Mad, Bad, and Dangerous in Plaid

By: Suzanne Enoch

“Aye, ye are,” her older brother returned. “Ye’re also … familiar.”

“I am nae familiar!” she protested. “I’ve nae even kissed him.”

“If ye had, he’d likely be dead, ye being nae but seventeen.” The glance he sent her was both assessing and serious. “I dunnae mean to say ye’ve behaved inappropriately. I mean he’s known ye since ye were born, and ye’ve been pestering him since ye learned to talk.”

“It’s nae pestering. It’s flirting.”

“That’s a fine line, piuthar.”

“I’m nae a fool, bràthair,” she retorted. That was just ridiculous. Of course she knew the difference between flirting and pestering. But Arran was the cleverest of them. He’d even spent time in the English army and had seen Prince Georgie. Ignoring what he said would be unwise. “Ye mean to say he’s accustomed to me. That I’m nae but a … piece of furniture he’s learned to walk around.”

“Aye, I sup—”

“Then I have yet another reason to go to London fer my Season. So Lach will see me as a lady. So I’ll learn how to be more than just a Highlands lass.”

“Dunnae pin yer hopes on that, Winnie,” her brother returned, stopping in the foyer to pull on a coat and hand her a heavy wrap. “Ye ken that Ranulf willnae allow it.”

She pulled on the cloak and tied her bonnet beneath her chin. She’d only begun wearing a proper lady’s hat over the past few weeks, and the ribbons still scratched at her. “I’ve asked him to give me a Season as my birthday gift,” she said, nodding at Cooper as the butler pulled open the front door. “And ye know he’d nae deny me a thing if it’s fer my eighteenth birthday.”

“I know that, and I know Ranulf,” Arran commented, offering his arm to her.

A glance up the hallway told her that both Lachlan and Bear seemed perfectly content to let her go walking alone. Either that, or they’d heard Arran join her. Whatever she would have preferred to think of their ungentlemanly ways, the latter explanation made more sense. Everyone knew she was never to go outside without an escort. Not with Campbells and Dailys and Gerdenses lurking on the borders.

What Arran had said—everything he’d said—made sense, as well. Lachlan MacTier was accustomed to her, and he clearly still saw her as the wee lass who tagged along with the lads to catch frogs and hunt rabbits. To alter that, she needed a Season in London.

Their own mother had had a London Season, but of course she’d been English. The odds of Ranulf agreeing that his only sister should follow in their unfortunate mother’s footsteps were abysmal. They barely even spoke Eleanor Wilkie-MacLawry’s name, and they hadn’t since she’d swallowed poison rather than remain widowed in the Highlands with four rambunctious children.

But none of that altered the fact that Rowena wanted—needed—to go to London and that Ranulf would likely forbid it. Well, she supposed she had a week to make her plans. And to convince herself that the consequences would be worth the trouble likely to come her way as a result.

And if Lachlan didn’t appreciate the young lady she meant to become, surely she could find a handsome, titled Englishman who would.

Chapter One

Three Months Later

“Infatuation. That’s what it was.” Rowena MacLawry flipped her hand at the pair of young ladies seated opposite her. “I mean, for heaven’s sake, I barely knew anyone else.”

Lady Jane Hanover kept her gaze aimed out the coach’s window. “I think I would be more convinced that you’ve set aside your feelings for Lord Gray if you spent less time talking about how you don’t give a fig about him.”

“Don’t be rude, Jane,” her older sister commented. Lady Charlotte smiled at Rowena. “Talking through a complication often does wonders for untangling it. And considering that you spent your previous eighteen years viewing Lord Gray in a particular way, I expect it will take some time to see him differently.”

Rowena nodded, reaching across the coach to squeeze the hand of Viscount Hest’s older daughter. “Just so,” she agreed, carefully burying her brogue beneath the cultured English tones she’d spent the past three months perfecting. “It’s a new way of thinking about things, is all.” Shifting, she looked south out the window to catch a glimpse of the long tail of coaches behind them. Civilization on the hoof, as it were.

The contents of those vehicles was the result of three months spent learning how to be a proper lady, of reminding herself that gentlemen looked only with amusement on ladies who conversed about shearing sheep and fishing and bathing in a loch like some sort of heathen. Well. She wasn’t a heathen. And she had the friends and admirers and wardrobe and manners now to prove it.

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