Entwined in Love

Duncan, do ye think that it twas wise tae pack all of her things before she had a say in the matter?” 


Duncan MacTavish, Laird of clan MacTavish, glanced over his shoulder at Collin, his friend and personal advisor. “Do ye think that I’m such a lackwitt that I would allow Chris a say in the matter?

Nay, if she has her say we’d be sitting on our arse for days. She’ll no’ be wanting to go to England, but by God it tis time she did her duty as my heir. I’ll not have my lands given to my dimwitted nephews.

I’m getting old Collin and-” he ignored his friends burst of laughter.

“And I want tae be assured afore I die that my lands are in good hands.” 
Collin rolled his eyes as he took a gulp of ale from the forgotten mug that had been sitting at his elbow.

Duncan was exaggerating…as was his custom when it suited him. He could not be more than fifty years old for Chris was now twenty-five. He shook his at that. It seemed that just yesterday she had been begging him to teach her to ride a horse. He smiled proudly at that.

Aye, he had taught her how to ride and she had become the best rider in the Highlands…hell in Scotland. 

His smile slowly faded, however, when he thought of the ordeal ahead. Chris would not be pleased. Not pleased at all, Collin thought with a frown. She hated the English for they were the ones that had come to Scotland to entice her mother away from her da.

That’s how she saw it, but Collin knew the truth. Catherine had needed no enticement to go away with the English. She had made it clear to one and all that she hated Scotland. She had left without looking back, leaving Duncan to care for his daughter in the best way he could.

Collin looked across the table to see a black scowl on Duncan’s face. 
“What tis it Duncan?” 
“How in the hell am I going to convince Chris to leave for Scotland without having a rain of curses fall upon my head?” 

Collin threw back his head and laughed, but was cut short by the punch in his stomach. He winced but continued to grin.

For all his fierce temperament Duncan truly loved his daughter and only wanted what was best for her. If that meant sending her to England to find a husband, so be it. Collin sighed. 
“Duncan, I-” 
Suddenly the door to the inn was thrown open and a figure stood silhouetted against the setting sun. 
“Da!”

The husky bellow drifted across the room making everyone fidget nervously in their seats. They all knew who was standing there.

Collin swallowed dryly and glanced across the table and saw a grim look settle on Duncan’s face as he heard the challenge in his daughter’s voice.

Christina, known to everyone in the Highlands as Chris, walked swiftly across the room, her long legs, encased in loose britches, eating up the distance from the door to her father. 

“Chris, afore ye start-” 
“Nay da, afore ye start ye better hear me out. I will not be marrying no English bastard, so ye can unpack my things and-” 
“They’re already on the boat.” 

Collin cleared his throat trying to discreetly avert the disaster he had a feeling was coming.

He sighed as both MacTavish’s ignored him. Absently he heard bets being whispered around the tavern. Suddenly MacTavish shoved back his chair and stood trying to glower submission from his daughter.

As usual she glowered right back, in fact moving so that the tips of their boots touched and they were nearly nose-to-nose. 

have to marry, which I will to fulfill my duty as yer heir, I’ll marry Michael from across the loch.” 

From the crowd a voice drifted over to them. “Chris, I think it should be me doing the asking and since I’m already in love with another woman there would be no point.” 
Christina’s fair skin, which seemed immune to tanning, turned scarlet but she ignored it. “Point taken Michael. Well-” 

“Chris, yer getting on that boat to England and ye will wed a man of bendable will, no knowledge of business and a dispassionate nature.

That way he’ll only bed ye tae get an heir and not the act of it. Do I make myself clear? 

A taunt silence stretched for a moments as Chris stared at her father trying to discern any signs of weakness in his eyes. It was broken when Chris heaved a sigh. 
“Aye, da I hear ye loud and clear.

Twill do my duty as your heir.” With that she turned taking glee that her abundance of hair hit her father in the face and walked out of the silent pub. 

“Follow her Michael and assure me she gets on that boat or I’ll have yer head rolling.” 
Michael quickly left.

Collin had been staring at Duncan in open-mouthed amazement that he had won the battle so quickly.

One think dishearten him, however. 
“Now Duncan, why would ye have yer lass chain herself to a coward?” he asked once Duncan sat down again.

A slow smile creased his weathered, yet still handsome face. 
“Do ye ken? When was the last time Chris did as I ordered?” 

A slow smile spread across Collin’s face. Aye, Chris never did what her father said so in trying her best do disobey him she would- 

“Aye, she’ll cage herself into a marriage to a man who won’t bend to her will, will have a vast knowledge of business and will have such a lusty nature that I should be bouncing a grandchild on my knee within a year’s time.” 

Collin saluted Duncan’s wisdom then drank some ale. Duncan, on the other hand, saluted England because he may have won this battle but they were going to get a war. 

Chapter One 
England 1808 

Dale had been walking down the sidewalk when suddenly he noticed a movement on the other side of the street.

He frowned. It was the early morning hours when most of the ton were just getting home to sleep off the ill effects of wine and paramours. One should be going to bed, he thought, instead of climbing out of ones window.

He noticed the figure, he couldn’t discern if it was male or female, did the feat with relative ease. Curiosity arose in him as he saw the figure glance around quickly then began to walk briskly down the walk in the direction of Hyde Park.

Slowly Dale peeled himself away from the wall and began to silently follow after the woman.

He knew it was woman because despite the fact that she didn’t walk with the airy steps of most females in the ton her hips still had a hypnotic sway. 

He frowned when she stepped into the shadow park. Didn’t she know what kind of riff raff hung around the park in the morning willing to relieve any man or woman of their valuables?

As he broke through the tress he heard a splash. He looked up from trying to untangle his cloak from a branch to see the woman’s head break the surface of the water. She laughed a husky sound that pulled at something inside of him.

She pushed her hair away from her face showing her profile in sharp relief.

To hell with her profile he wanted to see her whole face. 
As if she heard his wish she turned in the water facing him.

He stood still as emotions ripped through his body, emotions that he had tried to repress, but apparently had failed. Want, need, possessiveness…yearning.

This woman had brought out his baser instincts just by one look at her face. Her eyes were closed but from his advantage point he could see long sooty lashes resting on her pale cheeks.

She had a wide and arrogant nose that the ton had probable deemed shameful. She had full red lips with a smile lingering around the edges.

Her chin was rounded yet even when no one was around cocked at a stubborn angle. Everything about her features were exotic, real.

She raised her arms above her head and he followed the graceful movement aware that his body was responding to her.

She had long graceful arms with softly rounded shoulders. He noticed and was pleasantly surprised to see that she was…built. That was the only word he could think of. 

He watched as she swam silently over to the bank and began to wash, singing slightly off key, he thought with a smile. He turned when he knew she was about to get out of the water. His body was already to the bursting point. He followed her safely home then walked to his town house. He had to know who this woman was. 

Chris had just slipped back into bed when she heard her door creak open.

She stifled a groan as she heard her uncle’s voice from across her room. 
“Christina? I want you.” 

He whined liked he did every morning after drinking too much and losing more money in the gaming hells. She did what she did every morning…ignored him.

She had known since she she’d first came to stay with her aunt in England that was something was amiss in her marriage, hell was amiss in all of England’s marriage.

She knew in Scotland that some men took whores after taking a wife, but not all. Here all the marriages were based on what one could give the other.

Hers would be no different, she thought bitterly, as long as she was wed to an Englishman. 
“Christina!” he whined. 

She had known from the start that her Aunt Rose’s husband didn’t look upon her as his niece, but as an outlet for the lust Aunt Rose seemed immune to.

She opened her eyes slightly to see her Uncle Richard sitting in the seat next to the fireplace fondling himself. 

She sighed to herself. She had seen many men do this before they bedded their virgin brides. She had shamelessly asked her da why they were having their evening conversations.

His face had turned from red to purple then to a pasty white only to turn slowly back to its naturally hue. 

“Sometimes Chris…” he mumbled more to himself then to her. He then explained certain men needed to do that if they wanted to give their brides pleasure because, he had stated, “Some men are as fast as rabbits hopping into their holes.”

She had stared at him until she realized he was through explaining. She still didn’t know what that phrase meant. 

She saw her uncle’s hand moving faster and faster and he sounded out of breath.

