Impractical, p.1

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Impractical
 


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Impractical


  Table of Contents

  Impractical

  Book Details

  One

  Two

  Three

  Four

  Five

  Six

  Seven

  Eight

  Nine

  Ten

  Epilogue

  About the Author

  Impractical

  Deceived No. 3

  MEGAN DERR

  Terrell believes strongly in an ordered, practical life. Nothing good ever came from following reckless impulses. Nearly finished with school, it is time to focus on the next step in his life—settling down at his estate, Fivecoats, and marrying a suitable spouse to oversee it while he pursues his scholarly studies. When his father sends word that he has found the ideal suitor, Terrell can only be pleased—despite the misgivings of his best friend. Marriage, after all, is perfectly practical; he has no need for nonsensical things like romance.

  Kirian wants nothing to do with reasonable. His parents chose to be happy over being practical, and he refuses to settle for less, no matter what everyone around him says. Ten his brash behavior catches up to him, and he is forced into a marriage that seems to be in all ways practical, but in no way happy. But beneath the icy surface of his new spouse, Kirian sees something warm and appealing, something he realizes he desperately wants—but which seems to belong to another man.

  Impractical

  Deceived 3

  By Megan Derr

  Published by Less Than Three Press LLC

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner without written permission of the publisher, except for the purpose of reviews.

  Edited by Samantha M. Derr

  Cover designed by Aisha Akeju

  This book is a work of fiction and all names, characters, places, and incidents are fictional or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people, places, or events is coincidental.

  Second Edition June 2018

  First Edition published Dec 2011 by Less Than Three Press

  Copyright © 2018 by Megan Derr

  Printed in the United States of America

  Digital ISBN 9781684312696

  Print ISBN 9781684312702

  One

  "That's quite a bit of post, eh?"

  "Hm?" Terrell looked up absently as he heard the voice of his best friend, Kirian, and saw that he had indeed taken up residence in the seat opposite—and was currently poking and prodding at Terrell's mail. Terrell made a face at the mess of envelopes. He hated going through the post. "Yes, bugger it. As if I've not got enough to do."

  "Speaking of doing things," Kirian said, "are you attending the Quinton lecture this evening?"

  "Attending?" Terrell repeated with a snort. He gave up any attempt at studying. Kirian was obviously in the mood to talk, and there was nothing for that save to let him run his course or wait until something else distracted him. "I'm assisting him with the thing, curse my luck. I've half a mind to be drunk while I do it, but that—"

  "Would not be practical," Kirian finished for him.

  "Precisely," Terrell nodded, refusing to be baited. He rolled his eyes as Kirian continued to poke and paw at his mail. "Oh, do leave off. None of that is for you."

  "No," Kirian agreed, "but this certainly looks to be a serious matter for you."

  Terrell stared in surprise at the envelope Kirian flourished. He knew it on the spot—the scarlet paper, the elegant swan crest pressed into black wax, the short, concise hand…a formal missive from his father, and it looked thick. That could bode either good or ill.

  Although in no real hurry to discover which, Terrell reached out and plucked the envelope from Kirian's fingers, breaking the seal and pulling out a thick fold of what proved to be many sheaves of paper, some of them signed and notarized—legal documents, then. He set them aside in favor of first reading his father's accompanying letter.

  Terrell,

  I have arranged a marriage for you. It comes rather suddenly, I know, but I take fortune where I find it. I knew you would not be troubled. The informal announcements have been made; I have enclosed copies of them in addition to drafts of the contracts being drawn up.

  Your betrothed is Edlin Crandall Courtright, third son of the Honorable George Courtright. I expect you know the name. He is a good man—intelligent, hardworking, and greatly enthused about the marriage and the opportunities it presents. We met three months ago, during the course of business. He suits the estate and family well, and I believe you will get on together.

