Dangerous Regency Romance Novella
A Romantic Suspense Thriller Regency Romance
© Cupideros, October 4, 2016, 10:04 am EST
Two young dashing bachelor dukes make bet that would change their lives forever and the lives of their respective wives.
ALBANY BACHELOR HOTEL
CARD GAMESTER ROOM
MONDAY, FEBRAUARY 21, 1814
There once were two dashing young dukes living in the Albany bachelor apartment for aristocrats, in London, England.
One, we shall call Duke Griffen Naismith; the other, we shall call Duke Rupert Steedmond. Names are unimportant in these types of stories. What is important is the import of the character’s doings. For the two dukes met over a card game and came to a competitive conclusion, shocking to their bachelor male peers.
Duke Griffen Naismith said, “So you suppose yourself a better man, a better lover and a better husband than I?
“I do,” said Duke Rupert Steedmond.
“That is saying a lot,” murmured the small groups.
“I am," started Duke Rupert Steedmond," most excellent in all things dueling, picking racehorses at the Ascots, and even walking the high wire in the Circus Jim's.”
“Walking the high wire, you say, Duke Rupert Steedmond? That’s undignified sort of thing my good fellow, for a ton member. No. No, No. I propose--” Duke Griffen Naismith stopped for a second. “I propose we meet again, in private, and decide the terms of our competition.”
Duke Rupert Steedmond turned to his other esteemed peers, dukes, viscounts, marquees and counts. “Not here? Not among our peers. Why who shall be the judge of our success?”
Smiling and smug, Duke Griffen Naismith replied. “Our peers and their peers.”
Finally, Duke Rupert Steedmond understood and flashed a wry smile. “I do get your meaning,.” He chortled. “I do get your meaning.” Duke Rupert Steedmond laughed.
Duke Griffen Naismith laughed.
All the other aristocrats in the ton bachelor Albany apartments started laughing. But they had no real factual clue what Duke Griffen Naismith meant. They only liked the idea; somehow, they’d get to decide the winner.
Later on, Duke Griffen Naismith and Duke Rupert Steedmond met in private, in the shire of Devon, foreign to the both of them. They were not well-known and went unnoticed.
The Two Dukes decided these terms: Duke Griffen Naismith chooses the marriage partner for Duke Rupert Steedmond. Duke Rupert Steedmond would return the favor to Duke Griffen Naismith.
Smiling and smug, Duke Griffen Naismith said, "She is beautiful and probably virginal, too. Her composure is ton like. Her looks can launch a regional skirmish, perhaps. something between two minor powers of state. She loves to wear the color of peach and looks fine it, I must say. But,” Duke Griffen Naismith paused and rubbed his bare chin.
Duke Rupert Steedmond impatient to know his future wife, said, “Get on with it man.”
“Do not fret, my good fellow, at the competition none stands in your way. She is nonton." Duke Griffen Naismith paused again, adding finally, "She is a mulatto.”
Duke Rupert Steedmond gasped in horror.
“Before you object and give me the victory outright, Duke Rupert Steedmond, given all that it is about this particular mulatto woman, I want to add, if she were not so slightly mixed, I’d marry her myself. And only in the sunlight would anyone notice Constantia's difference of race, Duke Rupert Steedmond. I think you have the far easier choice in a wife than I.”
Duke Rupert Steedmond wanted to hand over the large sum of money. Someone thousand pounds right then and there, but as their meeting was private, he figured who would know? “I have to marry her and stay married?”
Duke Griffen Naismith in a stoic voice replied, "What good is a wager broken?"
“That given as it is,” Duke Rupert Steedmond started slowly, thinking, pondering the future wife for his peer. “That given as it is, I’ve got a most excellent choose for you, Duke Griffen Naismith, a ton, woman, not too ugly and not too pretty either, who turned into a spinster some three years prior. Spinister Lady Elinor Watson is well off financially; her dowry could launch a war.” Duke Rupert Steedmond chuckled.
“Spinster! You’ve chosen for me to marry a spinster! This spinster Lady Elinor Watson of Hampshire. Crikey!” retorted Duke Griffen Naismith. “You are a sly, mean sort of fellow. For, I have to live with this woman the rest of my life.”
"We," Duke Rupert gestured his forefinger to himself and then Duke Griffen, have to stay married," Duke Rupert Steedmond corrected.
“It is fair.” Smiling and smug, Duke Griffen Naismith simply shrugged his shoulders.
Duke Rupert Steedmond asked, “But when shall we declare the winner?”
Confident Duke Griffen Naismith gave his reply. “Six years hence from today’s date, February 21, 1820.” Duke Griffen Naismith hurriedly added, "You are free to end the bet right now, Duke Rupert.”
