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THE Marquis's Mistress: Historical Fiction

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Jenivieve
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CHAPTER EIGHTEEN:  THE FINAL CHAPTER

Benedict looked down from the window in his bed chamber at the invited guests filling into the tent.  Distinguished guests had come from near and afar to witness his marriage today to the lady Louisa Horton.  The Brinley Dukedom was prominent in the ton for hundreds of years.  Benedict’s father and grandfather before him had built many important relationships with other prominent families throughout Britain.  They were all here in droves this morning to witness the next Brinley generation continuing that tradition.

Benedict took a huge breath and released it heavily.  He’d been praying the whole week that he would not be walking down the aisle this morning.  He’d been hoping that he would receive a letter stating that Louisa had called off the wedding, but no such letter had come forth.  He looked and felt like a man going to death row, rather than somebody who should have considered his wedding day the happiest day of his life.  Off course had he been marrying the lady of his choice it would have been a different matter all together, but duty and service had been drilled into him from the time he was about six years old and he could never dishonour the dukedom, it was unheard of from a Brinley.

 Benedict’s thoughts automatically drifted to Natasha, sweet, adorable, caring and loving Natasha.  How could he live without her?  How could he survive one day without holding her in his arms?  How could he breathe without her delectable, life sustaining kisses?   Two days ago she’d slept in the most luxurious guest chamber in his home.  The morning after when she’d awoken, he’d summoned her to the library.  He instructed her to stop working that afternoon.  He’d handed her a purse with sufficient money to last her a good few months.  She had vehemently rejected it, not wanting money she had not earned, but Benedict had raised his voice and demanded she put it into her purse.  When he’d raised his voice, she’d meekly obeyed.  He had been astounded to hear a confession from the butler that she had been holding the forte in the ducal kitchen.  How selfless had she been tirelessly preparing the wedding luncheon for the man she loved who was marrying another woman? 

Benedict had forbid her to return the following day, and he requested her not to attend the wedding.  He knew once he married Louisa he would honour his wedding vows.  He was a man of integrity, he would honour God and be faithful to the woman he took as his wife.  He would do his duty by Louisa.  Once she produced an heir, he would maintain his own bed chamber and not touch her ever again.  If Louisa desired to take a lover, he would not stop her.  All she wanted in any event was the wealth and title marrying him would benefit her.  Benedict knew she did not love him.  She’d never once spoken those words to him. Even though Natasha had never spoken those words either, Benedict felt her love, when she looked into his eyes.  He felt her love when she walked into a room.  And he felt her love when he held her in his arms.   Her body could not lie, it ignited and responded to him the way tinder did when a match was lit to it.

 Benedict knotted his necktie and put his long tailed dress coat on.  The sombre mood he was in consumed him like death.  He felt cold to his bones.  He felt lifeless and helpless.  He felt like a sledge hammer was pounding on his heart when he heard the brisk knock on his door. 

‘Enter.’

‘It is time,’ his butler announced.  ‘The bride is there.’

‘Thank you Arthur,’ Benedict nodded and followed his butler out.

 Benedict nodded at some of the guests as he made his way down the aisle, flanked by his butler.  He walked with confidence, his head held high, not displaying any of his inner turmoil.  He greeted some friends, some acquaintances that he had not seen in years.  He nodded as some tapped him on the shoulder in greeting.  Benedict had not wanted a best man.  Honestly speaking he would have much preferred to marry Louisa in the privacy of the church with just the one compulsory witness as was required by law, but the duke would not hear of it.  His only son was to be married in a lavish and very public ceremony before the all the prominent families of the ton.

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