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Once Upon a Wedding Night by Sophie Jordan - Romance>Historical Other
An Innocent Deception . . .
Lady Meredith Brookshire has every right to Oak Run. Now that she's suddenly husbandless and penniless, where else would she, her addled father, and spinster aunt reside? Yet who should appear but Nicholas Caulfield, the new Brookshire heir, claiming the estate is rightfully his by law. The brute is as arrogant as he is handsome-besides, he's supposed to be dead. And the only plan resourceful Meredith can devise to save her family from homelessness is a desperate scheme that may lead her to salvation or ruin . . . and the bed of the man she has vowed to hate.
A reluctant aristocrat, Nick does not trust this fiery, infuriating chit whom he suspects of subterfuge-yet who bewitches him with her innocent green eyes. The sooner he can get this tempting beauty married off to some stodgy old blueblood-and off his hands for good-the better. There is one slight problem, however:
Nick can't bear the thought of her wedding any man but him.
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Sensuality Rating: Not rated
Oh what a tangled web we weave,
Sir Walter Scott, "Marmion"
"It cannot be true." Lady Meredith Brookshire paced her drawing room, fisting the missive only just delivered into a crumpled ball.
"Might I see the letter?" her aunt asked, flicking her wrist in the air impatiently. "Before it is destroyed?"
Meredith blinked at the ball of parchment in her hand and quickly passed it to her aunt as if it were a deadly serpent. It might as well have been for the death knell it rang in her heart.
They had found him. The new Lord Brookshire. The missive did not indicate where they had located him, but he would surely descend upon them soon. Like a vulture scenting its next meal.
So much for the solicitors' assurances that he was dead, she mused wryly. Despite those assurances, they had put forth a search for him anyway. Blasted solicitors. Must they follow the letter of the law precisely?
Her aunt smoothed the crinkles out of the parchment, her expression growing perplexed as she scanned the message. "But, dearest, isn't he dead?"
Meredith continued to pace, rubbing the base of her palm against her forehead to ward off her impending headache. "Unless a ghost is about to descend upon us, Nicholas Caulfield is alive and well and intends to claim his inheritance." She halted her pacing steps as the ugly significance of Nicholas Caulfield's pending arrival washed over her. Ruin. Destitution. Doom settled like a heavy stone in her chest.
Surely he would rid the premises of his half brother's widow and her few clinging relatives. Then what? They had no other family to take them in. And Edmund had not provided for her beyond his death. Not that she would have expected him to for all the care and thought he extended her over the years. Still, she had not anticipated her husband expiring so young. He had only been thirty-five, and robust by all appearances, rare though the sight of him might have been.
Her hands balled into fists at her sides. "Blast Edmund! Do not husbands set up jointures for their wives?"
"Do not curse, dearest, and do not speak ill of the dead," Aunt Eleanor reproved with a chiding tsk. "Especially since he no doubt suffers in the throes of hell as we speak."
A smile tugged her lips at her aunt's uncharacteristic spite. Aunt Eleanor's nostrils quivered with disdain. "After all he put you through, the Almighty is not going to take a kindly view of him as he stands at Judgment."
"He did not put me through anything." The lie tripped off Meredith's tongue with practiced ease. "He wasn't cruel or abusive. He was just -- " She paused, groping for the appropriate word. Arriving at it, she shrugged and uttered, " -- absent."
"For seven years," Aunt Eleanor reminded hotly, her indignation on Meredith's behalf both familiar and tedious.
"I was quite content with the arrangement." Again, the fib fell smoothly. Content? Lonely was more accurate. "Many wives would appreciate being rid of their husband's oppressive yoke."
"Well, then he has put me through much suffering. Look at these dreadful frocks. I hate to speak uncharitably of the dead, even his rotten soul, but he's getting the last word if we wear these ghastly gowns." Aunt Eleanor plucked at the heavily starched black paramatta of her mourning dress. "I cannot wear black for an entire year. And certainly not for him. I haven't a turban to match."
Meredith looked down at her dress and frowned. Her aunt was correct. Nothing could complement such atrocious gowns, matching turban or no.
Aunt Eleanor's gaze slid over her in distaste. "You look like a ghost. Completely washed out."
Once Upon a Wedding NightBy: Sophie Jordan