Marblestone mansion book.., p.1
Marblestone Mansion, Book 1 (Scandalous Duchess Series, #1), page 1
(Scandalous Duchess Series)
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Editor: Frankie Sutton
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A Duke by inheritance, Hannish MacGreagor soon learned the title came with very little wealth, so he bought a silver mine in Idaho, left his wife of two weeks in Scotland, and sailed to America. Later, he sold the mine, became one of the wealthiest men in Colorado and built Marblestone Mansion on a bluff overlooking Colorado Springs. His hopes were high when he sent for his wife, but something was amiss - his wife was not what she pretended to be.
Table of Contents
The Viking Series:
The Jackie Harlan Mysteries
The Carson Series
Hannish MacGreagor leaned his tall frame against the outside of the station’s stonewall, crossed his feet at the ankles, and folded his arms. The noon train was late, but there was nothing unusual about that. Well dressed in a black suit and vest that made his eyes seem a brighter blue, he wore a tall hat atop his wavy, dark hair. For three years, two months, eight days and six hours, he had waited. His beloved Olivia was on that train and now, the minutes seemed to drag on as if to intentionally plague him. There was much to make up for and he could not wait to get started.
Hannish carried two pocket timepieces, one set to Colorado time and the other so he would know what time it was in Scotland. He checked his Colorado watch again and to his despair, only five minutes had passed since the last time he looked. He put it back in his pocket, restlessly uncrossed his feet, and looked back down the railroad tracks.
Founded less than thirty years before, nearly everything was new in Colorado Springs including the railroad station. Built in the shadow of Pikes Peak, the peaceful town quickly attracted wealthy gold mine owners, who happily built their mansions on the vast undeveloped lands. With mansions came the need for stores, shops, carpenters, iron forgers, cobblers, a bank, a telephone switchboard, farms, tailors, seamstresses, parks and of course, a grand hotel. The upper class of Great Britain soon began to come for the warm summers and the easy to breathe high-altitude air. If by chance, the lords and ladies managed an acquaintance with the Americans and their new money, so much the better.
A direct descendent of a Viking, or so the story went, Hannish had broad shoulders, was tall enough to see over the heads of the others and at last, he spotted the southbound train’s billowing black smoke in the distance. The moment he heard the whistle signaling its approach, he stood up straight and made certain everything was ready. A plush red carriage especially purchased for the occasion sat waiting, complete with a matching team of white horses and Shepard, his driver. Two more wagons and their drivers, Prescot and Keith, waited behind the carriage. One wagon was to haul luggage in case his wife decided to bring half of Scotland, and the other had fold-down benches, for the servants he hoped he had managed to tempt to come with her.
Finally, the train crept around the last bend and came to a stop, placing the passenger cars right in front of him. The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad conductor, in his impressive uniform, opened the door, stepped down, and began to help his passengers disembark.
Hannish stood ready to greet Olivia, but she was not the first to appear in the doorway. Nevertheless, his smile widened when he recognized sisters Blanka and Donnel, the elder housemaids who had been with the family since he was a boy. He took off his hat, put an arm around each, and kissed their cheeks. “How happy I am to see both of you again. This place will truly feel like home now.”
Donnel pretended to scold him, “Your Grace, you dinna say ‘twas such a big country. We have lived eight lifetimes on those trains.”
“And you’ve yet to see half of America.” He chuckled when she rolled her eyes.
Jessie, his favorite Scottish cook was the next one he greeted. “How I have longed for your custards, Jessie. You’ve not forgotten how to make them, have you now?”
Jessie quickly curtsied. “Nay, I’ve me secret recipe tucked under me hat.” It was a fine brown hat too, although it was not large or decorated in the latest flamboyant fashion. Instead, it had small artificial red roses sewn around the band. Her traveling clothes were ordinary, the same as other women wore, except Jessie’s looked nearly worn out and Hannish was surprised by that. “You look well.”
“I am, thank you,” Jessie replied.
Two men waited to be welcomed and Hannish recognized both as two of the footmen he grew up with in Scotland. Dugan and Ronan were Donnel’s sons, both grown now and both just as loyal to the MacGreagor family as their mother was. They had light sandy hair and wore neatly trimmed mustaches. “Have you learned baseball yet, lads?” he teased, knowing full well they thought it was a silly American sport.
“Your Grace, we have changed our minds,” said Dugan. “When in Rome, and all that, Sir.”
“I am pleased to hear it. Welcome to America.” Hannish motioned for the drivers to help his servants into the wagons and then turned his attention back to the train’s passenger car.
