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How the Scot
Stole the Bride

When fate opens a door, one must …

She was destined to become a Duchess. He wanted to claim her for himself. Before the wedding vows are spoken, can they explore the depths of their attraction?

Selina Pemberton’s father arranged for her to marry a duke’s son when she was a young girl still in the nursery. Their marriage would unite two dukedoms and lay the foundation for a powerful dynasty. However, he wasn’t the gentleman who starred in her fantasies. No. The honor went to the groom’s cousin. A most maddening Scotsman. He irritated her with his teasing and the nickname Duchess he bestowed on her. Yet his kisses ignited a passion that soothed her soul. Every stolen moment with him tempted Selina to defy her father’s demands. Can Selina change the course of her destiny? Or is she destined for a marriage of loneliness?

There wasn’t a lass who didn’t find Duncan Forrester charming. With the exception of his cousin’s bride to be. A lady who had stolen his heart. He shouldn’t give into his temptation to seduce her, but her vulnerability kept drawing him under her spell. He wished to steal her away to Scotland. When Selina finally opened her heart to him, Duncan thought they would spend their lifetime loving each other. However, his uncle had other plans. He forced them apart, leaving Duncan struggling to win Selina’s affection. When he caught her sharing a kiss with his cousin, Duncan realized he must confess of his love. Can Duncan convince Selina of his undying devotion? Or would he allow other forces to keep them apart?

A lady whose greatest wish was to feel loved. A gentleman whose greatest wish was forbidden. Would these two fall victim to a lost courtship? Or would Selina and Duncan succumb to scandalous temptation?

How the Scot Stole the Bride is the fourth book in Laura A. Barnes’s Matchmaking Madness Series. If you enjoy an emotional romance filled with passionate scenes, then you’ll love Selina and Duncan’s gripping love story.

Spoil yourself with How the Scot Stole the Bride today!

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Chapter One

 

Selina Pemberton stared at the altar with a wistful expression. If one felt a variety of emotions simultaneously, then she experienced them in full today. While she watched her new friend Gemma Holbrooke marry Lord Ralston this morning, Selina felt such joy for them. However, she also watched the ceremony with bittersweet irony.

       She sat in between her fiancé, Lord Gray, and her future father-in-law, the Duke of Colebourne, during the ceremony. The former was the bride’s cousin and the latter her uncle. Since they were set to wed within a month’s time, it only seemed fitting for Selina to sit with the bride’s family. Her father sat on the other side of Lord Gray.

       A smile tugged at Selina’s lips, remembering Gemma’s enthusiasm when she spoke her vows. The bride hadn’t been able to contain her excitement at becoming Lady Ralston. The groom had chuckled his amusement and gazed at his bride with adoration. When they spoke their wedding vows, love shined from their gazes, and every single lady sighed, wishing for the same. When the couple shared a kiss, groans from the gentleman soon joined the sighs in the chapel.

       One would think Selina, who was about to become a bride herself, barely contained her own excitement for her impending marriage. Well, that was where the bittersweetness came into play with her strung-out emotions. And let’s not forget the irony of the event. No, it was the major feature of the dilemma she had found herself in, one she held no clue how to remove herself from. Her time to call off the betrothal her father committed her to when she was but a babe still in the nursery ticked away.

       A commitment her father reminded her of constantly. A commitment Selina had never wanted and dreaded with each day drawing nearer. A commitment making all parties involved miserable. A commitment uniting two powerful dukedoms into one. Selina and Lucas Gray were the only children born into a ducal family. Their marriage would make their family the most powerful and richest in England once they spoke their vows. Any offspring would only build upon their dynasty.

       A chill shivered along Selina’s spine at the thought of Lucas Gray bedding her. She held no attraction toward the marquess. Their relationship wasn’t even on friendly terms. Gray tolerated her at best, and only when his father encouraged him to. In truth, the fault didn’t lie with Gray, but with her. Selina had made it complicated for Gray or any member of his family to find anything likable about her. No, she had tormented his cousins over the years with her shrewish behavior and acted the pampered princess while in his presence. Her behavior of late had only been more vindictive once her father started pressuring Colebourne to set a wedding date.

       Selina had hoped the more obnoxious she acted, the more it would force Gray to break the betrothal. However, he wouldn’t budge in his duty to fulfill his father’s word. No matter how much he wished the same as Selina. He held no love for her. And there was where the rest of the irony came into play. Lucas Gray had already lost his heart to another, the very same lady who stood next to Gemma throughout the wedding ceremony. Abigail Cason.

       While their own wedding drew nearer, one would think Gray and Selina would have watched the ceremony holding hands, anxiously waiting for their own special day. No. Gray kept a distance from Selina and never once glanced her way. His stare had remained focused on Abigail since the ceremony began. And once the ceremony ended, he remained at the young miss’s side during the celebration, abandoning Selina once again. Colebourne tried to mask his son’s boorish behavior with his own courteous attention, but it didn’t help to soothe Selina’s temperament. She was on the verge of acting vindictively and needed to remove herself before she acted on her emotions like she had with her previous behavior.

