Bonus Epilogue! Chasing Lady Amelia
Dear readers, Please enjoy this bonus epilogue to Chasing Lady Amelia, the second book in my Keeping Up With The Cavendishes series. It takes place on Amelia’s wedding day to Alistair, but it’s really a love story for the duchess, because I think she deserves a romance of her own, don’t you? 😉 XOXO, Maya
With This Kiss
If there is one rule of a wedding day, it is this: do not lose the bride. Or the groom. But somehow Josephine Marie Cavendish, the future dowager duchess of Durham, had lost both. Twice.
Her heart had nearly stopped early this morning when she and the other Cavendish girls went to help Amelia dress for the big day. She was nowhere to be found. This immediately put everyone in mind of a certain day in which a certain girl vanished without a trace, only to return later, tightlipped about her exploits. But now she was expecting and about to be married, so one did not wonder much about what she had done and with whom.
Fortunately, it so happened that she was in the garden, having stolen away for a quick rendezvous with her groom. This location seemed to have some romantic significance for the couple. The duchess was not interested in the slightest; she had to get this girl to the altar today if it was the last thing she did.
Lady Amelia vanished again at the church! The groom was already standing at the altar, the crowds outside and seen her arrive, the guests were packed in the pews and POOF! One minute Miss Green was adjusting the veil and the next Amelia was gone.
It so happened she needed to use the necessary again. Because of her condition which had a little something to do with the wedding. Well, with the date of the wedding. She and Alistair were so clearly, madly in love that this union felt inevitable.
The bride’s brother, the duke, was about to make a toast at the wedding breakfast declaring as much when the bride had vanished for a third time. Third! The groom, too!
One hoped—assumed, really—that they were together. And now that Amelia was wed, the duchess’s responsibilities to the girl were technically over. But she’d developed fond feelings for her. And she was the sort who could never totally relinquish responsibilities—the duchess, not Amelia, of course.
Especially if said responsibilities included hosting a perfect party and maintain proper behavior.
While the guests were entertained at the wedding breakfast, Josephine slipped off in search of the wayward bride and groom.
“Are you looking for someone?”
At the sound of a man’s voice, Josephine turned to see who had spoken. It was Lord Blackwood, a dapper older gentleman who had recently returned from an extended tour of the continent. She didn’t quite remember him from ton events years ago—she was happily married, then, and so wouldn’t have paid attention to this man. Even if he was handsome with his dark hair, streaked with grey and eyes that crinkled at the corners when he smiled at her. Which he did now. She ignored a fluttery feeling in her stomach.
“I am looking for the bride. Or the groom. Both, really. I assume they are together.”
“I shall help you look.”
How gallant of him to offer. Given that the clock was ticking, the duchess decided to accept.
“Thank you. Perhaps you can take the east wing and I’ll explore the west.”
The public rooms were in the east wing, while the private family rooms were in the west.
“Together, duchess.” He took a step in her direction. “I was thinking we could look together.”
“But that won’t be nearly as efficient. The duke will be giving a toast in approximately seven minutes. It is imperative that this day go off without a hitch.”
The duchess needed things to be perfect. Reputations depended on it. She could not say a word more, not even if Lord Blackwood was really looking at her in a way that made her feel butterflies in her stomach. She was too no-nonsense to lie to herself that they were nervous butterflies about the missing bride and groom. No, it was his charming smile hinting—no, promising—that his intentions were unapologetically not entirely honorable.
To think, a gentleman having dishonorable intentions…to her! She felt the tug of a smile on her lips.
“Your guests are enjoying themselves. They won’t notice if the happy couple has snuck off for a kiss. But it would be my pleasure to help you look.”
“I bet it would be,” she said dryly. She was not born yesterday. She knew what he was about and she was…not entirely disinterested. Her flock of Cavendishes were either married or betrothed. She’d been widowed for some time now.
For the first time in ages, perhaps ever, it was not inappropriate for her to do whatever she pleased. With whomever. How thrilling.
Then, remembering her manners, she said, “Thank you.”
She offered her arm and they set off.
“If you were really concerned about the time and urgency of the situation you would send a fleet of servants to search the house.”
The duchess allowed that this was true.
