Four Nights With the Duke

By: Eloisa James



“So it seems.”

“I doubt he could have assassinated the king, even if he had mailed this offer. My father had no entrée to the court. As I understand it, everyone avoided him even during his schooldays; his feelings were too extreme and unpredictable to make him easy company.”

His mind was reeling from the blow. His dukedom was the key to everything that mattered to him: his stables, his estate, his cottagers. Everything would be forfeit to the Crown. After the debacle of his childhood, and the scandals his parents caused, his horses were his life.

Words shot from his mouth without conscious volition. Swear words, rough oaths that he had never used in the presence of a lady.

But was she a lady?

No. She was a damned blackmailer.

Her mouth tightened, though she was pretending not to hear him.

“Despite this letter, you can’t possibly think that I will agree to marry you.” For a second control eluded him, but he reined it back in. He’d be damned if he threatened a woman, even one who was trying to bend him to her will.

Not that she showed the faintest sign of fright.

No, Mia Carrington looked like an Amazon, if that race of female warriors had a corps of petite archers. It was oddly provocative.

But he felt like a footman being called to a bedchamber, summoned for her lady’s pleasure, which was intolerable.

“Years ago, you vowed not to marry me if I were the last man on earth. What in the hell has changed, Miss Carrington? Besides the fact that our reputations are even more notorious than they were when we were young? Why in God’s name would you embarrass yourself like this?”





Chapter Three




NOTES ON HERO





Angel’s Form: Hero is elegant to a fault—wears coat made by Weston, silver-topped cane. Tumbling black hair. Hair—flaxseed in the sun. Brown eyes.



Titled. A count? Last 4 Lucibella heroes all dukes.



But why does he have a devil’s heart?



Draw from real life? Heroine jilted? REASON??? Not bec. change of heart—hero too enamored. Bring in evil count? Twin?



Is ‘Count’ an English title? Never met one (check Debrett’s). Or: French Bavarian comte. More perfidious. (Will readers understand perfidious? Comte, for that matter? Spelling?) stay with Count.



Count Frederic!



Leaves her at the altar in St. Paul’s Cathedral . . . Why?



Good question.



“Embarrass myself?” Mia had never heard a voice that angry. And cold.

If she was gorgeous and dewy-eyed, it wouldn’t be quite so humiliating to propose marriage. But as it was . . . some part of her was writhing with humiliation. Some part? The whole of her.

“I do not consider a proposal of marriage to be an embarrassment,” she said untruthfully, fighting to keep her voice from rising into a squeak. “I am in possession of a special license, and I would like to marry quite soon.”

Instead of thunder, she got another crack of laughter, sharpened by rage. “You have to be joking. You think I would marry you?” His eyes raked her from head to toe.

She fell silent, swallowing hard. She tried not to think about her attractiveness—or lack thereof—and most of the time she was successful.

“You are not joking.” He didn’t move a finger, but she felt danger in the very air, as if he might turn and smash his fist straight through the window if he lost control of his temper. He had already uttered some words she’d never heard before.

She forced herself to speak. “My solicitor obtained the license. I hoped we could marry in a few days. At the least, within the week, Your Grace.”

“Unbelievable. I’ve asked you repeatedly, and I’ll ask again. Why do you want to marry me, Miss Carrington? Is it a matter of ambition?

“Oh my God,” Vander continued, not waiting for a response. “You’re getting revenge for the poetry episode all those years ago?”

“Of course not! The subject is irrelevant.” Mia pulled another folded sheet from her reticule. “You may keep the letter written by your father, Your Grace. I took the liberty of putting into writing my specifications as regards our marriage.”

“‘Specifications?’” Vander echoed.

He felt as if he had fallen into another world. Ladies did not propose marriage. They did not issue “specifications” for male behavior, within marriage or without.

“The terms of our marriage.” She put the document on a side table. “Here they are.”

Vander took a step forward and caught her wrist. It was shockingly small. “This makes no sense.”

She tried to pull free, but it was no use; he had restrained horses that were far taller than she was and weighed ten times as much. “Are you ambitious for social status? Or did your father put you up to this before he died?”

Her eyes skittered away, and he realized the truth with a sickening thud. “That’s it. I didn’t even ask how you got that damned letter. He stole it, didn’t he? Or my mother gave it to him. It wasn’t enough to drag my mother into the gutter and shame my father—Carrington made sure that he would befoul the Pindar line.”

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