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Moonlight Kiss By Angelsss(historical Romance) by Angelsssss(f): 2:08am On May 04
CHAPTER ONE
ALDRICH POV


The Duke’s castle was covered in snow; flakes rained down on the massive structure mercilessly. Another winter had come, and this one would be the longest. It felt like the longest. Aldrich Clairborne had just lost his father and the responsibility of the Wandsworth Dukedom had been tossed upon his shoulder. Being a Duke wasn’t a duty to Aldrich; it was a burden, a great one. He had never thought such responsibility would be thrust on him at such an age when men were still finding their path in life.
He was just a score and nine in age. He was tall and lean with a sturdy body; but his looks betrayed those that chose him for the position. He wasn’t ready. He had never been. He had always depended on his father for everything. Ander Clairborne was the best father that any son could ever ask for. Aldrich was the first and only son of the late Duke; so his father had showered all his love upon him. Ander had been a very patient man; patient with his household, patient with the inhabitants of Wandsworth. He was greatly loved by all, even in the neighbouring lands. He had been hardworking, purposeful and wise. All these attributes, he had passed them over to Aldrich. Just that, Aldrich wasn’t ready to make use of them. He’d rather sulk and spend his nights at the gaming house than take hold of the Dukedom.
Since the demise of his father, he’d changed. He’d gone from very bright and cheerful, to dark and reserved. And his behaviour got everyone in the castle every worried; especially his mother, the Duchess of Wandsworth.
His dark and bushy brows furrowed together as he caught a sight in the thick snow. A frown ate at his jaw. Aldrich drew closer to the window. A little lamb was lost, and it bleated for its mother. The sight of the helpless creature melted the hardness in him. He had to help it. He hated to see people and creatures alike, in such a dire situation.
Suddenly, a strong perfume danced into his nostrils and reigned over the atmosphere. Aldrich sensed that he wasn’t alone. He swirled round and found his cousin, Beauregard, glaring at him. Aldrich chose to ignore him. He had given his guards strict orders not to be disturbed by anyone, including his mother. Aldrich’s fingers curled around the hilt of his sword as he made for the door.
“You don’t look happy to see me, cousin.” Beauregard gritted his teeth. He sensed Aldrich’s discomfort, the moment he had walked into the hall.
“I gave strict orders to be left alone.” Aldrich ignored him and continued towards the door. He and Beauregard had been friends since childhood. Beauregard’s father was Ander’s older brother; but he and his wife had died from the pox plague, leaving him a young orphan. Beauregard had grown up within this castle with Aldrich. They were more than friends, they were brothers.
“How long would you grief over your father? He would have wanted you to move on and be happy!” Beau snapped at his cousin.
Days had turned to weeks, and weeks to months. When would Aldrich rise up to the responsibility before him?
“As long as I like, he was my father. I loved him and he loved me. This is what you and others don’t understand,” Ander mumbled.
Beau shrugged, “if you don’t rise to your responsibility to Wandsworth, you could be taken out. We both know that your position is enviable. You have the largest barn and Wine-keep. You are the wealthiest and youngest Duke. Don’t you think some people would want to amass all you have worked for?”
Aldrich pulled in a deep breath. His cousin was a very ambitious man, but he wasn’t that way.
“They are free to take the position from me. I want nothing but my liberation.”
“Your liberation?” Beau scoffed. He knew his cousin was into a vice that was not befitting of nobility. He had paid some guards to follow the Duke, while he was out at night. It was shameful, really, that Aldrich would do something like that.
Aldrich’s heart skipped. He didn’t like the tone of his cousin’s voice. Did Beau know something? Well, at this point, he didn’t care. All he wanted was maximum time to grief his father and enjoy the delights that his secret brought.
“Let us not argue about my position. If anything happens to me, our family can still stand. I must leave now. I have work to do.” Aldrich pulled open the tall door and rushed into the dark hallway. He would step into the snow; he would rescue the poor little lamb.
Beauregard’s heart broke into a wild dance. If anything happened to Aldrich, he would be next in line for the throne. This was a prospect he had always considered since they were young. He had always wished to be Aldrich, but fate and life had robbed him of opportunity. Maybe, he was destined to rule Wandsworth after all.
Maybe if he worked for his ascension, that he could take his cousin’s place. He was about leaving the hall when a serving girl scurried in. She curtsied and bowed her head.
“The Duchess would like to see you in her chambers.”
“Alright,” Beau nodded, wondering why Aldrich’s mother would want to see him.
He cast one look at the throne which lay the centre of the room before strolling out. He hoped to sit upon it, one day.
“One day,” he whispered.

Outside the castle was frigging cold. Snowflakes pelted on his black robe, but he wasn’t deterred by the discomfort that he felt. Aldrich was determined to save the little lamb. He was able to get to the animal on time.
“There you are, I came to save you.” The lamb stopped bleating and peered at the human. With his strong hands, he grabbed the lamb from the mass of snow that covered it. Aldrich gently cleaned the remnants of ice from its fur. Now that he had rescued it, he had to find the owner.
“What do I do with you now?” A smile brightened his dark blue eyes as he glared at the lamb.
It wasn’t long before he heard the sound of running. When he turned around, he found a little girl, about the age of ten. The curls of her hair were wild and stubborn. And she had freckles over her face. She was a common girl. The smile on her face was priceless.
“Is he yours?” Aldrich smiled.
“Yes! Yes! You helped me.” The little girl was hesitant to go near the stranger.
“What is your name pretty one?” Aldrich advanced towards her.
“Yvettes,” she replied.
“Well here is your lamb Yvettes. Do not let is stray again.” Aldrich handed over the animal. She collected it happily and thanked him for his help.
Yvettes was about leaving, when he called her back. He dipped a thickly gloved hand into his pocket and pulled out a pouch. It was full of gold coins.
“Here, buy yourself a nice coat for the winter.”
The girl’s eyes radiated surprise, but it faded quickly. Her mouth flew wide open as she noticed the castle behind them.
“You are the Duke! I have seen the Duke!”
Aldrich watched the child in amazement. She wasn’t of noble blood, but she seemed so happy with her life. He wanted this joy back in his life.
“Yes I am.”

