The Billionaire Duke
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I needed time to check the facts and make sure what Thorne was alleging was actually true. “What does the Dead Duke want from me?”
I was buying time. If what Thorne said was true, there had to be a workaround.
“That you do your duty. It’s all in that envelope. In short, however, he wants you to do what all good dukes must do—marry and produce a male heir. And a spare would be nice, though not required under the terms the late duke specified. Though I believe there may be a bonus for one.”
I snorted. “You’ve got to be kidding? This is the twenty-first century!”
Thorne sat calmly, legs still crossed. “The late duke had no sense of humor. He didn’t joke, I assure you.”
“What are the terms?” I said as I frantically tried to find an out. “I assume there’s a timeline?”
I sure as hell would have made a timeline. It was time to start thinking like my adversary.
“The late duke specified that you must be married by midnight of the date one month from the date of his death. In this case, Valentine’s Day.”
“Pacific Standard Time, I hope.” I tried to keep calm and match Thorne’s demeanor while I plotted a way to escape this fate. “I would hate to be caught by a technicality.”
“Exactly so, Pacific Standard Time.”
“I’m not even seeing anyone. What does the Dead Duke want me to do? Advertise for a bride?” I laughed. The whole situation was ridiculous.
“Surely, Your Grace, getting a bride shouldn’t be a difficulty for Seattle’s Second Hottest Bachelor?” He had the traces of a tease in his voice.
Did Thorne actually have a sense of humor?
Damn that magazine article that was sitting open on my table. Thorne must have been able to read upside down.
“Less than a month isn’t even enough time for a bride-to-be to get a decent wedding gown, let alone plan a wedding. Assuming there was already a
I snorted, losing my amusement at the situation. There were adventures. And there were disasters. This was shaping up to be the latter. “He’s not as discriminating as I would have expected about the mother of his future heirs!
“Isn’t a year more traditional and a more reasonable amount of time to find a wife? If there’s ever a timeline stipulated in stories and movies, it’s always a year. What’s the damn hurry?” I was hoping to buy some time.
“I’m a young man,” I argued. “I need more than a damn month to find the right girl and fall in love.” Not that that seemed likely. “Even a matchmaking service will need more than that.”
Thorne nodded. “I appreciate your concerns. The late duke was a cautious man. Because you are the last male Feldhem, there is no time. If something should happen to you…”
He let the unsaid hang in the air a moment. “Being in love has never been a prerequisite for aristocratic British marriages. Lineage, breeding, family name, and money are much more important.”
I sighed, heavily, wondering how I could outwit him.
“Once again, you underestimate the late duke,” Thorne said. “He was supremely concerned about the mother of his continuing line. Before his death, he, in essence, picked out your bride.”
“What the hell!”
Thorne ignored my outburst. “The late duke wants his bloodline to merge with his American first wife’s, as he believes it should have in the first place. His will stipulates you must marry a single, childbearing woman from her line.” He paused. “There is only one woman left who meets the requirements.”
Of course there is. Fantastic. An arranged marriage. What’s next?
“So who is this woman?” I said, hoping she would be as against marrying a stranger as I was. And not a complete mess.