Authors: Grace Burrowes
Tags: #Historical Romance, #Two Hours or More (65-100 Pages), #Highlanders, #love story, #Scotland, #England, #Literature & Fiction, #Historical, #Scottish, #Regency Romance, #Scotland Highland, #Victorian, #Romance
She wasn’t making sense, entirely, but her day had no doubt been long, and scandal, even scandal with a royal explanation, was a difficult topic.
He took her hand in his, relief and joy soaring around in his chest like so many shooting stars. “You’ll marry me. That’s all that matters. I’m sorry I could not be more forthcoming, but promises made to protect a lady’s honor are not easily broken.”
She gave him a puzzled look as he stepped closer. “We’ll need to say something to Fiona.”
“I think we have her permission.” He took the lady of his heart into his arms. “Your brother approves too, of that I’m certain. Now, will you get me pinned into my sash, or will we be late to the dance, Mary Frances?”
She did get him into the sash, eventually, and they were late to the dance, too.
“I will bloody damned kill you, Matthew Daniels.” Mary Fran did not shout, but she spoke the utter, sincere truth as she stalked along the barn aisle.
Matthew looked up from petting Fiona’s kitten outside Hannibal’s stall, the wee beast’s purr audible at several paces. “You go calling on the neighbors with my cousin and come back in a tear?”
His expression was the cautious, teasing countenance of a man who wasn’t certain what he’d done wrong.
me, you wretched mon.” She scooped the kitten from his grasp and set the thing on the ground. “You and that scheming woman, you led me such a dance, and all along, you were a
His expression shuttered, and he glanced around, tugging Mary Frances into the saddle room. “I thought you knew. You said you’d had your tête-à-tête with Her Majesty when we spoke of it the night of the ball.”
“She’d simply sent me a note. We didn’t speak of anything, not until today.” Mary Fran wrenched from his grasp, ready to howl, to shout, to do murder at what her neighbor had so genteelly explained. “I was so damned glad to see you, so glad you hadn’t turned your back on me over some silly scandal, except
Her brothers might have told her to calm down; Matthew was smarter than that.
“I was an officer, Mary Fran. Of course I could have been killed. I take it Victoria only now apprised you of the details.”
“I’m marrying a very quick study. She said—” Mary Fran stopped her pacing long enough to draw in a steady breath. “Her Majesty said you were charged with handling delicate matters, you and your wife, and that the two of you agreed to marry so you might be better situated to handle those matters.”
That had been the Queen’s term: delicate matters. Matthew, the most honest and forthright man Mary Fran knew, and the Crown had set him to sneaking and skulking.
He crossed his arms and widened his stance, a warning that he was about to be forthright again. “We were spies, Mary Frances. I was a spy, and so was my wife. She was much better at it than I was, but I’d learned Russian from some school chums as a boy and studied it further at university. There was much to be gleaned in diplomatic circles, and we were useful, even if many would not consider our activities honorable.”
“Useful.” She spat the word. “Honorable. Victoria said your wife came up with the notion you should compromise the general’s daughter, made it a dying request to you. I hate this wife of yours, Matthew. I always will.”
His expression was bleak, but again, he did not argue. “She was better at the game than I was. Her plan was brilliant.”
Mary Fran marched up to him, so angry she could have shouted. “What was brilliant about a plan that compromised your honor and left your future a bloody shambles? When Victoria told me of this, I could barely keep my temper, Matthew.”
He uncrossed his arms. “The general’s daughter was passing secrets—perhaps unwittingly—to the Russian pretending to court her, and compromising her was a way to get her back to England without letting anybody know she’d been caught. This scheme also kept the girl safe, in that the other side would not have spared her once they realized we’d used her to pass false information.”
You spared your Queen embarrassment, kept a dying promise to your wife, saw a foolish young woman safely home to England, but
She turned her back on him, because the upset of it was still too raw. “I could have lost you over a stinking little military scandal, except you were clever enough to get around your vows and promises and see the truth laid at my feet. I love you, you dratted man, but I hate the truth.”
A white handkerchief scented with cedar dangled over her shoulder.
“When you thought it a stinking little military scandal—just another randy officer misbehaving with a foolish young lady—you were willing to marry me, Mary Fran. If I didn’t love you before, I will always love you for that.”
