Waltzing with the Wallflower

Waltzing with the Wallflower (Waltzing with the Wallflower #1)

Rachel Van Dyken & Leah Sanders

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 feel. 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.

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