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Forbidden to Love the Duke(100)

By:Jillian Hunter

He nodded. “I suppose I can wait a little bit longer. After all, you waited long enough for me.”

“I’ll make it worth your while.”

He offered her a scandalous smile that she trusted no one else had noticed. “And I shall hold you to your promise.”

Read on for an excerpt from Jillian Hunter’s

The Countess Confessions

Available now from Signet Select



The fortune-teller’s tent was the talk of the party. It stood beyond the reach of the light shed by lanterns that twinkled in the trees. Even the footmen positioned in the garden wondered whether it had been pitched illegally or was there to entertain the guests. Judging by the chattering young ladies and gentlemen lined up on the footbridge to the dark hollow where the gypsy fortune-teller had encamped, no one cared why she’d appeared. Upon her arrival she had allegedly announced she would give readings tonight that pertained only to romance.

Few of the well-heeled guests would have found the courage to approach her if she hadn’t come to the party.

“What an enchanting surprise. Lord Fletcher’s wife or daughter must have talked him into hiring her. She’s reading for free, I heard.”

“Well, I hope she doesn’t run out of inspiration before my turn.”

Inspiration? It was patience the fortune-teller needed. So far Miss Emily Rowland had predicted only happy outcomes for the lovelorn, and those had exhausted her talent for deception. Each snippet of excited chatter that reached her ear only made her heart sink lower. She was doing all of this in the pursuit of love, to predict romance for one particular guest at tonight’s ball, although as the evening progressed, it seemed more likely this scheme would bring about her ruination.

She sat up in her squeaky cane-backed chair, cringing as the tiny bottle that sat on the table wobbled precariously to one side. Emily had no idea what substance the green glass contained. She had borrowed it from her brother, Michael, to use for atmosphere after overhearing one of his Rom friends whisper to him over the garden wall, “Use this when all else fails.”

Emily didn’t believe in magic. She doubted she’d have the courage to sprinkle it on her heart’s desire when he appeared. She couldn’t imagine what the results would be if she dared. When the time came, she suspected she wouldn’t have the nerve to use the potion, whether or not it was imbued with any power, on the gentleman she hoped would offer her a marriage proposal.

“Are you ready for me?” a man asked at the door.

“Yes. Enter.” And be quick about it, she thought as she moved her wobbly bottle to a safer position on the table, away from the flickering oil lamp, about which her brother had said, “For the love of heaven, Emily, whatever you do, don’t let the light fall to the straw.”

The fifth person to seek her services happened to be a cad whom Emily disliked too much to hide it. He whipped his horse to show off, treated his servants like lumps of dirt, and was staring with vulgar fascination down Emily’s bodice while she feigned interest in the palm of his hand.

“I fear, Mr. Prickett, that your palm reveals a short life line.” She drew her hand away from his and slid back into her creaking chair.

“Nonsense,” he said in an indolent voice. “Longevity runs in the family. Give me the name of the next lady fortunate enough to share my bed.”


“I beg your pardon.” His face portrayed the conceit of a man who refused to believe he had been dealt an insult. “Did you say, ‘Miss Todd’? I don’t believe I know anyone by that name. Is she here tonight? A lady I’ve yet to meet?”

“How should I—”

A loud cough from behind the tent reminded Emily that a fortune-teller told her clients what they wanted to hear, not the truth. But honestly, what did she know of palm reading and French tarot cards?

She could not have been in her right mind when she had allowed her friend Lucy, Lord Fletcher’s daughter, to talk her into this strategy. Once Emily had seized upon the idea, she had turned to her half brother to employ his help. She should have listened to Michael’s warnings instead of letting Lucy’s enthusiasm for matchmaking erode her judgment.

“You are desperate, Emily,” Lucy had untactfully reminded her.

“I am desperately in love, yes.”

“With a gentleman who does not realize you exist,” Lucy said, her bluntness meant to motivate Emily before she became officially known in Hatherwood as an eccentric spinster.

“Perhaps it’s for the best,” Emily had suggested. “He notices other ladies. I’ve tried to make him notice me. I’ve done everything but turn cartwheels on the cricket field when he plays. I’ve dropped my reticule on his foot. I’ve bumped into him twice in the churchyard. And all he ever does is apologize and go on his merry way.”