Sincerely, the Duke by Amelia Grey (Excerpt)




A fine gentleman should always know the best and proper way to settle an argument with a lady is to agree with her.

“She had a son.”

Roderick Cosworth, the Duke of Stonerick, considered his mother’s frown as he bent to place a hello kiss onto her cheek. “Oh?” Ignoring the fatigue in his body and throbbing in his head, he managed to smile as he straightened. “I don’t remember you mentioning Peg was in the family way again.”

“Not your sister.” The dowager duchess sighed wistfully and lightly brushed him away with her lace-trimmed handkerchief. “Your cousin’s wife. Hildegard just gave her husband an heir, and you still haven’t bothered to marry.”

So that was the reason his maman sent a second note insisting he must come to her London town house after he’d declined her first invitation because he was feeling so hellish. A fever had come upon him during his late afternoon card game. It was a fierce one and the second he’d had in as many months. Grousing with her, however lightheartedly, about his cousin’s good fortune or anything else wasn’t something he was up to tonight.

Rick stepped back and digested his younger cousin’s news while the palatable aromas of cooked fruit and baking pastry dough wafted up into the drawing room from the kitchen. Smells that would have enticed him to stay for dinner on any other evening.

“I trust mother and child are well?” he offered, doing his best to steady his weak knees, appear normal, and ignore the wretched way he felt.

“Perfectly, it seems.” The dowager pretended to adjust a three-buttoned cuff on her puce-colored sleeve. “The rather long letter from Shubert arrived earlier today and, as you can imagine, it’s had me in a tizzy of a mood. They didn’t want to tell anyone she was in the family way until after the birth and they knew all was well. No doubt that is why they had excused themselves from your invitation to join us in London for Christmastide.”

“That sounds reasonable. This is a happy occasion.”

Her full brows rose with skepticism as she fiddled with her other sleeve. “I’m sure it is for him. Only twenty-two, married less than a year, and already a father.”

His maman didn’t sound bitter or cynical, just perturbed. “He has many reasons to crow,” Rick answered, careful not to move his upper body too much while making himself comfortable on the plush velvet settee opposite his mother’s chair. The fever had brought on a raging ache in his head and an uncommon weakness in his limbs that wouldn’t pass. “Let him do so in peace.”

“Of course, I will,” she answered in her softly spoken voice. “I’ll only complain to you. It’s quite refreshing to hear about sons who please their mamans and give them grandsons.”

Rick grunted more from the way he felt than from his mother’s thinly veiled grievance. His lack of a wife had been her favorite topic of conversation for as long as he could remember. Though he was nearing thirty, there was nothing she relished more than reminding him he was late to the altar. Truth to tell, Rick usually enjoyed their contending discussions and looked forward to them, but with being chilled one moment and then in the next feeling so hot as to think the devil himself was after his soul, he wasn’t up to sparring with his mother.

“Are we back to that?”

“We are always back to that, my dear,” she admitted, a gentle scolding in her tone but a twitch of good humor on her lips. “You leave me no choice. You know my constant fear is that you’ll end up not having an heir and the title will go to Shubert and his son instead of your father’s lineage. That would have him spinning in his grave through all eternity. And me too.”

“You’re not dead yet, Maman,” he countered her doom-sounding prediction. “And not likely to be anytime soon.” That new ladies’ society she’d joined a few months ago was obviously plying her with nonsense again.

“I’m getting old,” she insisted without a smidgen of complaint or conviction in her voice. “I have no way of knowing how much longer I’ll live. It’s not for us to say.”

“Many years. You are fifty and in perfect health.”

“Well, not that age quite yet,” she corrected with a hushed breath and appreciative smile while smoothing one side of her slightly graying, tawny-brown hair. “Though it won’t be long. Nonetheless, if you’d married as young as your cousin, you’d have one heir bouncing on your knee, and I’d be running through the meadow at Stonerick with—” She paused. Her eyes narrowed and searched his face. “You seem a little flushed. Do you feel all right?”

Rick clenched his teeth a moment before speaking. No, he didn’t, but he’d manage for his maman. He should have known she was too astute not to notice something. “We had a rough cricket match this morning.”

“I do wish you’d give up your sporting club as Wyatt did last year.”

He rolled his shoulders and took a deep breath. “You used to be delighted I was in the club because I spent too much time alone. You are looking for more to worry about.”

She inclined her head cheekily and leaned against the arm of her chair in a rare, relaxed way. “Your father always said I worry so well.”

Indeed she did, and considered it an admirable asset.

Alberta Fellows Cosworth, Dowager Duchess of Stonerick, was a classic beauty in every sense of the word. A lovely face with a determined chin, and blue eyes that sparkled no matter her temperament. The soft lines that feathered from her eyes and upper lip spoke of a genteel and easy life. Rick didn’t know of any other lady who had aged as gracefully as his mother. Part of her charm among the bevy of Polite Society matrons was her characteristic expression of contentment no matter what might be going on around her.

Always exemplary in manners and faultless in appearance, she was graceful and the epitome of all a dowager should be. Quietly regal, strong as oak, and in control. It was only with her son that she relaxed her public persona and spoke the true emotions she felt.

“Father was right. You worry sweeter than anyone I know.” He managed to smile despite his weariness. “I have dinner with you most every Sunday and attend church with you Christmas and Easter. How can you imply I don’t try to make you happy?”

Copyright © 2024 by Amelia Grey.

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