A sudden treading of footsteps outside her door had him freezing like one of the rabbits her da had told her about. She smiled as he quickly left her room. She turned over on her back and stared at the ceiling.

It had felt good washing in the lake, but she knew that she’d have to take another today. Today was the day that her aunt insisted everyone wash. 

“And they call us heathens,” she said aloud in disgust, “At least she we wash everyday…unlike the stinking English.” With that thought in mind she drifted off to sleep. 

Dale leaned against a post in Lady Rose’s home as he waited patiently to be announced. “Tina, the Duke of Winterburgh is here.” A high, excited voice drifted down to him from the top of the stairway. He recognized the voice of Lady Rose’s daughter Marget and sighed. 

He had learned all he needed to learn about that woman during the past Seasons. She was known to be a vain and self-centered woman and Dale had seen the extent of her selfishness one night when she allowed two men to argue over her and not intervene even though she knew she wasn’t going to marry either of them.

She had allowed them to declare a duel before Sean, her beau at the time but her husband now, had told them he had offered for her and she had accepted. He realized then that she was willing to do anything and hurt anyone as long as she was the center of attention.

Glancing up toward the stairway all he saw was the swish of skirts. 

“Aye? What does that have tae do with me?” Instantly Dale knew that that voice belonged to his lady from the lake. He smiled, a rare sight making his handsome features devastating. 
“Do you know who he is?” 
“Aye, ye just told me.” 

This was no English miss. From the thick brogue he knew she was from Scotland probably a Highlander. He heard a sigh of frustration. 
“Some of the girls call him Duke Winters because he never falls for their devious schemes to get him in a compromising position.

The men, on the other hand, call him Lord Savage. I heard them talk of his brute strength and disdain of English ways.” 
“An Englishman hating others English ways? Ha!” 
Dale heard the disdain in ‘Tina’s’ voice. 
“He’s not exactly English Tina.” 
“‘Ow can ye not exactly be English?” 

Dale chuckled to himself as he noted her irritation and confusion.

Before the other girl could answer the butlers voice rang out. “Duke Winterburgh, Lady Rose will see you now.” 

He straightened from his relaxed position and brushed imaginary lint off his coat. He heard the rustling of skirts from the stairway and knew both ladies’ were trying to catch a glimpse at him.

He shook his head and walked into the setting room. 
On the stairway Chris had just managed to push Marget out of the way when she heard the door to the setting room close.

She turned to glare down at her cousin. “What were ye doin’? I’m the one looking for a damn husband. Ye have already got one.” 

“One can still appreciate a man in fine form married or not.” With that said Marget tried to brush passed her cousin. Tina gripped her arm. “Tina, let go. This-“ 
“My name is Chris.” 

“How do you propose to catch a husband with a name as manly as his or with that horrible accent? Mother told you to speak proper English.” 
“My English is proper to my ears.”

Chris knew that Marget liked to pick her apart until she found faults because she was jealous. Of what she didn’t know. Little did she know that Marget was jealous of Christina’s beauty.

Oh, hers wasn’t the kind of beauty that shouted to be noticed but she saw men and women alike looking at her in wonder. Chris had yet to be introduced into the ton, but once she was all the attention that had been on Marget would be given to Chris.

She would be the crème of the crop and she, she would just be known as her cousin.

However, she knew that Chris was blind to her own beauty. She would walk by a mirror and not even glance in. She sighed then shook Tina’s hand off. 
“Don’t you think that in order to catch a husband you have to be like honey? In appearance and decorum.” 

Chris rolled her eyes.

“Aye, I want tae be like honey, but Scottish honey. Not this bland English. Do ye think that a man can no’ be attracted to a woman unless she acts like all the other females in the ton? If that tis true then I’ll not be marrying anytime soon. In Scotland-“ 

“We’re not in Scotland with those savages and heathens.

This is England and-“ 
“And it’s full of men with weak blood and soft palms and women that are like sheep with no brains willing to be lead to the slaughter to fit into Society.

Tis no’ what I want for me or my daughters.” 
“You can’t have daughters without a husband.” 
Chris eyebrow rose. “Says who?” 

