four Archives - Eloisa James

"A reigning queen of romance" - CBS Monday Morning

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Bookcode: four

Four: RT Nomination

Four Nights with the Duke has been nominated for Historical Novel of the Year from RT BookReview Reviewers’ Choice.

Four: Starred Reviews

Four Nights with the Duke received starred reviews from both Kirkus and Booklist!

Inside Four Nights with the Duke

  • Four Nights with the Duke follows Three Weeks with Lady X, the tale of Thorn and India, who also appear in this novel. From the moment Vander told Thorn, in Three Weeks, that he wanted the type of marriage that the Duke of Villiers had, I knew that he would be the best kind of hero—the alpha who is intently anti-romantic, but can’t stop himself from falling deeply in love.
  • The Duke of Villiers also appears in Four Nights, and he too is from an earlier novel or, in his case, a whole series of novels. Villiers appears in every book in the Desperate Duchesses series. In the arc of that series, he plays something of a Cupid figure, somehow entangled in the primary romance. In the very last book, A Duke of Her Own, he himself falls in love and ends up with the kind of marriage that Vander wants.
  • I talked a bit about 19th century women novelists in the historical note at the end of Four Nights, but I wanted to add a note here about novel-writing in the present. Mia’s journey in the book—from creating perfect heroines to shaping a heroine who is much more like herself, albeit involved in a fanciful plot—is taken from my own career. It took me several books to learn that heroines can be imperfect, physically and otherwise.
  • Read the deleted scene which would have appeared after the Prologue, and a second deleted scene with an appearance from India and Thorn, the main characters from Three Weeks with Lady X.
  • Another aspect of the world of contemporary romance shows up in sly references to two of my best friends: Miss Julia Quiplet is Julia Quinn and Mrs. Lisa Klampas is Lisa Kleypas.
  • In the historical note, I pointed out Chuffy’s indebtedness to Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night, and Charlie’s to Charles Wallace in A Wrinkle in Time. I owe another literary debt to Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Love’s Philosophy,” in which moonbeams kiss the sea. If you’d like to read the entire poem, it can be found here.

Four Nights with the Duke Deleted Scene

This scene would have appeared after the Prologue. I left it out because pacing demanded that the novel go straight from Mia’s defiant cry that she will never marry Vander to the moment when she’s climbing the steps to his house, about to blackmail him into marriage. I hope you enjoy! ~Eloisa

The Jilting

Ever since the horrors of the Duke of Villiers’s musicale, when she was fifteen years old, Emilia Gwendolyn Carrington had a very clear idea of her wedding day. Mia didn’t bother dreaming up the details of her gown or the drape of her veil. She didn’t even particularly care what her groom looked like…except with respect to his expression.

The man she married would look at her with adoration. She herself would put on a dignified yet affectionate air, one that signaled a measured attitude toward the idea of romance.

Her reasoning was sound: if she never again fell desperately in love, she would avoid having her heart crushed under a man’s heel as carelessly as he might smash a little robin’s egg that had rolled from its nest into the path.

Another way to put it: she would avoid humiliation.

She was wrong.

What expression does a woman wear when she finds herself clutching a drooping bunch of flowers while the repellent Sir Richard Magruder read aloud a semi-apologetic note from a fiancé who has fled the country?

Standing in her wedding dress, shaking all over in reaction, Mia could only think of one thing: she should have known.

After Vander’s dismissive, disparaging summary of her as a dumpy charity case, did she honestly believe that the son of an earl—albeit born on the wrong side of the blanket—would marry her? It seemed that Theodore Edward Braxton Reeve, son of the Earl of Gryffyn, had not just declined to join her at the altar. He had fled England bound for foreign parts.

And she had truly believed he loved her.

She was a fool.

For a few months after the musicale, Mia had dreamed of making Vander fall in love with her…so that she could disdainfully reject him. In her imagination, his eyes burned with possessive, loving fervor.

Now, years later, she had honestly believed that Ward looked at her with just that possessive fervor. She had even laughingly accused him of being madly jealous, scowling whenever she danced with another man.

Obviously, she was wrong about that too, since the end of the note wished her well and hoped that she found another husband who was ready for the responsibility of marriage. Her fingernails cut into her palms when she heard those words.

How could she have been so mistaken? It was true that she was desperate to marry; according to the terms of her brother’s will, she had to wed within a year to retain guardianship of her nephew.

But she had met Ward before her brother died. And he had courted her for nine dizzy, delightful months before kneeling at her feet and asking for her hand in marriage. She had happily agreed, falling into his arms and kissing him until they were both breathing quickly.

She hadn’t thought of Vander at all.

Well, except for a moment, and that was to congratulate herself on making such an intelligent decision. In fact, she’d had so much fun being courted by Ward that she thought of Vander only in terms of comparison.

For example, the Duke of Pindar—as Vander now was, his father having died in an asylum—had been given his title, prestige, and money by an accident of birth. Ward, on the other hand, had overcome his irregular birth to become a brilliant professor at Oxford University and he had earned his own fortune.

