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Chapter 3

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"The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud." Coco Chanel

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Chapter Three

"Married?" Marie shrieked, standing from the chaise in the family's private sitting room on the third floor.

John Wilde had died that very night and Emmett was now the sixth Duke of Ascot. Doctor Sanderson and his team had taken care of his father's body and they were preparing it for the funeral to be held in a few days. Emmett felt sad that he'd died in such an awful way. He had no idea how he'd ingested the poison but he would surely get to the bottom of it. But there were other things to be done first.

He'd waited until the next morning to tell his mother and sisters that there was, in fact, a Duchess of Ascot living several miles away, unknowing that she was about to become one of the richest women in England. Just thinking of Marie and Bess being in the same room together gave him a headache.

His sisters seemed quite calm after their night of crying. Their eyes still looked quite red but they weren't crying anymore.

"You got married without us there?" Charlotte clarified, sounding a little hurt.

"Who is she? How long have you been in love?" Rose pressed. Typical Rosie. She was a romantic.

"I'm not in love, Rosie, it was an agreement between us," Emmett replied.

"An agreement between her legs, more like." Marie scoffed.

"Mother," Emmett hissed. "Not in front of the girls." He would keep Charlotte and Rose as innocent as possible until they married. He sat down on the settee between his sisters and wrapped his arms around them. "Yes, I married. Her name is Elizabeth Jones but she seems to prefer 'Bess.' She works as a nurse in a village called Little Cross." And she has the temper of an unbroken stallion, but he resisted telling them that.

"A nurse?" Marie scoffed. "One higher than a prostitute. You dare soil the halls of this house with such filth?"

"Mother, must I remind you that you were the daughter of a pauper and his wife? Were it not for Father's infatuation with you then you would still be living in a shack in Northumberland. I remember you still had an accent in my childhood. You seem to have worked to refine yourself. I'm sure that Lady Bess can do the same." Emmett didn't have any patience for his mother's double standards. It was true. She was born with not a farthing to her name and she'd caught his father's attention as he was travelling through Northumberland to Scotland. They'd been happy enough in the beginning to produce Emmett but then John quickly lost interest. Emmett didn't know what had happened in their marriage to produce Charlotte and Rose in quick succession but after they were born, his parents had quickly gone back to hating one another.

"Lady Bess?" Marie rolled her eyes. "I won't ever call her that. Her name is Elizabeth. There has never been a Duchess of Ascot that has been referred to by such a childish name. If I'm to have a daughter-in-law, then she shall be referred to as 'Elizabeth.'"

"She'll be referred to as 'Duchess,' Mother, until she has given you her permission to call her otherwise," Emmett snapped.

Marie glared at her only son and then swiftly removed herself from the sitting room, the sound of her rustling skirts still audible as she stomped down the corridor to her own bedchamber to sulk.

"How are you two?" he asked his sisters.

"Fine," Charlotte replied as she and Rose both lay their heads on Emmett's shoulders.

"Papa wasn't very good to us, was he?" Rose sniffed as if she was about to cry.

Emmett kissed the top of her head. "No, he wasn't," he confirmed. "But you mustn't let my opinion dampen your grief. You're allowed to be upset."

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