Bonus Scene: What’s an Earl Gotta Do?

Cover of the book What's an Earl Gotta Do, showing Anne and Michael in a rowboat beneath a weeping willow tree

This is a little bonus snippet from What’s an Earl Gotta Do. In an early draft of the book, I presented a flashback of the moment Michael first fell in love with Anne when they were both fourteen. As I reworked the manuscript, a lot of the information in this scene had already been presented, so it started to feel repetitive, and I was also trying to be mindful of the number of flashbacks (ah, the perils of writing a Friends-to-Lovers story!) Although it didn’t quite fit anywhere in the end, I really love this moment and wanted to share it with you!

God, she looked beautiful. For the life of him he couldn’t have said what she’d done to her hair, or what sort of dress she had on. All he could deduce was that it was lilac and… swishy. But she looked gorgeous in it, every bit as gorgeous as she had looked on that summer morning when they were both fourteen.

Which happened to be the day he fell in love with her.

Michael had just returned home from Eton. When Anne was informed that he was back from school and there to see her, she’d been so excited, she’d abandoned her dressing table before her maid could finish braiding her hair and come running into the skylit rotunda of Harrington Hall, where he’d been awaiting her.

Michael could precisely picture the moment she’d appeared at the top of the landing, her hair a riot of brown waves falling all the way to her waist, her face glowing with joy at the sight of him. It was the moment he had discovered that his best friend?

She was a girl.

That is, of course Michael had known Anne was a girl. Anne’s girl-ness was a fact with which he was thoroughly acquainted, just as he could have told you that the sun set in the west, and George III was the King of England.

But this was the moment in which he suddenly saw his ‘best friend’ with the eyes of a young man, rather than those of a boy, and realized in an instant of startling clarity that Anne wasn’t just the person whose company he preferred over anyone else on the face of this earth, the one who knew him so well they could communicate more with a single look than most people could in five minutes’ conversation, the one who had let him lay with his head in her lap for countless hours after his mother died when he was nine, and never once complained, or suggested they go and “do something.”

Anne was still all of those things. She was still the best person he knew.

But she was also beautiful.

Time seemed to slow down as she came running down the stairs toward him, her voice full of joy as she said his name. His breath abandoned him and his heart all but burst in that exquisite moment when she threw her arms around his neck.

In that instant she had slain him, slain him for all eternity.

By now he knew that he would never recover, that his love for Anne was of the undying sort. In this he was his father’s son—it had been fourteen years since his mother died, and she was still the only woman in the world, as far as the Marquess of Redditch was concerned. It didn’t seem that the Cranfield men had it in them to love more than one woman in a lifetime…

Bonus scene from What’s an Earl Gotta Do? Copyright © 2021 Courtney McCaskill