Marblestone mansion book.., p.1
Marblestone Mansion, Book 3, page 1
(Scandalous Duchess Series)
By Marti Talbott
© all rights reserved
Cover art by Book Cover Art
Editor: Frankie Sutton
Table of Contents
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Until that day, Cameron MacGreagor had not thought of his Scottish castle as being cold and uninviting. He, his older brother, Hannish, and their little sister, McKenna, practically grew up there, and the place was constantly filled with family and friends. That was before their Uncle died, Hannish became the duke and had the misfortune of marrying the wrong woman, whom he made his duchess. The title of duke came with few funds, so Hannish went to America, made his fortune in silver and stayed there.
For three long years, ‘the bad years,’ Cameron called them, the duchess lived in the castle. At last, Hannish rid them of the duchess, Cameron became the duke, found a love of his own and the bad years became very, very good again. His wife loved entertaining, the place overflowed with friends and he desperately loved her for it.
Yet, on a cold February night, all that changed.
A month later, Cameron was as lost as a man could be. At six foot, five inches, he was just as big as centuries of MacGreagor men had been, with dark wavy hair and bright blue eyes. He sat in a chair staring at the dying embers in the hearth, and sipped the glass of wine Lord Bayington handed him.
Lord Edward Bayington poured a second glass of wine for himself and then sat in a nearby chair. “What troubles you most?” Edward asked. He was closer in age to Hannish, but he liked Cameron too, and always had. Edward had green eyes and it appeared he was going prematurely bald, although his wife assured him he was more handsome that way. He thought bald men with beards looked unbecoming and therefore kept himself clean-shaven.
The answer to Edward’s question haunted Cameron and he was glad to share it with someone finally. “I should have been with Flora when she died. She often woke in the night, which always woke me, so that night, she insisted I get a full night’s rest. She went to sleep in another room and I let her. I had an odd feeling, a forebodin’ if you will, but I dismissed it.”
“Even if you had been with her, you could not have saved her or the baby.”
“So the doctor said. He claims she had a stroke and went peacefully in her sleep. I pray he is right.”
“I have heard of that happening to pregnant women.”
“Have you? I had not.” Cameron took another sip and set his glass on the end table. “It is very kind of Lady Bayington to pack Flora’s things away for me. I tried, but could not bear it.”
“My wife loves you, as do we all and she is honored to be of assistance.” Edward watched as Cameron got up and added another log to the fire. Lord Bayington and his wife attended the funeral, but he had to return to London and they didn’t have much time to talk. It was better to let Cameron grieve for a time before they came back to Scotland anyway. Even now, there was little he could do or say to comfort his old friend, so he decided to change the subject. “Do you still intend to sail to America this summer?”
“I booked our passage in December and I see no reason not to go.”
“It will do you good to get away for a while. Stay for a time. I can check on the place and your man at the shop knows who to call if he needs anything.”
“You are very kind. Perhaps I will stay a month or two.” Cameron finished with the log and took a long look at what had always been his favorite sitting room. The furnishings were relatively new with ample chairs, paintings, oak tables, electric lamps and vases filled with flowers. “This room was once called the ‘great hall.’”
“Was it? Do you mean this is…?”
“Aye, this is the Keep where my ancestors married, fought and died. The walls were once covered with magnificent tapestries, along with some of these same weapons.” He picked up the iron stocker, moved the log a little farther back and then waited to make certain it caught fire.
“I have always wondered why this room is oblong rather than square,” said Edward.
“My uncle said a long table ran down the center, and Scotland’s finest fighters sat in tall-backed chairs, eatin’, drinkin’ and plannin’ their wars…or so the stories go. The original structure burned after one bout or another with the English, which enraged the MacGreagors. So they built the next Keep on the same spot, only out of stones that would not burn. Then they added enough rooms to house the entire clan.”
“Until one day, it became a castle.”
For the first time in weeks, Cameron smiled. “Aye.” He walked to the far wall, carefully took hold of a sword in a well-worn, ancient sheath and took it down. “The eldest son usually became the next Laird and the keeper of the old stories, although a few tales are lost to us. The glen outside is where the MacGreagors and the MacClurgs joined clans.”
“I believe I have heard that story. Did you not tell it at a dinner a few years ago?”
“Aye, ‘twas Kadick’s story.”
“That’s right, Kadick with the birthmark. How many are left in the MacGreagor Clan these days?”
“Not many, leastwise not many still in Scotland. The livin’ has been hard; some have gone to Ireland, some to Scandinavia and of course, to America.” He walked back to his chair, sat down, put the sword across his lap and took another sip of his wine. “You have not heard this story, I wager.” Cameron set his drink down and carefully began to untie the rotting leather strings that held the sheath to the handle. “I was nearly thirteen when I first took notice of the weapons. This one is lost.”
Edward wrinkled his brow. “Lost?”
“‘Tis a lie we MacGreagors tell to keep it safe from the world. There was a legend too, though I do not quite remember how it went – somethin’ about taking a pledge to return it to the MacGreagor laird, if ever it was found. I shall ask Hannish, he will remember.”
