My Dear Readers:
Winter is waning and a new Season is approaching, but we find ourselves stirring the same old scandalbroth—only with a different rake. This year, with great expectation, we look forward to the Duke of Hawksthorn's sister, Lady Adele, making her debut. And while I haven't seen Lady Adele myself, I have it on good authority that she is a diamond of the first water and will be sought after by every eligible bachelor.
However, no one will have their ear closer to the murmurings and musings of the ton this year than I, as London's elite Society unfolds its great wealth of speculation on how this Rake of St. James will do his best to see that his sister escapes being tainted by the duke's past wicked ways.
MISS HONOR A TRUTH'S WEEKLY SCANDAL SHEET
There may be a rare occasion when a young lady is wrong, but a gentleman must never resort to pointing out that fact to her. A Proper Gentleman's Guide to Wooing the Perfect Lady—Sir Vincent Tybalt Valentine
Through a hazy drizzle, the stately, two-story house came into view. Sloane Knox, the Duke of Hawksthorn, stopped at the top of a rocky knoll. It was already late in the day. On such a dreary afternoon it would have been nice to see a welcoming light in one of the front windows, hear the warning bark of a dog—anything to keep the massive stone structure from looking so forlorn. The only visible sign of life was a barely discernible plume of grayish-white smoke ascending from a chimney top and quickly dissipating into the moist air.
Hawk had never been a patient man, and today had stretched his limit further than he thought possible. That his current situation was his own impulsive fault didn't help his grumbling spirit. On this cold but bright February day, he'd thought to save time and make the journey faster by leaving his carriage behind and leasing a horse from the inn where he'd lodged for the night. Now, several hours later, not only had the horse gone lame so that Hawk had to walk the poor creature, but the directions he'd been given to Mammoth House were severely wrong and he'd had to retrace his steps more than once. On top of that, a damned chilling rain had been falling on him for the last half hour.
However, if Mr. Quick accepted Hawk's offer and agreed to make a match with Adele, it would all be worth it. Hawk's search for the right man had not been impulsive. Quick was the nephew of an earl, more than average height, and even though Hawk considered him on the lean side, he assumed most young ladies would consider the man handsome enough. And the fellow seemed to always have a smile on his face and a bounce to his step.
What more could his sister want in a husband?
Still confident his plan for Adele was a good one, Hawk hunkered further down into his cloak and continued his slow trek toward the house, leading the limping horse behind him.
After all the trouble his friend Griffin had gone through with his sisters last year, Hawk wasn't going to take any chances with Adele's future. He wasn't one to stand around and wait for something to happen. He was taking matters into his own hands. And as he'd hoped, his sister had agreed.
The Season was still more than two months away and already Miss Honora Truth's Scandal Sheet was fueling gossipmongers all over London about Adele's debut in the spring. What the tittle-tattle writers didn't know was that Hawk intended to have his sister's betrothal already settled before the first dance of the Season began. That would fool them all, and there would be no opportunities for mischief from anyone who might be seeking to exact revenge on Hawk by pursuing his sister with less-than-honorable intentions.
A gust of icy wind whipped across Hawk's face as he tethered the animal to the hitching post and then strode up the three steps to the door. Knowing someone from inside the house could send a groom to take care of the mare, he rapped the iron knocker before peeling off his damp leather gloves and stuffing them into his pocket.
After a few moments, the door opened slowly. A round-cheeked woman's face appeared. "May I help you, sir?"
"I'm the Duke of Hawksthorn," he stated. "Mr. Quick is expecting me."
With dark, distrusting eyes, she looked him up and down as if she couldn't believe a duke was standing before her wearing a drenched cloak and a dripping hat. She then perused the landscape past him, no doubt wondering where his carriage and entourage were hiding.
"I am alone," he added, removing his hat and dusting off the excess rain.
"You'd best come warm yourself by the fire," she said.
That would be most welcome, he thought, swinging his cloak from his shoulders and giving it a good shake.