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Betrothed to the Wrong Scot (Preview)

Don’t miss your link for the whole series at the end of the preview.
 

Prologue

One year earlier, in a village near Fletcher Castle…

Eden passed small houses, their windows dimly lit with candlelight. The cobbled street was completely deserted, as one would expect at such time of night, but the eerie darkness of the shadowy alleys kept Eden on alert. She was certain she had neither been seen nor followed, but her entire life was lived in constant alertness to the unexpected, and thus, even from beneath her hood, her eyes darted left and right.

Eventually, she reached The Old Forge, the inn where she had booked a room earlier, but had not yet eaten, and her stomach growled, as if to remind her of the fact. Late as it was, the tavern was heaving with people, and the noise of boisterous conversation met her as she opened the door.

After ordering her food, she weaved through the tables of men and women laughing and conversing loudly. The thump of a bodhran drum and the sound of an energetic fiddle emanated from somewhere in the room as she continued across the stone slab floor. There were few places left, but she eventually spotted a small empty table tucked into a corner behind a supporting beam. Ideal for her purposes, for she would be reasonably well hidden.

All the surrounding noise could not stop her wondering about her own happiness. A sudden thought about her upcoming marriage only reminded Eden of what lay ahead. Her betrothal had been arranged by her father, and soon she would be wed to Laird Laurence Hamilton, a man she had yet to meet. While arranged marriages were common – Eden had attended many and often wondered how the bride and groom would fair – it was an entirely different feeling when having to don one’s own wedding dress.

Will I learn tae love him? Will I even like him?

She sighed as she thought about being bound to a man she did not even know. She was only two and twenty, and there was much she would have liked to do with her life. She had hoped, once the war was over, that she might travel. She had heard of the delights of Spain, and had dreamt of seeing the sights of the country for herself. There were other things she would have liked to do as well; explore her own country, meet new people, go on an adventure. But all those hopes would be dashed, along with her freedom, when she was finally wed.

The truth was, Eden was not interested in marrying at all. Having spent so much time supporting the Jacobite cause, she had associated with men of all ages and backgrounds. Whether they be soldiers, or spies, or men with titles and land, they all had one thing in common. They spent most of their time lying. One could argue that they had little choice, given the circumstances. But Eden had heard lies that had little to do with the rebellion or the deception that the cause called for.

She had heard lies about their mistresses, the women they had hidden from their wives, the places they had been when they ought to have been somewhere else, how much coin they had, what they thought of their fellow man; the list went on and on. Exhausting as her gift was, her ability had taught her one thing for certain. Men were liars. They were not to be trusted as far as one could throw them. Which, by the size of the great beasts she had worked alongside, would not be very far. And the most frightful thought that lingered, was the fact there her future husband would no doubt be just the same.

I will have tae suffer listening tae his continuous lies, having nae power tae dae anything about it.

The thought was depressing, and as she continued to think of what lay ahead, a mixture of misery and defeat nearly enveloped her.

When Eden’s food arrived, she devoured it, for the last time she had eaten had been early that morning before she had left on her travels. Sipping at her ale, she took in her surroundings from beneath hooded eyes. While she was certain no one knew her in these parts, she always remained alert. The hood of her cloak would have helped shield her face and hidden her dark blonde hair, but she deduced leaving it up would only draw more attention to herself, and thus, she tried to act as normally as she could.

Continuing to scan the room, she caught the eye of a boisterous man a few tables away. He grinned at her and lifted his tankard, clearly wanting her attention. Eden only nodded before dropping her gaze and concentrating on her food. If she ignored him, perhaps he would find someone else to pester. Even with her eyes downward, however, she could still see the man approaching. He swayed drunkenly from side to side, knocking into people as he made his way toward her.

“What’s a wee thing like ye doing here by yersel’?” he slurred, dropping himself into a chair beside her.

Eden flicked a dismissive glance toward him as he grinned at her. Most of his front teeth were missing and he stank; a mixture of ale and rancid body odor. His clothes were filthy, and it was clear he took no pride in his appearance.