What’s more, Ward and Vander had nothing in common physically. Vander was big and muscled, with piercing blue eyes and hair that always looked tousled, as if he’d come straight from bed. Ward was far more rangy and lean, as befitted a man of the intellect. His eyes were warm brown, and he kept his hair unfashionably short.

She liked the way he laughed, and his devil-may-care attitude. Whenever she’d glimpsed Vander in the last eight years, he always seemed to be glowering with a sort of incandescent rage that would be extremely tiresome to encounter on a daily basis.

Why, why hadn’t she realized that the boyishness she loved signaled that Ward wasn’t ready to be a man? That he didn’t want responsibility?

She had thought Ward was everything Vander wasn’t…but Vander would never behave like this. He would never slink away under cover of darkness, leaving his bride-to-be to face a church full of guests.

Sir Richard Magruder folded up the note from Ward, and patted Mia’s hand. She moved it carefully away as his words sank in. “I’m afraid this is an exemplar of a truth we should all keep in mind,” he was saying. “Blood will tell. Reeve was not born within the sanctity of marriage, and clearly he is no gentleman.”

Magruder had shiny black eyes, as round and hard as a beetle’s shell. “At least some good will come of this. Your story can serve as a warning to any young lady who thinks of making such a foolish, foolish choice.”

Mia choked back a defense of Ward. He was not hers to defend any longer. She would have given over her life to arguing with those who disparaged him for being illegitimate.

He didn’t want her to fight for him, obviously.

He didn’t want her at all.

Sir Richard didn’t feel any need for a comment from her. “A mongrel is a mongrel,” he said. “I’m surprised that you allowed this ceremony to take place in your chapel, Vicar.”

The Vicar did not take well to this rebuke and they began arguing about the pressing question of whether bastards should be allowed to marry in church.

Mia ignored them.

She felt crushed by Ward’s desertion. In the back of her mind, she had been confident that he would marry her, not just because he liked her, but because she was the daughter of a lord, and he was illegitimate. She had offered her lineage and a substantial dowry, rather than willowy beauty, but Ward had seemed more than happy.

In the last few months they had talked for hours, conversations ranging from politics, to books, to science. She had thought it was so wonderful to find a man who cared what she thought, who made it clear he was delighted by her intellect.

What kind of fool would believe that? Everyone knew that men were attracted to physical aspects of a woman above all else.

Not that women were all that much better.

A few weeks ago she had caught a glimpse of Vander in the village and even though she was betrothed to Ward, she caught herself looking at the harsh lines of his jaw, the pure, chilly beauty of his face, his thick hair. The raw masculine beauty of him.

He looked dangerous, like a cannon that would go off with just a spark. There was a set to his shoulders that dared a man to jest about his mad father. Or, for that matter, his adulterous mother.

He hadn’t seen her, yet Mia hadn’t turned away. It was as if he were the true North, and she no more than a hapless iron filing, drawn to him whether she would or no.

Why on earth was she thinking about Vander? At least the duke had been honest in his disparaging assessment of her all those years ago, whereas Ward had promised to marry her, had told her he loved her. He had her half convinced that she wasn’t dumpy, but delightfully curved.

Humiliation burned up her spine as Sir Richard delivered his last salvo to the vicar—something about how no one born of an illegal union should enter the assembly of God—turned back, and handed Ward’s note to her, as if she’d like to keep it for all time.

If her fiancé had decided to flee the country, why didn’t he write her last night, or even first thing in the morning? “Do you know why Mr. Reeve send you this note, rather than addressing it to me?” she asked, managing to stop her voice from wobbling.

Why would Ward want her to be mortified, jilted before all the local squires and their wives while dressed in her wedding gown?

Sir Richard tutted. “I am the head of the household, my dear. This pernicious man rightly thought that I was the appropriate person to support you in your hour of need.”

“But why didn’t you know I was being jilted before we reached the church? Was this note just delivered, here and now?”

“Admittedly, I did receive it earlier this morning, but in the excitement of preparing for the wedding, I tucked it away. It was only now I remembered the note and opened it.” He shrugged and his gaze slid from hers like oil from water. “I had no way of knowing it was from your fiancé; only my name appears on the outside. It could have been from my estate manager.” He puffed up his chest. “A man of business receives many such missives in a day.”

Mia glanced down at the note she held. Sir Richard was no man of business, unless you counted his constant litigation a business. He made money that way; even his house was the result of a law suit.

It must have been so tempting for him to stage this scene. Sir Richard loathed her, because he felt that he should have guardianship of little Charlie—and even more importantly, run Charlie’s estate until her nephew came of age.

Horror slammed into her at the realization that her jilting wasn’t just another humiliation in the life of Mia Carrington.

Her brother’s will had dictated that Mia must marry within a year of his death, or her nephew Charlie would be raised by his uncle. Sir Richard would put her promptly on the doorstep the very day he took over guardianship; she had no doubt of that.

That was why Sir Richard’s eyes were gleeful: not merely at her misfortune, but because the anniversary of her brother’s death loomed a few weeks away. Mia had no husband…which meant Sir Richard would move into Carrington House.

Charlie, her little Charlie, would become his.

For the first time in her life, Mia felt faint. She swayed and reached toward the nearby wall, her vision dimming.

