The Duke's Dilemma

Free The Duke's Dilemma by Nadine Miller

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Authors: Nadine Miller
answer to your first question, sir, is as soon as possible. My answer to your second is papa believed that particular tablet most likely pertained to the great flood. He was working on the translation of the rubbings his friend at the British Museum sent him when he died.”
    “So we may never know for certain.”
    “Ah, but then again we may.” Emily leaned closer to Mr. Rankin and lowered her voice. “Papa taught me everything he knew about cuneiform Akkadian which, of course, is composed of wedge-shaped characters quite unlike any of our modern written languages. As I mentioned before, I hope to continue his work once I reach my twenty-fifth birthday and receive my portion.”
    Mr. Rankin ‘s eyes widened. “You are an heiress then, Miss Haliburton, as well as a scholar in your own right?”
    “Hardly, sir, on either count. I have much to learn before I can be considered a scholar such as papa, and my portion is a very small one willed me by my maternal grandmother—but sufficient for my simple needs. I inherited papa’s cottage and all his books and papers, you see, but there was no money left and the sad truth is, one cannot survive long on myths and legends alone.” She smiled. “But in exactly three months and twenty-two days, I shall be free to spend the rest of my life doing what Papa trained me to do.”
    “A worthy ambition, Miss Haliburton. One I sincerely hope you may attain.”
    “But why in the world should I not, Mr. Rankin?”
    “Why indeed, Miss Haliburton?”
     
    The Duke of Montford pushed aside his uneaten Banbury tart—normally his favorite dessert—and watched morosely as his man-of-affairs and Miss Emily Haliburton rowed away from the shore of the lake—undoubtedly to continue the lively conversation they had carried on during the picnic luncheon. The two of them had had their heads together for the past hour to the exclusion of everyone around them, and he fully intended to remind Edgar, when next he saw him, that he was expected to earn his remarkably generous salary by spreading his charm amongst all the guests currently at Brynhaven.
    He swiped angrily at a marauding fly that dared land on one of the raisins in his abandoned tart, and contemplated the boring afternoon stretching ahead of him. What sort of topsy-turvy world was this when his secretary was off happily punting about the lake with an exhilarating companion whilst he, the Duke of Montford, was left to entertain five insipid little misses recently released from the schoolroom?
    He would most definitely have words with Edgar—and not just about his neglected duties. The cheeky fellow had as much as thrown down the gauntlet when he’d accosted him at the stables that morning and warned him against plotting to carry on an assignation with the innocent Miss Haliburton. He laughed to himself. As if even the boredom of choosing a wife could drive him to such extremes when he had a beautiful, sophisticated mistress waiting for him in London!
    Still, he reminded himself as he signaled the nearest footman to refill his empty champagne glass, he deserved some diversion during this deadly fortnight his obligation to the title had thrust upon him—and his dual of wits with Emily Haliburton was diverting. Probably because she was the first woman he had ever dealt in the guise of a common man—sans the title and wealth he suspected were a great part of what the women of his own social level found irresistible.
    And, though she would never admit it, Emily Haliburton did find him intriguing, even though she believed him to be a wicked ne’er-do-well without a feather to fly with. The very air between them crackled like summer lightning whenever he drew near her, and the temptation to explore that potent force of nature was much too alluring to resist.
    All at once, the despised Banbury tart looked appealing again, and he attacked it with his usual gusto. With each bite, his flagging spirits lifted. So Edgar thought to challenge

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