I love marriage of convenience stories. It's always fun to watch two people who are stuck together go from bickering to bantering to falling in love. The idea for this story came when my husband was flipping through channels and said something about romantic comedies. He said he liked the ones that didn't rely on the two people immediately hating each other to provide conflict.
So, I imagined a young bride who is prepared for a loveless arranged marriage being surprised on her wedding day when the groom is actually happy about the scheme their fathers pushed them into. I won't give any more away. ;-) Hope you enjoy reading this story as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Victoria cannot even muster a smile on her wedding day. Her groom is handsome, titled, and wealthy, and her marriage will save her family from financial ruin, but she is still saddened when she contemplates the long, loveless years ahead of her.
Bastian never intended to marry, but he gives in to his father’s scheme because the more he thinks about the bride, the more he wants to capture her heart. He sweeps her into his arms at the reception, determined to make her smile and laugh, though he only manages to make her blush and stare at him incredulously.
Was he wrong to believe he could turn a marriage of convenience into a love match? Or does another man already hold the heart of his reluctant bride?
Victoria tried very hard to avoid Bastian’s gaze during the reception, but every time she turned around, she found him looking at her. She felt as if he were circling the room, purposely trying to stay in her line of sight. She looked down at the rings on her left hand. So now they were married. She sighed.
She’d always been given her older sister Isabella’s hand-me-downs and cast offs, but she’d never expected to be handed down a husband. However, she’d been given very little choice. Her father, a bankrupt baron, needed the Earl’s money, and the marriage to his only son had been the security the Earl had wanted for the loan. The Earl and his wife wanted grandchildren, and since they only had one child, the Earl had been obsessed with marrying Bastian off.
The engagement had been announced, and the wedding set for two months later. However, her sister had been unable to fit into her wedding dress two weeks before the ceremony because she was very obviously with child. And it was not Bastian’s, as he had only returned from four months of visiting family in Italy two days before the very revealing dress fitting. Isabella had been sent to a cousin in Wales to have the baby, and Victoria had been literally ordered to prepare herself for married life.
The Earl had insisted that Bastian was pleased because he had said upon returning from Italy that he would have “been happier with the sweet, pretty sister.” The well-meaning Earl had reported this with a smile moments before Bastian had entered the room the day the new wedding plans had been settled. He’d obviously thought sweet and pretty were high compliments, but she’d been called sweet and pretty all of her life. The words fell flat on her ears because her sister had always been called beautiful, enchanting, captivating, and breathtaking. Her sharp tongue and fiery temper had earned her both a reputation and an eager train of suitors. Obviously, though she’d treated most of them with disdain, one of those suitors had been to her liking. Her sister still hadn’t said who the child’s father was, but if they were in love, as Isabella insisted, Victoria believed he would reveal himself when he learned Isabella had left London.
“My lady, would you care to dance?” came a whisper in her ear.
She turned, clasping her hands together to dispel the shiver that had gone up her spine. She nodded and slid her hand into Bastian’s. She couldn’t refuse her new husband a dance at their wedding reception with two hundred people watching, no matter how wary she was of him. She hardly knew him, and his quiet intensity had always intimidated her.
He led her to the center of the room, and then the music began again. “Am I so unattractive you can’t even stand to look at me as we dance?” he teased.
She raised her eyes, his light and playful tone surprising her. “I’m sorry.” He wasn’t unattractive at all. He towered over every person in the room, and his healthy complexion and dark hair and eyes had more than enough appeal. His lean, muscular form left little to be desired as well. “Can you blame me for being uncomfortable?”
He frowned. “Why are you uncomfortable?” he asked as they spun amidst the other couples coming onto the floor with them. “What can I do to remedy it?”
She couldn’t keep from furrowing her brow and letting every ounce of her confusion show. “I don’t think you understand. I’ve been sold to you, to your family, all because my father needs money, your father wants grandchildren, and my sister is foolish.”
His frown deepened, reaching his eyes. “So you aren’t simply shy or nervous? You truly didn’t want this.”
She felt her face flame. “May we discuss this in private? I shouldn’t have said anything. I let my frustration get the better of me. I’m all nerves today, my lord.”
“All right. And please call me Bastian. I don’t want to be ‘my lorded’ by my own wife. Will you allow me to say one last thing though?”
“I’m sorry this has made you unhappy, but I was relieved to learn I wouldn’t have to marry your sister. I couldn’t stand her.”
“So you were forced into this as well?”
He shook his head. “No. My objection was not to getting married—it was to your sister. I told my father I would marry you gladly.”
“But I was not the original bride.”
He smiled and leaned close. “I had every intention of running away, my dear. I have a fortune of my own, and I don’t like to be told what to do. I was thrilled to learn your sister was no longer qualified to seal this deal.”
“What?” she whispered, darting looks around to see if anyone was listening.
“My father and I get along very well in public, but in private we are constantly at odds. I refused to marry your sister. He kept insisting I had no choice. He told me all the details of the deal, and I told him I would agree if I could marry you instead. He told me to forget you because Isabella had to marry first. I was already making plans to flee. But then, fortune smiled on me.”
“What man would choose me over my sister?” she said before she could stop the words. Then she gasped at her forwardness and lack of manners, and her face flamed again.
He actually laughed. “A man with a brain. Your sister is a shrew, but you are charming.”
They’d known each other for years, but until today, they had only had half a dozen conversations. “Oh.”
“Is that the best reaction I’m going to get?”
“Yes.” She gathered her thoughts, wanting to change the subject to hide her embarrassment. “Where would you have gone?”
“Some place exotic.” The dance ended, and he led her to the balcony. “We can still go, if you like. Would you like an exciting honeymoon, Victoria?”
She felt a strange flutter in her stomach at his words. “Whatever has been planned for us is fine.”
“Nothing has been planned. I told father we would both be exhausted, so we’ll stay in a hotel here in London until you decide what you want.”
She pulled her arm from his and just barely made it to a bench.
“I suppose I’m overwhelming you.” He sat beside her.
“I’ve been beyond overwhelmed for the past two weeks.”
“However will you make it to the morning then?” he whispered, his voice warm and seductive.