Phillip selected a pistol, tested its weight in his hand, then stepped up to the chalk line. It had only been recently that he’d stopped thinking of his father every time he took aim at a target. It had taken years, but he’d finally allowed himself to realize that he actually liked shooting, that it didn’t have to be a chore. And then suddenly his father’s voice, so often at the back of his mind, always yelling, always criticizing, was gone.

He lifted his arm, his muscles rock steady, and fired.

He squinted toward the target. It looked good. The footman brought it forward. One-half inch, at most, off the center. Closer than anyone else thus far.

The target went back, and Gregory took his turn, proving himself to be Phillip’s equal.

“We do five rounds,” Anthony told Phillip. “Best out, and if there’s a tie, the leaders face off.”

“I see,” Phillip said. “Any particular reason?”

“No,” Anthony said, picking up his gun. “Just that we’ve always done it this way.”

Colin looked at Phillip with deadly serious eyes. “We take our games seriously.”

“I’m gathering.”

“Do you fence?”

“Not well,” Phillip said.


One corner of Colin’s mouth turned up. “Excellent.”

“Be quiet,” Anthony barked, looking testily over at them. “I’m trying to aim.”

“Such need for silence will not serve you well at a time of crisis,” Colin remarked.

“Shut up,” Anthony bit off.

“If we were attacked,” Colin continued, one of his hands moving expressively as he wove his tale, “it would be quite noisy, and frankly, I find it disturbing to think—”

“Colin!” Anthony bellowed.

“Don’t mind me,” Colin said.

“I’m going to kill him,” Anthony announced. “Does anyone mind if I kill him?”

No one did, although Sophie did look up and mention something about blood and messes and not wanting to have to clean up.

“It’s an excellent fertilizer,” Phillip said helpfully, since, after all, that was his area of expertise.

“Ah.” Sophie nodded and turned back to her book. “Kill him, then.”

“How’s that book, darling?” Benedict called out to her.

“It’s quite good, actually.”

“Will you all shut up?” Anthony ground out. Then, his cheeks coloring slightly, he turned to his sister-in-law and mumbled, “Not you, of course, Sophie.”

“Glad to be exempted,” she said cheerfully.

“Do try not to threaten my wife,” Benedict said mildly.

Anthony turned to his brother and skewered him with a glare. “The lot of you should be drawn and quartered,” he grunted.

“Except for Sophie,” Colin reminded him.

Anthony turned to him with a deadly expression. “You do realize this gun is loaded, don’t you?”

“Lucky for me fratricide is considered quite beyond the pale.”

Anthony clamped his mouth shut and turned back toward the target. “Round two,” he called out, taking aim.


All four Bridgerton men sagged and turned around, groaning as they saw Eloise careening down the hill.

“Are you shooting?” she demanded, stumbling to a halt.

No one answered. No one really needed to. It was quite obvious.

“Without me?”

“We’re not shooting,” Gregory said. “Just standing about with guns.”

“Near a target,” Colin added helpfully.

“You’re shooting.”

“Of course we’re shooting,” Anthony snapped. He flicked his head off to the right. “Sophie is by herself. You should keep her company.”

Eloise planted her hands on her hips. “Sophie is reading a book.”

“A good one, too,” Sophie put in, returning her attention to the pages.

“You should read a book, too, Eloise,” Benedict suggested. “They’re very improving.”

“I don’t need any improving,” she shot back. “Give me a gun.”

“I’m not giving you a gun,” Benedict retorted. “We don’t have enough to go around.”

“We can share,” Eloise ground out. “Have you ever tried sharing? It’s very improving.”

Benedict scowled at her in a manner that wasn’t particularly fitting for a man of his years.

“I think,” Colin said, “that what Benedict was trying to say is that he’s as improved as he’s ever going to be.”

“For certain,” Sophie said, not even raising her eyes from her book.

“Here,” Phillip said magnanimously, handing his gun to Eloise, “have mine.” The four Bridgerton men groaned, but he decided he rather enjoyed annoying them.

“Thank you,” Eloise said graciously. “From Anthony’s bark of ’round two’ I deduce that you’ve each taken one shot?”

“Indeed,” Phillip replied. He looked over at her brothers, all of whom wore dejected expressions. “What’s wrong?”

Anthony just shook his head.

Phillip looked to Benedict.

“She’s a freak of nature,” Benedict muttered.

Phillip looked back at Eloise with renewed interest. She didn’t look particularly freakish to him.

“I’m dropping out,” Gregory muttered. “I haven’t eaten breakfast yet.”

“You’ll have to ring for more,” Colin told him. “I already finished it all.”

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