The American Heir(The Billionaire Duke Series Book 4)(10)By: Gina Robinson
She smiled when she saw me, as if nothing ugly had happened between us last night.
What is her game? I scowled and turned away.
She caught my arm and kissed my cheek when she couldn't capture my mouth. "If it isn't my handsome duke! How did you sleep last night, darling?"
Darling? Now she was just baiting me.
When I answered with a glare, she looped her arm through mine and snagged a piece of dry toast off my plate. "Lovely of you to share. I need my nourishment. We have a big day ahead of us. Speaking of which, I hope your calendar is clear. We have a doctor appointment at eleven in the village. Dr. Turner has graciously squeezed us in on a moment's notice."
Her grin was lopsided and confident as she whispered, "The perks of being the duchess."
I stared at her in disbelief. "Dr. Turner?"
She smiled sweetly. "He delivers babies, duke. We need official confirmation before our official announcement in the gardens at four."
She waved a hand breezily. "No need to worry. I've got it all handled. I contacted the press and made an appointment at the salon in the village to get my hair and nails done. There's an adorable little dress shop I'll need to pop into. You can come with!"
I regarded her with stony silence.
"Sorry, but this isn't the time to wear something from Flash. Not even by a British designer. Rumor has it that the shop owners in the village are feeling threatened by the thought of you taking Flash into the UK. Brick-and-mortar stores are already feeling the pinch from online buying. They're afraid of what a fashion flash sale site like Flash could do to their livings."
I was stunned and surprised by the thought. I should have been pleased by how savvy my duchess was.
"I think wearing something by a British designer purchased in a local shop is best for the occasion of announcing our first attempt at an heir. The gesture will go a long way to showing our support for the local economy, building goodwill, and allaying fears."
Gibson came in, interrupting before I could respond. He smiled when he saw us whispering to each other. I gathered he preferred domestic tranquility to the nasty, cold alternative. "Is everything satisfactory, sir? Madam?"
"Perfect, Gibson," Haley answered for us.
I said in her ear, "We need to talk. In private."
"Yes, of course." She was still smiling. "Your office? After we finish our breakfast."
She took another bite of toast. "I hope you have something dashing to wear to the announcement this afternoon. Something that photographs well. Ask Gibson for help." She winked at him. "I'm sure he'll have an opinion."
She squeezed my arm, grabbed the last slice of toast off my plate, and walked off, leaving me to stew like the horrible tomatoes the Brits insisted on serving for breakfast. Give me some American pancakes and Vermont maple syrup, damn it.
Hearts can break in too many painful, shattering ways. As I waited for Riggins to show up for our after-breakfast confrontation, I was hanging on to the ragged edges of mine. It turns out that killing someone with kindness is not as easy as it sounds. Not when your own heart is under constant assault.
I wanted Riggins to want me. I needed him to need me and this baby. And to realize there were worse things in life than having a woman who happily carried his child.
I sat in the Dead Duke's chair—maybe I should start referring to him as Grandpa—sipping my morning Duke of Witham tea as I stared at the picture of him and Helen on the wall opposite the desk. My great-grandparents, I realized with a start. The reality was still sinking in, slowly.
By all rights, I should have grown up with this inheritance. I should have sat on the Dead Duke's knee as a child. Pulled his long gray beard. Did he have a long gray beard in old age? Played with his glasses. Ran wild through the maze and gardens. Explored the turrets and towers. Played scary hide and seek in the Ghost Tower. Been as familiar with this place as any grandchild should be. Have known my family legacy instead of being a stranger to it.
If only Helen had told Rans about Gloria. If only she hadn't let pride stop her. Or shame. Or love. That was what Clara claimed, that Helen hadn't wanted to marry Rans unless he loved her. And that she didn't want to trap him into marriage with a child. Well, that part was implied, anyway.
And here I was, holding Riggins to me with a child. Not by choice. But Helen hadn't really had much of a choice either. Still, which one of us was in the right in the end—me or her? Had she been right to consider her barren sister's happiness and her own over the legacy her child deserved?
Or was I in the right, fighting for my child to have its birthright and carry on a family tradition that I thought was worth saving? Was I right to fight for a man I loved using any method possible, underhanded if necessary, including a child I hadn't meant to conceive? Or had she been right to set her man free and absolve him of any obligation and any choice in the matter? Had he had the right to know about his own baby?