"Congratulations, Alesandra," he said. "Jade and I are both very happy over the news."

"What news?" Sir Richards asked.

She let Colin tell him. She smiled up at Caine. "We're both very happy, too," she whispered.

Richards was shaking Colin's hand when she started toward the entrance. A sudden thought made her stop. She turned around to look at Colin again. "Don't you still wonder why three women in your family were chosen? You did throw Neil out," she reminded him. "Would that make him angry enough to seek revenge?"

Colin didn't think so. She left him with Caine and Richards to mull over the possibilities and went upstairs. Flannaghan was waiting for her in the study. His younger sister, Megan, was waiting with him.

"Here she is," Flannaghan announced when Alesandra walked inside.

"Princess Alesandra, this is Megan," he announced. "She's eager to see to your needs."

Flannaghan nudged his sister in her side. She immediately stepped forward and made an awkward curtsy. "I would be happy to serve you, milady."

"Not milady," Flannaghan instructed. "Princess."

Megan nodded. She looked very like her brother. She had the same coloring, and her smile was almost identical to Flannaghan's. She looked up at her brother with true adoration, and such devotion warmed Alesandra's heart.

"We're going to get along just fine," she predicted.

"I'll teach her what she needs to know," Flannaghan announced.

Alesandra nodded. "Where is Kate? I thought we had agreed she would start helping me with the correspondence tomorrow?"

"She's still packing up her things," Flannaghan explained. "Have you mentioned my sisters to your husband yet?"

"No," Alesandra answered. "Don't worry so, Flannaghan. He'll be as pleased as I am."

"I've put Megan in the last bedroom along the hallway upstairs," Flannaghan said. "Kate can have the room next to hers if that is all right."

"Yes, of course."

"It's a fine room, milady," Megan blurted out. "And the first I've ever had all to myself."

"Princess, not milady," her brother corrected again.

Alesandra didn't dare laugh. She didn't want to undermine Flannaghan's position.

"We'll start your training tomorrow, Megan. I believe I'll go along to bed now. If you need anything, ask your brother. He'll take good care of you. He certainly takes good care of Colin and me. I don't know what we would do without him."

Flannaghan flushed over her praise. Megan looked properly impressed.

Colin laughed when she told him about the additions to their staff. He was quick to sober, however, upon hearing his ill-paid butler was the sole support of both Megan and Kate. He'd known Flannaghan's parents were both dead—Stems had told him so when he'd implored Colin to hire his nephew, but he hadn't mentioned the two sisters. No, he hadn't known, and he was thankful Alesandra had taken the sisters in. He increased Flannaghan's salary the following morning.

Flowers arrived for Alesandra that afternoon. Dreyson had sent them with a note filled with sympathy over her tragic loss.

Alesandra was arranging the flowers in a white porcelain vase while Colin scowled over the note. "What's this about?" he asked.

"Albert died."

Colin burst into laughter. She smiled. "I thought you would be pleased."

"It's damned callous of you to laugh, Colin."

Caine stood in the entrance of the dining room, scowling at his brother. He turned to Alesandra to offer his sympathy and only then realized she was smiling.

"Isn't Albert a good friend of yours?"

"Not anymore," Colin drawled out.

Caine shook his head. Colin laughed again. "He never existed," he explained. "Alesandra made him up so Dreyson would take her stock orders."

"But he gave me sound advice. Damn it, I'm going to miss him. I…"

"Alesandra gave you her sound advice. Ask her in future," Colin suggested.

Caine looked astonished. Alesandra gave her husband an I-told-you-so look before turning back to his brother.

"Dreyson was far more willing to talk to me about investments because he believed I was sending the information on to Albert. Now he'll talk to Colin whenever he hears of good opportunities. He would be very upset if he found out Albert never existed and for that reason I beg you not to say anything."

"Why bother with a middleman?" Caine asked, still not certain if he believed her or not.

"Because men like to talk to men," she patiently explained.

"Why are you here?" Colin asked, switching the topic then. "Do you have more news?"

