The American HeirBy: Gina Robinson
(The Billionaire Duke Series Book 4)
A Jet City Billionaire Serial Romance
Witham House, England
Riggins Feldhem, Duke of Witham
I never knew looks could kill in so many pointed ways. Until that moment. Each one I received from the instant I watched the damned entertainment news and stepped from the car until the last one on Haley's face as I confronted her in our bedroom pierced my heart from a different angle.
The smug, gleeful look of carnage on the TV show host's face as she read the teleprompter: "Haley, Duchess of Witham, is pregnant, a close friend of the duchess revealed exclusively to Entertainment Britain. It's not official yet, but expect an announcement from the duke and duchess soon…"
Not official? Hell. The purported father was as surprised as anyone. I hadn't heard it from the duchess' lips. If there was any news to be heard.
Denial is always the first stage of grief. No. Haley wouldn't. She couldn't be. She wouldn't trick me. She would have told me. It's the fucking tabloids again making things up to sell a story. Trying to be salacious.
Though my mind couldn't quite make out why a woman having her husband's baby was sensational. Unless you knew the truth of our situation.
The look on the face of the driver as he opened the car door in the driveway of my home, my literal castle. If a man's home was truly his castle, mine felt at that moment more like a dungeon. The driver's expression clearly said, in its British way, Poor sod. He's been played for a chump.
But what did he know? Certainly not the unconventional details of my marriage.
Gibson's was the worst. Or maybe it was mine, if I could have seen it. I would have, if I'd bothered to look in any handy polished surface, which abounded. I avoided it for good reason. I didn't need to see the thunder and shock I already felt.
Gibson's was positively stoic as he opened the castle door to let its returning duke in. "Your Grace. We weren't expecting you back—"
"No?" With roses and lingerie in hand, I felt ragged, searching. I wanted the truth, damn it. Not gossip. And unfortunately, I was finding the ugly truth bit by bit. "I should have let you know I was coming. My apologies, Gibson. I wanted to surprise the duchess. Is she at home?"
She damn well better be at this hour of night.
He nodded. "She's in her room, sir. She's been staying in the duchess' suite since shortly after you left. In Helen's old room. You'll find her there."
"She's been feeling poorly?" I tried to keep the hardness and inquisition out of my voice. Despite my best efforts, I hardly sounded casual. Or sympathetically worried. And definitely not friendly.
"I couldn't say, sir." Gibson was hedging.
I cursed beneath my breath. His allegiance had clearly shifted to the duchess. He was my employee. He was supposed to be loyal to me.
"More tired than usual?"
"Running this estate would wear anyone out, sir." He laughed as if he'd made a small joke.
There was no humor in me.
"Has she thrown up in any of my priceless vases lately, as the news is claiming? Or even any of my cheap ones?" I pronounced vase in the British way, without the long A and definite S.
Gibson clearly knew what I was referring to. "I'm not aware that you own any cheap vases, sir."
Gibson wouldn't give up with the attempt to divert me. Nor did he seem inclined to make even a feeble stab at allaying my concerns. He wouldn't be caught in the middle of a domestic crisis. Smart man.
Maybe he was right. Maybe there was nothing to worry about. I half expected him to tell me not to listen to tittle-tattle. He wisely refrained.
I nodded to Gibson and took the stairs two at a time with the bouquet and gift box bobbing in my hands, trying to calm my nerves. Innocent until proven guilty, that was the American way, wasn't it? Hadn't I been a victim of gossip often enough to know not to listen to it, let alone believe it?
I was going to go ahead with my plan. Tell her I loved her. Laugh with her about the things the press made up. Things would be better than they were before. I loved her. I had to tell her. That was the important thing.
Until I threw open the bedroom door and found her sitting in bed watching TV, with a Bible, of all things, next to her. And a tube of digestive biscuits.
Crackers in bed? Damn it. Damn it all. How terribly clichéd. All she needed was a jar of pickles and a quart of ice cream to complete the picture.
With her silvery hair slipping over her shoulders, she looked as pale as milk glass. I knew every inch of her body. I'd memorized it before I left and replayed the beauty of it in my mind over and over since. I ran my gaze over her, meticulous in my study. Already her breasts looked fuller and lush with impending motherhood.