Mad, Bad, and Dangerous in Plaid

By: Suzanne Enoch

“Of course I understand that. You were a childhood infatuation. I’m certainly not a child any longer.”

This was not what he’d expected. “It’s been three months. Ye’ve changed yer accent right enough, but yer heart? That’s nae so simple, I think.”

“Now you’re confusing me. Are you jealous that I’ve realized what I want, and that it isn’t you?”

“I’m just doubting the truth of yer words, lass.”

“Oh, pish. Until three months ago, I’d barely spoken with a man who wasn’t my brother. I’d never waltzed with anyone but the four of you, and no one had ever complimented me without me first having to ask them to. And so I’m sorry I was so relentless in my pursuit, but you can hardly blame me for it.”

“I dunnae blame ye fer anything. I just want to have an understanding between us.”

“There is one. But this conversation is unnecessary. My time in London allowed me to open my eyes,” she returned, still cool and composed. “I wrote you letters and you never responded. Since my first memory I’ve been asking you for flowers and dances and poetry, and you couldn’t be bothered. Not once.” Stepping forward, she put a hand on his arm. “I don’t want you any longer. You’re not worth my time.”

Then she leaned up and kissed him, sisterlike, on the cheek. “But I do thank you, for showing me precisely the sort of man I do not want in my arms. It’s a lesson I’ve learned quite well.” With that, her fingers walking up his shoulder, she strolled past him, humming, out the door again.

Lachlan stood where he was for a long moment as he tried to keep his head from spinning. What the devil? Nearly eighteen years of her pursuing him, and suddenly he wasn’t worth her time? Ha. The day he couldn’t please a woman—any woman he chose—was the day he would strap stones to his waist and jump into Loch Shinaig.

Of course he hadn’t been pursuing Winnie MacLawry, so what did she expect? It was ridiculous. She’d been after him, changed her mind, and then decided she could insult him because of it? He’d done nothing wrong. Hell, he’d done nothing at all. On purpose. If he had wanted her, he would have had her, and that was that.

But to say he wasn’t the sort of man she wanted—that was insulting. He was as fine and charming as any of those scalawags in the other room drinking tea with their pinkies stuck in the air. He might not be an earl, but he was a damned viscount. And he’d wager any number of her pretty, delicate Sassenach lasses would be pleased to receive his attentions. That would show her.

All this from a child with burrs in her hair. She could play the adult if she chose, but he might just decide to show her that this was not a game for children. “Ye’ve done it now, lass,” he muttered. “Dunnae throw down yer wee glove unless ye’re ready fer someone to take up the challenge. We’ll see who’s worth wanting. And having.” It wouldn’t be her, but she could damned well watch.

Chapter Two

“Ye truly should be wearing a bonnet or one of yer brothers’ warm hats today, m’lady,” Mitchell said, as the maid tucked a hairbrush and extra hairpins into a drawer of the dressing table. “This isnae London. A brisk wind could freeze yer ears off.”

“I grew up here, Mitchell,” Rowena returned, taking a last turn in front of the full-length dressing mirror to admire her red and black riding habit and the rakish red beaver hat perched atop her black coils of hair. “I haven’t forgotten the weather, for goodness’ sake.” She picked up her riding gloves and headed for the door. “But I cannot wear a bonnet with this outfit, or all the English will laugh at me. If I wore one of Bear’s floppy hats…” She gave an exaggerated shudder. “If I did that, I might as well save everyone some trouble and join a nunnery.”

“No one’s marriage prospects have ever been ruined by a hat,” the lady’s maid insisted stoutly.

“Not yet, perhaps. But I will not be the first.”

“Saint Bridget protect us all, then.”

Rowena left her bedchamber and descended to the first floor. Around her the house was already well awake, and she smiled at the sound of one of the upstairs maids humming as she opened curtains and cleaned out rooms abandoned for the morning. Glengask had always been a loud, lively place, filled with visiting chieftains and allies and cotters and pipers and multiple men she’d thought were footmen until she’d eventually realized they were Highlands warriors, members of clan MacLawry brought in by Ranulf to help watch over the family. To protect them.

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