She watched as dawning horror replaced the confusion on Marget’s face. Dale had been listening to the conversation at the bottom of the stairs…and staring at the woman.

She was almost as tall as he was, he estimated, with flowing black hair swept back from her face in a tight braid. She had dark slashes of eyebrows over a pair of wide cat like eyes. He couldn’t discern the color from this distance.

He gave a mental shrug and continued to stare at her. Earlier her had categorized her nose as wide but now as he took in her features as a whole it fit her exotic look. 
Right now, he noticed with a little smile, her chin was raised in a defiant gesture.

She had those long arms crossed under her breast which seemed to bursting out of the shirt she was…He raised an eyebrow.

She was wearing a shirt and breeches and looking as comfortable in them as any man.

The shirt was pulled out of the breeches but in those pants he could see a long expanse of leg. He was imagining those legs around him when Marget’s screeched broke through. “

What are you getting at Tina? Are you saying that you would have a child without the benefit of marriage?” 

Both Chris and Dale scowled. Chris because Marget’s voice had risen and Dale because he didn’t like the idea of a man leaving a woman with a child without the benefit of marriage even if it was what the lady wanted.

He was about to clear his throat and make his presence know when Tina’s voice drifted down to him. It wasn’t what she said but how she said it that made him stop. 
“Just because you have marriage doesn’t mean that the person will stay.” 

Marget opened her mouth but a squeak of one of the stairs stopped her. She gasped and whipped her head around. “Lord Winterburgh! I didn’t see you there.” 

“I’ve only just arrived.” Dale said smoothly. “Your mother would like a word with you.” 
“Oh yes.” 

Chris noticed the breathless quality in Marget’s voice and hid a grin. Marget would not be opposed to becoming this man’s mistress.

All he had to do was suggest the idea and she’d hop gladly into his bed…along with most of the females of the ton. She uncrossed her arms and narrowed her green eyes as she studied the man. 

Right away she noticed that he was tall. She’d guess a few inches taller than she. He had long black hair that he didn’t put back into a tail at the nape of his neck. He had natural tanned skin.

Under dark eyebrows he had brooding gray eyes, eyes she noticed, with a start, which were looking directly at her.

She felt a blush stain her cheeks and frowned. She never blushed. She glared at him and crossed her arms once again. 

Marget realized that Lord Winterburgh was no longer looking at her but over her shoulder. She blushed profusely as she realized she had forgotten to introduce her cousin. She cleared her throat. 

“Milord, I would like to introduce you to my cousin Lady Christina. Christina this-“ 
“Lord Savage. I know.” 
Marget closed her eyes in shame and felt as if she could just melt into the floor. Her eyes flew open when she heard a deep masculine chuckle.

Dale bowed to an astonished looking Marget then brushing past her stopped right in front of Christina. 

Chris noticed, in disgust, that she had to bend her neck back a little. In the shadows the only thing she could see about him was his wide smile. 

“Few people that I know of, none in fact, use that nickname to my face. If I were really a savage I would push you up against that wall and kiss that stubborn mouth of yours. Instead-“ 

“Instead you’ll stop trying to intimidate me with that whisper soft voice and leave.” 
He continued as is if she had never spoken. “I’ll settle for this.” 
In a movement that was both fluid and mesmerizing he reached for her hand making sure to brush the back of his hand against her breast.

He smiled softly as she sucked in a sharp breath. He brought her hand to his mouth and with a quick kiss bestowed upon it dropped it.

He bowed and turned to leave. Suddenly he was on the ground and Chris was straddling him. He stifled a groan. 

Chris leaned down until they were nose to nose. “I believe my da will dislike ye just as much as I do.” A slow smile spread across her full red lips. “I believe you’ll do. I’ll come calling tomorrow.” 

With that said she shoved off of his chest and sauntered down the hall to her room. Dale sat up and brushed himself off. He shook his head as he stood. Lady Christina had their roles reversed.

Once again he bowed to a shocked Marget and walked down the stairs. But she would soon know who wore the breeches. At that thought he chuckled as he hopped into his waiting carriage. 
“Sir?” 
“Home. I believe I have found a bride Eddie.” 

