Fontaines always married Westburys, until the Twelfth Night Queen rebelled.
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Amelia Fontaine was betrothed to her cousin, Percy Westbury, while she was still in leading strings. When Percy and his family arrive for a long holiday visit, Amelia is dismayed by the prospect of the impending arranged marriage. With his estate in shambles, Percy flaunts his plans to use Fontaine Hall’s wealth to benefit his family’s fortunes. When Percy demands that Amelia end her friendship with her neighbor, Edward Thornton, will she choose to follow tradition or pursue happiness?
Edward Thornton, the Earl of Bridgwater, couldn’t remember a time he didn’t love Amelia. He didn’t believe her grandmother would insist on the arranged marriage, until the entire Westbury clan invites themselves to Fontaine Hall. When Edward discovers Percy’s secret life and his sinister plans for Amelia, he embarks on a campaign to rescue her. Will the Twelfth Night Queen help him save his beloved from her cruel fate?
A boot rubbed against her slipper. She looked up, startled. Edward glanced toward the head of the table. Grandmama, who was responsible for this disaster, was speaking to her. “Pardon, Grandmama, I was gathering wool.”
Percy, who had arrived at the table already in his cups, snickered. He’d discovered the liquor cabinet in the library. According to Williams, he’d demanded the key and sampled the contents liberally. Sitting beside him before dinner had been a trial. She was disgusted when Percy touched her leg and arm. Edward looked ready to throttle him, but calmed some when she frowned at him.
“I asked, dear, if you enjoyed the tour.”
She would have to dance around that question. “Sir Matthew is very knowledgeable.”
Sir Matthew glanced up on cue. “Thank you, Miss Fontaine. Your book collection is superb, Lady Fontaine. Your Roman antiquities are exquisite.”
Percy lifted himself out of the semi-stupor he’d fallen into during the second course. “Are they valuable?”
Sir Matthew nodded. “Priceless. Museum quality pieces, but I couldn’t imagine selling anything.”
Percy downed his glass of wine. “If the price is right, why not?”
Grandmama choked. “The Fontaine Collection is not for sale.”
Percy chuckled. “But the Westbury Collection might be.”
Grandmama glared at Percy. “I wasn’t aware there was a Westbury Collection. The Fontaine Collection is entailed with the estate. It’s not for sale.”
“Everything is for sale, if the price is right. Entail? Who will gainsay me next month when I am master here?”
Amelia couldn’t have heard correctly, but Percy sounded so certain. “Pardon? Next month? To what is Percy referring, Grandmama?”
Horatia frowned. “You didn’t tell the girl about the wedding, Aunt Charlotte? That explains much.”
Edward glanced at Lady Georgina. She shrugged and shook her head. They had been caught unaware also. Grandmother owed them all an explanation.
“What didn’t you tell me, Grandmama?”
Grandmama looked away. “Percy and his family felt it would be better to marry sooner rather than later. I intended to discuss the matter after the holidays.” She glared at Percy. “It would appear Percy decided against that.”
Percy shrugged. “Near enough. The banns will be announced Sunday at St. John’s for the first time.”
Married within the month? This was intolerable. “What about my Season you promised me, Grandmama?”
Horatia scowled. “You had your Season and were presented. It’s not as though you need to find a husband. Why waste good money that could be better spent elsewhere?” She nodded at Millicent and smiled. The woman blushed and looked down at her plate.
Amelia’s temper was ready to explode. Grandmama could hardly expect her to make a match with Percy. He was personally disgusting, was foxed more often than not, and would generally make a poor husband.
Her grandmother seemed to wilt in her chair. “There is a contract, dear. Your parents betrothed you to Percy when you were two years old. I supported—no, encouraged—the betrothal at the time. It was my fondest desire to see the families united again. Now, I don’t know. The…”
Percy struggled to his feet. “Your grandmother is correct, Amelia. There’s a contract and I’ll tolerate no talk of crying off. I’ll see you in court, if you try.” He staggered across the dining room, grabbed a bottle of brandy from the sideboard, and left.
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