The next to appear was a well-dressed woman, but her wide-brimmed hat with an abundance of large cloth flowers on top, hid her face as she stepped down. She wore a pastel green dress, with sleeves that were tight from her wrists to her elbows, and then ballooned to her shoulders. Her “V” shaped bodice was intended to make her waist appear smaller than it actually was, and the floor length skirt touched the top of her button-up shoes. Slowly, she lifted her head and let him see her face.
“McKenna?” Hannish gasped. He grabbed her around the waist and lifted her completely off the ground. “I dinna think you would come.” He nearly knocked her hat off as he repeatedly kissed his sister’s cheek, and refused to let her down until she pounded on his arms and giggled. At last, he set her back on her feet, let go and grinned. “You bring a bit o’ Scotland to feed me starvin’ soul, you do.”
With his same dark hair and blue eyes, McKenna straightened her skirt and glared at her older brother. “I come to collect my twenty pounds, and nothing more.” She removed the pins, took her hat off, and handed both to the girl standing beside her. “This is Sassy. ‘Tis not her real name, but I call her that, for she easily speaks her mind.”
Before he could finish nodding to the grinning girl, another familiar face stepped off the train. “Alistair?” Hannish asked, taking his longtime friend and cherished butler’s hand in his.
“Your Grace, ‘tis a bit of bad news I bring.”
Hannish caught his breath, “Tell me she dinna die on the voyage.”
A prim and proper butler, Alistair was nearly as tall as Hannish but had a more slender build. “Nay, Your Grace, she stayed in New York. Shopping, she said it was.”
He tried to hide his disappointment, but he was not very good at it. “I received no telegram.”
Alistair wrinkled his brow. “Perhaps she has not had the time.”
“Aye, shopping. Did she say when she would co
“Nay, Your Grace.” Just as his butler began to bow, Hannish took hold of his arm. “Alistair, Americans are not fond of titles. There is no need to bow and perhaps you might address me as Sir, or even Mr. MacGreagor will do.” He waited for Alistair’s nod and then continued. “Are you the last?”
“I am,” Alistair answered.
“Then I am pleased to take all of you to your new home. I’ve much to tell and happy to have so many friendly Scots to tell it to.” He turned to McKenna. “Come, sister, I shall let you ride in my new red carriage, but just this once.” He ignored her playful glare, took her elbow, guided her to the carriage, and helped her board. He waited until all the steamer trunks and travel suitcases were loaded on the last wagon, none of which he recognized as his, and as soon as the servants were seated, he joined his sister in the carriage. A tap on a window that separated them from the driver signaled he was ready, and with a slight jerk, the carriage began to move.
“Only seven came? Why is that?” he asked.
McKenna looped her arm through her brother’s. “Eight, Olivia kept Brookton and Millie with her and I employed Sassy on the voyage. ‘Tis just the way it turned out for the others, but the ones who did come are very happy to see America. All but one left families behind, but not husbands, wives or children.”
“The way I did, you mean.”
“Hannish MacGreagor, dinna put words in my mouth.” She pushed a strand of hair away from her face and continued, “I only meant they are all unmarried.”
“I suppose Olivia needs Brookton to carry her new purchases. I am to expect more trunks than I thought, but we shall manage.” He noticed how quickly his sister turned to look out the window. “What?”
McKenna turned back, snuggled closer and laid her head on his strong shoulder. “She has changed.”
“In what way?”
“There you be, temptin’ me to say more than I care to.”
“Have we secrets now? I dinna think that possible.”
“I was but a child then, now I am all grown up.”
Hannish grinned. “So I see, and with a full set of wits. How cleverly you avoid answering my question.”
“Oh, very well, if you must know, Olivia brings little with her.”
This time it was Hannish who turned to look out the window. The foreboding in the pit of his stomach had just increased. “She dinna bring my clothing?”
McKenna quickly took pity on him. “It does not mean she does not intend to stay. Perhaps she wishes to have all things new for both of you in her new home.”
“She is clearly not as excited to see me as I am to see her.”
“Olivia adores clothing and cares to dress her best at all times. Perhaps she fears she’ll not see New York again anytime soon.”
He smiled to reassure her. “Did she say as much?”
“Nay, we dinna get on so well after you left. She does not confide in me.”
“Is that why you moved to the cottage?”
McKenna sighed. “I adore the cottage, as you are well aware. We grew up there, and it holds many wonderful memories for me. I can still see father at the dinner table tellin’ us the old family stories, while mother gently corrected our table manners.”
