DAY 14

An early draft scene from What a Gentleman Wants. This was my 'fake marriage' book, between a duke and a vicar's widow, the fake marriage being foisted on both of them by the hero's irresponsible twin brother. This scene was meant to take place after a near-kiss between Marcus and Hannah, even though both of them are adamant that their marriage is fake and will only ever be fake…and it's just so horribly inconvenient how attractive they find each other.

Deleted scene from What a Gentleman Wants

Hannah deliberated another minute, then turned the door knob of the study.

The duke was standing near one of the tall bookcases, one foot propped on the lowest shelf. He was paging through a leather-bound book, and didn’t look up when she entered. “Yes?” he snapped, flipping several pages at once.

Hannah closed the door behind her. “I wanted to speak to you, if you’re not busy.”

His head whipped around, and he stared at her for a moment without speaking. “Of course, madam.” He closed the book with a snap. “Of course I can spare a moment for my wife.” She ignored the irony in his words, and came closer.

“I wanted to apologize for yesterday afternoon, in the library. I was inexcusably vulgar and impertinent, and I sincerely regret saying what I said.” He had turned to face her, and was leaning back against the bookcase, arms across his chest. He said nothing in reply, just cocked his head with a cool, wry glance that made her flush. She didn’t think he believed a word. “I realize almost everyone of your acquaintance thinks of you solely as Exeter, but I think of you as just another person, with feelings and sensibilities like any other. What I said was very hurtful, and I am sorry I said it.”

“An attack of conscience,” he said, in that dry tone that managed to convey the exactly opposite meaning of his words. “How very gallant.”

Hannah suppressed the flare of irritation. “I am not a liar, sir, and I am not apologizing for any reason other than the one I gave. I regret having let my temper get the better of me, and deliberately trying to hurt your feelings.”

“Oh?” He pushed away from the bookcase and strolled toward her, his dark gaze holding hers. “And it wasn’t at all to prevent any action of mine.”

Another blush warmed her face. “I admit, I suspected…”

“Because if you hadn’t said anything, you know what would have happened,” he continued softly. He stopped a scant foot in front of her, and Hannah was ashamed of the way her inappropriate urges clamored to life at his nearness. She kept her eyes on his, hoping he couldn’t tell how he affected her.

“All right. I thought you might kiss me. And I also confess that I wanted you to.” That surprised him a great deal, she could tell, although she didn’t know whether it was the desire or the admission of it. “But I am aware, as you no doubt are yourself, that we mustn’t give way to such improper impulses. Any sort of… well…” She stopped and cleared her throat, uncomfortably warm again, then hurried on. “That sort of thing would only complicate matters between us, and I’m not at all certain I could bear more complications.”

He studied her for a moment. “I confess myself amazed,” he said at last. “You come to apologize for hurting my feelings, then tell me you wanted me to kiss you yesterday but couldn’t bear the complications it would cause. Haven’t you just insulted me a second time?”

“Well, n-no,” she stammered. “That is, surely you understand what I mean. We are only pretending at being married! By your own decree, I am to disappear from your life at the end of the Season, a few weeks from now. Even were there no question of morality—and I assure you, there is—it would be foolhardy to encourage feelings that can have no chance of lasting.”

“But you do have such feelings?” he demanded. Hannah flushed scarlet.

“Please do not make me regret admitting it. I’m trying to be perfectly honest with you, and to shoulder my share of the blame.”

“Then continue with this honesty. If you confess to wanting my kiss, is there anything else you crave?” If he hadn’t asked it in a velvety soft whisper, devoid of scorn or sarcasm, she would have slapped his face. As it was, she stood mesmerized, her heart pounding frantically as she stared into his warm dark eyes. He was so changeable, she thought, cool and aloof one minute, mysteriously magnetic the next.

“Your Grace,” she said softly, hoping no regret came through in her voice, “I don’t think anything would be gained by further admission.”

“Perhaps not,” he said with a ghost of a smile, looking almost like the man who had maneuvered her against a table yesterday and made her want to kiss him. “If there is no chance of ever fulfilling those desires.”

 “I don’t see how we can.” Thank goodness he had agreed. Hannah grew less and less confident of her ability to withstand temptations like yesterday.

He straightened, the first she realized that he had been leaning toward her. “You’re a most unusual woman, Mrs. Preston.”

She smiled in relief. “Thank you. You may call me Hannah,” she offered on impulse. “If you wish.”

Marcus felt a chuckle rising in his throat. It was so like her daughter. The Preston females did have a certain charm. “Thank you. Just another person?”

She blushed. “I meant as a man, instead of as a duke.”

“Every duke is a man.”

“Yes, but I meant more as a man with thoughts and feelings, hopes and dreams, a soul,” she was explaining further, her face pink. “A person, instead of the holder of a title.”

“I see,” he murmured, realizing that that was what appealed to him about her: she was honorable. She had a temper, and as sharp a tongue as he’d ever heard on a woman, she had wit and charm and yes, she was attractive and highly desirable, but it was her sense of honor that drew his respect. She had understood his wish not to break Roslyn’s heart with David’s deceit, and even offered to take the blame herself. She had been mortified by her father’s behavior, and offered to pay back anything Marcus might have given him, an offer he had scorned at the time but looking back, he recalled that she hadn’t asked how much, or if he wanted the money back, she had simply stated she would pay it—as if a woman in her position would ever have a bride price worthy of a duchess. She had taken a great liking to his stepmother and sister, and he knew she was still unhappy about deceiving them, but she had kept her promise to him and done it.

The Reece Family Series

<What A Gentleman Wants What a Rogue Desires A Rake's Guide to Seduction'