Lady Beneath the Veil

By: Sarah Mallory
Chapter One

‘Those whom God has joined together let no one put asunder!’

The words boomed around the small church, echoing off the walls. The Honourable Gideon Albury grinned down at the heavily veiled figure at his side. Bless her, she was taking maidenly modesty to new heights!

Perhaps she thought it would inflame him, but she did that perfectly well without dressing as a nun. With her voluptuous body, golden curls and cornflower-blue eyes, she was a rare beauty. And that little trick she had of peeping up at him from under her lashes, those blue eyes promising the lush delights to come—his body hardened with anticipation. At last he would be able to enjoy those ample curves to the full!

Not that the little darling had flaunted her charms. She was, after all, a lady—the Earl of Martlesham’s cousin, in fact. He would not else have contemplated marriage without his father’s approval. Depraved as Lord Rotham might think him, he had not sunk so low that he would marry out of his sphere. But ’fore Gad, Gideon had never before seen such perfection in a gently bred young lady. She had allowed Gideon a glimpse of her pretty ankles, his hands had spanned that tiny waist and her plump, snow-white breast had been just crying out to be kissed. By heaven, just the thought of it made it difficult to concentrate on the marriage service. The register was produced. Gideon scrawled his own name carelessly and watched as his bride added her name to his. He guessed that damned veil was making it difficult for her to see because her hand shook a little as she held the pen. As a witness, Martlesham signed with a flourish and grinned.

‘There—’tis done.’

‘So it is.’ Gideon smiled down at his new wife. ‘I think we can dispense with this now.’

He reached for her veil, but she quickly put her gloved hand over his.

‘Not yet,’ she whispered.

He laughed.

‘Be careful, my love, I shall begin to think I have married a little prude!’

He expected to hear her delicious, throaty laugh, but she was silent, merely putting her fingers on his arm as he escorted her to the door.

After the darkness of the stone building the spring sunshine was almost blinding when they stepped outside. He stopped and turned to her again.

‘Now, Miss Propriety, let me kiss you... Good God!’ He stepped back, his eyes widening with horror as he looked down into the face of a complete stranger.

Chapter Two

Dominique stood very still, staring up into the shocked face of her new husband. It was all there, everything she had expected: horror, revulsion, disgust. She had known how it must seem to him once the trick was revealed. He pushed his fingers through his auburn hair, disturbing the carefully arranged disorder, while behind them Max’s cruel laugh rang out.

‘Caught you there, Albury!’

‘But I don’t understand. Your cousin—’

‘This is my cousin.’

Max chortled and Dominique’s heart went out to the man standing before her. He looked stunned.

As well he might. Instead of the beautiful, voluptuous blonde he had courted for the past two months he was married to a diminutive brunette whom he had never seen before in his life.

‘Is something amiss?’ The vicar looked from one to the other before directing a vaguely worried look towards Max. ‘Lord Martlesham?’

‘No, no, nothing’s wrong,’ declared Max, still chuckling. ‘The groom is struck dumb by the enormity of the occasion, that’s all.’ He began shepherding the guests away from the church. ‘Come along, everyone, the carriages are waiting!’

‘Just a moment!’ The man beside her did not move, except to shake her hand from his arm. ‘Where is Dominique?’

‘Lord, Albury, have you not understood it yet? You have married her!’ Max gave him a push. ‘Come along, man, don’t stand there gawping. Let us return to the Abbey.’

‘Please.’ Dominique forced her vocal cords to work. ‘Come back to the Abbey and all this can be explained.’

Frowning, he grabbed her arm and set off for the gate with Dominique almost running to keep up with him. As was usual with weddings, the path was lined with well-wishers who showered them with rice as they hurried to the carriage. It was decorated with ribbons for the occasion, the Martlesham coat of arms displayed prominently on the door. Without ceremony her escort bundled Dominique into the carriage, climbed in after her and the door was slammed upon them. Max’s grinning face appeared in the window.

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