Duke Rupert Steedmond said, “That’s a long, long time. Napoleon will surely be defeated by then.”
Duke Griffen Naismith replied, “We hope, Duke Rupert Steedmond. We hope. And sadly, King George III will have passed away by that time, too.”
The two dukes shook hands on the mattered and both pulled out Cuban cigars and drank a toast. “To Marriage, Adventure, and Mystery.”
Duke Rupert Steedmond wickedly replied, “Most assuredly, the spinster's mystery.”
Duke Griffen Naismith cautiously replied, “The brazen mulatto mystery.”
Both Dukes concluded their bet after vowing not a word to a soul, other than God and not in a confessional sense. No one must know of our reason for marrying the woman of our choice. He who tells forfeits the bet.
And so it was the two Dukes wooed and won their respective women and married them in two separate ceremonies. Duke Griffen Naismith married Lady Elinor Watson of Hampshire.
Duke Rupert Steedmond married the mulatto woman, Constantia, who served as a servant woman for Countess Heathcote in London.
Both feigned surprise at the marriage choice of the other. They moved out of the Albany apartments, for staying there merely increased the chances of revealing the “why” of their bet choices. Each settled down to a life of marriage, talking strolls in Hyde Park, visiting the Covent Theater with their wives, attending museums and country dance balls.
YEAR TWO: MAY 14, 1814:
ASSEMBLY ROOMS ALMACKS
EVENING, SATURDAY, MAY 15, 1814
“I don’t see why I can’t attend the Assembly’s of Almack, Countess Dorothea Benckendorff. Why you yourself are a foreigner, a Russian and look how quickly you have risen in ton society!” Duke Rupert Steedmond said to the attractive, dark curly locks Society Patroness of Almacks. Her oval face and long nose, that mark of Russian beauty, and her big black eyes invited one to fall inside of them, reveal all your secrets.
“Dear Duke Rupert Steedmond. I understand you disappointment. Russia has had disappointments. But these are things to get over and get on with life. I’m sure many balls and dances will accept Duchess Constantia. Oh, Dear, there is Duke Seabrook. He must have something important to say to me.”
Duke Rupert Steedmond smoldered as he and Duchess Constantia retreated from the Almack’s on King Street.
“Don’t worry, Duke Rupert. One day we shall be full members of ton society, but right now all I want is to be married to you.” She kissed him. Small random gasps escaped the crowd but by this time, Duke Rupert Steedmond’s marriage to the mulatto was no longer the gossip scandal it had been in the beginning. Because Duchess Constantia conducted herself with the higher class and her intellect seemed no different than the other ton women. Duchess Constantia had been a servant woman in the household of Countess Heathcote from London. Duchess Constantia found all things ton worthy of acquiring. Her beauty, her light-light skinned beauty reminded one of an Italian princess in fact.
Outside Duke Rupert saw Duke Griffen Naismith and his duchess exiting their brougham carriage. Everyone clapped and spoke.’
“Why there is Duke Griffen Naismith. That most honorable ton man.”
“A true spirit of compassion and class. Elinor Watson seemed doom to a life of loneliness.”
“This is proof,” said another Marquess, “That God exists and protects those who are kind at heart.”
Duke Griffen Naismith and Duchess Elinor Watson walked pass Duke Rupert Steedmond and Duchess Constantia, and Duke Rupert Steedmond, in his righteous angry mood, almost didn’t speak.”
“Why if it isn’t Duke Griffen Naismith old friend. Have I offended you?”
“No. Not you. No, not at all my good fellow.” Duke Rupert Steedmond looked backward slightly at Countess Benckendorff talking to Duke Seabrook and her husband, Count Lieven, the Russian ambassador. “Just a small matter, actually. I won’t fret over it.”
“Where is that smiling, smug Duke of long ago?” dug Duke Griffen Naismith into Duke Rupert Steedmond’s feelings and intellect.
Flashing a bright smile that brought his Duchess Constantia to a happier countenance, Duke Rupert Steedmond said, “I was think about you the other day, and here we met at the Almack’s.”
“Aren’t you going in?”Duke Griffen said, smiling and smug. I and Duchess Elinor plan on having a good time. He showed Duke Rupert his voucher.
Duchess Constantia gasped for Duke Rupert never got a voucher or rather could not obtain one in the proper place. Thinking this a mistake he decided to show up in person. Perhaps Countess Benckendorff’s instructions were a mistake. Duke Rupert was certainly ton. Duke Rupert chortled and laughed. He shook his head. “No actually we have to attend another ball. Someone new came into town the hostess wants me to meet.”