Eddie’s hands jerked on the reigns as he turned to look at his friend and employer in shock. “Ye’re goin tae marry one of these English women? Sir-“ 
“No Eddie. She’s Scottish.” Dale watched as a slow smile bloomed out on Eddie’s face who was a Scot through and through. 

“Ye could no’ ‘ave chosen better milord.” With that he put the carriage in motion. 

“Mother, you can not mean to keep Christina in this house.” 

Lady Rose waved away her maid then turned to her daughter. “And why not? You no longer live here so it shouldn’t matter to you.” 
Marget glared at her mother. “Mother really. Didn’t you hear what I said?

She called Duke Winterburgh’s Lord Savage and-“ 
“And I wonder where she heard that from?” Rose asked guilelessly. She watched as a blush stained her daughter’s pale skin. 
“And she shoved him to the ground and actually climbed on top of him for God sakes! She’s a heathen mother. She-“ 

“She is my niece. My favorite sister’s daughter and she will stay in this house as long as necessary.”

Rose heard a rustling of skirts and turned her head. Chris, as she like to be called, stood in the doorway holding a dress in her hand. 
“Who told the dress maker to change the bodice of my gowns?” 

Rose’s eyes swung to Marget’s who shifted nervously. “She wanted old fashioned, high necked gowns. I’ll not have the ton talking about her lack of fund as well as-“ 
“Lack of funds?” Rose cocked an eyebrow at her daughter. “Where did you hear that? Why Chris-“ She saw her daughter open her mouth.

“Chris is what she wants to be called so that’s what it will be…in this house.” Rose qualified glancing at her niece who gave a long-suffering sigh. She hid a grin.

“As I was saying Chris has more funds then you and I combined.

She’s bloody wealthy.” 
Marget’s eyes widen and swung to Christina who only shrugged. “I only gave the instructions to change your gowns so you would be all the crack.” 

“Marget, in case ye have not noticed I’ve not the figure for this gown. My chest will be falling out of the gown beyond belief.” 

Marget groaned. She hadn’t thought of that. She watched as Christina turned to leave. “And don’t worry Marget. I won’t cause your family shame. Unlike your aunt did to my family.” 

“What did she mean?” Marget demanded of her mother once Christina had left. Rose sighed and tried to imagine living her life without a mother to guide her and couldn’t. Catherine had shamed this family and well as her daughter’s with her thoughtless actions. 

“That’s none of your business Marget.” 
Marget grunted. “When is she going back to Scotland?” 
Rose wondered at her daughter’s eagerness to get Chris back to Scotland. “Perhaps she may not.

It depends on her husband.” 
Inwardly Marget groaned. The sooner her cousin was gone the sooner her life would get back to normal. 

Chapter Two 

Late the next afternoon Chris walked down the street at a brisk jaunt that had many people, men and woman, moving out of her way.

Her Aunt Rose had insisted that she wear the “proper” attire, for the English, when she went out. She stopped when she reached the home of Duke Winterburgh. She glanced down at the flowers in her hand. She hadn’t known what flowers he liked.

Marget had said before she got married the men who courted her use to come with flowers. She bit her lip then sighed.

It would do no good now to get nervous. 
Again Chris looked at the house.

It was a modest house so she assumed that Winterburgh didn’t have a large amount of funds. That was another plus for her.

Once they got back to Scotland she would give him an allowance if he agreed to bed her so she could give her father the heir he always wanted. She walked up the stairs and knocked briskly on the door.

The doorman opened it almost immediately. 
“‘Ow do ye do ma’am?” 
Chris detected the slight brogue and smiled. “Fine. And ‘ow about ye?” 
Eddie’s eyes widened slightly when the woman answered him in a thick Scottish brogue. “I’m fine miss. Do ye want me tae announce ye?” 
“Nay, thank ye for asking. Where tis he?” 

“In his study ma’am.” Eddie still couldn’t believe it.

This must be the woman that Dale had been talking about. She was a bonny lass. He liked his lasses with a wee bit of meat on them.

He directed her to the study. She smiled her thanks and Eddie noted that it was genuine. Chris knocked loudly on the door then shoved it open and strolled into the room. 

“Eddie, tell whomever it is that I am very busy.” 
“Oh really? All ye look like yer doing tae me is reading.” 

