The Duke's Shotgun Wedding (Entangled Scandalous)(3)

By: Stacy Reid

Jocelyn blanched, lowering the gun as her mind sifted through her options with dizzying speed. Despair made her voice hoarse when she responded. “I will need proof.”

It was the Duke of Calydon’s turn to throw a paper onto his desk, one he pulled from the top drawer. She reached for it, and gasped as she read the document. Dear God, it was true. Anthony was married. Pain squeezed her chest tight and her hands trembled as she lowered the paper. She slid it back across the desk with infinite slowness.

“One hundred thousand pounds is my first and final offer.” He rose from his chair and stalked around the desk toward her. She scrambled up from her seat and her reticule fell from her lap, spilling its contents on the lavender Aubusson carpet.

“Come no farther!” she cried, the words echoing off the library walls. She pressed her back against the bookshelves that lined them and stared at him with wide eyes. She did not like the duke’s smile as he detoured to the sideboard and poured ruby liquor from a decanter into two glasses.

The crumbled ruin that was her father’s estate flashed in her head. A hundred thousand pounds would put him on the path of removing the unrelenting burden of debt that was entailed with his property, and possibly give him a fighting chance.

She almost took it.

But then the voices of her sisters rushed in, crowding her mind.

Do you think I will ever have a season, Jocelyn? Her beautiful younger sister Victoria.

I wish not to be so cold all the time, but I think I would prefer to have pretty dresses like Lady Elizabeth. Don’t you wish for pretty things, Jocelyn? Her twelve year old sister Emily, more bookish and enraptured by Latin, Plutarch, and Socrates—as was Jocelyn—but sometimes wholly feminine in her desire for dresses and pretty trinkets.

Jocelyn’s throat tightened as the voices that affected her most blared in her head. I wish for warm milk on Christmas morning. Loevnia says every Christmas her mama and papa give her presents under a Christmas tree. They eat roast duckling! Pudding! And Christmas punch! Yum! If we could only have such things… The eight year old twins Emma and William had danced together as they fantasized, yet Emma’s voice had rung hollow for someone so young. But it was William’s sad smile as he said, I would be so happy if you were warm, Emma, which had decided everything for Jocelyn.

The raise of the derringer to Calydon’s chest was slow and deliberate, as was the cool smoothness of her voice as she said, “If Anthony is unavailable for marriage, Your Grace, an offer from you will do. That is the only thing that can atone for your brother’s reprehensible conduct.”

Chapter Two

Ah, yes. She would do.

Sebastian Jackson Thornton, the twelfth Duke of Calydon, Marquess of Hastings, and Earl of Blaydon had decided on Lady Jocelyn Rathbourne the instant she drew the derringer from her reticule and pointed it at him so determinedly. Or it could have been when his butler Thomas announced her entry. Her walk had been militant yet provocative and graceful, stirring something that had withered to a cold nothing over the years. He doubted those qualities were natural, as chits like her were trained from the schoolroom how to walk, talk, and entice a man to marriage.

Even though, Sebastian had to admit, she did not appear like many of the simpering misses and ladies of the ton who thought they had only to bat an eyelash and wield their fan to be captivating.

“Marriage?” he asked blandly, as his eyes tracked the pulse that beat so frantically at her throat.

He held out the glass of sherry. “Drink,” he commanded, expecting her to obey without question. He suppressed an impulse to smile as her lips flattened, and from the slight spasm of her jaw he surmised she was gritting her teeth. She would make a poor gambler.

He wondered at her eyes—their color and shape. The dark veil that covered them was a source of irritation he meant to remedy. Her hand trembled as she pressed her back closer into the shelves that lined his library walls, filled with thousands of books and tomes. He hoped her bravado was not failing her. It would not do for him to turn around and offer marriage so easily.

“Yes, marriage.” Her voice was a hiss as she straightened her spine and took a tentative step forward. “And I do not desire refreshment.”

Ah, there it was. The spirit that had stoked his intrigue, the sheer boldness that had rushed from her as she confronted him with Anthony’s folly, so different from the simpering flowers the mamas of the ton had been throwing in his path over the years. She vibrated with passion and fire.

“Very well.”

Her gaze slashed from his to the glass of sherry he placed on the desk. His chuckle when it rumbled from his throat surprised even him. The unthinkable deed that he had been contemplating with part rage and sometimes icy detachment suddenly seemed intriguing as he studied her. Slowly, he closed the distance between them.

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