Edwina was under no illusion as to the force of their convictions.

“Oh Edwina, this is the same thing you have said for months. We’ve allowed you to hold the marriage off for as long as possible, but you must understand that Vincent is a very lucrative suitor, one that many other young women would delight in being betrothed to. He’ll not wait forever. It’s only because of his professional relationship with your father that he’s waited this long. And his loyalty,” Edwina’s mother said.

Her mother liked to talk around in circles until things seemed to make sense, even if they did not seem right. Once her mind was made up, that was that. There could be no changing her opinion, and her opinion of Vincent was set in stone.

“Well mother, I am glad you and father have a wonderful friend, but I’m not sure if he’ll make a good husband,” Edwina replied, speaking her mind freely, even as she knew the effect it would have.

She looked across the tea table at her father. His dark brow ruffled together as he looked at her. The green of his eyes that matched hers went darker. She had always been close to her father. Not only because she was an only child, but because they had more in common and their personalities did not clash like she and her mother. She thought he would be the one to allow her to live her life as she wanted, but he wanted to protect her, too. She knew that an unmarried woman had little choice; to become a governess or live her life as a matronly aunt, or worse. Her father did not want that for her.

“Edwina, sometimes men need to rise to the occasion,” her father said, trying to reason with her.

“Did you have to?” Edwina asked.

Her mother scolded her tone, but her father did not mind. He smirked in fact, as he always admired her speaking her mind.

“I did not, but everyone cannot be as proficient as I am, sweetheart,” her father said, as he held her mother’s hand on the table.

Edwina smiled at their affection. She was only twenty years old, but she yearned for that sort of connection with someone. Some days, it seemed as though she may never get it.

“I suppose that is true father. But please, what if I were to find another suitable match? Surely my dowry can attract many other worthy suitors,” she said.

Edwina thought she would take anyone as long as they were not Vincent Beaumont. Vincent was mourning his wife and child, and while she felt sorry for him, she was just not able to keep up with his grief. She had also heard plenty about his temperament, and none were good tales. She could no easier sign up for a life of misfortune with a man she could never love, than she could live with her parents into the life of a maiden aunt.

“Hm, perhaps…” her father began, but her mother interrupted him.

“Edward,” her mother interjected.

Her mother was never one for imagination, or to ever think beyond the confines of her own experience. Her mother wished Edwina was just like her – did what she was told and never asked any questions.

“Well, there is the New Season ball in less than a fortnight, the guest list is extensive and we plan to attend. But you must not write Vincent off so soon, he’s a good man.”

“Father, he’s twice my age,” Edwina said, frowning as she spoke.

Her father chuckled.

“There have been larger age differences. Besides, that only means there is less time to…” he began

“Edward!” her mother scolded him again, and this time, Edwina laughed at them.

They finished the rest of their tea time without further argument. The conversation turned to lighter things, such as Edwina’s wardrobe fittings, the garden changes, and an upcoming society occasion for the Baron. After they separated, it was those times Edwina wished she had siblings. She did have cousins, but they were a gruesome bunch. Her mother’s second sister married well and had two other children. The rest of her aunts were spread out around the countryside and in the city.

There were many times her mother mentioned sending her there as if it would be some sort of wake-up call for Edwina. But that side of the family was cruel and primitive, to say the least. They envied the fortune her mother had married into and the fact that the Baron was kinder and more gracious than most men. Edwina was very beautiful, too, a natural beauty that was hard to come by. She had striking long hair, the warm color of chestnuts with earth green eyes. Every gown she wore was immaculate and fit her womanly body with grace and heightened her beauty even more. Edwina did not pay much attention to her physicality, but she did know that others did.

All she knew was that she dreamed of a peaceful life, preferably not alone, but happy nonetheless. Finally, she had broken through with her parents, and had a chance to save herself from the confines of a loveless marriage. Though that sounded easier than it might actually be. Later that day, her mother offered, or more so asked, for Edwina to accompany her into town. She always visited her favorite shops and bought reading material from Hatchards a couple of times a week to keep herself busy. Her mother did not do much but keep the house together and make sure the Baron had everything he needed. When Edwina was younger, she was much busier monitoring her education and her training to be a lady. Even so, she did not get much time alone as she got older.

