Lord Vile (Beastly Lords Book 3)(8)

By: Sydney Jane Baily


True, he’d spent some good sterling on the Cyprians, who liked to be kept in an elegant manner and given expensive gifts. And then, there was his penchant for fine brandy.

First thing in the morning, he would head to his bank and see where he stood.

Meanwhile, this tedious tête-à-tête with his father needed to end.

“Thank you for telling me your tale of woe. I don’t know what you thought I could do for you, but I assure you, I can do nothing. Despite your shabby treatment of me, I hope you fare well.” Standing, he picked up his drink and walked away.

Hopefully, David would still be in the billiards room.

“Think of your sister and brother,” his father’s voice cut across the room.

Michael barely broke his stride as he crossed the carpeted floor.

Yet, when he reached the next room, his father was right behind him. The man was harder to get rid of than the pox. Thankfully, that particular challenge had not been visited upon him.

Whirling to face the earl, Michael kept his tone neutral. “What do you want?”

“You are the heir! Do you wish to deal with this after I die? You’ll have a grieving widow on your hands, as well as two siblings looking to you for help, one for a dowry and one for an allowance. At that point, we may no longer have our beloved Oxonholt. Thus, your family will leave Kent and come live with you in Town. Won’t that be cozy?”

Michael considered all this. “Then don’t die anytime soon.”

He meant what he said. He wasn’t prepared to become the head of the family, nor be responsible for the maintenance of his mother, brother, and sister. He certainly didn’t want them in his modest townhouse.

His father’s impatience was written upon his countenance.

“It’s time for you to start preparing, at the very least,” the earl continued. “What do I want from you? I want my eldest son to use his God-given brain for something besides enjoying himself. You used to have a conscience and a purpose. Five years ago, you were talking about railways and mining and even textiles. I think it’s past time you started figuring out how to make money the way every man-Jack is doing in this budding nation of ours.”

Michael narrowed his eyes. “At the time, as I recall, you turned up your nose at my interest in such middle-class business dealings.”

“At the time, I didn’t realize servants would demand a raise in their wages or the price of bread would shoot through the roof or the government would start taxing my land right out from under me. I tell you, it’s almost not possible to be a landholder if you aren’t also a savvy businessman. And that’s the truth.”

“I am supposed to suddenly figure out the intricate world of business, am I?” Michael desperately wished this entire encounter never had happened and even more desperately wanted another soothing glass of French delight, only to discover he still had one in his hand.

“Somebody has to,” his father pointed out, “and I’m too bloody old to start. Come see me in a week and let me know what you’ve found out.”

Michael spluttered his last sip of brandy. “A week?”

“If I give you any longer, then you’ll simply dawdle about and put it off. We need action now. I’ve already waited too long for you to come to your senses.”

“Come to my senses? You’re not making me want to help you.”

“You’re not helping me,” the earl insisted. “You’re helping yourself, if you haven’t figured that out yet. When your grandfather’s money is gone, how long do you think White’s will let you stay?” He gestured at the grand establishment around them.

“Maybe more important to you, how will you keep your mistresses? Or have you sunk so low you don’t mind them keeping you, like a bloody lap dog?”

“We’re finished,” Michael told him, turning his back and walking away.

“One week,” his father called after him.

*

Ada was in love! When Maggie came to visit, bringing her little Rosie, Ada simply had to tell her.

“I absolutely love my new home. Look, come see the adorable carving around the drawing room fireplace.”

Maggie agreed it was adorable. “And yes, to the pale green draperies,” her friend agreed. “They are a far better choice than ivory. Every detail is perfect, and suits you down to the doorknocker. You’re creating a wonderful home.”

“I thank that clever Mr. Cubitt for developing the square. He’s positively ancient, but I wonder if I should visit with him and offer him my honest appreciation.”

Ada’s friend laughed. “Think of where we were a few years back,” Maggie recalled. “Can you believe our lives at present? I was practically penniless in Sheffield, and we were both husband hunting. And now you’ve bought your own white stucco home in Belgrave Square. Why, there’s a duke living two doors down, for goodness sake, and an admiral of the fleet across the way.”

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