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!”
“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.
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.
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.