Charming as ever, Alexander made his way through the crowd of well-wishers with a smile and a handshake for the men. The wives practically fell over themselves to speak with the man about whom they spread the most salacious gossip for years. Sycophants, Peter thought as he watched the scene unfold before him. He knew that he had to remain calm, play his part as the poorer relation who had distinguished himself through years of military service and hard work. Real work.
Alexander had not earned anything in his life. While Peter spent his life in the shadow of his wealthy cousins with a meagre, barely recognized title, Alexander had done what he liked. Edmund, the previous owner of the earldom, inherited it without any effort and passed it along to an even less-deserving recipient. Peter was worthy of so much more than the scraps he was given through the family. How could anyone not see that?
Of course, had his fowling-piece not missed Alexander, things would be different now. The plan had been perfect, and practically everything would have been his. The title, the estate, the prestige – everything that he had dreamed of since childhood.
His gaze shifted toward Lydia, the widow. Fortunately for Alexander, she had proved to be without child. A potential male heir would have complicated things further, drawn out the waiting period. Peter’s patience wore thinner by the day, a nine month period would have put him over the edge. Edmund’s and Alexander’s deaths were simply necessary. Lydia had her jointure that would have kept her out of Peter’s way. It appeared that his cousin was much softer on the woman than Peter expected, and allowed her to remain at the estate instead of moving to the summer home to the south. She could be married off as soon as her mourning period ended – another man’s problem.
Peter needed time to think, to figure out some way of dispatching Alexander without raising suspicion. Two hunting accidents within months of each other would be dubious. Alexander wasn’t without his secrets, Peter just needed to find the right one to work.
His cousin crossed over to Lydia, and placed a kiss on her gloved hand. She flushed, lowering her gaze. Peter went still as he watched the interplay between the two; studied it. Perhaps he wouldn’t have to dive too deeply into Alexander’s checkered past after all.