DAY 11

* * * S P O I L E R S * * *

This is an early version of the scene at the end of The Secret of My Seduction, where Bathsheba and her brother talk. But in this one she tells Danny what she's been doing. In the end I decided that Bathsheba was entitled to keep her own business private from her younger brother.

Draft scene from The Secret of My Seduction

Slowly Danny closed the door. He was watching her as if he suspected every wicked thing she’d done with Liam. “Why was MacGregor here?”

“A social call. I was surprised to see him.” That was true, she assured to herself.

Looking troubled, her brother came and sat down in Liam’s seat. “He came to see you, though.” Bathsheba couldn’t move, couldn’t blink. The slightest motion would feel rife with guilt. “He wasn’t…” Faint color washed up his face. “Rude?”

She started. “No!”

“Importunate?”

“No,” she repeated, bewildered. “Why would you think that?”

“You don’t have gentlemen callers, and he’s not known for his social graces.”

Bathsheba didn’t know whether to be amused or embarrassed. She looked down at her hands and said nothing.

“Forgive me, Bathsheba,” said her brother. “I don’t mean to suggest—It’s just that he’s… And you’re…” As if realizing he was making things worse, Danny stopped talking.

She raised her head. The truth couldn’t be worse than what he thought. Perhaps Liam was right, and she ought to tell Danny. “I write for him,” she said softly. “Liam came on business.” Her brother’s jaw sagged. “I began to write after 50 Ways ended,” she went on. “It was dreadful, but … I liked writing it. I wrote another and another, and finally I thought I would find out if they were of interest to anyone but myself.” She paused, watching him warily. “Did you never suspect?”

“I thought you might be doing something,” he admitted. “Poetry?”

“No. Stories similar to 50 Ways.” Her brother froze, looking alarmed, then closed his eyes. “I took them to Liam because I wanted an objective opinion. If he told me they were rubbish, I would have burned them. Instead, he told me they were good… Good enough to publish. He prints and sell them and we split the profits.”

Danny looked at her incredulously. “You split the profits with MacGregor?”

She nodded.

“Of all the—” He surged forward until he was balanced on the edge of the sofa. “Are there profits?” he demanded. “How much?”

She told him. It was not a huge sum, but after living on the edge of poverty, it sounded like one.

Her brother was stunned. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Bathsheba examined her fingers as if the answers were written on her fingernails. “At first, I didn’t know it would come to anything. Then I didn’t know if it would continue, and I didn’t want to raise hopes. Then…” She shrugged. “I just didn’t.”

He started to laugh. Shocked, she stared at him. “What a pair we are,” he said. “Both of us sitting on windfalls, afraid to tell the other!” He glanced at her, then sobered at her expression. “The job in Greenwich has been very profitable. Catherine—this is, Mrs. Brown engaged me to repair her late husband’s library. It included a number of—er—erotic books, of which I’m sure the lady was ignorant at the start.” He went pink again, and in a flash Bathsheba knew what her brother was going to say. “She—well, we spent a great deal of time together, sorting out which books ought to be restored and which ought to be sold or disposed of.” He cleared his throat, looking young and awkward for a moment. “We’ve discussed marriage. But I would never abandon you,” he added quickly. “She and I agreed I would complete the job as planned. The money is for you, Bathsheba, to do with as you please. I can never repay you for how you cared for me after the war—”

“You rogue!” She jumped up and ran to throw her arms around him. “You’re in love! Why wouldn’t you tell me?”

He grinned bashfully. “Because I wanted to have the money first, and I refuse to take it from Catherine before the work is done. You would be welcome to live with us, of course, but”—he gave her a knowing look—“I suspect you might not wish to. With this sum, you should be able to keep this house and Mary. Catherine’s manor house is in a quiet part of Greenwich, and it might be too remote for your taste.”

She thought of Liam’s secluded house and how lovely and quiet it was there. If she were newly married, a spinster sister-in-law was the last person she would want to share that house with. “Of course you want your own home, with your bride. I trust I shall meet her?”

“Soon,” said her brother, his face brightening with relief and pride. “She advised me some time ago I ought to tell you.”

Just as Liam had advised her to tell Danny, and have a life of her own. And now—oh goodness—nowDanny knew about Lady X, and he wasn’t angry. And Bathsheba had what she’d always craved: her independence. Liam had been right about Danny—perhaps about even more…

She forced her mind away from that and back to her brother’s happiness. She asked him about his betrothed bride, and to her amusement, Danny spoke at great and rhapsodic length about Catherine Brown. In his telling, she was beautiful, sensible, and utterly charming. Her late husband, a man twenty years her senior, had left her a comfortable income and a small manor near Greenwich. Danny, who had once been a bit of a hell raiser, was looking forward to life as a country gentleman.

When her brother had gone out again—he’d only come home to change his coat before visiting the bindery to supervise Mrs. Brown’s library—Bathsheba stood in the sitting room, slightly dazed but in a happy way. Danny, married! She would have a new sister. Bathsheba said an urgent prayer that Mrs. Catherine Brown took a liking to her. Some day she might have nieces and nephews to visit.

And now she wouldn’t have to hide anything—not her writing, not her evening activities. She could even bring a lover here if she wished.

The Scandalous Series

<Love and Other Scandals> It Takes a Scandal All's Fair in Love and Scandal' Love in the Time of Scandal A Study in Scandal Six Degrees of Scandal

The Secret of My Seduction