A Scot to the Heart (Desperately Seeking Duke #2) - Caroline Linden Page 0,1

you, sir. Is that all?”

The colonel pursed his lips, displeased. “What does it say?”

He managed a tight smile. “I shall read it later, after I’ve had dinner. I can’t imagine it’s anything significant. My family has had naught to do with Carlyle since my grandfather’s day.”

“You’ll have to tell me what it says,” retorted Fitzwilliam, his face growing ruddier. “I received a letter with it from Sir George Yonge himself, with orders to grant you leave from your duties as requested by that missive there.” He jerked his head toward the pocket where Drew had stowed it.

“Ah,” he said after a startled moment. “I’ll be sure to do that, sir.”

Fitzwilliam glowered at him. “Do, Captain.”

Dismissed, he bowed and left, barely remembering to fling his cloak over his head in time to avoid being drenched a second time.

As he ran back across the square, though, his mind raced ahead, hundreds of miles away to Carlyle Castle. He’d never been there and never received any communication from the duke, either. What on earth could the Carlyle solicitor want from him?

By the time he reached his lodgings again, he had begun to wonder, even hope, if there mightn’t be some legacy, either newly left to him by an obscure relative or recently discovered by the solicitor. There had been no word from the St. Jameses of Carlyle Castle in the dozen years and more since his father and grandfather had died. His mother always said she wasn’t surprised, since they hadn’t cared when either was alive.

Not that Drew would refuse anything from them now. On the contrary, he would accept even a small inheritance with gratitude—and alacrity.

It was the letter from the secretary at war that unsettled him. Why would Sir George Yonge care that he was granted leave to accept a legacy? Why would Carlyle’s solicitor ask the head of the army to intervene?

He tore open the letter as soon as he gained the shelter of his lodging. MacKinnon had laid out a generous dinner which normally would have driven all other thoughts from his mind, especially after a day like this one. But tonight he stood just inside his door, ignoring the water dripping off him, and read the letter from his distant cousin’s solicitor.

“Trouble, sir?” ventured MacKinnon after several minutes.

He raised stunned eyes. “Bloody hell,” he whispered.

A fortnight later he found himself five hundred miles away cantering up a long winding road to the castle. It was a monumental structure of weathered gray stone, with crenelated towers and a drawbridge through a stone arch that had certainly once held a portcullis—if it didn’t still hold one. It was not unlike some of the fortresses to which he’d been posted during his years of army life, and he wouldn’t have been surprised to see a regiment come marching crisply around the corner. Never would he have guessed that this was a home.

In the courtyard he flung himself off his horse; he was late. He’d been requested to present himself today, but he’d been delayed by everything from bad weather to a broken saddle girth.

The butler was waiting for him, and he was shown immediately to a room. A servant brought a tray of breakfast, sausages steaming gently in the tureen. Famished, Drew snatched as many bites as he could, trying to set his clothing to rights as a servant silently gave his coat a swift brushing.

“Her Grace requests your presence,” said the butler, far too soon.

He crammed a roll into his mouth, washed it down with a gulp of coffee, and strode after the man.

Unaccountably his hands shook as he checked the buttons of his coat. Mr. Edwards, the attorney, had charged him to be prompt and here he was, darting in at the last moment, covered in dust and bleary-eyed from the long trip from Inverness. He dared to hope it was a generous legacy.

The room he was shown into was ornate beyond anything he’d ever seen. Not even the Duke of Hamilton’s house, which he’d viewed once with his family, held a candle to this. The walls were covered in burgundy damask, hung with a dazzling selection of artwork. The carpet beneath his boots was thick and richly patterned. Tall, mullioned windows looked out over an endless stretch of verdant lawn. It was fit for royalty.

The woman sitting on the ornate chair, though, was no queen but a duchess. Drew had managed to learn that much: Sophia Marie St. James, Duchess of Carlyle. She was short and plump, wearing