Duke and Jane are getting married! But everything goes wrong on the way to happily ever after…
New York City Duke and Jane’s apartment Six weeks before the wedding
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a romantically minded modern woman probably has her wedding planned on Pinterest. As a romance novelist engaged to a dashing billionaire, I was no exception. From the perfect venue (Kingstag Castle in Dorset, England) to the perfect dress (Monique Lhuillier), I had everything all picked out. And I had an amazing wedding planner, Arwen Kilpatrick, to make it a reality.
Now I just needed to count down the days until my dream wedding with the love of my life, Duke Austen.
“Look, our invitations have arrived!” I eagerly opened the box and lifted one out, admiring the heft of the paper.
“Better not let the gossips get ahold of one,” Duke murmured as he slid his arm around my waist and kissed my neck.
“Although now someone will have to spend hours licking envelopes.”
“If we’d just gone with Paperless Post…”
“You and your Internet-y things. I’m a traditional girl. We’re going to have a proper wedding with proper paper invitations.”
I held it up.
Jane Sparks and Duke Austen request the honor of your company at their wedding on August 26th at Kingstag Castle.
“Isn’t Kingstag Castle perfect?
“Yes. And private. Just you, me, our closest friends, and family.”
I turned and wrapped my arms around him, standing up on my tiptoes to kiss him. I had found the perfect guy for me. We were going to have the perfect wedding for us.
I was all set to lose myself in this kiss when the phone rang. It was our wedding planner. I ignored it and Duke laughed softly and we kissed some more. Then the phone rang again. This time, I picked up.
“Hi, Arwen! Great news! The invitations arrived. You have bad news? What?”
I sat down on the couch, pressing the phone to my ear.
“Okay, I’m sitting.”
Duke, looking concerned, came and sat down next to me, and tried to eavesdrop on the terrible, horrible news Arwen was delivering.
“It burned down?! But Kingstag Castle has been standing for eight hundred years! It survived the Wars of the Roses!”
Duke let out a low whistle. What followed was a very distressing conversation in which I learned that a fire had broken out in the kitchens and spread from there. Many of the public rooms had sustained damage that would result in a year of extensive repairs and renovations. A year!
This was a disaster. I hung up and burst into tears.
No one who saw Duke Austen would assume him to be a billionaire, or one of the most influential people in the tech world. To me, “billionaire” conjured images of distinguished men in suits. But Duke was a rogue all the way. He wore, as a uniform, broken-in Levis and free T-shirts that revealed his muscled arms and chest. His hair was mussed up. And when he smiled—he had a smile that made good girls like me desperate to do bad things.
They didn’t call him the bad boy billionaire for nothing.
He might not look like a hero, but oh he was.
As I was crying over the death of my dream wedding, he pulled me close and said, “It’s okay.”
“It’s not,” I sniffed.
“We’ll find another castle or big fancy house.” As if they were just littering the countryside. Well, they probably were. But…
“Everything will be booked.”
These things were booked out years in advance. I knew because I had reserved my castle a year in advance. There was no way we’d find another place that would be beautiful, luxurious, could accommodate our guests (who had already received their “save the date” requests), and be private enough (so the media wouldn’t find out or get in and cause problems on the special day).
“I’m sure there’s something out there,” he said, proving that though he was a tech genius, he was oblivious to the ways of Bridezillas. “Let’s see what we can find. I have an Internet-y thing that might help.”
“What is it?” I asked.
Duke took my hand and led me to his computer.
The Internet-y thing was Google. He typed in “English country house weddings.”
A million results came up and Duke started visiting all the different sites and making phone calls to England. I shuddered to think of his phone bill after two hours of this.
“You’re booked?” he asked. Again. “Bummer,” he said. Again.
I sighed and wondered about Vegas…
“No availability? Just curious—how much money would make you have availability?” Even Duke, who was perpetually good-natured, finally started to get frustrated at having the same conversation over and over.
“I think you have called every ancestral house in England that hosts weddings,” I said wearily. Then, adding sarcastically, “Surprisingly, they are all booked for every Saturday in August. Now we have to cancel our wedding.”
Duke took my hands in his and gazed into my eyes.
“Nothing is going to stop us from getting married,” he said. “Nothing is going to stop me from giving you the wedding of your dreams, okay?”
See: hero. My hero. I decided to have faith that this would somehow work out.
Duke seemed to be looking at something on the computer screen behind me.
“What’s that one?”
I glanced back. “Brampton House. I actually really like it, but it’s not even open yet.”
“Like hell it isn’t,” he growled, reaching for his phone. “What’s the number?”
I told him, he dialed. A conversation ensued. Duke paced. There was talk of renovations, the number of rooms, our need for privacy, and a huge check if it was all done in time. Duke hung up, turned to me, and said, “We’re having our wedding at Brampton House.”
“It’s a beautiful old ancestral house that’s being converted to a hotel that we can have exclusively for the week for all our friends and family. Best of all, since it’s not open yet, it’s unlikely the media will think that our wedding might be there. I know you were worried about keeping everything on the DL.”
“But we haven’t even seen the place yet! You can’t spend a fortune on a place you’ve never seen.”
“Do you want to go now?”
He wasn’t joking.
“I have a book due and you have a new product launch. We don’t have time to see it and from what I overheard, it sounds like he’ll need every minute to get it ready in time.”
“We’ll send Arwen,” Duke said. “She’s sharp as a tack. If she thinks it’s a suitable location, our wedding will go ahead as planned. And let’s not tell anyone where it’s going to be.”
“It’s perfectly dreamy,” I said, throwing my arms around Duke. “Nothing can go wrong now. Absolutely nothing.”
Duke Austen and Jane Sparks request the honor of your company at their wedding. Please join the happy couple for a week of festivities and celebration.