“It looks as though it may rain,” Maxwell Palmer, the Earl of Essex, commented for the third time since Frederick Asheton, Duke of Lutton, had joined him in the park.
Unlike the Earl, the Duke was not afraid of a little rain. He was not a typical nobleman. A little rain didn’t frighten him. He would much rather take a walk through the park in the rain than attend a high-society event in a stuffy ballroom. In fact, if he did wander about in a rainstorm, he was much less likely to be stuck socialising. Already the threat of rain was beginning to empty the usually busy London park. Maxwell was one of the few members of high society that Frederick was able to tolerate, but his constant glances heavenward as they wandered down the park path, past a copse of trees, made it much more difficult for Frederick.
“A little rain never hurt anybody,” Frederick pointed out where he had remained silent previously.
“You would say that,” Maxwell scoffed, gesturing at Frederick’s plain clothing, indicating that he had no need to worry about his outfit being ruined.
“Maybe if you didn’t spend so much on fine fabrics, you would be less worried,” Frederick responded, offering Maxwell only a reproachful glance. He had never understood a nobleman’s need to wear his fortune upon his person, showing his status in every item of clothing and piece of jewellery.
Anyone looking at the two of them might have mistaken Maxwell for the Duke and Frederick for his servant if they did not know better. The looks of the two noblemen were quite deceiving, and that was just the way they liked it. Maxwell liked to show off his status just as all the other nobles did. Frederick, on the other hand, was much happier to blend in. He received far fewer invitations to pompous and pointless events that way. He much preferred the feeling of being treated like a person rather than a title.
“I only hope that Lady Patience arrives before the downpour so that we can find somewhere to seek shelter,” Maxwell sighed, ignoring Frederick’s ridicule over his outfit. He adjusted his cravat as though he half-expected the lady to appear at any moment and wished to look his best. Frederick couldn’t help but think his best friend looked ridiculous. All trussed up like a fine joint of meat, his friend could barely move his arms without pulling on the tight fabric of his silken jacket. The garish pale blue was enough to hurt Frederick’s eyes, and he was glad that the day was overcast because if the sunshine had caught such a silken jacket, he might have been blinded just looking at him.
“I am sure she will be here before long,” Frederick assured him. He was intrigued to meet the woman who Maxwell so often went on about in his letters. Though Maxwell only ever called her ‘friend’, he was well aware that the two had been spending a lot of time together as of late. He felt as though he had received letter upon letter about her during his travels, and a part of him felt as though he already knew her. He was more than ready to put a face to the name. Knowing from his own experience and the things that Maxwell’s family often said about him, Frederick was not expecting a great deal of the woman who chose to spend much of her time with him. With his friend’s lack of charm and uselessness at talking to women, Frederick was expecting a simpleton.
In his mind’s eye, he pictured a short and perhaps stout young woman with plain features and ordinary colouring, wearing whatever latest fashion had hit London. She would likely be as boring as any other lady in London, talking of the latest gossip because it was all she had to talk about.
“I am most excited for you to meet her,” Maxwell insisted, his anxiety obviously growing as he glanced skyward again and pulled his pocket watch from his waistcoat pocket. He flicked open the cover with an audible click and bit his lip when he saw the time. “She is late.”
That was yet another remark that the Earl had made, and it was beginning to get on Frederick’s nerves.
“Perhaps you should send a servant along the route to her home? She might have run into some trouble,” Frederick suggested in the hopes that some action might ease his friend’s anxiety. He had never seen him so uptight.
Maxwell instantly began to shake his head as he shoved his pocket watch back into its hiding place. “I am sure she will be along shortly. It would not be the first time she has been late.”
Frederick discreetly sucked in a breath, hoping that his friend would be right. He wasn’t sure he could take much more of his whinging.
“You said she is a very busy woman,” Frederick reminded him before adding, “What was it you said? Something about her caring for her mother?”
That part of Maxwell’s letters had intrigued Frederick. It wasn’t often that a young woman, especially the daughter of an earl, took the time to care for a family member when they had plenty of money to hire nurses and maids.
