Mad, Bad, and Dangerous in Plaid

By: Suzanne Enoch

As she finished speaking, the coach rocked to a halt. The door swung open so hard it nearly came off its hinges, and before she could even squeak Bear leaned inside, grabbed her around the waist, and lifted her out onto the Glengask drive. Then she was engulfed in large, strong arms and surrounded by the familiar smell of leather and mint soap.

“Bear, I can’t breathe!” she gasped, but hugged him back. If Munro MacLawry was happy to see her back home, then all was right with the world. Or nearly everything was, anyway.

Finally he released her and took half a step back. “By God,” he drawled, the Highlands brogue thick in his voice, “I think ye’re taller. And look at yer hair, Winnie—it’s prettier than raven’s wings. Do ye nae think so, Lach?”

She barely had time to mentally square her shoulders before Viscount Gray stepped into view. Like her brothers he’d donned his kilt of white and black and red, but that was where the similarities of appearance ended. Where her brothers were tall and broad-shouldered and all muscle, Lachlan was leaner and more narrow-waisted. His hair was a deep mahogany rather than the midnight black of the MacLawrys, even if he had adopted Bear’s tendency to avoid a barber. His eyes had always reminded her of lush springtime—but that had been before. Now, they were simply green.

“Aye,” he said, looking like he wasn’t certain whether to offer her a handshake or a hug. “Very fashionable. Welcome home, Winnie.”

She stuck out her hand to spare him the dilemma. It likely wasn’t his fault he hadn’t a romantic bone in his body, she decided. “You’re no doubt surprised I don’t have burrs in my hair,” she said with a practiced smile in her practiced new accent.

His brows knitted. “What happened to yer voice?” he asked.

“Nothing happened to my voice,” she returned, retrieving her fingers as swiftly as she could. He was her silly, youthful past. That was all. And she’d brought her future with her in those other coaches, so she needed nothing from him at all. “It’s the proper way of speaking. Now if you’ll excuse me, I would like to meet my new sister-in-law.”

With that she turned her back on him and let out a long breath. What had she been so worried about? That she would abandon her common sense and try to kiss him? Ha. He was merely a man—albeit a very handsome man—and he was no longer the only potential suitor whose acquaintance she’d made. Nor was he even the only one present.

And because of that, she still needed to do a bit more maneuvering. Halfway to her new sister-in-law, she angled over to where her oldest brother stood with his betrothed. “Thank you for allowing me to invite some friends, Ranulf.”

His expression unreadable, the marquis inclined his head. “I require a Sassenach witness or two at my wedding, so we’ll say this is mutually beneficial. Though I think ye had yer own plans more in mind than mine when ye sent oot the invitations.”

“Nonsense, Ranulf. I’ve brought along representatives of the finest English families.” For the most part, anyway.

He glanced from Charlotte to her parents approaching from one of the following coaches. “I suppose we’ll find oot,” he returned, then took a half step closer to her and lowered his black-haired head. “Just ye keep in mind that this isnae London. I’ll bury any lad who steps too far, Rowena.”

“I don’t think any of them would dare,” she said truthfully, as the small horde of English began exiting coaches and traipsing noisily up the drive. “This is your kingdom.”

“Aye, it is,” he agreed, taking Charlotte’s hand and gazing at his betrothed as though it had been far longer than a week since he’d last set eyes on her. “Welcome to Glengask, leannan,” he murmured, kissing her knuckles.

“It’s beautiful,” Charlotte returned with a warm, excited smile. “Just as you described it.”

“It’s more bonny with ye here.” Ranulf tilted his head. “And did ye know we favor beheadings in the Highlands?” he asked, raising his voice.

“Since when?” Rowena put in, frowning. He was going to frighten everyone away before a single piece of luggage could enter the mansion.

“I ken ye’re all aware there’re different rules in the Highlands than these soft English lads are accustomed to,” he continued levelly. “Fer instance, here we dunnae bother turning our backs on someone if they do something improper.”

“Nae,” Bear took up, looking from his brother to the dozen coaches still spitting out ladies and gentlemen and servants. “Here we’ll bloody yer nose and set ye on yer arse.”

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