NEWLY MINTED LAIRD SEEKS WIFE, PREFERABLY RICH
Laird Diocail Gordon has just inherited his uncle’s run down castle and rag-tag clan. He knows the sorry sight of the castle would send any woman running, but is determined to find a wife to help return his home to its former glory.
Widowed lady Jane Stanley is determined to return to England, even if she has to tromp through the Scottish Highlands on foot to get there. Her travels lead her straight into the midst of a troop of dangerous Highland warriors. The mysterious, brawny laird forbids his men to harm her, and the spark between them is immediate. The only way Diocail can keep her safe is to take her home with him, but will the miserable state of his clan douse her newly ignited Highland flame?
Acclaimed author Mary Wine has written over 30 works of Scottish Highland romance, romantic suspense and erotic romance. An avid history-buff and historical costumer, she and her family enjoy participating in historical reenactments. Mary lives in Yorba Linda, California with her husband and two sons.
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Historical facts you should know
- Noble women did not take the name of their spouse, only the title. This was because their blood was blue as well and of importance. Margaret Clifford wed Henry Stanley, Lord Derby and became Lady Derby but remained Margaret Clifford. Her children took the Stanley name.
- Wool maintains ninety percent of its insulating factor when wet, while cotton only maintains ten percent. One reason it was used throughout the British isles for clothing.
- A person could be turned out in their shift or shirt. Some were also thrown into debtors prison so that their families could ‘bail’ them out by paying the debts.
Two bundles of Mary Wine’s Highland Weddings series
Jane’s belly rumbled.
She’d ignored it for a day, but by the next morning, she simply could not any longer.
Not that it changed her mind. She wasn’t returning to Gillanders and his offer to be his harlot in exchange for her keep.
Curse Henry for his gambling.
Jane regretted the thought. She knew it was unkind to think ill of the dead. Her body might ache, but she wasn’t yet ready to regret the fact that she was still drawing breath. Life might be difficult, but it was still to be treasured. She stepped on a rock and winced as she moved toward the sound of water. It was only a temporary solution, but she cupped her hand and drank until she felt some measure of relief.
She straightened, looking at the water and seeking any sign of fish. Desperation was beginning to claw at her. The chill from the night lingered in her joints, and the water wasn’t very satisfying.
No, I am not going back to the boardinghouse…
However, that meant she very well might die in the wilds of Scotland.
At least her situation made for a good tale. A hint of adventure—wasn’t that what her stepmother had gleefully informed her would be her lot when she’d decreed that Jane would wed Henry with his determination to travel into Scotland when it was so very risky?
Oh yes. How grand Jane’s life had been with Alicia. Her stepmother had taken her husband’s house in hand and made it plain that Jane and her sisters would obey her. Not that such an attitude was uncommon. Still, the happy home she’d enjoyed with her mother had vanished within months of her father taking a second wife. Of course, her father had never noticed because Alicia made certain her husband was very comfortable indeed. Complaints to her father had met with his confidence in his new wife’s ability to raise his daughters into women who could run their own households.
Jane was bitter and not one bit interested in being repentant about it. What had all of her obedience to Christian values and duties gotten her? A husband who raised his hand to her, gambling away every coin and then going so far as to promise her favors to settle his unpaid debts.
Turned out in her shift.
Indeed I was.
And still, she preferred it.
Her belly rumbled again. It hurt now, the hunger.
Well, life had not been comfortable for her for many years, so there was no reason to think today would be different. There was, however, a very real satisfaction in rising to meet the challenges as they came her way. If that was pride, so be it.
She looked back at the water and moved a bit farther upstream as she watched for signs of life. The water was tumbling out of a pool, and a fish slithered down the fall.
She blinked, thinking she’d imagined it. No, there was a plop as another fish swam too close to where the rocks gave way, and she realized someone had piled up rocks to make a dam of sorts.
It made sense. She looked around, making sure no one was about before she pulled her smock over her head. Without a net or basket at hand, the cloth was all she had. Once wet, it would bring her even more suffering, but if sacrificing her comfort helped her fill her belly, she would take the shivers. She moved into the stream and held the ends of her garment under the water. Her belly twisted with hunger, her mouth beginning to water while she waited. Time seemed to slow down, tormenting her as she tried to maintain her confidence while ignoring how cold the water was around her bare feet.
At last there was another plop, and suddenly there was a fish flopping on the surface of her wet smock. She jumped with surprise, and the fish went sailing right out of her grasp. She whirled around, desperate to catch it. The sun shone off its body as it flailed and fought to buck itself back into the deeper part of the stream. Jane fought just as hard to reach the fish, skinning her knee as she landed next to it and clamped her hands around it.
Victory surged through her when she held it high. She carried it up farther onto the bank and then struggled back into her wet smock. The fabric stuck to her body, but she smiled as she retreated into the forest in search of a way to cook her catch.
“Ye do nae have a knife.”
Jane froze, looking up from her fish to see who her company was. She let out a sigh of relief when she realized it was a boy, a rather small one who looked up at her from where he was crouched next to a rabbit snare. His face reflected his disappointment over finding the snare empty. He looked at her fish, longing in his young eyes.
“The fish are too big for me to catch,” he muttered. “Give me that one, and I’ll let ye use me knife when ye get another for yerself.”
He couldn’t have been more than six or seven winters, but it was clear his life was as challenging as hers. He was thin, his face drawn with hunger. He held out his hands for the fish, aiming a smile at her as he tried to bargain.
“I know how to gut it and put it over a fire,” he tempted her.
“Can you start a fire?” she asked.
He was wearing only a shirt and a belt that held his knife. His feet were blackened from
having no shoes.
“I can get a coal from the house,” he assured her quickly. “But I can nae go home to me ma without something to eat. I am the man of the house now.”
His eyes returned to the fish in her hands. “That’s a fine, big fish, and there are plenty more.”
Trusting him was a risk, but one she had to take unless she planned to eat her fish raw with her teeth. And a fire would warm her and help dry her shift. She hated that she was desperate enough to resort to such behavior. At least Fate was offering her another solution. Yet it would not come without a price. Handing over the fish took a great deal of effort. She watched the way his face lit up.
“I’ll be back,” he promised. “I’m going to give this to me mother and bring back a coal from the hearth like I promised.”
God, she hoped so.
He ran away from her, the fish in his hands, as she fought off tears to see it leaving.
Nonsense, she chided herself.
It will be a good bargain.