Deleted Scene from The Heir

In the scene below, Anna and Val exchange some words that shed light on Valentine’s backstory. Following this deleted scene, the printed story picks up with Anna and Westhaven outside the music room listening to Valentine’s musical lament for his deceased brother.

Deleted from Chapter Four

Passing through the kitchens, Anna found them deserted. It was the coolest part of the house, being partly below ground level, but devoid of activity in the late afternoon. When dinner was served, it was after dark, and often just a cold collation, in deference to the heat.

Putting some sliced chicken, cheese, cold strawberries, and several pieces of marzipan on a tray, Anna added two large glasses of lemonade mixed with cold tea — Lord Val’s preferred drink — and made her way to the music room.

She no longer tapped, but instead knew to wait until Lord Valentine was between pieces. Hearing him come to a final cadence, Anna let herself into the room.

“Ah.” His lordship rose off the bench. “Your timing is superb. I was going to expire for want of something to drink. Are both of these drinks for me?”

Anna smiled and passed him the first. “They are.” His lordship played exuberantly, his linen shirt showing evidence of his exertions. “Will you be joining the earl for dinner tonight?”

“As a matter of fact I will. Jennings is springing me at Fairly’s tonight, so I am free. One hopes it will storm this evening, as deuced hot as it’s been.”

“When you are at that keyboard, I don’t think you know what season it is, my lord, much less what the weather is up to.”

“And that,”— he smiled again, a different, thoughtful smile with some wistfulness in it— “is why, Mrs. Seaton, I will never give up my music. When the duke ridiculed me, and despaired of my marks at school, and held me up to the teasing of my siblings, I always had one safe place to go, one pair of loving arms that would never betray me.”

Interesting, as Lord Valentine was every bit as a bright as his brother. “But my lord, you are not a little boy anymore, not the youngest son, needing shelter from the buffeting of a large, rough and tumble, family.”

Valentine nodded and traded an empty glass for a full one. “I know. In hindsight, I can see as the youngest, I wasn’t going to be able to keep up, to measure up, but as a child, that is no comfort.”

“You seem to get along with your brother now,” Anna offered, something she herself could not honestly claim.

“I was particularly close to Victor, who got more than his share of the family charm,” Valentine said, sitting on the piano bench, but facing out to watch Anna as she tidied the room. “But when Vic was in such difficulties, it was to Westhaven he turned for assistance.”

“Your feelings were hurt,” Anna said, turning to look at him.

“They were.” His lordship studied his drink, “but then I realized had I the sort of troubles Vic had, I would have turned to Westhaven as well. I have the artistic talent, Vic had the charm, Bart got the panache, and Dev has the sheer guts. Westhaven, however, got the plain good sense and ability to do what needs to be done without a fuss.”

“He also seems well suited to dealing with His Grace.”

“No, he is not,” his lordship corrected her, spinning, and laying his fingers on the keyboard without depressing any notes. “Westhaven hates our father’s blustering and posturing, hates the way the man leaves a trail of wreckage, without a backward glance or apology. When Victor was so ill he could no longer sit at table, no longer even walk in the park, my father would bellow at him to quit malingering and stop alarming Her Grace.”

Valentine leaned over the keyboard, a mournful, minor chord floating up. “I left the house, and hid in the country, unable to watch my father abuse a man who was only hanging on to life for the sake of his loved ones. Westhaven stayed, though he’d already bought this place, and he was occasionally able to shout some sense into my father.”

“This is not a cheering topic,” Anna observed, “but it is a good thing you are here for your brother now.”

“Here for him?” Valentine asked, slipping into a slow, lyrical improvisation.

“He is lonely, my lord,” Anna pointed out. “Tired of being the only one to take on His Grace, up to his chin in complicated business ventures he had no hand in starting, and very much missing his mother, brothers and sisters.”

His lordship brought his music to a cadence, and regarded Ann with a quizzical smile.

Mister Seaton,” he said slowly, “whoever he was, wherever he went, is to be pitied above all men, I think. For he had you to treasure, and abandoned his post quite prematurely.”

“For a man who wants the world to think he doesn’t notice the ladies, my lord, you offer very astute compliments.”

Too astute, Val thought, as the door softly closed, leaving him alone with his music.

His mind drifted over their conversation, over the months past, when he’d known his brother Victor was dying but kept his distance, rather than watch first hand. Vic had told him to go, told him he didn’t want an audience to such a depressing final chapter, but would rather be remembered as Val’s devil-may-care older brother, handsome, charming, and not coughing all that badly.

Val had known, even as he’d taken Victor’s gracious direction and left town, he would regret not spending the time with his brother. And God in heaven, he missed his brother now….

Outside the door, Anna had paused, leaning against the wall to listen as Lord Valentine’s hands shaped a lament, an audible sorrowing that drifted through the house on sighs of regret and remembrance. His playing was seldom this personal, at least here in his brother’s house. Maybe late at night, among whores and strangers, he played like this, but it was too much, when Anna knew exactly the source of his loneliness and grief, and had all she could do to manage her own sorrows.

“Anna?” The earl’s hands turned her into his body. “Is Val all right? Are you all right?”

She nodded, tears closing her throat, and leaned into him, helpless not to cry as the music grew around them, mournful, angry, then griefstricken. She cried for the man alone in the next room, and the man alone with his arms around her. She cried for herself, for the grief she’d sustained, and mostly, she cried for the grief yet to come.

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