The River Knows
watching the door close behind her. She was everything he had believed that he wanted in a second wife: young, beautiful, and, most important, an heiress. True, her grandfather had made his fortune in trade, but after a couple of generations had passed one could overlook that sort of family background as long as there was enough money involved.
    Nevertheless, Lilly’s empty-headed chatter and her obsession with gossip and clothes were driving him mad. On top of everything else, she was useless in bed. Unlike Victoria, she had no intuitive understanding of his special needs.
    There were certainly times when he missed Victoria, he reflected. Fortunately, there was an establishment in Winslow Lane where his particular requirements were understood and catered to in the most satisfactory fashion.
    He would give a great deal to be rid of his new wife, but he could not afford to dispense with her just yet. On their wedding day he had discovered to his horror that he had not obtained control of Lilly’s entire inheritance. Her grandfather, the clever bastard, had tied up the remainder of her fortune in such a way that it was doled out in annual stipends.
    For all intents and purposes, Elwin thought bitterly, he was being forced to live on an allowance . Furthermore, if anything untoward were to happen to Lilly the yearly payments would be stopped immediately.
    It was demeaning. Humiliating. An outright insult. This was what came of allowing men like Lilly’s grandfather to buy their way into Society. Bloody hell. If it weren’t for the damned money, he would never have even considered a woman with Lilly’s background as a potential bride.
    This was the second time he’d been forced to marry well beneath his station. First Victoria and now Lilly. And all because of money.
    It wasn’t right that a man of his breeding should be forced to stoop so low. A white-hot rage seared through him. He suddenly realized his hand had closed around a heavy silver paperweight. He hurled it against the wall. It struck the blue velvet drapes with a soft thud and tumbled onto the carpet.
    He had needed money very badly this past year. Things had started to go wrong almost at once after Victoria died. It was certainly fortunate for him that Society did not condemn a man to three years of mourning as it did widows. Widowers were expected to remarry, the sooner the better. Although he’d had no particular desire to acquire another wife, it had not taken him long to realize that a financially sound marriage was his only hope of remaining solvent.
    In the months following Victoria’s plunge into the river he had suffered several serious financial reverses. The death of Phillip Grantley two weeks ago had come as a devastating shock. Among other things, he had depended on Grantley to collect the blackmail money in an anonymous, untraceable manner. The blackmail scheme was the only one of his business arrangements that had continued to work properly after Victoria’s demise.
    More crucially, it was Grantley who had concocted the plan for the new investment consortium that was his only hope of freeing himself from Lilly and her stingy grandfather.
    Grantley’s supposed suicide had panicked him for several reasons. The fear that one of the blackmail victims had discovered the identity of the agent who collected the payments and had taken lethal action had badly rattled his nerves. Victoria had insisted that they select victims who were wealthy, elderly, and frail. It was difficult to imagine any of them tracking Grantley down, let alone killing him, but the possibility that one of them had done just that could not be ignored. What if that same individual had also learned that he, Hastings, was the person behind the scheme? It was that fear that had caused him to hire the two guards.
    Luckily, there had been no further indications that he was in danger. Indeed, in the past few days he had begun to believe that he had overreacted. Perhaps his suspicions

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