In this extract from Sarah Ferguson’s new book, the red-headed heroine reveals her wedding terror as she prepares to marry a duke. Ah, there you are! It’s fast approaching midnight, my dear.” Lord Rufus Ponsonby, the Earl of Killin, was considered by most to be a presentable-looking man. His tall, rather lean figure was always immaculately dressed. His aquiline profile was suitably haughty, as befitted an earl of the realm. Every aspect of him was austere, repressed, and calculated.
Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott took an involuntaryas he loomed over her. “I’m all too aware of that.” As ever, he seemed oblivious to her prickly reaction to him. “Why are you skulking in the shadows? Perhaps you are insecure about your appearance,” he continued, answering his question. “Allow me to reassure you. Your gown is neither too simple nor too ornate for the occasion. Her Grace, your mother, has excellent taste.”
Surveying the man her mother had helped select to be her husband, Margaret begged to differ. “I would have preferred a turquoise gown.” “All young ladies in their first Season wear white.” “Look at me,” Margaret persisted, exasperated beyond words because Killin did not look at her properly. “Don’t you think I resemble a ghost at my betrothal party? I am, quite literally, a specter at the feast.” His lordship, his attention on his watch, didn’t notice the note of suppressed hysteria in her tone. Killin checked his gold timepiece against the ballroom clock before snapping the and returning it to his waistcoat pocket. “We had better join your parents for the announcement,” he said. “They will be getting anxious.”
That little vocal tic he had, something between a cough and a snort, as if he were about to clear his throat and decided against it, made Margaret’s toes curl. No one else seemed to notice, yet every time he opened his mouth to speak, she braced herself for it. “I think if anyone has a right to be anxious,” she said, smiling through gritted teeth, “it should be me. My life is about to change forever, after all.” Though he smiled in return, it was a token effort that failed to reflect his eyes. “We are on the brink of a new life together, Lady Margaret. I, for one, am eager to embrace it.”
The very notion of being embraced by him was repellent. Fortunately, in thetheir match had been arranged, he had not attempted to do any such thing, allowing Margaret to ignore her physical revulsion and persuade herself that she would be able to reconcile herself to marrying him. He had never tried to kiss her. If he touched her, it was merely to usher her here or there, and his hands never lingered on her. Was all that about to change? She shuddered inwardly. Was this model of propriety simply a gentleman patiently waiting until his matrimonial rights were formally endorsed? Dear heavens, even trying to imagine his lips on hers made her want to scrub her mouth with her handkerchief. Once the formal announcement was made, there would be no going back. She would be engaged to be married to a man she loathed and who, she was utterly convinced, didn’t give a damn about her.
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No, worse than that. The more everyone else was another source of irritation., the more certain Margaret became that he actively disliked her. She had tried to believe otherwise but was increasingly aware of his carefully disguised disapproval of everything about her, from her manner to her weight. The fact that he managed to keep his feelings so well hidden from
Although feelings, Margaret reminded herself, were quite irrelevant regarding matchmaking. Killin was set on marrying her for his ends, and her parents were even more determined that she marry him. She had resolved to make them all happy by doing her duty, which was undoubtedly the correct course of action, so why were her wretched instincts choosing this highly inconvenient moment to rebel?
Was she going to marry this man? It seemed suddenly, terrifyingly, impossible. “Lady Margaret! We really must join the Duke and Duchess. Their patience, like mine, must be wearing thin.” To speak up now, after weeks of biting her tongue, was unthinkable. And futile. Defeated and dejected, her only option was to brace herself for the inevitable. “I. Please, I beg of you,” Margaret added, seeing his resistance forming. “I wish to compose myself, my lord. All eyes will be upon us, and I don’t want to disappoint you.”
More importantly, she didn’t want to let Mama down. Or Papa. To her immense relief, Killin conceded. “Very well then, if you must. But don’t be long.” Without giving him a chance to change his mind, Margaret hurried away. The atmosphere in the crowded ballroom was stifling. She was so hot and flustered she couldn’t think straight. Oh, for a lungful of pure, fresh air, or better still, for the familiar, comforting smells of the stable block back home in Dalkeith. Margaret slipped out through the French doors, her senses assaulted by the acrid stench of the Thames, for the gardens of Montagu House . Her heart was racing. Edging farther away from the hubbub of the ballroom, she came to smack up against the fence, snatching at it just in time to prevent herself from stumbling down the steps and into the darkened gardens.