Authors: Gwen Hayes
Tags: #Historical Romance, #Romantic Comedy, #Romance
Second Son of a Duke
Second Son of a Duke
Copyright © 2010 Gwen Hayes
Published by Gwen Hayes at Smashwords
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without written permission from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages for review purposes.
This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to any person, living or dead, any place, events or occurrences, is purely coincidental. The characters and story lines are created from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Theodore Maxmillian Middleton stared at the stranger lying in his bed and knew there wasn’t enough drink in the world to make this situation bearable. He’d kill his brother for this. Tomorrow. Right now, he needed to focus on what the hell he was going to do about her.
Bloody hell. What was he going to do about her?
She stared back at him, stark white and wide-eyed. Good God, she was shaking. He felt like a cad and he hadn’t so much as touched her.
“Lady…” He couldn’t remember her first name. He’d never felt like such a fool. “…Fairchild, we don’t have to do this tonight.”
There it was. That little chin popped up just enough so that she vaguely resembled the chit he’d met more than handful of times in his lifetime, but didn’t know the first thing about.
“It’s Lady Middleton now, though perhaps it’s best if you call me by my Christian name at this point.”
Did he even
her Christian name? Best to just brush right past that, he’d figure it out tomorrow. “Of course. As I was saying—”
“It’s Juliette. As in,
I take thee, Juliette Grace Fairchild
…” She waved her hand as if to say etcetera. “You should jot it down somewhere in case you are in need of it again.”
Excellent. Married twelve hours and she was already sniping at him. Tomorrow, when he killed his brother, it would be slow and unnecessarily painful. “Yes, well, it’s probably recorded in the family Bible now; I’ll just look it up the next time.”
Juliette crossed her arms in what appeared to be disdain. She likely didn’t realize she framed her bosom to him in that position. Oddly, in all the chaos of the last twelve hours, he hadn’t noticed how ample that bosom was. He didn’t think he should be noticing now. But there it was, encased in a sheath of white linen, taunting him.
His but not his.
Granted, she was his wife, this was their wedding night, and she was in his bed. However, they were virtual strangers. Their marriage was a farce, though, unfortunately, a legal one. He’d assumed that she’d prefer to have her own chambers, and God knows there were enough of them in this house.
“I thought you might wish to wait to practice marital relations. There’s no rush.” There. Wasn’t he a fine man? How many new husbands were so understanding?
“I’d like to get it over with, Lord …I mean, Teddy.”
He couldn’t see it, but he could swear she’d just hurled a brick at his chest. All the air expelled from his lungs with the crush of it. “Over with?” he repeated.
“With as few theatrics as possible. I’ve had quite enough of them this day.”
She nodded her prim little head, the curtain of blonde bouncing with the movement. “Neither of us is looking forward to it, but putting off the inevitable won’t help. Let’s just dispense with the awkward deed and hope for the best. I can’t bear the thought of dreading it every day until it’s done, so if you don’t mind, I’d like for you to begin now.”
“Now? You’d like me to begin now?”
“For Heaven’s sake, are you going to repeat everything I say as a question?”
Teddy considered himself a fine man with moral character and plenty of mostly virtuous qualities. He’d done nothing to warrant this mess except follow the dictates of a duke, which he was honor bound to do. That the duke was also his brother and belonged in Bedlam did not change the fact that Teddy had little choice in the matter.
But his patience had reached its limit.
He shrugged off his overcoat and began undoing his cravat. “No, I shan’t question you any longer. You’re absolutely right, let’s rid you of your virginity and put this whole mess behind us.” He pulled his shirt from his breeches. “Well, what are you waiting for? Get naked.”
* * *
Juliette gasped. Not just at his vulgar words, but at all the skin he revealed when he threw his shirt to the floor. “Get naked?” she asked.
Teddy smiled; the wicked grin prompted the return of the dimple she’d noticed earlier and caused her to suck in more air. The divot added a boyish charm to his usually serious face, but did nothing to erase the rakish expression of intent. How was it possible for him to look at once a dangerous man as well as an impish boy?
She tried to keep her gaze locked on that dimple, but she couldn’t help but let it roam briefly to the expanse of his naked chest. Goodness. She’d never seen a nearly naked man before. He was beautiful.
She berated herself for that. Men were not beautiful. Men were irresponsible little boys with all the power and …really gloriously tapered waists. Stop it! She squeezed her eyes shut. Now was not the time to let her mind wander. Her husband was about to claim her virginity. And he was doing it all wrong.