“I am only here tae eat, and then I will be on me way,” Eden said tersely. “I dinnae require any company. Please, leave me be.”

“Och, dinnae be like that. I’m only trying tae make conversation,” he replied, still grinning, as though his toothless appearance was somehow going to win her over.

“And I dinnae want tae converse,” she replied bluntly.

“Is that right?” His tone changed and the smile fell from his face. Things were going to get unpleasant in a very short period of time. He leaned in and took hold of her arm. “Sure, I’m only trying tae be friendly.”

Neither his tone nor his tightening grip conveyed friendliness at all, and realizing she may well be in danger, Eden slipped her free hand into her pocket and grabbed her dirk. It was a last resort, but if necessary, she would not hesitate to use it.

Yanking her arm free and standing in one swift movement, Eden snarled down at him. “I would like tae be left alone. Please. Go back tae yer table and enjoy the company o’ yer friends.”

The man stood slowly, inch by inch, unfurling himself from his position. Eden’s eyes moved with him and when he stood at full height, her head was well back as he towered over her. “Ye’re an ungrateful wee wench, are ye nae?” he spat, taking a step closer.

Eden glanced past him, hoping that someone else in the tavern might notice his unwanted advances. But everyone was too busy having a good time. No one was paying any attention to what was happening, and being trapped in the dark corner of the room, Eden felt the fear rising in her. She lifted her hand to his chest and tried to push him away, but the man was solid, and her feeble attempts did not move him an inch.

He grinned then. It was a wicked snarl. A knowing expression of her helplessness. “There’s naeone here tae help ye.” He grabbed her arm roughly and pulled her toward him. His stench was even stronger in such proximity and Eden could not help but grimace.

There was no way out of this. If the man would not leave voluntarily, she would have to give him some encouragement. With her dirk firm in hand, she readied herself to strike. It need not be a serious injury, just a small nick would suffice. Eden was about to lift her dagger toward him, when the drunk seemed to lose his footing, and stumbled backwards. A second later, another man, some years older than her, now stood where the drunk had been only seconds before. He sidled up to Eden and gently took her arm. Flashing her a warm smile, he then spun back to face the stinking offender.

“If ye lay another hand on me wife, I swear tae the Almighty, ye’ll regret it!” he spat.

Eden was both flabbergasted and entirely confused. Too shocked to understand what was happening, she could only look up at the man that now stood protectively beside her. He was a hugely broad and tall man dressed in fine clothes. Black hair framed a handsome face, though the scars that lined his skin made him look terrifying, especially the deeper one that ran over his left eye.

“This lass isnae yer wife,” the drunk spat, swaying slightly as he tried to hold his balance. “Ye just want her fer yersel’. Sure, she’s been sat here alone since she arrived. If ye’re supposed tae be her husband, where the hell have ye been?” he growled.

“That’s none o’ yer damned business,” the huge man barked. He then turned to Eden, slipped his arm around her waist, and murmured. “I apologize in advance.” He then lowered his full lips down onto hers. Still dumbfounded, Eden could do nothing to stop him, and when the brief and chaste kiss was over, she only felt breathless. Breathless and excited. The man was older than she. If she had to guess, she imagined he was at least five and thirty, but that did not seem to matter. She had never been kissed before, and now she felt a little mesmerized by her savior.

“Kissing her doesnae make her yer wife,” the drunk bellowed.

People were beginning to look, and the inn had quietened as the punters attention was now set upon Eden and the two men. “Sure, she’s clearly a woman o’ the night,” the drunk spat with a sneer. “Ye’re welcome tae her. Who kens how many have had her before ye?”

Eden suddenly gasped at such wicked words, but before she had chance to react and defend herself, the man beside her took a swift step forward with his fists swinging. A second later, all hell broke loose.

