The Duke's Shotgun Wedding (Entangled Scandalous)(6)

By: Stacy Reid



He strolled to the bell and rang it, ignoring her passionate outburst. The butler instantly appeared, as if he had been stationed outside the door all along.

She gaped in humiliation.

The butler bowed. “Yes, Your Grace?”

“Summon the vicar,” Calydon ordered. “And have the cook prepare luncheon for me and my future duchess.”

The room swam around Jocelyn at his pronouncement. She dropped abruptly onto the chair and reached for the glass of sherry on his desk. She drank it in three unladylike gulps.

She had to admire the butler’s aplomb. He betrayed neither dismay nor pleasure at the duke’s announcement. “Yes, Your Grace.” He bowed again, and exited.

She took a steadying breath. “Your Grace, I—”

“Sebastian, please. Now we are on intimate terms, let’s dispense with the titles, Jocelyn.”

A shiver went through her at the way he said her name, rolling it slowly over his tongue as if tasting and savoring the syllables. She frowned, disoriented and overwhelmed. He was so mercurial. She knew rage had held him in its grip a few moments ago, darkening his eyes to deep blue. Now he was smiling at her with lazy sensuality, all trace of rage suppressed behind shuttered eyes.

“You are marrying me?” She was still disbelieving of what she’d heard.

“Was that not your demand? I cannot give you the satisfaction of Anthony’s hand, nor can I meet you on the field of honor at dawn. And I certainly do not wish to be shot in my own library. I thought you said I would do?”

“I…I am merely startled by the ease of your capitulation, Your Gr…Sebastian. I feared I would at least have to shoot you in the arm for my intentions not to be doubted.” She glanced uncertainly at the closed door. “You sent for the vicar.”

“Yes…he will marry us upon his arrival.”

Jocelyn laughed, the sound thin and high. “You jest, I’m sure.”

“Do I detect unwillingness? Is there a chance I mistook your meaning when you demanded satisfaction?”

She surged to her feet. “No, you did not.”

She paced the library in a daze unable to stay still. “The scandal of wedding so quickly without my family present, or a courting period of a few weeks at least—”

“Denied.”

“I beg your pardon?” She plucked up her veil and top hat, and clutched them to her chest.

“I do not bow to the conventions of society, Jocelyn. Nor did I imagine that you did, after the way you stormed my estate waving your derringer.”

Her feet sank into the thick carpet as she resumed pacing. The duke leaned against the bookshelf and watched her.

“I cannot credit that you would have us wed so soon. It’s impossible. The banns will need to be read and—”

“I will procure a special license and we will wed tomorrow morning at nine.”

She gaped at him. “I do not think it possible to obtain a license so soon, Sebastian.”

“I am the Duke of Calydon. It will be done.”

She blinked at him owlishly, unsure if she could even scoff at his arrogance.

A slow, devastating smile slashed his features and she swallowed at the strange flutter it caused inside her.

“Are you at least twenty-one, Jocelyn?”

“Yes”

“Then I will have my solicitor visit Doctor’s Common and procure a special license for us.”

A disconcerting thrill went through Jocelyn at his words. He was willing to marry her.

Disbelief and a deep excitement unfurled within her. She stopped her pacing abruptly, staring at him with wide eyes. He prowled over to her as myriad emotions tumbled through her—doubt, fear, relief, followed by unguarded joy. Her family was saved.

But it didn’t take long for the fear and uncertainty to return. Could she really do this? “I…”

“Yes, Jocelyn?”

“My father will object to such a short notice. I fear he may—”

“You will spend the night here at Sherring Cross and we will wed in the morning. There is no need for you to return home to face his objections.”

Jocelyn stared at him, scandalized. She had not forgotten what he’d said about taking her. Even if he provided a paragon with the most virtuous of sensibilities as a chaperon, she would not spend a night under his roof. “Please disabuse yourself of such a ludicrous notion. I have a cousin who resides in Cringleford. I could visit her, and send a note informing my father of my decision,” she ventured carefully.

“Does that mean you consent to marrying me tomorrow?”

She had no choice. She must, for her sisters. To give them all a chance at happiness. That had been the plan all along.

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