Maxwell began to nod, a smile spreading across his face. “Yes, yes, she is the most caring young woman that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.”
Well, now I am impatient to meet her, Frederick thought, groaning when Maxwell started to glance upward once more. I can’t take this any longer!
“Please excuse me,” he said abruptly, dipping his head respectfully to the Earl before he began to hare away back in the direction of the carriages at the entrance of the park.
“Where are you going?” Maxwell called after him, his voice clearly agitated, but Frederick made no attempt to explain himself. Instead, he hurried down the path, his head bowed, hoping that his plain clothing would stop him from being recognised by any nobleman walking past. After all, it was several months since he had last walked the streets of London, and he hadn’t yet shaven his face after his voyage from France. He still chuckled to himself when he thought of the shock on Maxwell’s face at the very first sight of him.
“Frederick! I hardly recognised you!” Maxwell had exclaimed before embracing him as though they were long lost brothers. “It’s good to see you, even if you do look like a pauper.”
No doubt, he looked more like a vagabond now that he was hurrying through the park, dodging around the few people who were still taking their chances upon the path.
“Watch where you are going!” one man yelled after him as he narrowly missed bumping into him. Wandering aimlessly through the park at a leisurely pace wasn’t exactly entertaining for Frederick. He much preferred direction and action, and hurrying to the carriages was the most excitement he’d had since he had stepped off the ship on British soil only the day before.
“Can I help you?” the distrustful voice of a carriage driver sounded almost as soon as he approached. He doubled over, hands on his knees to catch his breath before lifting his head to see that it was just the carriage driver he had been looking for.
“Oh, Lord Lutton! I did not recognise you!” the man exclaimed, his face twisting from a scrutinising expression to one of shock and embarrassment. He quickly dropped his head with respect and straightened up from where he had been leaning against the side of the carriage. “You are looking well, Your Grace.”
“Thank you, Bill,” Frederick responded. “I am in need of a carriage.”
“Of course, Your Grace,” Bill responded, automatically reaching for the door handle of the open-top barouche. The large golden ‘E’ embossed upon the door showed that it was a private carriage belonging to Frederick’s good friend, and he was pleased to see that Maxwell hadn’t replaced his driver since he had last been in London. Any other might be less willing to agree to what he was about to suggest.
Shaking his head, he straightened up and gestured the man to shut the door. Gulping in a deep breath to steady himself, he explained, “I just need the carriage.”
When he saw the confusion upon the older man’s face, he added, “I can assure you I shall have it returned to you presently.”
The driver, as Frederick had anticipated, seemed to know better than to question a Duke, and he quickly stepped out of the way, gesturing for Frederick to help himself to the driver’s bench. With one foot on the step, Frederick used muscular arms to pull himself up onto the bench and reached for the reins. It would not be the first time that he had driven a carriage though it had certainly been a few months.
Tipping the flat peak of his hat to the driver, he gripped the whip in one hand and tapped the rear of one of the matching bays in front of him. Instantly the horses set off, gliding gracefully from the park. It was only as he guided the horse left out of the wrought iron gates that Frederick suddenly realised something. He had no idea where Lady Patience lived.
Too late to turn back now, he thought, deciding that he would just have to take a chance.
The further that the carriage travelled from the park, the less certain he became. There didn’t seem to be many pedestrians about, and all those who were around were all men, either walking in pairs or alone, walking with hurried steps as though they were all worried about the impending downpour.
Where are you, Lady Patience? Frederick wondered. He was just about to turn the horse back around, wondering whether it might be best to go back to Maxwell and see if she had arrived, when two young women turned the corner on the pavement up ahead.
Urging the horse on a little faster, he pulled up beside them and yelled, “Lady Patience?”
Though her face was covered by the parasol the second woman held over her, Frederick was absolutely sure that this woman was a lady. Everything about her screamed nobility, from her fine gown to the way she held herself, walking at a steady, graceful pace.
Both women stopped dead in their tracks at the sound of his call, and Frederick was instantly sure he had gotten it right. With a gesture of one gloved hand, the young lady instructed her maid to remove the parasol so that she could look up at him.