“Edwina, what do you think of this?” her mother said, pointing out an overly sized hat covered in fruit in a shop they had paused outside later that afternoon.

It must have been something adopted from Paris, whose fashions set the tone for those found in the English capital.

“I think it’s well, mother.” Edwina lied.

She had no idea what she was looking at. Her mother was none the wiser, either, and they stepped inside for a few moments to enquire, discovering it was a design modeled on what was worn by the French aristocracy. Her mother did not make the purchase, and they stepped back out into the crowded cobbled street, glancing around them at the hustle and bustle. Her mother had one last stop and Edwina decided to wait outside. She wanted some fresh air before going back into the carriage. A group of women came floundering by with bright-colored dresses and spindly umbrellas to block the minimal sun. Edwina liked the sun and did not have one for herself. They laughed, and while Edwina did not like to eavesdrop, she had nothing better to do.

“I will not rest until I meet him. There’re never any new people in town, especially not any new scrumptious men,” One of them was saying.

Edwina knew their sort – silly women, obsessed with their own appearance and interested only in the latest scandal and gossip. Their giggle reached a new height.

“The Duke of Edington is an eligible bachelor looking for a new bride,” another of them said.

“The most eligible, I’m afraid. Everyone will be after him,” A third said.

“All I know is I will be at his ball and I will be the first to meet him. Mark my words, dear Ladies,” the first replied.

Their giggles grew in volume until they passed Edwina and continued on. She had never heard of the Duke of Edington, but she was sure she would hear of him again.


Chapter Two


The great halls of the Edington manor house were empty, yet made a lot of noise. As if the shadows could talk, and the old paintings, the compositions of all the past Dukes that lived there, were speaking aloud their memories. Sometimes, Sebastian felt as though they were mocking him. He was the one who had squandered the fortune on bad business arrangements and frivolous pursuits. It now left him living on borrowed time, lucky to have a father who planned his finances well, but passed away. And, a loyal butler, Jameson, who had made enough friends to keep the household running while the well of the Edington fortune ran dry.

“Jameson, where’s the sherry?” Sebastian asked, as he entered his study after an afternoon of riding.

He had three horses, two of which he bred. He was able to make a small fortune off selling the young steed to a horse trainer, who often excelled in horse races. He was doing anything he could to get by, but he knew it would not last for long. Jameson emerged in his modest butler’s uniform.

“Your Grace, there’s no sherry this week. I was able to make an arrangement for next Sunday, but he will be expecting something in return,” he replied.

Sebastian sighed.

“Of course he will be,” he said, shaking his head.

 He was turning into a grouch, since he realized how deep into debt he was. He knew the only way out was to marry, but the dowries of acceptable women who were still of childbearing age were abysmal. For the past few days, he had made it his mission to learn of every woman in town that would be suitable for him, and come with a dowry large enough for him to restart his father’s business and begin to rebuild the Edington estate again. It was not going too well, considering the only suitable woman he had heard of was older than him, widowed, and with five children. Sebastian accepted he would not be getting his sherry for the afternoon and retreated to his chambers, where he bathed and dressed for the evening. His days were simple now. He found a book and settled down in front of a fire to try and escape his reality in a story he had read dozens of times.

***

The next morning was somber. It must have rained all night. The trees were dripping and the grass sodden and muddy. Sebastian was hardly through his morning tea before Jameson came blundering in.

“Your Grace, there’s a ball tonight,” he said.

“A ball?” Sebastian questioned.

He thought he knew all that was going on in town. Since he had come back, he made it his homework of sorts. He had been traveling for many years before, until his father’s health started to decline. He did not have any siblings, so everything was left to him, and he often felt lonely.

“Yes sir, many eligible women will be in attendance, of course,” the butler replied.

