Miss Bannerman & The Duke
Here is an extract.
She was in sight of her objective when, to her horror, the duke materialised in front of her. He did not look at all pleased to see her; in fact, he looked furious. Not daring to meet his fulminating stare, she dropped her eyes and clutched her reticule protectively to her chest. What could she say to avert this disaster? Her breathing steadied as a simple solution occurred to her. She dipped in a deep curtsy. "Are you very angry with me, sir? I tried to tell you: I do not like to dance and especially not in this ensemble. I am already a laughing stock; stumbling around the dance floor would only add to my unhappiness. I do most humbly beg your pardon if I have caused you any embarrassment." A well-remembered hand, strangely without the regulation white glove, gently raised her. "No, Miss Bannerman, it is I who must apologise. I thought to help by my intervention; I can see now that I misunderstood your situation." His kindness was almost her undoing. She had treated him shabbily, pretending to be something she was not, and did not feel comfortable doing it. Scalding heat spread from her toes to her ears and she couldn't bear to look at him. "You are distressed, my dear. I shall wait for you in the vestibule. Supper is about to be served. If I take you in, that should serve to restore your reputation. Will you not look at me, Miss Bannerman?" Slowly, she met his gaze and saw nothing but sympathy there. "I should not have run away but I am not comfortable in crowds, your Grace. I would much prefer to remain at home and read a book." She glanced down at her hideous gown. "My mama selected this; one might have thought she [i]wished[/i] to make my evening a disaster." His brow creased for a second. Had she revealed too much of her real personality in her casual comment? Then his lips curved in the sweetest smile and for some reason she almost lost her balance. "That gown is not a happy choice, my dear. I should have realised someone of your sensitivity would never appear in such a garment willingly." Good grief! He was agreeing she looked appalling! Surely, a man of his breeding would realize his role was to reassure, not compound the problem? She would not spend another moment in his company; he was everything she most disliked in a gentleman--so full of his own importance that he thought he could say what he liked and it would give no offence. "I'm sorry, but I do not feel well enough to eat. I'm going to remain in here until it's time to leave." She should have thanked him for his kind offer, but the words remained unsaid.
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