Vincent Pennsbury, the thirteenth Duke of Fallshire, has very specific rules for his imminent marriage: No sex, and absolutely no falling in love. It will be a strictly business arrangement: Higher status for his spouse, and someone who can manage his financial affairs for him, Vincent having no head for numbers. He has no intention of either tumbling his spouse into bed, or of falling in love with them.
Choosing Matsui Eiji, a math-inclined widower and the most beautiful man in town, is a therefore bit of a risk.
Vincent and Eiji manage to keep their hands off each other for a few weeks, but soon enough they're falling -- first into Vincent's bed, and then, to Vincent's horror, into love. When he finds himself mired in deeper feelings than he'd ever anticipated, he panics and makes a terrible mistake. Will he be able to fix it and win his husband's heart back? And does he even want to?
Mother Abigail looked to Vincent. He fought off the sudden wave of nerves that hit him, and nodded. “Then follow me,” she said.
Roger and their mothers settled into the front row of seating, and Mother Abigail arranged Vincent and Eiji in front of her; Edward and Katsuo took their places at their sides. Eiji met Vincent’s gaze steadily; the cool press of his eyes was wonderfully soothing to Vincent’s swirling stomach.
“Dearly beloved,” Mother Abigail began, “we are gathered here today to witness the union of Matsui Eiji and Vincent Pennsbury, and to join them as they take the first steps of their wedded life ...”
The wedding vows, thanks be to God, were short and to the point. Eiji had clearly apprised Mother Abigail of the particular nature of their union, and Vincent’s vow against love, and so she had stripped the service down to its bones. Vincent wondered idly if she was judging him for refusing to love her friend, but if she was, there was no hint of it in her voice or her smile.
Eiji’s mother had adopted her children without marrying, and so when it came time to present the rings, both came from Vincent’s family: specifically, his maternal grandparents, who by all accounts had had a lovely and supportive relationship to the ends of their days. Edward had them, and passed one each to Vincent and Eiji.
“Eiji, as you place the ring on Vincent’s finger, do so in the full knowledge that you are taking on his struggles, his joys, and his duties, for all the rest of your days.” Eiji’s eyes flicked up to Vincent’s for a single, breathless moment, and then lowered to their joined hands as he seated the ring onto Vincent’s finger.
“Vincent, as you place the ring on Eiji’s finger, do so in the full knowledge that you are taking on his struggles, his joys, and his duties, for all the rest of your days,” Mother Abigail repeated. Without allowing himself to hesitate for a moment, Vincent slid the ring onto Eiji’s finger.
“With the exchanging of the rings, I now pronounce you solemnly married,” Mother Abigail intoned. “Please seal your union with a kiss.”
Vincent’s expression must have been more revealing than he’d intended; Eiji’s eyes glowed with amusement as he visibly realized Vincent had forgotten about this part of the ceremony. It had been too much to hope that Mother Abigail would have skipped this too; the kiss was the most important part of a wedding, the joining of the two spouses’ bodies as they joined their lives.
Eiji lifted his chin, raising one eyebrow almost daringly. Vincent took a deep breath, then leaned in and pressed their lips together for a brief moment.
Vincent had known, of course, that he was attracted to Eiji, but the spark that burst forth between their mouths startled him all the same, a sharp flare of sexual compatibility that almost wrong-footed him. When he pulled back, Eiji looked equally startled, dark eyes blinking a little heavier than was his usual.
“Congratulations,” Mother Abigail said, breaking Vincent out of his trance. Around them, their assembled family and friends burst into polite applause.