The Hellion and The Heartbreaker(4)By: Jennifer McNare
Alec Weston arrived at the McPhearson’s country estate the following day, though it was nearly dark when his elegant traveling coach, emblazoned with the Worthe ducal coat of arms, finally rolled to a stop at the crest of the long gravel drive. A buxom young blonde with an accommodating smile and an eager-to-please disposition had delayed his departure from London, but the pleasurable romp had been well worth the late start.
Smiling at the memory, he was in exceptionally good spirits as the door swung open and the coach steps were lowered. He nodded in greeting as two of the McPhearson’s liveried footmen exited the large stone manor, hustling toward the vehicle as he alighted, and then made his way to the front entrance. He was a bit stiff from the lengthy confinement and it felt good to stretch his legs. As he walked, his boot heels crunched softly against the loose gravel, a welcome sound after the long journey. Inhaling deeply, he savored the scent of clean fresh country air as he leisurely ascended the wide front steps. When he reached the entry, the McPhearson’s butler was immediately at his side to usher him in.
“Good evening, Your Grace. Welcome to Grey Oaks.”
“Thank you,” he replied, crossing the threshold and stepping into the foyer.
“If you would care to wait in the parlor,” the butler said, motioning to the large, elegantly furnished room just off the foyer, “I will inform the earl of your arrival.”
Alec nodded his assent and walked unhurried into the room. He’d been sitting for the past several hours, so he ignored the richly upholstered duvet and matching chairs and moved to stand before one of the tall, mullioned windows overlooking the front lawn. He watched dispassionately as one of the footmen unloaded his bag, and then sent the vehicle in the direction of the coach house. His thoughts drifted for a moment and then turned to Colin. They had met years ago at boarding school, had eventually become roommates, and then ultimately the best of friends. They had been quite a pair back then he recalled fondly, notorious for raising hell and causing trouble at the prestigious school that housed and educated a large majority of sons from the country’s most prominent and well-to-do families.
Unfortunately, the tragic death of Colin’s parents had put a premature end to their youthful hell raising. Colin had left school early to act as guardian to his younger siblings, and shortly thereafter had inherited the title Earl of Kenston from his English grandfather. Those obligations, combined with the responsibility of caring for his four siblings, had permanently curtailed their boyish antics, but they had remained close friends nonetheless.
Unlike Colin, he had inherited his own title, the seventh Duke of Worthe, at a much earlier age, having just turned thirteen when his own father died, seven years earlier. His mother, along with the trustees of his father’s estate had overseen their family’s holdings while he had completed his schooling, keeping the burden from his shoulders until recently.
Now, with his education complete, it was he who controlled the vast Weston fortune. It was a huge undertaking, and gave him a much greater understanding and tremendous appreciation for the profound obligation that had fallen on his friend’s young shoulders. It also kept him in the city far more then he would have liked. Thus, he had been delighted when he’d received word from Colin that the McPhearson stables had acquired a new stallion, one that Colin thought he might have an interest in. He had jumped at the chance to leave London for even a short time, and now, he intended to enjoy the brief hiatus to its fullest.
“Alec, you made it.”
He immediately turned from the window, his expression slightly repentant as Colin entered the room. “I’m afraid I got a bit of a late start,” he said with a roguish grin, moving forward to grasp Colin’s hand in friendly greeting.
Colin cocked his left eyebrow knowingly. “Blonde or brunette?”
“You know me too well, Colin,” Alec said, smiling sardonically.
“Indeed I do.” Colin nodded in amused agreement. “So, which was she?”
“Blonde, of course.”
“You always did have a weakness for the blondes,” Colin replied with a lighthearted chuckle.