When a Duke Loves a Governess (Unlikely Duchesses #3) - Olivia Drake Page 0,1

without forgetting the finer points of proper behavior. Heaven only knows what peculiar customs he might have acquired.”

“Nonsense, the duke was raised a gentleman even if he never expected to assume the title.” Lady Farnsworth tried on another hat, this one of burgundy velvet adorned with a stuffed quail and faux autumn leaves. “As a widower, he is London’s most eligible bachelor. And you cannot deny he cut quite a dash at the Sedgwicks’ ball the other night by dancing with several of the young ladies.”

“But there has to be a reason for all the departures.” Mrs. Ludington lowered her voice to a scandalized whisper. “Do you suppose he is making improper advances toward the governesses?”

“When all of them have been bran-faced spinsters? Nay, I daresay it has to do with his daughter running untamed during Carlin’s absence. Rumor has it that Lady Sophy terrorizes the ducal household. Her maternal grandparents raised her, and everyone knows what rattlepates the Norwoods are.”

“Well, the girl ought to have learned suitable behavior by now. If she is still spoiled at four years, it must be nipped in the bud at once.”

“Carlin is in need of a wife to take matters in hand,” Lady Farnsworth said in agreement. “My granddaughter will be making her bows in the spring, and it would be quite a plum for her to acquire a duchess’s tiara.”

“Let us hope that Lady Sophy’s manners improve in the interim.” Mrs. Ludington examined a gold-fringed purple turban in the sunlight from the window. “The naughty child wants discipline, and swiftly. His Grace must seek a sterner character when he engages another governess.”

Tessa’s fingers stilled in the act of tying off a thread. The sudden jolt of her heart caught her by surprise. The idea that leaped into her mind was utterly daft. She would have to be mad even to consider such a notion. Yet the words sizzled through her like a bolt of lightning.

Another governess.

The Duke of Carlin had been left in the lurch. He needed someone on short notice who could handle his disobedient daughter. Perhaps that someone could be Tessa herself.

Living in a ducal household would place her at the center of the aristocratic world. She’d be on a swifter path to acquiring the funds she needed to open her own shop. Partly due to the increase in salary, but also because she finally might find her father.

The man whose name had always been a mystery to her.

She touched the dainty oval shape beneath her bodice. The high-necked gown of gray kerseymere hid the gold pendant that was her most precious possession. In the sixteen years since her dying mama had placed it around Tessa’s neck, never once had she removed it. Her fingers traced the small image engraved on the piece. The coat of arms belonged to a noble family—her father’s family.

But who was he? Since most of her waking hours were spent here at work, she’d had little opportunity to discover the answer. Tessa didn’t dare ask anyone, either. If she were to show it to any of the Quality who patronized the shop, she might be accused of stealing the pendant.

As a governess, though, she could keep her eyes peeled for the coat of arms. Somewhere she might glimpse it on a carriage door or carved into the lintel stone of a house. Once she matched it to a name, she could confront her sire and convince him to advance her a loan.

Yet common sense offered a swift rebuttal. What did she know of being a governess? Next to nothing! Unlike her, they were ladies who had been raised in genteel families. While window-shopping on her half day off, she’d sometimes glimpsed such plain-garbed women shepherding their charges in the posh district of Mayfair.

She could not seriously be thinking about joining their ranks, though.

Governesses had the task of educating upper-class children, and Tessa’s schooling had been sketchy at best. She had taught herself to read by poring over fashion periodicals. From there, she’d graduated to newspapers, playbills, and penny novels rescued from the rubbish bin behind the secondhand shop. She went to church on Sundays partly for the pleasure of reading the hymnal.

However, she knew little of literature or geography or history. Foreign tongues like French and Italian sounded like gibberish to her. And didn’t all young ladies require music lessons? Having no such skills herself, Tessa would be exposed as a fraud.

But at four years, Lady Sophy surely wouldn’t be expected to know more than