Chapter 2

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What Jacob saw when he went through the door stopped him in his tracks. His breath whooshed out of him.

That ghost of a man, only skin and bones couldn't possibly be his uncle.

Uncle had been a large man, he'd been robust. But this man looking at him with his eyes stark against his pale, lifeless face...

Good god.

Jacob went to him, forgetting all about his anger.

"Jake, my boy, is that you?" came his frail voice.

Jake. Nobody had called him that in years.

"Yes, uncle, it is I," Jacob replied, trying to remain calm.

"I thought I'd never see you again."

"What the hell happened to you?" Jacob boomed, unable to keep his emotions in check anymore. This wasn't a normal reunion. His uncle was barely alive.

"They said it could be a cancer," he lifted his shoulders in shrug, but it looked like even that small action took a lot of effort.

"Where's your nurse?"

"I sent her away for a few hours, she's a nuisance is what she is."

Seeing Jacob's grim expression, his uncle smiled, "this is a happy occasion. But there are certain things I must tell you before I die."

"What is it?" He asked, wanting the ignore the second half of that sentence.

"We must not speak ill of the dead, but your aunt was a witch, you probably already knew that." His aunt had passed away last year. Jacob had not attended the funeral.

Jacob let out a choked laugh.

"Yes well, I didn't send you away because I didn't love you. I had to send you away to protect you."

Jacob resisted rolling his eyes. "Protect me from what, precisely?"

"Your aunt and her lover wanted to pronounce you illegitimate."

Jacob felt his eyes widen. "What?"

He didn't know if he should be surprised that his uptight aunt had a lover or that she'd hated him so viciously. Alright, the latter wasn't all that surprising.

"Because they hated me. They wanted to destroy me," his uncle said simply. "They'd found your parents' marriage license. If proving your illegitimacy didn't work, they were even prepared to kill you," his eyes hardened.

"I know you hate me, but I couldn't think of any other way to keep you away from all the unpleasantness."

Jacob didn't know what to say. All these years he'd painted his uncle the villain when in truth, he had only been trying to protect him.

"You could've told me. I could deal with it," he said lamely.

"I couldn't risk it. You were a mere boy. And you didn't know what you'd be up against. You know who your aunt's lover was?"

Jacob shook his head.

"The Duke of Devonshire—Henry William Cavendish."

Bloody hell, that man was a pig.

"Alright, so we get back the papers from them," Jacob shrugged, wanting to calm his uncle who looked increasingly agitated.

His uncle chuckled. "It's not that simple. I've been trying these last seven years. But the man simply won't give them up. I want to see you destroyed, he keeps telling me. He carries those papers with him everywhere, Jake. I could sue him, but he's a Duke. I didn't want to burden you with this, but I don't know how long I have left. There's only one person deserving of this viscountcy, Jake and that's you."

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