Read an Excerpt
A few months later Dunford was sitting in his salon, taking tea with Belle. She had just stopped by to chat; he was glad for this unexpected visit since they didn't see quite as much of each other now that she was married.
"Are you certain that John isn't going to come barging over here with a gun and call me out?" Dunford teased.
"He's too busy for that sort of nonsense," she said with a smile.
"Too busy to indulge his possessive nature? How odd."
Belle shrugged. "He trusts you, and more importantly, he trusts me."
"A veritable paragon of virtue," Dunford said dryly, telling himself he was not the least bit jealous of his friend's marital bliss. "And how--"
A knock sounded at the door. They looked up to see Whatmough, Dunford's unflappable butler, standing in the doorway. "A solicitor has arrived, sit."
Dunford raised a brow. "A solicitor, you say. I cannot fathom why."
"He is most insistent, sir."
"Show him in then." Dunford turned to Belle and gave her a what-do-you-suppose-this-could-be shrug.
She smiled mischievously. "Intriguing."
Whatmough ushered the solicitor in. A graying man of medium stature, he looked very excited to see Dunford. "Mr. Dunford?"
"I cannot tell you how glad I am to have finally located you," the solicitor said enthusiastically. He looked at Belle with a puzzled expression. "And is this Mrs. Dunford? I was led to believe that you were not married, sir. Oh, this is odd. Most odd."
"I'm not married. This is Lady Blackwood. She is a friend. And you are?"
"Oh, I'm sorry. Most sorry." The solicitortook out a handkerchief and patted his brow. "I am Percival Leverett, of Cragmant, Hopkins, Topkins, and Leverett." He leaned forward, adding extra emphasis when he said his own name. "I have very important news for you. Most important indeed."
Dunford waved his arms expansively. "Let's hear it then."
Leverett glanced over at Belle and then back at Dunford. "Perhaps we should speak privately, sir? Since she is not a relation."
"Of course." Dunford turned to Belle. "You don't mind do you?"
"Oh, not at all," she assured him, her smile saying she would have a thousand questions ready when they were through. "I'll wait."
Dunford motioned toward a door leading to his study. "Right through here, Mr. Leverett."
They left the room, and Belle was delighted to note they did not shut the door properly. She immediately stood up and moved to the chair closest to the slightly open door. She craned her neck, her ears pricking up right away.
A mumble of voices.
And then, from Dunford, "My cousin who?"
Mumble, mumble, something that sounded like Cornwall.
"How many times removed?"
No, that couldn't have been "eight" that she heard.
"And he left me what?"
Belle clapped her hands together. How delightful! Dunford had just come into an unexpected inheritance. She rather hoped it was something good. One of her friends had just unwillingly inherited thirty-seven cats.
The rest of the conversation was impossible to decipher. After a few minutes the two men emerged and shook hands. Leveret shoved a few papers into his case and said, "I'll have the rest of the documents sent over as soon as possible. We'll need your signature, of course."
Leverett nodded and exited the room.
"Well?" Belle demanded.
Dunford blinked a few times, as if he still couldn't quite believe what he'd just heard. "I seem to have inherited a barony."
"A barony! Goodness, I'm not going to have to call you Lord Dunford now, am I?"
He rolled his eyes. "When was the last time I called you Lady Blackwood?"
"Not ten minutes ago," she pointed out pertly, "when you introduced me to Mr. Leverett."
"Touché, Belle." He sank down onto the sofa, not even waiting for her to seat herself first. "I suppose you may call me Lord Stannage."
"Lord Stannage," she murmured. "How perfectly distinguished, William Dunford, Lord Stannage." She smiled devilishly. "It is William, isn't it?"
Dunford snorted. He was so rarely called by his first name that they had a long-running joke that she couldn't remember it. "I asked my mother," he finally replied. "She said she thinks it's William."
"Who died?" Belle asked baldly.Minx . Copyright © by Julia Quinn. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.