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                                 Marblestone Mansion (Scandalous Duchess Series)     
 

 
“I was quite fortunate to find these and you will find them most pleasing. You do intend to stay, do you not?”

She defiantly lifted her chin. “I shall stay just as long as it takes to get my twenty pounds back, and not a minute more.”

“Then I must warn you, I’ve not a sixpence left to my name.”

“Squandered it, have you? I doubt Olivia…” She caught herself just in time.

“You were about to say, you doubt Olivia would not be happy without the benefit of a fortune? I remind you she married me without the benefit of a fortune.”

“Aye, but you could make her a Duchess. What will she do when she learns the Americans are not fond of titles?”

Hannish drew in a long breath, slowly exhaled and stared out the window. This was not turning out the way he planned, and he was grateful when his sister stopped talking. Another two bends in the road and the vast lawn, unfinished gardens and the mansion came into view. At last, the carriage stopped in the front. Hannish stepped out and then offered his hand to his sister.

*

As he expected, housekeepers, Sarah and Charlotte, and cook Halen stood in front of the mansion waiting to greet them. He walked McKenna up the marble stone walkway, and then stopped in front of the three American women he had grown very fond of. He tried not to notice Sarah’s disappointment when he introduced the woman on his arm as his sister and not his wife. “Mrs. MacGreagor stayed in New York to do some shopping. She will come later.”

“Very good, Sir.” Sarah watched the newly arrived Scots climb out of the wagon. They looked very tired, especially the two older women with gray hair and dark circles under their eyes.

McKenna couldn’t seem to take her eyes off the enormous mansion. Concerned, she looked over the staff and then looked up at the mansion again. “Shall these be enough to tend such a large place?”

“If not, we shall find more. There are two more lads and their wives living in cottages in the back. The lads tend the horses and the grounds.” Hannish turned his attention to his American butler. “Prescot, see the Scots are settled and that they rest before dinner. We shall all eat together in the dining room this night.”

Prescot was taken aback. “Servants in the dining room, Sir?”

Hannish smiled, “Just this once. If you dinna tell, none will hear it from me.”

Prescot returned his smile, hurried up the last step, and opened one of the large double doors. He did not see the look of great displeasure on the Scottish butler’s face. Prescot previously worked for a distinguished eastern family, was a man of medium stature with a kind face and a no-nonsense attitude. His dark hair and eyes often attracted the attention of the women, but he had yet to find the one of his dreams.

Uncertain what he should do, the English butler finished helping the women out of the wagon and then decided to help the men unload the baggage. Once the women were all gathered, Sarah led them around the corner of the mansion to the side door the servants would be using – all except Sassy, who was determined to stay close to McKenna. She followed her mistress through the front door, and ignored Prescot’s obvious disapproval.

The spacious foyer protruded from the northern side of the mansion and once inside, Hannish found his sister’s speechless expression rewarding. She slowly turned to admire the high ceiling and then the large blocks of white marble on the floor. Fresh flowers in marble vases sat on a long, thin marble table in the center of the room. Marble slab window seats had been placed just under the sills of tall windows that let in plenty of welcoming light. “‘Tis glorious,” McKenna whispered.

“It needs a spot of color, but I thought to leave that to Olivia’s taste. A painting or a tapestry should keep it from looking so lonely. The coatroom is through that door and I keep a loaded gun in it, just in case. The parlor is this way.” He ushered her through the wide opening into the next room.

Behind him, Keith set two traveling cases down and watched Sassy. He could hardly keep his eyes off her as she slowly turned all the way around to admire the foyer. She had dimples in her cheeks when she smiled, which he found very appealing, not to mention her auburn hair and bold blue eyes. When she finally looked at him, her eyes seemed to completely captivate him and he could not look away. Yet, there was a problem; she looked to be only thirteen or fourteen, far too young to think of marriage. Reluctantly, he went back out the door to see what more needed to be brought in.

*

“There is much to be done still,” Hannish said, as he escorted McKenna into an enormous parlor, where a marble, grand staircase curved upward toward the bedrooms on the second floor. The parlor held only one settee that faced the unlit marble hearth, two upholstered chairs, two small tables beside the chairs, and a plant stand complete with vine leaves dangling down the sides. “I hope to complete it in time for winter. The second floor is ours. I have a bedchamber ready for Olivia, but you will use it until one is prepared for you.”

“At the other end of the house?” McKenna asked.

“If you like. The third floor is for the servants, naturally.” He guided her to the settee and motioned for her to sit down. “There is a convenient sitting room on the second floor, plus this and a smaller one in the back of the house. Then there is a library with too few books, my study, the dining hall, and a ballroom complete with a balcony. The kitchen is in the center of the house and of course, you are free to wander about until you become familiar. Just now, I have a problem I need help solving.”

It was only then that he realized Sassy had followed them. “Lady…I mean, Miss MacGreagor’s bedroom is on the second floor. You’ll not have trouble finding it, for it has the only made up bed, save mine, which is next to it. Perhaps you might see to unpacking some of her night things, but do no more. Tonight, all of you must rest.”

“Aye, Sir.” Sassy half curtsied and started up the stairs, unaware that houses that size always had a second staircase in the back for the servants to use.      

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