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Married By Midnight(7)

By:Julianne MacLean

“I will be courteous to her,” he said, turning to face all of them. “I will put on a good show for Father, as long as you promise me that the money will be forthcoming on Christmas Day.”

“I’ve checked with Father’s solicitors. It will,” Devon replied.

“Good. Then I will do what is required.”

Bloody hell, he didn’t even know the girl’s name.

Devon rose from his chair. “Excellent. Then let us go and meet Lady Anne. Follow me to the drawing room. I will introduce you and you can spend some time getting better acquainted this evening.”

Wonderful. He could hardly wait.

Chapter Three

Anne immediately rose to her feet when the Sinclairs entered the drawing room. The marquess led the way, followed by his sister Charlotte, then the duchess, Lord Blake, and last to enter the room...their youngest brother, Garrett. Her betrothed.

Dear God, her heart was pounding like a drum. She had watched from the window a short while ago as Lord Garrett exited the coach, but could see little through the darkness and shifting moon shadows. Now here he stood before her, waiting to be introduced.

His skin was bronzed from the sun, his hair thick and wavy—the color of honey. He had full lips, a strong, chiseled jawline and a charming dimpled chin. He was not tall and slender like his older brothers. Instead, he sported a stocky, muscular build. His hands were big and strong, which was not surprising for she had been told he was a master yachtsman.

He lifted his sky-blue eyes and met her gaze. She could not tell a lie. He was, without a doubt, one of the most ruggedly handsome men she had ever encountered. It was madness that he had to pay a woman to marry him. What the devil was wrong with him?

Lord Hawthorne approached. She was vaguely aware of Rebecca and Chelsea rising from their chairs behind her.

“Garrett, this is Lady Anne.”

“It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, my lady,” he said.

He bowed to her, and she gave a polite curtsy while wondering how to proceed from here. What exactly did one say to a beautiful stranger, a stranger one was being paid to marry?

* * *

Garrett frowned as he stood before the woman his brothers had selected for him. He had not expected to be wedding such an incredible beauty. She was slender and petite, with striking dark features and sea-green eyes that nearly knocked him over as he walked through the door.

There was something serious and intelligent in those eyes—possibly something a little jaded as well? Or was it greed at the sight of him? Perhaps it was that. She was marrying him for money, after all.

“Would you like to escort Lady Anne to the gallery and show her the family portraits?” Devon suggested.

His brother obviously wished to give them an opportunity to become better acquainted in private.

Fine. Garrett had promised to do what was required, so he would do exactly that. With a polite nod of his head, he approached his fiancée and offered his arm.

* * *

As they left the room, Anne worked hard to settle her nerves. She walked with him in silence down a long vaulted corridor and through a keystone archway, which brought them into a large gallery lit by three enormous crystal chandeliers.

They stopped just inside and looked around at the numerous works of art on the walls.

“I have not been here in quite some time,” Garrett said.

Anne was consciously aware these were his first words to her, beyond the initial formal greeting.

“I barely remember what is here,” he added.

She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. This was ridiculously awkward, but quite unavoidable. She must simply find a way to push through this uncomfortable beginning.

“Then let us discover it together,” she said. “Shall we go left or right?”

“Your choice, Lady Anne.”

“I choose left.”

They walked the length of the room, stopping briefly to look at each painting, saying nothing as they continued in silence.

On a few occasions Anne would have liked to make a comment or two about the individual pieces, but the tension in the air kept her from venturing forth into easy conversation. She had no idea what was going through this man’s mind. If she read him correctly, he was feeling somewhat irritable. And the mere fact of her presence seemed to weigh him down like an anchor.

“This one is very interesting,” she mentioned, hoping to draw Garrett out and break through the rigid veneer of ice that stood between them. “I am quite partial to landscapes. What do you think?”

He glanced at the painting without interest, shrugged, then moved on to the next.

Anne’s stomach slowly began to tighten with displeasure. The Sinclairs had come to her, not the other way around.