Duchess of Sin

Duchess of Sin by Laurel McKee Page A

Book: Duchess of Sin by Laurel McKee Read Free Book Online
Authors: Laurel McKee
Tags: Fiction, Romance, Historical, FIC027050
“Remember, Anna,”
     her mother said, “the doctor said no dancing tonight.”
    “I remember,” Anna said with a sigh. “I will sit with the chaperones along the wall and behave myself with exemplary decorum.”
    “Ha! I should like to see
that,
my dear,” Katherine said. Anna was sure that if her mother were not Lady Killinan, paragon of all things proper, she would
     have given a most inelegant snort, as Caroline was prone to do.
    At last, they entered the ballroom to find it only marginally less crowded than the stairs. The Fitzwalters possessed one
     of the largest ballrooms in Dublin, no small feat in a city that prided itself on its hospitality and its capacity for a good
     time. It was an enormous space, made to feel even larger by the mirrors hung on the cream silk walls and the domed ceiling.
    Those mirrors reflected polished parquet floors lined with banks of white hothouse roses arrayed with holly. The gathered
     crowd glittered, their gowns and jewels sparkling under the lights of a dozen Waterford crystal chandeliers. The dancing had
     not yet begun, but an orchestra played on a dais surrounded by potted palms. Liveried footmen moved about with trays of wine
     and claret punch. Through a set of open doors was a well-stocked card room.
    Anna took a glass of the punch and sipped at it as she studied the room. It was all the height of splendor, very fashionable
     and elegant, sure to be talked of for days. Everyone who was anyone was there. And it was absurdlydull. She was sure she had been here before, and she had. Or at least places exactly like it, a hundred times before.
    Perhaps it would have been better to stay home with Caro and her ancient battles,
Anna thought. That strange old plague of restlessness, which parties were supposed to distract her from, came back over her,
     stronger than ever.
    She followed her mother across the room, their progress glacially slow as they stopped to greet all their acquaintances. She
     was asked about her fall at the park, pressed to dance again and again, and for once she was glad of the excuse to refuse
     a reel or a minuet. She wasn’t in much of a dancing mood. And she did not see Adair anywhere.
    Not that she could see much of anything in the crush, except people’s backs. She reached for another glass of claret punch,
     but her mother shoved a glass of lemonade into her hand instead.
    “Just because there is no dancing for you tonight, Anna, doesn’t mean you should spend the whole evening in the card room,”
     Katherine said.
    Anna laughed. “No dancing, no cards, no champagne. What a merry evening.”
    “I doubt you will be entirely bereft, dear. It looks like your hordes of admirers are about to sweep you away.”
    And indeed a group of young men, led by Lord Melton, descended on her just as she reached the edge of the room. When she told
     them she could not dance, they declared their intention to stay by her side and keep her company all evening.
    “You cannot do that,” she said, laughing at them. “There would be too many disappointed young ladies who
do
want to dance.”
    And some of the suitors were soon carried off by theirmamas to do their duty, but some stayed with Anna, bringing her refreshments and chattering on about new carriages, horse
     races, and of course, the Union. It seemed she had missed a fight in Parliament that very day.
    It all made her want to scream, to throw her glass against the wall and run. She closed her eyes, remembering the Olympian
     Club with its lush banks of black orchids and lilies and the wild, whirling strains of waltz music. The masked figures clinging
     together in the dance. No one there spent precious moments boring everyone with tales of their new curricle or their latest
     house party prank. There, it was all pure feeling and emotion, sinking deeper and deeper into velvety darkness until there
     was only sensation.
    A gloved hand lightly touched her arm, a warm caress on the bare skin just below her

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