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this novel should not be recreated in any form without prior consent from Jane Lark
Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 ,19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33,34,35,36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56
Her fingers trembled as Emerald pressed a hand to her hair, gently checking no strands had fallen. The Duke was hosting a dinner in her honour, to celebrate the announcement of their engagement. There would be no escaping this now, the wedding date had been chosen, for only four weeks ahead. Everything had spiralled from the moment she had said yes and the pace of it was terrifying, the preparations progressing as she watched through the bars of the stupor that had come over her here. Each day she rose from her bed, ate, drank, smiled, breathed, and at night she returned to bed, as her mind tried to shut out the knowledge that she was going to marry a man she did not love and who did not love her.
It was not love he sought, he wanted a wife to be a mother to the children and hostess to the people he chose to impress.
Tonight was her first true test of her duties. She had to stand beside The Duke and welcome the people from his world, smiling and curtseying as though the sun still shone, but it did not, it was dark inside her and all about her.
She touched her hair, then stroked her hands over the skirt of her gown. She had to face this. There was no other choice. She left her room and walked downstairs alone.
“Ah, Emma, there you are, you look perfect.” The Duke looked up at as she walked down the stairs into the reception hall. He had been standing with the senior servants, perhaps discussing the final details. The servants moved away as he turned.
She closed the distance between them as his hands lifted to take hers. She lowered into a curtsey as he gently clasped both her hands, and then he kissed the knuckles of one hand then the other through her silk gloves.
“The first guest, Your Grace.”
He let one of her hands go. ‘We had best stand in our position, Emma.” He led her by the hand to the large formal drawing room that was decorated with painted scenes from a battle one of their relatives had fought in generations ago. He let her go as he turned to stand just inside the door.
Her hand lifted to touch her hair again.
His hand rose and grasped hers then lowered it to her side as she heard the front door open. “Do not fidget, Emma.”
Richard came into her mind as she awaited the appearance of their first guest. She saw his eyes as they looked at her. He had loved her.
She smiled as their first guest approached, and from then on the guests streamed past. She continued to smile, her cheeks aching with the effort. It was half an hour later that they joined their guests for wine before dinner and her heart thumped as she struggled to remember how to put words in the right order.
The Duke lifted his hand in a gesture that she had seen before, and then the butler shouted from the other side of the room that dinner was ready to be served as doors were opened that led into the dining room.
The Duke offered his arm, Emerald rested her hand on it. A memory of the day she had boarded Richard’s ship spun into her head, a memory of her mother, of saying goodbye to her father. Emerald felt a little faint as the Duke left her to take a seat at the table as he walked to the far end. She was not his wife yet, and in this company she was far below his rank.
Everyone seemed to watch her as she ate. Looking inquisitively or looking for faults.
Course after course was served as the meal progressed and she pushed portions about her plate as panic quietly breathed. By the time that the china on which dessert had been served was removed she was ready to run. She could not do this. No matter how personable The Duke was she did not want to be in a bed with him. She did not love him. She could not pretend to be content.
Yet what else could she do. She had no money and no one to help her.
The wife of one of the Duke’s friends stood, indicating that the women ought to leave the men alone. Emerald ought to have risen first. She stood in a daze and walked from the room with misery eating into her like a maggot working its way into an apple. Once the women had all past through the door into the drawing room, the doors were closed behind them. A sensation of being trapped caught at Emerald.
“Excuse me,” she said to the nearest woman as she turned towards the door that would take her out into the hall.
Her aunt appeared before her to stop her but Emerald brushed past her.”Forgive me.” Her aunt had been in the drawing room before dinner and sitting a distance away from Emerald during dinner.
“Pardon me,” she progressed past more of the women.
When she neared the door to the hall a footman opened it for her and her fingers gripped at the skirt of her dress as though on the far side she might be able to run away.
As she past into the hall the drawing room door closed behind her.
“I have told you who I am!” A masculine voice echoed back from the marble all about her. “I know I have no invitation!” A familiar deep accent of command. “His Grace will not turn me out! Find him if you must!”
Richard! He was standing before the open door with two footmen in front of him, blocking his way.
The Marlow Intrigues: Perfect for lovers of period drama
The Tainted Love of a Captain #8 – The last episode in the Marlow Intrigues series
The Lost Love of Soldier ~ The Prequel #1 ~ A Christmas Elopement began it all
The Illicit Love of a Courtesan #2
The Passionate Love of a Rake #3
The Scandalous Love of a Duke #4
The Dangerous Love of a Rogue #5
The Jealous Love of a Scoundrel #5.5
The Persuasive Love of a Libertine #5.75 now included in Jealous Love, (or free if you can persuade Amazon to price match with Kobo ebooks)
The Secret Love of a Gentleman #6
The Reckless Love of an Heir #7
Jane’s books can be ordered from most booksellers in paperback
Go to the index
- the story of the real courtesan who inspired The Illicit Love of a Courtesan,
- another free short story, about characters from book #2, A Lord’s Scandalous Love,
- the prequel excerpts for book #3 The Scandalous Love of a Duke
Jane Lark is a writer of authentic, passionate and emotional Historical and New Adult Romance stories, and the author of a No.1 bestselling Historical Romance novel in America, ‘The Illicit Love of a Courtesan’.Click here to find out more about Jane’s books, and see Jane’s website www.janelark.co.uk to learn more about Jane. Or click ‘like’ on Jane’s Facebook page to see photo’s and learn historical facts from the Georgian, Regency and Victorian eras, which Jane publishes there. You can also follow Jane on twitter at @janelark