Whom Shall I Kiss...An Earl,A Marquess,or A Duke?

By: Laura A. Barnes

Tricking the Scoundrels, Volume 1

Chapter One

“Are you positive you want to follow through with your plan, Sidney? What happens if your father discovers your experiment?”

“You worry too much Phee. Papa is busy with his own research to even have a clue what I am about to do,” Sidney Hartridge explained to her best friend Sophia Turlington. Phee for short.

Sidney understood Phee worried about what she set out to accomplish. Was it proper? Of course not, but then everything in society towards women was too proper. She wished to step outside the boundaries and discover how far she can push the limits of etiquette. How come gentlemen kiss who they want, when they want, and never a word was whispered of them in shame? However, if an unmarried lady was discovered kissing, they would ostracize her. If a gentleman didn’t offer a marriage proposal for said lady, she disappeared to live in the country in disgrace. If a gentleman offered for the lady’s hand, then she enjoyed a life in the highest tier of the aristocracy. Why couldn’t a lady kiss who she desired and make the choice on who held her heart?

Not that Sidney looked to wed anybody, she only wanted to conduct her own research on what choices were possible for her or any other debutante. She decided to open her dance card this season to every available gentleman to entice them to kiss her. She didn’t tell Phee the full extent of her experiment. Phee thought Sidney wanted to know who might coax her into a kiss, but there was more to her analysis than a simple kiss. Sidney wished to see which gentlemen would offer for her hand in marriage. She needed to expose the players of the ton when she finished her experiment. Over the past seasons, she watched too many of her friends destroyed by the scoundrels who graced the ballroom floors. It fell to her to correct their wrongs.

Phee spotted the devious smile spread across her friend’s face as Sidney scanned the crowded ballroom searching for her first prey. This idea was crazy. She knew Sid’s heart to be in the right place, but she opened herself to ruination. However, Sidney, always jumped in feet first then thought with her head later. She was a passionate soul, something she inherited from both of her parents. Sidney’s whole family fought for the underdog and offered their support where needed. Phee envied Sid’s life and wished to be as adventurous as her someday. For now, she was content to watch from the sidelines. As her best friend she must be on guard and ready to help at a moment’s notice.

Sidney was attractive in her own right and worked it to her advantage. Most people were not drawn to her beauty, but to her confidence instead. Phee wished for an ounce of Sid’s self-assurance. As she continued to regard her friend, she noted Sidney’s attire for the evening. Phee laughed to herself as she took in Sid’s dress.

The new creation of pink chiffon and silk made her appear sweet and demure. The top of her gown was simple with a scoop neckline covering her breasts respectfully but displayed them in a snug fit. To the matrons it appeared to be prim, but up close, the men could appreciate the tightness of the garment. It would then lead their imaginations in unrespectable directions. A forest green bow wrapped around her waist with her skirts full and bouncing when she moved. Dainty slippers adorned her feet, peeking out as Sid tapped her foot in anticipation. While the dress screamed pure, her features yelled siren. Her maid set her long luxurious hair in curls atop her head with a string of pearls interwoven between her tresses.

However, the lure of her eyes would entice the gentlemen to her side this evening. Usually, Sid wore her spectacles to scare any potential suitors away. Tonight, she discarded them, and her sensuous stare filled with a dreamy expression would reel them into her plans.

Sidney surveyed the crowd, noting the gentlemen in attendance. This evening held the opening event of the season. Anybody with the highest rank in the ton graced the ball with their presence. Sidney marked her potential victims before she arrived. Two of them were present, and the last one should present himself before the evening concluded. As Sidney ran her palms along her gown, straightening her bow; she knew her dance card would be full as soon as she stepped out from behind these columns. Her usual attire of a plain dress with a high collar and her customary glasses always planted her in the wallflower section. This ball would be different, with eligible men begging for a chance to dance with her. Tonight, sets the first stage of her experiment. She turned to her friend and grabbed her hand, pulling them into the festivity.

“Stage one Phee,” Sidney laughed with excitement.

Phee groaned at her friend’s enthusiasm. This season would not be dull by any standard. She must keep Sidney out of too much trouble though. In doing so, she hoped she was not the one who became engulfed in a scandal.