The vicar leapt forward and caught her arm. “Miss Carrington should return home,” he said sharply to Sir Richard.

Mia realized that the vicar was glaring, openly revealing his opinion that Sir Richard had botched the matter. But really, how does one announce a jilting in such a way that the bride doesn’t feel faint?

It wasn’t Sir Richard’s fault.

It was Ward’s.

“This has been a terrible year for all of us,” Sir Richard said, bustling to take her other arm. “First my nephew’s death, together with that of his lovely wife and his father, and then this terrible occurrence, which is just another nail in the coffin of the family name.”

“Please,” Mia said. “I don’t wish to speak of it.”

“I trust I am not being too frank by expressing a wish that you had consulted me before betrothing yourself to such a man. I would have steered you away from this marriage, which even had it taken place, must have tarnished the family name. I should say, further tarnished the family name.”

Mia disengaged his hand from her arm, and carefully placed her wedding bouquet on a marble tomb. “I should like to go home now.”

Through the door behind her, she could hear the sound of rising voices as the wedding guests came to the realization that something was very wrong.

“Of course,” Sir Richard said, smiling his huge, toothy smile. “Shall I fetch the earl and countess? Obviously, they were not aware of their son’s decision. We must remember that the shame is not yours, my dear. The earl brought his by-blow into polite society, and look at the outcome: a young woman ruined, left at the very altar. The earl bears some responsibility for the outcome of their son’s ungentlemanly behavior. Perhaps they will invite you to stay with them for a time.”

Mia thought of confronting the Earl of Gryffyn and his wife with another wave of pure despair. She liked them so much. They were so funny, and intelligent, and just plain good: she had thought of them as a substitute for her lost family.

She had imagined Christmas dinners surrounded by Ward’s jolly, talkative family, nurturing Charlie so that he grew up with the insouciant joy for life that Ward exhibited so clearly.

The last night they were together, Ward kissed her so passionately, and even rumpled her clothing, his hands running over her body… If she had allowed further intimacies, would he have stayed?

Or would she have found herself in an even worse situation, possibly carrying a bastard child of her own?

She turned clumsily toward the side door, finding her knees were weak. “I would rather not speak to Lord Gryffyn.”

“I’ll shall take care of everything,” Sir Richard announced, patting his hair before he turned toward the door leading to the nave. “They will wish to see you, but I shall insist they return to London and speak to you at a later date.”

To her horror, Mia felt tears pressing on her eyes. She had cried far too much in the last year since her brother and father died…the last thing she wanted to do was cry in front of Sir Richard.

The gossip that dogged her heels after Oakenrott blathered publicly about her poem was nothing to the aftermath of the scandal that rocked all England when it transpired that her father had not died alone; he and the Duchess of Pindar expired in one bed, succumbing to an inn’s malfunctioning kitchen flue that poisoned eleven people in all.

Those eleven also included Mia’s brother and his wife. The fact all four of them died peacefully in their sleep was the one good thing one could say about such a tragedy.

She survived the last year by ignoring what could not be mended. She missed her father and brother with a terrible, piercing grief.

But she had to deal with the solicitors, wills, and the death duties resulting from her father and brother dying at one time. Poor little Charlie had inherited the title at only eight years old.

Worst of all, she discovered that her brother had left her guardian of Charlie—with the proviso that she marry within one year of the will. John had firmly believed that households must be headed by men.

Caught up in the charm of Ward’s courtship, she hadn’t given any thought to the proviso. She planned to marry Ward as soon as she put away her mourning clothing.

Sir Richard had made noises about her proposed marriage not conforming to the terms of her brother’s will—which specified a man of good breeding and standing—but the family solicitor pointed out that Ward was a professor, the son of an earl, and absurdly wealthy to boot, so no court would rule him an unsuitable guardian to Charlie.

All of that was for naught, since Ward had changed his mind.

Somehow, she managed to neither scream or sob in the carriage on the way home. She even stayed calm when Sir Richard bustled into the house, ordering their butler, Gaunt, to do his bidding with a frightful familiarity that he had never used before.

She couldn’t choke down lunch, and she ripped her wedding dress taking it off…but otherwise she was the model of a lady.

It was only in the afternoon, when the family solicitor paid them a visit, that she came close to breaking.

Sir Richard greeted Mr. Plummer with the air of a man who had just walked into a fortune.

Which he had.

For the next eleven years, Charlie’s guardian would control Charlie’s fortune, which was considerable.

She had to break the will.

Somehow, she had to break that will.

“It’s a shame, a terrible shame,” Sir Richard told Mr. Plummer, for approximately the fortieth time since reading aloud Ward’s note. Mia’s fingernails dug into her palms again. “Of course, Miss Carrington is better off without such a disreputable husband,” he said, in his plummy, rich voice that tried so hard not to be that of a crook. “The man would have been unfaithful, no doubt about that. I never trusted him, given the circumstances of his birth. Never.”

Mia said nothing. She had trusted Ward. If she had even considered the possibility of being jilted, she would have insisted that the marriage be performed earlier, to give her more time to find another husband. How was she to find someone in a mere two weeks?