She snatched the handkerchief from him and blotted her eyes. “I want to wallop you, and you talk of love. What if Her Majesty hadn’t been willing to trust me with the truth?”
A hand slipped around her waist, and a muscular male chest warmed Mary Fran’s back. “Then I would have told you, somehow, in some version that skirted all those vows and all that honor. I’d made that decision while I was traveling from here to London and back in less than a week. I could not let you go on thinking I’d play false with a woman’s honor out of something as cavalier as drunkenness or carelessness. Doubt me all you like, Mary Fran, but never again doubt your own judgment. The rest of the world, even my own father, can think what they please, but you deserved the truth.”
A second hand slid around Mary Fran’s waist and tugged her gently back against Matthew’s taller frame. “What am I to do with you, Matthew? The thought of your sacrificing your good name when I know how much it means to you… I’d like to skelp your bum but good, but I love you—heaven help me.”
“You can do both, you know. Love me and skelp my bum.”
His chin came to rest on her temple, and Mary Fran stood in his embrace for long moments, absorbing the calm of him. She turned and wrapped her arms around him when it became apparent he’d said all he felt needed to be said.
“Is there more, Matthew?”
“More I cannot tell you?”
She nodded against his chest, dreading his answer.
“There’s more I have to say to you, but nothing more about my time in the Crimea. I did a lot of translating, a lot of lurking and overhearing, and not much flirting. Russians are a jealous lot, with good aim and loads of determination. War with them will be a difficult undertaking.”
“Marriage with me will be a difficult undertaking.”
“Life without you would be impossible. Then, too, I’m sure as a husband, I will be far from perfect—you might have to skelp my bum regularly.” He sounded so certain, no shadows, no doubts. “I want a family, Mary Fran. Not for the succession—we don’t have to use the title if you don’t care to—but for us, and for Fiona. Your brothers will make sure she has cousins, but she’ll be a marvelous big sister.”
Still Mary Fran remained in his embrace. “Leaving my brothers will be difficult, Matthew. Difficult for me and for Fiona.”
“We won’t go far. His Royal Highness said there’s a fine property a little farther along the river, which has just come up for sale. I’ve plenty of investments and rental properties, so we can bring up the children right here in Aberdeenshire.”
He kissed her cheek, and Mary Fran felt her heart melt. “We need a bed, Matthew. Right now, we need a bed and a door with a stout lock on it.”
“I have something better, Mary Frances.”
He kissed her other cheek, and she rocked into him more tightly. “What could be better than a bedroom with a locked door and you and me on the mischief side of it?”
“Not much, almost nothing, in fact.”
This time he kissed her mouth, a luscious, lingering kiss that had Mary Fran wondering if the two trunks were still stacked along the wall. She eased back, prepared to drag him bodily to her bedchamber.
He resisted long enough to reach into his vest pocket and withdraw a piece of paper.
“The only thing better than that locked bedroom, my love. This is a special license, and it has our names on it.”
As it turned out, they made use of the special license fairly quickly, with all of Mary Fran’s family in attendance, including Fiona and one black-and-white cat. Thereafter, they made use of the bedroom with the locked door with great frequency, until Fiona was a big sister many times over, and the MacGregor brothers uncles many times over as well.
Don’t miss the next Scottish-set Victorian romance from Grace Burrowes!
Don’t miss any of the MacGregor
brothers’ stories of true love:
The Bridegroom Wore Plaid
Available now from Sourcebooks Casablanca
Once Upon a Tartan
Available August 2013
The MacGregor’s Lady
Available February 2014
Also by Grace Burrowes
Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish
Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal
Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight
Lady Eve’s Indiscretion
The Courtship (novella)
The Duke and His Duchess (novella)
The Bridegroom Wore Plaid
About the Author
bestselling author Grace Burrowes hit the bestseller lists with both her debut,
, and her second book in The Duke’s Obsession trilogy,
was also named a
Best Book of 2010, and
was named a
Best Spring Romance of 2011. Her first story in the Windham’s sisters’ series—
Sophie’s Christmas Wish
Reviewers’ Choice award for historical romance and was nominated for a RITA in the Regency category. She is hard at work on her stunning new Regency series, The Lonely Lords, beginning with
, as well as a trilogy of Scottish Victorian romances, the first of which,
, was a
Best Book of the Year for 2012.
Grace lives in rural Maryland and is a practicing attorney. She loves to hear from her readers and can be reached through her website at
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