Read Waltzing With the Wallflower Online

Authors: Rachel van Dyken,Leah Sanders

Tags: #General, #Romance, #Historical, #Fiction

Waltzing With the Wallflower




Waltzing With the Wallflower

by Rachel Van Dyken and Leah Sanders

Published by Astraea Press


This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.


Waltzing With the Wallflower


ISBN 978-1-62135-022-4

Cover Art Designed by Elaina Lee

Edited by Em Petrova





To every wallflower—may you dance every dance.







The Duel


“Do you think it best to fight your brother so deep in your cups?” Wilde asked a foxed Ambrose.

Ambrose’s head continued to pound to the rhythm of the blood coursing through his veins. His brilliant plan had not, in fact, been to challenge his own brother to a duel over a woman.

A blasted woman.

He took another sip of whiskey before he cursed and faced his friend Sir Colin Wilde. Unfortunately, his vision was blurred to the point of making him dizzy. He closed his eyes and tried to focus on how things had gone so horribly wrong.

“Maybe if you talked about it,” Wilde suggested.

Ambrose opened his eyes. “Talk about it? Like a ninny-headed woman? You want me to talk about my feelings?”

Wilde shrugged. “I take it you believe your solution to be better?”

Ambrose grumbled and motioned for another drink while Wilde simultaneously shook his head at the proprietor, informing him that his friend was done drinking for the day.

Was the man insane? The last thing he needed was to 
. And the quickest way he knew to help numb the surprising pain of the news was to drink himself into oblivion or possibly allow his brother to shoot him. The Good Lord knew he deserved it after the way he had treated Cordelia.

That name. That blasted name. He swore he wouldn’t think about it—to think about it brought on too much pain. Pain he didn’t want to acknowledge, because then it would mean he had been wrong all this time.

Just as he opened his mouth, to quite possibly spill his feelings as Wilde encouraged, the door to the establishment crashed open.

“Where is he?” Viscount Maddox, Ambrose’s younger brother yelled above the rest of the patrons. “I ask again!
Where is he

The jolly men around the poorly lit establishment quieted down; someone cleared his throat as another man pointed to Ambrose.

He cursed.

Not that he was a coward—he just didn’t feel like marching to his death just yet. Not when her name was so fresh in his mind and the pain of loss so new to his memory. It seemed he owed her that much, at least to think of her during his last few minutes alive.

“Is it that time already?” Ambrose asked. Wilde made a stand in front of him and faced Anthony.

“Are you his guard dog then, Wilde?” Anthony sneered. He placed his hands on the table and leaned in.

“Nothing of the sort. I simply don’t make it a habit to participate in illegal duels between brothers, especially when one brother is so foxed he can’t see straight.”

“It’s not my fault he’s foxed. Nor is it my fault that he finds himself in this predicament. He lost the bet and ruined everything! The least I can do is take his sorry excuse of an existence away from him!”

“So that’s it, brother? You’ve come to kill me when I’m at my weakest, all over a silly bet?”

Anthony sneered. “This isn’t about the bet. It’s about her. About what you did to her. I should have killed you then, but mark my words, brother. I will kill you now, for not only destroying the one woman capable of capturing your heart, but for snuffing out the spirit of the best lady to grace London in years.”

His speech was followed by cheers throughout the room. Cordelia, it seemed, had not only won him over, but the rest of London and it was all his fault. All because of a bet. He lost her—lost everything. And because of that, he found himself saying to his brother, “Do your worst.”



Chapter 1


The Bet


Four weeks previous.

Ambrose smirked as Anthony received another invitation from Lady Burkhead. The old widow had been giving the brothers bedroom eyes since the beginning of the Season. They had taken it in stride, knowing that the woman just wanted to have some fun before the Season became monotonous.

Which was exactly, to Ambrose’s dismay, what he was experiencing. Though he couldn’t speak for his twin Anthony, he felt that any minute he would start shedding his clothes merely to add to the entertainment of the most boring Season to plague the halls of London.

The dresses were void of any bright color. It seemed, after much debate amongst the fashion plates, that this Season’s color was to be a pasty yellow. Of all the colors God created, why did the debutantes choose that one? It made all of them look sickly and when they smiled, he observed, a trifle mad.

It could not possibly get any more tedious, Ambrose was certain. But then it was discovered that Anthony and Ambrose had already met every debutante worth knowing that Season and all of them were found lacking. Oh, they had proper manners. They smiled and handled their fans with perfection. Their fingers were covered, their gowns plain and virginal. Not that Ambrose found anything wrong with virgins as a whole, but to blatantly display your lack of charms to the male population didn’t, in his humble opinion, seem to be the quickest way to gain a husband. Alas, the marriage mart was in full swing, and Ambrose was feeling the all too familiar itch to do something stupid.

