Another special post featuring characters from the Bluestocking Belles’ holiday box set, . Stephen Huntington, the Duke of Wyndale from my story Joy to the World has just learned about a vicious rumor concerning himself and starts to ask around to see if there might be any truth to it from Oliver Stanton, heir to Stanton's Bank of Susana Ellis' The Ultimate Escape.
|Stephen Huntington, Duke of Wyngate|
Stephen Huntington, Duke of Wyngate could not get out of the card room fast enough. Normally he always enjoyed his time at White's, but not today. His friends had to be jesting, surely. There was no way the rumor they had sprouted had any truth to it.
He very nearly collided with Oliver Stanton, heir to Stanton's Bank. “Pardon me,” Stephen said, straightening his coat and trying not to feel so ill at ease.
“No need,” said Stanton easily. “Wasn't watching where I was going. Join me in a drink, Your Grace?”
Stephen blinked and stumbled back a step. Really he should go and see if there wasn’t any means to learn the truth, but one drink could not hurt any. Besides, Stanton was a good and decent man. “Why yes, I would appreciate that, Stanton.”
The two men strolled to the drawing room and claimed two leather chairs near the fire.
“A cognac for me,” Stanton told the waiter. “Wyngate?”
“Cognac sounds perfect.” Stephen rubbed his forehead. A headache was starting to plague him.
|Oliver Stanton, heir to Stanton's Bank|
“Right away, gentlemen.” The waiter bowed and disappeared into the back rooms.
Stephen glanced around to ensure no one was close enough to overhear them and cleared his throat. “I-I have a strange question for you, Stanton, if I may.”
Stanton nodded, his face impassive. Stephen knew he could trust the man to keep his confidence. After all, when one worked with money, they tended to learn of other’s secrets.
“Have we crossed paths, recently? Since the Hansens' ball last week, I mean?”
Stanton's eyes narrowed. “Why no, I don't believe so. Why do you ask?”
Stephen tugged at his collar. “Ah… well, that's good. That's good,” he repeated. “You see… I have heard rumors that there is a man impersonating me throughout the country. I can scarcely believe it! But I cannot ignore such a thing, lest it be true and the wretch is up to serious mischief.”
Stanton's eyes widened. “Impersonating you? But how is that possible? You are widely known in London, Your Grace.”
Stephen plucked a glass of brandy from the waiter's tray and took a long sip. The banker did likewise.
“I do not know. I guess the reprobate must resemble me. Sound like me as well.” Stephen took another swallow and set down his glas. “No one has come to the bank asking about my money recently? That could certainly be a factor.”
“Money is always a factor,” Stanton said dryly. “But no, I can assure you that your accounts are safe. I would have been notified had someone come to withdraw funds unexpectedly.” He set his own glass on the table. “How did the news come to you of this extraordinary situation?”
“My friends.” He gestured behind him toward the card room. “They can be rather prone to jokes and mischief, but somehow I doubt they would jest about something as serious as this.” He shrugged. “No need to concern yourself further. I am certain the matter will be resolved shortly. Now tell me, Stanton. I see that Lady Julia has recovered from her illness. Will your nuptials be rescheduled soon?”
To Stephen’s shock, Stanton winced. He had thought the two might be quite compatible given their long friendship and despite their differences in class.
“I do not mean to pry.” Stephen drank the last of cognac. “I was hoping one of us was happy.”
“Soon,” Stanton said. “These things take time to arrange, you know. The ladies expect such things. And I wouldn't want my bride to be deprived of the wedding of her dreams simply because she was taken ill the night before the first one was to take place.” He grinned. “What about you, Wyngate? Any interest in setting up your own nursery any time soon?”
Stephen actually found it in him to laugh. “Oh no. Not I. I am not the least bit interested in marriage. And even if I were, with an imposter running about, I will be far too busy to woo and win the heart of any lady.”
Stanton chuckled. “A wealthy duke could have has choice of any young lady in the ton. With or without the wooing. But you must certainly investigate this matter of an imposter. Particularly if he resembles you to the extent that he could ruin your reputation. Do let me know if I can be of any assistance to you, Your Grace.”
“Thank you. You have always been a loyal and good friend.” Stephen could wait no longer, so he stood. “I would appreciate it if you could keep this matter to yourself. Unless you should happen to see another me…” He shook his head.
“Of course, your Grace.”
“I should be off to try to track this rogue down. Do take care.” Stephen turned and called for his horse.
Stanton rose and offered his hand. “Good luck, Your Grace.”
“You as well.” Stephen shook his hand and gave him a tight smile. “Shall I expect another wedding invitation any time soon?”
“Of course, Your Grace.”
With that, Stephen started in earnest his journey to learn just who this impostor was and where he might find him and bring him to justice. Little did he know what a strange course his life was about to embark on.
Click here to find Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem, wherein you can discover if Oliver and Julia can try and work things out and if Stephen does indeed find the impostor.
And please join us for our Mistletoe, Marriage, and Mayhem Launch Party on November 1.