Warning: This Post Contains Spoilers!
I thought I’d do something different for a change and post memorable scenes from my past books. Today’s post is from If It Takes A Scandal. Out of all the books I’ve written so far, this one is my favorite ending. If you read the book, you know a certain group of meddling gentlemen had this trick coming to them. 😛
Here’s the scene that (in my opinion) is “The Best Ending”…
On Wednesday, the sky was cloudy. In fact, it had been threatening to rain all through the day. It even started to sprinkle by the time Anthony, Lord Erandon, and the Duke of Lambeth pulled the carriage up to Corin’s estate. The sun had not set yet. There was still sufficient light for Corin to see them as they came onto his property.
A flash of lightning shot across the sky, which was a nice bonus. He could not have planned the weather better if he had been in control of it himself. It looked like everything was going to go exactly according to plan.
He gestured for Candace to hide behind the drapes in the den, and his mother and Reuben went to the drawing room. He closed the doors to the drawing room so that their visitors would not see them when they came into the manor. His footman, being in on the ruse, would lead the three gentlemen directly to the den.
In fact, all of the staff was in on the plan, and each had their part. The maid, for instance, had ruined one of Corin’s older outfits so that it looked tattered and worn, as if he had been wearing it every day for the past three months. And he had spread some dirt on his face and his hands, and then, for added effect, he sprinkled brandy on his shirt so that the smell of alcohol would be strong on him. He also ran his fingers through his hair and had decided not to shave for the past week. When he looked at his reflection in the mirror, he didn’t even recognize himself. It was perfect. He looked like a madman.
He hurried to the den and sat in the chair behind his desk, slouching down in it. He glanced over at the drapes just to make sure no one would notice Candace. Only someone who knew she was hiding behind them would know she was even there.
A clap of thunder rumbled through the sky, and he noticed a slight jerk from behind the drapes. Perhaps the drapes were not the best location for her to be hiding.
Since the gentlemen were not in the room yet, he whispered, “Maybe you should hide under the desk.”
After a moment, Candace hurried from the window and slipped under the desk. “Usually, a storm doesn’t bother me.”
“That’s because you’re not right in front of the window when the storm comes. Just stay under the desk and everything will be fine.”
Thinking it might add to the spooky atmosphere, he jumped out of the chair, blew out the candles, and parted the drapes. It was twilight. There was still some light left in the sky, so even with the storm brewing, the three gentlemen would be able to see him.
He made it back to the chair just in time to hear the footmen warning them, “I’m afraid Lord Durrant isn’t the same as he was when you left.”
“What do you mean by that?” Corin heard Anthony ask.
The door opened, and the footman said, “I don’t know how I can prepare you for what you’re about to see.” He opened the door further and gestured to Corin, who was slouched over in the chair. “Perhaps today he will speak.”
Corin couldn’t look at Candace. He had to lower his gaze to the floor. All it would take was one look, and he would burst out laughing.
“My lord,” the footman said, turning to face him, “You have three visitors. Lord Worsley, Lord Erandon, and the Duke of Lambeth.”
Corin kept his head bowed, opting not to answer.
After a moment, the footman turned to the three gentlemen. “He hasn’t said much since the incident. If I can be of any assistance, pull that cord on the wall.”
The footman gestured to the cord that would summon him. Then, he bowed and left the room, closing the door behind him, which also happened to trap the three gentlemen in the room.
Lightning flickered across the sky, and the room lit up in response. Seconds later, thunder rumbled. Pelts of rain started to hit the window in earnest.
“It looks like we arrived just in time,” Lord Erandon spoke up. “You’ll be happy to know that you’re free to return to London. We plan to head out first thing in the morning after we eat.”
Corin didn’t answer.
“Oh, for heaven sakes. You can’t still be sulking because we left you here for three months,” Lord Erandon said.
Sulking? Was that what they thought? Here he was hoping for the spooky effect, and they were accusing him of sulking. Finally, Corin lifted his head. He settled back into his chair and made eye contact with them. Lord Erandon and the Duke of Lambeth just stared back at him, their expressions not giving him any hint as to what they were thinking. Anthony, however, was a different matter.
“Corin, are you feeling all right?” Anthony asked in concern.
“I feel fine,” Corin replied, his voice devoid of emotion.
Anthony turned to the others. “Does he look fine to you?”
The Duke of Lambeth scanned Corin up and down. “He’s never looked fine to me, but then, I don’t know him that well. Is this normal for him?”
Anthony shook his head in bewilderment. “How can you think this is normal? His clothes, his hair, the dirt on his face… That is not normal for anyone.”
“Yes,” the Duke began, “he doesn’t look normal if you’re talking about a gentleman who isn’t sulking. But if he is still upset about what we did three months ago, then this is probably normal for him.”
