The Duke's Other WomanBy: Julia Fellowes
A Regency Romance Novella
Morning Has Broken
The Duke of Totham awoke as the sunlight shone through the bedroom window. He grunted as he sighed, although immediately regretted doing so in case he disturbed his wife. Another day. More ways for his life to be miserable. What happened to the dreams he’d once had?
The day he had married, his world had started to crumble. He looked at the spot next to him on the bed and saw the Duchess still asleep. Thank goodness. I can have a few more moments of peace.
He crept out of bed. At least while the Duchess was sleeping, he could get on with some work.
“Where do you think you are going, Duke?”
The Duke froze by the bedroom door upon hearing her voice. “Nowhere Duchess. Allow yourself a little more rest while I attend to some of my duties of the day.” He would try anything to keep her away from him as much as he could.
She yawned noisily. “I have much to do today with my own acquaintances. Indeed I must prepare myself now if I wish to be on time.”
For once her words were welcomed by the Duke. He let out his breath that had bottled up in his chest and smiled to himself. The Duchess would not be home for most of the day. Usually when she attended social gatherings in town, he did not see her until the evening.
“Then pray make haste,” he said. “Perhaps you will treat yourself again to a new ball gown?” He never understood why his wife had to shop so many times in the week. Her closets were already full to capacity and yet she always came home with at least three new morning dresses, one opera dress and yet another evening gown.
“Of course, Duke. You must remember that the annual ball is coming up.”
Oh no, not the annual ball.
The Duke did not want to entertain the idea for one moment. He dreaded this time of year. What was the point of buying new evening clothes and going to somebody or other’s mansion to spend the night with people that seemed so disingenuous? But then, perhaps he was just as false. For he was a Duke through his family - not a life he would have chosen for himself.
“Are you listening to me, Duke?”
“Of course I am, Duchess. But how can you be so sure?”
“So sure about what?”
“That we are even going to receive an invitation to the ball?” he said with resignation in his heart.
“Do not be absurd,” the Duchess replied, and she playfully hit him on the arm. “You are The Duke of Totham, of course we are going to be invited.”
He sighed. “I merely propose your mind is occupied not so far in advance.”
“Nonsense! You do say such ridiculous things, Tot. I’ve always said you are Tot by name and Tot by nature.”
“Not when we were courting,” he reminded her, as he rubbed the back of his neck. “In any case, I know my words mean very little to you… and you will shop no matter what I say.” He shot her a parting glare, but she was too busy looking for a day dress to wear that she did not notice. Just as well, for had she heard him disagree with her, a barrage of strong words would undoubtedly have left her mouth immediately. She was not a generous woman, quite unkind at heart, and not a lady he would have chosen for himself had he actually been given the chance to choose his wife. Unfortunately, his marriage had been arranged by the time he was five years old and when Lady Martha was born. Oh, how many times he had wished he had not been born into a title! How many times he had longed to have led a normal life! First as a child and now as a man. Wealth was all he had ever known, and yet he had never grown contentedly accustomed to it. All he wanted was a decent life, one that he could enjoy.
He left the Duchess with her maids fussing around her. They would help her to squeeze into her day dress and fix her nut-brown hair into a pretty work of art.
“Duke!” the Duchess screeched. He cringed when he heard that tone of voice; it meant she was going to spout out unreasonable demands. Gingerly he stepped back into the bedroom.
“Make sure you have a carriage outside waiting for me to go and meet with my acquaintances. You know how I feel when I have to stay outside and wait for them to come.”
Indeed the Duke could never forget the last time she had to wait for a carriage to pick her up. First, she had spent her time shouting at him for being irresponsible to not have one ready for her. And when the carriage had finally pulled up in front of their mansion, she had taken her anger out on the poor young carriage driver. Consequently, and unbeknown to her, the Duke had felt it his duty to provide a few extra shillings to the driver for having to have put up with his wife’s outburst. “I assure you, the carriage will be outside and waiting by the time you are ready.”