Sebastian raised his eyebrows. He knew what Jameson was trying to do.

“How many of them have a fortune?” Sebastian asked.

Sebastian suddenly wanted a drink. But instead, he sipped his tea. Jameson sat down with him. At these times, he was thankful for his companionship. Jameson was more than a mere servant. He was the closest thing Sebastian had to a friend.

“Your Grace, would it not be dishonest to marry someone just for their money?” the butler asked.

“Jameson, that is precisely the foundation for every marriage in these times. Money. And heirs. But mostly, money.” Sebastian chuckled.

Jameson did not find it funny, as was the dynamic of most of their encounters.

“Very well, Your Grace.  I’ve already said you’ll be in attendance. You also have a tailored waistcoat perfect for the occasion to wear, no need to send for another.”

It was as if Jameson’s only intention was to see Sebastian married at times.

“Very well then, I shall be going to the ball tonight,” Sebastian said, smiling to himself at the thought of his butler forcing the issue so readily.

Sebastian passed the rest of the afternoon with mindless administrative tasks until his valet helped him get dressed for the ball. He found it important to still monitor his investments, and those who kept his family’s trade company running, no matter if it felt like the business would soon come to an end. Jameson arranged his carriage to take him to the ball, which was to be held at a  beautiful estate belonging to the Regent himself. . It was the helm of many events and meaningless nights of enjoyment for the noble and elite of London. Sebastian was still part of the group, for now.

The long driveway was arched by tall trees, and a maze of perfect greenery. He began to hear the muffled conversations of people entering and arriving in their own carriages. He saw more couples than he would expect, but the start of the season always had more singles than couples, so he was not too worried yet. When he was traveling abroad, he had met many beautiful women who would probably have given him enough heirs to last the Edington line into the next century, but there was a hierarchy to English nobility and it did not involve the French nor the Italian aristocracy.

He thanked the coachman when they arrived at the front doors. It was one of the grandest estates that he had ever seen. The front doors looked to be original oak, cut to size, and the entrance was a grand circular room with immaculate floors and hand-carved interior designs. He was not so taken by the estate as he was by the temper of the people inside. He had never seen so many individuals excited to simply be dressed up drinking and dancing. The décor was clearly fitting for the season. Fresh flowers filled the room with their soothing scent as the whirling of people moved with the music. Drinks were carried around by servants in livery. Sebastian took a glass of wine from a moving tray and kept his eyes trained on the crowd.

He did not enjoy these kinds of affairs. Sebastian wandered about, greeting when prompted and remaining silent when he was not. Eventually, he found a quiet spot near the main ballroom to watch as people danced. He was amused by the women who were floundering over the men, and the ones who did not want to be pursued by certain men. This was a different sort of dance, one not performed to music – the dance of romance, with its set steps and rituals. It was not until midway through the night he saw her. People were dancing, enjoying themselves, laughing, but she was silent and almost not moving. She stood on the other side of the room, separated from everyone. He felt an immediate sense of kinship with her – here was a woman who surely understood.

She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen, and he had traveled the world to see the most breathtaking structures known to man. Her hair was in long, curly ringlets, the color of a sweet chocolate morsel. He was not close enough to tell, but he was certain her skin was smooth and the color of bright ivory. She had the most voluptuous curves of anyone at the ball, and her dress accented them perfectly. She started to move about, and her lilac dress flowed with her movement. He looked behind her to see what caused her to change, and noticed a group of women that resembled a pack of wolves to him. He could not put his finger on it, but he was pretty sure it was their cold energy, and focused sights. He noticed the woman looking over her shoulder at their laughter and continued to move. Could they have been laughing at her? He wondered. He found someone close to him, a nebbish older man with balding hair who seemed knowledgeable.

“Excuse me, sir, do you know who that woman is there, the one with the purple dress?” he asked.

The man peered through a pair of half-moon spectacles and nodded.

“Ah, yes, that’s the daughter of Baron Hastings. Her name is Edwina, if I’m not mistaken.”

