May is a very popular month for weddings and I thought I’d let you have a peek at the wedding between Charles and Kitty in my story A Gentleman’s Folly. Enjoy.
Katherine Bescell, courtesan and member of a secret order, thinks the offer of a marriage in name only to Charles Leverret, heir to a large fortune, will solve all her woes.
Charles Leverret believes his hired wife will ensure his inheritance. He might even enjoy her company if she’ll let him anywhere near her. Charmed by his bride, Charles breaks their original bargain and falls in love. Betrayed by a trusted lawyer who withholds Katherine’s promised fee, Charles struggles against evil chance to persuade Katherine his love is real.
Lust and love, truth and trust, each makes demands on them both, but though Charles has captured her heart, Katherine can’t bring herself to admit they belong together.
Masked and robed in the rites in the West Wycombe Caves where only truth is told, Charles makes his stand to claim the woman he adores.
“Good Heavens. I thought the wedding would be a quiet affair,” Sir Francis exclaimed as he helped Katherine and Chloe from the coach.
“As did I. This affray is unexpected,” Katherine whispered to Chloe. Her friend came closer and reached up to rearrange the silk hood over her hair. Chloe, with lips folded into a thin red line, bent and brushed the embroidered fabric against the hoops displaying Katherine’s skirts to remove any dust from the journey.
“You understand you don’t have to wed this man, Kitty,” Sir Francis said. “You can still refuse even now. Leverret’s history certainly makes me believe you should think again. I’d not have introduced you had I known half of what I’ve been informed of since you two met.”
She nodded. “I gave my word, sir. I must keep it.”
Chloe slipped a comforting arm around her, and led by Sir Francis, they shoved their way through the crowd to the kissing gate.
Many of the gathered throng, some of the lowest life London could produce, staggered around the worse for cheap gin. She made her way up to the open church door where the clergyman and Mr. Charles Leverret stood.
“Mr. Knox, my bride, Katherine Bes…Katherine,” he mumbled.
He swayed unsteadily on his feet as they walked into the small nave. He was unshaven and his neck-cloth wrinkled and barely tied.
He’s good for nothing!
She held her courage tight. “Good morning to you, Mr. Knox. My name is Katherine Julia Bescell.”
Leverret leaned down so far, peering narrow-eyed, that she put out a hand to steady him in case he might fall. The elaborate, heavily embroidered, brocaded blue coat could not be more offensive stained with wine as it was. When, at the cleric’s word, Charles fumbled in his pocket and placed a ring on the book, Katherine saw the white lace of his cuff was purpled too. She shrank from the prospect of his touch and glanced back at Chloe, whose horrified expression brought tears to her eyes.
There had been no scent of wine, cheap gin, or the stink of putrid perfume when they met. Not for a second had she thought him such a man.
She’d tried to dismiss the tales Chloe had told of his gambling debts and the wenching with the strumpets from Vauxhall Gardens to the drabs from the inns on the riverfront. But the other follies that Chloe had related just last night made Katherine fearful. Leverret had been lucky to escape a charge of murder at merely nineteen. He had dueled three times since, and he always won. Few gentlemen would call him friend or accept his invitation to the card table after his first few months in London. Had he improved in the years since? Sir Francis had seemed to doubt it. Somehow she’d make sure Charles Leverret got his inheritance and she received the agreed sum, even if she had to fight with every bone in her body for it. She peeked up.
Leverret’s dark eyes were so narrowed by lack of sleep or drink she wondered if he could see anything at all.
Mr. Knox spoke the first words of the ceremony. Rather like a racing horse, the clergyman got into a rhythm, and he charged on. The only pause came when he spoke her name. Sir Francis, lips pressed tight together, squeezed her hand before he placed it in Leverret’s.
Charles lisped and mumbled his way through his vows, hardly waiting the time to hear hers, and before her senses ceased to reel, he crammed the token on her finger, and Mr. Knox announced them wed.
Leverret, swaying like a reed in a storm, bent to kiss her at the clergyman’s command, but she tilted her face so the stink of his drink-laden lips found only her cheek. Nowhere in their agreement had she given permission for him to kiss her, and despite his handsome, dark features, she’d have none of the sodden rogue today.
Once they’d signed the clergyman’s book, they walked down the path, her hand on his arm. Twice Leverret stumbled, once almost shoving her to the ground lurching as he did. They were greeted with cheers, wails, and sighs from the onlooking assembly.
“Farewell, my Charlie,” one of the women screeched and swooned away, thrashing into the arms of her friends.
Katherine yanked on his deep cuff to get his attention as he gawped, smiling at the commotion the woman caused. “Get us out of this caterwauling rabble, sir.”
He swept off his hat and bowed, more theater than good manners. “Certainly, my bride. Fare thee well, my dear friends, I go to a better world,” he called like a convicted felon before handing her clumsily into a hired closed-coach.
She waved farewell to Chloe, Mr. Knox, who gawped open-mouthed at his busy
churchyard and didn’t respond to her, and a stern-faced Sir Francis, who glowered toward her husband. The coachman stowed her valise with a thump, and Charles half stumbled up into the coach. He gave a small laugh as he fumbled before he managed to yank the door closed and then sat with a grin.
Despite the reek from his wine-soaked coat, she stood and tugged the window up to shut out the yowls from the swarm crowding about.
The coach lurched forward, and her stomach churned. Leverret lounged opposite her. Eyes closed, he nodded with his hat and white wig askew. Before they’d gone a half-mile and lost the most persistent yells of those following, his head lolled, and jaw slack, he slept.
She took the slender wedding band from her finger and bit it. The sharp metallic taste proved it brass, not gold. Vaguely disappointed, she shook her head. She could have been touched he’d bothered with such a trifle had it been genuine, but the ring was a mere part of the sham and meant nothing to either of them. She searched in her petticoats for one of her pockets and dropped the offending item inside, took out her small vinaigrette, and sniffed. The soothing vapor brought back memories of more pleasant moments.
Leverret gave a loud, expansive snore.
This would be the last disgraceful day of his conniving she’d endure.
Folding her hands on her ribbon-trimmed stomacher, she rested her head against the thinly padded seat back and closed her eyes as the coach lurched and bounced along. Her bridal morn had not been the sort most women would dream possible. But, no matter how ridiculous, the morning’s indignity brought her a step closer to a fortune, enough to make her quite independent for life.
“Brass ring indeed, Charles Henry Leverret. I’ll turn you into a man of some merit before I’m done with you.”
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