Frederick immediately sat taller upon seeing her, taken aback by the sight of her. She wasn’t at all what he had expected. Petite and slender, with a milky complexion and glossy mouse-brown hair, she was the picture of womanly beauty. Large round eyes the colour of a bright summer sky gazed inquisitively up at Frederick.
“Yes, sir? Can I help you?” she asked politely. Her eyes only seemed to grow larger as Frederick swung down from the driver’s bench in a whirlwind and stopped before her on the pavement.
“The name’s Freddie,” he announced, removing his hat to cross it over his chest with a low bow. “I’ve been sent to take you to the park.”
Lady Patience looked him up and down, scrutinising him entirely before she glanced at the barouche he had just climbed down from. When her eyes alit on the ‘E’ emblazoned upon the door, she looked slightly less suspicious.
Frederick knew how he must look. He was unkempt in a plain brown suit and white shirt, which had long since been stained by years of use. His trunks hadn’t yet arrived at the tavern where he was staying, and he had been wearing the same outfit for the last couple of days. Not to mention the fact he hadn’t bothered to groom himself. To her, he must look like a veritable beast.
“Thank you, but we prefer to walk,” Lady Patience stated, glancing at her maid as if for support. The young, plainly dressed woman stepped up beside her mistress, holding the parasol up, ready to replace it back over her lady the moment she was instructed to do so.
“I really must insist,” Frederick said, knowing that if he had to return to Maxwell without her, he would likely wish to throttle his friend before she arrived. “The Earl has waited for you for long enough.”
Lady Patience looked so shocked at his comment that Frederick couldn’t keep the corners of his lips from twitching upward with amusement. The lady obviously wasn’t used to commoners speaking to her in such a manner. Clearly unwilling to be rude herself, she glanced at her maid once more, her face twisting with indecision.
“You do not look like a driver,” she announced when she turned back to him, her eyes still dark with suspicion.
“Who else would I be?” Frederick demanded, “You just saw me climb down from the driver’s bench, did you not?”
Frederick could practically see the questions flitting through Lady Patience’s mind, but she seemed to think better of asking them as the first spots of rain began to darken the shoulders of her duck egg blue gown.
“Very well,” she nodded finally and added, “We thank you for the offer, sir.”
Frederick dipped his head once more and pulled open the door to the carriage. Although he loved to make other nobles feel uncomfortable and had a habit of pushing boundaries, he was also a gentleman, and he held out his hand to the lady to help her up into the carriage. Her maid looked shocked when he offered her his hand also and aided her into the carriage behind her mistress.
This is going to be fun, he decided, slamming the door shut behind them before swinging back up into the driver’s seat. The distrust and curiosity that still burned in the lady’s blue gaze sent a thrill through Frederick. If only Bill had had the good sense to pull the roof up when it had begun to look as if it might rain, Lady Patience and her maid might have been spared.
This driver was unlike any Lady Patience had ever met before. Those her father hired were always the same; well-groomed, wearing all black with white gloves and a top hat. This driver didn’t even have a lap robe at the ready. In fact, he appeared to be much younger than the usual drivers she was accustomed to, and his brown suit reminded her more of the middle-class gentlemen she sometimes saw walking through the park during her walks with the Earl. Though he was well-groomed with long copper hair pulled back from his face in a ponytail, his facial hair was much longer than would be appropriate for many men. With high cheekbones and striking features, he was certainly a handsome man, yet his attitude was poorly lacking.
“You know, if you hadn’t been late, I wouldn’t have had to come and fetch you,” he threw over his shoulder, causing Patience’s breath to catch in her throat. Never had she been spoken to so rudely by anyone, let alone a driver.
“Excuse me?” she exclaimed in shock. Even Ellen, her maid, tensed beside her, where she sat silently waiting for anything her mistress might need.
“I’m sorry, I was not aware that you were hard of hearing,” the driver said, glancing over his shoulder out of the corner of his eye. The spark in his grey-green eyes told Patience that something was most definitely off. This man was no driver. A driver wouldn’t dare to speak to her in such a way, and she was sure that her friend, the Earl of Essex, would never hire such a man.