“I remember. Father taught us many things, and I confess I dinna see the wisdom in his words at the time. Each day, I find he understood the ways of the world very well.”
Lost in the memory, both were quiet for a moment until McKenna spoke again, “They were taken from us far too soon.”
“Aye, they were.”
“I often think how perfect it was that they, who loved each other so very well, died in each other’s arms.”
“True. I believe father tried to shield her with his body, but the train was simply going too fast. How I wish they had lived. I so often long to ask his advice, and mother’s too.”
“As do I. Do you remember how he forced us to learn proper English? He said, ‘Bearn, ye’ll not have the best o lives until ye learn to speak jest like the English.’ He was right, too.”
“Indeed, he was. He’d not pass the bread until we got at least two English pronunciations right,” said Hannish.
“And now look at us, what language do these Americans speak? I have heard French, German and a word or two completely unfamiliar, just since I boarded the ship.”
“You’ll get on with it soon enough. Tell me, what can I do to resolve the differences between you and my wife?”
“Nothing, there is nothing to be done.”
“‘Tis the fault yours or hers?”
“Both, I imagine.” She glanced out the window at the trees and bushes along her side of the road. “What sort of trees are those with the white bark?”
“They are Aspen. The odd-looking pine trees are called Blue Spruce, and they are everywhere. Sister, you need not protect me. I am aware something is amiss with Olivia. At first, her letters were filled with love, but I received only two from her these last six months. Both said little and were signed not with ‘love’ but only with ‘affection.’”
“She keeps herself very busy.”
“Her society, mostly. She does miss you, particularly when she is forced to attend a ball with an escort instead.”
“She attends them often?”
“Olivia is much admired by her society.”
“And you, do you attend the balls?”
McKenna sighed. “I find them boring, particularly now that I have a wealthy brother. Every wife hunting baronet, knight, and barrister in Scotland finds me far more fetching these days.”
“But you dinna find them so?”
“How can I? None measure up to either you or Cameron.”
“How is my brother, by the way? He does not say how he is.”
“He took me to the ship and said if I am most fortunate, he will come to America to see that I am being treated properly.”
“He always did favor you, although I cannae think why. Does his Glasgow business do well?” Hannish asked.
“Very well. He said they built or repaired some 100 looms and shipped them from Glasgow to all over Scotland last month. The cotton mills flourish as do their suppliers.”
“A hundred in a month? I say, he is doing well. Is he happy?”
“Very happy, and his wife Flora, is the brightest star in our sky. You will love her as much as I do. She is perfect for your spirited younger brother and he has calmed considerably now that he is married.”
Hannish lovingly laid his head on top of hers for a moment. “How glad I am to have you keep me company. What do you think of Colorado?”
“It looks a lot like Kansas, which is by far the flattest stretch of land on earth. Even Northern Scotland is not as flat as all that. But. my dear brother, when I stepped off the train in Denver, the view took my breath away. Never have I seen a sight the likes of the grand Rocky Mountains. Had we no south bound train to catch, I would be staring at them still.”
“I never tire of seeing them either.” Hannish pointed to his mansion in the distance and then turned to watch her eyes light up. “Marblestone.”
McKenna’s mouth dropped. “It is magnificent. If this does not please your wife, nothing will.”
Situated on a plateau above the town, the enormous three-story mansion was white and glistened in the sunlight. As wide as it was long, it had a multitude of windows on each floor, decorative oval windows and saw-tooth wedges above the top floor and several chimneys. Too soon, the carriage rounded a bend in the road and she could no longer see it. “How many rooms?”
“Sixty-seven, more than enough to seek your solitude, should you tire of me.”
“I am pleased to hear that,” she teased.
“I intend to fill it with at least ten happy, laughing children.”
“Why do you call it Marblestone?”
“It is not marble on the outside, but you shall see when you go inside. The Yule Marble quarry is in the mountains to the west.
“Then you truly did make a fortune when you sold the mine.”
“More than even my wife could spend in a lifetime.”
The gradual incline of the winding road kept her from seeing more of the mansion through the trees, so she slumped back in her seat. “I have a complaint.”
“Why am I not surprised to hear that?”
“You built it facing the valley and not the mountains.”
“Aye, but there are windows facing the mountains as well, and there is afternoon tea to be had outside where you can see for miles. Just wait, you will not be disappointed.”
“And are the Americans you employ friendly? Some Americans were not so pleasant on the train.”
“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.”
by Marti Talbott have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes