Excerpt: Marry in Scarlet
Book 4: Convenient Marriage
This is at the start of the book. Aunt Agatha (Lady Salter) has called on the Duke of Everingham, shortly after he was left at the altar when Rose’s long lost husband turned up (in Marry In Secret).
The door to the sitting room opened. The duke stood in the doorway. Finally!
Lady Salter looked up and inclined her head graciously. “Good afternoon, Redmond.” She’d known him since he was in short coats. The use of “Redmond” rather than his title was to remind him of the fact.
Redmond Jasper Hartley, the fifth Duke of Everingham, strolled into the room. He’d kept her waiting a good half hour but he made no apology. He bowed over her hand and said in a bored voice, “Lady Salter, how do you do?” His cold gray gaze was indifferent.
Lady Salter came straight to the point. “I understand my niece has apologized for her disgraceful behavior.”
He raised a dark brow. “Niece?” As if he had no idea to whom she was referring.
Her lips thinned. So he was still angry. Coldly furious, under the indifferent-seeming facade, if she was not mistaken. Pride was one thing, incivility to his elders quite another. Besides, she was as much a victim of Rose’s carelessness as he.
“I refer to Lady Rose Rutherford, as you very well know. She came here last week, I believe, to apologize.”
The duke strolled to the window and stood looking out, his back to her. After a moment he said in a tight voice, “Is there a purpose to this visit, Lady Salter?”
“You are still in want of a bride.”
He stilled, then turned slowly to face her and in an arctic voice said, “And if I am, madam, what business is it of yours?”
Lady Salter lifted her chin and said what she had come here to say. “I have another niece.”
He didn’t move. His expression was carved in ice.
She continued, “She is also, of course, the daughter of an earl, though her mother was of the yeoman class. Georgiana herself is young, attractive, healthy and—”
She blinked. “Not in the least—quite the contrary, in fact. She has—”
“All her teeth too, I’m sure. A picture of perfection, no doubt, but I’m not interested.”
She glared at him.
His lip curled and he continued with silken insolence, “We are not at Tattersalls, Lady Salter. There is no need to act the coper and enumerate your niece’s various qualities. I am not interested in furthering either her ambitions or yours.”
She bristled. Likening her to a horse coper indeed! “You forget yourself, young man—duke or not. Your mother would be appalled.” His mother was her goddaughter, as well as a friend.
He glanced pointedly at the clock.
His indifference was infuriating, as was his assumption that she was ambitious for her niece. She was, of course—Georgiana had no sense at all of where her duty lay—but the duke could not know that. He and Georgiana had barely even met. She doubted they’d exchanged a dozen words. It was yet another situation where an aunt was needed to step in and take control.
“Your mother and I—”
“—will, in future, kindly keep your noses out of my business. I’ve had enough of your interference.” In two paces he crossed the room and yanked on the bellpull. “Good day to you, madam.”
Interference? Madam? She almost choked on her indignation. Such ingratitude toward one who’d worked tirelessly—selflessly!—to arrange a suitable marriage for him.
The butler appeared in the doorway. The duke said, “Lady Salter is leaving, Fleming.”
Lady Salter rose and with great dignity stalked toward the door. As she reached it her temper got the better of her. She turned and in an icy voice said, “I was mistaken in thinking you and Georgiana would suit, Redmond. Far from being ambitious to marry you”—she gave a scornful huff—“the truth is, Georgiana did her level best to dissuade Rose from marrying you—”
“Wanted me for herself, no doubt.”
“Your arrogance is misplaced, sirrah! Far from wanting you, she was quite vocal in her dislike of you—and I see now she has a point. In any case the ridiculous child has declared far and wide that she would rather live with dogs and horses than marry.”
That silenced him, she could see. She added, with crisp satisfaction, “I had thought, your grace, that marriage to a young woman of good family, an independently minded young woman who would not hang off your sleeve, a girl who wants nothing more than to retire to a country estate and be left to breed horses, dogs—and possibly children—would be exactly what you required. A wife who would keep out of your way and give you no trouble.” She paused to let that sink in. It was exactly the kind of wife he’d described back when Rose was the bride being considered.
She made an airily dismissive gesture. “Even so, it would have taken all my considerable powers of persuasion to coax Georgiana to wed you.”
His eyes grew flintier, and she added with barely concealed relish, “I would not be surprised if we’d had to drag her to the altar in the end. My niece is a headstrong gel who disdains the advice of her elders and betters. You, sir, are equally stubborn. Almost, I think, you deserve each other, but since you both lack a proper attitude to marriage—and to me!—I wash my hands of you.” She sailed from the room in high dudgeon.
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