Determined not to appear flustered, remembering to keep her composure as she had always been taught, she sucked in a discreet breath before politely responding, “I apologise for keeping you and your lord waiting, but I had to help my mother with something that I was not prepared for.”
Though she didn’t quite hear him, Patience was sure she heard the man mutter something to do with ladies always having an excuse for everything. What is his problem? she wondered, growing more frustrated than ever. After the morning she’d had, trying to encourage her mother from her room, she wasn’t at all in the mood to be tested. Especially not by the likes of him.
“It’s always the mother’s fault,” he added a little more loudly, and Patience was almost entirely certain she had been meant to hear that part.
“What is that supposed to mean, sir?” she demanded, unable to hold her tongue. Frustration was beginning to turn to anger, and she could feel her cheeks beginning to heat with it. So much for always keeping my composure! She grimaced at the realisation. What was it about this man that allowed him to get a rise out of her so easily? She was used to contending with the barely veiled comments of noblemen, and yet this man’s open rudeness was causing her to forget herself.
She wasn’t sure whether it was his erratic driving or the fact that she was so angry that was making her grip hold of the edge of the bench, but she began to feel as though all the colour had drained from her knuckles.
“What I mean is, you nobles are all the same,” the driver threw back at her, and this time, he turned enough to look her right in the eye. “Everything is always somebody else’s fault.”
“That’s enough! I have had quite enough for your intolerable attitude, sir. Please stop the carriage at once!” she said, raising her voice for what felt like the first time in her life. Ellen looked just as shocked as Patience felt but in the face of this man, she knew she could not afford to take it back. Drivers passing in the opposite direction were looking at her, and she was sure she saw the drapes in the window of one of the carriages twitched as though the passenger was also curious to know what had made her raise her voice in such a way. Luckily for her, they did not stick around, and she could hide her reddened cheeks by turning her face away.
When the driver seemed not to hear her—or perhaps he ignored her entirely—she attempted to stand up only to be slammed back down onto the bench by the velocity of the carriage’s movement.
“I said, stop the carriage!” she insisted even more loudly. “My maid and I shall walk the rest of the way.”
She had to grip the bench once more as the carriage turned around the corner, the wrought iron gates of the park coming into view. It isn’t far, but I can’t take another moment in this vile man’s presence!
“My lady!” Ellen exclaimed, reaching for her as Patience stood again and almost toppled right over the open side of the carriage.
“Stop!” she ordered, and finally, the driver pulled up hard on the reins. The horse whickered, the carriage wheels screeched as they ground to a halt, and Patience had to grip hold of the edge of the open roof to steady herself. Ellen’s hand around her wrist was the only other thing anchoring her into place.
The moment that the carriage was stopped, she wasted no time in waiting for the driver to get down from the bench to let her out. She reached over the side of the door and unhooked the lock.
“Are you mad?” he demanded, whipping around in the seat to face her. “You could have fallen out!”
Patience barely heard him. She stormed down from the carriage, her feet pounding on the steps even before Ellen had the chance to make her way down.
“Come Ellen!” she called over her shoulder. “I wish to tell the Earl about his need of a new driver.”
“Fine! Have it your way!” he yelled after her even as Ellen hurried to catch up. The parasol once more appeared over Patience’s head, but it did nothing to protect either of them from the wind that was whipped up by the sudden movement of the carriage. The horses were so agitated that they caused the carriage wheels to send up a spray of dust and dirt.
“Well, I have never been so insulted in my life!” Patience exclaimed, her hands balling into fists at her sides as she walked.
“It is certainly the oddest experience I have ever had, my lady,” Ellen commented in agreement with her.
“Whatever did I do to deserve that?” Patience asked her maid. They had long been close, having practically grown up together in the same household. Ellen’s mother was Patience’s mother’s lady’s maid, and Patience was more than glad to have such a close confidante at her side during such an experience. “I am glad that you were with me, Ellen.”
“As am I, my lady,” Ellen responded quickly, “I dread to think what he might have said or done had you been alone!”
Patience blanched at the thought and quickened her pace, determined to get to the Earl before she allowed herself to grow any more frustrated. It wasn’t until they were on the park path, the Earl in sight, that Patience began to slow down. The last thing she wanted was for him to see her while she was entirely too flustered to string together a proper sentence.
“My lady, do you wish for me to run ahead and tell the Earl that you are unsettled?” Ellen suggested as if she could sense the sudden change in her mistress. Patience quickly shook her head. Although Freddie, the driver, had been entirely rude about it, he had been right about one thing; she had kept Lord Essex waiting long enough.
She was only a few feet away when she began to realise that the Earl wasn’t alone. Though he had his back to her, looking out over the pond where they always met for their walks, she could hear his familiar voice. Rounding the slight curve of the path that was obscured by bushes, Patience spotted his companion for the first time.
That vagabond! She barely managed to stop herself from exclaiming the words out loud. A part of her wanted to charge in, yelling and screaming that the Earl should fire the man immediately, yet all her good sense caused her to hold her tongue. Even though the drizzling rain had frightened off many of the people in the park, she would not allow herself to cause any kind of scene for those who remained.
“Lord Essex,” she said softly, clasping her hands in front of her and squeezing the fingers of her left hand to keep herself calm. “I apologise for keeping you waiting.”
Somewhat subconsciously, she found herself glancing in the direction of the carriage driver as she spoke, half-expecting him to offer up some rude comment. He wouldn’t dare to do so in front of the Earl!
“Well, it is about time,” the man who had introduced himself as Freddie upon their first encounter commented as he and the Earl turned to meet her.
The colour drained from Patience’s face just in time for the Earl to look upon her, and she could see from the concern on his face that he had clearly noticed.
“Oh, my dear, Lady Patience, are you well?” Maxwell exclaimed and reached out for her hand. Though he was clearly concerned, he greeted her the same way he always did, leaning down to kiss her gloved knuckles the moment she offered him her hand. Yet, even as he bent down, Patience couldn’t bring herself to take her eyes off Freddie.
He was practically smirking from ear to ear, his hands clasped behind his back, looking so carefree that, had she been more common, Patience might have been compelled to strike the smile from his face.
“Have you no manners at all, sir?” Patience demanded of him, sure to keep her voice as soft as possible. No matter how flustered he made her, she wasn’t about to lose her own manners entirely, especially not in front of her long-time friend.
“Oh, no, where are my manners?” Maxwell straightened up immediately and gestured with his free hand toward Freddie, “Please, Lady Patience, allow me to introduce you to my dear friend, Lord Frederick Asheton, the Duke of Lutton.”
In that moment, Patience might have been knocked over by a stiff breeze. Her knees went so weak that she couldn’t help but tighten her grip on Maxwell’s hand.
“D-Duke….” Patience began to stammer under her breath, unable to believe what she was hearing.
“Freddie, please,” the copper-haired nobleman corrected. Patience wasn’t entirely sure how it was possible, but his smile only broadened at the sight of her shock.
“Freddie, please allow me to introduce you to Lady Patience Fairhurst, the daughter of the Earl of Oldton,” Maxwell continued formally as though he had not sensed the utter shock coming off Patience in waves.
“Actually, Max, we have already had the pleasure of meeting,” Freddie explained, stepping forward to take Patience’s hand from Maxwell. His grey-green eyes were stormy with barely suppressed amusement, and they never left hers, even when he leaned down to press his lips to her knuckles just as Maxwell had.
This has got to be some kind of cruel joke, Patience told herself. Her heart hammered so hard in her chest that she was sure the two men would be able to hear it. She was almost sure she heard Ellen gasp behind her as though she, too, was in utter shock and dismay.
“Lord Lutton, you are not at all the man I expected to be meeting today,” she said through gritted teeth, forcing herself to remain as polite and unflustered as possible. At least, she hoped that, on the surface, she would not appear flustered. Her insides were in complete turmoil, her skin on fire with embarrassment. Never before had she felt so uncomfortable, and she was used to wearing a corset every day of her life.
She had been entirely prepared to meet the Duke at some point, knowing that Maxwell was good friends with him, but this man who stood before her was like no nobleman she had ever laid eyes upon. Everything from his hair and his plain clothing to the scuffs on the toes of his boots suggested that he couldn’t possibly be a duke.
