Valentine Napier, The Duke of Montgomery

Beautiful, charming, and utterly unscrupulous, he’s funding the reconstruction of Harte’s Folly.

Hero of Duke of Sin.

Read order for Valentine’s story arc: Duke of Midnight » Darling Beast » Dearest Rogue » Sweetest Scoundrel » Duke of Sin.

* * *

How did you know about Lord Kilbourne’s difficulties, may I inquire, Your Grace?” Trevillion asked quietly.

“Oh,” Montgomery murmured, bending to peer at the mechanical hen, “one hears these things.”

“Usually only if one has paid informants,” Trevillion said, very dry.

“They do help.” Montgomery straightened and smiled sweetly. “Now, if we’re done with the pleasantries, I suggest we discuss how we’re going to prove Lord Kilbourne’s innocence so he can get back to work on Harte’s Folly. I really must insist my garden be open for business by next spring, and this…hiccup…threatens to put the whole thing back months.” He made a moue of discontent. “I really shan’t have it.”

My garden,” Makepeace muttered, but his heart was obviously no longer in it. He fetched the steaming teapot. “Right. Trevillion sit there”—he indicated his vacated chair—“you”—he pointed at the duke—“can sit on the bed or not at all. Now, who’s for tea?”

And a few minutes later they all had steaming—if mismatched—cups of tea in what had to be the oddest tea party Apollo had ever attended.

“Now then.” Makepeace slurped noisily at his teacup merely, Apollo suspected, to annoy the duke. He’d dumped half the contents of a rather fine gilded sugar bowl into his tea and it must have been like drinking treacle. “Let’s hear it. What’s your grand plan?”

Montgomery sniffed cautiously at his tea and took a very small, very delicate sip. Immediately his eyebrows shot up and he hastily set the teacup down on a pile of books. “Obviously we must find and expose the real murderer.”

“Obviously,” Makepeace drawled back.

The duke ignored that. “Am I to assume from Captain Trevillion’s presence that you’ve already made some inquiries?”

Apollo exchanged a glance with Trevillion and Apollo nodded.

“Yes, Your Grace, I have done some investigation into the matter.” The captain cleared his throat. “It seems Lord Kilbourne’s uncle, William Greaves, is in some debt to his grandfather’s, the earl’s, estate.”

Montgomery, who had been poking at his teacup, looked up at that. “Splendid! We have a viable candidate for a substitute murderer. Now to simply alert the authorities with a well-placed hint—”

“A hint about what, exactly?” Makepeace exploded. “We don’t have a scrap of real evidence that ’Pollo’s uncle did anything.”

“Oh, evidence is easily manufactured, I find,” the duke said carelessly as he dropped a marzipan orange into his tea. He watched it sink with interest.

There was a short, appalled silence.

The duke seemed to realize something was amiss. He glanced up, his blue eyes wide and innocent. “Problem?”

–from Darling Beast