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Something About Emmaline
By Elizabeth Boyle
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Elizabeth Boyle
All right reserved.
For his first month home at Sedgwick Abbey, Alex found himself left in blessed solitude.
Instead of being there to greet him, his grandmother had decided to remain at her sister-in-law's estate for an additional month, most likely unable to leave until they had caught up on every bit of family gossip. Therefore, his summer began with no pestering talk of heirs, no lengthy discussions of Emmaline's continued ill health, just a continuation of his perfectly ordered life that Jack had the audacity to call "boring."
But eventually his grandmother had decided she could no longer leave him to his lonely exile and had returned home like a whirlwind, her herd of pugs trotting in her wake.
Genevieve Denford, Lady Sedgwick, had been born in France, and the sixty-odd years she'd been in England hadn't diminished her Gallic presence in the least.
His grandfather, another reluctant-to-be-wed Denford, had taken a trip to Paris in his late sixties and had brought home (to the horror of his own heir apparent) a French wife.
Given his grandmother's joie de vivre, Alex doubted his grandfather had stood a chance.
A lesson to all unmarried English gentlemen, he'd decided years ago. Never venture across the Channel.
Grandmère had greeted him merrily when he'd come in to breakfast and hadn't stopped talking since. "And imagineImogene's shock when I told her ..." she was saying from her end of the table, where she sat encircled by her dogs.
It had been quiet without Grandmère, he mused as she barely paused between bites to regale him with tales of his great-aunt's grandchildren--and, horrors, a few greatgrandchildren. Heirs abounded in Aunt Imogene's world, and he knew the next few months would see no end of hinting and prodding that he and Emmaline should be doing the same as well--producing the next Sedgwick baron.
He'd have to make a note to his solicitor to have his wife's next letter from Emmaline detail a litany of female complaints that would unhappily prevent such an event. The more, the better. He hoped that would keep Grandmère sufficiently diverted through grouse season.
The door to the dining room opened and Burgess, their butler, entered, staggering beneath a large silver tray. Behind him, a footman followed with an even bigger tray, just as laden with papers and notes.
"My lord, a pouch from Mr. Elliott's office arrived this morning along with the mail," Burgess said, setting his burden on the dining table before Alex. "To be specific, there were three pouches." His bushy brows rose. "Large ones."
Alex stared up at the monumental pile, his knife and fork held in midair. "What the devil is all that?"
Burgess, being ever the diligent butler, replied, "The regular newspapers and periodicals for her ladyship, but the remainder appear mostly to be bills, my lord."
"Bills?" Alex looked at the collection again. He'd instructed his London solicitor to take care of all his outstanding accounts. Besides, that pile looked like something Jack had run up, not him.
"Unlike Elliott to be so inefficient," Alex muttered, as he began to sort through the mess. "Ah, here is the answer. Seems Mr. Elliott's wife has inherited property in Scotland and they needed to inspect the place. His clerk is attending to all his business in his absence. I'll have to speak to him when he returns--the fellow has obviously gotten my accounts mixed up with some wastrel client of his."
"What is it, my dear?" his grandmother asked from her end of the table, where she was dropping tidbits to her dear dogs.
He waved his hands over the pile of bills. "Just the London papers and such."
"The papers! Why didn't you say so?" She rose and hustled down the side of the long table, her lace cap aflutter. Before Alex could stop her, she swept aside the neatly arranged piles to get to her most favorite thing in the world--the gossip column in the Morning Post. Separating the pages with the skill of a farmer's wife plucking a hen, she had her quarry in her clutches in a flash and settled into the chair next to Alex to begin reading.
Hopefully not aloud, he thought as he continued his sorting.
He was rewarded with a minute or so of silence before she couldn't contain herself.
"Lady Vassar had a baby. A son, it says." She sighed and then shot him a significant glance. "An heir is so important, don't you think, Alex?"
"Yes, of course," he agreed, his gaze stopping on one of the bills before him. Four hundred pounds for carpets. Another expenditure listed furniture for one hundred and fifty pounds. Bills for drapers, carpenters, painters, and that was only the start. Why, it appeared the poor sot for whom these notes had been intended had outfitted not only a new house, but a wife and stable of mistresses, what with the unending collection of milliner, modiste, glover, and lace bills.
"And finally a mention of our dear girl," his grandmother was saying. "Listen to this: Lady S. was seen shopping diligently with the assistance of Lady R., who has taken her new friend under her wing. Lady S., so long from town, is a delight and sure to be the prized guest next Season." She pursed her lips. "About time she was mentioned. But what an odd thing to say. Why would they think her so long from town when she has lived there all her life?" She tossed aside the paper and began once again upsetting Alex's carefully wrought piles with her rustling.
"Madame!" He rose up from his seat and covered the bills with his arms to protect them from her marauding. "What has gotten into you?"
Excerpted from Something About Emmaline by Elizabeth Boyle Copyright © 2006 by Elizabeth Boyle. Excerpted by permission.
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