John’s proviso about a husband of “good breeding and standing” meant that she couldn’t scoop up an inebriate from a back alley.

“It may be a sad moment,” Sir Richard said, turning to Mia with the air of someone delivering good news, “but in the long run, it’s better than marrying a man of such ill breeding. I can be a father to Charles Wallace.” He paused, clearly just remembering Charlie’s affliction, since a look of distaste crossed his face. “Though I doubt the poor scrap will live long, given his deformity.”

If Mia’s dammed-up feelings burst, she would scream so loudly that Sir Richard would go deaf.

She couldn’t scream. She had to find a solution.

Charlie depended on her. To all intents and purposes she was his mother, given that his own mother had experienced palpitations every time she caught sight of him—which wasn’t often.

Her nephew was the main reason that Mia never returned to London after the scandal of her foolish poem died down. She fell in love with Charlie the moment she saw him, and given his mother’s antipathy, she had happily assumed that role in Charlie’s life.

The late Lady Carrington had firmly believed that her only child should be kept out of sight, where no one could be driven to palpitations by the sight of him. She had been prone to fits of nerves and had probably summoned Charlie to the drawing room three or four times in his eight years of life.

But Mia had been there, so it didn’t matter. She had played with Charlie, defended him, and cared for him. Stupidly, she had thought that Ward would be a perfect father, since he could teach Charlie the cheerful insouciance he displayed about the circumstances of his birth.

If only Ward had married her and left for the Indies the day after the wedding, even the next hour, she would have forgiven him. He knew. He knew that Charlie was her own dear child, and that their marriage was essential to his guardianship.

He never said a word about being afraid of responsibility…indeed, he seemed to like Charlie, even love him. Mia could have choked at the cruelty of it. Why, why would Ward whittle a little cane, laugh and play with Charlie, only to run like a coward on his wedding day?

The answer was obvious. Ward didn’t run from Charlie. He ran from her. After all, he was beautiful, with a kind of lean elegance that screamed of his aristocratic father. Even illegitimate, he was too good for her.

“The house is desperately in need of renovation,” Sir Richard was telling Mr. Plummer. “I would prefer it to look like an establishment worthy of a young lord.”

“Quite so,” Mr. Plummer responded, looking everywhere but Mia’s face. “I assure you that the estate is thriving. I believe there is a fortnight before you will assume guardianship of Master Charles Wallace, but I think it would be acceptable to issue funds for renovation immediately.”

“You must be positively longing to set up an establishment of your own,” Sir Richard said to Mia, his sharp chin tucking into his white neck cloth.

“Mr. Plummer,” Mia said, standing, “may I speak to you in private for a moment?”

Sir Richard popped to his feet like a jack-in-the-box. “There’s nothing that you can’t say in front of me, my dear. Know that my wisdom is always available to you!”

“It’s about my dowry,” Mia whispered, putting on an expression of deep embarrassment. “I doubt I shall marry after this disappointment, and I don’t wish to be a burden on Charlie’s estate.”

Sir Richard clearly didn’t want that either, so he plopped back into his chair. “Mr. Plummer,” he said, “you have my full approval of any measures by which you can put Miss Carrington’s dowry into her hands. The law should not stand in the way of a woman without provision, not after the terrible events of this day.”

“Quite so,” Mr. Plummer said, nodding his head.

Mia ushered him into her small sitting room, closing the door firmly behind her.

Before she could speak, Mr. Plummer said, “I wish to offer my deepest condolences, Miss Carrington.”

Mia managed a lopsided smile. “Thank you.”

“I am tremendously surprised,” Mr. Plummer continued, “tremendously. And I must tell you, Miss Carrington, that after a long career in the law, I am almost never surprised. Mr. Reeve expressed only the greatest respect and affection for you during our negotiations over your jointure, about which he was entirely generous, I might add. I would never have expected him to behave in this manner. Never. I took him for a man of the very highest moral fiber.”

“I appreciate that,” Mia said. “But it’s water under the bridge at this point. Mr. Plummer, what am I to do? I cannot bear it if they take Charlie away from me.”

Mr. Plummer looked at her so sympathetically that she found herself repeating, raggedly, “I cannot bear it. Charlie is my heart and soul. Please help me.”

“I spent an hour looking at your brother’s will before I answered Sir Richard’s summons,” Mr. Plummer said. “It would be impossible to overturn; I wrote it myself, and your brother was of sound mind and memory. I might as well tell you that I remonstrated with your brother over the provision that you must marry in order to obtain guardianship of Master Charles Wallace.”

“John was quite traditional in his conception of households,” Mia said, choking back tears. They were both marked by the fact that their father made a duchess into his mistress and carried on the affair for a decade; John cast much of the blame on the fact that His Grace’s illness had left his wife alone, and thus vulnerable to their father’s attentions.

Consequently, John was exacting to the letter when it came to proper behavior. She used to tease him for being more punctilious than the Queen.

Mr. Plummer leaned forward. “I do have one suggestion, Miss Carrington.”

“Oh, thank God!” she cried.

“You must understand that it is not a savory option and, indeed, should be considered only as a consequence of desperation.” His voice dropped. “It is not precisely legal.”