“Your brother is, of course, the clan’s laird.”
“Aye and ‘tis a good thing. He is much better at keepin’ the stories than I. My uncle had but six daughters and no sons, so all of this passed to Hannish and then to me. Uncle once said, ‘All we ever really have in this life is family.’ I see now what he meant. I have many fond memories of him and of my parents before they were killed in the head-on train crash. Perhaps someday, when this heart of mine has healed, I shall have only fond memories of Flora.”
Once more, Lord Bayington thought it best to change the subject. “Is there more to the story about this sword?”
“There is. At one point, the Kennedy clan thought to fight the MacGreagors for it, but that came later. ‘Twas in the midst of a war with the MacDonalds, that it was given to a lass named Steppen, who somehow got separated from the clan. It was she, who found this glen, yet there was no way to tell the clan where she was, except to let strangers see the sword. It worked. Word of it spread across Scotland in record time.” Finally finished untying the straps, Cameron carefully began to slide the sheath off the sword. The golden blade instantly caught the firelight and brilliantly glistened.
Lord Bayington’s eyes grew large. “Good heavens, have you had that appraised?”
“I cannae, ‘tis lost.”
Edward couldn’t help but chuckle. “Do you mean to tell me, the duchess lived here for three years and did not discover it?”
“I assure you, the only walls the duchess ever looked at were the ones with mirrors.”
Edward roared with laughter. “I can believe that. What a fine joke. There is nothing that woman likes more than gold.”
“How true. I wonder w
“America still, I hope.”
“As do I. I believe we would have heard if she was back.”
“Do you suppose she has married again?” Cameron asked.
“I do not doubt it. Husband number six…the poor man.”
“The poor lad, indeed.”
Two days later, Cameron received a letter from America. It simply said:
The flowers will bloom again.
He thought it odd at the time, folded it, put it back in the envelope, tossed it on his writing desk, and promptly forgot about it.
As winter turned to spring, Cameron filled his days with work. His property was forever in need of improvement, which was made somewhat easier with the use of new and better equipment the world seemed to be turning out at record speed. His loom building and repair business continued to grow, as did the cotton mills that needed the looms, and that too kept him busy.
Then a telephone call in the night changed his world once more.
In the study of Colorado’s Marblestone Mansion, Hannish MacGreagor sat at his roll-top desk and rubbed the back of his neck, the way he always did when he was uneasy. For months, he had kept certain information from a friend and felt guilty for doing it. Day after day, his guilt increased until at last, he decided to ask for his brother’s advice.
Marblestone Mansion was Hannish MacGreagor’s dream home. He originally built it for his duchess, and had white marble shipped from high in the mountains to construct a foyer like no other. The all-white room on the northern end of the mansion had a high ceiling with large blocks of white marble on the floor. Fresh flowers in marble vases sat on a long, narrow, marble table in the center of the room. Marble slab window seats had been placed just under the sills of tall windows that let in plenty of light, and a colorful tapestry depicting a Scottish Border Collie and her five pups hung on one wall.
Everyone loved the room…except the duchess, who said it reminded her of a mausoleum. Wisely, he got rid of the duchess and kept the foyer.
Now he lived happily with his wife, Leesil, his son, Justin and his sister-in-law, Cathleen, in a mansion with three floors, several servants and an overabundance of rooms, including a library, a billiard room and even a ballroom. Each room had something made of white marble in it.
The grounds were expansive as well, with a large front and an equally large backyard. Four married couples lived in cottages that bordered the backyard. Not far away, a large shed protected the buggy from the weather and wagons waited to be put to use. Beyond the shed was a corral and ample pasturelands for the horses. The newest addition, not counting the vegetable and flower gardens, was a swing attached to the limb of a very large Bur Oak tree.
Hannish looked a lot like Cameron, and had the same large build, wavy dark hair and blue eyes. As usual, when the call to Scotland was connected, he spoke Gaelic so the snoops who frequently listened in on America’s party lines wouldn’t know what they were talking about. He barely waited for his brother to answer before he blurted it out. “The duchess has a daughter.” Hannish waited, but there was no reply on the other end. “Cameron, are you there?”
“Aye, is she your child?”
“Nay, she was born before the duchess married me.”
“Then what has it to do with you?”
“The child was born after her marriage to Lord Bayington.”
“Oh…I see.” Seated at his writing desk, Cameron paused to collect his thoughts. “Edward must not know about her. He has four sons, but he has never mentioned a daughter.”
“I am certain the duchess kept it from him, just as she kept it from me.”
“Where is the lassie?”
“With the duchess’ second husband, Mr. Sinclair…and brother, according to Dugan, the duchess often shared Mr. Sinclair’s bed as well.”
“Then there is no way of tellin’ whose daughter the child is.”
“I dinna see how. Dugan says the lassie looks just like her mother. She must be five or six by now. Should I tell Lord Bayington?”
Cameron took a deep breath. “He’s a right to know.”