***
THE DUCHESS OF WANDSWORTH
Elena Clairborne stared in shock as her son trudged into the snow. Her heart leapt in fear as she imagined that his deep sorrow had made him lose his mind. How could a Duke do something like that? She hadn’t recovered from her shock, when she noticed his exchange with the little red haired girl. Elena pulled the curtains and sank into a cushion chair next to her window.
Since the death of her husband, she had noticed a lot of changes in Aldrich; negative changes. He had withdrawn into a shell. He was no longer her sweet son, who shared all his problems with her. He’d built a wall and locked himself in. Aldrich still grieved for his father, this she knew. The death of Ander had come hard on everyone; but she hadn’t expected Aldrich to be this soft, this weak.
“I have to do something,” she pressed a shaky hand against her chest.
She had noticed Aldrich’s absence from the palace for five nights, consecutively. Whenever she asked his guards where their Duke was, they had no answer for her. Aldrich was leading a secret life, and she had to be part of it. Did he have a paid mistress? Or did he have a love interest that he secretly met?
“Come right in, the door is open!” Elena bellowed.
She had sent for Beauregard who was like a second son to her. He was closest to the Duke, and would know all of Aldrich’s secret.
“My lady, you sent for me.” Beauregard bowed before her.
“Sit,” she pointed at a chair next to hers.
Beauregard was still in the dark about this sudden meeting. The Duchess had a worried look in her eyes, even the heavy adornment of her eyes couldn’t hide the pain. She was troubled. She was in sorrow.
“Your cousin has not been himself for a while now. I am starting to think that what my friends say is true.” She started.
“What do your friends say?” Beau raised a brow.
The Duchess had a circle of friends; rich women and of noble blood. The one she liked especially was the Marquees of Islington. Lydia Beldon was one of her best friends, and she had been particularly happy when Aldrich took the Dukedom after his father’s death.
“A young man needs a woman by his side. When he is troubled, she could look after his heart and guard his broken spirit.” Those were the exact words that the Marquees had spoken to her, and she would take it.
Beauregard scoffed, he couldn’t believe his ears.
“You want Aldrich to get a wife?”
“Yes, is there anything wrong with that?” Elena asked.
Now that she thought about it, she realized that her friend was right. All Aldrich needed to bounce back to his normal self was a fine woman of class and pedigree. Elena couldn’t wait to speak to Aldrich about it.
“Do you have a woman in mind? Or would you rather, Aldrich search for his bride?” Beau asked.
Elena ran her slender fingers through her mass of black hair. The only young woman that came into her mind was her friend’s daughter. They would make a perfect pair. Noble blood and noble blood, nothing could separate them.
“I think Ariana Beldon may be the woman for the Duke.” A devious smile danced on her lips.
Beauregard’s face paled. If his cousin got married, that would secure his position as the Duke forever. He couldn’t let this happen. He had to buy himself time.
“Aldrich is not ready for marriage.”
“You know this how?” Elena caressed her brows.
“The Duke has been absent from this castle for some reasons. I believe you had called me for this.”
Beauregard had an opportunity to dissuade the woman from finding her son, a worthy bride. He would expose Aldrich’s entire secret before his mother. This would distract them for some time.
“Is there something I should know?” Elena lifted a brow.
“My Lady, I do not mean to snitch or cause you heartbreak…”
“Is my son seeing women from the brothel? Does he have a paid mistress?” Elena thundered. Her voice rose with her breathing. She was shaken and afraid. She knew what that would mean. The last noble man to exhibit such irresponsibility was later stripped off his title. She didn’t want that for her son. She didn’t want a scandal on the Clairbone name.
Beauregard sucked in some air and clasped his hands together.
“You must never tell him that I told you about his secret deeds.”
The Duchess nodded in agreement, “Tell me now.”

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Re: Moonlight Kiss By Angelsss(historical Romance) by Angelsssss(f): 10:08pm On May 04
CHAPTER TWO
LUCY POV

