How to Capture a Duke(98)

By: Bianca Blythe

Fiona laughed. A footman offered Percival and her some appetizers. She sniffed and waved the platter away with a smile.

“Darling.” Percival inhale. “Can you be—”

“Ah, Fiona.” Uncle Seymour’s voice boomed in her ear. “So . . . er . . . delightful to see you.”

“Uncle.” She smiled and allowed him to kiss her cheek.

Percival still looked somewhat stunned, but he managed to raise his eyebrows.

“My niece, the duchess,” Uncle Seymour continued, his voice maintaining its consistent fortissimo.

“Her uncle, the baronet.” Percival bowed.

“How is Cloudbridge Castle?” Fiona asked.

“Ah, yes!” Uncle Seymour said. “Very nice. You should consider visiting some time.”

“And sleep in the tiny guestroom?” Percival asked.

Uncle Seymour shifted his legs. “No, ah, that won’t be necessary. We—well I could offer my room to you. It would only be proper. It would be an . . . er . . . great honor to see you again.”

Percival’s mouth twitched, and Fiona murmured gratitude for the invitation.

Uncle Seymour took a deep sip of negus. “And . . . er . . . if you happen to still be interested in the apple orchard . . .”

“Oh?” Fiona swiveled her head to him.

Uncle Seymour shifted from side to side, and he rubbed his cravat, rumpling the flourishes. “Well—my wife was reading about your latest discoveries in Chester. It seems lots of people are actually interested in stones that come up from the ground.”

“Ah, yes,” Percival said. “The general population is rather more intelligent than they are often given credit for.”

“Well.” Uncle Seymour coughed. “My wife was curious if you were right and if there might indeed be treasures of some sort in the orchard. And since you’re so famous, it didn’t seem right to bring just anyone to dig through the garden.”

Fiona had missed Cloudbridge Castle, but she was glad the world now extended beyond the manor house’s constraints. She smiled at her uncle’s hopeful gaze. “I would be honored to work on the project. Though I won’t be doing much digging either.”

“Ah . . . I gather you’ll be bringing in your own crew again,” Uncle Seymour said. “Quite good. We’ve been able to give some of them jobs.”

Fiona nodded. “So I heard.”

“I reckon you’ll be busy with your museum,” Uncle Seymour said.

“Oh, indeed,” Fiona responded. “I have no plans to give that up.”

Italy might be postponed, but one day, certainly, she would make her way there. In the meantime, there was still much to be discovered here.

“Suppose even becoming a duchess couldn’t change you much,” Uncle Seymour sniffed.

Fiona raised her eyebrow, and her uncle’s face reddened. He made his excuses and hastened in the direction of the punch table.

“My dear . . .” Percival didn’t mask the tremble in his voice. “Just what is keeping you from digging around in the ground as well?”

A jolt of happiness surged through her. “Next Christmas, there will be another person here.”

“Sweetheart.” Percival beamed.

She smiled and entwined her hand with his, enjoying the warmth of his palm and the knowledge her life with him was merely beginning.


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