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Damien Chevalier, Viscount Edrych heard the loud thumping on the front door. He eased his swarthy musculature up off the white sheets, raking his hand through his unruly hair before he growled at the incessant pounding, “Come in!”

The cottage door opened and flew back with a slam. An out-of-breath servant leaned against the door facing, wheezing out, “She is here. Your bride is at the Hall.”

“Very well. Thank you, Tom. Walk back up the hill. No use giving yourself a bloody heart attack.”

Tom eyed the rumpled black mane, framing a face that was both aristocratic and foreign. The bloody Lord was stark necked. His hair could use a trim. It lay clear to his shoulders. He reeked of too much whiskey, and rum. Given that the man had been a bastard, a black sheep until just last week, when the Old Viscount stuck his spoon in the wall and the will made him, at last, the legitimate heir, he supposed the master had done well to take his whore here in an empty cottage instead of the master chamber, the night before his wedding.

“Filbert has your bath heating and your clothing laid out. The Duke and Duchess Burkham arrived with the Vicar more than an hour ago. Mrs. Handily can see the woman settled, but you’d best get yourself up there and rid of a certain—stink—before that Lady Katherine sees you. Like as not, she’ll change her mind and hie it back to Nottingham.”

The Viscount stood, stretching all six feet and three inches, until his fingers touched the beams overhead, causing Tom to cast his eyes to the floor as not to gawk at that honed flesh.

A loud yawn came, before the whisper of clothing and thud of boots the man pulled on.

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