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The Duke’s Shotgun Wedding

By:Stacy Reid

The Duke’s Shotgun Wedding

Stacy Reid

Chapter One


November 1882

Lady Jocelyn Rathbourne’s hand did not waver as she pointed the derringer at the Duke of Calydon. Eyes that were the color of winter blue, colder than the wind that whistled through the open windows, stared at her penetratingly. Jocelyn gritted her teeth and desperately hoped that he did not hear the pounding of her heart, or sensed her fear. He was reputed to be ruthless, and have one of the shrewdest minds in all London. But then, Jocelyn’s papa had always called her his little Napoleon.

Long elegant fingers coolly caressed the card that she had presented to his butler to gain entrance, and those ice-blue eyes flicked to the note she had written. “I must assume that the house and name on this card are as fabricated as this dire situation your note hinted at?”

Jocelyn flushed as the husky rasp of his voice stirred deep within her. She was taken aback by how sinfully attractive he was.

She squinted at him as rage flared through her, scorching in its intensity. She was not about to be taken in by the man. Not ever again by a pretty face and prettier lies. Not that she could call the duke pretty. He was more raw and masculine, possibly handsome—if not for the rapier scar that had flayed his left cheek. But he was certainly compelling with his midnight black hair and mesmerizing eyes. His appearance was everything a powerful duke’s should be as he sat behind his massive oak desk intricately carved with designs of dragons—dark, sensual, handsome, with just a hint of danger.

She gave an involuntary shiver, then scowled as his lips turned up as he noted her body’s reaction. Thank goodness he could not see past her veil.

“My name is most certainly not fabricated, Your Grace,” she said, and straightened her stance. “I am Lady Jocelyn, the daughter of the Earl of Waverham, and your brother has perpetrated the most heinous crimes upon my person and must be brought to justice!”

He relaxed in his chair as if she were not a serious threat. She gritted her teeth and ignored the cold flint that entered his eyes as she raised the gun a little higher, in line with his chest.

“Well, in that case, please take a seat.” He gestured at the high-backed chair she was standing next to. His expression didn’t waver.

She didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of following his orders. But her knees were shaking so badly she thought it might be best. She sat gingerly on the edge of the chair.

“Now. What heinous crime has Anthony perpetrated that has you invading my country home and committing a crime that will certainly see you to the gallows?” His voice had gone flat and hard.

She leaned forward and slapped a copy of the London Gazette on his oak desk, sending it skidding across the polished surface, tumbling the inkwell. “The society page reports his engagement to Miss Phillipa Peppiwell of the Boston Peppiwells.” Jocelyn’s lips curled in derision as she spat the woman’s name at him like it was one of her bullets.

“And this distresses you…how?”

Her hands wavered slightly as the duke leaned forward, resting his chin in his hands, studying her as if she were a fascinating bug.

She drew herself up. “He seduced me!”

The crackling of the fireplace hushed as if waiting for an explosion, but her hand did not waver. Not even when the elegant royal blue drapes billowed under a sharp gust of the winter wind.

“I beg your pardon?” His voice was so low she was not sure if he’d really spoken, or if she’d simply imagined a response. He gazed steadily at her, his expression betraying not the slightest flicker of reaction.

She swallowed. “He seduced me, promised me marriage, and even gave me this as a token of his affection. An engagement token.”

She sent the locket skidding across the desk to be halted by a finger. The chain of the necklace slid through his hands slowly. A muscle ticked in his forehead as he glanced at the golden locket.

“Anthony gifted this to you?” His voice was chillingly polite, but his eyes had gone from wintery to glacial as he tracked her movements, missing nothing.

“Yes, as a promise of his commitment to me,” she assured him. “Yet now I read that he is engaged to be married in fewer than three weeks.” She shifted in the high-backed chair, straining to keep her hand from trembling as she aimed the derringer.

He cocked his head as he considered her, and she desperately wished to have just an inkling of his thoughts.

“Could this, by chance, be a desperate ploy by the impoverished Earl of Waverham?”

Jocelyn flinched at the soft question and forced herself to hold steady under the ruthless intelligence that shone in his eyes as he studied her carefully. Again she was grateful her eyes were covered by the veil. Her hair was also hidden, completely stuffed under her top hat, giving her partial anonymity, albeit useless since she’d told him her name. She fought not to squirm under his stare. “My father might be impoverished, Your Grace, but he does not plot, nor is he desperate,” she said, lifting the gun for a better aim. “Is this your desperate ploy—to lay the abominable behavior of your brother at my father’s door step?”