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Authors: Kelly McClymer

Tags: #historical romance, #wedding, #bride, #1800s fiction, #victorian england, #marriage of convenience, #once upon a wedding series

The Fairy Tale Bride

BOOK: The Fairy Tale Bride
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THE FAIRYTALE BRIDE

 

 

by

Kelly McClymer

 

 

SMASHWORDS EDITION

 

 

* * * * *

 

 

First published by Zebra Books, October 2000

Copyright 2000 © Kelly McClymer

Cover Copyright 2010 © Hannah Kuhn

 

 

All rights reserved. Without limiting the
rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication
may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system,
or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic,
mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the
prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above
publisher of this book.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters,
places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the
author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author
acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various
products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used
without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not
authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark
owners.

 

Smashwords Edition License Notes

 

This ebook is licensed for your personal
enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to
other people. If you would like to share this book with another
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or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return
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respecting the author's work.

 

 

* * * * *

 

 

This book is lovingly dedicated to Jim,
Kristen, A.J. and Brendan, who put up with my distractibility,
preoccupation, highs, lows and a few burned dinners while I created
it. All thanks belong to the amazing group of women who helped me
polish this manuscript to a shine: Yvonne, Kathy, Trudy, Lynn and
Jackie. Last, thanks to Marsha Canham for the amazing
proofread.

 

 

* * * * *

 

THE FAIRYTALE BRIDE

 

 

* * * * *

 

 

PROLOGUE

 

London, 1832

 

His damned boots were too tight.

Simon Watterly tried, discreetly, to move his
tightly-bound toes. Nothing. Tomorrow the boots would have to go
back to the boot maker. One more delay he didn't want, didn't need.
But a soldier required a well-fitted pair of boots, and as of
today, despite the Duke of Kerstone's vehement objections, Simon
was an officer in His Majesty's service, bound for India. Too bad
there was no good war on presently. He could only hope to find one
soon.

He glanced around the crowded ballroom, his
teeth clenched with the effort it took to project a bored yet
pleasant facade. He had been raised to know his duty to the family
name, the family blood, and would not dishonor it by making a
scene. He had promised the duke. And Simon Watterly had been bred
to make certain he always kept his promises and did his duty.
Wouldn't want to tarnish the hallowed blood of the former Dukes and
Duchesses of Kerstone. The true blood he did not share.

What a farce. It was truly bitter solace to
realize that tonight was the last time he need pretend to be what
these people thought him...what he had thought himself, until last
night, when he had overheard his mother's words to his dying
father—no, to the Duke of Kerstone, no relation to himself—and his
life had shattered in an instant.

If the dying man had not extracted a promise
from him not to destroy the family reputation ... but that was
irre1evant. The duke had been frail and pitiful as he begged, pale
blue eyes flowing with tears, his fingers a faint yet bony pressure
on Simon's wrist. Simon could not withhold his promise to the man
he had called father — but he would find a way to get around it —
if a blood-soaked battlefield didn't see to it for him, as it had
for the older brother Simon had never known. His legitimate older
brother, blown up by a cannon blast in France while Simon was still
a babe-in-arms.

An overly friendly blow to his arm made him
spit out the bitter truth, "Bastard." He turned to glare at the
offender.

"Take it easy there, Cousin, I merely wanted
your attention." Giles Grimthorpe discreetly cocked his head in the
direction of the crush of dancing figures. "I wondered if you would
care to engage in a small wager to add piquancy to this dull
evening?"

"What kind of wager?"

"A matter of a successful seduction,
Cousin."

Simon grimaced at his cousin's expectant
grin. No doubt the cad waited for a lecture. But today he would be
surprised. An hour before, Simon had adjusted his cravat in the
curved looking-glass in the foyer of his parents' town house and
promised himself that he would do everything in his power to
destroy the image of fairness and propriety that had given those
who knew him cause to call him Saint Simon. And a good start to
accomplish this aim would be to wager with his cousin. For
Grimthorpe was a worse gossip than any of the bored dowagers seated
about the room.

He lifted his shoulders as if mildly
intrigued with the idea. "My ring if you succeed."

Grimthorpe's eyes narrowed in shock; then he
eyed the large ruby and silver ring on Simon's left little finger.
"Good thing you're to be the next Duke of Kerstone — and wealthy,
as well, if you are to suddenly take up gambling on that
scale."

Nettled, Simon lifted his hand so that the
ruby glinted in the lights. He knew how much it irritated
Grimthorpe that his branch of the family had fallen in society as
Simon's had risen. For a moment he considered confiding the truth,
but dismissed the idea. His cousin wouldn't appreciate the irony,
but he would indeed cause a scandal. "Perhaps I don't expect to
lose it."

A confident sneer appeared on Grimthorpe's
foxish face. "The girl is odd — and plain besides. I have been
showering her with attention these past weeks and now that she is
ripe, I intend for her to fall into my arms."

"Indeed? And who is the lucky young woman, or
are you keeping that secret to yourself?" He truly did not care.
Any female who let Grimthorpe within two feet of her deserved any
trouble that she might receive.

"The young miss who cannot seem to stop
spouting fairytales, of course. Miss Miranda Fenster."

