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Lawyer Muir looked up expectantly as the door to his inner sanctum swung open sharply, and a magnificent male figure strode arrogantly into the musty room.
That the visitor was angry was immediately apparent. Samuel Muir thought he had seldom seen such blazing eyes in a human face--pure golden fire! And as the big, tawny-haired fellow stalked across the floor and seated himself without an invitation on a chair facing the desk, Muir experienced a slight frisson of alarm even while he reminded himself that his behavior had been faultlessly professional.
An uncomfortable silence stretched between the two men.
Finally Drogo Trevelyan said coldly, "You sent for me, Muir? I was under the impression we had settled all my late parents' business six months ago." The voice and the expression on the man's countenance were under careful control, but the slight narrowing of heavy lids over the blazing eyes indicated anger close to the surface.
Summoning up his courage. Lawyer Muir said quietly, "I thank you for answering, my request for a meeting so promptly. Your Grace. I hope you will accept my word that I would not have asked you to come here today had I not received some ... rather disturbing information."
"Not some further evidence of my unlamented father's idiocy, I hope?" Trevelyan said nastily. "I had hoped we had settled all that! I told you I should not care to reopen Kenelm Place. It may fall to rack and min with my heartiest approval--"
"Someone is trying to buy it," interrupted Muir. "Much of the common land around the estate has already been sold. One or two of the smaller domains in the county, which border upon your holdings, have a new owner. And lastweek I received an offer for Kenelm."
"From whom?" demanded the duke sharply. "Why have I not been advised of this ... activity?"
The lawyer forbore to remind his irascible client that the latter had given express instructions that he was not to be bothered with any further details about the estate. Instead he addressed himself to the first question.
"Possibly the most puzzling aspect of the situation," admitted the lawyer, "is the fact that we cannot discover who the purchaser of all these properties is. He is represented by an extremely ... astute"--his tone expressed strong disapproval--"member of my profession, who is unwilling to divulge the name of his client. I would have asked you to discuss this matter with me sooner, milord, but I had hoped to have more specific information for you. As it is, my clerks have discovered that the ... ah ... purchaser has secured several parcels of land, enough to completely surround Your Grace's estate, with one exception."
The blond giant seated across the desk relaxed for the first time since he had entered the lawyer's chambers. Settling his big frame more comfortably in the armchair, he stared at his man-of-law. It was plain that the little mystery of the Unknown Purchaser had been enough to banish the anger the duke had felt at being summoned by Muir. A light of interest glowed in the striking eyes, and the handsome face relaxed into a faint grin.
"Are you suggesting that the mysterious owner of the one unsold piece of property may be trying to control the whole county, Muir? Which estate is it, by the way?"
"It is the ancestral estate of the Earls of Endale, Your Grace," replied Muir. "You may not have heard--traveling abroad for the last few years as you have been--that the former holder of the title was killed in a very unusual accident just a few months ago. The current earl is a boy of nine. His guardian is, I believe, a distant relative, and next in line for the title."
There was a short silence as the two men considered the situation.
Then the duke said, slowly, "I had made a decision never to return to a place which held nothing but ugly memories for me--as you are no doubt aware, Muir."
The lawyer raised his shaggy gray eyebrows. "I have indeed been made aware of Your Grace's decision." He nodded grimly. "Still, in this rather unusual set of circumstances, perhaps--?" He peered at his client from under his eyebrows.
His Grace the Duke of Kenelm rose to his full noble height and stretched as unselfconsciously as a great cat. A rather savage grin twisted his well-shaped lips. "You have managed to arouse my interest, Muir! I think I shall travel down into the wilds of Sussex and investigate this mystery of the Unknown Purchaser. If I dislike him sufficiently, I may even permit him to buy Kenelm Place. That will teach him to covet other men's property! You may instruct your clerks to prepare a full report of whatever information you have been able to collect, and bring it to my town house tomorrow morning." With a casual nod of the leonine head, the duke departed, leaving his man-of-law to stare at the empty doorway with a curiously satisfied smirk.