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Prelude to a Scandal

Cover of Prelude to a Scandal

Prelude to a Scandal

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Lady Justine is willing to trade her good name, her reputation and her place in London's gossip-hungry ton to secure her father's release from prison. But when the notorious Duke of Bradford counters...More
Lady Justine is willing to trade her good name, her reputation and her place in London's gossip-hungry ton to secure her father's release from prison. But when the notorious Duke of Bradford counters...More
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Description-
  • Lady Justine is willing to trade her good name, her reputation and her place in London's gossip-hungry ton to secure her father's release from prison. But when the notorious Duke of Bradford counters her offer with a proposal of marriage, the stakes grow higher still. For while the smoldering lord is famous for his conquests, the man is oblivious to both her devotion and her charms. And Justine is soon afraid she has wagered all for naught....

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    Without a good chaperone, one might as well be dead. Remember, a chaperone is supposed to be another thinking head.

    How to Avoid a Scandal, Author Unknown

    With the assistance of her driver, Mr. Kern, Justine stepped out of the coach and swept down onto the pavement of the square. She eyed the shadowed, four-story alabaster home, noting that most of the windows were as dark as the night around her. Sparse golden light shone through only a few glass panes on the far side of the home.

    An ominous feeling crawled through her. Despite countless letters to the duke, pleading for at least one audience before the actual wedding, he had responded to each and every letter with a firm, "No. Not until the appointed time of the wedding." Calling upon him repeatedly had not yielded much more. He simply would not see her. Which worried her to no end. Was he in fact more disfigured than he'd originally let on?

    As if that weren't distressing enough, there appeared to be complications surrounding her father's release, even though her wedding was only a short week away. And whilst the duke's solicitor had repeatedly assured her everything would be resolved, Justine needed more than mere verbal assurance.

    Mr. Kern lingered beside her and cleared his throat, awaiting payment for his many weeks of service. He eyed her reticule. "Milady." He pointed. "I thought this was tah be a friendly social call."

    Justine glanced down at the ribbon-drawn reticule slung around her wrist. The rosewood handle of her father's pistol stuck straight out, like a gopher's head from a mound.

    She feigned an apologetic laugh. "It is a friendly social call, Mr. Kern. This is simply to intimidate the servants. Which reminds me—" She yanked out the ivory flask of gunpowder from her reticule.

    Mr. Kern paused. Then squinted at her.

    After several failed attempts to uncork the flask, Justine huffed out a breath and dug her fingertips beneath the rim, giving it one last solid tug. Her straining arms jumped and the cork popped off.

    Mr. Kern scrambled back as a huge plume of gunpowder blanketed her face, cloak, gown and the street, filling her nostrils with a gritty, sulfur-penetrating residue. She gagged as the flask slipped and clattered to the pavement, and frantically brushed the soot from her face and bosom. Of all the blasted—

    She paused, glimpsing the flask on its side in the shadows. Oh, no. Plucking it up, she tapped at what little remained in the vessel and groaned. How quickly she'd become like the rest of the women in London. Completely useless. Unable to even prime a pistol. Her father would have been horrified at her incompetence.

    Exasperated, she shoved the expensive flask into Mr. Kern's waiting hands. "Here you are, Mr. Kern. Pure ivory and worth well more than I owe you. This will officially bring your service to an end. I thank you."

    "Much obliged." He tipped his wool cap, then made his way back to the hackney, inspecting his newly acquired trinket.

    If only the wardens at Marshalsea were as easy to please and get along with.

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