Page 1 of 69 - Duke of Manhattan
 
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One

 

 

Ryder


Everything was better on a private plane. Flying private wasn’t something the British aristocracy did. My family would consider it too frivolous—nouveau riche, as they described it. It wasn’t the first or the last thing my family and I disagreed on—I loved everything about the experience. The way the leather seats hugged my ass. The fact that flight attendants’ skirts looked shorter and legs looked longer. Even their attention was more flirtatious.

The blonde beauty assigned to this flight dipped low to pour my water and give me a look down her blouse at her high, rounded breasts.

I appreciated the courtesy.

If I’d been going back to London under better circumstances, I might have considered seeing if her attention to detail extended to the bedroom. I liked luxuriating in a blow job and I had the feeling Melanie would be happy to make it last as long as I wanted.

But even gripping this beautiful woman’s neck as she buried her face in my lap wasn’t going to improve my day.

I glanced at my watch.

“Thirty minutes to landing, sir,” Melanie said. It was a shame I’d miss out on her. I didn’t normally deprive myself, but I wasn’t in the right head space. “Can I get you anything else?”

“No. I’m going to make a quick call.” I needed to tell my sister I was about an hour away.

I unclenched my fingers from the soft, cream leather on the arm of the seat. It had been six hours since I’d learned of my grandfather’s fall. I didn’t often miss being in London but it was times like these where I wished New York was a forty-five-minute drive away from my family.

I had to keep telling myself that there was nothing I could do for my grandfather whether I was sitting next to him by his bed or here in the air.

“Have you landed?” Darcy asked as she answered my call.

“Thirty minutes.”

“So you’ll be here in a little over an hour. Message me just before you arrive and I’ll come down and meet you.”

“Why? Is there something you’re not telling me?” Had my grandfather’s condition deteriorated since I’d last spoken to her?

“No. This hospital is just hard to navigate.” She sounded tired, like she’d been up all night. I’d be able to relieve her burden a little when I arrived.

“Is he conscious?” I asked, still unconvinced she was telling me the whole story.

“Yes. He says he’s never felt better, but clearly breaking your hip at eighty-two isn’t good.” Her voice was tight. She was holding herself together. Keeping a stiff upper lip.

“He’s going to be fine.” This time. “Have you had the results of the CT yet?”

“No. You know it took them a couple of hours to convince him to have it done.” The corners of my mouth tried to tug into a smile without my permission. Darcy would hear the amusement in my voice and be furious with me for taking his side. Grandfather was an indomitable character and there was little anyone could persuade him to do if he didn’t want to. And vice versa, when people told him he couldn’t do something, he found a way. We were a lot alike in that way. He was my hero when I was young. And more of a parent to Darcy and me than our own feckless mother and father. Our father had run off with a waitress before I could remember him and our mother had never recovered and spent most of her time seeking spiritual enlightenment at various places in Asia. Our grandfather was the man who had soothed us when we were upset, who had come to school plays—who we still turned to for advice.

“He hates people fussing,” I said.

“I know, but after the stroke, we can’t take any chances.”

My grandfather’s stroke two years ago had been a shock to us all. Luckily for us, he was a fighter and he’d regained most of his speech and movement. But he was frail and weak on his left side, which made him vulnerable to falls. “I know. Still it’s going to be fine,” I said with as much authority as I could muster, but if his fall had created a bleed in his brain . . . I took a deep breath and tried to steady my rising heart rate.

“Victoria called,” Darcy said, her words clipped and tight.

I clenched my jaw and didn’t reply. I couldn’t bear to hear about my cousin’s selfish wife.

“No doubt she wanted to know if they could start counting the silver,” Darcy said.

I took a deep breath. I had to keep it together or I’d upset my sister.

My grandfather’s title passed to the next married male heir. As I was oldest, it should have been me. But as one woman had never been enough for me, my cousin Frederick, and his wife, Victoria would be the next Duke and Duchess of Fairfax.

It wasn’t like I needed the money. I’d made more for myself than my grandfather was worth, and I certainly didn’t care about the title. I’d never wanted to be the Duke of Fairfax. Frankly, I’d never understood why my sister being a woman precluded her from being next in line. She should get the title, the money and the estate—and all the headaches that went with it.

Frederick and I had never been close, although as he was heir to Woolton and my grandfather’s grandson, I saw more of him than I would have liked. He was jealous and mean-spirited as a child and he’d never grown out of it. He seemed to envy everything I ever had—toys, friends and later women. Despite the fact my sister and I had to live with our grandfather because our parents didn’t want us, Frederick hated that we lived at Woolton and he didn’t. He never missed an opportunity to criticize what Darcy was doing for the estate. And constantly made comments about me running away to America. Insults I could have coped with. What I didn’t like was the fact that when I called him to tell him of our grandfather’s stroke, instead of asking which hospital he was in or about the prognosis, the first thing he did was tell me he’d call me back when he’d spoken to his lawyer.

There was no going back for us after that.

“Well, tell Victoria to speak to me in future. I’ll have no problem in telling her to fuck off.” The fact was, as soon as my grandfather was dead, the silver would be hers to count. And although I didn’t have the same pull toward our family’s history as Darcy did, it still didn’t seem fair.

“We need to talk when you get here. Properly.”

I knew what was coming. We were going to discuss how me getting married would change everything. “Of course.”

 
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