The Unwelcome Arrival


WIPWed-1024x427 WIP Wednesday

In a series yet to be announced, book one (Shhh—the not yet announced title is Duke in All But Name) features a duke who has gone missing and the man sent to pick up the pieces. Readers of The Defiant Daughter may recognize him.

***

“The vultures are circling for sure now.” Old Fillmore looked Gideon over from the scuffed tips of his riding boots to his hair, wild from the wind, contempt radiating from him.

“I’m equally delighted to see you, Fillmore. Step aside and let me in.” Gideon glared at the butler with as little respect as the old man had always shown him.

“You are supposed to be dead,” the butler sneered.

“Sorry to disappoint. I gather my brother didn’t share the joyous news when he found me last year. Are you going to move or do I need to push you aside?”

Gideon’s hips and back hurt like the devil after hours in the saddle. His meager supply of patience evaporated.

“You ain’t the heir,” Fillmore muttered.

If only you knew… Gideon took a step forward. For a moment Fillmore appeared to weigh his chances of tossing Gideon out, but he stepped back. The old reprobate gestured to a footman. “Watch this one closely. I’ll inform Mr. Marshall. Keep him right where he stands.”

“The steward? Bring him to me.” One of the many facts piled on Gideon’s shoulders during his unsatisfactory visit to the offices of Sadler and January, Solicitors in London was the name of Phillip’s land steward, Curtis Marshall. His brother had the good sense to hire someone new after the old duke kicked up his toes.

Fillmore walked away without responding, but Gideon was sure he heard the old man mutter something about “God himself,” but whether he referred to the stewards arrogance or his own he couldn’t tell.

Gideon pushed his saddlebags into the arms of the bewildered footman. “Take this to my room—any guest room will do. My luggage is following.” He swept off his hat and strode past the sputtering servant into the nearest parlor, the one his father had used to allow importuning strangers to cool their heels until he saw fit to address them, one designed for discomfort. He took a high-backed chair and sank into it, craving willow bark tea and a good brandy, but fearing neither was likely to be forthcoming.

The footman stood in the doorway, still clutching Gideon’s saddlebags.

Not particularly bright, this one. Gideon watched the boy trying to puzzle out whether failing Fillmore or defying this stranger who seemed to claim some right to be here would be the bigger mistake. Gideon raised one sardonic eyebrow and glared until the footman shuffled back into the entrance-way. Gideon heard the thump of heavy bags hitting the polished floor.

My saddlebags will rest by the door until I sort this out. At least they’ll be handy if they toss me out.

He thought, not for the first time, that he ought to have stopped at the inn in Nether Abbas, but his memories of The Cockcrow were dismal. He’d forced himself on to get this encounter over with as soon as could be. He had almost bolted home to Wales when Sadler informed him there were things at Mountglen that needed his oversight. He still could. He squeezed his eyes shut. It could be a long wait.

Note: excerpts from works in progress may have not yet been edited, will likely undergo change, and may not even make it into the final work!

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