Dale’s head snapped and he stared into familiar blue-green eyes. As usual she was glaring at him. She slapped a bouquet of flowers on his desk then flounced over to a chair where she promptly threw her leg over the arm.

She crossed her arms under her breast and Dale hid a groan by coughing.

She already looked as if she was falling out of her gown but when she did that they lifted further. 
“These are for me?” he asked picking up the flowers. 
“Yes, I told you yesterday I’d come calling.” 

Suddenly the door was thrown open and Eddie came in with a tray laden with food and tea. “Och lass. Would you mind getting the cups from the cart out there?” 
“Of course not. By the way my name is Lady Christina. My friends call me Chris.” 
Chris?

Dale and Eddie both wondered how anyone could call this female Chris. 

Dale stood. “Eddie, we won’t be needing any tea. We’re going for a drive in the park.” 
“Ye can no’ be serious milord. I’ve only just got here. Do ye mean tae tell me when others come to call on ye you take them tae the park?” 

Eddie bit the inside of his cheeks to keep from laughing at the suspicion in Chris’ voice. Little did she know that anyone who wanted to be seen would be in the park at this time. 

No, but-“ 
“Ah ha! I see. If ye didn’t want me tae come calling ye should have said so.” She whirled around and headed to the door. She had just opened the door when suddenly it was shoved shut by the large tanned hand in front of her face. She hadn’t even heard him come up behind her.

She closed her eyes and thought about how handsome he was.

She knew first hand that his chest and legs were muscular. He had large gray eyes, a sharp nose, and a wide mouth.

Sensual was the word that popped into mind. He had a Native American look about him mostly due to his high cheekbones. 

“If you would just listen instead of-“ Dale sucked in a breath when she suddenly turned to stare directly into his eyes.

Not just blue-green, he thought absently as he stared into her eyes. Around the outer rim was a darker shade of green. Fascinating. He lifted a hand and softly touched her cheek.

She immediately nestled against his hand showing him that she wasn’t all wildcat; that she could be a kitten. Suddenly she stiffened and shoved against his chest. Her eyes widened when he didn’t budge. 

“I do no’ want tae go tae the park.” She heard a throat being cleared behind Winterburgh and remembered Eddie.

She made as if she was going to push him again and when he tensed ducked under his arm. 

“What clan do ye belong to Eddie?” she asked as she sat back down in her vacated chair. 
“I’m a distant cousin of the MacGregor’s.” 
“Aye, Laird MacGregor. His daughter and I are close friends. She married recently to a wonderful Native American man. His name is Victor.” 
Eddie looked out the corner of his eyes at Dale whose mother happened to be the chief’s first wife.

He quickly changed the subject when he saw a cold mask cover Dale’s face. 
“What clan do ye belong tae?” 
“My da is Laird MacTavish.” 
Eddie smiled. “How is Duncan?” He frowned when Chris scowled. 

“That bastard is probably sitting in the pub once again.

Do ye know what he did? He demanded, nay forced me, tae come to England to find a husband. He knows I hate the English and yet…” 

Her voice drifted off when she realized an Englishman was in the room. She glanced over her shoulder and smiled weakly at Winterburgh. “Aye Winterburgh…” 
“My name is Dale, Christina.” 
“As mine is Chris. My mother saddled me with that name and-“ 
“And it suits you better then the name Chris. How can you expect a man to call you Chris when-“ when he’d rather call you mine, he finished in his head.
“When what?” 

Dale sighed then went and once again sat down behind his desk.

He nodded at Eddie who began to serve the tea. “When any fool can see you’re all woman.” 
“Aye, that tis true lass. Why-“ Eddie cut himself off when he heard a growl coming from Dale. He eyed him in shock. Dale had never been possessive before.

Why, they had often times shared whores before. He finished serving the tea then at Dale’s level glare left the room. 
“So.” Chris said in the sudden silence. 
“So.” 

She glared at him then took a sip of her tea. “So,” she said again. Dale leaned back in his chair and grinned. Why wildcat Christina was nervous. 
“Why do they call you Lord Savage?” 

Chris watched as the laughter faded from his eyes and became cold.