  I am arranging a formal supper to announce him properly at the end of this month, both as your husband and the future Steward of Fivecoats Estate. We would, obviously, appreciate your attendance. The sooner you are here, the better, on the chance that some problem arises and the entire thing must be called off.

  Do arrange to be home or inform me when you can be, so that I might rearrange things accordingly.

  Sincerely,

  Henri

  Terrell blinked, then read through the letter again, his lips pursed thoughtfully. Yes, even he knew the name of Courtright, but he'd not realized that any of the five sons had not been snapped up. The family was notoriously wealthy, especially for merchants, which had earned them the nickname of "The Merchant Princes". His father must have been most impressed by this Edlin to arrange an engagement only three months after meeting him.

  Well, Terrell had been thinking that he would finally have to focus on arranging a suitable marriage this summer. The rate at which this prospect seemed to be proceeding, he and Edlin could be married and done right around his birthday, when his mother's estates came fully into his possession. Very likely that's what his father intended, making the whole thing very efficient and simple.

  The end of the month, hm? He could probably rearrange his schedule easily enough. This time of year, and so far along in his studies, most of his time was his to spend when and how he pleased. Yes, he could—

  "Terrell!"

  Terrell jerked, pulled roughly from his thoughts, and realized that Kirian had been calling his name. "Sorry, Kir. What were you saying?"

  "I've been asking you what's in the letter."

  Terrell handed it over by way of apology. "Father has found me a probable husband. I'm to go home at the end of the month to be formally betrothed. I would imagine if that goes well, the wedding will be this summer."

  "Married!" Kirian cried in outrage. "What sort of revol—"

  Terrell laughed in fond amusement, cutting him off. "Kir, it's quite all right. A bit earlier than I expected, but what does it matter? This works out much better, really."

  "What does it matter?" Kirian repeated incredulously. "How can you just sit there and calmly accept your life being written out for you?"

  "Kir, it is nothing of the sort." He spread his hands, displaying the pin on his jacket that marked him as a student of the college and the three others that indicated his high status and specialties. "I am a scholar; I have been one practically since I could read, if not sooner. My mother left me, the youngest, her personal estate when she died. I am not fit to run it. If left to my own devices, I will have it run into the ground before next year. My father and I do not want to see the estate suffer, and he has his hands full—he should not have to carry my responsibilities his whole life. We agreed long ago that it would be best if I married someone who could tend Fivecoats properly. I thought we would be discussing the matter of marriage this summer, but he has gone ahead and taken care of it a bit sooner. Works out rather nicely, I say."

  "But what if he is a cad? A scoundrel? A thief? You have not even met him!" Kirian looked ready to burst, he was so red-faced and worked up.

  Terrell took a moment to flag a steward to bring the
m wine, before returning his full attention to his friend. "Kir," he soothed. "Please do not get so angry on my behalf. I promise you this has been as much my plan as my father's."

  "But—but you don't love him, Terri," Kirian finally blurted.

  Terrell laughed, more surprised than perhaps he should be, knowing Kirian as well as he did. "How do I always forget, my friend, what a charming romantic you are? Love is the stuff of stories. Nonsense. It's unrealistic and impractical."

  "Impractical," Kirian bit scathingly. "You and that bloody word—everything must be practical."

  "Yes," Terrell agreed tersely, a bit stung. He felt things should make sense and serve a purpose. Kirian knew that.

  Kirian's enraged expression softened. "I'm sorry, Terri. I know how logical you are, and you know I admire the quality. It works well for you. I just…it seems so cold to me, where marriage is concerned. What if this man is not who or what your father thinks? What if he is an opportunistic bastard? You know nothing about him, and one little weekend at home will not tell you anything. You do not even know what he looks like, and yet you sit there smiling, telling me it's all very reasonable."

  "Well, such marriages are the convention," Terrell replied calmly. "I should think your aunt and uncle will be working away at one for you—"

  "Over my dead body," Kirian snarled. "I will do as my parents did and marry for love. I can't be as…as calm as the rest of you. It's just not in me."

