Lady Amanda locke sighed as she gazed at her reflection in the oval mirror. Sitting at the vanity in the comfortable room she’d been given at her cousin Rupert’s house in London, she imagined she saw a wrinkle at the corner of one eye. She gasped. Did she? She leaned closer. No, just her imagination and the light, but it wouldn’t be long before it wasn’t. She had just turned twenty! The ton would be calling her an old maid soon—if they weren’t already.
She sighed again. Her maid, Alice, pretended not to notice as she pinned the last blond lock of Amanda’s coiffure into place. That wouldn’t have stopped Amanda if she felt like being vocal about her melancholy tonight, but she didn’t. Alice had heard it all and heard it often. Amanda’s whole family had heard it all, and she had a large family. But she was tired of complaining about such a sorry state of affairs, she just couldn’t help it sometimes.
Her first London Season shouldn’t have been such a disaster. It was supposed to be a roaring success. She had expected no less. Her family had expected no less. She was a beauty, after all, even quite fashionable with her blond hair and powder-blue eyes, and she also had the aristocratic bones that ran in her family. She was also the only daughter of Preston Locke, the 10th Duke of Norford. That alone should have had the proposals streaming in. And no one had doubted that she would outshine all the other debutantes that Season two years ago, herself included. But then no one had been prepared for the infamous Ophelia Reid, who had debuted that same year, and no one, not even Amanda, could compare to Ophelia’s dazzling beauty.
It was almost funny, Amanda thought as she looked back on it, how jealous she’d been of Ophelia, so jealous that she’d spent most of that first Season stewing about it and thus ignoring the young men who had tried to get to know her. So really, she could blame that disaster on herself. But of course her emotions got out of hand, especially when she found out her own brother, Raphael, was also falling under the ice queen’s spell.
Ophelia hadn’t even been likable back then! Amanda recalled wondering how her brother could be so dense just because Ophelia was a raving beauty! Ophelia was manipulative, a liar, and spiteful to boot. Anyone with two eyes could see it, which meant every man in London that year wasn’t utilizing both of his eyes, Amanda’s brother included!
Rafe did fall in love with Ophelia, he did marry her, and he did tame the shrew. There was nothing not to like about the Ophelia her brother had married.
That had all been part of Amanda’s first disastrous Season in London. Last year she’d tried to take her brother’s advice to heart and just let love find her. She’d had fun doing so, maybe too much fun. Relaxing, just enjoying herself and the many entertainments, she’d found that she actually liked some of her beaus, could even call them friends now, but not one had ever pulled at her heartstrings. So before she knew it, her second London Season was over and she still hadn’t found a husband.
Now, at the beginning of her third Season in London, she was quite desperate. Something needed to change this year because she obviously wasn’t going about husband hunting the right way. She wasn’t as silly and flighty as people thought, but even she knew that she gave that impression sometimes.
“You’re bored already this Season, aren’t you?” Alice said as she stood behind her.
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