Duke Griffen Naismith said after receiving a telling glance from his once spinster wife, Duchess Elinor. “Do not fret, my good fellow.” Duke Griffen slapped Duke Rupert on the upper arm. “Cheer up. Rumor has it Napoleon is about to be defeated at Waterloo.”
“You do say. I’ve heard similar rumors. What a pleasant surprise,” Duke Rupert commented, feeling better at having met his old friend. It appeared to Duke Rupert that Duke Griffen got the better end of their bet. Duke Griffen Naismith in good standing in the ton went up. Duke Rupert’s own reputation went down. Duke Rupert found this not a sufficient reason for calling off the secret bet, however. He rather loved his mulatto wife, Constania, and her talents in bed wiped out the memories of his earlier unmarried dalliances. Yes, he was happy, in a sort of satisfied, mysterious way. “To marriage, adventure and mystery!” Duke Rupert Steedmond replied, ending the conversation. He chortled for good measure.
Smiling and smug Duke Griffen replied, “Yes, to marriage adventure and mystery.”
The two Dukes departed and went on with their lives. Later they celebrated the war’s end at a big party, not the Almacks, but another important ton hostess, Duke Rupert and his mulatto duchess were invited. At this country dance ball, Duke Rupert Steedmond found himself a rather curious oddity, or shall we say his mulatto wife was the curious oddity. Everyone well expected her to trip up here or there on some fact of British history or pronouncing a word or even a faux pas at dancing. None of these things happened and the mystery of when Duchess Constantia’s would faux pas remained a hidden novelty of ton society.
Whereas with Duke Griffen Naismith the mysterious novelty remained when would he tire of his spinster? For many assumed, she lacked qualities of love and lust. However, Duchess Elinor was a normal woman who happened not to be married at a young age. Her war chest bought improvement to Duke Griffen’s Manor House. Expansions followed in land purchases and of course, that meant higher more servants to work the land. Duke Griffen grew trees and fruits in Kentshire. His well-off investment, funded by Duchess Elinor’s war chest dowry which increase double fold by the end of the year one alone. Duke Griffen Naismith was happier ton man by far. “I love you Duchess Constantia. You’re proof spinsters is a myth and a slur.”
Duchess Elinor had tears in her small blue eyes, eyes that should have been larger given her triangular shaped face. Her nose was a little, too, long, but if you took in the bigger picture of her long brunette hair, thick and shiny, she had a special charming beauty after all.
Nevertheless, things in both camps, hidden of course, bothered both Duke Griffen Naismith and Duke Rupert Steedmond. We shall discuss Duke Griffen Naismith’s annoyances first, because most readers will assume Duke Rupert Steedmond had the more difficult time of this bet. In fact Duke Griffen Naismith fought off urges to quit his marriage six months into the secret agreement. See, Duke Griffen Naismith rather always fancied the pretty ladies and as Duchess Elinor was on the rather modest side of the beauty fence; he wanted to taste other beauties on the side. He fought off these moments, night and day, especially at the balls. Those precious few moments when Duchess Elinor disappeared to do ton women’s stuff helping out the country dance ball hostess brought him the most pain. One is rather content in one’s private quarters, but imagine being thrown into an environment with the most stunning women of the age. Women young vibrant. Women whose blooms have not fell off their face. Take for example Lady Ava St. George, her effervescent personality drew most men like honey on bread, for even a hater of bread. Her bubbly voice and excellent dancing, draws one's mind wonders how things in bed would be with Ava. Duke Griffen Naismith never doubted, once spinster Duchess Elinor, showed him higher sights. But, and but was the question, Duke Griffen Naismith always wondered about the younger ton women. Women so young they did not need perfume. Debuting women, naturally young, exuded an aroma of lust and desire. Duke Griffen even wondered about Duke Rupert Steedmond’s mulatto wife. Duke Griffen Naismith knew it was wrong, but he wondered how to stay married to Duchess Elinor until 1820. Who knows what will happen in such a long time? Duke Griffen Naismith had offers. Duke Griffen had lots of offers. Offers he never had in his bachelor days at the Albany Apartments for rogue, adventuresome ton male aristocrats like himself. These ton bachelors sympathized with his plight. Marrying a spinster was charity they said. They constantly badgered Duke Griffen, why he did it? They remembered the bet from one year ago and inquired: Is this the bet between you and Duke Rupert Steedmond?”
