Four Nights With the Duke

By: Eloisa James



Unfortunately, that was more than unlikely. In Mia’s experience, people never regretted clever insults, no matter how much they might sting the recipient.

She hated cabbage to this day. As well as Oakenrott.

A queer numbness came over her. She, Emilia Gwendolyn Carrington, was about to coerce a duke into marrying her. An old maid in her twenties, possessed of neither violet-colored eyes nor a slender waist, was—

This was not a helpful train of thought.

She had to stop trembling. The proposal wasn’t for her benefit. Nor was it for an extended period of time. She simply needed Vander to marry her in name only, for a year at most. It was the only way she could take guardianship of her nephew, Charles Wallace.

Nephew? In all the ways that counted, Charlie was her son. Her own child.

She took a deep breath. Women dove from the decks of tall ships to save children fallen overboard. They fought tigers and wild boars.

What was a mere duke compared to a man-eating carnivore? She’d heard some creatures had such large teeth that they could be hollowed out and used as soup ladles.

Right.

The tricky part was that Mr. Plummer, her solicitor, had been adamant that the duke could not be informed of the reasons for her proposal, or His Grace would almost certainly say no.

By marrying her, the duke not only took on guardianship of a small boy; he gained control of an extremely large estate running adjacent to his, which would look highly suspicious to his peers. Their marriage would be a cause célèbre without even taking into account the scandals caused by their parents: Vander would undoubtedly face a lawsuit charging him with theft of the estate from Charlie’s uncle on his mother’s side, Sir Richard Magruder.

Vander—His Grace, the Duke of Pindar—was just another supercilious, privileged, silly man, she reminded herself. He wasn’t a tiger with soup ladles for teeth.

She could do this.

She must do this.





Chapter Two




NOTES ON An Angel’s Form and a Devil’s Heart: a Novel





Heroine is slender, ethereal, willowy . . . another way to say thin? Strangely light for someone who actually eats breakfast.



So desirable that the hero is struck dumb at the very sight of her. Blue eyes, yellow hair, dainty everything.



Lace coming into fashion? Lace-maker. Research how lace is made. Bobbins?



First sight, hero on his knees. In the rain.



Mud.



Definitely mud.



“Your Grace, a Miss Carrington is requesting to speak to you.”

For a moment Vander had no idea who she was. Then he realized it had to be Mia, the hapless poet. His complete avoidance of polite society in favor of the stables meant that he hadn’t seen her in years.

“Did she give any indication of the reason for her visit?”

“No, Your Grace. She is in the morning room, should you wish to speak to her, or I can inform her that you are busy at this time. I might add that she is unaccompanied. Furthermore, your solicitor is in the library. He has been waiting some time and is becoming impatient.”

The last time he could remember having seen Mia was that bloody embarrassing thing that happened when they were fifteen.

What in the hell was she thinking, calling on him early in the morning, without a chaperone? Why call on him at all?

“I’ll go to Miss Carrington,” he decided, heading from his bedchamber. He owed the poet an audience, if only because he should have handled that situation better. The very memory made him shudder a little. He had been stupid and young, but even so, he’d behaved like an ass.

Vander strode down the stairs adjusting his cuffs. Mia’s name must have been as besmirched as his by their parents’ deaths a year ago. There was no covering up the fact that the Duchess of Pindar had died in bed with Lord Carrington. All of England knew about the damaged stove flue that had led to their deaths: that flare of scandal had eclipsed the deaths of eight other unfortunates sleeping in the same inn—a list that had included Mia’s brother and sister-in-law, if he remembered correctly. It must have been a terrible year for her.

Just as he reached the final step, his solicitor, Grieg, erupted from the library and accosted him. Vander almost groaned aloud as he listened. Apparently, Sir Cuthbert had made a rash promise to finance an archaeological expedition to the Andes Mountains.

Insofar as his uncle’s sole source of income was the allowance Vander gave him, which Chuffy promptly spent on velvet coats and bottles of sack, he wasn’t in a position to make good on the promise. It seemed that Chuffy had got around that little problem by scrawling a note promising that the Duke of Pindar would back the expedition.

He would have to tell Chuffy that his funds were tied up in his stables and he could not finance an expedition to the Andes at this time. Or, for that matter, ever.

The primary thing he remembered about Mia Carrington was that she had a chubby face and magnificent breasts.

All these years later, her face was thinner. Presumably her breasts were still there, but she was wearing a drab gown of homespun that concealed everything below her chin. She looked like a missionary. Perhaps she’d become one?

He felt a flash of sympathy. Her religious leanings, if she had them, were likely a response to their parents’ blatant disregard for the sanctity of marriage. Though if she had come to try to proselytize—

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