The man and the drunk began throwing blows. Chairs scraped against the stone floor, some toppling over entirely, while those close by jumped from their seats for fear of getting caught by a swinging fist. The inn-keeper began yelling at the top of his voice, telling them to get out of his establishment, but his voice was drowned out by the cheers of the men, who were clearly delighted they were witnessing a fight while they drank. Some women joined in, others squealed in horror, but eventually, the inn-keeper shoved the two men out onto the cobblestones.

Eden’s heart thumped out of her chest at the excitement, and swiftly followed the punters who were eager to see the fighting continue. She was struggling to push past the bodies to see what was happening. Peeking through the crowd, she watched as the huge man punched the drunk so hard, he landed flat on his back. The drunk scrambled to his feet, and looking more terrified than ever, hurried away into the darkness of the night.

There were disappointed groans, and one by one, the men turned and made their way back inside the inn.

“The drunk didnae stand a chance,” one said.

“Aye, well, he should pick his fights with someone more his size,” another added.

“Yer man is as strong as an ox. Did ye see the size o’ him?” yet another one said.

The voices faded behind her, but Eden did not move. A moment later, she and the man who had saved her were the only two left out in the cold.

The man, brushing himself off and straightening his long cloak, did not appear to see Eden standing there. There was blood seeping from a wound above his brow, though it did not appear deep. He was muttering to himself. “Leering filth.”

Eden took a step forward. Evidently hearing her approach, he turned to look, and upon seeing her, appeared a little surprised.

What was she supposed to say to a man who had just saved her from such a dreadful ordeal.

Ye could start by showing some appreciation.

“Thank ye,” Eden said breathlessly. “Thank ye fer coming tae me rescue.”

The man frowned and shook his head. “It was naething.” He swiped a dismissive hand. “Any other would’ve done the same.”

Eden laughed mirthlessly and jerked her head toward the inn. “Clearly nae. I dinnae recall seeing any other rushing over tae assist me.”

“Only because they couldnae see what was happening.”

She supposed she couldn’t really argue with that. She had chosen that dark corner to stay out of sight. In the end, it had not worked very well in her favor. While she had been hidden from view, so had the drunk’s unwanted advances. She looked up at his brow again and swiftly noticed a way she could at least repay him.

“Please, will ye wait here fer a moment?” She didn’t give him time to answer, but bolted back inside the inn to collect the bag she had left on the floor. On her way past another table, she lifted a tankard of ale that no one appeared to be drinking. Perhaps it was the drunk’s. Wouldnae that be poetic justice?

When she returned outside to find the man had not left, relief washed over her. She could not be certain he would wait, and she had given him no time to answer her one way or another. He had moved a small distance away from the entrance of the inn, however, and sat on a low wall nearby.

“Hold this,” Eden said, handing him the tankard of ale.

“I’m nae longer in the mood tae drink,” he replied.

Eden smiled warmly. “It isnae fer ye tae drink. ‘Tis fer me tae clean yer wound.”

“Then ‘tis a waste o’ ale,” the man quipped back with a grin.

Eden grinned back as she delved into her bag. The man nodded at her bag. “And what magic dae ye have in there? Needle and thread and bandages?”

He was mocking her, but Eden didn’t mind as she pulled pieces of clean cloth from inside. He raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Ye come prepared. Dae ye always expect a battle when ye go out tae eat?”

Eden smiled again, but was careful with her next words. “I ken a lot about wounds and cuts.” While this man had saved her, she could not possibly know where his allegiance lay, and thus, did not embellish further as to why she knew so much about them. Though it vexed her greatly, there were a good number of Scots in favor of an alliance with the English. Those same Scots would not hesitate to betray their own kinsmen in hope of being rewarded.

She dipped the cloth into the ale and softly dabbed at the fresh blood on his brow. “It would appear ye are nae stranger tae wounds either,” she said, now able to see his scars even more clearly.

“Aye, well. ‘Tis a Highland warrior’s life. That,” he grinned, “and saving young lasses in distress.”

“I am deeply grateful fer yer actions. I dinnae want tae imagine what might have happened if…” she shivered involuntarily.