Lucy had nothing doing in her brother’s empty castle, so she had decided to pay a visit to her friend, Ariana Beldon; the daughter of the Marquees of Islington. Lucy couldn’t stand the pain of watching her brother drown himself in liquor. Elan was a failing Baron, and he had lost a lot of money while gambling at a game house. It wasn’t a secret in the Barony of Ox-dale, that her brother was losing his wealth on a daily basis.
Their father had left them a lot of money, but Elan had hoarded it all. He was a ruthless spender, and wasted their fortune on unfruitful ventures. If he wasn’t whoring, he was at a gaming house. The Baron only returned to the castle whenever he was sober. And it was in his moments of grief and remorse, that Elan would write the finest of poems. Yes, the Baron’s artistic side was well known. If not for anything, it was his mastery at poetry that still earned him some respect in the society.
“You do not want to stay with me,” Elan groaned.
“You are not a child, Elan!” Lucy gritted her teeth and gathered her skirts. She missed her best friend, and she couldn’t wait to reach Islington.
“I am not a failure! I will rise again, and this Baron house will rise with me.” Elan poured more wine into his glass.
Lucy’s eyes welled up with tears. She wished her parents, especially her mother was still alive. Maybe, she would’ve talked some sense into her brother’s head. Elan was older than she was, but he never acted it. She was the one that ran the Barony in his absence. Sometimes, he would take a trip to France with his paid companions. Elan never ceased to amaze her. In his drunkenness, he had almost injured her some weeks back.
“You are not a failure brother, but your actions contradict your words.” She quickly moved away from him.
Elan sipped from his glass and glared at his younger sister. Lucy had grown into a very beautiful woman. She always reminded him of her.
“Where are you going?” He asked.
“To see a friend,” she answered.
“Be careful out there sister, you know how much I care.”
Lucy sighed, she was touched by his kind words.
“I want to see Ariana, the Marquees daughter. You know her, she is my friend.”
At the mention of the Marquees of Islington, Elan scoffed. He tossed the glass that contained rum, and fetched another with water. He had a game to play later tonight, he had to do it sober. He stood a chance of winning a great fortune from one of his old friends who was a Duke.
On such gaming nights, matters of society were discussed. Currently, Lydia Beldon, Marquees of Islington was an interesting topic. It was rumoured that she had killed her husband, Sebastian Beldon, so she could run his estates. Now, she was losing a lot of money, power and relevance in the society.
“You shouldn’t be in the company of losers.”
Lucy thought him drunk, “I must go now. We shall speak when you are better.”
“I am not drunk. The Marquees is fast fading. Don’t you think you should add richer and more influential friends to your circle?”
His words infuriated her, “I wouldn’t think of hanging out with the people you ask of me. You stole my fortune, and you gambled it away. I could never trust you.”
Before Elan could utter another word, Lucy strolled out of the dining hall angrily. Her brother was unrepentant. She had to find a way to save her fortune, before it was too late.
Out in the snow, a carriage awaited her. Lucy climbed in hurriedly and gave the man instructions.
“Islington,” she coughed.
As the carriage proceeded, Lucy pondered on her brother’s words. The last time she met with Ariana, she seemed to do very well. If the Marquees was broke as Elan suggested, then her friend was in trouble. Unlike her, Ariana was used to living in luxury, but her brother had made sure he had curtailed her spending. Lucy didn’t dress like the noble woman that she was. Her dresses weren’t sophisticated. They were simple. It was only in name, that one would know she was nobility.
The old man that rode the carriage had lived with them in the castle since they were little. His name was George. He had noticed Lucy’s sad face as she stepped into the carriage. He couldn’t help but ask.
“Are you alright Milady?”
Lucy shrugged, George’s deep baritone had broken the silence of the ride.
“We both know that I am not.”
Of course the old man knew what her problem was. He just needed to show concern.
“There could be hope for the Baron after all. You should be patient with him. With time, he will act in the way he is supposed to.”
Lucy sniggered, “Time is of the essence. It waits for no man. Soon, our debtors would override the castle and we would be left with nothing!”
“Your brother is a fine poet. He has earned the respect of the high class. No one would dare do something like that.”
The old man paused and pulled out a dirty brown paper from his pocket. He slipped it into an opening in the carriage, and Lucy grabbed it. She ran her eyes over the words on the paper. It came as a shock to her.
“Elan never told me!”
The Baron’s name was inscribed in bold letters. Her brother was organizing the biggest poetry show. The literate and wealthy would attend. Poetry was a thing of class, and the Baron had mastered it.
“The posters are everywhere. Maybe he wanted to tell you, maybe you were too busy to listen to him. You should go. His poems make everyone happy.”
Lucy chuckled at that. She loved her brother very much, but he was a tough person.
“I may go,” she shrugged. Lucy couldn’t wait to tell Ariana all about it. It had been a long time since the friends went out. She couldn’t wait to see her friend again.
“You should go. He is your brother, no matter what.” The old man advised.
Lucy sighed, “Yes, she is.”
She seldom thought ab0ut their mother, but anytime Elan misbehaved, she remembered the woman. Lucy had been very little when her mother had died. She had carried this pain with her as she grew up. She wished Elan could understand what she passed through, every time he did something untoward. Tears stung her eyes as her mother’s face flashed in her mind.
She quickly wiped a tear that threatened to spill on her cheek. She couldn’t cry now. She had to be strong for herself, and for Elan.

