Grace, Lady de Courtenay gazed around the room at their wedding guests. Everyone was having a marvelous time and Grace had never been happier. One man, in particular, drew her attention. How could he not? She could hardly believe she was married, let alone to her second cousin. Relation or not, she had always held an affection for him and obviously the feelings had been reciprocated considering they were now man and wife. Her father may have protested that she was too young to wed when Adrian first offered for her, but both her parents knew that the marriage would be advantageous to both families.

Adrian must have felt her stare for he turned from the gentleman he had been speaking with and gave her a smile that spoke a thousand words and more. Her heart fluttered within her chest wondering what was in store for her this evening when the night would finally allow them the privacy of their bedchamber. Her mother had prepared her for the inevitable, but that did not help the nervous knots that formed in the pit of her belly. He is just so handsome, Grace thought, before she became lost in the memory of when his lips touched hers for the very first time. She had known, in that instant, she would be forever lost. Her fate had been sealed the day she happily accepted his offer of marriage.

Grace watched when her husband excused himself and began making his way across the crowded room. He was a gentleman that any lady would be glad to call her own. Tall, broad shouldered, with hair as dark as the midnight skies, along with piercing blue eyes that could rival a clear summer day. This was no idle gentleman of leisure, as his physical appearance would attest, and he was all hers. Grace snapped her fan open and began to wave it before her flushed face. Did the temperature of the room increase the closer he came to her side? Her knees began to buckle with each step he took. She reached for the settee directly behind her until she was able to sit. She could not miss his eyes twinkling mischievously as though he knew her inner most thoughts. The rogue, she pondered, hiding her own grin behind her fan when he at last stood before her.

Admiration painting by Vittorio Reggianini not PDAdrian leaned over to pull out one of the pristine white roses in a nearby vase before sitting down next to her. He traced the petals of the flower across her cheek. She shivered, but it had nothing to do with being chilled. No, far from it. She was burning with a need that only her husband could satisfy. His lips replaced the rose and she wished with all her might that their wedding supper was at an end so her husband could put her out of her misery.

“I missed you,” he whispered huskily in her ear.

She gave a light laugh, snapped her fan shut, and playfully tapped his arm with it. “I was hardly far, my love.”

“You were much too far for my liking, my dearest. If I could, I would keep you ever close to my side.”

“That would certainly give society something to talk about in the morning,” she replied wishing for nothing more than to be alone with him, especially when he began nibbling at her ear. “Adrian, you must stop. What will people think?”

“They will think that I am madly in love with my beautiful young bride, which, of course, I am,” he declared handing her the flower.

She peered around him to watch several gentlemen frown in their direction. “We are being watched,  and it appears they are not pleased with our public display of affection, darling.”

“I do not care what they think. Besides, we are celebrating our union. Maybe they will remember when they were also in a state of wedded bliss,” he answered and then proceeded to kiss her cheek. The sound of louder than average laughter caused Adrian to turn to stare at the crowd, which began to disperse after having been caught staring rudely at the bride and groom. “Why am I suddenly under the impression that people are sniggering behind our backs?”

Several people continued whispering to one another and Grace could only imagine what their conversation entailed. She tugged on her husband’s sleeve and he leaned over to hear her whispered words. “Do not give them the satisfaction of letting them know you are cross.”

“I am not cross.”

“You are frowning.” Grace giggled.

“At least I have you smiling and that is what matters most,” he stated with another warm smile. “You have honored me this day by becoming my wife, Grace.”

He kissed her parted lips, apparently not caring that all of society was watching their every move. Grace sighed in pleasure. “I am the one who is honored, Adrian, but if we can find a way to remain out of the latest edition of the Teatime Tattler it will be a miracle.”

“That gossip rag that is taking all of London by storm? What could they possibly find interesting in the news that we are married, my dear?” Adrian stood to watch their guests again then pulled her to stand beside him. He placed his arm around her for support.

Grace leaned into his embrace taking comfort when his arm tightened around her. “We are the talk of the town, darling. How you do not know this is beyond me. It is not every day that a woman marries a man with exactly the same given and family name as her brother, never mind that he is her second cousin. Let us not even go into the confusion of your title being the same as our family name, so that all that changes with our wedding is that I become Lady de Courtenay instead of Lady Grace de Courtenay.”

Adrian chuckled, apparently amused by the whole situation. “Is that all?”

Grace looked up at his face and laughed. “Well if you do not care that we are being talked about then neither will I. I am sure half the people here already doubt your sanity in marrying an educated woman.”

Adrian’s brow rose at her implication. “They might just learn a thing or two about the advantages of having a woman who speaks her mind as a wife.” He perused the crowd again until a truly wicked gleam entered his eyes.

“I am afraid to ask what you are thinking,” Grace said. He took her hand and placed it in the crook of his elbow.

Adrian only took a few steps before he swooped her up into his arms. “Since we will most likely be in tomorrow’s edition anyway, we might as well give them something to talk about.”

640px-The_Duchess_of_Richmond's_Ball_by_Robert_Alexander_HillingfordHe began carrying her from the wedding reception. Before they left, he turned around at the entryway to the ballroom to face their startled guests. He somehow managed a short bow. “Please enjoy the rest of the festivities. Grace and I are in need of…”

Grace muffled a laugh as Adrian left his words lingering in the air. She heard gasps of shock from the ballroom as her husband took the stairs two at a time. Reaching their room, he closed the door to their wedding suite. As Adrian set her down upon her feet, Grace looked forward to finally becoming Adrian’s wife in every sense of the word. In the months to come, she would relive and treasure each and every moment with her husband, after an unforeseen tragedy destroys her world.

This is an original piece and prequel to A Kiss for Charity, a Regency novella within the Bluestocking Belles upcoming box set, Holly and Hopeful Hearts, to be released November 15, 2016.

_DSF0006Sherry Ewing picked up her first historical romance when she was a teenager and has been hooked ever since. A bestselling author, she writes historical & time travel romances to awaken the soul one heart at a time. Always wanting to write a novel but busy raising her children, she finally took the plunge in 2008 and wrote her first Regency. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Beau Monde & the Bluestocking Belles. Sherry is currently working on her next novel and when not writing, she can be found in the San Francisco area at her day job as an Information Technology Specialist. You can learn more about Sherry’s work here on her page with the Bluestocking Belles or on the following social media outlets:

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