“I see, thank you,” Sebastian replied, and he prepared to move closer to her before the man spoke again.

“A waste of time, though,” he said, and Sebastian turned back to him in surprise.

“I’m sorry?” he said

The man grinned.

“She’s practically promised to Vincent Beaumont. It’s only a matter of time before they make the announcement,” he replied

“Hm, I see,” Sebastian said.

He noted the man had said ‘practically’, so it was not set in stone. He did not mind a bit of a challenge, either. Vincent Beaumont was an odious man, though Sebastian recalled only meeting him on a handful of occasions. He was an arrogant sort, convinced of his own superiority. A new breed of wealthy, self-made men, who believed the time of the aristocracy was coming to an end. Sebastian set his sights back on the woman. Edwina. He thought her name was intriguing, unique. Her parents must enjoy other cultures. He was watching her try to move through the crowd and became irritated at the women laughing at her. He could not imagine what could be so amusing about her, that they would need to be so childish toward her.

She was between a standing column and a group of men at a table. One of the men had a sneering look about him that Sebastian did not like. He was eyeing Edwina like she was prey. He had seen that look before, on hunting trips. He realized she was trying to get by and one man thought it funny to block the way with his feet. When she went the other way, another man blocked the way as well. Sebastian was fuming at how improper their behavior was. It was most certainly not allowed to be so forward with attention to a woman. Eligible or married. So, for one, Sebastian thought them to be cads already just for that.

Sebastian tried to push through the crowd, but the mass of bodies was too thick, and he lost his focus on her. By the time he was close by, he saw Edwina stumble over one of the men’s feet, much to their unpleasant amusement. She quickened her pace and disappeared through a door at the side of the room. With determination, Sebastian followed her. He did not want her to get away. He could not explain the pull that he had to her. It was like she was the perfect fit to his desires, the sort of woman he had dreamed of, even as he had believed he would never find her.

He followed her footsteps, and it was like he was following her scent, the trail taking him from the room and out onto a quiet corridor beyond. When he passed the three-tiered columns on either side of the ballroom, he discovered she could have only gone outside as there was nowhere else to go from there. The night air was cool and crisp. The balcony was a half-circle overlooking the garden. With the sound of the music growing faint, he could hear much better, and the sound of heels caught his attention. He turned to find they were heading down the steps on one side of the balcony. He followed them, hoping to find her on the other side.

Once he reached the last step, something collided with his face, quite out of nowhere. He grabbed at his stinging cheek, smarting from the pain. He looked forward, his bewilderment passing, as his eyes set onto Edwina, her eyes wide and fearful.

“Why on earth are you following me?” she demanded.

“I’m not… I mean, I didn’t mean to follow you. I only saw you were having some trouble inside and wanted to check to see if you were all right. Those men were complete rakes,” Sebastian said, trying to explain himself, as he now realized that he was in fact being suspected of ulterior motives by following her outside.

“And you aren’t?” she demanded.

“Sorry?” he asked, looking at her in confusion.

“A complete rake?” Edwina said, folding her arms and fixing him with a stern gaze.

Up close, Sebastian could finally admire her beauty. As he suspected, her skin was an ethereal ivory that made his mouth water. He had never had such sensual thoughts in such immediacy before. It made him feel like a primal man. He had a sudden urge to protect her and make sure she was safe, a feeling such as he had never felt before in his life. For anyone. He admired her dress. The bodice was cut short enough to showcase her bosom, but tastefully. They appeared full, drawing his gaze as she breathed heavily. Her lips were full, a dusted pink color like a faint rose, the top a perfect cupid’s shape. Every part of her begged to be kissed.

“Well, I am, but much more handsome,” he smirked.

Edwina was trying to stifle her smile, Sebastian knew it, and he waited a few more seconds before her perfect lips curled into a grin.

“I believe that’s exactly what a terrible rake would say,” she said.

Sebastian chuckled. He could not help but like her, attracted not only by her looks, but by her charm and wit.

