(This is the hero. Bit of an anti-hero. Ok, a little more than a bit. He's quite awful. Please be aware that there is some profanity in this excerpt. You have been warned.)
24 October 1820
Lord Hartley St. Clair, the third Duke of Derringer slammed his fist on the solicitor’s desk. Mr. Grimsby jumped.
The black-haired, black-eyed duke across from him gave him a searching look as if to determine whether he was lying or simply amusing himself at the his expense. Derringer thought the little man looked more terrified than amused so he decided that the bespectacled gentleman was not lying.
“Are you in earnest?” he asked anyway.
“Very, your grace. I can only apologize that we did not find this until recently,” he added with a nervous swallow. His large Adam’s apple bobbed and Derringer found himself momentarily distracted. The man was not blessed with any amount of good looks, the duke thought mockingly. He pushed his thoughts back to his present problem.
Derringer had just been informed that he could not have his inheritance unless he married by a certain date. Apparently, his father’s solicitor had died leaving his office a mess and the clause containing these instructions was misplaced. Now Derringer sat across from this spindly-legged little man awaiting the date of his life sentence.
“How long do I have?” Derringer asked tersely.
The solicitor looked down his long nose at the papers before him, squinted once, sniffed twice, and squinted again before answering. “By your thirtieth birthday, your grace.”
Before the last word had left the man’s mouth, Derringer was on his feet and was leaning over the desk. With one hand braced for leverage, the duke held the other man aloft by his jacket lapels.
He pulled the man close to him. “What did you say?” he demanded in silky tones.
The man of business gulped painfully. “By the time you’re thirty?” he squeaked.
Derringer shook the whiny little creature like a terrier shaking a rat. “Do you realize what day this is?” he barked at the frightened little man.
The lawyer managed to croak, “The twenty-fourth?”
“It’s the twenty-fourth of October, you bloody clunch! My birthday is five days from now. Five goddamn days! How the bloody hell do you suppose I can marry in five days, you mangy whoreson?”
The solicitor released a petrified squeak and the duke dropped him in disgust. He started pacing about the tiny chamber. Five days. He had five days to find, woo, and marry some chit just so he could have complete access to his rightful inheritance. He hoped his father was burning in a particularly painful corner of hell for this one.
He turned his dark gaze on the cowering little man. “Is there anything else?” he asked sharply.
The solicitor shook his head vigorously. He cowered even lower when the duke approached the desk and leaned toward him. “I will marry before the twenty-ninth, Grimsby, even if I have to ask the first girl I come across to be my duchess.” He stood up straight, still glaring down at the solicitor from his superior height of six-foot-three. “Prepare yourself, Grimsby. I trust you won’t be disappointed in my choice.”
Derringer left the office of Lehman, Grimsby, and Bimm with a determined stride. He would find a damned female and drag her to the altar if he had to.
(I did warn you, didn't I?)