Home > The Duke's Blackmailed Bride (The Boarding School #2)

The Duke's Blackmailed Bride (The Boarding School #2)
Author: Elizabeth Lennox

Three Years Ago….


Sierra Warner forced yet another smile of greeting as one more guest congratulated her. “Thank you. It is indeed very exciting,” she lied.

Lie? Sierra tilted her head as the person said something, but her thoughts dwelled on her state of mind. Why did she think accepting congratulations was a lie? She was getting married! She should be excited.

She supposed, in a strange way, she was thrilled to be marrying Evan. He was handsome and intelligent – an up and coming investment broker with her father’s firm – everything she should want in a husband. At least, that’s what her mother told her. All the time. Every time she crossed paths with her mother, Sierra heard how lucky she was to be marrying so well and that Evan was going to be a very good provider, an excellent husband.

So why was she avoiding her mother lately? And why did the thought of Evan touching any part of her body make her…nauseous?

That was ridiculous, she told herself firmly. His touch didn’t make her sick! She was just nervous. Evan was a good man. A kind man. If the sparks were missing any time he touched her or kissed her, well, perhaps the romance novels she loved so much had set unrealistic expectations for her.

Sierra sighed and forced her mind to focus on the current conversation. Evan was one of the good guys, she reminded herself. He treated her with great respect, and was very attentive to all of her wishes. If she even hinted that she wanted something, he went out and bought it for her. It had gotten so bad lately that she’d learned to be careful with her words, not wanting him to buy her any more trinkets.

She glanced down at the diamond ring on her finger, noting how the light sparkled against the enormous center stone. It was an extremely large diamond. Not really her style, but she supposed she would get used to it. It felt very heavy, she thought, and everyone seemed to be dazzled by the stone. Sierra felt like she was being ridiculous to be wishing for a smaller diamond, perhaps something a bit less…ostentatious. She was just being silly. Diamonds were…a status symbol, she thought and quickly smothered her spurt of resentment.

But as she looked around at the guests, everyone laughing and chatting, drinking and eating, she realized that she was right on target. Looking at Evan, she actually had to smother a spurt of revulsion. This diamond was not a reflection of Evan’s love for her, she suddenly realized. The man couldn’t love her. He didn’t even know her! This ridiculously large and pretentious diamond ring was a symbol of his power, or what he hoped his power would be, she thought.

And at the same time, why should she feel slighted or even indignant? She didn’t really know Evan either. They were basically strangers who had gone out on a few dates and, strangely, ended up engaged.

So why was she marrying the man? Why was she standing here in her parents’ elegantly decorated living room, surrounded by her father’s friends, coworkers and clients, listening to their congratulations?

Sierra had no idea! She had no idea what she was doing and, even more pathetically, she didn’t know why she was marrying a man she didn’t truly know or love.

She sighed as she smiled yet again and showed one more person her engagement ring, acting as if the thoughts running through her mind weren’t rebellious and crazy. Yes, she was happy. Yes, she was thrilled to be marrying someone with such a great future. Yes, Evan was very intelligent. Yes…she continued to agree with everything everyone said about Evan.


Her heart wasn’t in it.

As he stood next to her and held his arm around her waist, Sierra looked up at the man, traitorous thoughts swimming through her mind but she shook her head, ruthlessly smothered the negativity, thinking she was just being silly and anxious over a major life change. Of course this would be a solid marriage, she told herself. She was just going through normal doubts about her decision to marry. These were just nerves. She felt an affection for Evan. He was a good man. He was kind and considerate. A woman could do a lot worse for herself, she thought.

Although…she couldn’t help wondering if there was more.

Mentally shaking her head as the doorbell rang once again, Sierra told herself that she was just being ungrateful. More of Evan’s university mates, she realized with a resigned sigh as she pasted a bright smile on her face. Evan stepped away, embracing the newcomers with a hard slap and more ribald teasing. She didn’t understand half of their humor because so much of it referred to jokes from their school days. Sierra hadn’t gone to university, but she would have loved to attend.

Why hadn’t that thought occurred to her before now? And why hadn’t she gone to university after high school? Maybe because none of her friends had? She’d simply attended finishing school with them. She could seat an entire banquet of diplomats and aristocrats with ease, perform an elegant waltz, or hold a prolonged conversation in French.

How were those skills relevant in today’s society, she suddenly asked herself? Why had she done this to her life? Why hadn’t she followed her dreams? Why hadn’t she eschewed her friends’ path and gone her own way, made something of herself?

Shaking her head, she mentally pulled herself back to the present and admonished herself for her ridiculous thoughts. She was just nervous. Becoming engaged was a huge milestone and she was anxious about stepping into the role of a society wife with Evan.

Besides, she was twenty years old now. It was too late for her to attend university. She looked up at Evan and suddenly noticed that he had a weak chin. Was that important? Should she care? He had a good mind, what did a chin matter? In the grand scheme of things, should she even be looking at the man’s chin? Was she being superficial?

And what about her desires to go to university? Why was it too late? She’d always wanted to care for animals. Maybe she still could, she thought even as she also noticed that Evan reminded her of a bloodhound. Especially around the eyes. And the mouth. She’d never really looked at his mouth before. Their kisses hadn’t been extremely passionate. Usually a simple kiss on the cheek.

Was that significant as well?

Sierra’s mouth twisted as she pushed all of these issues aside. She was marrying the man. She’d made her decision, her life was planned out.

Although…university would have been fascinating! Yes, she could have truly thrived in an environment of higher learning. Too bad her chance for attending was gone.

Wasn’t it?

She sighed and quickly ducked when Evan’s elbow almost chucked her on the chin. She was getting pretty good tonight! That was the second time he’d almost knocked her. A less confident woman might think he was aiming for her head.

Evan’s enthusiasm for his university chums was surprising since, normally, Evan was relatively calm and composed. He adhered to all the rules of etiquette and expected her to do the same so it was very strange to see him so…boisterous!

She glanced across the room at her father and noticed his chagrin. Obviously, he had noticed Evan’s near miss at her head and his overly enthusiastic greetings towards his school buddies. Perhaps it might be time to rein Evan back in. “Honey,” she said, gently tapping his shoulder. Once again, she had to move quickly out of the way of Evan’s swinging arm or he would have knocked her out.

He only turned when three of his friends looked at her as if she’d committed a crime by interrupting their excitement.

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