It wasn’t long before they reached Islington. Lucy alighted from the carriage and waved George goodbye. She would be spending a lot of time with her friend.
The guards by the entrance recognized her. They mumbled greetings as she ascended the stairs, towards the main door.
“Thank you,” she nodded and flashed each guard a smile.
Ariana had been expecting her. So, Lucy wasn’t surprised when a pair of slender hands pulled her in for a hug, the moment she’d stepped into the house.
“Come here, you…”
Ariana was thrilled to meet her friend again. She had a lot of things to share, but there had not been anyone for her. With Lucy around, she felt safe. She would tell Lucy everything that had happened in her absence.
“You look splendid in that dress.” Ariana ran her brown eyes over Lucy’s peachy dress.
The dress clung to her slim belly, and a healthy portion of her bosoms were bare. The golden hat matched with her golden eyes. Ariana had always thought Lucy, prettier than her. It was confirmed in this appearance.
“You flatter me. You are the beautiful one.” Lucy smiled.
Ariana was taller than she was. She had a neck like a swan’s; long, slim and glorious. Her eyes were firestones, piercing the heart of any man who dared to look. Her lips were small but sparkling red. She didn’t need any adornment. The Marquees daughter was one of the most beautiful girl in Islington and all the men of noble class wanted her.
“Enough! I missed you Lucy Wesley.” Ariana hugged her friend very tightly.
“I missed you too.” Lucy dropped a chaste peck on Ariana’s right cheek.
“Come now, there is something I must tell you.” Ariana grabbed her hand and led her towards the chamber where she stayed.
“Do you have a suitor?”
“Did you go with your mother to see the King?”
Ariana’s laugher travelled through the castlette.
“You have a way with words. I wonder why you aren’t into poetry.”
“Speaking of poetry, Elan organized a show. We should go. We haven’t stepped out in a long while. I think people missed seeing the attractive pair.” Lucy winked.
Ariana liked the sound of that.
“Thankfully, I have some new dresses and ribbons. We would show them off to Charlotte and Margerette.”
Lucy rolled her eyes. The twins, Charlotte and Margerette were the children of a powerful Earl to the south. They were snobbish. They refused to mingle with the other ladies of their age range.
“I do not care about those pampered brats. They are not worthy of our attention,” Lucy returned.
Soon, they were within Ariana’s chambers. As usual, the massive bed was well dressed and the room was neatly arranged. Some serving girls were dusting the windows when the friends stepped in.
“You may all leave now. Come back later.” Ariana released them from their duty.
“I missed this,” Lucy hopped on the bed and guffawed.
“Same here,” Ariana joined her.
When the laughter had ceased, Ariana heaved a sigh. Her mother had spoken to her very harshly the other day. The Marquees wanted her daughter to prepare herself for marriage, to the Duke of Wandsworth. The truth was that, Ariana was in love with someone else; someone that her mother would never let her marry, but she didn’t care. She’d rather live all her days in this place than be with a man she did not love.
“Elan told me something about the Marquees, is it true?” Lucy held her breath as she asked.
“What did Elan tell you?” Ariana straightened and folded her legs in a sitting position.
Lucy swallowed. She didn’t mean to gossip. She simply was concerned about her friend.
“That the Marquees is losing a lot of money…”
“And relevance in the society.” Ariana completed it for her.
Lucy felt bad for raising the topic. She didn’t want to ruin their time together.
“I am sorry Ariana, I didn’t mean to…”
Ariana waved her off with a hand and started, “my mother has made some mistakes in running her empire. She intends to use me to fix her mistakes.”
Lucy noticed the sadness in her voice, and the bleakness in her eyes. She had never seen Ariana this way. Something wasn’t right.
“She intends for me to marry the Duke of Wandsworth. He is a fine man no doubt. I have heard stories of his generosity and kindness. But I do not want him for a husband. I like it here in Islington. Wandsworth is too far from here.” Ariana couldn’t risk telling her friend of her love interest. Nobody would approve. It was her secret.
Lucy had heard about this Duke. But she had never met him in person. Unlike her brother, people spoke well of the man. He was one of the youngest rulers in the society.
“Maybe your mother wants the best for you.”
“Or maybe she is trying to secure her own desires through me.”
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Re: Moonlight Kiss By Angelsss(historical Romance) by Angelsssss(f): 11:51pm On May 05
CHAPTER THREE
ALDRICH POV

