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                                         Marblestone Mansion (Scandalous Duchess Series)     

     by Marti Talbott

      (c) All Rights Reserved

 
A Duke by inheritance, Hannish MacGreagor soon learned the title came with very little wealth, so he bought a silver mine in Idaho, left his wife of two weeks in Scotland, and sailed to America. Later, he sold the mine, became one of the wealthiest men in Colorado and built Marblestone Mansion on a bluff overlooking Colorado Springs. His hopes were high when he sent for his wife, but something was amiss - his wife was not what she pretended to be.

CHAPTER 1 

Hannish MacGreagor leaned his tall frame against the outside of the station’s stonewall, crossed his feet at the ankles, and folded his arms. The noon train was late, but there was nothing unusual about that. Well dressed in a black suit and vest that made his eyes seem a brighter blue, he wore a tall hat atop his wavy, dark hair. For three years, two months, eight days and six hours, he had waited. His beloved Olivia was on that train and now, the minutes seemed to drag on as if to intentionally plague him. There was much to make up for and he could not wait to get started.

Hannish carried two pocket timepieces, one set to Colorado time and the other so he would know what time it was in Scotland. He checked his Colorado watch again and to his despair, only five minutes had passed since the last time he looked. He put it back in his pocket, restlessly uncrossed his feet, and looked back down the railroad tracks.

Founded less than thirty years before, nearly everything was new in Colorado Springs including the railroad station. Built in the shadow of Pikes Peak, the peaceful town quickly attracted wealthy gold mine owners, who happily built their mansions on the vast undeveloped lands. With mansions came the need for stores, shops, carpenters, iron forgers, cobblers, a bank, a telephone switchboard, farms, tailors, seamstresses, parks and of course, a grand hotel. The upper class of Great Britain soon began to come for the warm summers and the easy to breathe high-altitude air. If by chance, the lords and ladies managed an acquaintance with the Americans and their new money, so much the better.

A direct descendent of a Viking, or so the story went, Hannish had broad shoulders, was tall enough to see over the heads of the others and at last, he spotted the southbound train’s billowing black smoke in the distance. The moment he heard the whistle signaling its approach, he stood up straight and made certain everything was ready. A plush red carriage especially purchased for the occasion sat waiting, complete with a matching team of white horses and Shepard, his driver. Two more wagons and their drivers, Prescot and Keith, waited behind the carriage. One wagon was to haul luggage in case his wife decided to bring half of Scotland, and the other had fold-down benches, for the servants he hoped he had managed to tempt to come with her.

Finally, the train crept around the last bend and came to a stop, placing the passenger cars right in front of him. The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad conductor, in his impressive uniform, opened the door, stepped down, and began to help his passengers disembark.

Hannish stood ready to greet Olivia, but she was not the first to appear in the doorway. Nevertheless, his smile widened when he recognized sisters Blanka and Donnel, the elder housemaids who had been with the family since he was a boy. He took off his hat, put an arm around each, and kissed their cheeks. “How happy I am to see both of you again. This place will truly feel like home now.”

Donnel pretended to scold him, “Your Grace, you dinna say ‘twas such a big country. We have lived eight lifetimes on those trains.”

“And you’ve yet to see half of America.” He chuckled when she rolled her eyes.

Jessie, his favorite Scottish cook was the next one he greeted. “How I have longed for your custards, Jessie. You’ve not forgotten how to make them, have you now?”

Jessie quickly curtsied. “Nay, I’ve me secret recipe tucked under me hat.” It was a fine brown hat too, although it was not large or decorated in the latest flamboyant fashion. Instead, it had small artificial red roses sewn around the band. Her traveling clothes were ordinary, the same as other women wore, except Jessie’s looked nearly worn out and Hannish was surprised by that. “You look well.”

“I am, thank you,” Jessie replied.

Two men waited to be welcomed and Hannish recognized both as two of the footmen he grew up with in Scotland. Dugan and Ronan were Donnel’s sons, both grown now and both just as loyal to the MacGreagor family as their mother was. They had light sandy hair and wore neatly trimmed mustaches. “Have you learned baseball yet, lads?” he teased, knowing full well they thought it was a silly American sport.

“Your Grace, we have changed our minds,” said Dugan. “When in Rome, and all that, Sir.”

“I am pleased to hear it. Welcome to America.” Hannish motioned for the drivers to help his servants into the wagons and then turned his attention back to the train’s passenger car.

The next to appear was a well-dressed woman, but her wide-brimmed hat with an abundance of large cloth flowers on top, hid her face as she stepped down. She wore a pastel green dress, with sleeves that were tight from her wrists to her elbows, and then ballooned to her shoulders. Her “V” shaped bodice was intended to make her waist appear smaller than it actually was, and the floor length skirt touched the top of her button-up shoes. Slowly, she lifted her head and let him see her face.

“McKenna?” Hannish gasped. He grabbed her around the waist and lifted her completely off the ground. “I dinna think you would come.” He nearly knocked her hat off as he repeatedly kissed his sister’s cheek, and refused to let her down until she pounded on his arms and giggled. At last, he set her back on her feet, let go and grinned. “You bring a bit o’ Scotland to feed me starvin’ soul, you do.”

With his same dark hair and blue eyes, McKenna straightened her skirt and glared at her older brother. “I come to collect my twenty pounds, and nothing more.” She removed the pins, took her hat off, and handed both to the girl standing beside her. “This is Sassy. ‘Tis not her real name, but I call her that, for she easily speaks her mind.”

Before he could finish nodding to the grinning girl, another familiar face stepped off the train. “Alistair?” Hannish asked, taking his longtime friend and cherished butler’s hand in his. 



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