Married To A Marquess(2)

By: Joyce Alec

The problem was, however, that whilst her groom might be present, he was clearly quite disinterested. He gave her only a cursory glance as she approached, turning back to face the clergyman almost at once. In fact, as Alice approached his side, she noticed that he smelled of whisky, and given how he swayed slightly, she realized he must have had a lot to drink.

Her heart dropped like a stone. This was not what she had anticipated.

Finally standing next to Lord Worthington, Alice dared a glance up at her groom but discovered, to her consternation, that he was not even looking at her. Instead, he had something of a ribald grin on his face and gave someone just to her left a hearty wink. She heard someone gasp, evidently shocked at his behavior, which made her cheeks burn with both shame and frustration. Her future husband, apparently, was something of a rake.

A loud buzzing rose in her ears as the clergyman began his service, his bland tones not even catching the slightest bit of her interest. When her father had stated that William was, at least, willing to marry her, she had not thought that he would be so obviously disinterested in her.

To be making eyes at another woman on his own wedding day was utterly scandalous! Of course, she had been aware that William was known to be something of a flirt, having captured many young ladies’ eyes, but her father had reassured her that this was all simply an act and that he would settle down the moment they were married. As she had always done, Alice had believed her father entirely.

The clergyman was staring pointedly at her, but Alice felt completely frozen from the inside out. This was not what she had wanted, not what she had been led to believe. She could not marry a man like this, could she?

A sudden clearing of a throat behind her reminded her that her father, mother, and a great many guests were all waiting for her. To turn and run now would be devastating, not just for her but for her family in general. After what her parents had done in fixing this match for her, despite her lack of beauty, she could not back out now.

“I do,” she whispered, barely able to get the words out through lips that refused to move.

A sigh of relief rippled around the church from behind her, as though they had expected her to refuse. Evidently, the guests were more than aware that this was an arranged marriage.

Her body still completely cold, Alice closed her eyes and heard her groom mutter the same words as she, sighing heavily after he had done so. Hot tears pricked at the corner of her eyes, but she refused to let even a single one fall. She had just tied herself to this man for life, and already he appeared to be regretting it.

Kneeling when she was told, she heard the clergyman pronounce the blessing before finally announcing to the church that they were now husband and wife. Reaching for her husband’s arm to steady herself as she rose, Alice realized that he was already standing, not giving her even the scantest bit of attention. Her legs trembled as she turned to exit the church, knowing that she should have her hand on her husband’s arm. He walked slightly ahead of her, taking his time so that he would not stagger given how much liquor he had apparently imbibed.

Her face burned with shame, and she was fully aware that her husband had not yet lifted her veil. Alice walked behind him, grateful that she was not called upon to acknowledge the guests at this time. She would have to make it outside with dignity intact, not letting anyone know just how fragile she felt.

“Well, good day to you, wife,” her husband said, as they reached the door of the church. “I have given my steward instructions on how to care for you. I do not know when I shall see you next, but I am sure you will be quite content on your own. Good day.”

And, so saying, he climbed into a waiting carriage and, within seconds, was hurtling down the road away from her.

Chapter Two

Alice wrote the date in her beautiful, swirling handwriting before continuing her letter to her mother. All was well at Wren Park, the estate her husband had packed her off to some three years ago. She ignored the stab of pain in her heart, fully aware that today was, in fact, her third wedding anniversary and, as yet, she had still not seen her husband since their fateful wedding day.

Finishing her letter, Alice scanned it carefully before sealing it and ringing for the butler. It had become her habit to write to her mother on a regular basis, usually once a week, and her mother would be expecting to receive her correspondence.