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  Marblestone Mansion (Scandalous Duchess Series)     

“Your Grace, ‘tis a bit of bad news I bring.”

Hannish caught his breath, “Tell me she dinna die on the voyage.”

A prim and proper butler, Alistair was nearly as tall as Hannish but had a more slender build. “Nay, Your Grace, she stayed in New York. Shopping, she said it was.”

He tried to hide his disappointment, but he was not very good at it. “I received no telegram.”

Alistair wrinkled his brow. “Perhaps she has not had the time.”

“Aye, shopping. Did she say when she would come?”

“Nay, Your Grace.” Just as his butler began to bow, Hannish took hold of his arm. “Alistair, Americans are not fond of titles. There is no need to bow and perhaps you might address me as Sir, or even Mr. MacGreagor will do.” He waited for Alistair’s nod and then continued. “Are you the last?”

“I am,” Alistair answered.

“Then I am pleased to take all of you to your new home. I’ve much to tell and happy to have so many friendly Scots to tell it to.” He turned to McKenna. “Come, sister, I shall let you ride in my new red carriage, but just this once.” He ignored her playful glare, took her elbow, guided her to the carriage, and helped her board. He waited until all the steamer trunks and travel suitcases were loaded on the last wagon, none of which he recognized as his, and as soon as the servants were seated, he joined his sister in the carriage. A tap on a window that separated them from the driver signaled he was ready, and with a slight jerk, the carriage began to move.

“Only seven came? Why is that?” he asked.

McKenna looped her arm through her brother’s. “Eight, Olivia kept Brookton and Millie with her and I employed Sassy on the voyage. ‘Tis just the way it turned out for the others, but the ones who did come are very happy to see America. All but one left families behind, but not husbands, wives or children.”

“The way I did, you mean.”

“Hannish MacGreagor, dinna put words in my mouth.” She pushed a strand of hair away from her face and continued, “I only meant they are all unmarried.”

“I suppose Olivia needs Brookton to carry her new purchases. I am to expect more trunks than I thought, but we shall manage.” He noticed how quickly his sister turned to look out the window. “What?”

McKenna turned back, snuggled closer and laid her head on his strong shoulder. “She has changed.”

“In what way?”

“There you be, temptin’ me to say more than I care to.”

“Have we secrets now? I dinna think that possible.”

“I was but a child then, now I am all grown up.”

Hannish grinned. “So I see, and with a full set of wits. How cleverly you avoid answering my question.”

“Oh, very well, if you must know, Olivia brings little with her.”

This time it was Hannish who turned to look out the window. The foreboding in the pit of his stomach had just increased. “She dinna bring my clothing?”

McKenna quickly took pity on him. “It does not mean she does not intend to stay. Perhaps she wishes to have all things new for both of you in her new home.”

“She is clearly not as excited to see me as I am to see her.”

“Olivia adores clothing and cares to dress her best at all times. Perhaps she fears she’ll not see New York again anytime soon.”

He smiled to reassure her. “Did she say as much?”

“Nay, we dinna get on so well after you left. She does not confide in me.”

“Is that why you moved to the cottage?”

McKenna sighed. “I adore the cottage, as you are well aware. We grew up there, and it holds many wonderful memories for me. I can still see father at the dinner table tellin’ us the old family stories, while mother gently corrected our table manners.”

“I remember. Father taught us many things, and I confess I dinna see the wisdom in his words at the time. Each day, I find he understood the ways of the world very well.”

Lost in the memory, both were quiet for a moment until McKenna spoke again, “They were taken from us far too soon.”

“Aye, they were.”

“I often think how perfect it was that they, who loved each other so very well, died in each other’s arms.”

“True. I believe father tried to shield her with his body, but the train was simply going too fast. How I wish they had lived. I so often long to ask his advice, and mother’s too.”

“As do I. Do you remember how he forced us to learn proper English? He said, ‘Bearn, ye’ll not have the best o lives until ye learn to speak jest like the English.’ He was right, too.”

“Indeed, he was. He’d not pass the bread until we got at least two English pronunciations right,” said Hannish.  

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