A Duke To Steal Her Heart

By: Rebecca Dash

Chapter 1

Furniture in the drawing room had been pushed against the walls to clear enough space in the center for a ceremony to take place. Diana’s younger sisters decorated the door frames with ornately spun garlands made of vines and red roses. They also placed rose filled vases on every side of the room. She couldn’t have asked for anything more than they gave her by decorating with such zeal. It was beautiful.

The immediate family and several close friends had gathered around them. The bride stood there in a white dress with sea shells embroidered along the hem. It had been made just for the occasion and would be worn only once. Her mother had insisted on nothing but the most extravagant attire.

Diana looked up at the Duke of Rothford. He had high cheekbones and a square jaw. The man would have been good looking in whatever he wore, but was especially dashing dressed in a black tailcoat and matching knee breeches that fit him snugly enough to show off his form.

They had gotten a special license. The details of the event were every girl’s dream. She didn’t love him though. She couldn’t even begin to love him. How was it possible for anyone to feel that way toward a person they barely knew?

The two had courted for an acceptable amount of time. Her parents decided how long that would be and pushed her in the direction they imagined was most beneficial. Diana consented to everything and stood there with him. The man seemed nice enough when they had gone around together or when he would call for her at the manor and she entertained everyone by playing intricate melodies on the pianoforte. But who was really to know what was in a person’s heart until everyone else went away? The courtship was too short for her liking, but her parents were most eager for their daughter to become a duchess. It was more than they had ever dreamed.

The Duke of Rothford gazed at her. She was a pretty girl who became stunning when she smiled. Her blond hair was elegantly put up, with long strands that fell to frame her face. But it seemed as if she thought too deeply about life. There was a lost expression that came over Diana whenever she forgot herself as if there was some question about whether she wanted this. He was quite sure about what he desired. Being there with her was the only way for him to move forward. It was what he had to do for the good of his estate and line. The dowry involved was sufficient, indeed.

He needed her, and she needed him back. It was all clear in the arrangement that was made with her father.

The vicar seemed very serious as he spoke to them. “If either of you know any impediment, why ye may not be lawfully joined together in matrimony, ye do now confess it.”

Diana’s mind raced. Love! She wanted to shout it. To call it to the heavens. Wasn’t that an impediment? Wasn’t it required? She was silent though.

“Wilt thou have this woman to be thy wedded Wife?”

There was more to it, but Diana could hardly make out the words.

“I will,” said Rothford.

She was frozen by what was going on around her. It felt hot in that room though it was fine just moments ago. Her heartbeat pounded in her ears. The vicar was speaking to her.

“Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honor, and keep him in sickness and in health?”

That sounded like a lot to agree to right then.

“Forsaking all others,” the stern vicar went on. “Keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?”

Her eyes got wide. What was the answer? Her family was standing there, bearing witness to it all. So was his. There was nothing else she could say but…

“I will.”

Diana felt faint. It was hard to breathe. The ceremony was going by in a blur. They held hands and the Duke of Rothford spoke to her as sincerely as he ever had. Then she spoke to him, repeating the vicar’s words. The ones that meant so much. It felt like she was a spectator, just listening to them. She could hardly recognize her own voice.

“I take thee to be my wedded Husband...”

To have and to hold.

For better, for worse.

Richer. Poorer.

Love.

Cherish.

Obey.

Till death us do part.

Rothford was putting something on her left hand.

“With this ring I thee wed,” he said.

It happened. It truly did. Then they were both kneeling as the vicar prayed. The words that Diana would hear most clearly, the ones she would always remember from that day forth were a simple declaration.