His brother, the younger by three minutes, could usually sense when Ambrose was growing agitated and would be at his side with a drink in hand or a good joke about one of the widows who had just attempted to seduce him out of his good sense. The brothers would toast to their brilliant fortune of having the ladies of London at their fingertips, then set about to see how many women they could flatter. It was with great pride that both Anthony and Ambrose picked out the toast of the ton each Season. In a way, they made her, for they would find an unsuspecting debutante who deserved the spotlight more than the others and reward her with their highly sought after attentions.

Men would flock, because if one thing was certain, if either of the twins were interested in a woman, it was for good reason. But as Ambrose’s gaze scanned the same stifling crowd as he had seen at every event before, he could do nothing save shake his head and entertain the depraved thought of removing his dinner jacket or his gloves in public.

“Don’t,” Anthony said, approaching with a drink.

“Ah, you’re just in time, I see. Tell me, how is Lady Burkhead this evening?”

“Old.” Anthony handed over the drink he held and winced. “By my calculations, and mind you I’ve had three glasses of champagne before said calculations, this Season is quite possibly the worst to befall the city of London since the days of King Arthur.”

“By Jove, Anthony! And to think I just finished telling Wilde what a nodcock you are, and here you stand, repeating the very same words I just thought.”

“I’m ignoring your slight to my intelligence, but only because you’re older, and I don’t wish to agitate your old age further. Now, drink the champagne before you get a silly notion in your head to do something polite society would frown upon.”

“Frown,” Ambrose repeated sourly, throwing back the contents of his flute. “I venture that if I were to suddenly exclaim that the sky was falling, I would receive nothing more than peculiar stares from those around me. No emotion. Not any of them. It is akin to staring at a blank canvas.”

“Shall we paint then, dear brother?” Anthony held out his hand as if for Ambrose to lead the way.

Ambrose walked toward the desserts. “Ah, therein lies the problem. It seems we have nothing to paint. Not one thing.” He bit back a curse and pasted a smile on his face as they passed a few of London’s venerable matrons, all looking at them as if they were some sort of delicious apple tart.

“I take it you’re bored then, brother?” Anthony asked once they were out of earshot from the gossip-mongers.

“Whatever would give you that idea?” Ambrose teased through hooded eyes. “Has my cynicism put you in a foul mood? My apologies. It isn’t your fault. Maybe it is my old age, and I’ll deny this if you ever repeat it to anyone, even Wilde. It just seems it should be different. One of these years it has to be, wouldn’t you agree?” He hated that he confessed it to his brother. Out loud, nonetheless, but as competitive as they were, family ran thick as blood.

Anthony’s face took on a more serious expression. Though identical, it was still possible to tell them apart. Anthony, for one, had very expressive eyes that showed his every emotion. They had the same green eyes with a striking yellow outline—a very peculiar color that women swooned over when introduced to the twins. Anthony’s rich brown hair was cut a bit closer to his head, whereas Ambrose wore his longer. It was his undying mercy on others, because he believed it simply wouldn’t be fair to look so much alike.

As the light faded from Anthony’s face, he squinted and looked to Ambrose with a smug grin. “How about a little wager then? To make things, shall we say,” he cleared his throat, “interesting?”

“Anthony,” he groaned. “The last time you wore that expression I was shot in the leg with your favorite pistol.”

His twin scowled. “Yes, but it was through no fault of mine that you happened to fall from your horse and direct your body in line with my shot.”

“Still not taking responsibility for your actions, eh, Anthony?” A male voice cut in.

“Ah, Wilde, good of you to join us! And just in time it seems.” Anthony patted their mutual friend on the back.

“Brilliant. You do know your brother has that look in his eye again, don’t you, Ambrose?”

“You know I can never stop Anthony when he sets his mind to something.” He shook his head and smiled. Whatever his brother had up his sleeve, he did not have a good feeling. Maybe it was the way that the wind seemed to suddenly pick up through the open doors to the balcony. Or the sudden chill that ran down his spine. Tonight, it seemed, would be different; he just hadn’t a clue why.

Though part of him, the sane part, told him to flee, he stayed glued to the floor, concentrating on his brother who at that moment announced, “We are to have a bet.”

Wilde laughed while Ambrose cursed and gave his brother a stern look. “A bet, Anthony? We gamble all the time, why would this be more exciting than last night when I relieved you of five hundred pounds?”

“Not that type of bet.” Anthony grinned.

“I hate it when he grins like that,” Wilde said.

Ambrose nodded his head. “Yes, I hate to admit how much it frightens our dear mother as well.”

“Do you want to hear about it or not?” Anthony asked, clearly agitated.

“By all means.” Ambrose laughed then elbowed Wilde to stop laughing.

His overconfident twin cleared his throat. “First, you must answer some questions for me. Can you do that, Ambrose?”

intelligence now?”

Wilde threw his hands in the air. “Just get on with it, will you?”

“Fine.” Anthony shot Ambrose a dirty look then pasted that ridiculously frightening look on his face again. “How long have you been known as one of the most famous bachelors of the ton?”

“As long as you have.”

“Years, if mathematics isn’t too difficult for you.”

Ambrose thought for a second. “I would say around eight years, putting me at the ripe old age of one and thirty.”

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