He folded it, took out the sealing wax he never used, and busied himself with lighting a candle, melting the wax, and all the rest of the rigmarole involved in stamping the letter with the ducal seal in dark crimson.
A grim smile curled the edges of his mouth as he rang the bell.
When a footman arrived, he handed over the letter. “Send that to the Carrington estate in the morning. Inform Miss Carrington that the groom will wait for her reply.”
From Miss Emilia Carrington to William Bucknell, Esq.
Mssrs. Brandy, Bucknell & Bendal, Publishers
September 6, 1800
Dear Mr. Bucknell,
I assure you that I am writing as quickly as I possibly can, given the fact that I am scarcely out of my blacks. And I was jilted
I have been making excellent progress on An Angel’s Form and a Devil’s Heart and indeed, I have nearly fifty one hundred pages written.
I have made some salutary adjustments to the plot, and I believe this will be a most original and fresh novel. My heroine, Flora, is jilted at the altar by the hero, much to her consternation. However, this indignity will not go unrevenged. unavenged.
She also nearly dies of hunger, and barely escapes the evil Lord Plum with her virtue intact, until she is finally reunited with Count Frederic, who saves her from a runaway horse.
I believe my readers will find the plot quite enjoyable.
With all respect,
P.S. Please send me all of Miss Julia Quiplet’s novels by return post. I very much enjoyed reading the book you sent. For many reasons, it has been a vexing few days, but I was much comforted by the novel. In fact, I was unable to sleep last night until I turned the last page of The Lost Duke of Windhower.
Estate of Master Charles Wallace Carrington
Residence of Miss Emilia Carrington
(And, for that matter, Miss Lucibella Delicosa)
Mia had been at her desk since five that morning, agonizing over her impossibly late manuscript, which translated to trying—with little to show for it—to write the first chapter. If she and Charlie had to escape to Bavaria, they would need her writing income.
She had only reached the stage of writing notes about the plot and trying out scraps of dialogue, which she was capable of doing for weeks before actually sitting down to write a novel.
Perhaps Flora could knock down the devilish scoundrel, Count Frederic, with her mother’s prayer book (a nice touch), after which he would bleat pitifully, “But I love you . . .”
Flora would snap back, “I don’t know why you’re crying, Count. I lost closer friends than you when I was deloused!”
Mia had read that insult somewhere.
Alas, there was no point in even considering a heroine who had been inflicted with lice. A Lucibella heroine would never find herself infested by vermin. Her heroines were always being chased into ravines or threatened with ravishment. But they knew nothing of lice, menstruation, or even rotten teeth. Boils. Smallpox. Syphilis.
A Lucibella heroine would faint or possibly even die if she was diagnosed with a disfiguring infection.
What’s more, every gentleman who met a Lucibella heroine instinctively genuflected. It hardly needed to be said that no man would ever whip open his breeches and display his private parts.
That just brought Mia around to thinking about Vander again, though to be honest, she hadn’t stopped thinking of him.
She had a fair understanding of the mechanics of the marital act. But that—that part of a man was much larger and more vital than she had imagined.
Because she had imagined it. Roughly the size of a quill, she had thought. Or a pencil.
She had been badly mistaken, clearly.
Unless it was just Vander who was outsized.
After all, everything about him seemed bigger than other men. His chest was wider, his shoulders were wider. It stood to reason that the other parts of him were congruous.
He probably had a huge big toe. Enormous kneecaps.
Humiliation was warring with . . . with mortification. She swallowed hard. It was one thing to deduce that most men’s dismissive attitudes meant that they found her unattractive. But it was another to have heard it all confirmed. Vander found her fat and short and embarrassing. And tarred her with her father’s brush, obviously.
Mia had been horrified when she first realized Lord Carrington’s adulterous activities . . . but at the heart she was a romantic. Her father had loved the duchess so much that he never re-married. Whenever the duke was released from the asylum and returned to Rutherford Park, her father would worry himself ill.
He would walk around and around his library, muttering to himself. In a week or two, something would happen at the duchy—Mia was never quite certain what—and a note would arrive, summoning Lord Carrington.
The duke would be locked up again; her father would resume his place at the duchess’ side. Mia had learned from her father that love was more important than wedding vows. Love was everything.
Not that any of her characters were adulterous, because Mia had a clear understanding of her readers’ requirements. At the mere mention of adultery, Flora would have fainted. “Orgy” would have made her squeak and run from the room, though Mia couldn’t stop finding new and interesting uses for it—an orgy of crows, for example, or an orgy of sweets.
An orgy of Vander.
The memory of Vander caressing himself made her heart quicken again. Lucibella heroes weren’t lustful. They were principled and sincere in their declarations of love, without a grain of lust. What’s more, they maintained calm even in the face of Mortal Peril.
Vander was not calm. He burned with passion and fury. When he lost his temper, it was as if a lion were raging around the room.
Perhaps the reason she was having trouble with this novel was that her hero felt so ineffectual and insipid by comparison to Vander.
Mia gave herself a mental shake. It was time to stop shilly-shallying and determine the broad outlines of the plot. After writing six novels, she knew that once she had the plot, she could write the book fairly quickly.
She picked up her quill again: Frederic plans to humiliate Flora at the altar, but Flora detects his nefarious plan. Finally understanding where his true emotions lie (but too late), he abases himself at Flora’s feet.
The count waited on his knees, his elegant head bent, his eyes searching the dust for the answer he sought.
But unfortunately for the arrogant, supercilious nobleman, Flora saw through the Trappings of Title, and mere Circumstances of Birth. The count was not a good man.
Mr. Wolfington was a far, far better man, though he wasn’t a peer.
Life in a hovel with him would be preferable to life in a palazzo with the despicable count.
Mia paused. Her readers would be surprised by this sentiment, since Lucibella’s previous novels had concluded with heroines in command of many servants, not to mention diamond necklaces. In fact, she had a strong feeling that many of her readers would not share Flora’s ideas about the pleasures of life in a hovel.
She shrugged. The hero could dig up the floor of his hut and find a bag of gold.
The door opened. “Yes?” Her eyes fell to the silver salver in her butler’s hand. On it lay a letter: rich creamy paper folded and sealed with red wax as if it had been sent by the Emperor Charlemagne.
Her estimation of Vander’s character was diminishing by the hour. Not that she was in a position to cast stones. But he appeared to have grown into someone with an overweening sense of his own consequence.