Masquerade Secrets

By: Janelle Daniels

“Yes, it was. The roads were clear and made the trip a short one.” He glanced over the rest of the group that was clearly involved in another discussion of some sort. “I hope it is not too much of an imposition,” he paused, seeming to reconsider his words before continuing. “I was wondering if you could tell me how Lady Sera is faring in her marriage to Lord Devericks,” he said in a low voice, careful not to let the rest of the room hear his request.

Discreetly glancing at the other guests to make sure they were fully occupied elsewhere, she leaned toward him. “She is doing well, my lord. She is still with Lord Devericks on the continent, and they aren’t expected back for several more weeks. She seems quite happy.”

“Ah.” He smiled ruefully. “Well, I am glad to hear she is content.”

“Yes, she is.” It was a bit awkward speaking of Sera, because she knew everything that had happened between Lord Bromley and her friend. It wasn’t commonly known that Lord Bromley had kidnapped Lady Sera and had tried to take her to Gretna Green to elope, hoping to help Sera out of an unwanted marriage, before Lord Devericks caught up with them. Had he guessed that Sera had told her of it?

She looked at him, searching his expression to see if he suspected that she knew what had transpired. “Did the country agree with you? Everyone was so surprised by your sudden withdrawal from town.”

He smiled roguishly at her, a glimmer of humor in his eye. “It was very… peaceful. I admit though that I was ready to come back.”

Looking away from him, she tried to hide her smile. So, he knew that Sera had told her, and didn’t look contrite at all. “Well, everyone will be so pleased that you have returned.”

“No doubt,” he said dryly, pointedly avoiding eye contact with a young debutant’s mother.

Seeing the interaction between the two, Aubrey couldn’t help but chuckle. “Indeed. I fear there will be many young women setting their cap for you.”

He visibly shuddered at the thought. “I do hope you are wrong.” At her arched eyebrow, he laughed. “But I doubt you are. It isn’t all that easy being an unmarried duke, you know.”

“Really? I find it hard to believe that you suffer over much from the title.”

“You have no idea. You wouldn’t be half as eager to tease me if you knew the truth of the matter.”

She regarded him skeptically. “I doubt it could be worse than being an unmarried lady.”

“You’d be surprised.” He grinned at her.

“I doubt it. You will always have the choice of whether to extend an offer of marriage or not. You may pursue whomever you wish without fear of your reputation. Women can hardly claim such freedoms.”

“Touché.” He nodded as if awarding her the point, and Aubrey couldn’t help but smile at the small triumph.

Lady Penbrook jumped up in excitement, pulling Aubrey and Lord Bromley out of their friendly banter. “What a fabulous idea!” All conversation in the room stopped to listen to what Lady Penbrook was so animated over.

Turning toward the rest of the room, Lady Penbrook gestured wildly in her excitement. “Lady Templeton has decided to host a masquerade in one month’s time.”

As the room’s noise level rose in excitement, Aubrey glanced over at the older woman who had now promised to host one of the most looked forward to events of the season. Her silvery evening gown glimmered with sequins, matching the silver plume in her greying hair.

“Lord Bromley, would you please come and offer your suggestions for the event?” Lady Penbrook trilled, gesturing for him to come forward.

With a nod to Lady Aubrey, he bravely went forth into the world of planning.

Aubrey watched him leave, willing her eyes to leave his form, but without success. He was an attractive man, but he was too far above her. There wasn’t anything wrong with appreciating his form and then moving on. And indeed she would move on. She’d have to.

The duke would never be for her.


Aubrey looked up from her writing desk as Charlotte, her younger sister, burst into her room, her nightdress trailing behind her like a snow flurry.

“Is it true, Aubrey? Is there to be a masquerade?”

Setting her quill aside, Aubrey ignored the correspondence she was catching up on. It was a habit of hers to do it before she turned in for the night instead of during the early hours of the morning like most women. “Yes, Lady Templeton is hosting it in one month.”

Charlotte squealed, racing over to give her sister a hug. “I can’t believe it! A masquerade within the first two months of my debut.”

Aubrey couldn’t help getting wrapped up in her sister’s excitement. There had been so many years of longing and disappointment that she had forgotten what it was like to be young and new to the glittering world of the ton. “I think we’ll have to visit Madame Devereaux’s shop early tomorrow to order our costumes. I have a feeling she will be inundated with customers very shortly.”

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