For a moment, Simon thought he would not
manage to master the rage and pain that twisted inside him. His
cousin had no reason to know how his words struck at Simon's heart.
In supreme irony, Grimthorpe had chosen to seduce the very woman
Simon had planned to offer for – if he had not learned the truth of
his birth. Rather than an engagement present, he had purchased a
commission.

Seeing Grimthorpe waiting, Simon fought not
to bring up his fists to erase the man's leer. If he were to be a
devil, he must learn not to care. "I believe she has too much sense
for that. But if not, no doubt her brother Valentine will protect
her."

Grimthorpe merely smiled, a repellently
salacious glint in his pale blue eyes. "Puppy's wet behind the
ears. Why his own twin sister has more sense than he, and you know
she has proven herself capable of finding a fairytale to illuminate
every facet of Christendom."

"Valentine may be young, but as you say, she
is his twin and there is a strong bond between them." Simon himself
had noted the way the girl and her twin seemed to finish each
other's sentences, read each other's thoughts, and mimic each
other's gestures. He had found it disconcerting at first, and then
somehow charming.

For a moment he allowed himself to wonder if
she would have accepted his proposal because he was destined to be
Duke of Kerstone or because she liked him. He did not doubt her
acceptance. If anything about this sorry mess could be considered
fortunate, it was that he had found out about his bastardy before
he had become betrothed. She, of all people in this ballroom,
deserved a happy ending.

Grimthorpe wagged his brows. "I'll not
attempt anything she doesn't permit."

Simon found himself relaxing as he considered
the Miranda Fenster he knew. Grimthorpe had chosen his victim
poorly. "Then I suspect you will lose your wager." A sudden flash
of doubt nearly caused him to shudder. Who was he to judge what a
woman would or would not permit?

Last night came back to Simon so vividly that
he could not breathe for a moment. His father weak, blue with the
effort to breathe. His mother calm, beautiful, full of poisonous
words.

Simon had entered his father's sickroom to
give him the news that his only son would soon be settling down to
beget an heir and was on the verge of offering for Miss Miranda
Fenster, a woman of impoverished status but impeccable lineage and
amusing imagination.

Instead, he had overheard his beloved mother
speak the bitter words that made his life a lie. "I hope you are
satisfied that my bastard son will soon be the Duke of
Kerstone."

The words had held a sibilant hiss in the
silence of his father's sickroom. Simon, reeling with shock, had
stood in the doorway of the darkened room and vowed that he would
never carry on a bastard line.

The remembered smell of his father's imminent
death pressed upon him, and he pushed the memory of his mother's
ashen face and his father's wheezed pleas aside.

"You would be surprised what a female will
get up to, Saint Simon." Grimthorpe's jeering words cleared the
last fog of memory from Simon's mind. "I expect a miss who believes
in fairytales and happy endings will be good for more than a kiss
with little protest."

Simon could not allow Grimthorpe's predatory
remarks to pass unanswered, although he tempered his rage until his
words sounded almost amused, "She seems well able to speak her
mind."

"Indeed." Grimthorpe winced with exaggerated
motion. "I have a plan that shall keep her quiet." The music ceased
and he moved toward the crowd.

Simon watched Grimthorpe's determined pace
and fought his chivalrous impulses. Hadn't he just embarked upon
his new career as an unrepentant soldier? He searched the crowd
until he found her. Plain, his cousin had called her. He saw why,
though he did not agree. She stood out like a peahen among the
colorful peacocks. Her gown was modest and soberly-colored, her
hair unadorned — not even a feather.

He knew from experience that her jewels were
her lively eyes and quick smile. He watched, torn between the old
and the new Simon, as she smiled politely at the man intent on
seducing her. For a moment he thought she might refuse a dance, but
then she lifted her hand to Grimthorpe.

He well remembered the first time he had seen
her, walking through the ballroom without the coy shyness of a girl
new to the marriage mart. When they had been introduced, she had
looked directly at him and surprised him by asking if he had read
Mary Wallstonecraft's
A Vindication of the Rights of Women
.
She had seemed more amused than chagrined that he had not, offering
him the opportunity to borrow her own copy.

He had, although he had not yet read it. And now he
would not. He made a mental note to have Travers return the book to
her on the morrow, even as he decided to protect her from
Grimthorpe. She was much too fine to be tarnished by his libertine
cousin. Some other man would see the potential for a fine wife in
her. It was obvious to anyone who cared to take the time to
look.

As he watched her smile into his cousin's
eyes with painful innocence, he made his way toward them,
remembering how he had been struck that first time much more by her
attitude than her looks — though her chestnut hair gleamed with
copper highlights in the light of the ballroom, and her eyes had
the warmth of fine brandy.

What had caught his interest about her was
the way she didn't melt away from him like the other young women.
She had presence. He had been surprised to speechlessness the first
time he had heard her offer an opinion. She spoke as if she thought
her words were worth being heard. He had decided his duchess should
behave so, although some of the things she said were foolish –
women managing their own properties? Absurd. Almost as absurd as
the realization that the next ruler of England was likely to be
Princess Victoria.

As Grimthorpe led her into a waltz, Simon
battled his rising anger. He could not break into the dance without
causing embarrassment to them all. Watching her gracefully navigate
the crowded ballroom with her partner, he was struck by the
singular notion that she would not be one to shun him if he stood
now and publicly announced his bastardy, renouncing all titles and
lands to be given him at his father's – at the
Duke
's
death.

BOOK: The Fairy Tale Bride
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