Smiling and smug, Duke Griffen Naismith replied. “On your life, do you think I’d marry a spinster to win money, to boost my pride?” I am a ton. I do things out of a noble sense of honor. No woman of good character, wealth, standing in our ton community should be sequestered because of her age. Each of us will age one day. Our wives, my good fellows, will age. Our children will age. Ton society will age as a new crop of younger ton push us to the sidelines and chairs in the country dance balls throughout England,” Duke Griffen Naismith lied. Well, half lied. A well put half-lie. Duke Griffen married Duchess Elinor for her internal qualities and her wealth. Now, if only her external beauty stopped nagging him.
This nagging, to be honest, was Duke Griffen’s own making. Many a man divorced and married again to a woman of the exact same age as Duchess Elinor. So why the gossip of spinsters still attached to her name? What did Duchess Elinor do wrong in her prior life to make her become a spinster? Many disturbing questions arose in Duke Griffen as he searched for an excuse to do what his wicked heart and loins wanted to do all along—marry a young and vibrant, rich, respected, intelligent ton wife. At this point, his first choice of marriage dried away, long gone from him.
Better to enjoy the fruits growing on your side of the fence than to fancy fruits on the other side. They will not taste any sweeter for having hopped the fence, trespassed on another’s land and then bit of the forbidden fruits.
In Duke Rupert Steedmond’s camp, his problems were obvious. Most accepted grudgingly, with reservations, after looking aslant, and questioned indirectly, in small questions, behind his back, if Duchess Constantia was ton worthy. When they were alone in their big Manor House on the north side of London, Duke Rupert Steedmond was happy as a little boy with a room full of toys.
Duchess Constantia marveled at how happy Duke Rupert Steedmond was alone in her presence. They played and frolicked more like to neighborhood children, boy and girl, left alone to their devices and plans. They did all kinds of things nonton. That sat on the floor in Duke Rupert Steedmond’s large bedroom and ate crackers and jam. They read books to each other late into the night, and not the classics or high literature mind you. They took baths together. He would finger comb her long black hair, brushing it with his fingers down the lightly tanned skin of her back. Together, they climbed trees at night out in the formal garden. She told him tales, grandmom tales about the West Indies and Caribbean’s slaves and pirates and stolen loot. Things she never saw in her life, but persisted in her background from ancient relatives long, gone and dead.
Duchess Constantia was a mysterious woman and entirely entertaining. She brought entertainment as her wealth, not pounds and coins.
This would be enough for Duke Rupert Steedmond. Except for the persistent fact, he had guests drop over. Their parlor doorman announced this ambassador, or this Member of Parliament or merchant or land seller, speaking of big tracts of land available in Louisiana territory forfeited by Emperor Napoleon some years back. People, who upon seeing his Duchess, halted, gasped, found their thoughts frozen, if they’d met her by the door, in the light. And Duke Rupert Steedmond lived in constantly annoyance of these important people withdrawing their support if his Duchess Constantia accompanied them to the door.
Thank God for doormen, main servants of the household doing these duties. Nevertheless, Duke Rupert Steedmond wanted to merge the two worlds together. How? How? How? Might I do such a thing? See, dear reader, Duke Rupert Steedmond never thought about Duke Griffen Naismith’s wife, so Duke Rupert had the advantage.
Only if, Duke Rupert Steedmond could stop thinking about ton society, he’d be happy. Then he would be truly happy. Thoughts crossed Duke Rupert Steedmond’s mind of sailing abroad, away from England. He wondered if that was in their secret bet—fair and legal to sail away. He trained as the barrister, and as a lawyer, he sought ways to wiggle out of his bet without being declared the loser. He laughed, too, hard and chortled, too, confidently to let Duke Griffen Naismith win this secret bet.
Neither man knew the other wanted to break the bet, however.
Both men held a one-hundred percent belief, given their flawed marriage mates, sooner or later the other ton male, in the bet, wanted to bolt to freedom. Perhaps, Duke Rupert Steedmond, thought, I can encourage Duke Griffen Naismith to concede defeat first.
On the southern side of London, Duke Griffen Naismith thought the same thing. What events to manipulate in Duke Rupert Steedmond’s life to make him give up the secret bet.
YEAR THREE CIRCUS JIM'S
WEDNESDAY, MAY 15, 1816
Shouting over the loud crowd, Rupert Steedmond asked, “How do you like the circus, Duchess Constantia?”
People walked about. Performers not performing smiled. Refreshments servants came around to see if anyone wanted food. A man walked by on tall six-foot stilts, his eyes looking over the seated crowd's wide-spread eyes.
“You’re not really going to go on the high wire. Please don’t Rupert. What will I do if you hurt yourself or die?”
“You’ve met my lawyer. You would be well-taken care of ....
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