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Forbidden to Love the Duke(101)

By:Jillian Hunter

“You might have been too obvious.”

“So in your opinion, wearing a curly black wig, tinting my skin, and telling omens are subtle ways to draw his attention?”

“You will not be yourself. You shall be a fortune-teller who slips Emily’s name into his thoughts as his future beloved. As soon as you’re finished, you will disappear, remove your disguise, and become Emily again. And this time when he sees you, everything will be different. He won’t know why he never noticed you before. He’ll wonder how he could ever have missed such a charming—”

Mr. Prickett’s voice startled her back into her role. “Where am I to meet this lady?” he asked, apparently unaware that his plans for a lustful evening were of no concern to the fortune-teller.

Her brother bumped up against the tent in subtle warning. Michael was invigorated by his Romany blood, which came from the secret affair their mother had carried on a month before she married Emily’s father, the man who had once believed himself to be Michael’s sire as well. When the young baroness was dying, she had revealed the truth, cleansing her conscience and breaking the baron’s heart by forcing him to realize he had been cuckolded, that his only son and heir was not his own.

Mr. Prickett’s voice jarred her again. “What else do you see for me and this woman?”

“Separation. Woe. Perhaps even a lawsuit.”

He frowned. “Why don’t you give the cards a try?”

“The reading is over,” she said. “I have lost contact with the other side.”

“What other side?” he demanded with a doubtful look.

The other side of the tent. Or the side of me that claims some link to sanity. He can take his pick. “Go,” she said, rising from the noisy chair. “Unstable elements are interfering with my ability to read or influence the future.”



He started to protest until a cloaked lady entered, forcing him to either make a scene or an exit. Fortunately he chose to leave. The lady who hurried into the tent perched herself on the stool in front of Emily’s table. “Well?” she asked, biting her lip as she swung her cloak up from the straw. “Is our little fortune-teller ready to meet her fate?”

Emily stared across the table at Lucy’s cheerful face. “Is Camden still outside?” she whispered.

“He certainly is.”

“How does he look?”

“No different than usual. Well, are you going to read my cards?”

“Not again. We spent all last night reading them, and Michael has given me so many details about the deck that I’m afraid I don’t remember what all the inverted positions mean.”

“Make them up. None of us at the party know. There’s only one person who matters. Read the future in my palm.” She held out her hand. “Practice for your next customer.”

“I can predict your future if, against all odds, I manage to convince Camden that he and I belong together. You will be a bridesmaid at our wedding.”

“How lovely!”

“But if by any chance he recognizes me, you and I will be found out and sent to our aunts for discipline. We shall spend the next season in disgrace.”

A pleasant male voice called from the line outside the tent’s entrance. “Are you almost done in there? The band is tuning up in the ballroom, and champagne is being served. We don’t want to miss the dance.”

“That’s him,” Lucy said, as if Emily would not recognize the voice that haunted her dreams on a nightly basis. “The seventh in line. I’ll slip out the back and listen. Or do you prefer privacy? I wouldn’t want to inhibit your performance.”

“Privacy? You must be joking. Michael has his ear to the tent in the event that I make an utter fool of myself and need his intervention. You might as well return to the party before your father finds out what we’ve done.”

“Don’t worry about him. He’s too busy entertaining—”

A commotion of raised male voices, one of them Camden’s, diverted Lucy’s and Emily’s attention. It sounded as if he and another man were exchanging words. But Camden never quarreled with anyone. His even temper was one of the qualities Emily adored.

“Are they arguing?” Lucy whispered, her eyes wide with disbelief.

“Hush. I think so.”

“Well,” Camden said, more placating than combative, “I have been standing in line a dashed long time, sir, but if you are in a hurry, I suppose I—”

Emily could not make out what else Camden said. A deeper voice responded, and there followed a shuffling of feet and silence.