“So what is your excuse then, Your Grace?”
She glanced up at him, knowing the answer he wanted and not willing to hand it to him so easily. Instead, she started opening doors to this room and that, peeking in to see if she might find Amelia and Alistair.
“If you want a job done, one must do it oneself,” the duchess said.
Lord Blackwood countered, “One would also say delegation is key to success.”
“Perhaps I wish for a respite from the party.”
“A seasoned hostess such as yourself? I can’t imagine it.”
“I have a headache.”
“Do you have a headache or are you pleading a headache in order to get rid of a man in the way that women are rumored to do when they are, shall we say, not in the mood?”
“You are very forward and presumptuous.”
“You are lovely when you’re flustered.”
“You are far too old for such a line,” Josephine told him. “And that glimmer in your eyes is most undignified at your age.”
This only made him grin more.
“Once a rogue always a rogue.”
“Rogues should be reformed. Through marriage.”
“Is that a proposal?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. We’ve hardly met.”
Blackwood turned and started down the hall, opening this door and that door, peeking in.
“Where are you going?”
“I am looking for a spot for a kiss. Someplace comfortable and private. Yes, definitely someplace where we won’t be interrupted. A kiss should not be rushed. Not even when one has a toast to attend to in approximately four minutes.”
He was teasing her and it was working. Her breathing was rushed, her skin felt flushed. A rogue, teasing her! About kissing! Did he not know that that she was terrifying and fearsome duchess of Durham?
“No, we are looking for the bride and groom…” she protested. Halfheartedly.
“You are looking for them. I am looking for a private and romantic place for a kiss between an old rogue and a lovely duchess. Although, I’m actually not that old. some might say I’m even in my prime.”
“Well I never.”
“Well maybe you should.”
Well maybe he was right. She was not getting any younger, and it had been so long since she lost herself in a good kiss. Or any kiss since her duke had died. There was no reason she shouldn’t indulge in a kiss if she wanted to. Mourning had passed. Her family’s future was secure. That was how she rationalized what she desired to do.
Oh, and those eyes of his gazing at her like that…Oh, that wicked smile, promising all sorts of pleasure…oh, the way his flirtations made her feel flushed and fluttery and girlish again…
Oh, yes, she wanted to kiss him.
So she did.
She grabbed him by the lapel and pulled him close, crashing her mouth against his. It took no more persuading than that. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close. The kiss deepened. Time seemed to stop. This is what she had been missing: the feeling of just being a woman, the feeling of desire sparking, the unabashedly selfish feeling of stealing a moment of pleasure. She choose well. Blackwood was a good kisser. Why, her knees might even be weak.
The chiming of the clock brought them back to attention. The toast. The wedding. The guests.
Neither of them moved.
“That was very forward and presumptuous of you,” Blackwood said.
“I prefer to think of it as efficient,” she replied.
His mouth hovered near hers, wanting another kiss.
Of course that was the moment they were interrupted by Alistair and Amelia, who loudly exclaimed, “Oh there you are, duchess! Who is this gentleman you are with?”
The duchess winced and prayed no one passing by in the hall had heard the girl. Subtlety escaped Amelia.
“We are looking for you. The duke wishes to begin his toast,” Alistair explained. He looked from the duchess to Lord Blackwood and put two and two together. He cleared his throat, awkwardly. “We would hate for you to miss it for…any reason…”
“We shall go at once.” Josephine tried to flounce out of the room, haughty as ever. She had a reputation to maintain—as a fearsome duchess, esteemed hostess, and model of propriety. Being caught with a blush on her cheeks in the arms of a known rogue would ruin her. No one would ever be afraid of her then.
Lady Amelia, though, could not and would not unsee what she had seen.
She elbowed her aunt, said fearsome duchess, in the ribs as they walked out of the room.
“Well done, Josie.”
“Josie?” Blackwood overheard. “It suits you.”
She sighed. Josephine Marie Cavendish, widow and future dowager duchess of Durham and reigning terror of the haute ton, felt in her heart like a girl named Josie. All thanks to a kiss from a rogue.
Are you keeping up with the Cavendishes?
Don’t miss It’s Hard Out Here For A Duke, in which the Duke of Durham falls in love with the one woman he can never wed.