Ugly Duckling Debutante(5)

By: Rachel Van Dyken

No, he would be like the disciples. He would stay single and donate his money to charity whenever possible. Controlling his impulses was never his strong suit, but in the past year he found it easier and easier if he just stayed away from the more tempting of the female sex. They were, after all, extremely frivolous. Were the debutante balls not mere examples of the idiocy of the ton? Families spent fortunes in the name of their daughters’ debuts, hoping to find them a good match. Many of them aimed for viscounts, earls, and even dukes, though the last were extremely hard to come by these days. Most dukes were overweight, over-brandied versions of Nicholas’ own grandfather and not the marriageable type. It didn’t stop the mothers from pursuing the match, though it should have. They still threw their young girls at men twice their ages for a title. The whole thing made him ill. He may have a reputation, but at least he didn’t marry for money. Not that he needed it.

The Earl of Renwick had enough money to support more than one wife and a mistress, even if they all had children and houses of their own. He had a thriving mercantile business as well as old money that, thanks to his ancestors, continued to double and triple with the years. It seemed the more money he gave away to charity, the more money he had. It was an endless pursuit. At one point, he thought to bankrupt himself just so he could be free of the sins of his youth, not that it was all that long ago.

He sighed and walked to the edge of the dance floor. Sir Belverd was waiting for him with a smirk on his face.

“How old was that one?”

Lord Renwick held back a smile. “Oh, I believe this is her first season. She can’t be more than one and seven.”

Sir Belverd took a sip of champagne. “It seems they just keep getting younger and younger.”

“Or we keep getting older,” Nicholas finished.

Belverd chuckled. “Yes. Well, my friend, at least some of us have a mind to settle down. What are you now? Almost past your thirtieth year and you still have no wife or children?”

Nicholas hated this type of conversation. He knew Belverd meant well; after all, Belverd had married the most chaste and wonderful woman in the entire ton. Men with his luck had natural bragging rights.

“Marriage isn’t for me,” he answered, putting his own champagne down. It had suddenly gone dry in his mouth. He knew he was lying to himself saying marriage wasn’t for him, but he just couldn’t see a way where lust and love met in the middle. If he ever did marry, he would want her to be innocent enough to not push him past his physical limitations, and sweet enough to be a good mother. It was a nearly impossible find, considering his present company. Plus, any good Christian woman would be disgusted by his past. He didn’t deserve anyone good and didn’t desire to marry anyone as blemished as he.

Belverd obviously didn’t take that as an adequate answer and went on talking. “Renwick, one of these days, you’re going to find someone who turns that brooding head of yours, and when it happens, I’ll be standing right where I am now, relatively,” he waved his flippantly into the air, “and laughing. Yes, the day I see you fall to some poor woman’s feet, I will throw a ball in your honor.”

Nicholas lifted an eyebrow. “Big words and promises from a man such as yourself.”

“How about a wager then?” Belverd turned toward him with a devious look in his eyes. A head taller than most men, he had silver streaks running through his otherwise jet-black hair. His eyes were a grayish blue, giving him an intimidating yet calculating presence.

Intrigued. Nicholas raised an eyebrow and turned to full face Belverd. “What sort of wager, Friend?”

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