Home > The Devil and the Debutante (The Heart of a Duke #19)

The Devil and the Debutante (The Heart of a Duke #19)
Author: Christi Caldwell

 

Dedication

 

 

To Karen

There isn’t a better friend in the world than you. Thank you for accepting me as I am. Thank you for lifting me up when I need it. Thank you for helping me solve everything from baking dilemmas to tangles with poison ivy. Thank you for being an ear and a shoulder to cry on. Just thank you. I love you dearly!

Faith and Rex are for you!

 

 

Table of Contents

 

 

Cover

Title Page

Other Titles by Christi Caldwell

Copyright Page

Dedication

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Epilogue

Biography

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

London, England

Spring

At that very moment, a big, bald-headed guard escorted Lady Faith Brookfield and her friends through the narrow, darkened halls of Forbidden Pleasures.

Faith, along with Miss Anwen Kearsley, Marcia, the Viscountess Waters, and Marcia’s new husband, Lord Waters, walked in a single file, putting Faith in mind of the ducks she took her young brother, Paddy, to feed at Hyde Park. That was, however, where all similarities to the bucolic image in her mind, ended.

Faith made a slow march behind her friends and the uniformed guard escorting them through the club’s hidden corridors. The blood red carpets lining the halls muted their small party’s footfalls.

She quickly worked her gaze over her surroundings.

Gilded frames containing portraits of naked women adorned the walls. Tapered candles within ornate crystal sconces cast eerie shadows upon crimson satin wallcoverings; shadows that would have terrified a lesser person. Sin oozed from every crevice that made up the notorious gaming hell. When it came to celebrating wickedness, no detail had been spared.

This was the place where fortunes were lost, and debaucheries of all sorts were indulged; a den of sin no innocent lady visited.

In fairness, Faith, and her friends, Marcia and Anwen, had not come to Forbidden Pleasures of their own free will. Abducted earlier that evening, on their way to the theatre, rescued by big, burly strangers, and whisked away to the clubs, they’d been deposited in the proprietor’s offices until Lord Waters arrived to collect them.

Given all that, Faith and her friends had been fortunate to escape with not only their lives and, hopefully, their reputations, intact. As such, Faith should have only one thought in mind: getting out as quickly as she could. Especially since she’d been discovered snooping through the club ledgers by the head proprietor, Mr. Rex DuMond.

Faith had altogether different plans.

Her heart pounded. Not from fear.

She’d had the club’s ledger in her hands. All the names and all the details of the members in this den of iniquity, their debt, their sins, their secrets, all at her fingertips. For all the pages she’d turned and the information she’d committed to memory, aside from Lord Waters, there’d been one gentleman whose sins she cared about. And whose information she would have had were it not for the interruption of Mr. DuMond.

Lord Somerville.

The man who’d ruined her Aunt Caroline’s reputation could at last have his comeuppance.

As she continued to follow her friends through the darkened halls, Faith kept her gaze, not on her skittish friend, Anwen, moving quicker than Faith had ever seen her, or a somber Lord Waters, but that oblivious guard.

He was too predictable. Every twenty seconds, he looked to the viscount, eying him with a good deal of suspicion.

It was so very typical. A man would expect only the viscount to be one to watch.

Never did he once so much as crane his neck to catch sight of the ladies he led along the quiet passage. Another time that underestimation would have rankled. Now, she’d use it to her advantage.

Having moved ahead of Faith, Anwen paused, and looked back. Behind her wire-rimmed spectacles, horror dawned, and her eyebrows went flying up.

“What are you doing?” Anwen mouthed.

Faith touched a fingertip to her lips, compelling her friend to be quiet.

Anwen pleaded with her eyes. “Don’t,” she silently enunciated that single syllable entreaty.

“I’m sorry,” Faith mouthed. But she had to.

When they reached the end of the hall and the hulking giant finished with that predictable check, Faith bolted. Doubling back along the path he’d led them, she raced so quickly to Mr. DuMond’s offices, her lungs screamed in protest. She compressed her lips tightly to keep those respirations quiet.

Pressing her left ear against the oak panel, she strained, listening for the hint of voices, footfalls, anything. Only the hum of silence greeted her.

Faith let herself back inside Mr. DuMond’s offices. She swept her gaze over the room.

Empty.

Drawing the door shut quietly behind her, Faith hurried across the floor and dove under the same desk she’d pillaged a short while before. This time, she made even quicker work of the lock.

She didn’t have much time.

Heart racing, Faith flipped through the pages, looking for that one name she’d spied earlier.

And there it was.

Lord Somerville

As Faith read, each sordid word burned into her mind, stamped in her memories.

Debt to Forbidden Pleasures—twenty-thousand pounds.

Wicked Pastimes: Dripping hot wax on his lovers

Vices—Pays a fortune for the most experienced whores, assigns them the names of innocent young ladies of the ton, and beats his bed partners…

“Oh my God,” Faith whispered. This is the man her Aunt Caroline had given her virtue to? She may have been brokenhearted all those years ago, but she’d dodged a proverbial bullet. No woman should ever suffer such a miserable fate as marrying such a cad as—

“Back for another look, are you?”

Faith lifted her head, cracking the top of it upon the wood drawer, and she groaned at the rush of pain. The book slipped from her fingers and landed with a damning thump.

Having been born partially deaf, Faith found the world often existed in a muffled hum. Speech and sounds were either quiet or distorted—especially when a room was crowded. But this room was not crowded. And there were no people present.

There was only her.

Her…and now…him.

Even knowing as much, Faith dipped her head out from under the desk.

None other than Rex DuMond.

At some four inches past six feet with heavily muscled shoulders and biceps that strained his coat sleeves, he conjured thoughts of that goddess Aphrodite’s favored lover, Adonis. Only, the gentleman was dark as sin and menacing as Satan sauntering into sermons on Sunday. From the top of his midnight black hair to the smooth line of his Grecian nose and the wicked scar on his chiseled cheek, he’d have caused the flutter of any lady’s heart—Faith’s included. That was, if he’d not fixed a pair of unforgiving ice-blue eyes upon her.

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