This waas cut from the opening chapters of The Way to a Duke's Heart, the third and final book in the Truth About the Duke series. My original first chapter was all about Charlie finding out about his father's death. It was long, explained all about Charlie's lifestyle and why he was angry at his father, and how he broke his leg, and so on. The editor told me it was boring and needed to be cut. Anguish!! But she was right, and I cut it, but I saved this bit because I really liked it. After leaving home, Charlie would have needed someone to turn to for advice, and I had decided that his uncle Rhys, Lord Dowling, would be that person. Rhys, of course, is the hero of I Love the Earl. So here's their conversation upon discovering the Duke of Durham's shocking secret.

Unused scene from the Truth About the Duke series

After a fortnight he finally went to Dowling House, home of his aunt and uncle. He was a frequent visitor here, contrary to what his father might have thought of his familial affections. Aunt Margaret was everything his father was not, and a great deal like his mother had been. From the moment she discovered him living alone in London and heard of the break with his father, Margaret had opened her door and her arms to him, and she never once scolded him over anything to do with his father. By now Charlie supposed he cared more for Aunt Margaret than he did for anyone.

This time, though, instead of coming to trading wit and gossip with his aunt, he asked for his uncle. Family lore held that Dowling and Durham had once butted heads, quite hard; they had never been more than cordial to each other, and when Aunt Margaret visited Lastings, she came alone, with just her son Philip. Charlie needed someone who would understand the rage he felt at his father, and someone who would never reveal his feelings to another soul. Although no one had ever told him why, he sensed his uncle was that person.

Dowling already knew the entire story. "I heard," he said simply, when Charlie stepped into his study. "A damnable secret to keep from his own sons."

His shoulders slumped in relief. "A damnable pity he died before we could tell him that."

Dowling smiled wryly. "I daresay it wouldn't have given you as much satisfaction as you think."

"No? I would still have liked the chance."

His uncle waved one hand as Charlie prowled about the room. "Sit, Charles. Stewing in anger won't help. The very worst thing you could do is spend your energy hating him."

"How could he?" Charlie dropped into a chair and plowed his hands through his hair. "How? First to make such a foolish match, then to think no one would ever discover it, then to marry my poor mother knowing damned well it might be a bigamous match—"

"Durham never learned anything but the hard way," replied his uncle. He leaned back in his chair, his iron-gray hair glinting in the sun. "But when he did admit a mistake, it was usually with some degree of humility."

"Humility? Durham?" He gave a bitter laugh. "How odd to hear those two words spoken together."

"I never said he came to it quickly or easily."

"Or ever," muttered Charlie.

"I expect he did, at the end. Whatever else he might have been, your father was not a fool. The real question is, what are you going to do now?"

He sighed. "Edward engaged a solicitor, to attempt to secure the title before the scandal grows too big. Gerard's gone off to Somerset to shoot the blackmailer who's stirred up this trouble."

"What are you going to do?" repeated his uncle. "You are Durham, not either one of your brothers."

He hesitated a long moment. "What can I do?" he finally asked, evasively. "Edward and Gerard have it well in hand."

Dowling sat forward, his expression serious. "Don't keep up that pose with me, young man. I've seen how you conduct yourself—the shocking escapades to kindle Durham's temper, the decent things you do when no one's looking. It may have amused you to outrage your father, but that's done with. He's gone, and you answer only to yourself now. A dukedom is a great honor, but also a great responsibility."

"So I've been told," he said under his breath.

"Your father would fight for it." Dowling gave him a probing look. "Do you mean to give it up just to spite him?"

Charlie glared at his uncle. Put that way, of course not. "Thank you for your compassionate counsel."

Dowling grinned. "My pleasure."

He still held out hope his brothers would find the solution. He wasn't so much unwilling to act as he was fearful of making the wrong decision. Edward's plan to mount a bold, swift legal action seemed eminently reasonable, and most likely to succeed. Gerard's plan to find the blackmailer and eliminate the threat directly also appealed; there was no one else to hold responsible for the mess, and a blackmailer deserved whatever retribution he got. Charlie didn't see what he could do, that Edward and Gerard weren't already doing, to help. He didn't know how to fight for it. It seemed the best thing he could do was stay out of the way of his brothers' plans, to avoid mucking them up.

And yet… The courts moved slowly. When he called on Edward in a moment of weakness a few weeks later to see how they progressed, Edward not only said it wasn't over, he sent Charlie a dispatch case filled with all the documents of the case and told him he must fight for Durham himself. For the first time Charlie could ever recall, Edward was leaving a task unfinished—over a woman, no less—and turning it onto him. That was shocking enough, to say nothing of alarming. It got even worse when Edward threw all his usual caution and reserve to the wind to marry the outspoken widow who had bewitched him—there was no other explanation for such shockingly unusual behavior on his brother's part.

Charlie's amusement at this turn of events was quickly squashed when a letter from Gerard arrived, imploring Edward to come to his aid. Edward actually refused. He handed the letter to Charlie and wished him luck, and then retired to make love to his wife, in shameful, callous, blatant disregard of his duty to family. Or so Charlie imagined, as he told Barnes to pack for a trip to Bath.

He hoped to high heaven the answer to all their troubles could be found in Bath. And even more, he hoped he was capable of finding it.

The Truth About the Duke Series

<I Love the Earl> One Night in London Blame It on Bath The Way to a Duke's Heart'