Lily Rutledge had never contemplated murder before, though she was warming to the idea. The most recent column in the Mayfair Society Paper taunted her at the breakfast table. The Duke of Blackmoor seemed to have plenty of time to gamble away his funds in one hell or another, race his phaeton along the old Bath road for sport, and spend every other waking hour enjoying the entertainments of one Mrs. Teresa Hamilton or visiting fashionable bawdy houses throughout Town. Not that Lily was terribly surprised. They were the same sorts of things he'd done for years, though she hadn't cared until now.
"Aunt Lily," called her twelve-year-old nephew, Oliver York, the Earl of Maberley, from a few seats away. "Your face is turning purple again."
Purple indeed. Lily sighed, looking at the boy. What was she to do with him? Especially when she couldn't get Blackmoor to even respond to one of her letters. Of course, he sent funds every time she wrote him, though that was not what she asked for. Infuriating man! Did he even read her letters? The Maberley estate was not terribly far from London. Visiting Oliver would only interrupt his debauched lifestyle for a day or two at the most. Was that truly too much to ask of her nephew's guardian? After all, he hadn't seen the boy in years. "Finish your breakfast, Oliver," she directed, glancing again at the maddening society rag. There must be some way to get His Grace's attention. Perhaps if she picked up and went to London-
"I'm through," the young earl responded. "May I be excused?"
Through? Food had been piled high in front of him just moments ago. Lily's eyes flashed to Oliver's plate, only to find it completely empty, as was the sideboard behind him. Not a crumb was left uneaten. Where had he gotten this appetite? It wasn't natural. And how could he possibly have devoured all the food in the room so quickly and quietly? It was another one of the unexplained transformations she'd noticed in her nephew over the last month. "Yes, of course. You would do well to go over your Latin before Mr. Craven arrives."
Oliver scowled as he pushed away from the table.
"I'd rather not."
He never wanted to go over his Latin, which was a problem. According to Mr. Craven, his tutor, Oliver was far behind in that particular subject. When he began his first term at Harrow in October, he'd need to do better. That was assuming Lily sent him off to school, and, at the moment, she didn't know if she could do so. It was one of the many things she needed to discuss with that scoundrel Blackmoor.
Lily shook her head. "Mr. Craven says you need to practice, Oliver. Please do so."
The young earl stomped from the room in a manner she was getting unfortunately accustomed to. Just a month ago, Oliver had had the sweetest disposition. Now she barely recognized him. His shoulders were suddenly broad enough to fill a doorway, and he almost had to duck to cross the threshold as he left the breakfast room. Gone was the little boy in short pants. The young earl's valet had replaced Oliver's clothing twice in as many months and had sent more than one pair of trousers to the seamstress to have the seams reinforced. To make it even worse, Oliver had developed a terrible temper, with the smallest annoyances setting him off. He seemed to rumble more than talk, his singsong voice replaced by a gravely growl. Entry into adulthood was hard, but Lily had never expected it to come on so suddenly and with such force.
Perhaps things would be different if Oliver's parents were still alive. Perhaps things would be different if Blackmoor showed even the slightest interest in the lad. Perhaps if she'd ever raised an adolescent boy before, she'd know if Oliver's changes were normal-though she couldn't imagine they were. Lily knew in her heart that something was drastically wrong with her nephew, and she was at a complete loss for what to do.
Blast Blackmoor for ignoring her letters! An idea occurred to her. If he couldn't be troubled to visit Oliver, she'd simply have to pay him a visit instead. His Grace would have an impossible time ignoring her in person. She was hard to miss. Lily picked up the society rag, rereading it.
Everything was there. Everything she needed to know. Where he spent his time and with whom. The Duke of Blackmoor would regret shirking his duties, if making him do so was the last thing she ever did.