“An intelligent woman. What’s your name?” he asked, pretending not to know.

Edwina took a step back. He followed her. She swallowed hard and looked Sebastian up and down from head to toe. His body heated at the warmth of her gaze. Something in him wanted to take control and lose all sense of right and wrong just to be near to her.

“Lady Edwina. Daughter of Baron Hastings,” she replied, chewing on the inside of her bottom lip ever so slightly.

“What’s your name?” Edwina asked, returning his question as her gaze remained fixed on him.

“Sebastian Finchley, Duke of Edington,” he said, smiling at her.

He hoped it was a nice enough smile. He wanted to make an impression on her, to prove to her his burgeoning feelings, to show her just how much he desired her.

“Are you… here alone?” she asked.

“I am,” he replied, hoping to entice her by proving himself to have only honorable intentions.

She still seemed reticent and stepped around Sebastian until she flanked one of the tall trees. Sebastian inhaled the scent of the shrubbery, the perfectly built flower beds. But it was another scent that drew him. The scent of Edwina. It was like the browning of sweet butter with a hint of almonds, and the overlay of perfect lilac to match her dress. He was intoxicated by it, obsessed already. Addicted.

“I must say, you are… very beautiful, Edwina. I don’t mean to be… how do they say it?”

“Odd?” Edwina replied, though still with a smile on her lips.

Sebastian chuckled.

“You have a sense of humor. I like that. Far too many women are full of their own importance. They take themselves far too seriously,” he said.

“Hm,” Edwina said, backing up against the tree, smiling as she did so.

“I mean it,” he replied.

“You’re not as unbearable as the other men here. You don’t smell like old brandy, for one,” she said, and Sebastian laughed.

“I prefer sherry,” he said.

Sebastian reached toward Edwina, even as she seemed to back away. 

“The demon drink. It can change a man for the worse. I’ve seen it plenty of times before. There’s something… unhealthy about it,” she remarked, and Sebastian blushed – he did enjoy a sherry.

“And I assume you’re here alone?” he asked, changing the subject.

“Yes, I am,” she replied, still looking somewhat embarrassed.

Sebastian circled her. He could not stop looking at her face, and her presence was pulling him in like an intoxicating whirlpool. He did not know her well, but he knew he would never look at another woman the same way again.


Chapter Three


Edwina was positively embarrassed by the actions of those crude ladies at the ball. She had never encountered such hostility in her life. And of course, the men, who had reminded her why she did not want to marry in the first place. She had wanted to leave, to flee, and to never set eyes on another man so long as she lived. Men were all the same, a fact proven by the behavior of those around her. But then had come this mysterious man. Sebastian Martin Finchley, the Duke of Edington. He was something of an enigma.

She had never seen a more handsome man in her life. His face was chiseled and solid, his lips were like a soft cloud. Edwina had never seen a man and thought so much that she wanted to kiss him. She had never kissed anyone before but she wanted to kiss Sebastian. She thought the feelings were bad, that her thoughts were… sinful. But she had never felt such desire before, and now she felt intoxicated by it, falling under a spell. She scolded herself for her improper reasoning. Edwina knew enough of such men, almost everyone did. They were all the same, and since overhearing the ladies in the street talking about the Duke of Edington, she had heard other rumors, too. He was not only a rake, but the biggest cad of them all. Not to mention, his disappearance from public life had gotten everyone in the country talking about him. There was a reason for it, and she did not believe it would be a good one.

Now, he crowded her like a lion among its prey. He was tall, with an angular build and muscles hidden by his suit. She could only imagine what he looked like without it on, even as she tried her best not to, but there was something alluring about him, something which aroused her interest, and aroused her passions. It was a strange feeling – a very strange feeling.

“I was here hoping to find a suitor, to be perfectly honest. The man my parents have promised me to, is… unbearable,” Edwina replied.

Edwina felt like she could be honest with this man, even as she was wary of his motives. Like her, he was something of an outcast, shunned by society.