“I don’t care,” Mia said fervently. “I’m desperate.”

Mr. Plummer nodded and then took a breath. “As you may know, your father, the late Lord Carrington, was closely acquainted with the Duchess of Pindar.”

“For goodness’ sake, Mr. Plummer, of course I know that. They died together, because they lived together,” Mia said, unable to keep her voice from taking on an edge.

“Normally I would never bring up such a subject with a young lady.” Mr. Plummer’s mouth thinned. “Due to his…friendship with the late duchess, your father came into possession of an important document.”

Her father had likely stolen it, though Mia didn’t want to say it aloud. Lord Carrington had been like a magpie. It was the reason he had purloined her poem, and shared it. He simply could not stop himself from poking and prying.

Mr. Plummer withdrew a folded piece of paper from his valise. “He left you this letter, Miss Carrington, with instructions that I should share it with you only in the event that you remained unmarried after his death.”

Mia frowned. “Father wrote me a letter?”

“No.” Mr. Plummer’s mouth curled with distaste that he could not hide. “He left you a letter written by the late Duke of Pindar.”

“You mean the mad duke?” Vander’s father had lived in seclusion in a private asylum for the last years of his life.

“Lord Carrington was worried that you may not achieve a suitable match, which he blamed on the unfortunate publicity that followed your debut.”

That was a bit of a blow; even her own father had realized she wasn’t good enough. Mia swallowed. “How could that piece of paper possibly make me marriageable?”

Mr. Plummer placed it on the low table between them and they both stared at it. “Not just any marriage, but marriage to a duke,” he said, finally. “If you wish to be the future Duchess of Pindar, your father left you the ability to do so.”

There was a moment of shocked silence, as Mia absorbed what he had said. “Do you mean by marrying the current duke? I would rather die!” The words started involuntarily from her lips. “Why on earth would Father think that a letter could possibly convince His Grace to marry me, even if I wished such a fate?”

After all these years, she could think back to the poetry reading in the Villiers’s library without a flood of self-loathing, or grief, or rage. It even seemed faintly comic at times.

But one thing she knew: Vander had no more interest in her than she had in him.

“It seems that the former Duke of Pindar, perhaps in an early fit of madness, committed treason,” Mr. Plummer said, lowering his voice.


“If anyone knew, his dukedom would be forfeit to the Crown.” The solicitor leaned back in his chair and templed his fingers.

“Surely, given that the duke was mad, he cannot be held responsible,” Mia pointed out.

“This letter is dated 1783, a good two years before the duke was recognized to have lost his mind: that was in ’85, wasn’t it? His Grace committed treason, Miss Carrington. He didn’t just conspire to help Bonnie Prince Charlie onto the throne so as to overthrow the Hanoverians—his letter actually offers to kill the king.”

“Then he was already mad as a hatter,” Mia said flatly.

“That is possible. But I hardly need to remind you that the Hanoverians are still in command of the throne and unlikely to forgive the evidence in that letter, given their feelings about the Pretender.” Mr. Plummer shook his head. “There’s no question in my mind: the dukedom of Pindar will be forfeit to the Crown.”

“The conspiracy is hateful, but it didn’t come to pass. I would never wish to take away a man’s title, especially given that it was his father and not Lord Brody who committed treason. We have to burn that letter.”

“But you need a husband,” Mr. Plummer pointed out, meeting her eyes steadily. “Miss Carrington, you are in extremis, if you will forgive me for saying so.”

“I loathe His Grace, and he feels the same for me,” Mia explained.

“Married people often loathe each other,” the solicitor said peacefully. “I would venture to say that it is practically de rigueur, particularly amongst high society. His Grace can live in town, and you can live in the country, or vice versa. Either way, Master Charles Wallace will live with you. Moreover, the young Lord Carrington’s estate will not be dissipated. I am in receipt of some extremely worrisome information about Sir Richard’s personal holdings.”

“The scandal resulting from a wedding between myself and the duke would be astounding,” Mia pointed out. It would cast her poem, and likely her jilting, into the shade. It might even eclipse the death of her father and the duchess. “Can you imagine the gossip, given our parents’ relationship?”

“Easily,” Mr. Plummer said, with the air of a man who is never surprised. “I suspect it would be seen as something of a romance. I am reluctant to inform you, Miss Carrington, but your father and the duchess are being termed Star Crossed Lovers. I wouldn’t be surprised if a version of their liaison hit the stage next year.”

Mia didn’t know what to say.

“Your dowry will support you if you choose not to wed the duke,” Mr. Plummer said. “But you will have to leave Master Charles Wallace behind. I am certain that Sir Richard would not agree to an alteration of your brother’s will giving you control of the child and his estate.”

“I cannot leave Charlie,” Mia said through stiff lips. The very idea made her dizzy, insensible to any emotion other than panic. “He is my child, Mr. Plummer.”

“Then you must present this letter to His Grace with your demands,” the solicitor said calmly, without any visible sign that he was suggesting a criminal undertaking.

Surely blackmail was a felony? Mia took a deep breath. The truth was that she would commit a felony to keep Charlie with her, and away from the horrible Sir Richard and his wife.

