Duke of Pleasure(8)

By: Elizabeth Hoyt

“Sir.” The door opened and closed.

Outside, a slim figure trotted down the path between the house and the gate that led to the mews. For a moment Hugh stilled before he realized it was the bootblack boy who worked in the kitchens. He felt his upper lip curl at his own folly. The Ghost of St Giles would hardly be haunting his garden, would she?

He let the curtain fall and strode out of his bedroom.

Katherine had named this town house Kyle House. He’d always thought the name pompous, but she’d insisted on it. She’d said it was the name of a great house—a dynastic house. He’d been newly married and still besotted with her when he’d bought the place, so he’d acquiesced, and the name had stood even as their marriage had fallen.

There was a moral there somewhere. Perhaps to not name houses. Or, more probably, to never let passion for a woman sweep away reason, self-preservation, and sense, for that way led to devastation.

Of nearly everything that he’d held dear and that had made him a man.

He passed two maids carrying coal buckets and shovels in the corridor and nodded absently as they curtsied. Made the stairs and took them two at a time to the third floor. It was quiet here. He prowled down the hall past the nursemaids’ rooms and opened the door to the bedroom his sons shared.

It was a pretty room. Light and airy. Katherine had been a good mother. He remembered her planning this room. Planning the upper floors when she’d been big with Kit and all had seemed wonderful and new and possible. Before the shouted arguments and her hysterical tears, the disillusionment, and the stunned realization that he’d made a monstrous and permanent mistake.

And that he couldn’t trust his own judgment.

Because he’d truly believed himself in love with Katherine. What else could he have called the wild, joyous ecstasy of pursuing her? The complete visceral satisfaction of making her his wife?

Yet barely three years after he’d wed her, all that grand passion had turned to ashes and bitter hatred.

Oh, what a beautiful, fickle thing was love. Rather like Katherine herself, in fact.

Hugh sighed and went into the boys’ bedroom.

There were two railed beds, but only one was occupied.

Just turned five years old, Peter was still prone to nightmares. Hugh wasn’t sure if his son had experienced them before Katherine’s death, but now the boy had them several times a week. He lay curled against his elder brother, red face pressed into his side, blond hair tufted under Kit’s arm. Kit was sprawled on his back, openmouthed, his black curly hair flattened sweatily against his temples.

If last night’s assassins had succeeded, his boys would be orphans now. He shook off the thought with a shudder, and his mind turned to the Lords of Chaos. They were a terrible secret club that met irregularly to revel in the worst sort of debauchery. Once a man joined he was committed to the Lords for life. Most members didn’t know the other members, but if one Lord revealed himself to another, the second Lord was bound to help the first man in any way possible. Hugh had reason to believe that the Lords of Chaos had infiltrated the government, the church, the army, and the navy.

Which was why the King wanted them stopped.

When Hugh had begun his investigation into the Lords, he’d been given four names by the Duke of Montgomery:

William Baines, Baron Chase

David Howzell, Viscount Dowling

Sir Aaron Crewe

Daniel Kendrick, the Earl of Exley

Four men who were aristocrats and members of the secret society. In the two months since, he’d quietly looked into the four men, attempting to discover how the Lords were organized, who the leaders were, and when they met and where.

He’d found out none of these things.


Why then would they try to assassinate him? It seemed far more likely that tonight’s attack had been the result of political intrigue on the Continent. Wars abroad, rather than a vile secret society that preyed upon the most innocent of victims here in England.