“I agree, but what about the child? She is well cared for and no doubt believes Sinclair is her father.”
“If I know Bayington, which I do, he will want his daughter to grow up knowin’ who her real father is. Where is the duchess?”
“She sent a note congratulatin’ me on the birth of my son. It was postmarked San Francisco.”
“God willing, she will stay there.”
“God willing. She has a new husband, I wager.”
Cameron sighed. “There can be little doubt of that.”
“You agree then…I should tell Lord Bayington?”
“I see no choice in the matter. I shall go see him tomorrow.”
Hannish shook his head even though his brother could not see. “The burden is mine, I will call him.”
“‘Tis better if I see him face-to-face. Perhaps I might soften the blow with a bit of brandy.”
“Very well then. Brother, perhaps you should visit Mr. Sinclair first and see the child for yourself. Dugan might be mistaken.”
“I will, if you think it best. Yet, I might frighten Mr. Sinclair away. He could hide the child and we might never find her.”
“A point well taken. Do as you think right and just, and beg Lord Bayington’s forgiveness for keepin’ it from him.”
“I shall. Brother, why did you not tell Edward sooner?”
“The threat of exposing her secret was how Dugan convinced the duchess to take the bribe and run off.”
“How are you, Cameron, I mean truly?”
“I wake every morning and I go to bed at night, but the loneliness is unthinkable. I could fill the place with people if I thought it would help, but none of them would be Flora.”
“I understand. We cannae wait to see you. You are still comin’, are you not?”
“And you are bringin’ James? I doubt my wife and Cathleen would forgive you if you dinna bring him.”
“James is already countin’ the days. ‘Twill be a happy reunion for them all.”
“Indeed it will.”
Few people knew Roy Keith’s first name and as far as he was concerned, it didn’t matter that much. Having two first names always seemed to confuse people, and when he and his cousin, Shepard, left Pennsylvania for the gold mines of Colorado, everyone assumed his first name was Keith. He just never bothered to correct anyone. Underground mining for gold turned out to be a little too confining for cousins, who both suffered a touch of claustrophobia. Therefore, when Hannish MacGreagor offered to make them footmen at Marblestone Mansion in Colorado Springs, they jumped at the chance.
A few months later, Keith left Marblestone and became butler to the town’s banker and his wife. He was happy with the Goodwins, but their children were grown, there was little to keep him busy and he missed all the goings-on at Marblestone. With so many people living in Marblestone Mansion, there was always something fun happening and plenty of people to talk to.
The Goodwins lived on a corner in downtown Colorado Springs, and when Keith spotted Margaret Ann and her son in the park across the street, he asked and was granted a few minutes away from his duties to visit with his old friend. He grabbed his hat, crossed the cobblestone street and quickly caught up with her. “Miss Margaret Ann, how are you?” he asked. As always, her smile seemed to light up the whole world.
Margaret Ann had light blonde hair, green eyes and long eyelashes. She wore a simple white, long sleeve blouse with an ordinary blue Gibson Girl skirt. “Keith, how nice to see you again.”
“What are you doing here?”
“I came to see Miss McKenna, but she has gone shopping, so William and I decided to take a walk in the park while we wait for her. What are you doing here?”
She liked Keith a little more than she let on when they lived in the same mansion, and she was pleased to see him. “Hoping for a scandal, are you?”
Keith’s brown eyes sparkled. He lifted his hat off his curly, dark brown hair and playfully bowed. “If you please.”
Little William pulled until Margaret Ann let go of his hand, and soon the toddler began to chase a butterfly, going as fast as his little legs would go. She smiled and kept a close eye on him, while she strolled beside Keith down Acacia Park’s tree lined sidewalk. Already, the summer sun was warming the crisp, fresh air. Nearby, benches offered places to sit alongside the lush green grass and soon, town gatherings would encourage dancing on the smooth cement in front of a pavilion, where musicians provided lively music. Occasionally, the town mayor made a speech, but he was usually ignored.
“William has learned to walk, I see,” said Keith.
“And a lot more. Someone taught him how to water the grass…with a particular part of his body.”
Keith chuckled. “Who could have done that?”
“I have threatened, but none of the men will confess.”
“I do not blame them.” Still smiling, he put his hat back on. “What else are the MacGreagors up to these days?” He was glad to see Margaret Ann had a healthier glow about her than she did when he first saw her. Back then, she worked at the Antlers Hotel as a laundry maid. Convinced she could no longer care for her baby, she walked all the way from town to Marblestone Mansion with her infant son in her arms. Desperate, she was prepared to give her child to the one man in the world she trusted most – Hannish MacGreagor. Instead, the MacGreagors took them both in and gave her a position with them.
“Well, let me see,” she started. “The new telephone desk sets finally arrived and Mr. Hannish put one in several of the rooms, even two in the servant’s quarters. They are a great convenience.”
“We have them now, too. There are so many new inventions; one must wonder what they will think of next?”
“I wonder too. Mrs. MacGreagor…”
by Marti Talbott have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes