Mad, Bad, and Dangerous in Plaid

By: Suzanne Enoch

“Thank ye. I’ll be hiring some cooks from the village, and more lads fer the stable, but I dunnae want Robert the miller’s lad dumping haggis on someone’s lap.”

“Winnie should’ve sent ye word that she had half of Mayfair riding north with her.”

Deep blue eyes sent him a speculative look. “I dunnae ken this was meant to surprise me.”

Hm. “She stopped writing me letters weeks ago, Ran. And she barely shook my hand earlier, she was in such a hurry to greet Arran’s lady and her new friends.”

“Even so, I think it’s time we had a chat, Lachlan.”

That didn’t sound promising. Evidently the trap that had been hanging over his head practically since Winnie’s birth was about to be sprung. There was nothing as aggravating as a predestined life. And he didn’t want one. “Ran, I had naught to do with her tagging after me,” he protested. “I’ve nae given her cause to think anything. I mean, Bear and the rest of ye are closer to me than my own cousins, and I’ve nae brothers and sisters of my own. Nae but fer the lot of ye.” Not even that seemed clear enough for comfort. “Ye are my brothers. And she’s my sister.”

“Very well, then.” Ranulf took a slow swallow of whisky. “Ye’re a good man, Lachlan, and I’d nae have an objection if ye’d decided to pursue Rowena. But I’m glad ye’ve made up yer mind aboot her, because I’ll nae see her dragging aboot hoping fer someaught that’ll never come to pass.” He finished off his drink and stood. “I do want to hear ye say it—that ye’ve nae intention to offer fer my piuthar. Because I have plans to make if I dunnae want her to wed some Sassenach lord with property at the opposite end of the kingdom.”

Lachlan stood, as well. “I’ve nae intention of offering fer Winnie,” he said aloud, wondering now if escaping what had seemed inevitable had always been that simple. He didn’t think so, but he wasn’t about to let this one chance pass him by. “She’s already my family.”

“She may be yer sister in yer mind, but I can guarantee that she’s nae thought of ye as a brother. Ever. But I’m nae one to meddle.” With a heavy nod Glengask walked to the door. “I’ll tell her. I dunnae want any misunderstandings.”

“I’ll tell her,” Lachlan countered, though he wasn’t entirely certain why he felt the need to speak up. Generally he avoided womanly hysteria and tears at all costs. “She’ll believe me. I hope.”

“See that she does. And tell her today, if ye will. I’d prefer to keep any foolishness to a minimum.”

“Agreed.” He hesitated, then set down the glass and craned his head to look over his shoulder at the marquis in the doorway. “I have told her before, ye know.”

“Nae. Ye’ve talked around it. Say the words, and spare us all some mischief.” Glengask’s shoulders rose and fell. “And some grief.”

Once Glengask returned to the chaos of the rest of the house, Lachlan finished his whisky. Over the years he thought he’d made it clear enough that he could never feel … romantic toward the bairn he’d had following him about like an eager puppy since she could toddle about on her own wee legs.

He thought he’d danced on the edge quite well, really, rebuffing her girlish advances and at the same time keeping from breaking her heart. Apparently no one appreciated his subtlety—though in clan MacLawry subtlety had never been a prime weapon in the arsenal.

But now, and for the first time, he felt like his future was his own. It was a giddy feeling, almost. No one had any expectations of him. Well, almost no one. Ranulf did expect one thing of him. Blowing out his breath, he stood. Best get it over with, and hope she didn’t begin weeping. The last thing he wanted was Bear breaking his nose because he’d made the granite mountain’s little sister cry.

He found Winnie in one of the upstairs sitting rooms. She’d put on a pretty cream and blue gown, though he hadn’t seen anything wrong with the one she’d been wearing when she’d arrived. She was pretending to be English, though, and everyone knew the Sassenach changed clothes more often than a deer flicked its ears.

She sat in the middle of her fluttery new friends, all of them laughing about something the tall fellow with the shiny hair had said. Lachlan couldn’t recall his name, but doubted the scrawny fellow could so much as lift a caber—much less toss one.

“Might I have a word with ye, Winnie?” he asked, wondering why he abruptly felt … uncomfortable. He’d spent nearly as much time in this house as he had in his own, but with these people, the sounds and scents they brought with them, he couldn’t help the sensation that he didn’t quite belong.

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