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Cocky Duke: A Modern Aristocracy Billionaire Romance (Endowed Book 1) by Sara Forbes

Cocky Duke: A Modern Aristocracy Billionaire Romance (Endowed Book 1) by Sara Forbes

Author:Sara Forbes [Forbes, Sara]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Billionaire Romance, new adult
Publisher: Sara Forbes
Published: 2017-02-15T06:00:00+00:00


16

HAYLEY

A PASSAGEWAY OF LOW doors unfolds in front of me, long, slightly crooked, musty smelling. Alex told me to go to the end.

Halfway down, he still hasn't come out from the pool room. Curiosity wins out and I slow down to a halt, getting my bearings in the dim light. I turn the door handle of the room directly to my left, and to my surprise, it gives way, easily but with a groan. I tiptoe in.

It's a long, rectangular room, cool and with a damp, musty smell of lack of use. Through the gauze–curtained windows near the ceiling, I see roots of a bush. We're half underground. I proceed to the center of the room. The carpet is red and faded. The walls are wallpapered in dark green and adorned with intricate gold light–fittings. I search for a switch. There's a bronze panel by the door. I go back and pull the lever down. Yes, it works.

Then I see. I really see. Paintings—everywhere. A jumble of artists and themes. Some are hung on walls, others lie stacked against the walls, others still are unframed, lying flat or rolled up in tubes resting on the cabinets that hug the walls. It's quite a mess. All that talk upstairs about Old Masters hasn't prepared me for this. It's resolutely modern. It's like dropping into the MoMA for one of their avant–garde specials. I can smell the father's obsession clearly.

I'm drawn to the most striking exhibit, a massive–as–hell El Greco–esque painting of the Madonna, but painted in garish pinks and yellows. And framed in ruby red. It's so ostentatious, I let out a gasp of awe. The contrast between this bunch and the rest of the house couldn't be more startling. I can understand why the dowager duchess was appalled.

The temperature in here is a little too warm, and a tad too moist, not ideal conditions for oils or charcoals, but at least it doesn't look like the sunlight would directly hit any of the pictures. I examine them, one after the other. There are some I've heard of before—painters famous enough to be on the radar of art students, but most I've never seen before.

The door squeaks open. I gasp and fling around. It's Alex, watching me silently. He's thrown on clothes but looks damp.

“I'm sorry, I …” I blurt. I feel super guilty like I'm an art thief caught red–handed. “I got curious. The door was unlocked.”

He slams the door behind him with his foot. He turns the key in the lock. “Not any more.”

“H–how long have these been hanging here?” I ask, pointing to the nearest painting.

He crosses the floor separating us with determined steps. “Anything between one and eighteen years. Father got serious about collecting on his fortieth birthday. You're practically salivating … And it's not at the paintings, is it?”

I take a mock swipe at him. He's right. The greatest treasure in this house is standing right before me with a smarmy smile on his perfectly sculpted face, and I'm unable to believe my luck.



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