ALONG CAME A ROGUE
This scene was one of the many which were scrapped when the second half of ALONG CAME A ROGUE was rewritten. What I love best about this scene is Emily’s determination to talk to Grey and Edward’s presence. In this scene, he reminds me again of why Kate fell in love with him in DUKES ARE FOREVER. Enjoy!
Emily leaned against the stone balustrade of the side portico and breathed deep the cool night air, closing her eyes and doing her best to shut out the noise and heat from inside the house. The dinner party was only half over, and already she felt suffocated and ready to scream.
Her mother invited sixteen people to join them for dinner, most of whom she had not seen in over two years and could barely remember, yet the ladies—and they were all ladies, by right—stared at her blatantly through the dinner courses and gossiped with each other about her behind the centerpieces, while she sat there silently between Lord Mumford, who was old enough to be her grandfather and said little except to comment that the fish course was too oily, and Thomas, who once again spent the evening ignoring her in his continued punishment for Grey’s betrayal with her.
Except for the Duke and Duchess of Strathmore, her parents knew their dinner guests almost as little as she did, and it was clear why they had been invited from the way her mother fawned and groveled over them, just as the stares and whispers aimed at her made it perfectly clear why the guests had accepted.
When the women went through to the drawing room to wait for the men to finish their port and cigars, Emily slipped out under the pretense of using the retiring room, and then kept on going, right through the house and out through the doors of the music room to the garden beyond. She supposed she might have just kept right on going if not for the stone balustrade that stopped her, and even then, she eyed the dark garden beyond temptingly and might very well have gone on if she could have figured out a way to get her round belly over the railing without tearing her dress.
Most likely, the evening would stretch on for another two hours while the ladies waited for the men to join them and then while they all played parlor games in the drawing room, drank their coffee, and pretended they were interested in each other’s conversations. She didn’t know how she’d be able to bear it.
Kate Westover’s plan to send Edward to speak to Grey on her behalf had not worked; Emily knew from the moment the duke and duchess arrived and she saw Kate’s fallen face. She hadn’t been prepared for the utter desolation that pierced her, hadn’t realized how much she’d let herself hope.
But Grey did not want to see her. Apparently, he had moved on, just as he warned her he would when he—she swallowed hard, remembering his words with painful clarity—when he grew bored of being inside her.
“Still your perfect woman after all,” she whispered so softly that no sound came, her voice nothing more than a puff of steam on the cold night air, “because I cannot complain publicly now that you ignore me.”
A movement in the corner of her eye—nothing more than a shadow within a shadow at the edge of the garden, formless blackness in the darkness, but she saw it. And she knew…
He was there in the shadows watching her, she could feel him. A heat swelled up inside her, deep and strong…and loved. He was watching over her, her dashing captain, guarding her and the baby, protecting them just as he said he would.
“I love you, Grey,” she breathed, even though she knew he couldn’t hear her, that he wouldn’t step out of the shadows and reveal himself to her even if she shouted at him. He’d made his decision to keep himself from her, and he wouldn’t change his mind. “You stubborn man.”
The doors behind her opened, and a wedge of light fell onto the portico. Emily drew her shoulders up straight, steeling herself against the rest of the evening to come. Now, though, she knew she’d have the strength to get through it.
“Emily,” her mother scolded. “What on earth are you doing out here? Everyone is asking for you.”
“A moment longer,” she mumbled, her eyes still straining to see into the darkness for any glimpse of him.
“Come inside. This cold air will make the baby ill.”
She raised her chin, knowing what she had to do.
Ignoring her mother, she turned on her heels and walked purposefully back into the house, down the hallway, and past the ladies gathered in the drawing room to the dining room. The doors were drawn to demark the men’s domain, but even from without, she could smell the tangy scent of cigars mingling with the sweet smell of port within.
Taking a deep breath of resolve, she flung open the doors.
