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The Substitute’s Redemption

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Jane Fitzergald, a 22 year old medical student and the illegitimate daughter of the Harrison family, was forced to take her half-sister’s place as a substitute bride to the eldest son of the Harrington family, Ethan, a deformed cripple with less than 6 months to live. She dealt with mockery right from her wedding from everyone and was a victim of vicious plots due to her naivety which caused a strain on the relationship with her new husband whom had already decided to be on good terms with. Unbeknownst to her and everyone else who looked down on her husband, he was not what he seemed. Ethan Harrington knew that she was not his bride but he didn’t mind as long as she stuck to his words, his known health status was a front to cover his escapades. He’s set to unmask some plots but what happens when he starts to fall for his naive wife who shows him the love and care he never got? Will their budding love be cut off or will they weather the storm together?

Chapter 1

Standing in front of the mirror in an ill-fitting wedding dress, Jane studied her reflection and felt the corner of her lips twist into a wry smile.

“Sign this contract”.

Jane caught the document that her father, Peter Harrison, tossed at her. Her eyes traveled to the bottom of the page where her husband-to-be’s signature stared back at her: Ethan Harrington.

The handwriting was neat as though in fine print but the pen had been gripped with enough force for the ink to have bled through the other side of the paper.

“You’ll be well taken care of as his wife but…”, he warned, “… you’d better behave”.

An edge crept into his voice like the hints of a dark cloud looming over the horizon.

“Think about what will happen to your grandmother if you ruin everything”.

It should have been Stacy in her place, Jane thought. But Stacy didn’t want to marry a man on the verge of death — why would she?

She had fled just a few hours before her wedding but to tell the groom’s family would be nothing short of insulting, even humiliating, which was why her father had — rather callously— threatened Jane with her grandmother’s life to coerce her into taking Stacy’s place.

And so to protect her grandmother, Jane found herself dressed in a wedding gown that had belonged to another woman; the bride to be of the sickly eldest son of the Harrington family.

Her father might insist that it was a privilege to be in her shoes but Jane knew better. If she were truly all that lucky, why did Stacy run away in the first place?

“You’re right”, Jane replied, her voice smooth and clear.

“Thank you for your reminder, if not, the small matter of of me becoming the matriarch of the Harrington family would have slipped my mind completely. Although… correct me if I’m wrong but my new status would make it incredibly easy to punish those who try to hurt me, wouldn’t it?”

Her father’s expression changed instantly.

Jane raised her head to look him in the eye, all demure and innocent.

“So don’t hurt my grandmother. She’s the only family I have left after all, if something happens to her, I can’t imagine what I’d be capable of”.

“You…”, Peter seethed. He opened his mouth as if to hurl more verbal abuse at her but at that moment, a staff came to inform them that it was time for the bride to take her place.

Clamping down his fury, Peter smoothed his expression and brusquely escorted her into full view of the guests.

Slowly she made her way to the center. The veil hid her face from the sea of guests around her but it failed to block their whispers and snickers.

“Who would have thought that even a sickly whelp like Ethan Harrington would find himself a bride?”

“I hear he’s practically on his deathbed and he’s only marrying the Harrisons’ daughter to improve his luck and prolong his life”

“The Harrisons? Their brazen hussy of a daughter? I heard she was throwing herself at a man she met at a party not long ago. Young Master Ethan must be begging to be cuckolded”.

“Speaking of which, the bride’s a little on the skinny side, isn’t she? She can barely hold up that gown of hers… if you catch my meaning”.

With each step, Jane ignored the murmurs of the throng, her gaze fixed on the man in the wheelchair in front of her. A mask covered the bottom half of his face but his eyebrows were set in two gentle lines.

Sporadically, he would let out a cough or two, his fists clenching in a valiant attempt to control himself and avoid disrupting the wedding but he only succeeded in making himself cough harder.

It went in for so long that Jane couldn’t help but wonder if he would even survive the wedding. I would enter a bride and leave a widow, she thought humorlessly.

Peter must have been afraid that the wretched, pitiful noises tearing from her husband-to-be’s chest were the result of some kind of infectious disease.

After placing Jane’s hand into Ethan’s, he wasted no time in covering his nose and hurrying off.

The pastor began reciting the ceremonial vows. He asked Jane, “Do you agree to take this man as your husband, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, from this day till your last?”

Did she really have a choice when she had already signed the marriage contract?

She rolled her eyes behind the veil, “I do”.

The pastor repeated the question to the groom who responded with several violent coughs before mustering up the strength to say “I do”.

“I now pronounce you husband and wife, you may now kiss the bride”.

No sooner than he had uttered the words did a look of mortification spread across the pastor’s face. If simply swearing his vows had been such an impossible feat, surely this wheelchair-ridden man wasn’t capable of sharing a kiss with his bride.

He was about to rescind what he had said when Jane bent down and lifted her veil over her husband’s head, shielding them both from view.

It was said that two became one beneath a wedding veil. Jane had been prepared for this moment ever since she donned her gown.

She might have been forced into this position by her father to ward off the Harrington family’s outrage but she needed the power of the Harrington family name to keep her grandmother safe. The longer her husband lived, the better.

Jane pulled down his mask, revealing the lower half of his face which was decorated in a pattern of hideous scars. The sight was repulsive — horrifying, even — but Jane pretended not to notice.

“The ceremony is completed, the contract has been signed”, she said keeping her face neutral.

“We are husband and wife now. What you cannot do alone, I can help you with”.

Without the mask to conceal his visage, she could see Ethan Harrington’s features creasing in a slight frown, presumably at not being given the chance to speak.

But then he took in her words and she caught the hints of a glimmer in his eye.

Chapter 2

On the surface, Jane was calm but her palms were sticky with sweat. She had never been this close to a man before and now she would have to be the one to lean in, to press her lips to his, someone who was a stranger…

Best get it over with quickly.

Summoning her will, Jane shut her eyes and planted a kiss on his thin lips before pulling his mask back in place and rising to her feet.

Ethan was startled by her brisk, businesslike actions. His gaze narrowed, simmering with unreadable depths. Had this woman really just kissed him so boldly?

He had thought she would be scared or at least disgusted by the scars on his face but she had merely glanced it, hardly giving any indication of noticing anything out of the ordinary.

As Jane rose, her veil swept off his head but her scent, faint though it was, lingered. He let his eyes slide down, on the inside however, he was filled with a new burning certainty.

This woman was not Stacy.

Ethan was in poor he

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