An Unconventional Wedding
Do you enjoy reading wedding scenes in romance novels? In some books, you will see them toward the end, just before the couple rides off into the sunset for their happily ever after. Ah, very satisfying. But in other books, you will find wedding scenes early in the story. To me, these are more interesting because they are usually filled with conflict and tension. There is some reason the hero and heroine are tying the knot… other than love. Back in history, most wealthy people married for other reasons--money, alliances, property, titles, an impressive family history or pedigree, etc. And this is the case in my story.
At the beginning of My Wild Highlander, the heroine is the king's ward and he's eager to get her married off to a man who meets his standards. Imagine for a moment what it might be like to marry a man you've never met, or a man you have only seen and talked to a couple of times. Best case scenario--he is a kind person and you find him at least somewhat attractive, right? Who knows if feelings will develop?
In My Wild Highlander, Angelique is against marrying Lachlan (notorious rake that he is), but she has little choice. She's smart enough to know she shouldn't anger the king, and she realizes she needs a strong man to protect her and her property from the greedy vultures that are circling. Angelique's wedding is somewhat less than ideal…
Angelique awoke in the night, thinking she'd heard a thump. Her eyes searched the darkness of the bedchamber. She snatched her dagger from beneath her pillow and slid to the floor behind the bed. The faint moonlight glimmering through the window did little to illuminate the room. Only embers glowed in the hearth. She caught the whiff of a masculine scent. An intruder!
A floorboard squeaked and a large dark silhouette moved forward. Parblue! Immobile, she waited for the moment when she could best strike.
When the intruder bent over her bed, she lunged toward him, stabbing her blade at his neck. Before she met her mark, he jerked back, grabbed her forearms and dragged her against him. She lost the grip on her dagger. Heaven help me.
She screamed, trying to wake Camille, sleeping on a cot in the corner. A hand clamped over her mouth.
"Release me!" Her demand came out muffled.
"Shh. 'Tis me, Lachlan. You must come with me." He uncovered her mouth.
She went limp with a bit of relief. The heat of his strong hands and solid body burned through her. Now she recognized the pleasant but disturbing male scent of him. "Why?"
"Someone is trying to kill us. We must go into hiding," he said, low and fierce in her ear, his breath fanning her hair and tickling her skin.
"You have lost your senses. No one is trying to kill me." Were they?
"Indeed, Kormad is making plans."
Kormad. Mon Dieu. "I must have my clothes, my trunks."
"We have no time. Bring one change of clothes. I'll have the others shipped to Draughon."
"Camille must come with me. I go nowhere without her." Angelique wrested away from Lachlan, hurried to the corner and shook her cousin out of a deep sleep. "Parbleu! Camille, wake up."
"Whaa?" She stirred a bit.
"She is a heavy sleeper."
Lachlan went to the door. "Dirk, we need your help. Can you carry Lady Angelique's companion?"
The fearsome man appeared at the threshold, the lantern in his hand illuminating his long red hair and exaggerating his frown. "Can she not walk?"
Unable to wait for Camille to wake, and with no maids about, Angelique quickly threw smocks, stays and a change of clothes into a sack for herself and the same for Camille.
"I must dress," Angelique said.
She yanked a blanket off the bed to wrap around herself seconds before Lachlan dragged her from the room.
After meeting Dirk cradling the sleeping Camille, and Rebbinglen carrying a lantern and a sword, they slipped through a narrow doorway she'd never seen before, and entered a tight dark passage. The dank air and close space made her feel she would suffocate. Apparently this was one of the secret passages she'd heard about that riddled Whitehall.
They reached an exterior door—near the stables if the stench was any indication. Wind twisted the trees and bushes. The faint glow of the lantern revealed the muddy ground. Angelique hung back on the threshold. "I am barefoot."
"Come." Lachlan scooped Angelique into his arms abruptly, making her head spin, and rushed her outside. Ma foi! She did not want to notice the warmth of his breath against her hair or the hardness and strength of his body. Before she had time to decide whether or not she liked his touch, he pushed her inside a coach with her cousin and slammed the door. The team and coach took off and raced through the gate, then along King Street. Horses' hooves clomped all around them—guards, she hoped.
"Camille, wake up, damn you." Angelique shook her on the opposite seat. "You are one worthless companion."
She roused a bit. "Huh? Are we moving? Where are we?" she asked in a groggy voice.
"In a coach, heading for God knows where. Lachlan says our lives are in danger."
"Is it Kormad?" Camille sat up.
"Lachlan says yes."
"You do not think it is Girard?"
"No, I hope he is dead of a fever." Angelique slid back on the leather seat. The coach careened around a corner, and she grabbed for a handhold.
"But we cannot be certain."
"We must not speak of it." Angelique's stomach knotted with the very thought.
"Did you get…the item?"
"Of course. You know I would not leave it."
After taking another corner too quickly, the coach drew to an abrupt halt and the door opened. Lachlan now held a torch aloft. "Come, both of you. Hold this." He handed the torch to Rebbinglen.
"Where are we going?" Angelique asked.