The man placed a comforting hand upon her arm. “Dinnae think about it,” he said, looking at her intensely. “Yer imagination will make it even worse.”

Eden was mesmerized once again. His penetrating gaze made her stomach lurch, and though it took some effort, she eventually pulled her eyes away and concentrated on his wound.

“Are ye travelling alone?” He looked about him as though a companion might magically appear out of thin air. “Ye ken it isnae wise tae dae so in these parts.”

While he did sound concerned for her welfare, Eden didn’t want to answer. She had nothing prepared to tell him and she did not want to lie, especially as he had just saved her from what could have been a dreadful ordeal.

“I could ask ye the same question,” she deflected.

The man chuckled then. “Aye, I’m certain a man o’ me tiny stature, and unable tae fend fer mesel’, is in as much danger as ye. Perhaps it is I who ought tae have sent ye outside tae fight him.”

“I have ways tae defend mesel’,” Eden replied a little defensively.

“Aye. I noticed the dirk in yer hand when I pulled him away from ye. But ye dinnae want tae be using the likes o’ that on a peasant like him. A broken nose is one thing, murder is something else entirely. Killing a man isnae easy tae live with. Ye’re far too young and beautiful tae have that weight sitting upon yer shoulders.”

Eden blushed at his words, while, at the same time, hearing the heaviness in the man’s tone. She suspected he knew what that weight felt like. With the number of scars he displayed, he had clearly seen many battles. She also imagined he had slain many men, given he was alive and well. As she continued to dab at his brow, he continued to speak.

“Clearly, ye are nae going tae tell me why ye’re travelling alone. But dae ye have family around these parts? Have ye somewhere tae stay?”

It was a safe question and Eden felt she could answer without putting herself at risk. “I dae have family, but nae around here. And aye, I have somewhere tae stay.”

He had been somewhat relaxed up to that point, but something suddenly came over him, and concern flashed in his eyes. “I must ask,” he said desperately. “Have I dishonored ye with me rash actions? I expected the drunken fool tae back away without a further fight if he saw me claiming ye, but in the heat o’ the moment, I didnae properly think through me actions. Are ye wed? Dae ye have a husband?”

Eden shook her head. “Nae. I’m nae married.”

He let out an audible sigh of relief. He then looked at her for a long moment and nodded, as though coming to some realization. “Nae. I can see now. Ye are far too young tae be wed. Young,” he smiled, “and a little feisty.”

“There are plenty o’ lasses far younger than me who are married,” Eden countered. She decided to ignore the last part of his comment. Mainly because she did not really know how to reply to being called feisty. Was it a compliment? A criticism? Did men prefer lasses to be quiet and subdued?

“Aye, but nae ye,” he replied. There was something in his tone. As though he could sense something about her that was hidden from everyone else, herself included. “I wonder if ye’ve even been in love before?”

Eden gasped at such an impertinent question. “Ye worry about dishonoring me, and then ask such a thing?” she gawped, feeling the heat rush to her cheeks.

He cocked an eyebrow and smiled. “I’ll take that as a nae.”

As brazen as his question was, their proximity was evoking a response in Eden that she had never experienced before. She could feel a sensation in her stomach as excitement, mixed with nerves, danced in her gut. She might not have felt it before, but nor was she a fool. It was evident what was causing such a feeling. She was attracted to this man, even with his advanced years.

Will I feel this same sensation when I am married tae me husband?

The thought caught her off guard. Under the circumstances, it was a strange consideration. Perhaps it was because such thoughts of love and her marriage had been on her mind before that drunk had come along and entirely ruined her evening.

“There’s naething tae be ashamed o’,” the man said. “Ye still have plenty o’ time.”

“I’m nae ashamed,” Eden replied bluntly.

The wound was now as clean as it was going to be. As she had suspected, it was not deep and thus, did not need any stitches. She began putting the cloths back into her bag, before eventually turning back to him. He was looking at her again, and while Eden had never been in love, she could not mistake the passion that danced in his gaze. She was determined not to look away this time, and though it took all her willpower, she lifted her chin defiantly and remained gazing back at him.

