The Duke's Match Girl(Fiery Tales Series)

By: Lila DiPasqua

A Christmas Fiery Tale Novella



A Historical Tidbit





DO YOU KNOW WHEN fairy tales were born?



It was not so long ago. During the reign of King Louis XIV.



His court was as decadent as it was opulent. A time of high culture, elegance, and excesses. The pursuit of sinful pleasures was a pastime. Sex, an art form. You see, Louis was a lusty king. He and his courtiers were connoisseurs of the carnal arts.



It was during this wickedly wonderful time that author Charles Perrault (creator of The Tales of Mother Goose) first began writing down fairy tales—the folklore that had been passed on verbally for generations. It wasn’t long before fairy tales became a highly fashionable topic of discussion in the renowned salons of Paris. Though the fairy tale The Little Match Girl (1845) was made famous by Hans Christian Andersen, a Danish poet and author, perhaps his muse was stirred by hearing about characters such as these…



[NOTE: Though more inexpensive, self-igniting matchsticks weren’t invented until the 1800s, there were earlier cruder versions of the modern-day match created by a number of inventors in the 17th century. In 17th century France, there were many independent, self-reliant women, many of whom were making a lucrative living at writing the popular genre of fairy tales. I see no reason not to believe that a bright young woman could have been the first inventor of the matchstick… And whose name may have simply fallen through the cracks of time.]



Happy Reading!

Lila





“Once in a while, right in the middle of an ordinary life, love gives us a fairy tale.”

~ Anonymous quotation





Chapter One





December, 1685

France



“LEO, YOU ARE up to something. Out with it.” Daniel sported his usual smile, his arm draped casually over the back of the damask chair he occupied.

Chuckling softly, Bernard sauntered over to the ebony side table and poured himself a fresh brandy from the decanter. The sound of the amber liquid draining into his crystal goblet mingled with the crackling fire in the hearth. “It’s a new mistress, isn’t it, Leo? Come now. Give us the details. Dieu. Do you ever give that prick of yours a rest?”

Leopold Charles Nicolas d’Ermart, Duc de Mont-Marly, ignored the comment.

As well as the burst of mirth it inspired from his two younger brothers.

Bracing his shoulder against the window frame, he crossed his arms and gazed outside at the vast grounds of Montbrison, lightly dusted with snow.

If only it were merely a new conquest.

The urge to glance at the clock on the mantel seized hold of him.

Again.

The ticking had started to grate on him, its incessant sound far more difficult to ignore than the needling from his siblings.

Where the bloody hell is Gilles? His man should have returned with a response to Leo’s offer by now.

The anticipation was driving him utterly mad.

He wasn’t accustomed to waiting for things, yet he’d waited for this opportunity—this moment—hell, this one woman for years.

This was one seduction he was pursuing with slow, methodical steps.

If things went as planned, Leo wasn’t going to be able to hide what he was truly up to from his brothers. Nor did he care to.

His plan was centered on Suzanne Matchet. So unlike any woman he’d ever known—and he’d known her forever.

Full of adorable little quirks and oddities. With big, alluring brown eyes. A brilliant mind for science. And the only woman in the realm who preferred he fall off a cliff.

And for a damned good reason, too.

“Now, Bernard,” Daniel said. “I’m sure there’s a woman or two left whom our brother hasn’t sampled.” He grinned.

Leo frowned and grappled with his patience. Normally, he was unfazed by his brothers’ baiting and ribbing. But today he was on edge. “Are you both quite done?”

“Not until you tell us who she is,” Bernard said.

Daniel was quick to add, “And how delicious she is.”

They were now both sporting the same idiotic grin.

It took everything inside him not to punch the wall. Something, anything to vent the frustration mountaining inside him as he waited.

And waited.

And, Jésus-Christ, waited some more.

What was taking Gilles so fucking long? He should have been engaged in a private meeting with Gilles right at this very moment, rather than this grating conversation with Daniel and Bernard.

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