A Duke for the Road

By: Eva Devon

“I don’t understand,” he choked.

“When you love, boy, there are more people who suffer from our nature.”

Did his father understand then? The extent of the damage he’d done? “Then try. Please try to change!”

“I have railed against fate,” his father said, his once deep voice reedy and barely audible. “I have railed against my nature. You will, too. And like me, you will fail. We can’t escape who we are.” And then his father’s eyes whispered shut as he vanished on a sea of forgetting.

Rob felt vomit sting his throat. He gazed down at the body of his father, framed by two beautiful but broken women.

He would fight his nature. He would do everything he could. But there was one thing he knew deep in his soul. There would never be another Blackstone son. Not if this was what happened.

As he strode from the room, away from his father, he made a solemn vow. There would never be another Blackstone heir. The destruction would end with him. And so, Rob headed back out into the night, desperate to get back to Horse Guards and away from his sire. For he could not shake the harrowing prophecy of his father. The black seed in his blood would try to take root, but at least he knew it. And knowing that, he would never allow himself to hurt anyone the way his father had done.

Chapter 2


St. James’ Park

The Trees, Eleven pm

Some Years Later

Nothing was ever going to go bloody right again. Never. Ever. And Robert was damned well done with it. If he could, he’d take a leaf of his older brother and his father’s book and shuffle off his mortal coil. But dying did not add to the family funds. Oh, no. It decreased it. By leaps. By bounds. And by multitudes of creditors coming along to throw you, your mother, your sister and just about everyone you knew in the Fleet.

Plus there was the charming manner in which the debt collectors stole your chair right out from under you. Literally. He could still see his mother’s face, as Fortnum, Fortnum, and Brown had removed her delicate china chair out from underneath her delicately proportioned bottom.

It had not been a pleasant sight.

Thusly, he had taken it upon himself to get back his mother’s favorite chair, his sister’s hair ribbons and take care of the rather annoying necessity of eating. Which was why he was sitting on an ancient black gelding. In the dark. Just off of St. James’ Park waiting for a plump pigeon of a lord to carelessly wander through on a night home from the gaming houses.

But even as he grasped the worn leather reins of Sir Valiant, a rather inappropriate name for the old glue pot, Robert couldn’t quite fight the damned feeling that he was losing the battle. Worse, he had the sinking feeling he was losing the war.

Highway robbery did not pay quite as well as it should.

Even so, Robert’s ears perked as the golden sound of coach wheels creaked through the night. He blew out a breath and, despite it being the middle of the Season, he saw faint, white wisps in the chill night air.

In the distance, the faint outline of the coach lumbered down the dirt path that carved its way from the southerly areas of London and into the district of wealth. The west.

Hell, even he lived off of St. James’ Park. Though the house was an empty shell now, it was the Blackstone London ducal home and had been since before the glory days of Good Queen Bess. And he was damned well going to keep it even if it meant chipping the gold plate off his next victim’s coach windows.

Robert pulled his rapier from his sheath, finding that the once exciting edge to this nightly raiding had faded much like his mother’s gowns. Once, he’d used his sword to honor his king. Now, he used it to cut the purse strings of wealthy merchants and his own fellow peers. How the mighty fell. His mighty father was no doubt rolling in the family crypt. Then again, it was the old sot’s fault he was here to begin with.

His father had never really been mighty. But he had been a duke and that had been enough to give him an overinflated sense of superiority. And a belief that there would be no consequences for the way he had thrown coin at life as if it would never end. End it had.

At last, the coach rumbled into the open grass field of the park which was surrounded bowl-like by copses of ancient oaks and weeping willows. Silently, he prayed the purse would be large enough to give him a few nights’ respite. After all, he was supposed to take Emmaline to her first court ball this week, something that was rather difficult to do in a mask and cloak.

Her court dress, train, and ostrich feathers had taken three nights work to obtain.

Gently, Robert urged Sir Valiant into a gallop and as the earth raced beneath the horse’s hooves, Robert held his rapier high, threw his reins to the side, and whipped his pistol from his belt. “Stand and deliver!” he shouted as he jumped from his steed’s back.