His Perfect Bride(2)

By: Jenn Langston

With Richard’s good business sense, he’d managed the business side of the club proficiently for all these years. He’d been reluctant to turn his position over to Greyson, but Stonemede was now his priority. Regardless, he still planned on being an active participant in the business dealings, at least from afar. The ideals they established for the club were too important to him to turn his back on it or his friends.

“Barton’s actually offered to buy the club from us. They offered a nominal figure and had the gall to be put out by our refusal,” Greyson informed him.

“It’s good to know we have their attention. It is rather amusing to think of how many of them laughed in our faces when they discovered our intent,” Richard said in remembrance. The friends smiled at each other, proud of their success.

“So, business aside, how are things at Stonemede?” Jonathan asked. “We didn’t expect you to return before the year was up.”

Richard winced, taking a long drink of his brandy. He knew he eventually had to explain his purpose in returning, but it still made him cringe.

“Everything has been running smoothly over the years. As anticipated, my father kept excellent records and ran the estate effectively.”

“How are your mother and Elizabeth handling everything?” Greyson inquired.

“They are as well as can be expected. Mother is strictly adhering to her mourning. During the six months, I never saw her go as far as cracking a smile. Elizabeth, on the other hand, is getting rather bored and anxious to re-enter London’s society.”

“Your sister was never one to idly sit in a single place for too long,” Jonathan observed.

“Unfortunately that quality makes her rather hard to live with.”

His sister had been preparing for her first Season in London when they received news of their father’s illness. Rushing to Stonemede, they were awarded less than an hour of time with him before he passed from this world, smiling until the end. Since Hamilton Carrack was a highly respected lord, it was a difficult time for not only the family, but the servants and tenants as well. Time offered its healing hands to ease the pain, and until then, Richard assured everyone he would be as great a lord as his father.

“Is your sister’s restlessness what brought you back so soon?” Greyson guessed.

“No, I have come at my mother’s urging . . . to take a bride before the Season is over.”

At the stunned silence, as well as the flabbergasted expressions on his friend’s faces, he knew it wasn’t the answer they expected. Amused by their reaction, he laughed until Greyson and Jonathan reclaimed themselves enough to school their expressions.

“Your mother urged, and you came? You sure have changed, for I have never known you to do anything that didn’t suit your goals,” Jonathan said.

“My mother simply pointed out the quickest way to help the estate through their grief would be to bring a new marchioness home. I agree with her reasoning.” At their disbelieving faces, he added, “I’m thirty years of age, and I now have a duty to Stonemede that requires my presence. If I take a bride soon, the deed will be done, and I’ll be at my leisure to do as I please.”

“Seems reasonable,” Greyson said, apparently stunned at the revelation.

“It does not. Why would you want to tie yourself to one woman so early in life? Women are meant to be enjoyed in large quantities like a fine brandy. If you decide on one bottle, when you have drained it, you are only left with an empty bottle.” Jonathan’s outrage rang in every word.

“I don’t intend to drain my wife. She is merely going to be an ornament to decorate my home and comply with my demands. Nothing will change in my life, except the household matters will no longer fall to my mother. I will also have the added benefit of procuring heirs.”

“So, your requirements are for her to only be beautiful and obedient?” Greyson asked, leaning forward and cupping his chin.

“Certainly, however obedience rules out. If she isn’t calm and soft spoken, it matters not what she looks like.”

“How long do you suspect it will take you to obtain this perfect bride?”

“Not very long, for I suspect many of the ladies are trained to be what I would consider the perfect wife. My requirements are not unusual, as I’m not asking for much. Do either of you know any of the ladies this Season that would suit?”

“I certainly do not. I stay as far away as possible from the maidens. I require more experience in my women, and no danger of being trapped into marriage,” Jonathan quickly replied.

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