  "No," Terrell said fondly, "I suppose it's not. Your parents were a law unto themselves. It's only natural that as their son you follow in their footsteps." Kirian nodded stiffly. "Be that as it may," Terrell continued, "for myself, I do not see love being especially good at running Fivecoats. I will choose to go with the man my father has chosen, unless he proves to be any of those things you listed. I do not anticipate it, however, for my father has a sharp eye."

  Kirian threw his hands up in exasperation and gulped down the freshly poured wine. He tried to scowl as he set the glass down, but a reluctant smile was fighting its way onto his mouth. "Love and practicality are not mutually exclusive, you know."

  Terrell smiled himself, and sipped his own wine more sedately. "I am not getting into a debate with you on the matter, Kir. I have plenty of other arguments to arrange first, if I am to pass this year."

  Laughing, Kirian motioned for more wine to be poured, and as easy as that the argument was over—for now, anyway. Kirian would not let the matter rest so easily—not when he was the soppiest romantic Terrell had ever met. But he knew when to set a matter aside for a time.

  Terrell pulled his book and note cards close again, determined to get to work, but a final glance at the post Kirian had disordered gave him unexpected pause. He had paid it so little mind before that he had noticed neither his father's letter nor the package that he now spied. That was decidedly curious, since he was not expecting any package and his father's letter had given no indication of sending one.…

  Curiosity getting the better of him, Terrell pushed his work away again and dug the box out of the mess of letters. It had come from home, which made it strange that his father had made no mention of it, and only caused his curiosity to grow. Using his table knife, he cut the twine, and then slowly unwrapped the brown paper. Inside were a small jewelry box and a neatly folded letter, sealed with… Terrell frowned, certain he was not seeing what he thought, but a prolonged second glance confirmed it. Pressed into the blue sealing wax was a faerie. It was a fanciful seal and now he was perfectly baffled.

  "Who is sending you presents? A secret admirer to challenge your practical fiancé?"

  "Oh, shush," Terrell said lightly. "I've no idea who sent it, but I am about to find out." Breaking the seal, he glanced over the neat, flowing handwriting, written in blue ink on cream paper.

  Dear Terrell,

  I hope you take no offense at the presumption of informality. Given I have mostly arranged our wedding alongside your father, with you completely absent, I saw little point in formal address.

  Your forgiveness I do beg for taking such liberties as to accept your father's offer of your hand without ever consulting or meeting you. Everything proceeded with a speed none of us anticipated. I suspect you are much like your father, from all I have been told, and so will grant me that forgiveness. Indeed, I suspect I need not even ask for it, but I would look askance at myself for not doing so.

  In that vein, I did want to send some token of our informal—and soon to be formal, I admit to hoping—arrangement. Take it as apology or trifling betrothal gift, whichever you prefer. Rather, whichever you find most practical, for I sense that is what will decide you.

  I look forward to finally meeting and hope we do get on well, for I confess I already am quite fond of Fivecoats. You have a most beautiful home.

  Your servant,

  Edlin

  "Well?" Kirian demanded impatiently.

  Terrell surrendered the letter and turned to the long and narrow jewelry box—deep scarlet velvet with the star and moon crest of the finest jeweler in the country. He flipped the box open and stared in surprise. Inside were a set of cuff links, a cravat pin, and a ring, all made of gold and set with glittering amethysts of superb quality. It was a simple, elegant, and handsome set. Apology or betrothal as he chose, indeed. "This was most kind of him."

  Kirian snorted. "Seems too bloody charming and pompous if you ask me," he said, looking up from the letter. He sneered as he saw the jewels. "Definitely too charming. I don't trust it."

  Terrell rolled his eyes. "Now you're just being petulant. They're quite handsome, and charm is a good trait for a businessman to possess. If he is charming, then I anticipate Fivecoats will only benefit from being under his hand."

