The Duchess Contract Read Online Samantha Hastings

Categories Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance Tags Authors:

Total pages in book: 23
Estimated words: 21376 (not accurate)
Estimated Reading Time in minutes: 107(@200wpm)___ 86(@250wpm)___ 71(@300wpm)

Miss Selina Stubbs signs the contract of her life with her father—her perfumes in every major shop in London, in exchange for marrying the reluctant son of the Duke of Hampford.

Lord Theophilus, the courtesy Marquess of Cheswick, has no desire to wed the daughter of a London merchant. He wishes to go to Africa and study the animals there. But his father, the Duke of Hampford, desperately needs her dowry.
After the wedding, Selina gets to know Theophilus and learns of his care for wounded animals. Together they plan a daring rescue of a lion from the Tower of London. Selina decides to make a new bargain…this time for love.


Chapter 1

London, England 1784

Selina took a spoon and gently stirred her newest scent. Leaning over the glass beaker, she inhaled: linden, conifer, and vetiver. It was the sort of perfume that a man or a woman could wear; being neither too sweet, nor too masculine. This was the perfect scent to start her own line of perfume. She stuck in a cork for the lid and picked up her bottle of perfumer’s alcohol, ethanol. She still needed to dilute the rest of the linden oil so that it would have a balanced fragrance. Rushing around her wooden work table, Selina tripped on her skirts and fell. The glass bottle shattered on the floor and the sharp, sterile smell of denatured ethanol soaked through her apron into her bodice and skirt.

Standing up carefully so as to not get cut on the glass, Selina looked down at her soggy apron and splattered new dress. One of her hands was bleeding slightly. She peeled off the apron and realized that the maroon frock was ruined. Her father would be furious. He’d given her the dress only yesterday and insisted she wear it today to meet a new business acquaintance of his. Dabbing her hand with a cloth, she tried to stop the bleeding. She couldn’t ruin a second gown with bloodstains.

Her father had never let her participate in any trade matters before and she would hate to lose her first opportunity. She was determined to start her own factory and distribute her perfumes throughout England, Europe, and then the world (in that order).

“Mr. Stubbs has requested your presence immediately,” her stepmother said loudly, entering Selina’s workshop. Her father’s second wife was the daughter of a vicar and usually a pattern-card of perfection. But her stepmother was clearly flustered, her long, narrow face a shiny red, and several black curls had escaped her white cap. She was only a decade older than her stepdaughter, but she insisted on being called Stepmother or Mrs. Stubbs.

Selina dropped the cloth she was holding. “I must change my dress first.”

Her stepmother grabbed Selina’s wrist and pulled her to the door. “I’m sorry, Selina, but your father is in a rare taking and he wants you to come immediately.”

“La! I’m a right mess.”

Mrs. Stubbs’ tutted her tongue and continued to drag her down the hall. “That you are, young lady, but there’s naught that we can do about that now.”

Her stepmother opened the door to her father’s office and pushed her inside.

Selina blinked.

Her father was not alone. Two other men stood on the other side of the room. One was older, a frail man with a large gray wig and a sickly yellow countenance inadequately concealed by his white powder. His butter-yellow suit was a work of art; each inch of it was embroidered in a rainbow of threads. And he wore more lace than a lady around his throat and cuffs. Bowing to her with a courtly sweep of the leg, he gave her a slight smile.

The man standing next to him could not have been more different. He was nearly a head taller and his whole person radiated strength and virility. His shoulders were broad and his hips were lean, leading to muscular thighs that his knee breeches showed to admiration. For a moment, she wondered if his stockings were stuffed with padding to make his legs look that way. But when they tensed, she was certain that it was only his flesh.

Selina’s gaze made its way back up to his head. The clothing he wore was a delicately embroidered pale blue which announced to the world his status as an aristocrat. He wore no lace, but only a simpleton would not recognize the expensive weave of his shirt and waistcoat. His blonde hair was not powdered, but pulled into a ponytail at the back of his head. Happily, he wore no wig, nor any hair pieces and adornments that were so popular with stylish gentlemen. Lastly, she looked at his face. He wore no cosmetics nor powders. His countenance might have been handsome if he smiled. It certainly was not when he frowned at her. His surprisingly dark eyelashes curved down in consternation over blue eyes and a nose that was slightly crooked. His lips were pale and slim, making a grim line. He gave her a curt bow.