met, we fell in love. Of course, we were both too young. However, he was so determined that, in the end, our feelings persuaded our parents to relent. I shared everything with him and we had both love and passion.” A deliciously wicked smile lurked at the corners of her mouth. “Passion! I was a very satisfied woman.”
The Dowager pinched Fenella’s cheek and said, “So, see that the lucky man you choose knows something about pleasing a woman.”
A deep blush burned on Fenella’s face.
If only she knew how much I want that passion and how dreadful is the man who has awakened this longing within me.
Lady Penelope Vane stood by the window of her fashionable, elegantly furnished Mayfair house, staring into the street below. It was teeming with carriages, curricles, broughams and the cream of London’s chic Society—elegant ladies of quality, the smartest of dandies, aspiring matrons anxious to marry their daughters off and eager young men equally anxious to become entangled in the knots of matrimony. People bowed and waved to each other as London’s beau monde rallied for the height of the Season. However, Lady Penelope hardly saw the busy throng below. It was a blur of faces and colourful costumes with no meaning. She waited for only one man—Devlin Deverell, Sixteenth Duke of Wyndlesham.
Lady Penelope cut a striking figure silhouetted against the mid-morning light. Her stylish morning gown was a deep turquoise that matched the colour of her spectacular eyes. The dress was trimmed with satin ribbons under the bust in a style that enhanced her statuesque, sensual body and drew attention to her firm breasts, half exposed by the low, graceful neckline. She was tall and her blonde curls, dressed in Grecian mode in a smart tumble atop her head, added several inches more. With her oval face and peaches-and-cream complexion, Lady Penelope was easily one of the most beautiful women in London. She was also the acknowledged mistress of the Duke of Wyndlesham, even though no one mentioned it openly.
Nevertheless, that was the problem. Lady Penelope bit her bottom lip hard, reddening its cherry fullness even more. She was seething with agitation. The Season had opened without a sign of Deverell these past two weeks. In her view, being a man’s mistress was only acceptable if he had intentions of marriage. At thirty-two, with handsome looks, a title and an enormous fortune, Devlin Deverell was easily the most eligible man in London. The question on everyone’s lips was whether he actually intended to marry in the near future.
A whole Season had passed without even the flicker of a sign of serious commitment from him. Yes, there had been numerous gifts, but only the kind a man would give a woman he bedded, not the kind he should give to a woman he intended to wed. Brooches, earrings, necklaces…she was the envy of most women as she displayed these elaborate tokens of the Duke’s admiration in the round of soirées , balls, dinners, luncheons, routs and galas that dominated the Season.
But when would he ask her the fateful question? When would she be wearing an engagement ring? She could not go on like this! She was beginning to look like a fool.
However, at that precise moment Lady Penelope looked more like a goddess of love, the sunlight casting a flattering glow around her halo of golden curls and enhancing the long, sleek lines of her body beneath the hazy material of her dress. The friendly beams also softened the fine lines beginning to show around the corners of her mouth and eyes. To the casual observer, Lady Penelope appeared to be about twenty-three, a deception she encouraged, but in truth, her actual birth date was twenty-five. She would never own to that fact, but it contributed a great deal to her agitation.
She could not endure another Season in the midst of an ever-swelling tide of new, fresh beauties streaming into London with the same intent: to find an eligible, titled man and marry