I was fairly certain that if I could arrange for the both of you to meet, you would fall in love (I am rarely wrong about these sorts of things), but just to plant ideas in Elizabeth's head, I located my old copy of HOW TO MARRY A MARQUIS. A sillier book was never written, but I did not know how else to start her pondering marriage. (In case you are wondering, Lizzie, I forgive you for stealing the book from my library. You were meant to do so, of course, and you may keep it as a memento of your courtship.)

That is my entire confession. I shan't ask your forgiveness since, of course, I have nothing which begs it. I suppose some might take offense with my methods, and normally I would not dream of orchestrating such a compromising situation, but it was clear that the two of you were far too stubborn to see the truth any other way. Love is a precious gift, and you would do well not to toss it away over a bit of foolish pride.

I do hope you enjoy the hunting lodge; you will find that I have anticipated your every need. Please do feel free to spend the night; contrary to popular belief, I do not control the weather, but I am putting in a request with the gentleman upstairs for a violent rainstorm—the sort in which one would never venture outside.

You may thank me at your wedding. I have already procured a special license in your names.


Agatha, Lady Danbury

Elizabeth's mouth fell open. "I can't believe it," she breathed. "She engineered everything." James rolled his eyes. "I can believe it." "I can't believe she left that bloody little book out,

knowing that I would take it."

He nodded. "I can believe that, as well."

She turned to him, her lips still parted in amazement. "And she even has a special license."

"That," he admitted, "I can't believe. But only because I obtained one as well, and I'm a bit surprised that the archbishop would issue a duplicate."

Lady Danbury's letter slipped from Elizabeth's hand and fluttered down to the bed sheets. "You did?" she whispered.

James took one of her hands and raised it to his lips. "When I was in London, searching for Agatha's bogus blackmailer."

"You want to marry me," she breathed. Her words were a statement, not a question, but she sounded as if she could not quite believe it.

James shot her an amused smile. "I've only asked you a dozen times in the past few days."

Elizabeth jerked her head, as if waking up from a dazed dream. "If you ask me again," she said mischievously, "I might give you a different answer."

"Is that so?"

She nodded. "Most definitely so."

He ran one finger down the side of her neck, his blood running hot when he saw the way his touch made her shiver. "And what changed your mind?" he murmured.

"One might think"—she gasped as his finger moved lower—"that it had something to do with being compromised, but if you really want the truth ..."

He leaned over her, smiling wolfishly. "Oh, I definitely want the truth."

Elizabeth allowed him to close the distance between them to a mere inch before she said, "It's the book."

He froze. "The book?"

"HOW TO MARRY A MARQUIS." She cocked one of her brows. "I'm thinking of writing a revised edition."

He went white. "You're joking."

She smiled and wiggled beneath him. "Am I?"

"Please say you're joking."

She slipped down farther in the bed.

"I'll make you say you're joking," James growled.

Elizabeth reached up and wrapped her arms around him, not even noticing the loud clap of thunder that shook the walls. "Please do."

And he did.


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