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                                  Marblestone Mansion (Scandalous Duchess Series)      

Hannish smiled at her boldness. He had a feeling he was going to enjoy that one. He noticed, however, that her skirt was too big around the waist and that her belt was not holding all of the extra material in properly. As soon as Sassy was out of hearing, he sat down beside his sister. “As I was saying, I have a problem.”

“Only one? I am shocked,” said McKenna.

“Only one that needs my immediate attention. Of all people, I dinna expect Alistair to come. The last I heard, he vowed never to leave his beloved Scotland. I like him very much, but I already have a butler. Prescot is a very good man and very attentive to the needs of the place.”

“You do have a problem. Let me think…perhaps they might pitch horseshoes, race on horseback, or draw swords.”

“I am serious.”

“In that case, tell them you cannae decide and perhaps they will work it out in their own good time,” she said.

“My dear, the position of butler is a very coveted one. Neither will want to give it up.”

“Then divide the duties between them somehow. On the train, Alistair hoped for a place to plant a rose garden. Perhaps he might be butler over the grounds.”

“Good, I shall ask him. Now, my darlin’ little sister, you look tired and a nap before dinner will do you good. Off you go.” He stood, offered his hand, helped her up, kissed her on the cheek again, and then watched her start up the stairs.

Only then did his smile fade. Hannish turned, walked to a window, and stared out at nothing at all.

A Scotsman by birth and a Duke by inheritance, he soon learned the title came with very little fortune and if he were to survive, he would have to make his own way in the world. A scant two weeks after they were married, he met a man in Scotland desperate to sell Idaho’s Lost Junction Silver Mine. He was skeptical, but with few other choices, he borrowed all the money he could, paid the price, left his wife in Scotland, and caught the first ship to America.

To his relief, the mine did indeed exist and he quickly learned there was nothing easy about mining silver. In fact, the bitter winters, the dangers in the mine, the small mining town nearby, and the miners, were more trouble than he cared to endure. Yet fortune fell on him and two years later, he sold the mine for over three million dollars, making him one of the richest men in the American west.

He could have gone back to Scotland, and considered the idea long and hard before he decided to build Olivia a mansion in Colorado. The truth be told, he admired the Americans for winning their freedom from the British, settling their internal disputes in a Civil War and more recently, beating the Spanish in a battle that lasted only 100 days. The Americans were hardy men, unafraid of hard work and quick to enjoy an occasional brawl. He had taken a swing at one or two men in a brawl himself and found it invigorating. It was somewhat like the old days when the Scots used every opportunity the fight the English.

The railroad finally stretched across the Continental Divide, connecting the east to the west now, and he fully intended to take his family to see Oregon and perhaps California someday. That very morning, he dreamed of doing it, but that was before Olivia failed to arrive.

Now, his arms were empty and his heart was slowly breaking.


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