Persephone Petit is known for her minor skills in medicine. When the duke calls on her for help with his son, she finds herself entangled in memories of her deceased parents and feelings for the dying young man. Can she save his life and her heart?
It was raining when someone knocked on my door. I rubbed my eyes and stood up from my chair by the fire where I was stitching. My sister poked her head out of her bedroom door in interest. I opened it to see a man in fancy dress and a black wig. I knew right away I was in the presence of nobility so I curtsied a little.
“Madame Persephone Petit?” he inquired.
“Yes,” I said.
“I am Duke Jean Moreau,” he said. “May I come in?”
“Of course,” I said, stepping to the side. “Please forgive the state of the room. I was not expecting company.”
“I will not be long,” he promised.
He still looked around, though. The home I shared with my sister was small and only one story. We had three doors: one to her bedroom, one to mine, and one to the washroom. He walked over to the fire and I glanced at my sister. She now looked a little afraid.
“You stitch?” he asked.
“Yes,” I answered, confused at his appearance. “And sew. My sister and I make our own clothing.”
He nodded at my sister who curtsied to him.
“It must be quite hard on your eyes in such dim lighting,” he observed and I frowned.
“Forgive me, Monsieur, but what brings you here in such poor weather?”
He turned, his face grim. “My son is ill,” he answered. “I need someone to care for him. Our doctors at the manor have been… unsuccessful so far. I have heard of your prowess with health.”
I flushed. “I don’t know what I can do to help that your doctors have not tried.”
He observed me for a while. I flattened my skirts and bit my lip anxiously.
“Will you at least do me the honor of visiting the manor?” he asked. “Perhaps then you shall change your mind.”
“Your sister may join you if that is your concern,” he said and I looked at Marie.
“It’s up to you, dear sister,” she whispered. “I, for one, agree, though.”
“Very well,” I said. “When would you like us to come?”
“Right now,” he answered. “I will wait as you get ready.”
“Er…. Yes, of course,” I breathed and rushed into my room.
I was completely nonplussed. Why had he chosen me? What could I possibly do for his son that others have not? The closest I’ve come to medicine is some solutions I created from herbs. Then there was the question of the duke’s ailments.
When I was in a warmer dress and with a cloak over my shoulders, I walked back out. Marie was waiting, looking just as awkward as I felt.
Duke Moreau led the way up the wet streets. I was surprised he walked here instead of taking one of his carriages. We lived quite a distance from his manor and, with the rain, we were lucky the roads weren’t flooded yet. Marie looped her arm around mine and smiled encouragingly.
Even though it was near noontime, Kinsworth was quiet. It was nearing winter and people didn’t mingle in the streets. Instead, we would go to people’s homes. A few poked their heads out the window, watching as we walked by. They were thinking the same as I was.
What in the world is the Duke of Kinsworth doing out in the rain, unchaperoned, with two seamstresses?
When we got to the manor, a group of guards was waiting. They looked very relieved to see their master coming back safe. So he had insisted to go on his own…. I didn’t understand the cloak and dagger but a bitter wind had picked up and my cloak was much too thin for lingering outside.
A servant took my sister and my cloaks and I looked around briefly. The colors were rich red and a beautiful blue. It was very warm compared to the outside and the floor was white tile.
“Please prepare dinner for four,” he said to the servant who took our cloaks.
“Yes sir,” she said, curtsying before hurrying through a door.
“Shall we go on a tour?” he asked, offering his arms to both of us.
I knew better than to say no; especially now that we were in his home. He led us up the grand staircase and went to the left first. I looked around in interest. On the second floor, the floor was red carpet. The wallpaper was the same blue with white diamond shaped designs. A few pictures hung on the walls.
“All of our lovely family,” he explained when he saw me staring at them. “We come from a long line of nobility, Madams Petit. Tell me, do you have any birth?”
“No, sir,” I answered. “We are merely seamstresses.”
“And your parents?” he asked.
“Deceased,” I whispered.
“I am very sorry to hear that.”
I was still confused as we reached a rich mahogany door. He let go of me to open it. It led to a large, grand room. I smiled.
“It’s very lovely,” I said, knowing he was waiting for my opinion.
“I’m glad you think so,” he said. “This will be where you will be staying.”
I flushed. “Monsieur,” I began but he just turned and led us back the way we came.
“We have a third floor,” he said. “We don’t go up there often, though.”
“Oh? Why not?”
“It is a sensitive subject,” he said simply and I took the hint.
When we passed a room, I heard coughing. I looked at the door but the duke didn’t stop. Perhaps that was the son’s room. The cough didn’t sound like a child’s, though.
“How old is your son, Monsieur?” I asked.
“He is turning 26 this winter,” he answered, his voice sad. “Assuming we can find the cure for his ailments.”
“What are they?”
He looked at me, stopping outside of an open door. I looked in but it was just a music room.
“You will understand when you see him,” he whispered.
“Do you have a garden?” I asked and he led us back down the stairs.
I knew bringing Marie had been just for comfort but she didn’t seem insulted. On the contrary, she looked as if she wanted to return home. Marie was never one for extravagance. She preferred things to be simple. I suppose I couldn’t blame her. She had to raise me when we were children and simplicity was the best way to do so.
“Dinner is ready,” another servant said.
“Thank you, Claire,” he said and took us to the dining room. “Please excuse me while I go get my son.”
He pointed at where we would be sitting and I fidgeted in my chair.
“I don’t know about this, Marie,” I whispered. “It’s almost like he believes I will be agreeing because I’ve come for dinner.”
She frowned at me. “Why wouldn’t you accept, Percy? Don’t you want to help this young man?”
“I don’t even know if I can,” I said. “You heard him: His doctors have not been successful.”
Marie sighed. “Just try,” she said, lowering her voice when we heard the rumble of voices coming closer.
“But I’ll be leaving you,” I mumbled.
She waved her hand dismissively. “Please. I’ll be fine.”
Before I could argue, the doors opened again and we stood. The duke walked in with his son and I swallowed a gasp. He looked dreadful. His skin was unnaturally pale and there were dark circles around his grey eyes. His black hair was messy and he leaned on a cane for support but kept his back as straight as he could. I noticed his arms shaking from the strain of keeping himself upright and I wondered why he was refusing his father’s assistance.
“Madame Persephone, this is my son, Sir Luc Moreau,” Duke Moreau said and I curtsied. “Luc, this is Madame Persephone and her sister, Madame Marie.”
“Pleasure,” he murmured and sat down.
One look at his face and I knew he didn’t want us here. Soup was placed in front of us and the duke smiled encouragingly at me.
“How long have you been a seamstress?” he asked.
“Ten years,” I answered. “As soon as Marie was able to make sure I could keep a needle in my hand without stabbing myself.”
We both giggled and he smiled a little. Luc remained silent. I noticed he was having trouble holding his spoon still in his hand. My first instinct was to help him but I held back. I recognized his symptoms immediately and my stomach dropped.
“You have a lovely home,” my sister said to fill the silence.
“Thank you,” Duke Moreau said. “I do hope your sweet sister will agree to take residence with us.”
I gulped as all eyes turned on me. I looked at Luc again and his eyes dropped when he saw me.
“I will do what I can,” I whispered and the duke grinned.