“Have ye ever been in love?”

She asked out of desperation – something to cut through the electricity that bounced between them, for Eden did not know how much longer she could tolerate their wordless trance.

Her question broke the tension immediately, for the man looked pained. “I have,” he muttered.

Eden suddenly felt foolish and dropped her gaze. This man was at least ten years her senior. Of course, he had been in love. In fact, it was likely he was married and perhaps had children of his own. That thought brought with it a feeling of rejection. It was silly of course. She hardly knew him. It made no sense that she should feel something so strongly about the disappointment that lodged in her stomach. He had saved her, but there could be nothing more between them.

His knuckles caressing her cheek brought Eden up sharply, and she gasped. When she looked at him, his expression had changed once again, for he was smiling softly at her. “If ye have never been in love, then I can only assume, ye have never been kissed before,” he said, his voice sounding thicker than earlier.

Heat rushed to Eden’s cheeks once more. “Nae until this evening,” she managed to quip back.

“Och, that wasnae a kiss,” he chuckled. Dropping his hand to her arm, he pulled her in closer. Eden now stood between his open legs, and even as he sat on the wall, he was still taller than her. “May I show ye what a real kiss feels like?” he growled.

Even in her hesitation, Eden knew what her answer was going to be, but as her voice caught in her throat, and her heart thumped in her breast, she could only nod in agreement. He slipped his hands around her waist and pulled her one step closer.

When his lips met hers, she allowed herself to fall into the embrace. His tongue slipped into her mouth and roved around inside. Not knowing what she was doing, Eden copied his actions, and throwing her arms around his neck, opened her mouth in return. Breathless and passionate, they continued to kiss while her body reacted with unfamiliar sensations. A heat grew at the apex of her thighs, her breasts ached, and for the first time in her life, she discovered what it felt like to want a man.

When they finally parted, the two were panting, their faces still so close, Eden could feel his hot breath on her cheek.

“Jesus!” the man breathed.

Eden did not know how to respond to that, and so, remained silent. A moment later, he placed his hands on her shoulders and gently pushed against her, forcing her to take a few steps back. He then stood, straightened his cloak, and cleared his throat.

“Where is this safe place ye are staying?” he asked, now looking down at her.

Still reeling from the feelings he had evoked in her, Eden lifted a limp hand and pointed toward the inn.

He nodded, clearly satisfied. “Good. Then it is time ye went back inside. I must go now.”

Eden did not move straight away. It felt as though her legs were made of lead. The man smiled kindly down at her. As though knowing her predicament, he lifted her bag from the wall, took her by the arm, and walked her gently toward the front entrance of the inn. Handing her bag to her, he opened the tavern door and gestured for her to go inside.

“It has been a pleasure,” he said.

As though floating, Eden nodded and then wandered into the inn. She did not notice the door close behind her. Nor did she notice the boisterous noise of those still enjoying the evening. Mindlessly, she climbed the steps to her room, and only as she closed the door behind her, did she realize she had not even asked the man his name. Dropping herself down onto the bed, she stared at the stone wall in a daze.

At that moment, it also occurred to her that in all the time they had spoken, the man had not told one lie. Not once.

 

Chapter One

One year later, McDonald Clan Lands, 1689

The horses at the front of the carriage were getting restless. The wind was bitter, and a dark cloud was forming overhead. It was like some kind of omen for what her future held.

Eden watched as the last of her possessions were loaded onto the cart that would follow the carriage, while, at the same time, trying desperately to pretend that the dizziness she had been feeling all morning was not, in any way, incapacitating her. If her father had not been standing close by, a heavy sadness weighing upon his shoulders, she would not have cared how she looked. But she could not let him see. She could not give him a reason to put her journey off any longer.

The dizziness had begun that morning. She knew the reason for it. A mixture of dread and lack of food – she had simply not felt hungry since the decision for her to be sent away had been made – coupled with the fact she had hardly slept with worry for nearly four days. Even now, as she stood beside the carriage, she wished she could stay. But her father had made their situation clear two weeks previous, and she could not back out now.