"Yes," Caine answered, drawn back now to his reason for calling. "They found Lady Roberta's body about fifty yards away from Victoria's grave."

"Dear God," Alesandra whispered.

Colin put his arm around his wife's shoulders. "Were there any others found?"

Caine shook his head. "They haven't found any so far but they're still looking. Neil's being charged with the second murder. He sent a request through his barrister to talk to Alesandra."

"It's out of the question."

"Colin, I think I should talk to him."


"Please be reasonable," she pleaded. "Don't you want to make certain he's the one?"

Colin let out a sigh. "Then I'll go and talk to him."

"Neil doesn't like you," she reminded her husband.

"I don't give a damn if he likes me or not," Colin replied.

She turned to Caine. "Colin threw him out," she explained. "I can't imagine he would want to talk to him now."

"You'd be surprised how a man changes in Newgate Prison," Caine said. "I imagine he'll talk to anyone he thinks might be able to help him."

"You aren't going, Alesandra," Colin told her. "However," he hastened to add when she tried to argue with him again, "if you write down your questions I'll ask Neil whatever it is you want to know."

"I already have a list," she replied.

"Then go and get it for me."

"Colin, I'm going with you," Caine announced.

Alesandra knew it was useless to continue to argue with her husband. From the look in his eyes she knew he was going to be stubborn about this. She went upstairs to fetch her list, added a few more questions to the sheet of paper, and then hurried downstairs again.

"We'll take my carriage," Caine told his brother.

Colin nodded. He took the list from his wife, put it in his pocket, and kissed her good-bye. "Stay home," he ordered. "I shouldn't be gone long."

"She can't stay home," Caine interjected. "I've forgotten. Nathan's coming by to collect her in about an hour."

"Why?" Colin asked.

"Jade wants your wife to meet Sara," he explained. "Mother and Catherine are at the house, too."

"Nathan will be with Alesandra?" Colin asked.


Alesandra turned and started up the steps. She was in a hurry to change her dress. She wanted to look her best when she met Sara.

"Should I take our gift along?" she called down to her husband.

Colin was starting but the doorway. He told her that was a fine idea, but she could tell from the shrug in his answer he was barely paying attention to her.

Megan helped her change her clothes. Flannaghan's sister was nervous—awkward, too—but her enthusiasm to please her mistress was most apparent.

Nathan came to collect her a short while later. Alesandra carried the gift Flannaghan had rewrapped for her down the stairs. She handed the box to Nathan to carry for her but didn't explain what it was.

Colin's partner seemed preoccupied and barely said a word to her on the way over to Caine's town house.

She finally asked him if something was wrong.

"I've been going over the books," he explained, "and trying to figure out where all the entries came from. Colin's the one with a head for figures," he added. "I'm trying to keep the ledgers current but it's difficult."

"I entered the invoices while Colin was ill," she said. "Perhaps I made a mistake. Are you thinking the balances are wrong?"

Nathan shook his head. "Colin told me you caught him up," he said. He smiled then and stretched his long legs out. She moved her skirts out of his way so he would have more room.

"I couldn't find the invoices for some of the deposits made," he said.

She finally understood what was bothering him. The money Colin had transferred into the company account came from payment for services rendered for the War Department.

"There aren't any receipts for four entries," she remarked.

"Yes, four exactly," Nathan agreed with a nod. "Do you know where Colin got the money? It doesn't make sense. The income from the ships is accounted for and I know he doesn't have a separate income."

"Have you asked him about it?"

Nathan shook his head. "I just discovered the puzzle this morning."

"Do you and Colin… share everything? I mean to ask, does either of you keep secrets?"

"We're partners, Alesandra. If we can't trust each other, who in thunder can we trust?"

He gave her a piercing look. "You know where the money came from, don't you?"

She slowly nodded. "Colin should probably tell you—not me," she reasoned aloud.

"Did the money come from you?"


"Then who?"

He wasn't going to let it drop. Because Nathan wasn't just Colin's partner but his best friend as well, Alesandra decided it wouldn't be disloyal to tell him.

"You must promise me not to say a word to Caine or anyone else in Colin's family," she began.

