Today's Reading

"I am aware of that. I am sure you can imagine how busy His Majesty is. He is not indifferent to the concerns of his subjects, however, so he has asked me to speak with you."

So she would not see the king. At least she was being seen by someone, however. "As I explained in each of my letters, I have evidence that my great-grandfather's estate was taken by the Crown after he died. I know that in many such cases the property was later returned to the family. I have a letter from the king's father that he would do the same for us." She handed over an old folded parchment. "The king himself told me when he was in Edinburgh that he would address the matter."

Mr. Haversham perused the letter. "What makes you think your grandfather was the heir to these properties?"

"He told my father that he was, before he died."

Mr. Haversham smiled slightly. "There have been errors on such matters."

"The last king did not think so." She gestured to the letter he still held.

"The last king was at times confused." He looked down at the letter. She wondered if he wanted to claim it was a forgery. That would be hard to do, because it bore a seal. "Do you have whatever proof was sent to the palace, to convince the last king of your grandfather's claim?"

"I assume it was kept by the king."

"We have found no evidence of it."

Her heart sank. She could not guarantee there ever had been evidence, so she could hardly now demand they find it.

"The king, 'this' king, the living one, told me personally that he would look into this and deal with it. He was in Edinburgh and I had an audience. You were not there, but I am sure he remembers and, if not, there were others like you present who certainly do. The man who obtained the audience for me does." I have proof of this at least, so don't try to put me off.

His lips thinned and folded like a frog's. "No one questions that meeting, Miss MacCallum. We will indeed look into it. We have already begun. Hence my comment about the proof. It will be needed. Kings do not hand over land to claimants merely on their say-so. As for this," he waved the letter that he still held. "It will figure in the final determination of what to do once that proof is found."

She took the opportunity on one wave to snatch it away. "I will hold it, if you do not mind. I would not want it to be lost and I am sure you have thousands of letters here."

"Of course. As you wish." He glanced at the letter greedily.

"I will also endeavor to provide yet more proof, to support that which was sent all those years ago," she said. "I am determined to settle this."

"As are we, I assure you." He stood and offered his hand to help her up. "You will give His Majesty's regards to the duchess, I hope. He was delighted to receive her letter."

Davina doubted that. However, that letter was probably why she had been received by anyone at all. If not for the Duchess of Stratton, this entire journey to London would have been a waste of time.

Again a page escorted her through corridors and chambers until he deposited her in the drawing room.

No one took note of her. A few glances came her way but immediately moved on. Too unfashionable to be important, those fluttering lids said. She didn't care. She had not come here to impress anyone with her style and wit. She had come for justice, for herself, her father, and the grandfather she had never met.

Her mind returned to her meeting. She picked through the memory, seeking evidence it had gone better than her dampened mood believed. As she did so, the door to which she walked opened and a man entered.

She halted in her tracks. Considering what had just transpired with Mr. Haversham, this man's presence only increased her consternation.

He entered like he had been here a hundred times before, which he probably had. No need for him to gawk at the large chamber's appointments the way she did.

He made his presence known through no effort or intention. Everyone noticed him arrive. Some ladies repositioned themselves so they might catch his eye.

He stood taller than anyone else and his bearing insinuated a man who did not bend easily. His vague smile implied tolerance more than friendliness.

His handsome, chiseled face, with its straight nose and square jaw, reflected the Germanic blood brought into the family line by a great-grandmother. His eyes, more a dark gray than blue, created a steely gaze that shot through all that it saw.

Eric Marshall, the Duke of Brentworth. The most ducal duke, he was called.


This excerpt is from the paperback edition.
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