The yellow sun had receded into a dull orange, soon night will fall. Soon, he will step out of the castle for the gaming house. He usually went there when it was dark; he couldn’t risk anyone seeing his face or knowing his true identity. There were other noble men who sneaked out of their homes for the gaming house, they knew each other. But they never spoke of their secret. Some men met their mistresses there, while some just came for the fun of gambling. He visited the gaming house to distract himself from the burden he carried.
Aldrich was relieved after having a meeting with some noble men in his Dukedom. The meeting had lasted for some hours. Now he was free to be alone. He revelled in silence. Again, he had instructed his guards that he wanted to be alone. He didn’t want to be disturbed.
Suddenly, the door to the throne room burst open and his mother barged into the hall. She had a stern look on her face; her jaw was clenched and her eyes weren’t smiling. Aldrich couldn’t turn the woman away. It had been long since he saw her angry. Something bothered her.
Behind her was his cousin Beau. And it made him wonder what their unannounced visit was about.
“Mother,” he drawled her name.
The Duchess ignored his greeting. She had promised Beau that she wouldn’t confront Aldrich, but she couldn’t hold it in anymore. She had to call the Duke to order. From what she learned, some noble men were eyeing his position and they secretly envied him.
“To what do I owe this family visit?” Aldrich pretended to be calm, but he died inwardly. He felt nervous and shaken. What could make his mother this upset?
“Good evening cousin,” Beau chipped in, but Aldrich ignored him. Aldrich saw the impish glint in Beauregard’s eyes. The little devil had done something. Aldrich sensed that his cousin had betrayed him, but he wasn’t quite sure. Nobody knew about his secret habit of gaming.
“I need a word with you, Aldrich.” The Duchess refused to return his charming smile. His handsome face and his brooding eyes reminded her of Ander, her late husband. She wouldn’t let her son’s handsomeness distract her. She had come for a purpose, and she hoped to achieve it.
Aldrich swallowed, “I am all yours mother.”
The woman inhaled deeply and clasped her palms together.
“For some time now I have ignored your misgivings. I understand how close you were to your father. But your grieving has taken too long. You have gone out of the noble path, you have strayed like sheep! I intend to bring your back to the fold.” She paused and advanced towards him.
Aldrich’s heart skipped. Her manner of speaking was proverbial. It seemed she suspected his ways, but he wouldn’t offer a retort, lest he exposed himself.
“I do not understand you, mother.” He held his breath as she reached where he stood.
“You do not need to understand, my sweet son. Beau and I have discussed…” she tilted her head to a side, so her eyes could meet with Beau’s.
“Interesting, can I ask what you discussed?” Aldrich fired his cousin a deadly glare, but he quickly averted the murderous stare.
Elena touched her son’s chin lightly with her left palm.
“You have grown Aldrich. You are very handsome. You have power, fame and wealth. Something is missing in your life. Perhaps, this is the only thing you need to distract you from your father’s absence. From what I have seen, my love is not enough. You will need another.”
Aldrich pushed her hand away from his face.
“Be plain with me.”
“Tell him Beauregard, share the news with him.” The Duchess moved away from her son. She had come to deliver a message. It was time to leave.
Elena cast a glance at her son one more time, “You don’t need to argue with me. I know what is best for you. You left me with no choice.”
She smiled and marched gracefully out of the hall, leaving the Duke with his cousin. For a moment, Aldrich remained lost. He said no word to his cousin, and Beau said no word to him. He had thought the Duchess would expose all what he said about Aldrich, but she was a wise woman. Aldrich would’ve had his head on a pike.
“What does she know?” Aldrich was no fool. He sensed the Duchess had an inkling of his double life.
Beau shrugged, “I cannot answer that question. But I know that she intends a wife for you. I quite agree with her though. You need a woman by your side, your own Duchess.”
Aldrich sighed with relieve. His mother didn’t know anything then. He was wrong to have suspected his cousin. It was every mother’s dream to present her son a worthy wife, but he wasn’t like other men of his age. He didn’t want a bride to be chosen for him. He would find her when he was ready.
“Of course I need a woman by my side, but I will not have my mother or you choose my bride.”
Beau threw his hands into the air, “I never said I will choose one for you. But the Duchess has a name, would you like to hear it?” Aldrich nodded and waited.
“Lady Ariana Beldon.”
“Isn’t that the daughter of the Marquees?” Aldrich’s brows knotted together. He had seen Ariana from afar, but they had never spoken a word to each other. She was an absolute beauty; a woman of class and nobility. Only that he wasn’t stirred by a woman’s looks. All his encounters with women of low virtue had been based on conversations. He wasn’t just any man. He was the Duke of Wandsworth.
“Yes, she is Lydia Beldon’s daughter. I agree with your mother. She will bring your honour.” Beau retorted.
“I agree with honour, but what of happiness? Why do you think men have kept mistresses and paid companions?
They never married the women they loved. They chose the ones that society imposed upon them. I will not be entangled in a marriage of convenience.” The Duke had spoken, and he’d meant every word.
In that moment, Beau was now sure that his cousin was undeserving of the title of Duke. First, he insulted that noble position by mingling with irresponsible men at the gaming house. Now, he looked down on the age long matchmaking rites of the society.
“People like you don’t marry for love. Love is just a word. It is an ideal type. It doesn’t exist. You need a woman like Ariana by your side. Or would you rather take a commoner or a lesser woman?”
Aldrich scowled, obviously his cousin didn’t agree with him, but he wasn’t seeking anyone’s approval.
“I shall marry who suits my heart.”
“Enough about marriage! I have somewhere important to go.”
Aldrich waved his cousin aside and rushed out of the hall. It was growing dark, and there was no better time to step out of the castle, but now. He had an important game to play tonight. He would play with an old friend, Elan Wesley; the Baron of Ox-Dale. Whoever lost the game tonight, would relinquish half of his inheritance to the winner.
Not that Aldrich was in need of money; he enjoyed gaming. It distracted him from the internal turmoil of his emotions.
He employed one of his guards who rode him to the gaming house. William had been waiting outside in the carriage. The Duke quickly hopped in and bellowed.
“Morglay Street!”

***
Morglay’s gaming house was crowded with people. Aldrich stepped out of the carriage with a cloak that shielded his face. No one could recognize him here, except some noble men who also came to play.
“You may leave now, come back in an hour.” He whispered in a harsh voice to the carriage driver.
Aldrich strolled into the gaming house. His eyes ran over the thick crowd. The scent of ale and tobacco wafted in the air. His head spun from too much noise and heat. But he didn’t mind. The Baron of Wesley had issued him a challenge, and he had come to accept it.
“Over here!” A short man in a hat called out to him. That was Elan, and he had showed up for the game. The round table where he sat was graced by other men whose faces were cloaked by a hood or hats. They had come to bear witness to the challenge.
Aldrich made his way through the crowd until he reached the table.
“Good evening gentle men.” He acknowledged the others by the table.
“Welcome,” they chorused.
“You are late. I thought you were a coward. I almost issued Sir Frederick a challenge,” Elan’s chubby face beamed with smiles and the other men laughed at his joke.
“You know how skilled I am with the cards. I would have beaten you and taken what is left of your inheritance.” Sir Frederick replied, and the other men sneered.
Aldrich remained quiet. He knew that Elan was broke. Maybe this was Elan’s challenge was a way of raising money for himself. Whatever it was, Aldrich made up his mind, not to be used.
“What would you like to drink?” Elan elbowed him.
“I am fine. Let us get this over with.” Aldrich mumbled. He was smarter than what Elan thought. The first rule of playing a game was never taking any drink before it, not even water; as your opponent could have your drink spiked with a sedative. And you will wake up the next day, realizing that all your fortune is gone.
“You’re in a great hurry, are you afraid I will take half your inheritance?” Elan chuckled.
“I fear nothing. I fear no one.” Aldrich drummed his hands against the table. He was growing impatient and nervous.
“I have something to tell you. You should come. Defeating you here, doesn’t mean we can’t still be friends…”
Elan dipped a hand into his pocket and pulled out a brown paper. He had shared one to the other men at the table. He had reserved this one for the Duke of Wandsworth, whose presence he would love to have at the show.
“What is this?” Aldrich muttered under his breath.
“You have forgotten that Elan has other talents than gambling,” Lord Bolton said. This amused the other men, even Aldrich himself couldn’t resist laughing at the joke.
“Ignore them, they are just jealous that nature chose to bestow upon me many talents.” Elan’s shoulder’s fell. He didn’t take the teasing of the men to heart. He was a free spirited man; an attitude that his younger sister despised.
Aldrich’s eyes fed on the paper, and he soon realized that Elan was having a poetry show.
“I will not miss this for anything.” Aldrich promised to attend.
“You shouldn’t. The finest ladies from all parts of our lovely country will show. You should get yourself a bride!” Elan sneered.
“You sound like my mother, the Duchess.”
“She is right; you need your own Duchess.”
Soon, the waiter arrived with a tray filled with mugs. Aldrich declined the ale. He had come solely for the game, which would start soon.
The cards were laid out on the table, and the men picked them. Without hesitation or reluctance, they picked a card each and began to play. The more Aldrich presented his cards, the more he lost. The other men kept cheering for Elan. They clamped their thick fists on the table and yelled in drunkenness.
Elan could see his fortune changing for the good. He was certain that he would win the game.
However, in a sudden twist, Aldrich played his last cards. They weren’t in favour of Elan’s. Aldrich had outsmarted the Baron.
“You’ll give me half of your inheritance.” Aldrich wore a smug on his face, he was satisfied with today’s outcome.


