Deadly Affair: A Georgian Historical Mystery (Alec Halsey Crimance)

BOOK: Deadly Affair: A Georgian Historical Mystery (Alec Halsey Crimance)
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CONTENTS
Cover
Also by Lucinda Brant
Title Page
Frontispiece
One
Two
Three
Four
Five
Six
Seven
Eight
Nine
Ten
Eleven
Twelve
Thirteen
Fourteen
Fifteen
Sixteen
Seventeen
Eighteen
Nineteen
Epilogue
Salt Bride Preview
Noble Satyr Preview
Midnight Marriage Preview
Autumn Duchess Preview
Deadly Engagement Preview
About The Author

ALSO BY LUCINDA BRANT
Deadly Engagement
A Georgian Historical Mystery
Alec Halsey Crimance Book 1
Salt Bride
A Georgian Historical Romance
Noble Satyr
A Georgian Historical Romance
Roxton Series Book 1
Midnight Marriage
A Georgian Historical Romance
Roxton Series Book 2
Autumn Duchess
A Georgian Historical Romance
Roxton Series Book 3

 

 

For
Pete

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2012
Lucinda Brant
all rights reserved
Kindle Edition by
Sprigleaf

 

Alec Halsey accepted Sir Charles Weir’s dinner invitation on the assumption he was the only guest. Now, standing in the politician’s drawing room surrounded by a dozen unfamiliar faces, he found himself in the midst of a party political dinner. The other guests were all in some way connected to the government, come together to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Sir Charles’s election to Parliament, not a career diplomat in the Foreign Department like Alec. The guest of honor, the Duke of Cleveley, twice First Lord of the Treasury and the present Foreign Secretary, had yet to descend among them, and Alec supposed this was why the double doors to the dining room remained closed.

Wine glass in hand, Alec sidled to the sash window that overlooked Arlington Street, and turned his back on the crowded and noisy room. He disliked gatherings of this sort. Too intimate. In a faceless crowd, one could remain anonymous and still enjoy the evening’s entertainment. Here everyone knew his family’s history, had devoured every scandalous detail in the London newssheets about the macabre circumstances surrounding the murder of his estranged brother. Despite the coroner’s open verdict, it was Alec society blamed for his brother’s death, thus condemning the newly elevated Marquess Halsey to a lifetime of suspicion.

Why had he returned to the city? He should have remained in Kent where he had spent the seven months since his brother’s death resurrecting the family estate. He should be visiting his tenants and seeing to their needs, not time-wasting rubbing shoulders with over-fed, opinionated politicians, and their parasitic hangers-on, all of whom avoided his eye. There was so much for him to do and learn about his unwanted inheritance that he hardly knew where to begin.

He sipped at the wine and stared down at a sedan chair come to rest on the steps of Horace Walpole’s townhouse, and ruminated on fate. He had spent most of his adult life on the periphery of Polite Society, a diplomat on the Continent speaking in foreign tongues. His estranged brother’s untimely death changed his well-ordered life forever. Did he want to run an estate and take his seat in the Lords? He knew so little about either that a winter posting to St. Petersburg held more appeal. What was he supposed to do with a Marquessate he did not in the least want and one his peers considered he did not deserve? Yet he had been compelled to accept with good grace the newly created title. As if his elevation from the family earldom of Delvin to the Marquessate Halsey would somehow miraculously expunge from the collective memory of Polite Society his connection to a murdered brother who had hated him with a passion bordering on mania. To Alec’s way of thinking, thrusting a Marquessate on him considerably complicated his life, and merely heightened suspicion.

Perhaps he would request a second posting to Constantinople?

He was roused from these musings at the mention of his name in loud whispered conversation over his left shoulder. Overhearing the rest was unavoidable.

“I don’t know why Weir invited
him
,”
whined a weak male voice. “He’s not one of us. And when one considers what he did to poor Ned—Well!”

“Sir Charles has a motive for everything,” mused his female companion. “I wonder…”

“Obviously Charlie fails to see the matter as we do, my lady.”

