As the only son of a viscount, Damian led a charmed life. Although raised primarily by servants—as was the norm among the nobility—his parents were distantly affectionate. Moreover, they were decent, upstanding people who took their responsibilities seriously. His father, the fifth Viscount Clinton, served the Tories in Parliament faithfully until his death less than three years past. He’d been in failing health since his wife’s death of a fever some five years before that. So at the age of twenty-six, Damian became the sixth Viscount Clinton and the owner of a prosperous estate and a tidy fortune besides.
What more could a young man wish for?
Other than a few distant relatives—one of them an earl to whom he stood as heir—he was alone in the world. In actuality, there were plenty of people eager to cultivate the friendship of a young viscount with substantial resources and the promise of more in the future. In London he made a life for himself full of amusing distractions, from evenings out on the town with his cronies to afternoons sparring at Gentleman Jackson’s or racing with his peers at the Four-in-Hand Club. There was no end of pleasures in London.
As one of the pre-eminent bachelors in London, he was in constant demand at all the premier ton events. The matchmaking mamas would descend on him en masse with their vacant-eyed daughters; he’d learned to keep them at arm’s length by perfecting the art of the disdainful stare through a quizzing glass. Perhaps it was rather callous of him, but more than one of his peers had been maneuvered into an unwanted marriage after being tricked into a compromising situation with one of those innocent-appearing vixens. But he wasn’t in the market for a wife. Not yet anyway. He was enjoying his freedom far too much to take on a leg-shackle.
Women, however, were another thing entirely. Bored wives, widows, Cyprians, servant wenches—they threw themselves at his feet. Generally, he limited himself to one mistress at a time; as much as he enjoyed bedsport, he had no desire to make a name for himself à la the fifth duke of Devonshire. His father would not have approved, and although he wasn’t quite ready to take up his obligations in the House of Lords or set up his nursery, he had no wish to taint the family name with scandal.
So he made his home in London, taking little interest in the family estate except to leave it in the care of a capable steward, and kept his indulgences to a minimum—a bit of gambling, drinking, and raucous nights on the town, but nothing excessive that he thought would earn his father’s disapproval. Well, perhaps there was one thing.
Damian took inordinate pride in his apparel. He was Weston’s best customer—no doubt because he was one of the few who paid his bills on time—and he liked to wear unusual colors that set him apart from the gentlemen who considered anything that wasn’t black, brown, or gray too feminine. Now Damian wasn’t one of those dandified peacocks who strutted around in clashing colors, but he did not eschew some of the lighter colors in his waistcoats and trousers. He had a slate blue jacket that brought out the color of his eyes that never failed to draw the admiration of others. The dark rose one raised a few eyebrows at first, but it wasn’t long before some of the other gentlemen began sporting the same shade of rose. Unfortunately, more than a few of them didn’t have the knack of knowing how far to go with it; the colors they chose to wear with it made him wince.
But Damian was an Original. People sought to emulate him, flatter him, earn his approval. And he learned to be discriminating in those he chose to be his companions. He himself could do nothing wrong. He had the power to make any heedless young girl an outcast, and had done so more than once. After awhile he didn’t think about it overmuch. That was life in the ton, and anyone who couldn’t handle it didn’t belong there.
But Damian’s life is about to take an unexpected turn. Will he have the courage to step forward and embrace the full measure of the gift that is about to fall into his lap? Or will he toss it aside and return to his fabulous—lonely?—life in London?
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