“Ye wanted tae see me, Father?” Eden had said when she had arrived in his study.

“Aye, Eden. Please, come in and sit down.” He had gestured to a chair nearby the fire. As she had settled herself, her father had continued. “Ye ken I have been glad tae have ye home with me again. Ye are me only daughter, and I love ye with all o’ me heart.”

“And I am glad tae be home, Father,” Eden had replied with a creeping wariness.

She had sensed something was coming. His words and tone were evidence enough, but he had also sounded perturbed and more than a little dejected. When she had returned to him from the Hamilton Clan, he had been delighted, but there had been no delight in his expression on that day.

Of course, her return had been wholly unexpected. Her father had arranged for her betrothal to Laird Laurence Hamilton many years before. Her adolescence had come and gone, until eventually, it was time for her to fulfill her duty. Her father had been filled with despair at her departure. But they both knew, there was no choice. With a heavy heart, he had finally bid her farewell. Eden had arrived at the Hamilton Clan lands alone, but as the time came for the wedding to occur, her father and many from Clan McDonald had travelled to the Hamilton’s castle for the union.

Only, things had taken a strange turn. As Eden had arrived at Clan Hamilton, so had another. In fact, the other happened to be Thane Hamilton, Laurence Hamilton’s older brother. It came as a huge and delightful surprise to the Hamilton Clan. Given he had been away for so very long, they had assumed Thane had been killed in battle. A great feast of celebration had been thrown as the rightful heir to the lairdship had returned.

Eden had supposed that little would differ for her. She was still going to marry a man she did not know. And yet, Thane Hamilton’s return changed everything about her future, for he had not returned alone. A woman had returned with him. A woman Eden met coincidentally in the gardens of the Hamilton’s castle a day after their arrival. Eden had sensed there had been something about her from the moment they began conversing, and her instincts were not wrong. Later, she would discover the woman was, in fact, Rowan Morgan, one of Thea’s sisters.

Rowan Morgan, unbeknownst to herself, was to become Eden’s savior. On their return journey to Thane’s family and home, he and Rowan had fallen desperately in love. Thane was not going to give his affection for Rowan up without a fight. There were other concerns for both clans, for while this dilemma was going on, Laird Johnson and his men attacked the castle on more than one occasion.

In the end, and after much discussion, Eden’s father finally agreed to dissolve the alliance he and Thane’s father had made before his death. A lot had happened since then, not least of which, Laird Johnson’s death at the hand of his illegitimate son. It had been a long time in coming, but finally, the threat to all those with powers was over. There would be no more hiding. No more feeling hunted. It had come as a welcome relief for Eden and the many she had been associating with. Add that to the fact that she had been able to return home to her father, and Eden had felt her life was finally beginning to settle.

Until that afternoon in her father’s study.

“Yer union with Clan Hamilton would have solved many problems fer us, Eden, but it wasnae meant tae be.”

“I thought ye were pleased at me return, Father.”

Her father had spun to look at her. “I am, Eden,” he had said, his brows furrowed with anguish. “God kens how delighted I am tae have ye back with me. All those years ago, I did what I had tae dae fer the clan tae survive.”

“And now?” Eden had pressed.

Her father had shaken his head. “I’m afraid naething has changed, me dear daughter. The clan remains in the same predicament as before.”

“What predicament?” Eden had stood from her chair and turned to look at him.

She had never questioned her father’s reasons for her arranged marriage. The fact was, she had been far too busy helping with the rebellion to ask him for the details. That, and keeping those with powers safe, had been her mission and had taken up all her time and attention. She had trusted her father and accepted her fate as a necessity, but she had never fully understood why.

