"There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me." Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Bess was roused from her sleep the next morning as the sun was coming up. She drowsily looked out the window and saw nothing but peaks and greenery. She slouched on the padded seat and wondered how long it would be until she arrived at Emmett's home. Oh, how she was going to berate him. He'd ordered strange men to barge into her home and go through her things. If that was how he expected their façade of a marriage to play out then he was sorely mistaken.
They were travelling for another hour or so before an enormous house came into view. It was standing on its own, surrounded by nothing but neatly kept gardens. The house wasn't a house at all—it was a castle! But without towers or a moat. It looked bigger than Little Cross and Gracechurch put together!
"This is where I'm to live?" Bess said quietly to herself. She had no idea such a house stood in Derbyshire. She didn't really concern herself with things that happened outside Little Cross. But even she had to admit the house was impressive. It didn't make her husband appealing, though.
The carriage drove down the long driveway. The house only grew, widening and becoming grander. She was a little intimidated. What if she knocked something over or broke something? Their possessions were probably worth more than she would ever see in a lifetime.
She felt a little underdressed. She was only wearing one of her plain calico gowns. The only decoration on it was a white collar, though her brown travelling coat covered it up. Bess caught her reflection in the glass of the window. She looked awful. Her eyes were puffy from the lack of sleep, and her hair was completely haywire; half was flat and the other half had been teased, the waves looking more bushy than soft. "A real duchess." She giggled at the absurdity. Nevertheless, she didn't want to impress anyone.
The carriage came to a stop at the front steps, and she heard the servants climb down from the driver's seat. They immediately opened the door for her and let down the stairs. They offered her a hand, but she didn't take it.
"I'm not an invalid," she snapped as she jumped down herself. At that moment, the obscenely tall front doors opened and a hoard of people streamed out: a regal-looking family, led by Emmett, and what appeared to be fifty or so servants. They all lined up to greet her, though none were smiling. They were looking at her as if she were some sort of disease.
The worst gaze, however, was coming from a woman who looked like a queen. Her gown was the finest she'd ever seen, even if it was a mourning dress. The black silk gown was decorated with fine lace sleeves. She was an older woman whose beauty was still there, though her hateful glare made her look truly ugly. She had to be Emmett's mother. They didn't look alike. Her raven hair was pulled into a fancy updo. Her thick ringlets were pinned around a fantastic, jewelled tiara.
Emmett wore a mourning coat as well, except the rest of his ensemble resembled the clothes she'd seen him wear nearly a week before. He'd removed the bandage that she'd wrapped around his head, and she could see a fine pink scar forming. He offered Bess a small smile. She returned it with a glare. Perhaps she and his mother had something in common.
To either side of Emmett were two very pretty young women. His sisters, most likely. They, too, wore mourning gowns but not as fine as their mothers. The slightly taller one looked like the female version of Emmett. She was the lovelier of the sisters. Her features were very slight and feminine, and she peered at Bess through a pair of lovely, blue eyes. She was prettier than her younger sister. The younger, and the smaller of Emmett's sisters, was a little more reserved. She looked like her mother, frighteningly so, but her gaze was not as hard, more curious.
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The Accidental DuchessHistorical Fiction
When the arrogant stranger Bess is forced to marry unexpectedly becomes a duke, she'll find herself at odds with her growing feelings as he hunts for a killer. ***** Sharp-tongued...