“As it happens,” Mr. Plummer continued, “one of my partners, Mr. Blodwell, works in Doctors’ Commons. I shall request that he obtain a special license from the Archbishop of Canterbury without delay.”

“Oh my goodness,” Mia said faintly.

Mr. Plummer leaned forward. “Men are generally taken to be the more ferocious of the two sexes, Miss Carrington.”

“Yes, I know that.”

“That is incorrect,” he said, his eyes fixed on hers. “Think of the mother tiger. Females surpass the opposite sex, under one instance. Do you know what that is?”

“When their children are threatened,” Mia said hollowly.

“It is my considered opinion that it would not be healthful for young Lord Carrington to remain in Sir Richard’s case,” Mr. Plummer said.


“He is a small boy, and lame. I am a solicitor, Miss Carrington, which has given me some insight into the criminal mind.”

Mia thought about pointing out that he clearly understood blackmail, but she kept her mouth shut.

“An undesirable guardian can not only destroy his ward’s estate before the child reaches majority,” Mr. Plummer said, “but he can arrange for the child, especially one who is already in frail health, to suffer an accident that makes it impossible for the rightful heir to take control of the estate at the age of eighteen. In my time as a solicitor, I have seen variations on that scenario three times.”

“Mr. Plummer, you must forgive me… while I dislike Sir Richard, your suggestion smells of Drury Lane. Sir Richard is annoying and undoubtedly a poor financial manager, but he would never hurt a child!”

“I certainly hope that you are correct.” The solicitor rose. “If you will excuse me, Miss Carrington, Sir Richard wishes to speak further about refurbishments to the estate. I will leave you to your decision.” Mr. Plummer’s eyes slid to the letter still sitting in the middle of the table. “If you decide not to use the document as your father intended, Miss Carrington, perhaps it is better burnt. I would not want that missive to fall into Sir Richard’s hands.”

She nodded.

After Mr. Plummer left, Mia read the letter, which turned out to be a frank and open proposal by the late Duke of Pindar to kill his monarch. It sounded as if the duke was offering a favor, a minor trifle, in order to put Bonny Prince Charlie’s mind at ease.

And put him on the throne.

Pindar had been a father, brother, and duke….presumably he had sworn an oath of fealty to the crown. It seemed that even gentlemen were capable of things which she had never considered.

She sat for a long time wondering what Sir Richard might or might not be capable of.

Charlie mattered more than humiliation, more than her strong moral objection to blackmail, more than the fact that she would rather marry any man in the kingdom—including the king—than Vander.

Beggars can’t be choosers.

A Second Deleted Scene from Four Nights with the Duke

Enjoy a visit with India and Thorn, the main characters from Three Weeks with Lady X, who make an appearance in Four Weeks. My editor said this scene had to be cut because India and Thorn were stealing the show from Mia and Vander! ~Eloisa

Dressing for Dinner

“That can’t be right.” Lady Xenobia India Dautry—India for short—was fascinated and horrified at the same time. “A woman is forcing Vander to marry her? And she’s not even carrying his child? That’s impossible!”

Her husband was prowling across the drawing room, a certain light in his eye that India had come to know very well in the last year. She held up a hand. “I’m dressed for dinner, Thorn. Don’t you dare—”

He ignored her, pulling her against him so tightly that she felt the strength of his thigh through the frail silk of her evening gown.

His hand rounded her bottom and he let a growl slip from his throat. “India.”

She put an arm around his neck and kissed his cheek. “Hmm?”

“I love what this child is doing for your figure. Have I told you that?”

“About a hundred times. Or two. But about Vander…”

Thorn didn’t want to talk about his closest friend in the world. He didn’t even like thinking about the way Vander got drunk, however briefly. For Vander, that took concentration. That took a passionate wish to escape the world.

But India was waiting, so he said, “A woman named Emilia Carrington is blackmailing Vander with one of his bloody father’s letters. A treasonous letter. If she turns that letter over to the Crown, Vander will lose the dukedom.”

India drew in a sharp breath. “You have to stop her!”

“She’s devilishly clever and obtained a special license and demanded a ceremony tomorrow. I don’t have time to have her committed to Bedlam.”

India pushed him away. Her eyes were filled with horror. “You must save him, Thorn. I can’t bear the thought of Vander tied to some—some hag with a wish to be a duchess!”

“Don’t worry. I’m going to take care of it.” Thorn didn’t grow up with a gentleman’s code. He wouldn’t kill Miss Carrington—his personal code of right and wrong ruled out murder. It didn’t rule out a lot of other things that a true gentleman might consider dubious.

“How will you take care of it?” his wife asked. “Why is she doing this?”

“She loves Vander,” Thorn said. There had been a time when he thought that India wanted Vander…his heart stumbled at the thought. “He’s some sort of siren for women.”

“Vander? I adore him; we both do. But…”

“Mia Carrington has been in love with him since the time she was a young girl.”

India gasped. “You’re not talking about the poet? The poet who wrote a love poem to Vander? The sister of Vander’s mother’s lover—”

“Not sister,” Thorn corrected. “She’s the daughter. The daughter of the former duchess’s lover, and now she wants to be the duchess herself.”