       At one time, she would have made a catty remark about Abigail’s standing in society to seek her revenge. However, Selina was attempting to right the wrongs of her past. But standing by with a smile pasted on her face while her fiancé devoted his attention to another lady was more than Selina wished to endure. The stares filled with pity she received from the members of Gray’s family and other wedding guests ignited the fuel for revenge. Instead of striking out, Selina bit her tongue and removed herself from the situation, a tactic she learned to save herself from Lucas’s wrath and the coldness of his family.

       So instead of enjoying the wedding brunch, she found herself back in the chapel, contemplating how to find the courage to continue with the journey her father demanded of her. What her true heart desired didn’t matter. Her desires, wants, needs would never find fulfillment. Her dreams must remain fantasies to indulge in whenever life became unbearably lonely. It was a state she’d spent her entire life in and would continue to endure if she married Gray.

       A single tear leaked from her eye, trailing down her cheek to land on her clasped hands. It landed on the finger that soon would hold a wedding ring. Selina choked back a sob at the symbolism.

       “Tears, lass? Picturing your own wedding, are ye?”

       Selina stiffened at the Scottish brogue. There was only one Scot who taunted her with his slanderous tongue. At every opportunity, the heathen would seek her out to aggravate. She fooled herself into believing today would be any different. Just because she had formed a friendship with Gemma didn’t mean the rest of Gray’s family felt any differently toward her. Duncan Forrester included.

       She drew a deep breath to slow her pounding heart and lifted her hand to swipe at her damp cheek. Selina wished to avoid him today, but it would appear the universe would once again deny her a favor. She had managed to stay out of his reach since their horrible encounter a few weeks before. The only highlight she gained was Colebourne’s guidance and Lady Forrester’s kindness. Lady Forrester paid her more friendly affections than her own son.

     No. Lady Forrester’s son turned Selina into a frenzied shrew whenever he cornered her. If he wasn’t turning her into a shrew, then he turned her emotions into a quivering mess of unrequited lust. He left her aching to explore the possibilities of where their passion could lead. Not only were they foolish, but her wanton thoughts would only lead Selina toward a scandal, one she could never recover from.

She supposed, in time, if she acted on her impulses and engaged with Forrester on the passions he tempted her with, they could weather the storm their union would create. The temptation to indulge in the sin beckoned her. However, Forrester was Gray’s cousin. That fact alone made Selina push her urges as deeply as she could into the unknown. She must never act upon them, no matter how much his kisses set her soul on fire.

     She rolled her shoulders back before lifting her gaze. “As a matter of fact, I am. I was picturing Lucas speaking his vows while clutching my hand. I am looking forward to the day, and the emotion overwhelmed me.”

    “Do you still believe the wedding will actually occur?” Forrester arched a brow.

     Selina smiled with confidence. “Colebourne has set a date, and the invitations were delivered this week. What more proof will it take for you to believe it will happen?”

     Duncan snorted. “Do you hold the belief Gray will make you his bride because Colebourne has given his authorization and a few measly invites were delivered? You, my dear, are so gullible.”

     Selina bit the inside of her cheek to keep her temper in check. She refused to rise to his bait. Every time she had in the past, she’d ended up in his arms, and he’d kissed her so thoroughly she walked away dreaming of a different outcome for her life.

    She must resist the temptation, even when her body begged otherwise.

    Selina slipped her gloves back on and rose from the bench, walking toward Forrester. She pretended to brush off a speck of lint from his suit, her hand curving across his shoulder and sliding along his arm. Her hand brushed lightly across his when she leaned in toward him. She inhaled his woodsy scent, her insides sparking to life.

    She stood on her tiptoes and whispered in his ear, “No, you barbaric Scot, you are the gullible one. I will not only wed Lucas Gray in a few weeks, but I also will become his bride in every way it matters too.”

    “Like hell,” he gritted between his teeth.

     Selina chuckled, pushing Forrester out of her way. “Tsk, tsk. Such language in the lord’s house. But then I should expect this behavior from the likes of you.”

    Selina walked away before he responded. Only she never made it out of the chapel before Forrester came upon her. He turned her around and backed Selina against the door. An unnamed emotion singed her soul from the intensity in his stare. Her confidence in walking away from him dissolved into a quivering mess of desire. Her soul knew he meant to devour her lips before her mind comprehended his intentions. Selina’s body betrayed her with their actions.

    Her arms wrapped around his neck, urging his lips to hers, while her tongue licked her lips in anticipation. She pressed herself closer to him, needing his heat to consume her. Forrester needed no encouragement. He stole the very breath from her soul when his mouth descended onto hers.

    The fiery licks of the forbidden teased her lips apart to invade her mouth with each enflamed stroke of his tongue against hers. Duncan’s kiss was relentless in its quest to brand her as his. He showed Selina no mercy with his onslaught of passionate need. His embrace tightened, pulling Selina closer when she melted against him. At her every moan, he captured the vibration and drew forth her surrender. She hung on the brink of capitulating herself to the pleasure of his kisses when he abruptly pulled away.

    Forrester dropped his arms and stepped back, leaving Selina grasping for something to cling to. Her trembling hand clasped onto the door handle while she fought with her legs not to give out. Their gazes clashed, and she sucked in a gasp. If she thought his gaze was intense before their kiss, it held nothing to the possessive stare gliding over her body.

    His lips snarled into a determined smile, leaving Selina no doubt of his intentions. “As I said before, like hell, Duchess.”