Third Husband’s the Charm Scene Outtake


Granston was on his feet, but he didn’t step toward her. He hardly needed to, as the small space allowed less than five feet to exist between them. He was impossibly tall and sturdy, standing so close. He was handsome. How could she have forgotten just how handsome? And he was smiling. Almost as if he were enjoying this. He was one of only two people in all of England who knew she was lying, and the other one—her own father—would never betray her secret. Was he enjoying the hellfire he was about to reign down on her head.

She felt his firm grip on her elbow, and realized there were spots in front of her eyes.

“Finola…er, my lady, please, you must sit.” Granston helped her into one of the uncomfortable chairs.

Instead of moving away from her again, he knelt beside her. “This is no doubt a shock for you. I must apologize that this is the way we’ve met again. And for what I’ve done to you. I can hardly expect you to…”

Finola couldn’t decipher what game he was playing, but she couldn’t risk waiting for him to make his final move. Better to come out with the true story and beg for his mercy and help.

“I’m sorry to do this to you, Captain Granston, and so publicly, but I fear I had no choice.” She gripped her hands tightly in her lap to stop them from shaking.

Granston took the seat across from her. “You owe me no apology. I’m the one who’s caused this mess.”

Finola took a deep breath and continued her confession, hoping to win him to her side quickly. “You’ll remember when we met, I told you I was recently widowed. After you left, I stayed in Argentina for nearly another year to settle my affairs, but my business partners—mine and my late husband’s—saw an opportunity to cheat me out of my share of our claim, and raised suspicions about me possibly playing a part in my husband’s death. It was an accident, I swear to you, but it was the word of a woman against two powerful men, and I was in grave danger.”

“Oh, Finola, I’m so sorry.” He reached forward as if to take her hand, then pulled away again.

She hoped it meant he believed her, as she had nothing to offer him but the truth.

“It took months and the help of a viscount who was visiting Buenos Aires to clear my name and get me out of the country.”

Granston started to speak, but she shook her head. This was the important part of the story and she needed to finish it quickly.

“It was last March when we finally set sail. Our deal had been that I’d marry him and he’d put my property into a trust for me.” She blinked back tears. “But he was older and in poor health. He took ill while we were at sea, and by the time we reached England, I was a widow again.”

Granston reached for her again and this time did take her hand. His hand was large and warm and calloused, and she longed to grip it tightly. But she still didn’t know why he hadn’t rebuked her, and she couldn’t trust he’d help her until she’d told him everything, if even then.

“Because of his untimely death, though, he’d never established the trust, and now his sons have laid claim to my fortune.” She bit the inside of her lip to stop herself from spitting out oaths.

The viscount’s sons seemed to have no talent other than spending money, and a lot of it. They’d already spent a small fortune out of her large one. Bernard and she had risked life and limb to find silver ore and stake their claim to its source mine. She’d nearly died again when their business partners had falsely accused her of murder, and she’d been stuck in the country for months while, back in England, her father’s health had deteriorated and she’d feared she’d never see him again. After all she’d been through, she’d be damned by the devil himself before she’d let those spoiled, lazy young men steal everything from her.

Granston squeezed her hand. “I understand. This must all have been so terrible for you, and it’s all my fault.”

“So you see, if I prove I had another husband before I married the viscount for his help to get out of Argentina, my second husband can claim my property, put it in a trust, then obtain a nice, quiet divorce. But…Just a moment. What did you mean? What is your fault?”

Granston widened his eyes and looked at her as though he feared she’d gone quite round the bend. “All of it, of course. If I hadn’t left Buenos Aires without you, you’d have been safe. Or if I’d stayed to help you settle your late husband’s affairs. If I’d done anything other than leave you.”

She blinked, trying to read his face. She couldn’t imagine why he was keeping up this charade, but she was sure it would end quite badly for her, as her father had been warning her for months it would.

“Finola…I mean, Mrs. Simmons.” He shook his head. “I’m sorry, it’s all so new to me. Countess, perhaps I can never make up for what I’ve done to you, but I beg of you, let me try. We’ll talk to the solicitors about how to set this affair with the viscount’s sons to rights.”

“Thank you, Captain Granston. This means more to me than you can ever know. But there’s no need to call me countess.”

“Just for now, until you’re comfortable enough with me to let me call you by your given name. You’ll move to my rooms immediately, of course. I have a family home here in town, but my mother and sisters are there, and I’d rather not disrupt them. We’ll find a suitable home of our own as quickly as possible. Until then, I’ll do everything I can to make you comfortable.”

She shook her head. “Captain, I appreciate you embracing this role so completely, but truly, it will be quite enough if you set up the trust. I can stay with Lord and Lady Delmar until our business is concluded, and then I’ll move to my father’s house in the countryside.”

He shook his head. “I understand your anger and your desire to have as little contact with me as possible, but I’m afraid I’m going to be obstinate about this. I can’t force you to forgive me, but I plan to stay close to you and do everything I can to get back in your good graces.”

She breathed a sigh of relief. This, she understood. She would stay with him, they’d play at being man and wife, and at some point, he would expect her to share his bed. It wouldn’t be a hardship. She was far from virginal, having had two husbands. There were fewer rules for widows than for other women, as long as they were discreet, and she’d considered taking a lover at some point in her life. She and Granston had been attracted to each other the moment they’d met, and he’d been kind and made her laugh. Nothing she’d learned about him this past year as she’d formulated her plan had contradicted her initial impression of him. And more than once, when she spotted him across a crowded ballroom, she’d fantasized about dancing with him again, standing in the circle of his strong arms, kissing him in the moonlight.

He slid to his knee in front of her, looking frighteningly like a man about to propose. “Please, let me try to make it up to you. Just for a few weeks, until we can get your affairs in order. If, after that, you still want a divorce, I’ll grant it to you.”

She stuck her hand to him. “Do we have a deal, then?”

He watched her with a quizzical look on his face. “If that’s how you’d like to phrase it.” He shook her hand.

Granston rose to his full height and held out his hand to her. “Shall I show you your new home, Countess?”

She allowed him to help her to her feet, then nodded. “Of course, my lord.”

Her plan for recovering her fortune was underway, with the help of a handsome, charming man with his own wealth and title, who wanted nothing more from her than to be her lover.

He stopped when they reached the office door and turned toward her. Her heart sank as she worried he’d changed his mind.

“There’s one more thing you should know,” he said, “one more thing you’ll need to forgive. I’m afraid I don’t remember our wedding, not a minute of it.”

She grinned. He was clever, her partner in crime. To convince the viscount’s son and the courts they were truly married, they’d need a believable story. He didn’t smile back, just stared at her with hope and something else—possibly regret—showing in his eyes.

“We can discuss it later.” Finola looked away from him and pulled open the door, hoping they’d never discuss it again.

She’d seen plenty of frauds in her day, having been married to a master fraudster for seven years. And to her very experienced eye, he wasn’t bluffing. If that was true, she’d truly done something dastardly. If he wasn’t playing a game with her, Captain Granston, for some unfathomable reason, believed they were really married.