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- Marriage of Convenience
- Charming Hero
Fresh from the humiliating annulment of the love match she always wanted, Lady Anne Vincent meekly agrees to the marriage of convenience her father has arranged. She feels hopeful that this marriage can be one of cordial indifference, protecting her from the hurt she knows so well.
Tobias Cosgrove isn’t meant for marriage, free spirit that he is. And yet, as the only son, marry he must. He is thus relieved when his father reveals his future wife to be the calm, collected Lady Anne Vincent, for he is confident she won’t plague him with neediness or hysterics like so many of the other young women in society.
But when Lady Anne's past reappears on their doorstep, she and Tobias are forced to confront whether a marriage of convenience is the type of marriage they wish for after all.
Intro to Chapter 1
Intro to Chapter 1
Lady Anne Haywood fiddled with the silver wedding band underneath her white glove, her eyes glazed over as she stared blankly in front of her. Her brows were drawn together, and her dark, wavy hair tied back in a simple bun, just as it had been for days. She had been too anxious to sit for her normal toilette—an elegant coiffure would hardly be set off to advantage by the dark rings under her brown eyes or the gray pallor of her normally porcelain skin. Her dress hung more loosely on her arms and waist, the result of days of hardly eating.
The way she looked, Anthony would hardly recognize his wife if he were to return in this moment.
If he were to return at all.
She shut her eyes. She couldn't think such things. She had to remain hopeful.
Approaching footsteps sounded in the corridor, and she straightened, clasping her hands together and looking toward the door with eyes which darted nervously.
It opened, and her brother, William, Viscount of Ashworth, appeared, hat in his hands and a grim set to his square jaw.
She stood, looking a question at him, and he grimaced, shaking his head with apology written in his eyes and the frowning lines of his face.
Anne took her lips between her teeth and tried to swallow the nausea back down. They hadn't found Anthony.
William stepped toward her and took her hand in his, helping her to sit down on the settee behind her. "I am so very sorry, Anne." He sat down beside her, setting his hat next to him and angling his knees toward her. He kept her hand in his, squeezing it lightly.
"I am afraid I have worse news still."
She tried to take a small, steadying breath, keeping her eyes on her hand. She didn't trust herself to look William in the eye. What worse news could he have?
He took in a breath of his own, and Anne could feel his reluctance in the way he watched her, in the low and slow way he spoke. "The Bow Street Runner was unable to find him, but he was able to piece together enough information that a few things have become evident."
Anne closed her eyes, her free hand clutching at her skirts. She hardly knew what to prepare herself for. Her husband had been gone more than three weeks. Disappeared without a word. Was he dead? Is that what William had come to tell her? That she was a widow before she had been married even three months?
"It seems that Anthony Haywood is known by another name."
There was a pause, and Anne's brow furrowed even more deeply. What did he mean? His hesitation didn't bode well, but she couldn’t tell what his words implied. She wished he would deliver the news quickly, whatever it was. The suspense was unbearable.
William shifted in his seat. "The Runner traced him to Sussex, using the painting you provided to ask people whether they recognized him. Many did, but all insisted that he was called Nicholas— Nicholas Hackett—and that they hadn't seen him in months. The parish register shows his birth and christening records there."
William set his other hand on top of Anne's, which lay trembling in his hand. "Anne," he said, his voice so gentle that it made her wince in anticipation, "there are records in a parish in London showing that Nicholas Hackett married two years ago."
Anne stilled. Her eyelids fluttered for a moment, and she looked up at William, her lips parting wordlessly as she searched his face. His mouth was drawn into a hard, thin line, his eyes deeply pained.
She shut her eyes and shook her head quickly, disentangling her hands from her brother's and standing.
There had to be another explanation.
William had never taken to Anthony. He had tried more than once to persuade Anne against the match, gently at first and then more firmly as time went on, resulting in the greatest row the siblings had ever had. And though he had apologized and made an effort to act with civility and good nature toward Anthony once Anne had made it clear that they intended to wed, things had been strained with William ever since.
"You never liked him," Anne said, unable to stifle a bit of accusation from her tone. Her arms hung stiffly at her sides, fists clenched.
William sighed. "I shan't deny that. But, Anne, surely you cannot think that I would fabricate such a tale as this? To put you through such misery simply over a matter of personal preference?" He shook his head. "You are my sister, Anne. I love you dearly, and it pains me more than you can imagine to be the bearer of such news."
"It isn't possible," Anne said, turning away from him, her head shaking from side to side slowly. She put a hand to her temple and closed her eyes.
This was only a nightmare. She would awaken shortly to find Anthony beside her, sound asleep, with one arm draped over his forehead and his dark, straight hair mussed, as it always was when he slept.
William let out a gush of air. "I am afraid there isn't room for any doubt, Anne. The Runner spoke with his wife, whom it appears he left in a similar fashion a year or so ago."