“Quiet, woman! Elizabeth!”
The once elegantly dressed Duke staggered into the nursery where his daughter stood, trembling. She hardly knew her father in this state. Jessom, her nurse, kept her upstairs, away from the men gaming down below.
The Duke lurched over to his daughter and grabbed her arm. He began pulling her behind him, out the nursery door. “C’along.” She didn’t dare fight him. He dragged her down three flights of stairs, Jessom following even though the Duke cursed her. Jessom was praying: “My Lord, in your vengeance, drive out these usurers and players of chance! Cleanse these halls!”
“Damn you! There’s no usurers here!”
“Cleanse our home!” Jessom wanted to fall on her knees and pray, but it was more important to follow Lady Elizabeth.
The Duke was also muttering and cursing as he stumbled down the stairs and, finally down the long entrance hall to a room that was full of men. The air was foul– smoke, brandy and unwashed male bodies.
“Here she is. Here’s Elizabeth,” and he dropped her arm, now red with his hand marks.
The room quieted down. Elizabeth was dressed in white, in a gown a bit small for her. She trembled and looked at the floor.
The Duke staggered away. He saw the men all looking at her. “Get away! She’s not a horse!” and he shoved her out of the room and into Jessom’s arms.
She ran back to the nursery.
Prologue of The Beast’s Darling