“This is absurd,” Lord Erandon said. “We’re talking about him as if he’s not even in the room.” His attention went back to Corin. “I take it my wife’s plan wasn’t a success.”
“Of course, it wasn’t a success,” Anthony told him. “I don’t know why you thought it would be. Corin didn’t want to be with Candace any more than she wanted to be with him. I told you this was a bad idea. When we dragged her to this estate, I argued that this wouldn’t work. But nobody listened to me. Absolutely no one. Not even my own wife!” Anthony threw his hands up in the air in frustration.
“Don’t be so dramatic,” Lord Erandon replied. “I’ve had lads on my ship who haven’t complained as much as you do.”
Anthony huffed. “That’s not fair. You can’t compare me to your crewmen.”
“I can, and I will. It’s no wonder your sister had to get after you to get things done. Even though you can see something is good for someone, you hesitate to do it. And bringing Corin and Candace together was a good thing.”
Corin had not expected a fight to erupt between them. He glanced under the desk and saw a surprised Candace give him a shrug. He didn’t know what to think of it, either. But there was really no need for the argument, so he supposed he should step in before things got out of hand. Anthony wasn’t one to throw a punch, but who knew what Lord Erandon might do? Lord Erandon, after all, had been the captain of a ship.
“Why did it take you so long to get here?” Corin asked.
“Pardon?” Lord Erandon asked, turning from Anthony.
“You told me you would return in three months,” Corin replied. “But it’s been two years. Two very long years.”
The three looked at him as if they were trying to figure out what he was saying.
Corin stood up from his chair and made his way over to them, making sure he limped as he did so. “Two years I have been here. Believing you to be gentlemen of your word, I waited and waited and waited, but you never came.”
The flicker of lightning lit up the room, and Anthony jumped.
The Duke of Lambeth shook his head at Anthony. “He’s playing us for fools. He’s upset, and this is his way of getting even with us. A very childish thing to do, if you ask me.”
Anthony didn’t seem convinced. “It is possible that he could’ve lost his wits being stranded out here with someone he didn’t want to be with.”
Thunder crashed, and Corin decided this would be a good moment to say, “Ah, I know who you speak of. It was that lady I was forced to marry. Well, there’s no need to worry about her. I took care of her a long time ago.”
At this announcement, the duke and Lord Erandon studied him. “What do you mean by that?” the duke asked.
“It was a long time,” Corin said. “A very, very, very long time. I didn’t think two years could drag on like that, but every day I marked a notch on my wall in the bedchamber. Each day, each mark, totals seven hundred and thirty days. That is exactly two years after you brought me here.”
“No,” Lord Erandon told him. “It’s been exactly ninety-two days. That’s exactly three months.”
Corin turned his gaze to him. “Then why do I have so many markings on my bedchamber wall?”
“Because you’re not normal?” the duke suggested.
“He’s right,” Anthony told Lord Erandon. “Corin isn’t normal. He isn’t normal because we brought Candace out here to be with him for three months.”
Corin snapped his fingers. “That’s right. Her. I remember. I remember what I did with her now.” He let out a deep laugh and ran his fingers through his hair. “I made sure she would never bother me again.” Then, hoping to make things even spookier, he snickered. “She hasn’t been a problem in years.”
After a moment, the duke glanced at Anthony and Lord Erandon. “Come to think of it, we didn’t see her on the way into this den.”
Anthony’s eyes widened and he looked at Corin. “Where is she? Where is Candace?”
“Gone,” Corin said.
“What do you mean by gone?” the duke pressed. “Do you mean that she already left for London?”
Corin laughed. “She’s just… Gone. Not a problem. Away.”
“Where is away?”
“Far away from here.” Then he lowered his voice and whispered, “I made sure she was never going to bother me again, and she won’t bother anyone else, either. Where I took her, it’s dark, cold, and,” he paused for emphasis, “eternal.”
This time when the lightning flashed, all three gentlemen jerked.
Lord Erandon chuckled and put his hand on his stomach. “This is nonsense. All we have to do is ask the footman to get her. We can’t take his word for it. He thinks he came here two years ago.”
“But what if he actually killed her?” Anthony asked.
Lord Erandon shook his head. “No, he couldn’t. He wouldn’t. He didn’t.”
“I hate to say this,” the duke began, “but I have heard of a few rare situations where gentlemen lost their wits and did unthinkable acts of violence.”
Anthony glared at Lord Erandon and the Duke of Lambeth. “This is all your fault. You two are to blame for this. There is innocent blood on your hands.”
“Do you two hear yourselves?” Lord Erandon asked. “He wouldn’t do that. He’s a sensible gentleman.”
“A sensible gentleman who was pushed to his limits,” Anthony replied.