“I remember her poem! It was very naughty, wasn’t it? I remember having to ask my godmother, Adelaide, what a “pearly potion” was, and why someone would want to drink such a thing.” Rather to Thorn’s delight, a rosy color crept up his wife’s cheeks.

“Why indeed?” he asked, pulling her closer. “Don’t worry about that poet-writing hussy,” he murmured, pursuing his wife’s mouth because a thrumming beat in his blood was driving him on.

“I’m worrying about Vander, not the poet. Could he flee the country tonight?”

Thorn shook his head. “Not without risking his dukedom. I’m bringing along my father to the wedding tomorrow. Between us, Villiers and I will decide precisely what needs to be done in order to dispense with the bride. I’m leaning toward having her declared insane, but my father might have a better idea.”

“That seems harsh.”

“No, that seems factual.” Thorn was sick of thinking about Vander’s situation. He scooped his wife close, enjoying the way she softened against him. “When is supper?”

“Five minutes,” India said with a squeak.

Thorn put her on her feet again and went over to the door. He pulled it open and bellowed “Fred!”

“Yes, sir?”

“Don’t serve until we ring.” Then he slammed the door and turned the key.

“This is so embarrassing,” India moaned.

But Thorn knew his wife. And he knew Fred. Fred was a very young butler, and he didn’t care what they did in the drawing room before the meal. “I’ve been gone all day, since six this morning,” he said conversationally, stripping off his coat and throwing it to one side.

“I know,” India said.

Her hair was a silver color of the moon, and he had dislodged just enough pins so that it was beginning to tumble around her shoulders.

“Take your hair down,” he ordered, keeping the words tight because of the overpowering lust that was searing his body.

India obligingly lifted her hand and pulled out a few more pins, allowing her hair to fall in a silky sheet down her back.

Thorn torn his neck cloth off and began prowling toward her, warning himself to slow down. She was carrying his child. True, she was doing that as magnificently as she did everything in life, without any nausea or the like. But still…

He pulled his shirt off. India’s eyes caught on his chest and drifted to the little line of hair disappearing into his breeches. “I like being married,” he remarked, dropping into a chair so he could pull off his boots.

His wife cocked her head to one side and she grinned at him. He loved that about India: she didn’t engage in social pretense. She could play the perfect well-born matron—and often did—but in her heart she was as straightforward as a person who had grown up on the streets.

Her street had been a marquess’ dilapidated mansion, but the result was the same.

Lust was clenching in his gut. “Take your gown off,” he growled, unable to make it into a request.

India pursed her lips and Thorn momentarily froze, thinking of what she had done to him with that mouth. His wife showed no signs of ripping her gown off. He might have to do that for her.

Obviously, she read his intent in his eyes, because she dropped onto the sofa as if she were fainting, a naughty little smile on her face.

Now she was lying down, he could see her newly lush breasts, and the gentle mound of her belly. Perversely, it made him even hotter.

“Buttons in the back,” she said sweetly. “I can’t remove this gown myself.”

“Did you ever consider how idiotic it is to have clothing that we can’t remove ourselves? Roll over.” He threw his second boot aside and ripped open the fall on his breeches. “Unless you shouldn’t roll onto your stomach.”

India chortled with laughter and rolled over. “I’m carrying a child, not an egg.”

A second later Thorn leaned over her, took one look at the forty-some tiny buttons running up the back of her gown, and began hauling up her skirts as she giggled beneath him.

He didn’t laugh. The air was too hot in his lungs for that. His wife had beautiful legs. He fell on his knees beside the settee, the better to kiss the back of her knees, and the curve of her upper thigh. He slid his hands under her chemise and up the curve of her derrière, a groan escaping from his lips.

India wiggled under his hands and turned to her back, her lips turned in a lavish smile, a high flush on her cheeks. “Don’t move,” she whispered, sitting up.

Thorn knelt before her as she ran her hands over his brawny shoulders, down his chest, over the rippled muscle of his stomach…lower. “Don’t stop,” he said, the words guttural.

When she stroked him, tremors hit the back of his knees and fire gathered in his loins.

Finally he pushed her backward, gently. “Enough.”

India smiled at him, her eyes hazy with desire. “Enough of what?” she whispered.

“I want you.” The words bit. Thorn wanted her the way a caveman took his mate. Inside, where he ought to be a gentleman, there was just a caveman who wanted to throw his woman to the ground and thrust into her.

Without preliminaries.

India threw both her hands over her head, which did wonderful things for her breasts. “I’m here,” she said, laughing but with an edge of smoky desire. In her own way, in a delicate, utterly sophisticated way, India was a cavewoman: never complaining about his roughness or lust, but meeting it with her own.

“I’m so damned lucky to have you,” Thorn said, not touching her.

India’s tongue ran along her deep bottom lip and her legs moved restlessly. “Thorn.”

He pulled her legs apart and bent over to drop a kiss on her silky, private spot. She smelled wonderful, and she tasted even better. He dipped his head, kissing her until she twisted under him, crying out. His fingers gripped the soft skin of her hips, holding her legs apart so that she was pinned, unable to move, vulnerable to every stroke of his tongue.

