Since 1183 the Sinclair Family of Wrathe has lived on a little island off the very north of Scotland. As first the Lords of Wrathe and then the Dukes of Cairnmuir they have seen Kings come and go in a troubled land. With the winds of another war on the horizon, Lorne Sinclair heads home for one last Christmas before shipping off to the Malay. But a castle on the edge of the world isn't a haven from the real world even for a future duke. At least there are tales from the past to distract from the knife hanging over the party in 1938. Then again, a historian and novelist looking for lost family jewels can always liven things up.
In the Year 1638
“Come to the highlands with me.”
The woman looked up from the kettles she sold, ready to laugh. “You’ve never met me before today Sir. You must think me daft to agree to such a thing with a man I don’t even know.”
“Come to the highlands with me.” Aodhan repeated. He had wanted to say he was better than all the boys hanging around, but he knew he wasn’t. Low cut stays and bodice gave them all reason to stay close. But he only saw her eyes.
“Then you think me a . . .” he never let her finish her sentence only shaking his head before he walked off. He couldn’t deny that he looked back at the woman for one last glance and almost tripped over a cart when her skirt pulled tight against her hips.
Aodhan lay in bed that night unable to get the woman out of his head. He was the daft one, asking a woman he had never seen before to come home with him. He walked along the stalls of the Faire. There was time to waste before he was needed at the preparations for his sister Lorna's wedding and there were always things that the castle could use that were unavailable locally. Not to mention the housekeeper would be put out if he returned without new goods for the household. Her pots were almost worn through with use especially. He'd get his ears boxed if he forgot those.
“You can't be thinking of looking here, Aodhan. Well never get out in time to meet with Henry if you get in that mess." Kai argued even before Aodhan could say his intentions, just a mere change in direction, and his cousin started his disagreements.
“That mess. There's a woman selling over there that brings men from all over town to gawk at her."
“You mean she's turned you down." Aodhan grinned at his cousin turning red. His 18-year-old cousin, Kai still wore the air of a youth, large but awkward. His face pitted, covered with a patchy beard, he walked with an odd rolling gate in an attempt to downplay his 6'7" height. He was as naive as a child when it came to the whole marriage market, only that he was being left out. "What's her name? The one that ties your tongue in knots? I'll have to keep her around more often so I can get a moment's quiet."
Kai didn't even get the jibe that Aodhan had made at his expense, he just strained his neck trying to get a peek at the woman. “Elizabeth, everyone calls her Lizzie."
Aodhan wasn't in the mood for boyhood crushes. He had to get things done and it looked like this Lizzie sold goods he needed. As he wove through he found pots and pans, nails and horseshoes. All sorely lacking since the castle blacksmith died a few years earlier. As he looked over the goods, he couldn't help but notice the line of men that hovered about the stall. Boys really. Kai quickly joined their ranks as Aodhan found item after item they needed.
“Go get the cart Kai. There's more here we need than I thought."
And there before him was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Long black hair hung about her shoulders. Full lips softened sharp features, but it was her smoldering eyes that kept him enthralled. She was no young innocent girl as Aodhan had thought. Mid 20's perhaps. Her face spoke of having lived through more than her years. Certainly more than a boy of 18 was able to handle.
“Come to the highlands with me." Aodhan blurted out, completely out of character.
Closing his eyes, all Aodhan could see was smoldering eyes staring out of the darkness. Aye he was mad all right. Not to mention Kai might never speak to him again after propositioning the woman he had fallen in love with.
“Come to the highlands with me." Aodhan spurted without control of his tongue when the woman passed by as he purchased lace. Why his sister thought he would be a good one to send to the Faire when she decided her wedding dress was not showy enough, he'd never guess.
She smiled faintly, smoldering eyes showed her answer before she even spoke. "I know you not, your clan, your lands, I know nothing, sir."
“Come to the highlands with me. That's all you need to know."
She shook her head. “I'm a poor choice in a quick marriage, not against divorce to get rid of a mistake sir."
Aodhan laughed as she was pulled away to sell another pot. “I'm sure you would at that." At least Kai wasn't there to hear him and Aodhan walked off without another word.
“Am I to come with you then? Come to the highlands with a man I know nothing about?"
Aodhan spun around in the street. The sun set behind her turning her into a glowing angel. His imagination needed no help, picturing her removing her stays, hair spilling down her back, all that covered her as she slid her shift down over her hips. “Doesn't matter that you know nothing. I have to have you."
