Deadly Affair: A Georgian Historical Mystery (Alec Halsey Crimance)

Free Deadly Affair: A Georgian Historical Mystery (Alec Halsey Crimance) by Lucinda Brant

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Authors: Lucinda Brant
those stirring speeches on the need for England to gain its objectives from the recent peace with France? Who spent hour upon hour until the wax melted onto the table, drafting the policies he put before Cabinet? I have no qualms; no regrets. For his Grace I would do it all again, willingly. Many do not care for his politics, for the single-minded determination he employs to achieve his ends, or for his cold arrogant manner, but above all else Cleveley is a man of deep principle and sense of duty. He believes what he is doing is for the betterment of the kingdom. I share his belief. You may think of me what you like but puppet I am not.”
    The bullish determination in his friend’s flushed face warned Alec that to answer in anything but the most sincere terms would be taken with offence, so he said politely, “Naturally no one could accuse Cleveley of being ungrateful. Your many exertions on his behalf have not gone unrewarded: A knighthood; a rotten borough seat. But if he should resign his posts you stand to lose several wealthy sinecures, sinecures you rely on for your livelihood.”
    Sir Charles smiled but it was obvious he was far from amused. “It was a great privilege to be the Duke’s secretary, and an even greater one to have earned his confidence. Whatever rewards I received for my loyalty and trust I am grateful, but I’d have gladly continued in his service without them.” He suddenly looked embarrassed and glanced down at the lace ruffles covering his hands. “Alec, it is not the loss of a couple of sinecures which concerns me. I harbor expectations of becoming engaged to the Lady Henrietta Russell. But Lord Russell won’t be much inclined to give his consent to our marriage when Cleveley resigns and I lose those sinecures, will he?”
    “But this is wonderful news, Charles. Congratulations,” said Alec and offered his hand.
    It was reluctantly taken at first, then Sir Charles brightened seeing the sincerity in which the handshake was offered.
    “You’re the first to know,” he admitted awkwardly. “And thank you for your support. Many would think me aiming too high, given my humble background, but I am confident that his lordship will look on my proposal in a favorable light.” Sir Charles smiled weakly. “My sources tell me that despite my unsavory connection, Earl Russell will not hold it against me.”
    Alec knew that the Russell family was not only one of the foremost political families in the kingdom it was also extremely wealthy. Lady Henrietta’s dowry would be substantial, large enough for Sir Charles not to worry about the loss of income from the sinecures bestowed upon him by his mentor. What interested Alec more was the fact that if Sir Charles did indeed secure the hand of Lady Henrietta it would be seen as a very public crossing-over into an enemy’s camp. It was no secret the Earl Russell and the Duke of Cleveley were bitter political rivals; both headed the opposing factions within the government. The wonder of it was that the Duke had consented to such a match. Then again, if Cleveley was on the point of resigning perhaps Sir Charles had not felt compelled to tell him?
    Alec was left with a nagging doubt about Cleveley’s intentions.
    “You say when Cleveley resigns , as if you know it is a certainty,” he said. “I don’t see the Duke resigning over passage of the Bristol Bill. You and I know that he has the numbers to push it through both houses. So why should he threaten to resign? Or is that rumor merely a ploy to bring the dissenters back into line? Though I think not.” Alec glanced shrewdly at his friend. “Charles, you really do believe Cleveley means to resign, don’t you? Why?”
    Sir Charles looked his old school friend straight between the eyes. “Blackmail.”
    “Blackmail?” Alec pushed a hand through his thick damp hair and gave an unsteady laugh. “ Cleveley? Come on, Charles! That arctic piece of walking marble submit to a blackmailer’s

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