The Duke Meets His Match - Karen Tuft Page 0,1

his waistcoat.

“You would find someone to replace me,” Evans replied. He wrapped a towel around George’s neck and lathered his face. “Now, hold still,” he said, picking up the razor and flashing it in front of George’s face. “I currently wield more power than even the mighty Duke of Aylesham.”

George nearly smiled at Evans’s attempt at humor. It was the most lighthearted he’d felt since he’d left his London home this morning, although that really wasn’t saying much.

Soon enough—all too soon—he was dressed impeccably and descending from his carriage at Cantwell Hall, the estate of Christopher “Kit” Osbourne, Earl of Cantwell, who had married Lady Elizabeth Spaulding this very morning and whose wedding festivities George would be joining at the invitation of Cantwell’s brother, Phillip Osbourne.

For George and Phillip had business of the Crown to discuss, and doing it under the guise of a country wedding had been deemed the best approach.


Susan Jennings had attended enough weddings to last her a lifetime—yet, here she was, once again, attending another one. But, really, she had only herself to blame. With her wits entirely intact, she had agreed to travel to Oxfordshire with her brother, Lucas, and his wife, Lavinia, to attend the marriage of Lucas’s friend Lord Cantwell to Lady Elizabeth Spaulding.

Susan had grown to love her new sister-in-law, Lavinia, ever since Lucas and Lavinia’s own wedding the previous summer. She was clever, and Susan enjoyed their lively conversations. Lavinia was currently expecting the couple’s first child, and Lucas had thought Lavinia would appreciate having Susan as a female companion for the long journey. Agreeing to accompany them from their home in Lincolnshire to Oxfordshire had sounded to Susan like an agreeable diversion from the routine of country life.

However, now that Susan had sat through the wedding, which, she conceded, had been lovely, and had sat through the luncheon that had followed, which had been delicious, and had mingled and chatted a bit with the many and varied guests, she was ready for a different type of diversion, one that provided peace and quiet away from the crowds and noise and conversations about nothing and everything.

She liked socializing with people well enough, but she had her limits.

Looking about to make sure she wasn’t being observed, she slipped out of the ballroom. She had made a note to herself of where the library was located when she and Lavinia had been taken on a tour of Cantwell Hall after arriving and settling in at Ashworth Park earlier in the week. They had been told by none other than Lord Cantwell himself that he hoped they would make themselves at home during their stay in Oxfordshire and were welcome at Cantwell Hall at any time. Since they’d been in the library when he’d made his pronouncement, she had decided to take Lord Cantwell at his word.

The library was the place Susan would feel most at home anyway.

Its location wasn’t far from the ballroom, where all the wedding celebrations were taking place. Susan walked down the corridor, her slippers making no sound on the lush carpets. She eventually reached the library, opened the door, and stepped inside, shutting the door behind her.

She leaned against it and closed her eyes, breathing in the wonderful scent of leather and paper and ink. Her father’s library wasn’t as large as this one, his collection of books modest by comparison, but it held the same familiar smell she was breathing in right now—one that spoke of years gone by, battles fought, science and mathematics and languages, fantastical tales of heroism and romance all written painstakingly on the pages of the tomes within these walls.

She took in a great lungful of air as though it alone would rejuvenate her and then pushed herself away from the door. It was time to wander the shelves and peruse the titles to find a book or two that would pique her interest for the afternoon, until it was time to return to Ashworth Park.

To her immediate right were four comfortable-looking overstuffed chairs cozily arranged with a few small tables where one might place chosen books. Directly in front of her and to her left were rows of bookshelves placed back to back, creating small aisles between them, and the walls of the library were lined with bookshelves as well. It seemed a veritable feast.

Susan started with the row nearest to her.

The first row held science books, and she quickly learned that the books were arranged alphabetically by topic and title: primarily agriculture