“We have to be sure,” the duke told Lord Erandon before he marched over to the cord that would summon the footman. “We’ll ask to see her for ourselves. Then we’ll know if she’s alive or not. After that, we’ll take it from there.”
“We can’t put him in prison,” Anthony argued. “He’s my friend. I know him, and he’s not a murderer.”
Once the duke pulled the cord, Corin said, “Please do get the footman. I gave him special instructions for you three.”
The duke turned to face him. “What is that supposed to mean?”
Corin clasped his hands behind his back and grinned. “It means that I have found an excellent, and permanent, way of handling anyone who gives me any problems.”
Anthony’s face went white. “He’s going to kill us, too!”
“Come to think of it,” the duke told Lord Erandon, “I didn’t see his mother or his brother when we came in. And the entire place is quiet.”
“It’s eerily quiet,” Anthony added, looking as if he might faint.
There was a knock at the door. The three jumped.
“Oh good,” Corin said, smiling at the three of them as if he was a cat toying with a mouse. “Now I can finish what I started.”
Anthony made a move to get to the door first, but Corin hurried to block him.
Corin shook his head at Anthony. “Don’t fight it. If you fight it, it’ll be more painful.”
Anthony let out a startled cry, and Corin opened the door. The footman and butler stood in the doorway, both dressed for the rain. The butler held a knife, and the footman held a shovel.
“We’re ready, my lord,” the footman said.
Another flash of lightning, followed by a loud rumble of thunder, was the perfect touch. Corin really could not have timed them better.
Anthony screamed, and the duke hurried to grab the poker from the fireplace, but Lord Erandon straightened his shoulders back, as if he was ready to go out with a fight.
Deciding he had done enough, Corin called out, “Your plan worked, gentlemen. You did not make the trip in vain. Candace, you can come out now.”
Candace popped up from behind the desk, and the three gentlemen jerked again, this time looking as if they had just seen a ghost.
“There’s no need to be frightened,” Corin assured them. “My wife is alive and well. We were just playing a trick on you.”
“A trick?” Anthony squeaked.
Corin waited until Candace was at his side before he continued, “Yes, a trick. We figured since you scared the two of us into coming out here, the least we could do was return the favor.”
Candace nodded. “It was very sneaky of you to make Corin think his brother was on his deathbed, and I didn’t appreciate being abducted.”
“But,” Corin added, “we understand you did it for the cause of love. And because of that, we forgive you. Though, do not expect us to name our child after you. We don’t forgive you that much.”
The duke put the poker back by the fireplace. “So, the lady is with child?”
Corin smiled and squeezed her waist. “Yes, we just found out last week.”
Lord Erandon relaxed and straightened his frockcoat. “Well played, Durrant. I didn’t think you had it in you. You would make a fine addition to any captain’s ship.”
The duke chuckled. “And you’re a fine actor, too.”
Corin looked over at Anthony, who was still unusually pale. “Are we still friends?”
“So, all of this… You’re really not upset anymore?” Anthony asked.
“How could I be upset?” Corin replied. “I am happily married to a wonderful lady, and I might have an heir soon. I don’t think a gentleman could do any better.”
The color finally returned to Anthony’s face. “Thank God.”
Corin went over to his friend and gave him a friendly pat on the back. “Everything is fine. I’m not upset with you, and to prove it, I’m going to introduce you to Lord Whitney after we return to London. You’ll like him. He’s good with money.”
“Is it safe to come in now?” a lady from the doorway asked.
Everyone turned, and Corin’s mother and Reuben were peering into the room. The footman and the butler had long since left.
Corin waved them in. “Yes, it’s safe. I’ve already explained everything to them.”
“Good,” his mother said. “You three came later than we expected, but Cook has kept the food warm. After dinner, Reuben can play a song for you.”
“Yes,” Corin added. “Reuben plays it very well, too. He just entertained me with it this morning. It’s the song we both enjoy, Anthony. I think you’ll like listening to it.”
“I can handle listening to music, but I don’t think I can eat anything after the scare you just gave us,” Anthony replied.
Lord Erandon waved Anthony’s comment aside. “He might not be able to eat anything, but I’m famished.”
“I am, too,” the duke added as he laughed. “That was probably the most fun I’ve had in a long time.”
Lord Erandon joined him in laughing. “I can say the same. Just wait until I tell Celia about that. She won’t believe Corin had it in him to come up with something this creative.”
Candace kissed Corin’s cheek. “You did do a marvelous job,” she whispered in his ear. “You did much better than I would have. You had them all shaking in their boots.”
Feeling good about being able to pull off such an elaborate ruse, Corin slipped his arm around her waist and led her out of the den so they could finally eat dinner, and the others followed behind.