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THE VENGEFUL BRIDEGROOM
by Kit Donner

Genre: England, Historical Romance

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Narrowing her eyes, Madelene backed away from him and held a hand out in front of her. “You can’t be my husband. You! You tricked me! How could you do this? I demand you return me to Town this moment. We will immediately obtain an annulment.” Her eyes widened. “Unless you falsified our marriage license.” 

Oh, the horror and shame she would bring on the Colgate name. Was she actually married, and to Gabriel Westcott? Her fury at his deceit needed vengeance. She looked around the kitchen for something to use as a weapon, but nothing looked close enough. And any movement might reveal more than she wanted to show, grasping her robe more tightly to her chest. 

“Madelene, now is not the time for this discussion.” He walked towards her as she retreated, until she felt her back at the wall. “We can discuss this sensibly in our room. In private.” He held out his hand in supplication.

Her thoughts in disarray, anger heated her reply. “I want my own room. Then I want you to return me to my brother in the morning,” she commanded.

He grabbed her arm and started pulling her towards the kitchen door. “And what about your brother? He’ll need to return his won blunt, and you’ll be back where you started. Surely a year with me is worth the price of saving your brother and your home,” he explained logically.

She hesitated and frowned, shaking her head. “A year? No, that was definitely not the plan. I remember my brother telling me it would only be for a month, no longer.” Had she really been tricked into marrying her family’s enemy? For a whole year? 

Something else suddenly occurred to her. If her husband wasn’t Mr. Brelford, then Mr. Westcott could conceivably prefer women, which meant Madelene wanted to avoid their bedchamber at all costs.

“We need to discuss this upstairs. Try to pretend you’re a willing wife.” He grasped her hand and tugged her out the kitchen door and up the stairs. 

The new inn arrivals hovered around their tankards, uninterested in the comings and goings of Madelene and her husband. A casual look around the main room confirmed Great George and Mary were missing. No one was near to help or hear her story. Sighing, she followed him up the stairs.

Mr. Westcott opened the door to their second bedchamber of the night. This smaller room held only a narrow bed, a few blankets, and cold air. The first room must have been the more requested of the two. No fire lit the fireplace, in all likelihood to prevent a repeat of the earlier incident.

Madelene saw her trunk safely installed next to the cold fireplace and rubbed her hands together, realizing she needed to quickly put on warmer clothes. Early May was much colder than usual this time of year. 

Digging into her trunk, she found a soft pink night rail and matching jacket. The garments would provide covering but not much warmth. Unfortunately, she couldn’t put her hands on her cotton nightgown without unpacking everything.

She began, “I would appreciate it, if-”

“No, I won’t leave you alone. However, I will turn my back as you undress, if you can assure me that if I light another fire, you’ll step no where near it,” he said with a trace of amusement in his voice. Not waiting for an answer, he knelt before the cold fireplace and placed short sticks and logs on the metal shelf, preparing to light it.

Crack! He never saw her come from behind and hit him with the bed warmer.