“We have done our duty, Eden. Ye ken that more than most. I dinnae think I could be prouder o’ any other as I am o’ ye, fer all the danger ye have put yersel’ in fer the sake o’ the cause. But our commitment has come at a great cost. The battles have depleted many o’ our clansmen. Clan McDonald has always been a powerful and wealthy clan, but the years o’ battle have taken their toll. I have spent many a night worrying. The fact is, any strong attack against us could prove detrimental. We just dinnae have the numbers tae stay away from being undefeated.”

Eden had gasped. “So, what are we tae dae?”

She had garnered her own conviction from her father’s example, and it was for that reason, Eden had been so active in supporting the Jacobite rebellion. Many sacrifices had been made, and many good men and women had lost their lives in the fight for freedom. She had not known, however, how much her father and their clan had given.

The older man had sighed heavily as he paced back and forth across the stone floor of his study. He was clearly perturbed by what he had to say, and Eden, watching him, had realized what was to come.

“I am tae marry, after all,” she had said knowingly, answering her own question. Her heart had sunk, and then the panic had risen. Even as she tried to control herself, she had felt sick.

It was worse this time, than when her father had told her she was to marry into Clan Hamilton. She was younger then. She had felt shock, and then sadness, but after a while, Eden had eventually reconciled herself to the fact of what must occur. She would become a wife to a man she did not know or did not love, and had convinced herself that there was no other choice but to make the best of it.

Upon arriving at the Hamilton Clan lands, she had been pleasantly surprised at the welcome she had received. Understanding that they were not terrible people, had quieted her worrying heart. She had told herself things would, perhaps, not be as bad as she had first imagined. And then, a miracle had happened. Things had worked out for everyone, herself included, and thus, she was free.

Now, Eden was back in that very same circumstance all over again. It was like being pardoned from a terrible sentence, only to have the decision overturned at the last minute. Marriage was inevitable. She had known that. But not so soon. It had only been two months since her return. It had been a reprieve. An escape from a life imprisoned with a man she did not know. Only now, the shackles had been placed upon her wrists once more, and there was no doubt in her mind, fortune would not shine down on her so brightly this time.

It would have been better tae have gone through with it the first time, rather than suffer this emotional turmoil.

“Has an arrangement already been made?” Eden had asked, once she had quashed the feeling of sickness and panic.

“I have sent word tae Laird Sinclair. Their clan is huge with a mighty army. Laird Sinclair has a son…” her father had continued, but Eden had wanted to press her hands against her ears.

She knew, well, the reputation of Owen Sinclair. In his early twenties, he was a man who enjoyed the company of a woman, or many women, as she had heard. Laird Hamilton now sounded more appealing than ever, for at least he was a man of morals and decency. But that chance had been lost.

“…I ken he is young, but his father is a strong warrior. I am certain Laird Sinclair has imparted great wisdom to his son. Perhaps he is more mature than his years convey.”

And yet, a philanderer all the same.

“Is there nae other?” Eden had asked in desperation.

Her father had turned to her, the sadness enveloping his entire being. He had then taken three long strides across the room. Standing only a foot away, he had placed his hands gently upon her shoulders. “I am placing such a heavy burden upon ye, Eden. Me heart breaks, fer I ken it isnae fair.”

And yet, she knew he had little choice. No alliance with another clan would put them all in danger. One big battle and the clan would be decimated. What’s more, the fatalities would be huge. She had already lost her mother, she was not going to lose her father too. Besides, she was being selfish. The survival of Clan McDonald was more important than her happiness. And her father was right. It wasn’t fair, yet, what choice did he have?

“When did ye send word?” Eden had said, her voice a whisper.

“As soon as I returned from Clan Hamilton,” he had replied heavily.

Eden took a deep breath in. Her father had wasted no time in finding her a replacement husband.

His brown eyes had been soft and sad as he had looked down at her. “I ken, me dear. Laird Sinclair and mesel’ have been corresponding since yer return. I suppose,” he sighed heavily, “I just wanted tae have ye with me for a little while longer. But I cannae keep ye forever.”

