Defying the Duke (Regency Blackmail)


“Well, then, let me escort you onto the terrace. It is remarkably stifling in here and you do not look at all well. A breath of fresh air should do the trick.” He grabbed her hand and tried to force her to take hold of his elbow.

At seventeen, she would have gone quietly while frantically signaling a friend to assist her in escaping her troubles. At five and twenty, she knew how to handle such a man.

Rather than tucking her hand all the way into the crook of his elbow, thereby trapping herself with barely any effort on his part, she squeezed his arm and smiled as if eager to accompany him. “You are too kind, my lord.” While he relaxed and returned her grin, confidant he was going to get his way, she distracted him with a carefully placed hand to her heart. His gaze followed her movement, not that his gaze had strayed from that general area the entire time they talked.

She slipped her hand from his grasp and stepped quickly to the side where she plucked a glass of champagne from a passing servant’s tray. “I believe you are right, my lord. I am not feeling quite the thing.” She took a sip of the chilled beverage, allowing the tangy bubbles to linger on her tongue before saying, “I believe I was just in need of refreshment. Enjoy the terrace.”

He gaped at her as she strode over to the nearest grouping of people and feigned great interest in their conversation. Unfortunately, that group included a figure no manner of mask could ever disguise.

How had she come to find herself across from the one man she most wanted to avoid this evening?

Felicity hoped she managed to keep her emotions off her face.

Why didn’t he say anything? He stood there in all his glory, paying attention to the woman speaking as if his former fiancée wasn’t standing in front of him for the first time in five years.

His gaze passed up and down her body, but he didn’t give away any hint of recognition. Appreciation, yes. But no recognition.

Remember why you’re here. Remember. She fought back the surge of anger and hurt that he couldn’t see through such a flimsy disguise. After all, she knew him instantly.

How could anyone mistake those broad shoulders, that thick hair or the intriguing lopsided tilt of his full lips? No corset was needed to set his body off to advantage.

If she weren’t so mad at him, she would be fighting the urge to kiss him. Thankfully, the uppermost thought in her head was of violence. He’d know who she was if she smacked him hard enough.

She took a calming breath and faked a smile.