19th century America.
The New Year begins with a lady's intriguing proposition for Gavin Blackford--though not the sort he's accustomed to. Alluring widow Ariadne Faucher requests private lessons from the rakish sword master in order to challenge her sworn enemy to a duel.
Though disinclined at first to teach a woman, Gavin is fascinated by this statuesque beauty, cloaked as she is in grief and mystery. Ariadne proves a quick study with a blade, her resolve fueled by a vendetta that is all she has left in the world. Their lessons crackle with undeniable electricity...but the secret of her all-consuming vengeance may have rendered her heart impervious even to such a virtuoso as Gavin.