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When Griffin opened the door to the morning room, Dominic looked up from making notes in his small pocket book and graced him with a faintly sardonic smile. “For someone who was so eager to see me, you certainly aren’t in a hurry.”
Griffin affected surprise. “Have you been waiting long? Do forgive me. I hope Phelps offered you something to drink. A cup of tea, perhaps?”
Dominic’s barely there smile slid into a rare grin. “For some odd reason, I seem to make Phelps nervous. The poor man couldn’t wait to get out of the room. Fortunately, I availed myself of your excellent cognac while awaiting your arrival. I may even be able to convince myself that you acquired it by legal means.”
“I expect Phelps is afraid you’ll have him arrested. Perhaps for free-trading, if nothing else comes to mind. You must understand that it makes my servants a tad unsettled when you insist on treating my business ventures as little better than criminal enterprises.”
Griffin strolled over to the four-tiered whatnot tucked between two windows, plucked up a crystal decanter, and poured himself a few fingers of cognac. “No, but as you are wont to point out, I am sadly lacking in nerves. You must admit that it’s a useful quality for a man who makes his living the way I do.”
“The way you used to make a living. Now that you’ve sold all your gaming clubs at a spectacular profit, I understand you’re about to complete an agreement to turn over the brothel to Madeline Reeves and a few of your other girls.”
Griffin eyed Dominic with disapproval. Of course, he would know about the impending deal, even though Griffin and his staff had a strict policy of keeping all business within house. The air of mystery that surrounded Griffin and his dealings both enhanced his reputation and prompted others to treat him, if not with respect, then with healthy caution. In some quarters, he was looked upon as little better than a crime lord. Griffin had always found it to his advantage to foster that perception, especially when it came to persuading others to see his point of view on business and financial affairs.
The fact that he was also willing to exact appropriate retribution against anyone who was fool enough to betray him also helped. Reputation meant little without the will and the means to support it with an iron fist. His hardscrabble years on the streets of London had taught him that long ago.
“I’m not going to ask how you found out about that,” he said as he settled into one of the armchairs in front of the fireplace.
Griffin didn’t bother rising to the bait, instead enjoying the truly excellent cognac—which had, of course, come from free traders—and letting the velvet burn slide down his throat.
Dominic took the matching chair opposite him. “I am pleased at the direction you’re heading in, Griffin. You’ve invested well and your fortune—your legal fortune—will continue to grow. But what I cannot understand is why you wish to leave everything behind to go haring off to parts of the world best left alone, now that you’ve so effectively consolidated your position.” He leaned forward, his gaze compelling. “Surely you know that’s not necessary. Given a little time and patience on your part, and some effort on mine, I have no doubt you’ll gain acceptance among even the first families of the ton.”
“I already come from the first family of the ton,” he replied. “I have no desire to interact with the rest of them, at least not outside the confines of a gaming house or brothel.”
Dominic’s eyes narrowed to flinty chips of emerald green, as they so often did when Griffin annoyed him.
“I know,” Griffin said with a mocking sigh. “I’m a trial. But I didn’t ask you here to speculate about my failings or my impending travels. An unfortunate problem has been deposited on my doorstep, and I’m hoping you can take it off my hands.”
Excerpt from CONFESSIONS OF A ROYAL BRIDEGROOM ©2014 by Vanessa Kelly. All rights reserved.
Genre: Historical Romance
Length: 480 pages
Publisher: Zebra (April 1, 2014)
ONLY ONE WOMAN IS WORTHY OF HIS SECRETS...
Some men are born into scandal. Others pursue it with a passion. Griffin Steele, secret son of the Duke of Cumberland, is guilty on both counts. Yet somehow London’s most notorious scoundrel has been saddled with an abandoned baby boy—and with the unflappable, intriguing spinster summoned to nurse him…
Justine Brightmore may be a viscount’s niece, but she’s also a spy’s daughter, determined to safeguard the infant when his suspected royal parentage makes him a target. Yet how to protect herself from the rakish Griffin? Marriage might shield her reputation, but it can only imperil her heart, especially with a groom intent on delicious seduction…
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