Eve Dinwoody

Eve is the bastard sister of the notorious Duke of Montgomery.

Heroine of Sweetest Scoundrel.

Also appears in Dearest Rogue and Duke of Sin

* * *

Eve Dinwoody bent over her desk and peered through a large brass magnifying glass on a stand. She took a breath and very carefully touched a thin sable hair brush to the pink cheek on the miniature portrait of a man she was working on.

“Ma’am?” Jean-Marie called from the doorway. “His Grace is here to see you.”

“Show him in, please, Jean-Marie.”

A moment later His Grace Valentine Napier, the Duke of Montgomery breezed into her private study, carrying a rectangular package with a cloth draped over it. He wore a yellow-green suit today, embroidered in black and gold. On anyone else it would’ve looked excruciating.

On him, it merely highlighted the guinea-gold of his hair.

“Darling Eve, you must stop your labors at once. Not only will you give yourself a squint if you insist on painting every day, but I’ve brought you a present.”

“Have you?” She sat back and dabbed her brush in the pink watercolor before bending once more over her task. “It’s not another box of marzipans, is it? Because I did tell you that I don’t like them.”

“Nonsense,” the duke said briskly. “Everyone likes marzipans.”

“You don’t.”

I’m not everyone.” A heavy breath at her shoulder. “That’s not me, is it?”

“Why,” she asked, “would I paint you?”

“Well”—Val set the package next to her—nearly in her paints—and whirled across the study, no doubt to rearrange her books—“I am acquitted quite a beauty.”

“Can gentlemen be beauties?” she asked, eyeing the package suspiciously.

“In my case, yes,” he said with a conceit so complete it was actually rather endearing.

“Then perhaps I ought to paint you.” Eve sat back and examined her art. Very nice and at a good point at which to halt. Val was too volatile for her peace of mind while painting. She wiped her brush clean. “Of course, you’d have to sit still for me.”

Val made a rude noise. “Sitting for a portrait is so tiresome. Do you know I had my portrait painted this last winter and I swear the man gave me a double chin.”

“That’s because you didn’t sit still,” she said tartly. She uncovered the package to find a white dove blinking back at her from inside a wooden cage. “What is this?”

“A dove,” came his voice from the far side of the room. It sounded muffled. “Have you already impaired your eyesight squinting? I found it at the market on the way over and made my chairmen stop just so I could buy it for you.”

Eve frowned at the dove and then at him. “What am I going to do with a dove?”

Val straightened across the room. Several of her books were scattered haphazardly about his feet. “Coo at it? Feed it? Sing to it? I don’t know. What does one usually do with a caged dove?”

“I haven’t the faintest.”

He shrugged and began stacking her books into an unsteady tower. “If you don’t like it, you could always give it to your cook to make into pie.”

Eve shook her head wearily. “I can’t eat a tame dove.”

“Why not?” Val looked honestly confused. “I’m sure it tastes just like pigeon and I do like a pigeon pie.”

“Because…” Fortunately Eve was saved from having to try to explain to Val the wrongness of killing a bird meant as a pet by the maid’s coming into the room. She bore a huge tray of tea and what looked like orange-iced fairy cakes.

Tess, her cook, knew Val’s favorites.

She nodded for the maid to set the tea on the low table in front of her blue-gray settee, then rose and crossed to the settee. “Come sit and have some tea.”

He alighted on the armchair opposite her and then frowned. “That settee is fading. Let me buy you another.”

“No,” Eve said composedly, but quite firmly. One did have to be firm with Val or one found oneself aswamp in unwanted—and often bizarre—gifts.

He flung out his arms petulantly. “Fine. Keep that ugly thing.”

She eyed him as she passed his teacup to him. “You’re in a mood.”

He suddenly gave her one of his real smiles—wide and boyish, dimples on both cheeks, and enough to make any heart, particularly hers, squeeze. “Have I blanketed you in my ill-humor, my darling Eve? Forgive me, please.”

She took a sip of her tea. “I will if you tell me what’s bothering you.”

He twirled his sword stick at the side of the chair. “All my mechanisms and workings ought to be bearing lovely ripe fruit right now, and yet they aren’t.”

“Sometimes I think it’s best for you when not everything goes your way,” she said lightly.

“Do you?” His look was dark. “But sweetling, that merely makes me cross. And you know how I am when I’m cross.”

She looked away, repressing a shiver though the room was warm. The fact was that Val played a dandy and a fool when the mood took him, but the people who dismissed him because of his manners did so at their own peril.

And to their regret.

“Is this about the favor I did for you?” she asked carefully.

“It might be.” He sat up suddenly and helped himself to a fairy cake. “There are workings within workings, cog upon cog, wheel within wheel. Someday, dear Eve, I shall rule this city, nay, this very isle, and mark me, no one will ever be the wiser.”

So saying, he popped the cake in his mouth and smiled.

And while it might be easy to look at Val with orange icing smeared at the corner of his lips and think he was merely painting castles in the air, Eve knew better. 

She’d seen the full will of the Duke of Montgomery.

Seen it and nearly not survived.

–from Dearest Rogue