around him.

“I won’t go,” she said, holding him tightly. “And you won’t send me away.”

“Never.” Ethan turned and caught her to him. “Not ever. You belong to us, Alice, and I desperately want us to belong to you.”

“You do.” Alice laughed a little through her tears. “Oh, Ethan, you do. You and Joshua and Jeremiah and their ponies and Waltzer and Argus and Tydings and all of it. You’re mine, and I will never let you go.”

His chin came to rest on her crown, and they stood there, holding each other, until a solid knock on the door disturbed them.

* * *

She was going to stay. This fact alone allowed Ethan to step back when some fool who did not value his wages knocked on the library door.

“I did not ring for tea.” Ethan kissed Alice’s nose before he let her go. “Come in.”

Joshua barreled in. Jeremiah followed more cautiously.

“You found our prisoner.” Joshua beamed. “Hullo, Miss Alice.”

Jeremiah frowned up at his papa. “You made her cry. She won’t like us if you do that.”

Ethan’s instinct was to sweep both children up in a hug and not let them go until Christmas.

And yet, being a father called for discipline of one’s impulses.

“I do not like little boys who ride off without supervision,” Ethan said in his most imposing-papa tone. “I do not like little boys who turn a game into more than it should be. I do not like little boys who make hogs of themselves at the neighbor’s tea table.”

He stared down at his sons, who looked abruptly shy and uncertain, but then Jeremiah’s jaw set, and he put his hands on his hips.

“I do not like papas who mope around all day,” Jeremiah announced, “and Miss Alice was moping too— Heathgate said, and he wouldn’t lie. I do not like that you were going to get us a different governess, and you didn’t even ask us. I do not like that you were packing up to go to London, and you didn’t even give us your ‘behave while I’m gone’ lecture.”

Ethan’s brows rose, and from the corner of his eye, he saw Alice was just as surprised as he.

And that—the wonderful, unthinking, reflexive gift of being able to measure this moment with a woman who cared as much for his children as he did—warmed his heart beyond words.

“Apologize to Miss Alice for kidnapping her.”

“You apologize to her for making her cry.”

Ethan took Alice’s hand and discarded the notion of going down on one knee before his children, lest there be weeks of imitation. “I am humbly and sincerely sorry for making you cry. For any time I’ve made you cry. Hurting you is the last thing I want to do, ever.”

“Apology accepted,” Alice said softly, leaning in to kiss his cheek.

Ethan quirked a brow at his sons. “Jeremiah?”

“I’m sorry we kidnapped you,” Jeremiah said, his gaze on Alice’s face in exact imitation of his father. “But you were going away, and Papa was going away, and Heathgate said we should do something, so we did. And Davey went to visit his brother, so we were supervised, and Lady Heathgate offered the chocolates, and we said please and thank you.”

“We’ll have a word with the marquis,” Ethan said. “And his lady.”

“Apology accepted.” Alice spoke over him, suppressing a smile.

“I’m sorry too,” Joshua said.

“So you’ll stay?” Jeremiah asked, bravado gone. “Even if Papa made you cry?”

“Sometimes a lady cries not because her heart is broken, but because it’s mending.” The look she sent Ethan would have illuminated the dimmest corners of the coldest heart—and his was by no means cold. “I will stay, and I will marry your papa, if I have permission from my favorite gentlemen.”

Jeremiah sent his father a very stern look. “You won’t make her cry?”

“Never on purpose.”

“You’ll read us stories?” Joshua asked Alice, his tone wistful. “Papa tries, but he just can’t get the wolf quite right.”

“I will read you stories.”

The boys exchanged brother-looks, and Jeremiah spoke for the pair of them. “That’s all right, then. You marry Papa, but Joshua and I aren’t wearing any stupid Sunday clothes and carrying around flowers and nonsense like that.”

“I believe we have an agreement.” Ethan’s eyes lit with humor as he gazed at his prospective wife. “And we also have at least one little kidnapper who’s overdue for his nap.”

“C’mon, Joshua.” Jeremiah pulled his brother by the arm. “They’re going to kiss and carry on. Aunt Leah explained it to me when we visited Belle Maison.”

Joshua let himself be pulled from the room, and Ethan and his bride did, indeed, kiss and carry on, every day and night for the rest of their lives.


Thanks go, as always, to my editor, Deb Werksman, for being willing to publish this tale of a less traditional hero and heroine, and for juggling more plates than is humanly possible to see it done as part of a suite. To Skye, Cat, Susie, and Danielle, the same thanks apply. There ought to be a shortage of plates somewhere at the rate these ladies can keep them aloft.

Thanks go as well to Emily, Abby, Max, Leah, and the other ladies at Wax Creative, Inc. They are the talent behind my beautiful (if I do say so myself) website, and their know-how and guidance have also kept my nose above water in the social media sphere. As each book has hit the shelves, the Wax Creative team has been just out of the readers’ view, yelling encouragement, good ideas, and commonsense advice to me far above and beyond the call of duty.

With people like this to work with, being an author is the best, most enjoyable job in the world.

About the Author

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Grace Burrowes hit the bestseller lists with both her debut, The Heir, and her second book in The Duke’s Obsession trilogy, The Soldier. Both books received extensive praise and starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist. The Heir was also named a Publishers Weekly Best Book of The Year, and The Soldier was named a Publishers Weekly Best Spring Romance. Her first story in the Windham sisters’ series—Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish—received the RT Reviewer’s Choice award for historical romance, was nominated for a RITA in the Regency category, and was a New York Times bestseller. She is hard at work on more stories for the Windham sisters, and has started a trilogy of Scottish Victorian romances, the first of which, The Bridegroom Wore Plaid, was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2012.

Grace lives in rural Maryland and is a practicing attorney. She loves to hear from her readers and can be reached through her website at

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