|A Murder And A Kiss
Author: Fading-Scream PM
Set in regency London, a murder leaves the Montrose twins as prime suspects – at least in Nathaniel, Marquess of Hartington's mind. Cole and Catherine Montrose have many secrets to keep hidden about who they are and what they can do, but when Hartington starts digging into their past there is only one thing to be done - or is there?Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Mystery - Chapters: 15 - Words: 27,053 - Reviews: 20 - Favs: 6 - Follows: 13 - Updated: 02-09-13 - Published: 11-21-12 - id: 3076203
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Hartington had awoken that very morning to his mother sitting at the bottom of his bed, staring at him as he slept. It wasn't a particularly nice way to wake up, especially since he preferred to sleep without the restrictions of clothing.
"I cannot remember the last time I watched you sleep, Nathaniel. However I do remember feeling that I preferred you when you slept than when you were awake. That feeling hasn't changed." the duchess said curtly. "At least when you are asleep you do not make chaos which I have to set straight."
Nathan dragged himself into a seated position, sending his valet who was hiding in the corner of the room an icy glare for not waking him sooner.
"Do not blame the servants for your tardiness, Nathaniel. It is well past noon and no, I do not care if it is the fashion to sleep the day away. We have a few problems to sort out and I want you dressed within fifteen minutes. Do you understand?" without waiting for an answer she continued. "Good. Meet me in the blue salon when you are ready."
With that, she strode out of the bedroom as if she owned it, leaving Nathan staring in her wake.
"I do apologize, milord, but your mother refused to let me wake you." his valet explained.
Ensuring that he dressed within the period of time set for him by his mother would have been impossible for most gentlemen of the ton; however the war had taught him speed in all things. Tugging on his jacket as he strode down the stairs his thoughts ran wild with possible reasons why his pragmatic mother found it necessary to visit before the proper hour. Nothing short of an emergency would have caused her to wake him up in such an unusual manner. His first thoughts turned to his father who had remained at the family's country seat in Derbyshire throughout the season due to his immense dislike for London. His heart skipped a beat and he secretly prayed that his father was alive and well. Nathan could say without a shadow of a doubt that he was not ready to become a duke. There was too much responsibility attached to that title and he refused to take it on for another twenty years at least, no matter how unrealistic that goal may be.
The blue salon was his mother's favourite room in his house, most likely due to the fact that she had been the one to decorate the room due to her son's lack of a wife. The walls were covered from floor to ceiling in pale blue wallpaper and blue silk cushions littered the couches. In the corner of the room stood a pianoforte which had never been played, although it did make a rather elegant decoration. In fact, the blue salon was never used by anyone but family members who visited occasionally just to make sure that Nathan was still alive.
As he entered the room, Nathan was taken aback to see his sister perched next to their mother on one of the overstuffed couches. He felt the blood drain from his face.
"Is father alright?" he blurted.
A confused look fluttered across the duchess' face. "Why ever do you ask that?"
"Well, you're both here in my house looking rather grave. What am I meant to presume, if not the worst?"
In reply, Sarah handed him the Morning Chronicle open on the section which had caused so much controversy already that morning.
"Lady Catherine Montrose, the Missing Muse of the Masquerade." he read aloud. "What does this have to do with anything? So someone noticed Catherine's disappearance, what does that have to do with me?"
His mother resisted the urge to snatch the newspaper out of his hands and hit him over the head with it. "Since when have I had an imbecile for a son? Continue reading. It seems that someone at Sarah's party saw you carrying the lady upstairs, toward the bedrooms."
"I beg your pardon?"
He felt his blood run cold with the implications of this morning's print.
"However, you have perhaps been saved by the writer's mention of her brother following close behind you."
A relieved sigh escaped from between his lips.
"So the travesty has been avoided then."
"No. I'm sorry son but this rumour will spread like wild-fire and it will change with every telling. Soon you will be accused of carrying her naked toward the bedrooms and it will be the end of both your reputation, and hers." the duchess' lips thinned in displeasure. "And you know that any taint of your reputation will affect ours, and you know how your father and I feel about our reputation, don't you son?"
Nathan glanced from his mother to his sister warily. "So what do you want me to do?"
"The editor of the Morning Chronicle went to Cambridge University with you." Sarah stated. "It has come to mother's attention that you two were friendly while you were there. Perhaps if you spoke to him you could get him to write something which would exonerate you from any claims that you had seduced Lady Catherine, as you know the rumour would turn into."
"And who, might I ask, is this editor?"
"His name is Mr John Black."
Nathan felt his world crash around his head.
"John Black? Mother, there has to be another way." he begged.
"Why? Is something the matter with the man?"
"It would be simpler to say that our friendship did not end on the best note."
"It has been years since you saw him; perhaps he may welcome a chance to repair your relationship."
With that, Sarah, the duchess and Hartington climbed into the Duke of Devonshire's carriage, and made their way to the office of John Black. As Nathan entered Mr Black's office he was greeted with by inkwell which narrowly missed his head.
"Get the hell out of here Hartington. You're not welcome in my office!" Black fumed, his fists clenched against his sides as he attempted to exercise restraint.
Nathan made his way toward the furious man's desk, his mother and sister in tow.
"Good day to you too, Black. I see you have recently moved up in the world. I have come to understand that you are the Chronicle's new editor. Congratulations."
John slumped into his chair behind his desk and faced the trio who had entered. "Forgive my lack of manners ladies," he apologized, remembering his manners "welcome to my office. I suppose you're here to try to persuade me to do something about the article which appeared in the scandal section this morning, aren't you? Who is she Hartington? Your mistress?"
Black laughed harshly as he watched the ladies pale in shock at his blunt speech.
"Oh, do forgive me, my lady and your Grace. You see, I have little faith in the members of nobility. I may be a supporter of the royalist Wiggs and loyal to His Majesty, but nobility of Hartington's kind are below my regard."
"What did my brother ever do to you?" Sarah came to Nathan's defence with vengeance flashing in her eyes.
"Sarah, it doesn't matter. Let's leave." Nathan attempted to usher his family out the door.
"I too, would like to know what my son has done to incur your hatred." the duchess spoke for the first time since they entered the building.
A sadistic smile spread across Black's face. "Well you see, your Grace, your son ruined my sister. He took pleasure from her body and left her, her reputation in tatters and pregnant. She hung herself shortly after I discovered the truth."
With that, all hell broke loose.
A/N: For those of you who are history conscious, John Black was appointed editor of the Morning Chronicle in 1917 (the period in which this story is set), however he would be approximately 10 years older than Nathan would be and, being the son of a farm worker, would never have associated with the son of a duke in the first place. He also went to Edinburgh University and not Cambridge as I mentioned. John had a rather sad life, marrying the mistress of a friend who never loved him and proceeded to drain him of his money. He was forced to retire from the paper in 1843 when the owner of the paper replaced him with the owner's son-in-law. He was forced to sell his library of 30 000 books due to his lack of funds and retired on the 150 pounds it was worth. He lived out the rest of his days in a borrowed cottage, gardening and studying Greek until he died, aged 71, in 1855. His sister and her demise were entirely a figment of my imagination.
The Wiggs, for those who are unfamiliar with the term, were a political party who supported the monarchy and were in power in the early 1800s.