I am sure that Maxwell is not blind, she pointed out to herself, attempting to think of just about anything that might be able to calm her down. He must know his friend.
“Please excuse my friend’s less than stellar appearance,” Maxwell spoke as though he had practically read Patience’s thoughts.
“Yes, you must, I have been travelling for a long time, and I had quite forgotten what is considered appropriate attire here in London,” the Duke said. Though on the surface he now appeared polite, there was still the same amused and frustrating spark in his eyes that caused Patience’s hackles to rise.
Don’t allow him to get to you, she warned herself. Although she had never met a duke who dressed like him, she had certainly met his like before, the kind that liked to exercise their power with veiled comments and tactics of frustration. Now, knowing who he was, Patience found she was even more infuriated. She had learned to hide her true emotions long ago, and within the blink of an eye, she had managed to suck in a lungful of breath to calm herself.
“I am glad that you could finally join us,” Freddie announced, and Patience quickly suppressed the disappointment that tightened her stomach when he released her hand. She quickly allowed it to drop back into her other, clasping them delicately before her and straightening up to be sure she held her composure in front of the two noblemen. “My friend here has been practically pulling his hair out in your absence.”
The way that the Duke clapped Maxwell on the shoulder told Patience just how close they truly were, yet she couldn’t help but question it. Maxwell was so polite and well-respected, and Lord Lutton was just so…so…no matter how hard she tried, Patience could not find a suitable word for the supposed nobleman. He didn’t appear to fit in any box that she tried to put him in.
“I do hope that my appearance does not disturb you,” he said, an eyebrow raised almost as though he were speaking the opposite of what he felt. There it was, his reasoning for being so rude and so unlike any other noble she had ever met. He liked to be the contradiction. Now that she had seen it, Patience could not unsee it. He clearly liked the kind of attention it afforded him.
“Of course not,” she forced herself to continue to speak politely, unwilling to give the Duke the satisfaction. “I am pleased to finally meet Lord Essex’s dearest friend.”
Forcing herself to curtsey to the man who had been the rudest person she had ever experienced was much harder than she ever anticipated. Patience was gritting her teeth to stop herself from making a comment when she rose to see a satisfied smirk upon his face.
“Dazzled by a Devilish Duke” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
Patience Fairhurst has never imagined how easily her settled life could sink into sin. As every proper Lady, she was destined to marry an honourable Earl. Yet, on her way to visit him, she encounters the most vexing and seductive carriage driver, who would set her ride and heart on fire. When she realises that this insolent man is the Earl’s best friend, dressed as a servant, it will be too late…
Will she manage to ignore the temptation in order to avoid causing a huge scandal?
The rakish Duke of Lutton, Frederick Asheton, is a pure adventurer who denounces the formal social engagements of high society and loves to disguise as a commoner. In one of his infrequent visits home, he meets the most ravishing Lady he has ever seen. The only issue is that the scandalous Patience is his friend’s match…
Will he risk the only friendship he has ever truly cared for in the name of lust?
Forced to come together for the sake of a mutual friend, Patience and Federick will soon realise they are tied together by fate once and for all. Unable to control themselves, and desperately trying to bury their passionate feelings… Will they manage to make their sinful affair last forever? Or are these two lovers destined for failure?
“Dazzled by a Devilish Duke” is a historical romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.
5 thoughts on “Dazzled by a Devilish Duke (Preview)”
Hello there, my dearest readers! I hope you enjoyed this little treat! I will be waiting for your comments here. Thank you 😊
What a treat! I can not wait to see where this story goes! I do love Duke who goes against the grain of the ton!!
Thank you so much dear Cindy. I truly appreciate it! So glad you enjoyed the preview! I really hope you enjoy the rest of the book too and I am looking forward to reading your review!
This sounds like a lot of fun and much like the carriage ride a journey and a half can’t wait to read the whole book thank you Lucy for this except ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Fantastic! So glad you enjoyed the preview dear Margaret! I really hope you love the rest of the book too and I am looking forward to reading your review!