Read an ExcerptThe Devil Wears Tartan
By Karen Ranney
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2008
All right reserved.
The wedding day was fine and clear. A brilliant Scottish blue sky hovered over Edinburgh. The breeze was warm; the air carried the freshness of spring. There was silence in the square; no raucous noise disturbed the serenity of this most fortuitous of mornings. Even the sun shone brightly in approval for the nuptials of the Earl of Lorne and Miss Davina McLaren.
The bride stood at the window surveying the morning. Her predominant emotion was neither anticipation nor fear. Davina McLaren was supremely irritated.
Her aunt, the woman who'd orchestrated this fiasco of a marriage, had been absent for the last three days. Just when the furor of dressmakers was at its most unbearable, Theresa took a train to London. Just when Davina could have used some womanly advice, her aunt was unaccountably gone. Finally, Theresa had arrived home late last night, claiming exhaustion, and promising explanations in the morning.
But that was not the greatest source of Davina's annoyance. She'd not yet met her bridegroom. In this modern day, she was being treated with no more regard than a piece of furniture. Would you like that chair, Your Lordship? We've had it in the family for a number of years, but it's yours if you like.
How very annoying.
None of her femaleacquaintances had been married in a similar fashion. Every single one of them had known her husband, either because they'd been acquainted for years or the bride's parents had made an effort to involve the bride in decisions about her own future.
But then, most of her acquaintances had been forbidden to talk to her in the last year.
Had she been invited to any balls, dinners, or other entertainments, would she have been able to pick her soon-to-be-husband out of a crowded room? Or was it true that he was a hermit? What a pair they were. She, who had been forbidden society's company, and the Earl of Lorne, who shunned it willingly.
Should she look for a man with the devil's looks? What had he done to be labeled with such a nickname? The Devil of Ambrose. He'd have black hair, no doubt. And piercing black eyes, perhaps. Would he have an evil smile? A large nose and a pointed chin? His ears would probably stick out at an angle, and be pointed at the top.
She could only imagine what their children might look like. Children. Dear Lord, children. Tonight, her wedding night, she was supposed to undress in the presence of a stranger and allow him to do that to her.
Thanks to Alisdair and her own foolishness, she was only too aware of what was expected of her on the wedding night. Alisdair Cannemot, adventurer, connoisseur of women, and despoiler of innocents. Perhaps that was not entirely correct. If he'd despoiled her, it had been with her willing cooperation. She'd gone to her own downfall armed with curiosity and not a little anticipation. When they were discovered, she'd already lost her anticipation, and her curiosity was being rapidly supplanted by a rather startling reality.
She was wrong in assigning Theresa any of the blame for this marriage. While it was true that her aunt had accepted the offer from the earl's solicitor immediately, it was also true that Davina was completely, fully, and despicably ruined, and this was probably the only offer she'd ever receive. The prospect of being a spinster was almost as disconcerting as that of being married to a man she didn't know, and had never met.
No, she alone bore the brunt of responsibility for this marriage. Regret was a strange emotion to feel on her wedding day, but it was better, perhaps, to feel regret than fear.
Her aunt bustled into the room, uncharacteristically flustered. Theresa Rowle possessed blue eyes the color of Scotland's sky, hair as red as the blood it had shed, and the disposition of a clan chieftain trapped in the body of a voluptuous woman. The serene face she showed the world masked a will of iron, a fact to which Davina could attest.
"There you are, Davina," she said. "We must hurry."
Davina ignored the second part of that sentence in favor of the first. "Where did you expect me to be, Aunt? Did you think I would escape?"
Her aunt halted, and stared at her as if she'd never before seen Davina. "What are you going on about now, child? Time is passing, and your trunks need to be readied. I have had a message from the earl. It is his wish that we have the wedding at Ambrose."
She began to direct the three maids who had followed her into the room with a series of hand gestures, pursed lips, and headshaking, all the while ignoring Davina as if she were simply an ornament. A chair?
Davina folded her arms in front of her and wondered just how much rebellion her aunt might tolerate. It felt as if the entire world had marshaled against her, but in this circumstance, at least, shouldn't she have some say?
"Isn't that a bit precipitous, Aunt? The arrangements are made. The guests have been invited. Do you expect all of those people to travel to Ambrose with only a few hours' notice?"
Her aunt waved a hand in the maids' direction, and they instantly disappeared from the room.
"Did you think that you would be forgiven so easily, Davina?"
Was there pity in her aunt's eyes?
"Did no one agree to attend?" Davina asked.
Instead of answering her directly, Theresa only smiled. All the same, it was an expression with more grimness than amusement.
"It is a good thing we are summoned to Ambrose, Davina. It will spare us the shame of a ceremony in an empty church."
When Davina didn't speak, her aunt continued. "People love to hear stories, Davina, and you've provided them with one that is not only entertaining, but gives them lessons to teach their daughters."
Excerpted from The Devil Wears Tartan by Karen Ranney
Copyright © 2008 by Karen Ranney. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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