The ten men gathered in the room fell silent immediately and turned to stare at her, aghast that a woman would dare invade their privacy. Thomas looked at her curiously as he raised his glass of port to his lips, and the tips of her father’s ears turned bright red—the only thing preventing him from shouting at her was that he was surrounded by men he desperately wanted to impress, men who were only in his house because their wives wanted to see for themselves that Emily Matteson Crenshaw was pregnant.
“Good evening, my lords,” she smiled over-brightly.
One by one, the surprised men rose to their feet and bowed their heads politely, if stiffly, except for Thomas, whose eyes narrowed thoughtfully as he watched her.
She dipped a shallow curtsey. “My apologies for interrupting.”
“Emily,” her father said tightly, “I believe the ladies are in the drawing room.”
“Yes, they are.” Her eyes lingered on her father for a moment, as if daring him to confront her in front of the others, then slid sideways to settle on Edward. “Your Grace, might I have a word with you?”
His expression never registering any surprise at the request, Edward set down his glass of port. “Of course, Lady Emily.”
She waited for him to approach her, feeling the collective weight of all their stares as he crossed the room, but she wouldn’t back down. Not now. She couldn’t.
With a polite smile, Edward held out his arm to escort her into the hallway, and she gratefully rested her hand on his superfine sleeve, hoping he didn’t notice its trembling.
“That was bravely done,” he murmured as he led her a short ways down the hallway, just far enough that no one in the dining or drawing rooms could overhear yet close enough to the party to maintain propriety. “But you couldn’t wait until after we’d gone through?”
“No,” she withdrew her hand from his arm and stepped back. “You and I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to speak privately then.”
“I see.” And she was certain he did. He and the Duchess were invited tonight to remind the other guests that her family possessed high-ranking friends, and since Kate and Edward had nothing new to offer toward improved social influence, her mother would not let her spend one moment with His or Her Grace tonight, flaunting her in front of the others instead.
“Grey—I have to see him.” Her words rushed quietly, not knowing how much time she would have with Edward before her mother found her again, “Can you arrange a meeting?”
“Emily,” his dark eyes softened sympathetically, “your brother doesn’t want that. Perhaps it would best if you left him—”
“Please!” She reached for his arm again, pleading with every ounce of determination inside her, “I need to talk to him.”
“Emily!” Her mother’s shrill voice cut down the hallway, interrupting them. “You are wanted in the drawing room. Whatever are you—”
Edward pinned with the woman with a cold, harsh look, and she stopped in her tracks as she descended upon them, her mouth snapping shut.
“Your Grace,” her mother gave an awkward smile and curtsey, still approaching but now much more cautiously beneath his dark frown. As if he were a dog who might bite.
Goodness. Emily saw the darkness on his face, and she shivered. Now she understood how this man could stare down the enemy in battle.
Then, she saw his broad shoulders rise and fall as he took a deep breath, and she knew that he had just silently consented to help her. If for no other reason than to spite her parents.
“Duchess,” he forced a cool smile and inclined his head politely, “so nice of you to join us.”
Emily choked at his smooth lie, then coughed to cover herself at her mother’s frown.
“Lady Emily was just informing me that she and the duchess have made plans to go shopping together on Bond Street tomorrow.” Edward arched a pointed brow at Emily in silent communication. “She’s coming for you at one o’clock, I believe.”
“Yes,” Emily whispered, feeling her eyes water with gratitude, “one o’clock.”
Despite his harsh façade and the way he kept everyone at a distance, she now knew why Kate loved him, why Grey and Thomas were unquestioningly loyal to him. At that moment, she would have walked over hot coals herself for this man.
He gave a curt nod, then sketched a shallow bow to both ladies. “I should rejoin the men, then. Ladies, if you’ll excuse me.”
Emily watched him for a moment as he walked away before her mother gabbed her arm and pulled her back toward the drawing room and the gossips waiting inside. But she no longer cared. Her mind swirled with hopeful thoughts of Grey.