How to Lose a Bride in One Night Forgotten Princesses Online

Chapter One

It wasn’t every day a woman lost her virginity.

This was the only justification Annalise could give herself for the way her hands trembled. Ordinary wedding day nerves and nothing more. Any bride would suffer it. Especially a bride like her. Plain. Crippled. Muddied lineage.

A little over a year ago she could barely afford a new pair of winter boots. By all accounts, a day such as this should never have occurred. And yet here she stood in a lavish gown of gold charmeuse trimmed in the finest Brussels lace, her hair swept up in emerald-studded combs. She had certainly never allowed herself the dream of a happily ever after such as this. Not before her father had found her, claimed her, and insisted she deserved only the finest things in life—namely her own knight in shining armor.

She buried her gloved hands into the voluminous skirts of her bridal gown as she crossed the vast expanse of lawn and reminded herself that she deserved happiness as much as the next girl.

It had showered earlier in the day, leaving the grass damp and yielding beneath her feet. Her jewel-studded slippers were soon soaked, the cold wetness seeping into her stockings and numbing her toes. Her husband walked a few feet in front of her, an assortment of young bucks on either side of him, all decked out in a vivid assortment of cravats and jackets, their boots polished to a high gleam. His closest friends, all young men from the finest families, garbed in finery the likes of which she had never touched as a seamstress’s apprentice a mere year ago.

The irony was not lost on her. Peerage such as these had not even seen fit to grace the confines of Madame Brouchard’s humble shop, and yet here she was. Among them.

One of them.

Her gaze fixed on her husband’s back. As though sensing her stare, he looked over his shoulder at her. A slow smile curved his lips, and her heart tripped as it always did when he looked at her.

Husband. The word reverberated through her mind before sinking like a stone in her stomach, where it sat uncomfortably alongside the kippers and champagne from their wedding feast. Her thumb rolled against the band on her ring finger. She glanced down at the giant yellow diamond in disbelief. It was an enormous monstrosity that had been in the Bloodsworth family for generations. And now it was hers. She was a bona fide duchess. Married to a duke. And not just any duke. A young handsome man only seventh in line from the Crown.

He looked over his shoulder at her again and winked, grinning that endearing smile that had charmed her from their very first meeting. And he was besotted with her, too. Unbelievable but true. Her cheeks heated and she was certain she was as red-faced as any schoolgirl ensnared in the gaze of a member of the opposite gender.

Really, she was no callow maid. She had seen much of the world before Jack plucked her from obscurity. She should comport herself better. Especially now. As a duchess ought to.

A glance behind her revealed the massive stone-faced edifice of the new home she would now reign over. Dozens of windows lined the five-storied mausoleum, all dark eyes staring out at her in the fading day. The family seat of the Duke of Bloodsworth. And the Duchess of Bloodsworth—her.

Family and friends surrounded her as they made their way to the dock. Even that structure was bedecked with flowers and ribbons for the happy occasion. She glanced around her at the merry faces. Perhaps not friends, she amended. At least not hers. Lord Bloodsworth was exceedingly popular. The same could not be said for Annalise.

Her year in London had not afforded her many friendships. As the bastard daughter of Jack Hadley, her father’s deep pockets might have won her entry into the finest ballrooms, but it did not win her esteem within the ton.

Once it became clear she had gained the young duke’s favor, the ladies were quick to cast her withering looks. One such lady glared at her now. The beautiful Lady Joanna. A true English rose with her golden hair and sea-blue eyes. The duke had been paying her suit when he met Annalise. Everyone had been convinced he would offer for her. When Annalise had dared to ask him why he chose her over Joanna, his reply only deepened her regard for him.

You, Annalise, are a rare gem. I could not