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Chapter 1

London 1814

JACK LLEWELYN GAVE a long-suffering sigh, crossed his arms and leaned back against the silk-covered wall of the Delamere House ballroom. Lilac ribbons and purple flowers of every variety had transformed the cavernous ballroom into a spectacular spring-like vision of a woodland grove. Even to Jack’s jaundiced eye, the duchess’ first ball would be described as a triumph.

Jack mentally calculated what it must have cost the Duke of Diable Delamere’s secretary to buy all the hothouse blooms and scented flowers in London and grimaced. He glanced down at Michael Waterstone, who occupied the wheelchair by his side. “Michael, I hate doing the pretty, and I’m not dressed for a ton ball. You don’t need my help anymore, so why in God’s name have you dragged me here this evening?”

“Don’t blame me. Elizabeth—or should I say Her Grace, the Duchess of Diable Delamere—ordered me to bring you along. And since this is her first formal ball and the duke is my employer, I couldn’t quite see how to put her off.”

“Devil take it,” Jack swore softly, aware of the interested eyes on him and the gradual, inevitable swell of gossip his presence always stirred. He hadn’t ventured into the ton for almost five years, yet nothing had changed. “I hope Her Grace hasn’t taken it into her head to befriend me. I have enough problems without that.”

Michael’s mouth twitched. “Elizabeth is my sister. Please refrain from referring to her in such unflattering terms.”

“I hold Her Grace in the highest regard, but she can be intimidating when she sets her mind on something. Even you can’t deny that.”

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