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Re: Moonlight Kiss By Angelsss(historical Romance) by Ibunkun1(m): 8:21pm On May 06
Hmm, Beau could've tailed Aldrich o
Re: Moonlight Kiss By Angelsss(historical Romance) by Ibunkun1(m): 8:22am On May 12
Update? sad
Re: Moonlight Kiss By Angelsss(historical Romance) by Angelsssss(f): 12:36pm On May 12
“What does she know?” Aldrich was no fool. He sensed the Duchess had an inkling of his double life.
Beau shrugged, “I cannot answer that question. But I know that she intends a wife for you. I quite agree with her though. You need a woman by your side, your own Duchess.”
Aldrich sighed with relieve. His mother didn’t know anything then. He was wrong to have suspected his cousin. It was every mother’s dream to present her son a worthy wife, but he wasn’t like other men of his age. He didn’t want a bride to be chosen for him. He would find her when he was ready.
“Of course I need a woman by my side, but I will not have my mother or you choose my bride.”
Beau threw his hands into the air, “I never said I will choose one for you. But the Duchess has a name, would you like to hear it?” Aldrich nodded and waited.
“Lady Ariana Beldon.”
“Isn’t that the daughter of the Marquees?” Aldrich’s brows knotted together. He had seen Ariana from afar, but they had never spoken a word to each other. She was an absolute beauty; a woman of class and nobility. Only that he wasn’t stirred by a woman’s looks. All his encounters with women of low virtue had been based on conversations. He wasn’t just any man. He was the Duke of Wandsworth.
“Yes, she is Lydia Beldon’s daughter. I agree with your mother. She will bring your honour.” Beau retorted.
“I agree with honour, but what of happiness? Why do you think men have kept mistresses and paid companions?
They never married the women they loved. They chose the ones that society imposed upon them. I will not be entangled in a marriage of convenience.” The Duke had spoken, and he’d meant every word.
In that moment, Beau was now sure that his cousin was undeserving of the title of Duke. First, he insulted that noble position by mingling with irresponsible men at the gaming house. Now, he looked down on the age long matchmaking rites of the society.
“People like you don’t marry for love. Love is just a word. It is an ideal type. It doesn’t exist. You need a woman like Ariana by your side. Or would you rather take a commoner or a lesser woman?”
Aldrich scowled, obviously his cousin didn’t agree with him, but he wasn’t seeking anyone’s approval.
“I shall marry who suits my heart.”
“Enough about marriage! I have somewhere important to go.”
Aldrich waved his cousin aside and rushed out of the hall. It was growing dark, and there was no better time to step out of the castle, but now. He had an important game to play tonight. He would play with an old friend, Elan Wesley; the Baron of Ox-Dale. Whoever lost the game tonight, would relinquish half of his inheritance to the winner.
Not that Aldrich was in need of money; he enjoyed gaming. It distracted him from the internal turmoil of his emotions.
He employed one of his guards who rode him to the gaming house. William had been waiting outside in the carriage. The Duke quickly hopped in and bellowed.
“Morglay Street!”

