The American Heir(The Billionaire Duke Series Book 4)(6)By: Gina Robinson
There was no picture of me remaining in the envelope. I wondered what he'd done with it. Where could he have put it? Finding it in this monstrosity of a house would be next to impossible. Or had he tossed it? Torn it up?
I carefully folded the letter and put it back in the Bible with trembling hands.
My great-grandmothers, both of them, had loved me extraordinarily. Helen, enough to give my grandmother up so generations of us could have good lives and her family's good name could remain intact. Clara enough to love me as her own great-grandchild.
And Rans? What had he thought when he'd read the letter? Why hadn't he jumped on the first jet to America to see me? Why hadn't he introduced himself as who he really was? Why had he kept the secret all these years? Had it given him comfort to know we existed? Or caused him pain? How could he stand missing out on our lives? And yet he had called me here now.
Maybe I should have been furious with him. Maybe I was too forgiving. But I'd come to love the old Dead Duke, flaws, eccentricities, and all. Maybe it was in our blood to understand each other. Or maybe he'd simply done a superior job of laying out his case for me.
I understood. He was granting Clara's last request on a grand scale.
I shook my head. I still couldn't think of him as my great-grandfather. That was surreal. He was much too larger than life to be a mere great-grandpa to me. I was torn between regret that I never got to meet him and intimidation at the thought.
Whatever he was, he was making things up to us. And making sure his bloodline, the rightful line, continued in the ducal line. It was ingenious and cunning. Almost diabolically clever.
I realized with a start just how many years he'd been planning this. Had he been watching over us like a benign grandfather all along?
Thoughts rattled and bounced around my mind, seemingly random, and yet a pattern emerged. I remembered, vaguely, my parents needing money. I was young. The details were foggy from first memory. I just remembered the hushed conversations and worried looks on my parents' faces. Would they lose the baby?
It was when they were trying to adopt Sid. They got the money from somewhere. Where? Where?
I squinted, deep in thought.
An unexpected windfall. Some distant relative had died and left them just what they needed!
My heart raced. My hands shook. I held the Bible tightly and shook my head, trying to remember. I was only four when we got Sid. All the memories from then were fuzzy first memories of life.
I took a deep breath. The Dead Duke. It had to have been. If he gave Mom and Dad the money, then he knew what was going on. Was there more to it than that? Had he gone as far as setting up the adoption?
I was both giddy and sick at the thought.
Was that why he knew how to find the cure for Sid? Because he'd arranged the adoption in the first place? And if he had, why had he picked a Chinese orphanage? A half-Chinese, half-Caucasian girl?
Oh my God. What if Sid was half British? What was the connection to Witham House and the Dead Duke? There had to be a connection.
I took a deep breath and reminded myself to breathe slow and steadily. I was onto something. I was getting closer to the thing Rans wanted me to find. To Sid's cure.
Just how far into my life did the Dead Duke's tendrils entwine? If he'd set up Sid's adoption, like I suspected, had he also planned this marriage from the beginning? Had he figuratively stood over my cradle like a fairy godfather, or a feudal king, and decided to arrange for me to marry his heir?
Had he watched me grow? Kept tabs to see if I was worthy to inherit? Looked for ways to bring Riggins and me together from the start?
I probably should have felt like a puppet in the Dead Duke's game of life. Instead I was filled with a sense of awe and destiny. I'd been deemed worthy to carry on the Feldhem line. I'd been given great wealth and responsibility.
I wouldn't let my great-grandfather down. The Dead Duke could count on me to take care of our dukedom. Not even Riggins could stop me.
I smiled to myself and realized I was grinning at the Bible. I had to keep this letter safe. I slid to my feet. And what better way to protect it than hiding it in plain sight? In the library. Out of order, of course. Sorry, Dead Duke!
I put my slippers on. And then, on a whim, I texted the photo of the letter to Riggins. He deserved to know who and what he was up against. He thought the Dead Duke was determined to get his way! He hadn't seen anything yet.
I gave the woman two million dollars' worth of lingerie and she sent me a damn thank you text. And a picture of an old letter. To be technically correct, I'd left the valuable lingerie behind. So was it a gift? Or a statement about how much she'd lost by her deceit and betrayal?
I was still shaking with anger and hurt as I lay in bed and stared up at the canopy above me. Everything in this damn castle was ornate and antiquated. I longed for the sleek, modern lines of my home in Seattle. I didn't want to live in another century. I liked the twenty-first century just fine.