Today's Reading

"My sons are seldom serious about anything, Rex. They adore practical jokes. Why do you think they chew up and spit out their nannies with such exhausting frequency?"

"They wrote to Lady Truelove, asking for her advice on how to find a new mother."

"What?" He stiffened, and even in profile, Amanda could see the amusement vanish from his face, replaced by dismay. "But they know I'll never marry again. We've discussed it."

"They seem to harbor hope your mind can be changed on the subject." Galbraith reached into the breast pocket of his jacket and pulled out a folded sheet of paper. "Read for yourself."

"How can you be sure this is from my sons?" Jamie asked as he took the letter and unfolded it. "Did they sign it?"

"Only with the moniker Motherless in Mayfair," Galbraith answered. "But they included a return address so that Lady Truelove could reply, and unless you've moved out of the duke's town house in the last day or two, or someone else's motherless children have moved in, this letter was definitely written by your boys."

"Of all the ridiculous, harebrained schemes they've hatched—" He broke off with a sigh, bent his head, and read the letter, then looked up again. "That tears it," he said, tossing down the sheet in obvious exasperation. "I've had enough. I'm sending them to school."

"Isn't that a bit drastic? Writing to an advice columnist isn't the most egregious thing they've ever done."

"If by that you mean it's not as bad as the time they set off firecrackers in the drawing room and caught the curtains on fire," their father said dryly, "or when they put itching powder in my valet's linen, I suppose I must concede the point."

Amanda pressed her lips together to stifle a laugh. An enterprising pair of young men, she thought. Though also a bit naughty, it seemed.

"Still," their father went on, "I suppose it's a good thing they chose Lady Truelove as their confidante. Had they written to some other newspaper's advice columnist, you wouldn't have seen it and it would have been published." He doffed his hat, tossed it on the desk, and raked a hand through his tobacco-brown hair. "I shudder to think what society's reaction to that would have been. Motherless in Mayfair, twin boys who need a mum because they're tired of all the nannies . . . everyone would know at once it's my sons."

"The boys do have something of a reputation with nannies."

"A letter like that printed in the paper doesn't bear thinking about. I'm the target of enough debutantes as it is."

"A fate worse than death," intoned Galbraith.

Jamie paid little heed to his friend's amused rejoinder. "Few bothered with me when I was only the second son. As a mere MP with a modest income, I impressed no one, but now—" He broke off with a humorless laugh. "It's amazing how much more appealing I am now that I'm next in line to be the Marquess of Rolleston. Poor Geoff hadn't been gone a month before young ladies were commenting on my lonely widower's life. The last thing I need is their pretenses of concern for my poor motherless boys, who are so desperate for maternal affection that they're writing to newspapers."

"No harm was done. Surely you're not serious about sending them to school because of this?"

"Why shouldn't I send them?" Jamie countered, a defensive note in his voice. "God knows, they've done enough to deserve it. And the timing's ideal now that their latest nanny's gone."

"Another nanny already? What happened this time?"

"The same thing that always happens. They made the poor woman's life a torment, and she decided she'd had enough."

Amanda raised an eyebrow. Heavens, what did these boys do to their nannies? Given the firecrackers and the itching powder, she supposed anything was possible, but she had no opportunity to speculate on the topic, for Galbraith spoke again.

"The autumn term at Harrow has already begun."

"They could still be admitted, if Torquil puts in a word."

"Given that our brother-in-law is a duke, I'm sure you're right, but sending the boys in the middle of term would be terribly hard on them. Why not just engage another nanny?"

"After seeing a dozen nannies come and go during the past three years, I am forced to concede that no woman I could hire is capable of managing my sons."

Amanda's amusement deepened, and she wondered what this man would do if she piped up, declared his contention totally wrong, and demanded the chance to prove it as the boys' next nanny. A tempting idea, but after a moment of consideration, she discarded it.

This excerpt ends on page 16 of the paperback edition.
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