***
Morglay’s gaming house was crowded with people. Aldrich stepped out of the carriage with a cloak that shielded his face. No one could recognize him here, except some noble men who also came to play.
“You may leave now, come back in an hour.” He whispered in a harsh voice to the carriage driver.
Aldrich strolled into the gaming house. His eyes ran over the thick crowd. The scent of ale and tobacco wafted in the air. His head spun from too much noise and heat. But he didn’t mind. The Baron of Wesley had issued him a challenge, and he had come to accept it.
“Over here!” A short man in a hat called out to him. That was Elan, and he had showed up for the game. The round table where he sat was graced by other men whose faces were cloaked by a hood or hats. They had come to bear witness to the challenge.
Aldrich made his way through the crowd until he reached the table.
“Good evening gentle men.” He acknowledged the others by the table.
“Welcome,” they chorused.
“You are late. I thought you were a coward. I almost issued Sir Frederick a challenge,” Elan’s chubby face beamed with smiles and the other men laughed at his joke.
“You know how skilled I am with the cards. I would have beaten you and taken what is left of your inheritance.” Sir Frederick replied, and the other men sneered.
Aldrich remained quiet. He knew that Elan was broke. Maybe this was Elan’s challenge was a way of raising money for himself. Whatever it was, Aldrich made up his mind, not to be used.
“What would you like to drink?” Elan elbowed him.
“I am fine. Let us get this over with.” Aldrich mumbled. He was smarter than what Elan thought. The first rule of playing a game was never taking any drink before it, not even water; as your opponent could have your drink spiked with a sedative. And you will wake up the next day, realizing that all your fortune is gone.
“You’re in a great hurry, are you afraid I will take half your inheritance?” Elan chuckled.
“I fear nothing. I fear no one.” Aldrich drummed his hands against the table. He was growing impatient and nervous.
“I have something to tell you. You should come. Defeating you here, doesn’t mean we can’t still be friends…”
Elan dipped a hand into his pocket and pulled out a brown paper. He had shared one to the other men at the table. He had reserved this one for the Duke of Wandsworth, whose presence he would love to have at the show.
“What is this?” Aldrich muttered under his breath.
“You have forgotten that Elan has other talents than gambling,” Lord Bolton said. This amused the other men, even Aldrich himself couldn’t resist laughing at the joke.
“Ignore them, they are just jealous that nature chose to bestow upon me many talents.” Elan’s shoulder’s fell. He didn’t take the teasing of the men to heart. He was a free spirited man; an attitude that his younger sister despised.
Aldrich’s eyes fed on the paper, and he soon realized that Elan was having a poetry show.
“I will not miss this for anything.” Aldrich promised to attend.
“You shouldn’t. The finest ladies from all parts of our lovely country will show. You should get yourself a bride!” Elan sneered.
“You sound like my mother, the Duchess.”
“She is right; you need your own Duchess.”
Soon, the waiter arrived with a tray filled with mugs. Aldrich declined the ale. He had come solely for the game, which would start soon.
The cards were laid out on the table, and the men picked them. Without hesitation or reluctance, they picked a card each and began to play. The more Aldrich presented his cards, the more he lost. The other men kept cheering for Elan. They clamped their thick fists on the table and yelled in drunkenness.
Elan could see his fortune changing for the good. He was certain that he would win the game.
However, in a sudden twist, Aldrich played his last cards. They weren’t in favour of Elan’s. Aldrich had outsmarted the Baron.
“You’ll give me half of your inheritance.” Aldrich wore a smug on his face, he was satisfied with today’s outcome.

















CHAPTER FOUR
LUCY POV

She’d returned to an empty home. Elan was nowhere to be found, and the night had travelled far. Lucy tucked herself in her bed and got ready for sleep. Her day had been fruitful; she had met with her friend, and they had a wonderful time. Lucy wasn’t happy that the Beldons were having financial troubles, but she didn’t see things Ariana’s way. Maybe it wasn’t right for the Marquees to suggest a man for her; but getting married to the most powerful Duke wasn’t a bad idea at all. Lucy hoped that things got better for her friend. In two days time, her brother’s poetry show would hold at the heart of London. They would meet up at Ox-Dale, this time around. They will go for the show from her house.
Lucy closed her eyes, and was about drifting to sleep, when she heard a loud rap on her door. There was only one servant in the castle; the rest had left after months of not being paid by the Baron. The castle was dusty and scanty. It was a shadow of its old self. It existed in its old glory. Sadly, her brother saw nothing wrong in that.
“What do you want Elizabeth?” Lucy frowned.
There wasn’t any response. The tapping only grew louder.
Angry, that her sleep had been interrupted, Lucy rolled out of the bed and moved towards the door. She pulled the knob back and was shocked. It wasn’t Elizabeth that had been knocking on her door. It was Elan. And he looked terribly dishevelled. His hair was scattered, and his face was white. He looked very pale, and it made her wonder if he had seen a ghost.
“Elan?” Lucy swallowed the ball of anxiety that clogged her throat. Definitely, he wasn’t drunk. His eyes carried despair and confusion. Something had gone wrong. He needed to confide her in her.
“Is everything alright?” Lucy’s voice quavered in uncertainty.
“Not quite,” he forced a smile, but Lucy could see through it. Whatever had happened to Elan was grave. She remembered the night he’d come into the castle in high spirits. He was unusually happy and talkative; little did she know that he had gambled all the horses they had away. That night, his debtors collected twenty horses from the house.
Lucy hated to think that Elan had lost something to his gambling ways.
“I pray that you disappoint me brother for my thoughts have gone far.” Lucy held her breath and waited for his response.
Elan sighed. He had underestimated the Duke. Aldrich was a smart gamer; he was ruthless and cruel as a serpent which lay in the dark for its prey. He had lost half of his inheritance to the Duke and it was due for a fortnight. The problem was that, he had no inheritance left. If he failed to redeem his debt, he would be a subject of gossip among all the noble men that had witness the challenge. Elan’s pride wouldn’t let him cower. He had to find a way to settle the Duke. He had no inheritance left; the Barony only survived by the mercy of his name and his sister’s fortune. He couldn’t give that away. He had hurt Lucy enough.
“I am in trouble sister,” the words spiralled softly out of his lips.
“Trouble?” She crossed her arms against her chest.
“Tonight I had a challenge at Morglay Street.” He stuttered.
Lucy knew that nothing good came out of that street. It was the den of women of low virtue; there were taverns sprawled across the street and there was a famous gaming house. It wasn’t a place befitting of a Baron or anyone of nobility.
“What on earth were you doing down there?”
“I was issued a challenge by someone. I couldn’t refuse it.” The Baron knew that his sister would be upset with what he wanted to ask; but he had no one to turn to.
Before he could utter any more word, Lucy figured out that her brother had gamed and lost.
“Do you ever learn Elan? You will drive us to the gutters!”
“Only half of your inheritance I seek. I shall repay every coin. I have to redeem my name, or I shall live in shame forever.”
Lucy’s golden eyes welled up with unshed tears. Her brother never ceased to disappoint her. Their mother had raised them to be responsible, pious and content with what they have. Elan had digressed, and she feared he may never change.
“You are a great disappointment brother.” Lucy shut the door to his face and returned to bed.
For the first time, Elan knew that he’d hurt his sister. Lucy was a dove. She was harmless. She was loved by everyone, yet he kept hurting her.
“I will never gamble with our fortune after this.” He pushed the door open and stepped into the room. Lucy was crying now. She wept silently as she glared at Elan’s face.
“Who is this man that you are indebted to? Maybe I could talk to him.”
Elan could never share this secret with her. It would be a great betrayal and an act of cowardice if he gave his sister the Duke’s name.
“You do not need to know.”
“Then you are not sorry for what you have done, brother. You must leave now. I have to rest my head. And one more thing, I will not come for your show.”
Elan strolled out like a guilty dog. He had to find a way to settle the Duke without infuriating his sister. Even if it meant selling the house which they lived in, he was prepared to do that.
He had learned his lesson; he would never underestimate anyone. He hoped that his sister would change her mind about not attending his show. Elan knew he wouldn’t sleep well tonight; he would be plagued by nightmares of his lost inheritance.

