Waltz With a Stranger

Waltz With a Stranger by Pamela Sherwood

Book: Waltz With a Stranger by Pamela Sherwood Read Free Book Online
Authors: Pamela Sherwood
Tags: Fiction, General, Romance, Historical
it’s turned quite a profit since its inception.”
    “What do they deal in?” James inquired.
    “Most of their goods appear to come from the Far East—namely, India and China. Antiquities, tea, silks, porcelain…”
    All things that would fetch a fine price on the market, James thought, his unease growing. “Had Gerald acquired a controlling interest in the company before his death?”
    Daviot glanced over the papers again. “Not quite that,” he reported. “But more than a third of the business. Enough to exercise some influence, I should think.”
    James shifted in his chair. “Undue influence?”
    “I could not say, my lord.” The solicitor frowned slightly. “If you don’t mind my asking, Lord Trevenan, what precisely was the nature of Captain Mercer’s visit?”
    James hesitated, remembering Mercer’s report of the missing shipment, but he was reluctant to mention Gerald’s possible involvement at this point. “The captain expressed a strong desire to buy back my cousin’s shares. In fact, he made quite a generous starting offer.”
    He named the captain’s price and had the satisfaction of seeing Daviot’s brows rise.
    “That is indeed generous,” the solicitor remarked. “However, given the extent of your cousin’s debts, I would advise against parting with those shares, or with your shares in any company counted among your present assets, until your marriage to Miss Newbold is finalized and the full settlement is made.”
    That bad, was it? Well, James had expected to hear as much. If Mercer Shipping was as successful an enterprise as Daviot suggested, the wisest thing to do would be to retain his shares and wait until their value rose before selling off. A sensible decision—and yet something still niggled at him. “Would you happen to know how my cousin became involved in Mercer Shipping in the first place?” he asked. “To my knowledge, Gerald never demonstrated much aptitude or interest in business. Was it on the advice of our banker?”
    “Not exactly. That is, your cousin did act on the advice of a banker in purchasing his later shares in Mercer Shipping, but not the one most associated with the Trelawney family. A friend of his supplied him with the name, I think.”
    James frowned. “His later shares?”
    “He actually acquired them over a period of several months, my lord, and through somewhat…unorthodox means.” Daviot’s tone took on the faintest note of censure. “In fact, I believe he won the first shares in a card game…”
    ***
    Sobered and more perturbed than he cared to admit, James departed Lincoln’s Inn Fields. A card game—so Gerald’s involvement in Mercer Shipping had been questionable from the start. And according to Mr. Daviot, his cousin had then bought up the shares of another investor barely a month later. That was perhaps less questionable, but why this company and why such haste? And who, if not the family banker, had advised him to do so?
    Definitely the matter required more looking into, he thought. But not today, not at present. He had gifts to purchase—chief among them, he recalled with an odd little shock, an engagement ring. Hailing a hansom, he set off for Piccadilly.
    Even at this hour, when the fashionable were barely beginning to stir, the thoroughfare was crowded with shoppers. Alighting in front of Hatchards, one of the few establishments in which he felt wholly comfortable, James gazed in trepidation at the scene before him, which seemed to embody everything he enjoyed least about London: noise, bustle, and so many people one could scarcely turn around without colliding with someone.
    The bookshop seemed a good enough place to start, he decided. And by virtue of its trade, it stood a fair chance of being quieter than most of the other establishments; there was something soothing, even lulling, about the smells of leather and parchment.
    He had taken no more than three strides toward his destination when a young woman stepped out of

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