Exclusive Excerpt from The Duke & The Dandy Highwayman Trilogy
by Zakarrie Clarke
“Good Evening, Y’Grace.”
“Evening, dear Jack. Good, ’twas not.” Padraic rolled despairing eyes at his driver, who doffed his cap and bobbed a brief bow, alongside a pitiful attempt to suppress a grin. “Pray tell, when will you dispense with your infernal Your Gracing?” The Duke sighed.
“On a cold day in hell, Y’Grace,” his erstwhile coachman replied, tugging open the door of Padraic’s carriage.
“Thought as much, you blackguard. Have you been up to anything imprudent in my absence? I certainly hope so, my evening has been insufferable,” Padraic grumbled, removing his hat to better fold himself into the coach. He didn’t even bother trying to get comfy; ’twould prove a pointless endeavour, unless he also removed his legs.
“I went avisitin’ Nell, an’ she was obliging, as ever, Y’Grace.”
“Good chap. Do remind me to furnish you with a smidge extra this week, as there are three further functions I must y’grace with my presence. ’Twould not do to deprive you of Nellie’s buxom bounty while you wait. One of us should be guaranteed a diverting evening.”
“Thank ye, Y’Grace.”
“You’re welcome. I will see you another five crowns, if you’ll call me Padraic.”
“That’d be most unseemly, Y’Grace.”
“Oh, bugger. I’m quite obviously milking a pigeon. Go and bestir the horses then, you scoundrel, I have a tryst with the green fairy to attend to.”
“That stuff’ll rot ye brain, Y’Grace.”
“I bloomin’ well hope it gets on with it then, so I might be better equipped to endure the season.”
After performing yet another bow, Jack made fast the door and took himself off to wield his whip. The night had turned nippy while Padraic suffered the first ball of the season, so he huddled into his greatcoat and helped himself to a hefty tot of gin, to warm his insides afore his balls turned as blue as his blood. He had a diary full of functions hovering on his horizon, and worse, a whole host of hyphenated-heiresses to flatter with pretty turns of phrase. Padraic cared nary a jot for inheritances, dowries or debutantes, but the plonking of a coronet atop your head carried certain obligations. First and foremost, duty decreed that he must sire a Waterford Duke-in-waiting. Splendid. Thus, he needed a suitable chatelaine to make mistress of his household and…heart.
The latter was less likely than the Duchess of Devonshire eschewing the gaming tables, so the former would have to suffice. This foreboding future was made marginally less bleak by the fact that affairs and intrigues had e’er been rife in the ton. The family façade must be honoured and its future assured, but the safe arrival of a newborn Earl would leave he and his radiant bride free to pursue their own pleasures. In the meantime, Padraic must attend all manner of soulless soirées; subsisting on nocturnal excursions that promised charms he would ne’er find in the arms of a Lady. These dalliances did add a dash of decadence to a life of ducal drudgery, but… Quite what he yearned for, Padraic was unsure. Consciously.
A secret, sacred, part of himself knew all-too well what he craved; recognised too, that it would ne’er be found in the empty embrace of a disreputable inn. Padraic had hoped he might happen upon it amongst the fine flowers from the forces. Caddish cadets aplenty who promenaded Piccadilly, plying their well-honed, well-hung, virility for a few shillings. While that always guaranteed an energetic night’s entertainment…still, his innermost-self hungered. A bid to leave no stone unturned in his efforts to sate it had raked in a few fleeting flings with fine-boned, porcelain-skinned fops—but truth be told—Padraic preferred the brutal beauty plied far from the gilded confines of Gentleman’s clubs…
His breeches were now as cramped as his legs. Marvellous. They had driven in entirely the wrong direction to visit any of the inns he frequented. A detour to White’s or Brooks’s—where there was bound to be a randy rake out on the prowl—didn’t tickle Padraic’s fancy either. In all honesty, he couldn’t recall the last time something had truly tickled his anything. The Duke invariably found himself bored t’bejeezus by the time the double doors had swept open with a flourish and the footman reeled off his title:
‘The Most High, Noble and Potent Prince, His Grace Padraic, Duke of Waterford.’