The Scandal in Kissing an Heir

By: Sophie Barnes

Dedication

To my brother and sister with love.





Epigraph

Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale of all.

HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN





Acknowledgments

A book travels through the hands of so many people on its way to publication, and while I may be the one sitting at home, typing away on my keyboard, the efforts made by editors and publicists to make the work shine, deserve to be mentioned. I’d like to thank my wonderful editor, Erika Tsang, and her assistant, Chelsey Emmelhainz, for being so incredibly helpful and easy to talk to—working with both of you is an absolute pleasure!

Together with the rest of the Avon team, which includes (but is far from limited to) copyeditor Judy Myers, publicists Caroline Perny, Pam Spengler-Jaffee and Jessie Edwards, and senior director of marketing, Shawn Nicholls, they have offered guidance and support whenever it was needed. My sincerest thanks to all of you for being so wonderful!

Another person who must be acknowledged for his talent is artist Jon Paul, who has created the fabulous cover for this book, capturing not only the feel of the story but also the way in which I envisioned the characters looking—you’ve done such a beautiful job!

To my good friends, Monika and Vicky, who happily read through the first draft of my manuscript without the slightest coercion, offering opinions that have helped me improve upon the story—thank you so much. I owe you both a drink!

I would also like to thank Nancy Mayer for her assistance. Whenever I was faced with a question regarding the Regency era that I couldn’t answer on my own, I turned to Nancy for advice. Her help has been invaluable.

My family and friends deserve my thanks as well, especially for reminding me to take a break occasionally, to step away from the computer and just unwind—I would be lost without you.

And to you, dear reader—thank you so much for taking the time to read this story. Your support is, as always, hugely appreciated!




Chapter 1



Kingsborough Hall, Moxley, England

1817

Daniel Neville, heir to the Marquisate of Wolvington, removed himself to a corner of the Kingsborough ballroom—as good a place as any for a man who’d been labeled an outcast by Society.

Overhead, candles held by three large chandeliers spread their glow across the room, the jewels worn by countless women winking in response to the light. This was true opulence, and nobody did it better than the Kingsboroughs. Why, there was even a glass slipper sculpted from ice and a pumpkin carriage sitting outside on the lawn—a touch of fairy-tale splendor indicative of the theme that the dowager duchess had selected for her masquerade.

And what a masquerade. Never in his life had Daniel borne witness to so many feathers. They were everywhere—attached to gowns, on the edges of masks, and sprouting from women’s hair.

The ball gowns were marvelous too. These were not the boring dresses generally on display at Almack’s. Certainly, one could still tell the debutantes apart, due to their tepid choice of color, but they all had a bit of something extra, like crystal beads that sparkled when they moved.

It was refreshing to see, and yet as he stood there, watching the spectacle unfold, Daniel felt nothing but bland disinterest. It was only one hour since he’d arrived, but it felt more like four. God help him, but he’d never been so bored in his life. Perhaps he should have remained in London after all. At least there he had his friends to keep him company and could avoid the constant reminder of how unwelcome he was among the finer set. His aunt and uncle were in attendance of course, but as soon as they’d entered the ballroom, they’d been approached by Lady Deerford. Daniel had hastily slipped away in order to avoid the countess, who had a renowned tendency to talk the ear off anyone willing to listen. In hindsight, he was beginning to think that nodding his head in response to whatever she had to say would have been preferable to this self-imposed solitude. Recalling the glass of champagne in his hand, he took another sip of his drink and decided to request a brandy from one of the footmen at the first available opportunity. Stronger stuff would be required if he was to get through the rest of this evening. He watched as a group of ladies approached on their tour of the periphery. There were three of them, one being the Countess of Frompton. If Daniel wasn’t mistaken, the two young ladies in her company were her granddaughters—typical debutantes dressed in gowns so pale it was hard to discern where the fabric ended and their skin began. It would do them both a great deal of good to get married, if for no other reason than to be able to add a touch of color to their attire.

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