Bertrice Small


© 1998



“Marry?" Valerian Hawkesworth, the Duke of Farminster, looked startled. "What on earth do you mean, I am to be married, Grandmama?"

The Dowager Duchess of Farminster looked directly at her only grandchild and repeated her previous words. "You were affianced as a boy to the daughter of one of your father's friends, a distant cousin, I believe. You were to marry the girl when she turned seventeen. Since there is no one else engaging your affections, Valerian, you will sail in three weeks' time for the island of St. Timothy in the western Indies to claim the girl. A sugar plantation is no small dowry, dear boy, and it is past time you set up your nursery."

"A colonial?" The duke looked dubious.

"Oh, do not be such a snob," his grandmother scolded him. "I am certain the girl has been as well educated as any of the silly misses you know. And whatever she may lack in the social graces, I will tutor her myself. She will make you a grand duchess, dear boy, and having lived on an isolated island all her life, she will undoubtedly be more comfortable in the country, content to remain on your estate to give you several sons and daughters."

"Why was I not told about this arrangement before now?" he demanded irritably. A trip to the western Indies was going to take several weeks. Then he would be forced to remain on this island another few weeks before he could marry the girl and travel back to England. Why, he could be gone three or four months. He would miss the racing season. "Hellfire and damnation!" the duke swore softly.

The dowager duchess's mouth quirked with her amusement.

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