In honor of St. Valentine’s day, I thought I would post an excerpt from The Highlander’s Accidental Bride. I wanted a sweet setting with love between the hero and heroine – unfortunately, as my critique partners will attest, it never is quite that easy.
So, the following is the scene where Laird Eaden Scott and Mary, now Lady Scott, are discussing the reasons he should grant her a divorce for the ‘accidental’ marriage. Mary is unexpectedly drawn to him, and Eaden cannot explain why he cannot let her go.
“So, what do ye propose I do with ye now?” Eaden asked, his voice deceptively soft. With a start, Mary realized he stared broodingly at her. Which was better than snarling at her in anger, but it gave her little insight into his thinking.
“Allow me to return to Bellecourt.” Thankfully, her voice held only a faint tremble.
Eaden snorted his opinion on her suggested course of action, and Mary bristled. “I am of no further use to you.” Growing anger gave her strength. “You brought me here under false pretenses, and now you’ve been found out. You should have the grace to at least admit you were wrong and send me home!”
“Send ye home? Any man would argue ye are home now, milady.” Bitter mockery colored his voice. “What would yer prospects be at Bellecourt? Is there some smitten young swain who would take ye now, another man’s woman?”
“You twice-cursed idiot!” Mary raged, bolting from her chair. “‘Tis not as if I had willingly taken a lover! I know other men have divorced their wives! And it’s not as though I carried your child . . .”
“Ye are no’ with child?” Eaden demanded, speaking over her indignation.
“No,” she replied shortly. “I have not had time to speak privately with you yet. I knew this morning I . . .” Her voice trailed off in embarrassment. She looked away from him, but not before she thought she saw a look of disappointment cross his face. How could that be?
She dared to turn back to him. “Were you hoping I was?”
Eaden did not answer her, but his glower told her she hit closer to the truth than he would admit. When did she become adept at reading his scowls?
“Why? Why would you want a child from me?”
Eaden turned away. “I need a son,” he stated bluntly.
“Would it be so hard to find someone else who would make you a good wife?”
“What qualities would make me a good wife?” Eaden turned and took a step toward her, but Mary swallowed hard and held her ground. “Tell me, lass. What makes a good wife?”
She grabbed at the first thing that came to her mind. “You need someone of your social status. And someone who knows how to run the castle and deal with the servants.” She stared boldly at him. “And what will the king say?”
“King Robert will be fashed,” Eaden admitted with a tight shrug. “But we are wed now and so is Miriam.” He frowned. “Ye were raised with her. Surely ye know about running a household.”
“You know nothing of me.” Quiet dignity colored her reply. “Nothing at all.”
Eaden advanced on her, slowly. Mary’s breathing quickened but she dared not flinch or back away. She couldn’t bear to show her cowardice, not when she stood to gain her release from this marriage if she remained strong. She would let nothing stop her bid for freedom from a life she’d never asked for. Nothing.
He touched an errant curl against her cheek, cupping it in his hand as though weighing the silken heaviness. Warring with her intent to stand and force the issue, every instinct now told her to run. But a strange lassitude came over her, holding her in place, and she swayed slightly into his caress.
“Ye are beautiful,” he breathed into her ear as he stroked her hair. His other hand cupped her chin and he eased her face up.
Mary blinked. “I am not beautiful,” she corrected him with firm assurance.
“Ye need look in the mirror, milady. Ye have the greenest eyes I’ve ever seen, and yer hair has strands of gold running through it.”
“I do?” she stammered. “It does?”
Eaden’s lips curved and a slow smile creased his face. “Aye. And there’s this intriguing little cleft in yer chin.” He ran a thumb across the spot under discussion. Her head jerked as she tried to see what he was talking about, but he held her firm. “And yer lips are soft and full,” he whispered, moving his thumb to rub gently across her mouth.
Heat slid through her body. Her lips parted, tingled with sensation. She found herself mesmerized by the expression on his face, so close to hers, the way his eyes darkened and his nostrils flared as though drinking in her scent. The instinct, which a moment ago urged her to flee, now kept her rooted to the spot.
To her surprise, she found she wanted to touch him, wanted him to touch her. The muscles in her arms trembled as she fought the unfamiliar desire to twine herself around him. The same instinct urged her to press against him, to open her mouth further, to receive his kiss . . .
No! Her mind protested as his lips touched hers and stole the very breath from her. She did not want to fall under his spell, for she knew full well where his kisses could lead, and the memory of her wedding night echoed ever fresh in her mind. Though she’d become used to his presence and his occasional, casual touch, this was so much more dangerous.
* * *
Happy Valentine's Day!
May we each find our Happily Ever After