***
Two days had passed, and the day for Elan’s show had come. Elan had left the castle quite early, to the place where the show would hold. It was organised like a dinner party. While people enjoyed good food and wine, they would watch the plays that would come up after and listen to the Baron’s poems, which would be the highlight of the night.
“There you go, you look lovely Milady.” Elizabeth grinned as she stared at Lucy’s reflection in the lengthy mirror. Lucy had taken some of the clothes that Ariana had gotten for her. She wore a pink dress with a silver helm and a silver hat for the night. She grabbed her purse and stared at her reflection one last time, before strolling out of the room.
“Thank you Elizabeth.”
Lucy felt confident in her dress; she had a golden pearly necklace over her neck. It was a family heirloom; her mother had saved it for her twenty first birthday. Sadly, the woman hadn’t been alive to witness that glorious day. Lucy’s fingers curled on the gleaming stones as she walked towards the door. This was the last connection she had with her mother; she hoped that Elan’s reckless ways wouldn’t lead her to sell it off.
“I could never do that.” She muttered under her breath.
“Did you call me?” The servant heard the lady whisper.
“No. We’ll be gone for a while. Take care.”
As Lucy stepped on the porch, she spotted Arianna’s golden carriage moving towards her direction. She smiled and inhaled sharply. It was time for the girls to go out. Lucy felt a little bit nervous. This was the first public outing that she would have. She had carefully avoided going out with her brother many times; it wasn’t because of the embarrassing life that he chose to lead. Elan was a very handsome Baron, and women enjoyed flirting with him. One time, she felt that her presence hindered a particular woman. She had travelled all the way from Scotland where she was an heiress. The woman had eyes on her brother, but Lucy’s presence had soiled her prospects. She had learned her lesson.

“Lucy! Come on in!” Ariana beckoned to her.
Lucy ran into the snow rain and stepped into the carriage. The friends exchanged hugs and greetings and focused on the road ahead of them.
“You look stunning in that dress. You shall beguile many men at the party.” Ariana teased. She loved the way the dress clung to Lucy’s fragile frame like second skin. It highlighted her shapely figure; and the swell of her bosoms. Lucy’s raven hair cascaded to the middle of her back. The little hat sat upon the mass of black hair like a crown. Lucy was a princess. She would be the belle of the ball.
“Thank you. You don’t look bad yourself.” Lucy smiled and ran her eyes over her friend’s dress.
“Of course I don’t. Charlotte and Margerette would have a lot to talk about later tonight,” Ariana winked.
Ariana was pleased to escape from the castlette for a while. The Marquees had returned and she wouldn’t let her daughter rest. Lydia Beldon was bent on marrying her daughter off to the Duke of Wandsworth. She was too blind to notice that Ariana wasn’t interested.
“Mother wants me to pay Aldrich a visit,” Ariana whispered.
“Aldrich?” Lucy didn’t know who that was.
“Aldrich Clairbone is the Duke of Wandsworth. You should go out more often.” Ariana scoffed and poked Lucy’s belly with a finger. And this made Lucy laugh. She didn’t know the Duke by his name, but by his title.
“That is not a bad thing Ariana. Your mother wants the best for you. She has groomed you especially for a man like the Duke. You do not want to miss this opportunity. I have heard stories about this Duke. He is a good man. You will learn to love him. Being with a man like Aldrich is better than having a brother like Elan.”
When she said this, Ariana laughed. It was common knowledge that the baron was failing. It was his good looks and his poetry that earned him respect, especially among the women folk.
“Oh come off it, the Baron isn’t so bad. A lot of women admire him! He is handsome.” Ariana waved her off, but Lucy wouldn’t be silenced.
“Those women are carried away by his looks, but their infatuation wouldn’t last when Elan gambles away their fortunes.” Lucy wished Ariana would be more appreciative of what she had. Life with her brother was tougher than most people imagined.
Ariana fell silent. Lucy couldn’t understand why she was against her mother’s plans, and she wasn’t interested in explaining. She noticed that her friend wasn’t very bright. Ariana guessed something had transpired between her and the Baron. It wasn’t easy to be a highborn. It came with great expectations. Most times, one sacrificed his or her happiness to meet these expectations. But she wasn’t prepared to do that. She didn’t want a loveless marriage. She wanted to be happy with the man she would end up with and that man wasn’t the Duke of Wandsworth.
Shortly, they arrived at the Great Hall of Essex, where the dinner party would hold. There was a stout man by the entrance of the enormous hall. He had a bushy moustache and a black hat on. His duty was to announce all the guests that had arrived.
“Keep your head tall and your shoulders high. Everyone is going to be amazed.” Ariana advised Lucy as they strolled majestically into the hall.
Lucy giggled, “Why would anyone be amazed?”
Ariana patted her shoulder, “You are the Baron’s only sister. And you are quintessential tonight.”
The Duke of Wandsworth arrived shortly after the two friends stepped in. He had come to the dinner party with his cousin, Beauregard.

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