Scandal of Love

By: Janelle Daniels

London, 1834

If someone had told Lady Sera Winters that her needlework was the finest in all of England, she would have been the first to laugh.

Glancing away from the picturesque scene outside of her window, where the sun shined bright through the shade trees in the garden, Sera picked up her needlepoint and examined the yellow rose she had stitched yesterday morning. The lopsided petals looked more like they were dying than in a state of bloom. And since she was being honest with herself, the leeched colors only enhanced the look of decay.

Chuckling, she picked up a new strand of honey-colored floss. Her needlepoint skills had not improved over the years as her mother had hoped, but that didn’t stop Sera from enjoying it. The repetitive movements were what soothed her, what had her returning time and again to destroy one of woman’s oldest art forms.

It didn’t matter that she wasn’t good at it, it only mattered that she kept doing it. And if someone happened to receive one of her works as a present, she wasn’t above laughing at herself when they cringed.

If one couldn’t laugh at one’s self, what was the point? Everyone took themselves far too seriously, and no one more so than debutants.

Finding a match during the season was a life or death situation for most of these women, but she couldn’t blame them for their attitude. With many of their families in bad financial straits, marrying for money was a common occurrence in their world.

She was continually grateful that she would never be forced to marry for money. With her father’s wealth, the daughter of the Duke of Dorchester would only need to marry for love. And indeed she would marry for love or not at all.

The howling in the hallway had her jerking upright, the needle she worked with stabbing her finger. The commotion only increased, causing her to move toward the door to see what was happening, but the sound of her father’s heavy footsteps made her pause. The door to her private sitting room opened, allowing her disheveled father to stumble in.

“Father! Are you all right?” Sera ran to him, her heart racing in panic as she saw the despair in his eyes.

He shook his head, whimpering as he slumped into one of the rose silk-backed chairs.

In shock, Sera watched her father mumble to himself for a moment. “You’re ruined, Sera. It’s over. All our hopes for you to be the next Duchess of Wathersby, your mother’s final wish, are gone.”

Kneeling in front of him, she touched his knees to get his attention. “What do you mean? What has happened?” she asked, using a soothing voice. When her father was in such a state, the best thing to do was to remain calm. He would do enough fretting for the both of them. It had been that way since her mother had died three years ago. Ready to make her debut into society at age seventeen, Sera hadn’t been prepared to take over the care of her father. In cases such as these, where her father became overwrought, she longed for her mother’s moderating influence.

She needed to calm him down, get him to a point where she would be able to get information from him.

Head jutting up, he looked at her as if she were not there before jerking his fingers through his hair, making it stand on end. “The rumor started last night, but I didn’t hear of it until this morning. It is being said that you were compromised by Lord Devericks, Earl of Surrant, at Lady Berkley’s ball last night.”

“What? How is that possible? I’ve never even met him.” She tried to recall what he looked like, but she couldn’t bring an image to mind. “Didn’t he just inherit?”

“He inherited about three months ago, but he hasn’t been seen much in the last several years.” Her father shook his head. “To think of all we worked for only to have it snatched away. With your mother’s golden hair and sapphire eyes I was sure you would be able to….” he trailed off, shaking his head. “Well, with this scandal attached to your name, no decent man of good breeding will make an offer.”

The despair that plagued her father hit her full force. Sera knew her father’s words were true. What gentleman would willingly attach himself to such a scandal? She doubted that Lord Bromley, the Duke of Wathersby, would ever consider her as a potential bride after this. There would not be a match between herself and the handsome duke.

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