An Heiress to Remember (The Gilded Age Girls Club #3) - Maya Rodale


New York City, 1879

One West Thirty-Fourth Street

The duke was at the door. His Grace, the Duke of Montrose, had come calling at the Goodwin residence, all the way from Ye Olde England, on the hunt for an heiress to marry as dukes were wont to do these days.

But young Beatrice Goodwin only had eyes for the young, handsome boy who had climbed into her bedroom window.

By any definition, Wes Dalton was a nobody. He also happened to be the somebody she adored most in the world for many reasons, though one in particular claimed her attention now.

Wes Dalton knew how to kiss a girl. He’d been in her room less than a minute before their arms were around each other, mouths colliding, young love seizing the moment.

“You have to go,” she murmured.

“I know,” he said. Mumbled, really. Talking and kissing were not tremendously compatible. Kissing won out.

Arms and hearts entwined. Soft breaths. The sweetest taste.

“I have to go,” he murmured.

“I know,” she mumbled.

Beatrice and Wes were no fools; they knew the rules and the way of the world. There was a duke at the front door and Wes was a nobody sneaking into her bedroom and Beatrice . . . well she was just a girl. One who was in danger of forgetting her purpose. Why did her father work night and day, eight days a week, to earn a fortune if not so her mother could realize her greatest social ambitions by making a duchess of their daughter?

The duke was at the door . . .

Barney and Estella Goodwin hadn’t done all that for Beatrice to marry Wes Dalton, a mere associate department manager at Goodwin’s, the department store her family owned. Even if Wes was an excellent kisser who, when he was not kissing her, wanted to hear whatever she had to say.

Beatrice usually had lots to say, much to people’s chagrin.

“We could run away,” he suggested.

“We could,” she agreed, laughing. Because he couldn’t be serious. Then she lifted her gaze to his deep blue eyes and fell silent. He was serious.

Him. Her. Run away.

Her heart leapt at the prospect. Long nights with him, waking up beside him. The two of them taking on the world with nothing but their wits and love and fierce kisses.

But the duke was at the door . . .

It was a big risk. The biggest risk. Especially when the duke was downstairs, presumably now in the formal drawing room. It was not his first visit. But everyone understood that this was the visit. The one where he asked the same question Wes was asking her now. But with a guarantee of castles and parties and fancy dresses.

She cared about these things as much as the next girl, which is to say somewhat.

“I can promise you exactly nothing,” he said and they both already knew it. “Just undying love. Run away with me, Bea. Right now.”

If there was one thing she knew about Wes it was that the man had an enormous appetite for risk. Exhibit A: climbing into the bedroom window of his employer’s daughter, who was an heiress about to receive a marriage proposal from a duke. Men ended up in the East River for less.

“When? And where to? And how—?” she sputtered.

Beatrice was not risk averse, but she did appreciate a plan. Her father’s business sense may have been lost on her brother, Edward, but not her. She needed some particulars more than just a promise. An idea. A kiss. Some facts and figures would be nice. A plan would not be remiss.

“We’ll catch a train this afternoon,” Wes murmured as he kissed her neck and for a second she thought, Maybe.

“Wes, you’re mad. Absolutely mad to suggest such a mad thing,” she said. Finishing school never did manage to tame her blunt, impulsive speech.

“Madly in love.”

“Is that what you call it?”

He pulled her close so she could feel how madly in love he was with her. He flashed a grin that had her heart bursting like fireworks. If this was the start of forever . . . she could do worse.

There was a knock at the door.

They jumped apart.

She opened the door a crack while Wes stayed out of sight, hiding behind the curtains.

It was a housemaid.

“I have been sent to inform you that His Grace is waiting. And your mother.”

One was more fearsome than the other.

“I’ll be there in a moment.”

She closed the door. The curtains over her window fluttered in the breeze.

They both knew why the duke was