“I see. You do not desire him,” Sebastian stated.

“What?” Edwina whispered, realizing she had shared far greater intimacies than she intended.

Sebastian stepped forward again. This time, she had nowhere to go. Her back was to the tall tree, his solid torso was close to hers, the heat radiating between them. Every other breath was filled with his scent. Sandalwood. Pine. The perfect scent of a man. She chewed her lips, as she always did when she was nervous.

“I said you don’t desire him. Don’t you know what that feels like? To be desired?” he asked.

Edwina was uncertain of his motivations. What was it he wanted? And what would he do to get it? He did not look quite as old as Vincent, but she was sure he was older than her. His skin was a smooth tan, his sideburns darker than his hair which had a reddish hue to it. His eyes were also a deep color of honey brown. They seemed to grow darker every moment as they stood close to one another.

“I… no. Not… necessarily,” Edwina replied, swallowing hard.

Sebastian chuckled. His hands drifted to her waist and she gasped.

“Don’t you… want to be desired?” he asked, and Edwina shook her head.

“I… I don’t know. Perhaps you are a rake after all,” Edwina exclaimed.

Sebastian raised a hand to her face, gently stroking the strong line of her cheekbone.

“Yes,” he said, seemingly unapologetic for the fact.

“Perhaps we shouldn’t,” she whispered, even as she knew the inevitability of what was to come.

And then he kissed her. The kiss was urgent and swift. His lips were yearning to taste her. Their lips moved together as if they were meant to all along. As if they were a perfect fit. Edwina sighed into his strong touch. He grasped at her waist without abandon, moving to her hips. Even through the layers of tulle, she could feel the heat of his touch and his strong hands. His hands rose to the front of her dress, his palms pressed over the underside of her bosom, and Edwina moaned.

She had never felt so excited. So… alive. Her body was like a never-ending bundle of energy and passion. So, this was desire, she thought. Her own hands went to Sebastian’s body. She marveled at how strong his back was. His muscles rippled as he moved to spread her legs and settle between her body. She felt her core heating up. She had never felt so much pressure between her legs before, like she was filling up more and more each second and needed to be released. The sensation was strange and unfamiliar, filling her with such desire as to hardly be proper. She made no resistance to his kiss, but pulled him more tightly into her embrace.

Her fingers laced into the thick locks of his auburn hair and tugged as the kiss continued. She started to lose her breath, but then she would just inhale from him instead. He groaned slightly and her body came alive even more. She did not know she would enjoy these feelings of domination and surrendering. To a complete stranger at that. Every thought she had, fought with the other, one wanting more, the other telling her to pull away. She had never been so at war with herself. Sebastian was strong and unyielding. She enjoyed how he took control. The kiss continued, deepening into something she could not even describe. Then, reality started to break her fantasy. She could not kiss him forever. She did not even know him. And anything to come of them now would be tainted. She had to separate from him and try to gather her wits.

“Good God, that was delightful,” he murmured.

Edwina looked into his eyes. They were bright, burning. His lips were stained of her makeup and his breath was as uneven as hers. She separated from him, moving her hands back as she grasped at her midsection. She felt like her stomach was doing somersaults inside. Churning over and over. Her throat felt hot as a branding iron and her lips felt like a whistling kettle.

“I… I must… I should not have allowed you to,” Edwina gasped, but Sebastian frowned as she started to move away.

“Edwina, wait,” he said, clutching her hand in his.

“No, no, I must go,” she exclaimed, lifting her dress as she ran from the willful prison she had made for herself with him. 

From the garden, she hardly knew the way, but her feet carried her on, anyway. Through the maze of trees and flowers, she found her way back to the brightly lit entrance of the estate and found her carriage. She did not care what her parents would say, or how they would react to her disappearance. She felt ashamed by her actions, caught up as she had been in the passions which had gripped her. She had desired it, and that was what made it worse. If anyone ever discovered the truth, her name would be mud. The duke had a hold over her now, and the power to break her should he choose. There could be no going back now – a kiss sealed was a kiss remembered.