His hands lowered to his breeches.
“Wait, please,” she implored.
Teddy stilled his hands. “I thought we were in a hurry to divest ourselves of your maidenhead.”
The shock of his language drained the blood from her face. “There is no need to be so uncivilized. Please snuff the candles. And I’d like to…stay dressed.”
He exhaled a curse and sat on the edge of the bed. “Are you aware of how a man and a woman…that is to say…you understand that we’ll be…hell’s bells, this is coming out all wrong.”
Juliette wished he’d show some decency and cover himself. The way the light in the room attached itself to him was shameless. What did he do to develop those well-defined shoulders? The few times she’d met Teddy, he’d been buried in a book, barely looking up to acknowledge her presence.
“Don’t trouble yourself to explain. I know what I need to know. And I am quite certain that my gown needn’t come completely off …
…for this it to be successful.”
He scraped a hand through his hair, disheveling it and adding to his roguish appearance. And his boyish one. “For God’s sake, Juliette, we’re about to make love, not attend a funeral.”
“Please, it’s how I wish it.” Her voice sounded small. Perhaps that is why he acquiesced on a masculine sigh and crossed the room, snuffing out all the light save the fire in the grate.
Juliette slid down the mattress and pulled the covers to her chin. She recounted figures in her head to ease her nerves.
Think about grain
. If the price of grain went any lower, they would have to sell…her heart seized as Teddy slid into bed next to her. She tried to breathe normally, show no fear, but then he was leaning over her kissing her hair, her cheek.
“You have glorious hair,” he whispered into her ear. “Like golden silk.” The sensation startled her. She felt as if she were a being tightened from the inside out, and that something was going to have to happen to loosen her to normal.
She’s fairly certain she squeaked.
“Relax,” he murmured, kissing her jaw. “All will be well.”
She didn’t believe him. This shame was not to be borne. Her brother caused this mess. She thought it better to go along with the farce than to bear the stigma of creating a public scandal, but now she had second thoughts. Juliette swallowed hard when Teddy kissed her neck. Something that felt like longing pulled at her heart. How long had she wished someone would tell her all will be well, and then actually make it so? How many years had she been holding everything together on her own, wishing she had someone to share the burden with?
It would be so lovely to believe him. Teddy wasn’t a bad man. The road had curved just as sharply for him this morning as it had for her. Wouldn’t it be grand if she had a partner to face the rest of the curves with? Someone to rely on, to believe in.
But no. She knew in her heart that even good men, men like her brother, were inconsistent and unreliable. It was best to not throw your hopes into the wind. Teddy kissed her mouth, but she didn’t return his attention, and he soon moved back to her neck. As he went lower, she retreated back into her head as much as possible. Ignoring his hands on her breasts, ignoring the hem of her nightgown being pushed up, ignoring the weight of her new husband as he claimed her as his own—though both of them knowing she belonged to no one.
Teddy raised his head from the ledgers when the library doors flew open and his brother, the Duke of Fenwick, strode in. “Why are you not still in bed with your bride?”
“It’s the middle of the afternoon, Derek. Besides, my
is not at home currently.” She’d gone back to her brother’s estate to supervise the retrieval of her belongings, but Teddy suspected the motive was closer to evasion than errand.
Last night, he’d had the most horrible sex in his life. With the woman he’d promised to spend the rest of his life with. He hardly blamed her for running off. In fact, he envied her the luxury. Unfortunately, he still had a dukedom to keep track of. Not his dukedom, but someone had to do it.
Derek flopped onto the settee. “I’d hoped marrying you off might make you less priggish. I can see I was mistaken.”
“You forced a marriage upon two unwilling people who barely know each other. It’s hardly endearing.”
Derek scoffed and lay back, plopping his dirty boots on the cushion. “She’s not a stranger, Teddy. She’s my best friend’s sister. And a comely one at that.”
“Then why didn’t you marry her?”
“She’s my best friend’s sister.”
“Well, you need to marry someone.” Teddy returned to the ledger in front of him.
“We both know I’ll die in a duel before I beget an heir. You can get a running start with the lovely Lady Juliette, and I’ve trained you properly for when the title falls to you after my untimely demise.”