With a twist of his fingers, he brought her to ecstasy again, before letting his caresses slow. He had to be gentle. The words kept pounding through his head.

She was carrying a child. His child.

“Remember when I took you down by the river?” he demanded, his voice low and grating. “Remember how I pounded into you and you screamed as if you were in agony…but you weren’t?”

“Yes,” she whispered, her thighs bucking up. “Thorn, please… I want you.”

He was bent on making her come one more time first. He added another finger and she cried out, her body tightening around him. He bent forward and captured her mouth. She broke under him with a little scream and he froze, savoring the way her sweet inner flesh pulsed around his fingers.

Unable to wait any longer, he shoved her legs wider and thrust, catching the last few pulses of her pleasure.

His body burned as if with fever, but he forced himself to pause and assess. India was clearly not feeling pain. Her head was tipped back, her face flushed, and she was arching against him, words slipping from her throat so quietly that he couldn’t hear.

“What?” he managed.

“Harder,” she said, raising her head and glaring at him. “I need…I need more, Thorn. Now.”

No, she definitely wasn’t in pain. He made certain that his hands were on either side of her body, elbows locked so that he wouldn’t lose control and drop onto her stomach like a rock. He put one knee on the sofa because he could control the angle better. He didn’t want to go in all the way, not when she was carrying a child.

He would allow himself to enter her half way.

Hell, he could come right now just by looking at her, her head back, her skin dewy and flushed, her nipples…

It didn’t feel bad. Half way, and withdrew again. In fact, it felt pretty damn perfect. Again, and again.

India was twisting under him, little pleas escaping from her mouth. She was pulling him down, trying to get him to lose control. He wasn’t going to do that. She had to wait another few months.

If they were body to body, like two puzzle pieces, he would lose control and start to pump into her, his entire brain sinking into his cock, insanity ruling.

“Thorn,” she cried, arching up so high that she almost took all of him, except he backed off quickly. India’s eyes snapped open. “What are you doing?”

“Protecting you,” he said, managing to keep a reasonable tone even though his entire body was raging. “It feels good, doesn’t it, India?” He sped up and saw her eyes glaze over. He could feel her tightening around him, and her fingers were making dents in his shoulders

“That’s it,” he growled. “Come for me, India.”

She opened her mouth and gasped for air, pulling him closer. “I want to feel all of you, Thorn!”

Instead he sped up, pumping as fast as he could. And then he took her in a kiss that said everything, that sent both of them over the edge as if they had fallen into a long waterfall, one that threw sparks of water into the air like fireflies.

A deep groan broke from his throat, and he felt as if his soul poured into her tight body. But somehow he managed to keep his elbows locked, and his weight off her body.

As they both settled, he let his head hang down, harsh gasps escaping from his chest. Their feeling of connection was less ferocious this way, but sweeter, more piercing.

A drop of sweat fell from his shoulder onto her stomach and he watched as it slid down her creamy skin.

It took an irritated, cross voice to bring him crashing back into himself.

“Thorn, what in the hell do you think you were doing?” India hissed. She gave him a shove to the shoulder for good riddance.

For a moment he just blinked down at her. Then he managed to get to his feet. His knees still felt a little weak, but apparently India’s did not. She hopped to her feet and began shouting about “stupid men,” so he took one big step and enclosed her in his arms.

Like most men, he didn’t talk about his feelings. Ever. But he figured she deserved an explanation.

“I’m afraid,” he said, cutting off her tirade. “I love you too much. I already love the baby. Because it’s yours. I don’t want to bruise it. Or even worse.” His arms tightened. “I couldn’t bear that, India.”

She collapsed against him, her arms stealing around his neck. “Oh, Thorn.”

“That’s the way it is,” he said, his voice rough. “Did I give you enough pleasure, India?”

She sighed. He knew that she was satisfied; she had gone limp beneath him. She’d come three times. “But I love it when you let go,” she whispered.

“Not safe.”

“Who says?”


Another sigh. “Five or six months like this?”

“Sorry, darling. How about if I lick you from here to here tonight, to make up for it?” He measured a part of her body of which he was particularly fond.

“That’s not the point,” India muttered.

Thorn tightened his arms and smiled into her hair. “I love you. I’m so glad I married you.”

“What if an obsessed woman had stolen you before I met you?” India said, pulling back and looking at him with horror. “What if we were only introduced after you were married, because someone like Miss Carrington had forced you to marry her?”

“No one could blackmail me,” Thorn said. “Well, no one except you.”

She frowned at him. “Why me?”

“To be blackmailed, you have to care about something enormously. There’s only one thing in the world that I could not bear to lose.” He put a finger on her lower lip, ruby colored and a bit swollen from his kisses. “You.”

In the end, Mr. Dautry and his wife never made it to the dining room. His butler, Fred, lurked about in the corridor until his master backed out of the drawing room doorway, holding Lady Xenobia in his arms.

This household was very easy to work for. Fred strolled down to ask Cook to prepare a tray.

To be served later.

Much later.

Find out more about Four Nights with the Duke in Eloisa’s Inside Take
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