“Home please, thank you,” she exclaimed to the carriage driver.

She was breathless. Her head slumped against the seat of the coach as she struggled to breathe with the shock of what had happened. She knew her mother would not be pleased, but she could not bear to stay for another moment. The coachman began to protest, saying he would be going to fetch her parents, and that they could leave promptly then.

“Your mother won’t be pleased if we were to just leave,” he said.

Her body was still tingling, at the mercy of Sebastian. Sebastian. She closed her eyes and thought of him. She could still feel his hands all over her. His lips claiming her. She knew now what desire felt like, what it meant to feel the passion of another’s touch. What it meant to be desired. She wondered if she would ever even see the man again. She did hope that she would, even as the thought of it terrified her. But what then?

He surely judged her for being so free with her virtue. Outside, in the gardens of her host’s estate, nonetheless. He must think so little of her. As she did herself at the moment. But she would always cherish the memory. She could not wait to return home and just wash the night away and when she arrived, she did just that. She needed the help of her maid to take off her dress and undergarments because they were so intricate. The night seemed a total waste. It seemed every man was not worth anything to her and would treat her as that group of men had. Finally, her maid left and she could be alone. But all she did was fall asleep to thoughts of Sebastian. The lingering of his touch, and the way he made her feel.

“If only I knew what to do with these feelings,” she thought to herself, even as her dreams were filled with a fresh desire for the handsome duke and all they might share together.

***

The next morning came swiftly, even as Edwina’s dreams had been vivid and full. When Edwina first awoke, she did not remember the events of the night before at first, but then, they came washing over her like a rainstorm. Her lips tingled, and her core heated up at the memory of Sebastian. She lay in bed awhile, thinking over what had happened. It seemed astonishing to think how readily she had abandoned herself into the duke’s passions, but no man had ever aroused such feelings in her, and it surprised her to find herself still with those same feelings at heart.

“Be careful,” she told herself, even as she tried to dismiss them as idle fancy.

She rose eventually, one of the maids bringing her tea and helping her to wash and dress. She felt very lucky that the servants took good care of her. She would miss them once she left, if that happened. But from the way things were going, she thought it would be soon – her parents had plans, and whether Edwina liked it or not, those plans were coming to fruition. Once she was dressed, she went downstairs for breakfast. She would usually dine alone during such early hours as her parents did not rise so early these days. But she was not so lucky this morning.

“Oh mother, I did not expect you to be here,” Edwina said, as she entered the dining room to find her mother eating toast and marmalade.

“I know, I wanted to hear about the ball, you were so quiet in the carriage last night,” her mother said.

Edwina sat down and a footman poured a cup of tea for her.

“Oh… it was alright,” she replied, unwilling to reveal too much of what had taken place, lest it lead to awkward questions.

“So, you will be marrying Vincent then,” her mother asked, quite out of the blue.

Edwina was confused. She had not seen Vincent at the ball. He had not been at the ball, a fact for which she was glad. Edwina did not want to see Vincent, nor have anything to do with him.

“What?” Edwina asked, her eyes widening.

Her memories were still recounting what had happened with Sebastian. She did not want to speak of Vincent, wishing instead to enjoy the moment of memory which came with her… mysterious encounter.

“Well, your father and I have invited Vincent for dinner tonight. I just hope the sight of you at the ball last night didn’t give hope to any other man as to your prospects. Your father and I want you to marry Vincent. He’s an excellent match,” her mother replied.

Edwina felt her stomach sink. She could not believe that her fate had been decided for her. Or rather, she could well believe it, even as she felt a sense of deep injustice as to the fact.

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  • I very much enjoyed the preview of Lessons of Seduction from the Duke. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the story

  • What a tease…how will Edwina manage to escape the marriage orchestrated by her parents? Hopefully, Edwina and Sebastian will circumvent all the plans that are in place. I can’t wait to read the rest of this love story.

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