Arrangements had been made, and now, two weeks after that fateful conversation, Eden was leaving her home forever. Again. It would be too much to hope for that Owen Sinclair might fall in love with one of his many women and elope. She had escaped one union, she doubted fate would grant her such a kindness twice.

As the last bag was placed upon the cart, Eden turned toward her father. So much of her effort was concentrated on not showing him how ill she felt, she did not have the capacity to stop the tears as well. He gazed at her with immense sorrow, and then a sound of despair burst from his lips, and he grabbed her shoulders and yanked her into a strong embrace.

With her father’s arms wrapped tightly around her, Eden could not stop the sob from escaping. She had tried so hard over the last two weeks to maintain her composure, but her resolve had slowly waned, and she could not hold on to it any longer.

“Tell me tae put a stop tae it,” her father croaked desperately, his voice breaking with emotion. “Tell me tae put a stop tae this, and I will.”

There was nothing Eden wanted more. The notion of being able to stay with her beloved father, and in her own time, find a man to love and marry, would have delighted her. But she knew the cost of such fanciful musings. The clan needed this alliance. She had made so many sacrifices for so many other people. How could she now, not do the same for her own clan?

Without words, Eden shook her head, the hood of her heavy cloak rubbing against his strong chest. She took a step back and looked up at him. “I love ye, Father.”

Pushing herself onto her tiptoes, she then pressed a kiss upon his cheek and turned toward the carriage. Once inside, with the door closed, she looked out at him. Tears welled in his eyes as he gazed at her longingly. The carriage jerked forward and a moment later, her father was no longer in sight.

When the carriage passed through the gateway, Eden gazed up at the huge walls surrounding her father’s castle. She was leaving, this time for good. She would return, of course, but never again as Eden McDonald. She would return as the wife of a philanderer. It worried her that his habits would not change, even after they were wed.

I will never love him. I will likely feel naething fer him at all. But I will have tae make the best o’ it.

The thought of marrying a man who would share other women’s beds as well as their own, only intensified the feeling of unwellness she had suffered for the last few days. No doubt, he was in the same position as herself. Being forced to marry for the good of his clan. He would likely never love her either. She would never experience love or the intense feelings of being wanted. Not that she ever had before. Well, apart from once.

One single time in her life.

But the stranger who had kissed her so passionately outside the tavern a year ago, was long gone. She had thought of him often and wondered if any other man could make her feel the fire he had evoked in her. But what difference did it make now? She would never get the chance to find out.

 

Not at all Likely Extremely Likely

If you liked the preview, you can get the whole book here


  • Whew! I’m crossing my fingers that Eden will have a happy surprise, when she gets to her destination! Can’t wait, Fiona!

  • Holy cow! I hate early “shares” cos that means I’ll have to wait for my “fix”!!!!! Seriously, story has already totally engaged me and I can’t wait to read it! So glad for your beautiful talent!

    • Thank you my dear Mel for your kind words! Your support means the world and I am glad you are excited to read the rest of my story! You made my day with your comment!

  • Well there goes a nights sleep just thinking about how this is going to play out!!! Not to mention the Man on the cover is what can I say he is yummy!

    • Hahaha thank you my dear Becky for your comment! So glad you were able to enjoy and can’t wait to read the rest! You are SO right! It is hard to sleep when you can only think of this man, am I right?

  • LOVE the cover! I can’t wait to read the rest. I , of course , want to know more about Eden’s relationship but o also am intrigued by the father/son relationship. If the son is such a philanderer, is he lacking moral character due to a rift with the father? When will it be out?

    • Thank you my dear Sandy! So glad you are excited to read the rest of the story! I am sure you will love what I wrote for Eden!

  • I really enjoyed reading this preview, I look forward to finding out who Eden’s betrothed is and if she will ever again see the mysterious man from the inn.

  • Omg nooo how long do we have to wait. Just a delicious beginning..I’m excited for the book to come out. Great job so far. Can’t wait.

    • Hahah soo glad to get such a great reaction from you my dear Germaine! The book will be available March 1st my dear! So make sure to grab it!

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