"No time for questions now." He motioned her forward.
Again, he lifted Angelique into his arms and carried her across an alley as if she weighed no more than an infant. Amid the chaos, he seemed an island of strength and protection. She was finding, of a sudden, that she liked this feeling. She had not experienced true safety for a long time. And besides, he smelled appealing, like clean male blended with leather. In the torchlight, their gazes mingled for a moment. He was not the seductive charmer now. No twinkle of humor danced in his eyes, no smirk upon his lips. He'd transformed into a formidable warrior with a firm mouth and dark, indomitable eyes—a side of him she'd never fully seen.
They slipped through a narrow doorway, Dirk carrying Camille behind them.
"What is this place?" The scents of tallow and musty books irritated her nose.
The passage opened up and they moved through a large dim church filled with empty pews. Only a couple of candles lit the plain interior. Five of King James's retainers wearing royal livery waited near the pulpit along with a dour Protestant minister.
"What is happening?" Angelique asked.
"We are to be married, as you ken." Lachlan set her on her feet at the front of the church.
She pulled him aside. "Have you lost your mind? We cannot marry now. Not like this," she whispered loudly.
"Aye, 'tis necessary to marry in secret. Someone wishes to kill us. They are wanting your estate through any means, fair or foul." His harsh expression told her of the seriousness of the matter. "King James bid us to go ahead and marry. Now. We have the special license."
"But I must wear my wedding gown and I did not bring it. I will not marry in my shift and a blanket. Barefoot."
"No time." Lachlan dragged her before the minister. "Please begin." He placed his hand over hers, tucked against his elbow.
The minister began in a dry monotone.
Parbleu! Angelique felt paralyzed for a moment, her mind racing. What to do? She glanced aside and found Camille standing barefoot, dressed much as she was. She gave an almost imperceptible nod and faint smile, her gaze steady. She approved? Merde!
How preposterous Angelique should get married in such dishabille. Her hair was a bedraggled disaster, tousled and hanging to her waist. She was a countess, not a prostitute. Since she had been a small child she had dreamed of the day she would wear her mother's enchanting French wedding gown, say her vows and kiss her own charming prince.
Today was not that day. That day would never come. She glanced up at Lachlan, and sensed some understanding in his eyes, a silent communication she could not fully grasp because she didn't know him. Lowering her gaze, she thought of the emerald ring on her finger and how he'd given it to her on bended knee. A romantic gesture, but had he meant it in the way she hoped?
Mère de Dieu, do not let this be a mistake. Do not let him slip inside my heart and destroy it. I cannot dare trust him.
Lachlan nudged her. "Say 'I will,'" he whispered without moving his lips.
"I will," she said in a strong voice. She could have been agreeing to anything. The minister droned on. In shock, wishing this over with, she let her attention slide away to other things, the creaking of the old building, Lachlan's warm, slightly roughened fingers on hers as he pushed another ring onto her finger, a shiny gold band.
"With this ring, I thee wed. This gold and silver, I thee give. With my body, I thee worship." Lachlan's smooth baritone voice reciting those vows stripped away the fog. Her attention riveted upon him, and she knew she would remember this moment forever.
She repeated her own vows rather stiffly, in a halting voice. Only Lachlan's steady hands kept her upright. She wanted to do nothing but burst into tears, though she didn't know why. The way she was dressed—or rather undressed—like a whore for her wedding, or the satisfied, hopeful expression in his eyes, such a contrast to her own misery.
Naturally, he should be pleased. He would be an earl and worth a goodly sum. Her possessions became his. He owned her now.
Sliding his fingers into her unbound hair, Lachlan lowered his head toward her and panic tightened her throat. He touched his lips to hers, the first contact startling, but warm and compelling. His full lips sipped at hers gently, drew away a breath and came back for a firmer, more possessive kiss. His beard stubble rasped her chin and the tip of his tongue tasted her lips, between. Such an unexpected and erotic action. She could not even draw breath.
Whistles and yelps from his friends echoed into the rafters. The minister cleared his throat.
I must shove him away. But no, she couldn't. Not because he was her husband, but because the damnable seducer had mesmerized her.
My Wild Highlander copyright 2011 Vonda Sinclair
Lady Angelique Drummagan, a half-Scottish, half-French countess, has suffered much pain and betrayal in her past. She wants nothing to do with the sensual Scottish warrior that the king has ordered her to marry because the rogue could never be a faithful husband, but she has little choice in the matter. Dangerous, greedy enemies threaten her from all sides and she’s in dire need of his protection.
Sir Lachlan MacGrath, known as Seducer of the Highlands, possesses a charming wickedness and canny wit which has earned him much popularity. After the king decrees that he wed the fiery hellion, Lachlan discovers there is one woman who can resist him—Angelique. Can he break through her icy façade and melt her heart, or will the dark secrets lurking in her past not only cost them their future together, but their very lives?
"The Seducer of the Highlands, Sir Lachlan MacGrath, can seduce me anytime! And did! Danger, romance, and Highlanders make this tale a must read! Loved it!" ~Terry Spear, Heart of the Highland Wolf