His Perfect Bride(7)

By: Jenn Langston

The array of flowers was vibrant and her artist eye begged to capture their beauty. Every color imaginable decorated the walkways and called out to her as she meandered through the garden. Brianna lightly ran her fingers over the delicate petals of a rose, loving the soft texture as well as the delicate smell it awarded her.

After traveling far enough, she sat on a decorative bench not easily seen from the main walkway. As she waited, she debated how to use her newfound information. Knowledge was power; however, if Miss Ashley was not aware she had the knowledge, the power became useless. Simply telling the governess she knew of her relationship with James did nothing for her except create an enemy she didn’t need. By the time footsteps drew near, Brianna decided to hold on to her information. In light of this twist, she was happy to welcome Miss Ashley to her new position within their household.

“Brianna! There you are,” Grace exclaimed. “I have been searching everywhere for you.”

“I came out here quite some time ago for fresh air and inspiration. I’m afraid I got lost in the beauty of the day. Did you need me?”

“Have you met Miss Ashley, our new governess, yet?”

“No, I have not. It’s nice to meet you,” Brianna replied politely, although she felt she had already been acquainted with her.

“It’s nice to meet you as well. I hope we will be able to get along nicely.”

“I imagine we will. Welcome to Denton House, Miss Ashley,” Brianna said warmly. She almost laughed at the suspicious look that crossed Miss Ashley’s face a second before she could mask it.

“Mother has been looking all over for you. She is anxious for you to prepare yourself for the ball tonight,” Grace said, sounding disappointed. She was still four years away from her first Season, and Brianna knew how much her sister longed to attend the fancy, hosted events.

“When you see her, you may tell her I am directly headed for my bedchamber. Assure her I’ll be ready within the hour.” Brianna smiled politely.

Miss Ashley may now question her mother’s assessment, thereby giving Brianna a chance to play her cards right.

Chapter 2

As the carriage maneuvered down the streets making its way to Lord and Lady Minor’s ball, Brianna could hardly sit still, for her excitement was brimming over. She loved to dance and flirt with all the gentlemen while keeping an eye out for her perfect husband.

“Are you excited, my dear?” her father asked. His eyebrow rose as he watched her.

“Yes, Father, I enjoy dancing very much,” she replied.

Her father simply laughed.

“I’m glad you are excited,” her mother said. “However, I expect you to behave in a manner befitting a lady of your standing.”

“Of course, Mother,” Brianna said, trying to keep the irritation out of her voice.

“Tonight a special gentleman will be in attendance, and I would like you to become acquainted with him.”

“As you wish.” Brianna was not sure what to think about her mother’s request, for she had never singled out any one gentleman before. This brought one thought into Brianna’s head: This was the man her mother intended her to marry. She would do whatever possible to avoid that fate.

“Very good. Now, I believe he has only recently returned to London, and if my informants are correct, he is looking for a wife. You are by far the fairest of the Season, and therefore the most likely choice.”

Her mother’s confidence that beauty was the deciding factor made her want to snort. Restraining the urge, she cleared her throat. “May I know who the gentleman is?”

“He is the Marquis of Stonemede,” her mother said proudly.

As the carriage stopped in front of Lord and Lady Minor’s townhouse, Brianna found herself robbed of the opportunity to ask any questions.

Entering the ballroom behind her parents, one question continually plagued her: How did her mother manage to find an available marquis who was searching for a bride? The only answer she could come up with was not very pleasant. He was advanced in years and hoping to sire an heir before claiming his eternal rest. She shuddered at the thought.

Unsure of how her mother intended to elevate her above the other potential brides, she refused to sit back and wait while her perfect future was taken from her. She would avoid meeting the marquis, at least until he met enough ladies to make his selection from this Season’s best. Her decision made, Brianna easily glided among the crowd and away from her scheming mother.

Unfortunately, she only enjoyed one dance before her mother was ready to obtain an introduction to the marquis. Her mother headed straight for her, with a purposeful look in her eyes that never boded well for Brianna’s plans. Frustrated that her mother never gave her opinion any consideration, Brianna felt anger rising within her. Her future was hers and hers alone. Needing a moment to regain her calm, Brianna opted to slip away before her mother could reach her.

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