The Devil Duke Takes A Bride
A Renwick House Novel
Clearly, she didn’t need to be told twice to hit him. Though, to be fair, he had suspected she would merely give him a light pat across the shoulder or mayhap even kick him in the shin.
Not, to his irritation, give such a remarkable punch that he was rendered senseless for longer than he’d care to admit. Were they allowing women at Jacksons these days? He needed to stop underestimating the chit, his nemesis, his future wife.
Bitter pill to swallow that.
Breath whistled through his teeth as he set himself to rights and checked his body for any other sort of bruising. Naturally he wouldn’t put it past her to give in a good kick after she sent him sailing to the ground.
Although sore, nothing else seemed worse for the wear, although he had a sneaking suspicion he looked as if he was on the wrong end of an opening door. With one final oath for good measure, he took another soothing breath and made his way back to the box.
Thankfully, everything was still blanketed in black. Unfortunately for him, he had the devils own luck, so it wasn’t all that surprising that the minute his booted foot stepped into the box, the stage lights came to life.
And he, the wounded, was no longer in darkness.
Rather blinded by the spectacle in front of him. His eyes focused on the stage and then to his horror, Agatha. Of course the witch was laughing.
“What the devil happened to you!” Agatha said between giggles. At least have a care for the company! What were they to think when she was not even a trifle concerned for his welfare!
“I had a stumble.” He lied. His eyes quickly darted to Katherine.
The minx coughed.
“And where pray tell did you stumble, your grace? Dare I ask the condition of the object that ran into your face?” She lifted her hand innocently to touch her cheek and winked. Not a blasted hair out of place. Gloves pristine.
He suddenly had a very vivid image of his hands shaking her tiny little body until she apologized.
Then again, he couldn’t very well have her apologize for something he told her to do.
Stupidity seemed to blare in front of his eyes like a blazing sign.
“Benedict!” Agatha scolded, “Really! To leave Lady Katherine all by herself! Heavens! The poor dear was lost for near an hour while you were out fighting imaginary dragons!”
“I was attacked!” He shouted, bringing quite a lot of attention to their box. He swore and quickly took a seat so nobody would be the wiser to his bruise.
“Attacked?” Agatha’s eyes narrowed, “seconds ago you were most unfortunate to allow your clumsiness to get the best of you, and now you were accosted? By what, child, a door?”
Katherine snorted behind her hand but kept her eyes dancing with amusement. Lord and Lady Bourne were staring at him as if he had just sprouted an extra head near his ear.
“Well?” Agatha prodded.
“Both.” He closed his eyes, “It was both. You see, I was trying to find Lady Katherine amidst the crowds—“
“—there were no crowds, Benedict, we were all seated.”
“You did not let me finish!” He shifted in his seat, “The crowds of er…air.” Cough, cough, “You see, the air was quite crowded with, dust, lots of dust, and you know I am allergic to dust, Aunt.”
At his silence she leaned in, “Oh, do go on, I believe your tale has just trumped my interest in the Opera.”
Lord Bourne nodded his head in agreement. All eyes on him. He scratched nervously at his neck and cleared his throat. “As I said, the air was crowded with—“
“—dust, yes you’ve said that already.” Katherine piped up cheerfully.
“Right.” He clenched his teeth, “And by the time I was able to set myself to right and go in search of Katherine, who surely must have been confused because of all the…” He choked on his lie.
“Dust.” They said in unison.
“Yes, dust.” He said emphatically. “I wandered into a darkened corner, many of those in the theatre you know, and promptly took a stumble. My eyes had not yet adjusted to the dust free area.”
Devil take him, he truy was the worst liar that ever lived. Plain and simple. Didn’t help one bit that he was sweating through his jacket, nor that his aunt seemed to get more agitated by the minute.
Benedict leaned forward hoping to gain the attention of everyone and end this mortifying night. “I heard a scream.”
“No!” Lady Bourne gasped.
He smiled cheerfully, “Why yes, and I being the strong, courageous..”
“—Don’t forget allergic.” Katherine piped up again.
“Allergic,” He ground out, “Ahem, man that I am, I went in search of the damsel. I’m happy to announce I made it just in time to save the woman in distress no worse or the wear!”
Odd nobody was clapping? Should he not be honored for his bravery, fake that it may be?
Agatha chuckled, “interesting, for Katherine said both of you were merely lost and in a moment of panic she accidently hit you in the face because she thought she saw a rat.”
“But,” Benedict sputtered, “You asked..”
“Bravo!” Lord Bourne slapped Benedict hard on the back, “Your Grace, my daughter was just regaling us with your ability to tell stories. I say, jolly good one! My dear,” He looked to Katherine, “You were right, he does posess a certain talent, thank you for allowing us to see it first hand.”
“Of course.” She winked at Benedict and crossed her arms.
He gave a nervous laugh, “Ah yes, I do enjoy telling falsehoods in order to entertain others.”
“Good man, good sense of humor, good man.” Lord Bourne was still chuckling.
Benedict scooted closer to Katherine and grasped her hand hard within his.
She squeaked but otherwise made no movement.
“I have half a mind to strangle you.” He felt his jaw clench in frustration.
“But, your grace?” Katherine turned her deep blue eyes towards him and whispered, “Then you would no longer be able to kiss me, and you do enjoy that don’t you?”
Before he could speak. She shushed him, “No, no, you’ve had quite the ordeal tonight, your grace. Pray, do not exert yourself any further, after all, you’ve kissed a woman, lived through a fight and apparently a terrible bout with dust, you deserve your rest, just remember this one thing.”
“Whats that,” Curse his voice for being hoarse with need.
“This round, goes to me.”
He sighed, “Agreed, I have been bested.”