“Merripen is being very calm, actually. But I think he’s covertly planning to murder someone. He told me to come help you dress—he says there will be a wedding.
“Very well.” Smiling, Win took another swallow of tea. “I know better than to doubt him.”
Having accompanied the errand boy to town, the Hathaways’ brother Leo assessed the damage to the church and spoke to the vicar. Immediately upon returning to Ramsay House, Leo went to confer with Cam and Kev. Leo was a tall, blue-eyed scoundrel, articulate under pressure, perpetually irreverent. He was also a master at bending rules and slipping around regulations. If there were any way to push the wedding through, Leo would find it.
“No chance of a ceremony inside the church,” he reported to Kev and Cam as they gathered in the main parlor. “It’s a sodding mess.”
“We’ll get married on the church steps, then,” Kev said.
“Impossible, I’m afraid.” Leo looked rueful. “According to the rubric of the church, it has to be inside a church or chapel that has been officially licensed. And neither the vicar nor the rector dare go against the laws. The consequences are so severe that they might receive three years’ suspension. When I asked where the nearest licensed chapel was, they looked in the records. As it happens, about fifty years ago our estate chapel was licensed for a family wedding, but it ran out since then.”
“Can we renew it?” Cam asked. “Today?”
“I asked that. The rector seemed to think it was an acceptable solution, and he agreed as long as Merripen and Win promised to privately solemnize the marriage at the church as soon as the roof is repaired.”
“But the marriage would be legal starting today?” Kev demanded.
“Yes, legal and registered, as long as it’s held before noon. The church won’t recognize a wedding if it’s held even one minute after twelve.”
“Good,” Kev said curtly. “We’ll marry this morning at the estate chapel. Pay the rector whatever he demands.”
“There’s only one problem with this plan,” Cam said. “We don’t have an estate chapel. At least, I’ve never seen one.”
Leo looked blank. “What the bloody hell happened to it?”
They both glanced at Kev, who had been in charge of the estate restoration for the past two years. He had taken down walls, razed small buildings, and made new additions to the original manor house.
“What did you do with the chapel, phral?” Cam asked apprehensively.
A scowl settled on Kev’s face. “No one was using it except some nesting birds.
So we turned it into a granary and attached it to the barn.” In the face of their silence, he said defensively, “It still counts.”
“You want to be married in a granary?” Leo asked incredulously. “Among bins of animal feed?”
“I want to be married anywhere,” Kev said. “The granary’s as good a place as any.”
Leo looked sardonic. “Someone may want to ask Win if she is willing to be married in a former chapel that now amounts to a shed attached to the barn.
Forbearing as my sister is, even she has standards.”
“I’m willing!” came Win’s voice from the stairs.
Cam smothered a grin.
Leo shook his head and spoke in his sister’s direction. “It’s a barn, Win.”
“If our Lord didn’t mind being born in a stable,” she replied cheerfully, “I certainly have no objection to being married in a barn.”
Briefly lifting his gaze heavenward, Leo muttered, “I’ll go take care of the renewal fee. I can hardly wait to see the vicar’s expression when I tell him we’ve turned the chapel into a granary. It doesn’t reflect well on this family’s piety, let me tell you.”
“You’re concerned about appearing pious?” Kev asked.
“Not yet. I’m still in the process of being led astray. But when I finally get around to repenting, I’ll have no damned chapel for it.”
“You can repent in our officially licensed granary,” Cam said, shrugging into his coat. He headed to the front door, opened it, and paused as the ebullient sound of guitars and Romany voices flowed inside.
Joining him at the door, Kev saw at least three dozen of their Romany relations clustered at the front of the house, dressed in colorful finery, singing and playing.
“They’re supposed to be traveling,” Kev said dazedly. “What are they doing here?”
Cam rubbed his forehead as if to push away an encroaching headache. “It looks like they’ve come to help us celebrate your wedding.”
“I don’t need that kind of help,” Kev said.
Leo came up behind them. “Well,” he remarked, “the good news is, there’s not much else than can go wrong now.”
Thanks to the hurried efforts of Amelia, Poppy, Beatrix and their companion Miss Marks, the granary was adorned with flowers and white ribbon, and rose petals were scattered generously over the wooden floor.
After a generous so-called “renewal fee,” the vicar offered no objections to performing the ceremony in the makeshift chapel. “As long as it’s done by twelve,” he told the family, “the marriage will be registered today.”
At precisely eleven-thirty, Kev waited with Cam at one end of the granary, which had been modified with large doors on both sides to allow for the easy transport of grain, implements and carts. Romantic guitar music floated in from outside, while an eclectic mixture of guests crowded into every inch of available space in the granary. A path was left clear for the bride.