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Monday Puzzler > Monday Puzzler March 26, 2018 - A different perspective

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message 1: by Irisheyes (new)

Irisheyes | 893 comments Heroine stilled and then blew out a long breath. She looked away from him and gazed out over the expanse of the sea. “Do you know why I bring them out here?”

Hero remained silent.

“To take them out of their element and put them in mine.” She ran her fingers lightly along the top of the stone fence.

“I’m not sure I understand.”

She laughed softly, still looking out over the glittering expanse of water. “You, Your Grace, should understand more than anyone, I should think. Your worth in society is measured by your title. Yet I would argue that your true merit as an individual should come not from where and to whom you were born, but from what you did with the time between then and now.”

Heroine fell silent, and Hero simply watched the play of emotion that creased her forehead and brought a pensive aura to her being. Something strange was pulsing through him, a reckless feeling of acknowledgment that this woman saw him. Saw the very thing that drove him and haunted him at the same time.

She finally looked back at him, her eyes searching his. “In this class I have girls who call dukes and earls family. I have girls who are daughters of bankers and miners and factory owners, one of whom isn’t even English.” Her beautiful lips twisted. “You tell me how this group of women would be encouraged to interact in a society ballroom.”

He knew the answer because he had lived it. He had recovered his father’s fortune and then desperately tried to repair his family’s good name within the ranks of society. The debacle that had led him to dare Heroine to dance had been part of that desperation. But it had been damn near impossible until the title of “his title” had unexpectedly fallen onto his shoulders.

“They wouldn’t.” She was right. He did know that better than anyone.

Heroine inclined her head and seemed to be choosing her words carefully. “For the duration of my program, I wish my students to have the chance to be recognized for their own merit. Not an accident of birth or the ledger totals at the bottom of their family’s quarterly earnings statement. Not the type of lace used to trim their ball gown or the appearance of their hair. Not the label that society gives them because they come with a preconceived, baseless checklist of traits that has been ruled either acceptable or unacceptable.”

Hero stared at her. It sounded ridiculous. Preposterous, even, because that simply wasn’t how the world worked. Yet he had never, in all his years, seen his sister as carefree and as joyous as she had been sitting in a field of wildflowers.

Nor had he ever seen Heroine as unguarded as she had been. As she was now.

And he realized that it was because she had lived it too. She had been allowed to exist along the fringes of society just like him, tolerated but not welcomed. But unlike him, she had not inherited a duchy.

“Is that what you wanted? To be measured by your merit?”

She gave him a long look. “Don’t you?”

“I know who I am. And I care very little for the opinions of others.”

She made a noise in her throat. “Spoken like a man and a duke.”

Hero scowled. “That’s not fair.”

Heroine didn’t look away from him. “It isn’t, is it?” she asked, and now there was an edge to her words.

Hero tapped his fingers on the top of the stone. “Are you trying to be obtuse on purpose?”

“Not at all. I’m trying to make you consider, just for a moment, what it might be like to not be a duke, or even a man, in a world that gives precedence and value to both of those things over all else. Consider what it’s like to navigate—” Heroine stopped suddenly and clamped her lips together.

The reckless passion and heat that had been in her voice were making it impossible for him to look away. This was the Heroine he had never forgotten.

“My apologies, Your Grace,” she said, looking down. “This is not at all a suitable conversation for—”

“Stop apologizing.” He reached out and tipped her chin up, forcing her eyes back to his. It was hard to read what was in those liquid brown depths, but he wasn’t going to let her retreat behind the composure she wore like a cloak.

He felt her breath on his wrist as she exhaled. Very slowly she reached up and drew his hand away from her face, though he didn’t let her withdraw her fingers from his. Her hand stayed trapped in his, hidden by her skirts. He had let her go once before, and he wasn’t ready to let her go again.

She was shaking her head. “Your Grace—”

“Pretend I am not a duke,” he said impulsively. “Pretend, just for a moment, that I am a young idiot again, who needs at least part of the world explained to him.”

“You were never an idiot,” she said, with a weak smile.

“Debatable.” His fingers tightened on hers, and she made no move to withdraw her hand.

“Well, you were the only man who ever asked me to dance who wasn’t doing it as a favor to my father.” She said it wryly.

“Then I would suggest that proves I’m a bloody genius, and the rest of the lot are all bottleheads.” He kept his words light even as an intense, possessive anger rose on her behalf.

She sniffed, though it sounded a little like a chuckle.

“Please finish your thoughts, Heroine.”

She drew in another deep breath and let it out slowly. “Very well. I was going to ask you to consider what it’s like to navigate your world in my shoes. Or, more importantly, in those of your sister.”

Hero remained silent, waiting for her to continue.

“As the sister to a duke, she must be gracious and beautiful, though not so much that she might inspire envy or jealousy. She should be firm, decisive, and capable, but only in those areas that you or her future husband allow her to be. She should not show an unattractive interest in subjects that have been deemed unladylike or beyond her comprehension. Which isn’t to say she shouldn’t be intelligent. Just so long as she doesn’t accidentally prove her intellect superior to that of the gentleman seated on her right at the dinner table.”

Hero could feel his nostrils flare.

“Ah. You’re angry.”

“I’m not.”

“You’re crushing my fingers.”

He relaxed his grip. “Sorry.”

“None of what I said was meant as a criticism of you, Your Grace.”

“It sounded like it.”

Heroine sighed, sounding defeated. “That was not my intention.” She turned away from him slightly in the direction of the house. “I should get back to my students.”

“Not yet.” Hero didn’t relinquish his grip on her hand. “What was?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Your intention. What was it, if not to censure?”

“What is your greatest passion, Your Grace?” she asked suddenly.

“I beg your pardon?”

“What is it that gives you the most joy out of life? The thing that gets you out of bed every morning?”

Ownership. Acquisition. Building something from nothing. He knew he should probably say something flippant like cards or whiskey or snuff. “Business,” he hedged instead.

She considered him. “Are you good at it?”

The best. “Yes.”

“Now just for a moment, pretend your sister didn’t approve of what you did.” She pulled her fingers from his and stepped away. “And now, just for the moment, pretend she had the control and the power to stop you from doing what you loved.”

message 2: by Leigh-Ayn (new)

Leigh-Ayn | 1153 comments oooh!!! I know this one! Good choice Irish!

message 3: by Dls (new)

Dls | 2081 comments Mod
I agree!

message 4: by Dls (new)

Dls | 2081 comments Mod

Stacey is Sassy (staceyissassy) | 1254 comments Looks good. Don't think I've read it. :-)

message 6: by Nicole (new)

Nicole (nikanne) | 222 comments It sounds like a book I've looked at recently but I have not read it. Looking forward to the reveal.

message 7: by Janga (new)

Janga | 1070 comments Mod
I just read this one.

message 8: by Susan (new)

Susan (susaninaz) | 1004 comments Never read it. I can't wait for the title!

message 9: by Susan (new)

Susan (shaydock) | 671 comments Nice excerpt, never read but the style and themes seem familiar. Will welcome the reveal.👍🏻

message 10: by Irisheyes (last edited Mar 27, 2018 07:58PM) (new)

Irisheyes | 893 comments I thought quite a few of you would guess this one because it's a recent release but I couldn't pass it up. I love this passage! It's from Kelly Bowen's latest release, A Duke in the Night.

message 11: by Leigh-Ayn (new)

Leigh-Ayn | 1153 comments Such a good choice!!! I have a passage saved for a puzzler too! Will keep it for a puzzler in 10 years time now hahahah

message 12: by Susan (new)

Susan (shaydock) | 671 comments I will read thanks

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