  Kirian looked at him in disgust. "You are quite hopeless."

  "I am practical."

  "Same thing."

  Terrell shook his head, refusing to be the first to laugh. Instead, he pulled the ring from its satin bed, noticing only then that his name had been inscribed on the inside—an elegant touch. Smiling, he removed the simple garnet ring he normally wore and replaced it with the new one, all the more pleased when it proved to be a perfect fit. Bold, charming, possessing good taste, and attentive to detail.

  He was already duly impressed with his intended.

  "I do not believe it!" Kirian suddenly cried, looking torn between outrage and amusement. "You are already falling for his charm! Mr. Practical, simpering over a pretty bauble."

  "Do not be ridiculous," Terrell replied, rolling his eyes and putting the jewelry case away. "Of course I am impressed; that does not mean I am falling for anything. The gift conveys many qualities, all of them pleasing to have in a spouse. Could you please stop haranguing me about this? It is quite a normal arrangement, I promise you, amongst conventional persons."

  Kirian sneered. "I thank the gods every day I am not conventional."

  Terrell smiled. "You most certainly are not, it's true, and it lends you a charm all your own."

  "Indeed," Kirian said, making a face. "Shall we dine?"

  "Why not?" He gave up entirely on getting any work done. He would have time later that night, anyway, and it was clear Kirian was upset about more than his marriage. "Aunt and Uncle troubling you again, Kir? What are they saying now?"

  "That if they receive one more note concerning my behavior as it pertains to losing my temper, they shall pull their funding straight away and I can forgo any hopes of schooling."

  Terrell smiled. "When are you going to tell them that you have not needed their money for a very long time? Indeed, I think you make more in a month than your uncle does in a year."

  Kirian flushed and drank the remainder of his wine, motioning for the steward to bring more. "It is none of their affair and I never meant to make such money. It was a lark, not…" He flapped a hand absently. "I have no desire to be rich."

  "Yet rich you are," Terrell replied. "You really are quite impractical, hiding the fact that you are one of the wealthiest me
n in this room."

  "By accident," Kirian hissed, flushing all the darker. "I have no desire for people to befriend me simply because they like the size of my bank account, when they would have nothing to do with me otherwise."

  Terrell nodded and let the matter drop, not wanting to start another argument. "So obviously your aunt and uncle do not have you upset. What is the source of your ire, then?"

  Kirian shrugged and scowled at his freshly poured wine. "The trouble that got the letter sent off in the first place. Grayson will have my balls if I get into one more scrape."

  "Scrape, indeed," Terrell said, snorting in amusement. Only Kirian would describe his fifteenth duel that term alone as 'one more scrape'. " Deep, dark secrets and duels every morning; you are the most ridiculous man I know."

  "My secret is not deep and dark," Kirian protested. "It's only that no one needs to know. Look at how bothersome you are, knowing. People would be insufferable enough about my being wealthy, let alone knowing why I am wealthy. And I don't duel every day, only every couple of weeks."

  "Sometimes twice in one." Terrell laughed as Kirian's scowl darkened. "I think what you need is a nice, level-headed spouse of your own to give you better things to do with your time."

  Kirian picked up his fork and jabbed it in Terrell's direction, before stabbing it into the chicken just brought to them. "If I ever decide to marry myself off in a practical fashion," he retorted, "I shall of course consult you immediately."

  Terrell shook his head and drank a bit of wine. "Many happy marriages begin as arranged," he said, then motioned discreetly at a group of men gathered around the fire. "The black-haired chap there, Rawlings. You know him."

  "Can't shoot to save his life," Kirian commented.

  "Which is all to the good, given he was shooting at you," Terrell replied. "Anyway, he was married three years ago to a woman his parents chose. They are quite happy and he adores the son his wife recently bore. The fellow next to him, Greene, is married to a man chosen by family. They get on splendidly. The rest of them are engaged or will be soon."

 
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