Who Wants to Marry a Duke - Sabrina Jeffries
Having finally come into his title as the Duke of Thornstock, Marlowe “Thorn” Drake leaned against a pillar to survey the crowd at the Devonshire House ball. Why hadn’t his twin sister returned to England with him when he’d asked? If Gwyn were here, she’d be mocking the fops with their excessive cravats and taking bets with him on which gentleman would make a drunken fool of himself first.
She’d be keeping him well entertained.
God, how he missed her. Until now, they’d never been apart, and it still chafed him that she’d blithely watched him sail away without her. He’d never counted on feeling so alone in the land of his birth. He was English, damn it, and this was his rightful home. Since he’d never felt as if he belonged in Berlin, despite having lived there almost since birth, he’d expected matters to be different in his native country.
Instead, everything smelled and tasted odd, from the weak coffee his servants gave him in the morning to the strange liquid he was drinking now, which bore a faint—very faint—resemblance to the Glühwein he’d drunk in Prussia, although not nearly as good.
“So what do you think of your first marriage mart?” asked his half brother Grey, who’d come up beside him.
Fletcher “Grey” Pryde, the Duke of Greycourt, had returned to England at the age of ten to be educated for his future role as duke. That probably explained why he seemed comfortable with English life. He’d had fifteen years here. Thorn had only had six months.
Not that he would let his older brother see his discomfort. “This is a marriage mart?” Thorn snorted. “I’d imagined something a bit more . . . mercenary, with mothers sniffing the crowd in search of eligible gentlemen for their pretty vixens.”
Grey laughed. “That’s not far off the mark, at least for ladies who have only their looks to commend them. With heiresses, it’s more like the fathers sniffing about—trying to ferret out the fortune hunters.”
“Then I suppose I should be glad Gwyn did not come with me.” Thorn pushed away from the pillar. “Father and I had enough trouble keeping the fortune hunters at bay in Berlin.”
“I would have helped you with that.” Grey gazed up. “Gwyn would have loved that ceiling. She would have tried to sketch it for her book of architectural wonders. That’s why I can’t figure out why she refused to come back with you.” He fixed his gaze on Thorn. “Do you know why she chose to stay in Berlin?”
“She said Mother needed her,” Thorn replied.
“Nonsense. Mother is perfectly capable of fending for herself. Besides which, Mother has Maurice, who dotes on her. There’s got to be another reason.”
Thorn had a pretty good idea of what it was, but Gwyn had never admitted it, and he wasn’t about to speculate to Grey. “What are you doing at a marriage mart, anyway?”
Grey turned grim. “I lost a bet.”
“Ah. What are the terms?”
“I have to stay until midnight . . . or until Lady Georgiana is introduced to me, whichever comes first.”
“Devonshire’s daughter? The one coming out this Season?”
“Then you’ll be able to leave soon enough,” Thorn said. “They’ll introduce her to you first of anyone.”
“And you. Or have you forgotten your exalted station?” “No.” How could he? Every time he entered a room, people bowed and curtsied for all they were worth.
“Never lose sight of who you are,” Grey said. “You’re not accustomed to how devious matchmaking mamas and their scheming daughters can be. Look at it this way: They’re the hunters, who want to hang your ducal coronet on their trophy wall. So keep an eye out.”
“I plan to. As soon as I see the Devonshires coming, I’ll flee.”
“I didn’t mean keep an eye out for the Devonshires, for God’s sake,” Grey said. “They take precedence over us both. Fleeing would be like giving them the cut direct. Even I am not so reckless as all that. I may need one of them someday.”
Thorn would rather risk that than take one step awry in conversation with them. Although earlier he’d had someone point them out to him, this would be his first time to actually meet the powerful Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, and he was a bit shaky on the protocol. In Prussia, Thorn had been the only English duke around since Grey had left for England.
“First of all,” Thorn said, “I don’t have your ambition to own half of London. Second, I can escape a ballroom without being noticed