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Chapter 2

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"I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will." Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre


Chapter Two

He honestly didn't know what had come over him.

Emmett had instantly been entranced by the woman when he opened his eyes and heard her tender voice soothing him as she went to start repairing his forehead. The gash really hurt, but he wouldn't allow a woman to know that. He wanted to put on a brave bravado in front of her. Or anyone, really.

His father had always told him that pain was weakness and weaknesses must never be revealed. Emmett's father, John, wasn't a very pleasant man. He rarely, if ever, showed any affection toward his wife and children and preferred to spend his time in the arms of whores. His father's behaviour was what had ruined his mother. Because she'd been so neglected, Marie Wilde had turned into a malicious and bitter woman. If it weren't for his two younger sisters, Emmett wouldn't have spent any time at home in the north of Derbyshire.

But Bess confused him. He was used to women fawning over him, for they all knew who he was. If he'd touched any one of the women in his acquaintance, then they would have edged closer, but Bess had swiftly pushed his hand away with an irate remark. It amused him more than anything, which was why he'd kissed her. He wanted to annoy her. He wanted to irritate and anger her. Yes, he'd been expecting a slap, but he'd never expected to be standing before a vicar preparing to say "I do." He'd never envisioned marriage for himself.

Of course, he knew he'd have to marry eventually, to produce an heir, but he didn't want to tie himself down so young. He was eight and twenty. He still had at least ten years before he'd have to even begin contemplating finding a wife. The only reason he was marrying Bess was because he was sure he could reverse it. Bess was certainly not the type of woman any man would want to marry. She was relatively pretty and she had a slim figure, but she was far too verbally boisterous. He couldn't name one woman in his acquaintance that had dared speak to him the way she had. It was a little refreshing, but it would get quite irritating having someone call him on his actions. He didn't want to turn into his father and he didn't want the woman who would eventually be his wife to turn into his mother.

But there they were, standing in front of a middle-aged man holding a bible with his wife and the doctor and his wife as witnesses.

"Do you, Elizabeth, take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband—"

"I do," Bess said quickly, cutting Vicar Hastings off. "I don't like you," she hissed at Emmett, as if he'd miraculously forgotten their mutual disdain for each other.

"I don't like you, either," Emmett reminded her. "I do, too, Vicar. Just skip to the end, please. I have somewhere to be."

Bess rolled her eyes. "So romantic," she muttered. She wouldn't get romance with him. He wasn't the type to give a woman flowers...or even compliments. Tedious, he'd always thought. Women needed their egos nursed more than a man did.

"Right," Vicar Hastings muttered as he shut his bible. "I now pronounce you husband and wife. Kiss. Be done with it." He rolled his eyes and joined his wife's side. "Strangest wedding I've ever performed," he said quietly to her.

Both Bess and Emmett stared at each other for a moment. Her inquisitive, hazel brown eyes were testing him, to see if he would actually dare to lean in and kiss her. She wasn't worth another slap, so he quickly seized her hand and planted a kiss on her white knuckles.

"Well, Mrs Wilde," Emmett murmured. Technically, for the next week or so, she would be titled Lady, but he wouldn't let her know that. He wouldn't let her know just how much money his family was worth. His father's dukedom rivalled the Royal family for wealth and prosperity. If she got wind that he was to inherit such a title and fortune, then she would surely insist on coming with him and becoming the next duchess. He could provide her with more dresses and jewels than she would have time to wear in a lifetime. Women were materialistic like that. "I'll be on my way. I'll have a man bring you that document soon."

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