Trained him properly? Derek didn’t know a thing about being a duke, despite having been one since he was a lad of fifteen. It fell to Teddy, it’s always fallen to Teddy, to follow the investments, the tenants, the livestock, everything. Derek couldn’t keep track of his own gloves. As a second son, Teddy should have situated elsewhere, yet he could not leave his brother or the estates would crumble. People’s livelihood depended on him.
And now he had a wife to consider. And possibly a child, though he hoped not. It wouldn’t bear well for a child to be conceived in what had passed for bed play last night. He’d done his best to make it enjoyable for Juliette, but she seemed resolute in her martyred state. She made it clear she didn’t want to find the marriage bed satisfactory for either of them. She’d done her duty with as much pleasure as emptying a privy.
Not a very auspicious beginning for a new life.
Derek was probably correct. The way he lived his life made it easy to imagine he’d be dead long before Teddy reached the end of his own. The illicit affairs, the excessive drink…if something was lurid, Derek was there wearing peacock colors and already half-sick from over-indulgence. Still, if the duke managed to eek out an existence longer than Teddy, the entitled lands would pass to relatives with no concern for the people that toiled most of their lives for it. On a good day, Derek himself pretended to at least care about their welfare.
Derek tossed a cushion above his head and caught it over and over. It drove Teddy to distraction, but the man could never sit still. “Will you be taking your wife on a wedding trip?”
“The thought hadn’t yet crossed my mind. Why would that be, I wonder? Perhaps because, until yesterday, I didn’t know I’d have a wife?”
Derek laughed. “You’re always telling me I need to take responsibility, to finish projects I start. You should be proud that I managed the feat.”
“The feat?” Teddy repeated. He really needed to stop doing that. Juliette was right; it was annoying.
Derek threw the cushion at Teddy with no warning, no doubt hoping Teddy would toss it back. Which he did not do. Instead he placed on the desk next to account ledgers.
Derek stood up, presumably to retrieve the cushion from Teddy. “Yes, the feat,” he began as he crossed the room. “Peter and I secured a special license, scheduled a minister, and got both of you to the church with time to spare. And all of that, without either of you the wiser.” He reached for the cushion, but Teddy moved it. “You should be impressed. Normally, I’d need you to do all that for me.”
“Yes, a surprise wedding—it’s almost as impressive as attending your own business meetings on time and sober.”
He continued to hold the cushion from his brother’s reach until Derek tackled him, upending the chair with Teddy in it. “I remembered the ring, too,” Derek continued once he’d gotten his wind back. ”And there was a wedding breakfast laid out for you and the guests.”
Teddy grimaced, hoping he wasn’t concussed. “Yes, the guests, that’s right. I’m sure everyone invites the butler and upstairs maids to their wedding breakfast. Get off me, you imbecile.”
Derek snatched the cushion and used his elbow in Teddy’s rib to push himself off the floor. “Don’t forget the flowers. I plunked a pretty penny on those…I think.” He brushed himself off and offered Teddy an arm to help him off the floor. “She’s comely, and you’ve united the two families. It’s a perfect match.”
“She hates me, Derek.”
“No,” Derek scoffed. “She’s an icy chit, I’ll not naysay you that. But she can be right warm when you get past the frost.”
A sudden heat threatened to render Teddy aflame. “Did you--?”
Derek held up his hands in surrender. “God no. She’s like a little sister to me. Interesting reaction. Already a jealous husband, are you?”
Once he could form one, Teddy answered. “You get everything first, Derek. I’d prefer my wife not be included in that.” The thought of Derek touching her stirred an acid in his stomach that he’d rather not think about.
“Teddy, you are my brother and my heir. Your happiness means more to me than my own. I know I’m irresponsible and a reprobate besides, but I’d hardly saddle you with used goods.”
Teddy knew his brother loved him, though that his happiness came first was debatable. All Teddy ever wanted was for Derek to own up to his responsibilities as duke so that Teddy wouldn’t have to.
“Well, I’m off. I’ve an appointment with Cherice that I simply cannot miss.”
Teddy righted his chair. An appointment, indeed. “Please, do tell your mistress I said hullo.”
“Hah!” Derek laughed. “Oh, before I forget, we’re having a dinner party next Friday evening, no wait, the Friday after, to celebrate your wedding. I’ve already made the arrangements.”
He couldn’t help it, Teddy’s eyebrows raised in question. “A dinner party? First a wedding and now a dinner. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you’d make an excellent wife to some lucky duke.”