“You do think me. . ."
“Slowly stripping before coming to bed. Brushing those fine breasts against me before you slowly settle on me." He watched her face turning redder in anger with every word out of his mouth. “Truly, I can't think of a better way to spend a wedding night…being seduced by a fine wife."
“And how will I know how to seduce a man if I’m not as experienced as a French whore?"
Aodhan leaned his mouth near her ear. He refused to touch her, temptation that it was. “Those dark eyes of yours have seduced me since the first time I saw them. Are you implying I run around asking every woman I see to come to the highlands with me?"
“Lizzie!" She turned at her name and vanished, mouth gaping at his words. Aodhan only lay in bed again that night astounded at his own lack of sense. She was right, he knew nothing of her, she knew nothing of him. Yet he proposed marriage to a stranger. Not a roll in the hay, marriage. He didn't care. The very sight of her was enough to make him lose all reason.
With the wedding festivities in full swing, Aodhan stopped with a flagon of ale halfway to his mouth. Lizzie had hopped up with the change in songs and she danced about the room. Never had he seen a woman so beautiful. Never had he seen her among the guests before that very moment.
“Who is the dancer? It's your wedding. You have to know the guests." Aodhan asked unable to take his eyes away. Her dark hair flew as she twirled.
“Who? Lizzie?" Henry, the groom asked.
“Who else?" He snapped.
“She's a Lamond. Married to one of the Lamond chiefs' right hands. He was killed rather horribly as well as her father. Now she sells pots at the faire for a relation for her keep after he died.”
Henry turned to the place where Aodhan sat. It was already empty. Aodhan wound his way through the crowd already. Keeping track of her was easy, he stood a head over most of the guests, only Kai stood taller. Twirling with abandon when the music stopped, Lizzie ran into him as she finished.
Lizzie Lamond stared up at him, the smile hadn't left her face yet. Obviously, the wine flowing had loosened her reserve. There was no tongue lashing, only the scent of heather assaulted him. Aodhan had to taste her, feel her, and his mouth covered hers as they were hidden behind a curtain. She knew nothing of him, but she didn't pull away from his kiss. She was no novice at the task either. Kai wouldn't have a clue what to do with her. Only Aodhan himself, stopping, broke the moment.
“Come to the highlands with me." Aodhan whispered. “As my wife." He added quietly.
She never took her eyes from his. “Wife?" She asked, just a simple question as if he had never mentioned it before.
“Were you not listening the last time we spoke?"
“I have nothing to my name." Lizzie whispered.
Aodhan knew he had her. “I only need you, well and eating. Eating you doesn't sustain a man forever as essential to life as it's getting to be."
Lizzie blushed, and for a moment Aodhan worried he had said too much. Then she lifted her eyes and they smoldered. Her eyes spoke far too loudly and his laugh died as she pushed him backwards from the cover of the curtain to a door down the hall. She never pulled her eyes away from his as she navigated her way and yet, Aodhan hit nothing despite walking backwards. Inside a room, everything grew dim as she locked the door. The music from the celebration was still loud enough it rang through the stone walls.
“I’m a widow.”
“I know. Always did appreciate a woman that knew what she was doing.” Lizzie stood close, close enough all he could notice was her scent among the smells of the kitchen storeroom.
“You were asking about me?" She walked closer to him, almost eye to eye if he was shorter.
“You don't think I'd propose marriage a third time to a woman I knew nothing about."
She lifted her eyebrows slowly but if she did anything else, Aodhan couldn't tell. His eyes closed as her hand slipped under his kilt. A gentle hand slid up the length of his cock, an experienced hand caressed its tip. “And what do you think of a woman who says yes without knowing anything?"
“I think you're remedying that fact."
“Any whore can do this. I don't even know your name."
“You're no . . ." Her hand tightened and only a gurgle of pain escaped.
Enough of this! Aodhan picked her up suddenly pressing her against the wall, for nothing else to get his flesh out of reach of her hands. Her very talented hands. He had been right that those eyes spoke of more than her years. Watching husband and father killed, watching most her clan being killed would not have allowed for trusting eyes. Even more, his pronouncement that she was too much woman for the boys hanging about was showing its truth. Kai would have lost all thought long ago, and he was having hard enough time ignoring the temptation of her resting on his very cock. Her squirming wasn't helping matters any. “If you need vouching for my character before you say yes, ask the bride. She's my sister."
Every fiber of her being froze in place. “Sister?? Her brother is Aodhan Sinclair, Duke of Cairnmuir."