Nathan nodded. His curiosity was pricked, of course. "I promise."

"Colin was doing some work on the side to increase the accounts."

Nathan leaned forward. "Who did he work for?"

"Sir Richards."

His roar almost knocked her gift off the seat. Nathan had appeared to be only mildly interested and for that reason his furious reaction was a bit stunning. She visibly jumped. She flinched, too, when he muttered a dark expletive.

Nathan regained his control and apologized for using the foul word. The look in his eyes remained chilling.

"I believe it would be best if you let Colin explain," she stammered out. "He doesn't work for Richards any longer, Nathan."

"You're certain?"

She nodded. "I'm very certain."

Nathan let out a long sigh and leaned back. "Thank you for telling me."

"Colin would have told you, wouldn't he?"

The worry in his voice was very apparent. Nathan thought she was having second thoughts about telling him. He smiled. "Yes, he would have told me. In fact, I'll ask him about the missing invoices tonight."

He deliberately turned the topic so she would quit fretting. They arrived at Caine's town house a few minutes later.

Alesandra met Flannaghan's uncle Sterns when he opened the door for them. He was an extremely dour-faced elderly gentleman, stiff as starch in his manners, but there was a true sparkle in his eyes when he greeted her. Flannaghan, it seemed, had been singing her praises, and Stems made mention that he'd just heard both Megan and Kate were also in her household now.

The doors to the salon were wide open. Caine's daughter spotted her first and came running into the entrance. The four-year-old grabbed hold of Sterns's hand so she wouldn't tumble when she executed a curtsy. Her ladylike behavior was short-lived. The second she'd finished with the bothersome formality, she let go of Sterns and threw herself at her uncle Nathan's legs. She let out a shriek of joy when he lifted her up and tossed her like a hat into the air.

"Thank God for tall ceilings," Sterns remarked.

Nathan heard the comment and laughed. He settled his niece in his arm and followed Alesandra into the salon.

Jade and Catherine were sitting side by side on the settee. The duchess was seated in the chair across from her daughters. All three women rushed to their feet and surrounded Alesandra.

"We just heard the wonderful news," the duchess announced.

Alesandra laughed.

"I heard it from Catherine," said the duchess.

"I heard it from Jade," Catherine interjected.

"I never…" Jade began to protest.

"I heard mother giving you her speculations," Catherine admitted then.

"Where is Sara?" Nathan demanded to know.

"She's feeding Joanna," Jade explained. "She'll be down in a minute or two."

Nathan immediately turned to go to his wife. He tried to put Olivia down, but she tightened her hold on his shoulders and announced she was going with him.

Alesandra put the gift box down on the side table and followed her relatives over to the chairs. She sat down next to her mother-in-law. The duchess was dabbing at her eyes with her linen square.

"I'm beside myself with joy," she announced. "Another grandchild. It's such a blessing."

Alesandra beamed with pleasure. The talk centered on children for several minutes. Catherine quickly became bored. Alesandra noticed and decided to change the topic.

"Are you angry with me for telling Colin about the flowers you received?"

"I was angry at first, but then Father explained everything. Then I became afraid. Now that Neil Perry's been locked away, I'm not at all afraid and Father is going to let me go to all the affairs again. Do you realize the season is almost over. I shall die of boredom when I have to go back to the country."

"You will do no such thing," her mother countered.

"I'm going riding in the park with Morgan Atkins today."

"Catherine, I thought we agreed you would decline the invitation and spend the afternoon with your family," her mother reminded her.

"It's only a short ride and everyone will notice if I don't go. Besides, I can see family anytime."

"Is Morgan coming here to collect you?" Jade asked.

Catherine nodded. "He's so divine. Father likes him, too."

Alesandra was uneasy about Catherine going anywhere. Oh, she knew Morgan was a friend of Colin's and would certainly watch out for Catherine, but she still wished her sister-in-law would stay home. Alesandra wasn't convinced Neil was the culprit. She didn't want to alarm her relatives, though, She wished Colin were here. He would know what to do.

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