DAY 17

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

The Wagers of Sin series really is centered on the ladies who attended Mrs. Upton's Academy, which is why I ended Fortune Favors the Viscount with a reunion scene where Sophie, Eliza, and Georgiana all make appearances. But I also wrote this scene, where Nick meets up with the heroes of the prior books again as well: Rob, Hugh, and Jack.

Deleted scene from Fortune Favors the Viscount

“I hope you don’t mind, but some other fellows would like a word with you,” were the first words out of Lord Westmorland’s mouth.

“Oh?” Nick tensed. That could mean many things. He had made Forbes a partner, with a quarter share of the club, and turned over more of the management to him, though he still owned it. His claim to the Sydenham title had been recognized, but the application for his writ of summons to Parliament was just beginning. But he was still known far and wide as the owner of the Vega Club, the man who had beaten Lord Fitchley to a bloody mess in front of half of London.

They had spent much of the winter in Dorset, to get away from the gossip. Beaufort Hall was returning to form, and Nick found he liked the country more than he’d expected. More importantly, Charlotte and Lucy loved it, and the old house was full of secluded spots for romantic moments with Emilia. He liked that a great deal.

“Nothing too harsh. At least one of them is likely to pledge his undying devotion to you, if he’s had enough to drink. Will you see them?” Westmorland waited for Nick’s brief nod, then crossed the room and opened another door. “He’ll see you.”

Viscount Heathercote strode in, hand extended. “Dashwood. Sydenham, I mean. I’ve been waiting to shake your hand in thanks for weeks now.”

Nick clasped his hand. “It was no trouble at all, my lord.”

Heathercote grinned. “Perhaps not for you! It was a moment of brilliant satisfaction and sheer triumph for me. I’ve spent the winter talking to everyone at Newmarket, and we suspect Fitchley had been poisoning horses for nearly ten years.”

Since he lost Emilia’s dowry, Nick noted. “I was pleased to help stop him,” he said. “And delighted to hear he’s not been at Newmarket lately.”

“I don’t think he’ll ever go near it again,” said Heathercote with a faintly vindictive smile.

Nick bowed his head.

“Come.” Heathercote slapped his shoulder. “Have a drink to celebrate.”

A servant scratched at the door, and when the marquess called out to enter, two other men were shown into the room. Nick knew them both, though they’d not been to his club in some time. One of them, the Duke of Ware, had only been a few times. He was not a gambler, and he’d only come to Vega’s to stop his younger brother from beggaring himself. But Ware had also made two of the more scandalous wagers ever placed at Vega’s, and Nick wasn’t certain if the duke despised him or not.

He felt more confident of a friendly greeting from the other man, the Earl of Hastings. Hastings had played regularly for a few years before marrying a wealthy heiress. The heiress’s father, Edward Cross, had run with some sharp characters, including a pair Nick had expelled for cheating, but Hastings had always played honestly, and been a good sport.

He had never in his life anticipated meeting either of them as equals, though.

But all was cordial. Heathercote and Westmorland had obviously informed them, and the austere duke even smiled in greeting.

Westmorland poured a round of brandies and raised his glass. “To Sydenham,” he declared. “Congratulations.”

“I hope you find it a prize worth winning,” murmured Hastings.

Nick studied his drink. “I have some thoughts on that.” He glanced at Westmorland. “Perhaps we can speak later.”

The marquess grinned. “We shall indeed.”

“Just tell West now you’ll support his Caribbean bills,” said Heathercote in an undertone. “He’ll hound you until you do.”

“It’s a worthy bill,” said Ware. Unlike Westmorland and Heathercote, he and Hastings sat in the House of Lords. Nick still felt a tinge of shock that he would, too. “An uphill battle to pass it, though.”

The Caribbean bill, if Nick remembered correctly, would put a tariff on sugar grown by slave labor.

“I suspect you might have a knack for persuading people.” Westmorland gave him a speaking look.

Ah. Nick smiled and said nothing. He’d wondered why the marquess was keen to befriend him. Westmorland thought Nick’s information files and spy network would help him.

The Wagers of Sin Series

<My Once and Future Duke> An Earl Like You When the Marquess Was Mine Fortune Favores the Viscount