“Come to the highlands with me." Aodhan whispered in her ear. "Be my Duchess."
“You can't be serious wanting me for a bride? I have nothing. A widow with no family connections, no money to speak of and I held you hostage by your. . ."
Aodhan was just about losing it even to hear her say the word would be the final straw. “There's a preacher in the other room if you doubt my sincerity. But for the love of god stop squirming!"
Lizzie froze again. Her eyes lowering as she realized where she rested. The corner of her mouth curled up in a devilish grin. “You would prefer thrusting then? Sucking, I'm very good at sucking."
Sweat broke out on his forehead at the idea. "Lizzie please." He pleaded. The squirming grew unbearable and then he felt bare skin resting on his cock. When he lifted his eyes, hers were there smoldering back as a banging on the door sent them both jumping.
“Who's in there? We need more wine to serve dinner."
“I'll save that for our wedding night when there's plenty of time to devote to the task." Lizzie wrapped her arms around his neck lifting herself to go get the door, but only his cock sprang free and rested at her opening. Her wetness tortured him at the thought of having her for the rest of his life, but it wouldn't be soon enough. “Aodhan, it's been two years since my husband died. Be gentle." Lizzie whispered in his ear before she slowly lowered her herself onto him. Seated fully, she had no rush to move.
“I thought you were going to get the door." Aodhan murmured, caressing wonderfully smooth thighs. Slipping his hands around to her ass. Lizzie sighed.
“How about we finish before they start battering down the door."
Aodhan thrust slowly to start, but after another pounding on the door, Lizzie herself set the pace faster. The sounds she made, he could live with hearing for the rest of his life. It had been a shame she'd lived as a widow for so long. Lizzie's breathing quickened as she neared a climax. Even as he felt his own end nearing, Lizzie bit the shoulder of his kilt, her own already arriving. Aodhan let go of his reserve and pumped hard. Long after he finished Lizzie kept bucking with each stroke.
“I take it you trust me now?" Aodhan murmured as she lay against him unable to move.
“I've known Henry for years. He's boasted about having you as a future brother-in-law ever since the engagement. I might know more about you than you wish."
Aodhan laughed as he lifted her off him. Both presentable again, he reached for a bottle of wine as more pounding echoed in the room. He'd need it if he was going to get through this party with a pair of smoldering eyes sending his heart racing every time she looked at him. “I wouldn't listen to everything Henry says about me. I caught him poaching deer a few years back just for the fun of it he certainly doesn't need the food. Not turning him in makes him think I'm a hero."
Aodhan turned the key before Lizzie could answer and yanked the door open hard.
“Your Grace." A shocked steward gasped. Others were coming up behind him.
“Send someone to fix this door. We came to get the wine I brought for the bride and groom and have been trapped in here for 15 minutes at least."
“Sorry your grace. I'll have it fixed immediately."
After the others rushed in the open door to get the wine, Aodhan winked at the steward with a shake of his head. “I needed somewhere private to propose marriage."
For once, there was the faintest smile breaking the countenance of the normally stern man. “Very good."
Lizzie took his hand leading him through the crowd. “It was your suggestion."
Only when Aodhan looked in their general direction did he see the preacher. Aodhan could only smile. “Are you in a hurry, Lizzie Lamond? After all that coaxing it took."
Lizzie stopped, letting the crowd push him close and then she turned. So soon after and the itch to touch her again . . . “Henry told me for you there is nothing more important than family. My family . . . The protection of a poor blacksmith isn't much." A tear slipped down her cheek breaking Aodhan's heart. “Claiming love I don't expect. You've seen me all of 4 times, but call me family and you'll never have a truer wife. Let me have a family again."
“Are you begging me, after I've chased your skirts. . ."
“Aodhan where have you been?" Lorna called. “Henry's parents need to speak to you since you’re my guardian."
Aodhan kissed her slowly with no rush at all. He knew it had started as lust, what else could he call it? But her last words had shown him her true self. There was definitely the start of more waiting to be discovered. Half the room had quieted from the sight when he pulled away again. “Bring the preacher to the chapel. I can have my talk in there. You'll need witnesses to trap me proper."
Lizzie bit her lip. “You're certain?"
Aodhan nodded. “Bring your blacksmith relations with you, if they care to come. Ours died a few years ago. He can have a good living. I'll not deprive you of old family in giving you a new one."
Lizzie took a deep breath. “Take me to the highlands with you."