The Duke's Downfall

The Duke's Downfall by Lynn Michaels Read Free Book Online

Book: The Duke's Downfall by Lynn Michaels Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lynn Michaels
Tags: Regency Romance
slid onto a corner of the desk with a wink. “The most lovely widow in the entire parish, I dare say. With absolutely no desire to be a duchess, she assured me.”
    “Of course she is. And of course she doesn’t. Why would she?” Charles demanded in his best toplofty tone. “When did you—er—say you’d seen her?”
    “I didn’t.” Lesley cupped his hat over his bent knee, leaned his forearm on his thigh, and smiled. “But it was just this week past while I was house hunting in the neighborhood for Amanda and me. Vast as the hall is, we’ve no desire to be underfoot, you know. I met Lady Cromley in the village. She invited me to tea and—”
    The library door opened, interrupting him and admitting the Duchess of Braxton. She was frowning and tugging on a pair of blue kid gloves that matched her pelisse and hat ribbons.
    “Forgive the intrusion, Charles, but I’m between appointments and—” Her Grace glanced up, saw Lesley perched on the corner of the desk, and her gaze narrowed furiously. “Here you are! And where were you yesterday?”
    “At Jackson’s and at White’s. Why?”
    “Why! Because you were supposed to meet me at Gunter’s in Berkeley Square at two of the clock!”
    “No, dear. I am to meet you today at Gunter’s.”
    Lesley laid his hat aside, drew out his pocket  watch, and sprang it open as he rose. “And I’ve purposely come three quarters of an hour early to escort you.”
    “Then you can escort me to Madame’s,” the duchess replied imperiously, “for I’m late for a fitting.”
    “But, Mother,” Charles corrected her, “you saw your modiste yesterday, for Denham informed me of it when I asked your direction.”
    “That’s impossible! I always see Madame on Wednesday, so I couldn’t possibly— Oh, but wait.” Her Grace pursed her lips thoughtfully. “Madame could only see me on Tuesday this week. Or was it last?”
    “Perhaps you would benefit from the services of a secretary,” Charles suggested. “At least until the wedding, or until your engagement book is found.”
    “And perhaps,” his mother retorted, her green eyes beginning to flash, “I would benefit from cooperation rather than criticism. If that is all you have to say, Charles, then kindly return to the library.”
    “I am in the library, Mother,” he replied, exchanging a bemused glance with Lesley.
    “More criticism!” she shrilled, in full cry now. “If you truly wished to be of assistance, you would not spend your every waking moment in this cursed room with these cursed books! You would lend your time and your person to seeing Lesley and Amanda wed while they are still young enough to fill their nursery! Especially since Caroline Cromley is long past the age of providing you an heir!”
    “Mother!” Charles and Lesley gasped in shocked unison.
    “Forgive my blunt speech, but your father is no longer here to tell you such things so I must! You are not quite as clever as you think, Charles, nor is the rest of the world quite so dim. But it is the outside of enough to hear you, who cannot find his boots without his valet, tell me that I need a secretary! And furthermore—”
    “Mother, see what I’ve found!” Teddy skidded into the room at a run, pinwheeling his arms to keep from falling on the highly polished floor.
    With a graceful sweep of her skirts, the duchess turned and saw her red leather appointment book clutched in one of his madly waving hands. “My engagement calendar!” she cried joyfully, and snatched it away from him.
    It was enough to unbalance Teddy and send him thudding to the floor on the seat of his cream-colored trousers. He gave a yelp of pain, but Her Grace stepped nimbly over him with a triumphant smile on her face.
    “Now we’ll just see, shall we, who is to meet whom and when.” She opened her book and read in a lofty tone, as she looked down her nose at the page, “Wednesday the twentieth, Lesley at Gunter’s, two of—” Her Grace slapped the book

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