The Admiral's Penniless Bride by Carla Kelly - Romance>Historical Other
Sally Paul is down to her last penny. As she spends it on a cup of tea--to stave off being at the mercy of the workhouse--the last thing she expects is an offer of marriage...from a complete stranger!
Admiral Sir Charles Bright's seafaring days are over--and according to society, that must mean he's in need of a wife! Discovering Sally's in need of a home, he offers a solution.... They marry in haste--but will they enjoy their wedding night at leisure?
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The Mouse was late. Admiral Sir Charles Bright (Ret.) was under the impression that he was a tolerant man, but tardiness was the exception. For more than thirty years, he had only to say, 'Roundly now', and his orders were carried out swiftly and without complaint. True, copious gold lace and an admiral's stars might have inspired such prompt obedience. Obedience was second nature to him; tardiness a polar opposite.
Obviously this was not the case with The Mouse. For the life of him, he could have sworn that the lady in question was only too relieved to relinquish her old-maid status for matrimony to someone mature and well seasoned. During their only visit last month, The Mouse--Miss Prunella Batchthorpe--had seemed eager enough for all practical purposes.
Bright stared at his rapidly cooling cup of tea, and began to chalk up his defects. He did not think of forty-five as old, particularly since he had all of his hair, close cut though it was; all of his teeth minus one lost on the Barbary Coast;
and most of his parts. He had compensated nicely for the loss of his left hand with a hook, and he knew he hadn't waved it about overmuch during his recent interview with Miss Batchthorpe. He had worn the silver one, which Star-key had polished to a fare-thee-well before his excursion into Kent.
He knew he didn't talk too much, or harrumph or hawk at inopportune moments. There was no paunch to disgust, and he didn't think his breath was worse than anyone else's. And hadn't her older brother, a favourite commander who helmed Bright's flagship, assured him that, at age thirty-seven, Prunella was more than ready to settle down at her own address? Relieved, even. Bright could only conclude that she had developed cold feet at the last minute, or was tardy.
He could probably overlook Miss Batchthorpe's plain visage. He had told her this was to be a marriage of convenience, so he wouldn't be looking at her pop eyes on an adjoining pillow each morning. He could even overlook her shy ways, which had made him privately dub her The Mouse. But tardiness?
Reality overtook him, as it invariably did. One doesn't live through nearly three decades of war and many ranks by wool gathering. She might have decided that he simply would not suit, even if it meant a life of spinsterhood. He knew even a year of peace had not softened his hard stare, and the wind- and wave-induced wrinkles about his mouth were here to stay.
Whatever the reason for The Mouse's non-appearance, he still needed a wife immediately. I have sisters, he thought to himself for the thousandth time since the end of the war. Oh, I do.
Fannie and Dora, older than he by several years, had not intruded much in his life spent largely at sea. They had
corresponded regularly, keeping him informed of family marriages, births, deaths and nit-picking rows. Bright knew that Fannie's eldest son, his current heir, was an ill-mannered lout, and that Dora's daughter had contracted a fabulous alliance to some twit with a fortune.
He put his current dilemma down to the basic good natures of his meddling siblings. Both of them widowed and possessing fortunes of their own, Fan and Dora had the curse of the wealthy: too much time on their hands.
Fan had delivered the first shot across the bows when he had visited her in London after Waterloo. 'Dora and I want to see you married,' she had announced. 'Why should you not be happy?'
Bright could tell from the martial glint in her eyes--Wellington himself possessed a similar look--that there was no point in telling his sister that he was already happy. Truth to tell, what little he had glimpsed of...