Tonight was every bit as mortifying as the time her drawers
fell to the ground as she entered the drawing room filled
with nosegay-bearing suitors. Annie still shuddered at the
Even then, though, she’d been dressed prettily with
perfectly coiffed hair—not that any of those jaw-dropping men would have
noticed. All eyes had been on those drawers littering the Aubusson
carpet like an ink splotch on a white ball gown.
How she wished she had insisted on having Eliza
finish her hair. How she wished she were wearing her amethyst bracelet
that so beautifully complimented her lavender gown. How she wished she
could have looked her best when she met the Duke of Axminster for the
Annie suddenly found herself wishing he were not so
fine looking. Then, perhaps, Fanny wouldn’t have set her cap for him—as
she’d so obviously done. One look at the duke, and Annie had known why
he did not attend assemblies. He would be mobbed by females vying to be
duchess to the incredibly handsome Duke of Axminster.
Annie herself—never one to ogle over a man—hadn’t
been able to remove her gaze from his tall, lithe body. Its long limbs
were sheathed in gray breeches, and his broad shoulders were encased in
a black velvet frockcoat. He eschewed the practice of wearing a wig and
merely lightly powdered his dark hair that was bound into a queue that
trailed down his back.
In spite of the finery of his clothing, there was a
ruggedness about him. Perhaps it was his piercing black eyes beneath the
hood of dark brows. Or was it the square cut of his powerful jaw?
Whatever it was, the man was compelling.
All the newspaper articles she’d read about his
supposedly radical beliefs came rushing back. When he started
speaking—speaking of topics upon which she agreed wholeheartedly—she
would have felt this man was her destiny, were it not for the fact he
was a duke. How could a tall, bony girl like her ever hope to capture
the affections of a duke?
There was also the matter of his handsomeness. A
handsome duke could easily merit the most beautiful, exalted lady in the
land. And that most assuredly was not she. Even if she had been at her
best. Which she most certainly was not tonight.
Why was it the first time she ever wished to look
lovely for a man was the first time she had ever stepped into Society
looking so unkempt?