His Perfect Bride(110)

By: Jenn Langston

The sorrow and pity in Mary’s eyes nearly destroyed her calm. “I’m sorry, my lady.”

“I know. Now quickly help me cover my hair.”

There was no time to style her hair, so Abigail wore it loosely down her back. If nothing else, the fullness would add more protection between her flesh and her father’s belt. Brushing a lock of hair off her shoulder, she took a deep breath. Every second she wasted here would make her punishment more severe.

“Where is the dress?” Abigail inquired as she looked around.

“I have not finished collecting your armor.”

“We don’t have time. I don’t believe he would notice the change in my appearance if he has been drinking.”

When Mary appeared with the dress, Abigail quickly tugged the thin fabric over her head. The armor would have offered additional protection, but it was too late now. She would have to go without it.

Years ago, before her debut into society, her mother suggested Abigail make herself less presentable in order to deter potential suitors. In agreement with their scheme, Mary had fashioned several pieces that affixed under Abigail’s clothing in order to obscure her curves and make her appear larger. Any gentlemen still showing interest changed their mind after speaking with her mother. Abigail had no idea what occurred during those discussions, but she felt grateful for them regardless.

They had also conspired with the dressmaker to select colors that were unfavorable with her light skin tone. The final piece of her armor was a pair of black oversized glasses to obscure her face. Her mother had them specially crafted for her with glass lenses.

Glancing over at her glasses, she decided to forgo them tonight. The chance of them breaking was too great, and it only enraged her father more to be forced to replace something he damaged during one of his fits.

Once ready, Abigail squared her shoulders and made her way downstairs. Crossing into the drawing room, she was surprised to find it empty. Her father always conducted this business here, and his absence frightened her. Could he be planning something worse than normal?

The sound of her father’s laughter brought her eyes to the open doorway.

“There you are, my dear,” her father exclaimed. His face hardened as his gaze dropped down to her threadbare gown.

As he stepped several paces into the room, Abigail noticed a gentleman following him. She immediately realized her mistake and dropped her head. Not only was her clothing choice wrong, but she regretted her decision to forgo her armor.

“Willimena,” her father snapped, drawing her attention back to him. “I have found a husband for you.”

Abigail’s eyes widened as she gaped at her father. Shock robbed her of the ability to speak. After years of avoiding the fate she would suffer with a husband, in one instant, all her efforts had been rendered useless.

Her head spun. Surely this was a bad dream, or at the very least a misunderstanding. Sliding her eyes to the unknown man, she hoped he would refute her father’s words. Unfortunately, his unblinking stare only served to confirm it.

As she surveyed him, steely grey eyes assessed her from under dark lashes. His black hair was cropped short around a masculine face. A dusting of hair shaded his cheeks as if he had forgotten to shave that morning. Standing taller than her father, she found him to be quite an imposing figure.

“I-I don’t understand,” Abigail sputtered.

“This is Viscount Merrick, and, as of right now, you two are betrothed.”

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