“He’s rather handsome in an angular sort of way. Big bony nose and large—”


What?
No powder and a scrap of lace makes
him
handsome?”

“—blue eyes,” Lady Cobham finished with a crooked smile, appraising Alec from well-muscled calf to coal black curls.

“You’re blind! He could very well be mistaken for an
American savage
.”

“Yes. That old rumor about—”


Rumor
?”

“—his real papa being a black lackey who took my lady Delvin’s fancy has stuck, hasn’t it?”

“It’s stuck, Caro, because the swarthy devil’s a-a
half-breed
. One only has to look at him to see that!”

The woman sighed deeply. “Yes, just look at him. Common report says he’s as virile as a savage…”

There was a snort of contempt. “You’re for Bedlam, Caro!
Egad
. The man’s uncouth, uncivilized,
and
disrespectful. The Duke won’t like him being here tonight; not one bit!”

“I dare say your father won’t like it, George, but given the Duke’s continued mourning for the Duchess I doubt Cleveley will care who Sir Charles has invited to dine. Can savages have blue eyes?”

“Be reasonable, Caro.” Lord George Stanton tucked his chins in his stock and said gravely, “Father is thinking of stepping down from the leadership.”

The lady gasped. “You can’t be serious? He said so in jest!”

“The Duke, my dear Lady Cobham, does not
jest
. Neither do I. And don’t think Father’s grief has made him blind to the world. He will certainly have a word with Weir for his lack of moral decency for inviting a man everyone knows but cannot prove murdered his own bro—”

“Oh, look! He’s finally here!” burst out Lady Cobham. She gave a nervous titter behind her fluttering fan when Alec stared straight at her. But when Lord George faced the doorway she lowered the fan of carved ivory to underscore her thrust up breasts before turning to admire the full-length portrait dividing the windows. “I wonder if that’s a Reynolds…?” she mused to no one in particular, a sly sidelong glance of open invitation at Alec.

A commotion in the doorway had everybody looking that way. The Duke of Cleveley had arrived. It said much about the man’s formidable political and social influence that his mere entrance caused the room to hush. He was soon surrounded by the party faithful, all wanting to be noticed, and Alec had the satisfaction of seeing
the great man
snub his stepson, Lord George Stanton, in favor of a clergyman in tattered collar and cuffs. At least the Duke was not about to allow an arrogant nature dictate to sense, he thought with a wry smile.

The meal itself was not the ordeal Alec had anticipated. In amongst the twelve courses there was much political discussion and many an impromptu speech praising Sir Charles’s five years as Member of Parliament for the rotten borough seat of Bratton Dean. And as Alec was seated between the scruffy clergyman, who ignored him in favor of conversation with the gentleman to his right, and Sir Charles, who sat at the head of the table, he began to feel more at ease. And with the comings and goings of the two footmen with the various courses on offer, he took the time to glance about at the other guests.

The Duke of Cleveley sat directly opposite, looking supremely bored. His Grace said little throughout the discussions, ate sparsely from the many dishes put before him, and continued to drink steadily, although this fact did not affect in any way his political acumen. Alec observed that whenever the Duke tired of the conversation he fiddled with his snuffbox and that his fellows took this as a sign that they could lower their guard, but no sooner did they do so than
the great man
would offer up some scathing criticism guaranteed to send the diners into a spin of counter arguments. Alec would never agree with the Duke’s politics but this did not stop him admiring the great politician at work. Now he knew why his uncle Plantagenet found the Duke such a worthy and infuriating opponent, and it made him smile contemplating what that old gentleman would have to say at breakfast the next morning when he learned just who had been at Sir Charles Weir’s dinner party.

Sir Charles leaned in to Alec.

“It’s all rather a bore for you, I’m afraid. Don’t worry, with the ladies gone to the drawing room we fellows can have a good port and a rest.” He patted Alec’s upturned velvet cuff. “I’m glad you came up to town.”

“I should’ve remembered. At school you had a way of getting what you wanted by fair means or foul.”

BOOK: Deadly Affair: A Georgian Historical Mystery (Alec Halsey Crimance)
2.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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