“Well I see that tis a closed subject. How old are ye?” 
“I’m thirty. Chris-“ 
“I’m twenty five. I heard that was called high on the shelf here in England but in Scotland that tis a suitable age for marriage.”

She paused as she reached for a finger sandwich and popped it into her mouth. She chewed it quickly then reached for another paying no attention to Dale’s smile. 
“Do ye like children?” 

Dale closed his eyes and let Christina questions him because he knew he’d never get a word in otherwise. 
“Yes, I like children. I want to have a few.” 
“A few? What if yer wife was more fertile than that?” 
He shrugged. “I’d love them.” 

Chris smiled softly and studied him unnoticed because his eyes were closed. He was handsome. Even more handsome when he smiled. “Are ye going tae marry?” 
“Eventually.” 
“When?” 
“When the right woman comes.” 
“Are ye going tae marry for love?” 
Dale opened his eyes a little and saw her chewing on her lip. “I’d try to, but if I couldn’t I’d settle.” 
“Settle on what?” 
“Mutual needs, lifestyle, and goals.”

She gave a soft grunt and Dale could see the wheels turning in her pretty little head. 
“Does appearance matter?” 

“Of course. If I want those children I’m going to have to bed my wife. I want to feel something when we sleep together.”

He saw her face fall and realized for the first time how insecure she was about herself. He decided to turn the tables. 
“Do you like children?” 
“Oh yes! I want a lot of children and I’d be there for each and ever one of them. To give them the love and guidance they need.” 
“Are you going to marry?” 

She leaned back when she realized he was asking her the same questions that she had asked him. She closed her eyes missing Dale’s smile. 
“Yes, I’m going tae marry. I have tae.” 
“When?” 
“As soon as possible so I can go back to Scotland.” 
“Are you going to marry for love?” Dale held his breath waiting for the response that could change his life. 

“I’d marry tae get my da off my back, but I hope that I could learn tae love my husband.

I wish I could marry for love, but what do I know about that emotion?” 
“You don’t learn to love. It’s just there.”

With a start Dale realized that he was half in love with Christina, wildcat that she was. “Does appearance matter?” 

Dale drank in the sight of her sitting so serene in the chair. She looked right there. 
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In my eyes I would want him to be reasonable handsome but not exceedingly handsome.

Exceeding handsome men who say one thing and do another can blind women. Plus, I have my children tae think of. I wouldn’t bend to society’s idea of beauty because they are shallow.” 

He grunted and she opened his eyes to see him staring at her.

For a moment she thought she saw something in the depths of his eyes that called out to her but then he blinked and it was gone.

She sighed and reached for another sandwich only to realize the tray was empty. 
“You must have quite an appetite Dale.” 
Dale threw back his head and laughed. “It must be the stimulating conversation.” 
Suddenly the clock in the corner began to toll.

Chris jumped up.

“Oh damn! I’m tae meet Marget at the dressmaker tae change the bodice of my gowns. I’ll-“ 
“Why?” 
“Why what?” 
“Why are you changing the bodice of the gown? Tis all the crack now…or so I’ve heard.” 
“Aye, it tis, but this is the only decent one. All the other ones are cut entirely too low. I looked like a common trollop.” 

“Christina, you could never look like a common trollop,” he said warmly. He was shocked when her eyes narrowed. 

“What tis that supposed tae mean? Some men like their women with a little meat on their bones. In Scotland-“ 

“I was giving you a bloody compliment.” Dale said in exasperation. 
“Oh, well good-bye Dale. Will ye be at Lord and Lady Miloncester’s soirée tonight?” 
“Are you going to be there?” 
“Aye.” 
“Then I’ll be sure to attend.” He stood as she did and watched as she walked swiftly across the room.

Suddenly she turned and beckoned him forward. He frowned and went over to her. 
“May I kiss ye Dale?” 

Dale swallowed dryly then rolled his eyes. She probably meant on the cheek you fool, he chided himself.

He leaned down a little and Christina put her arms around his neck and yanked him forward. She ran her tongue over his lips then nipped the bottom one gently. He opened his mouth then took control of the kiss.

He placed his hands on her waist then yanked the lower half of her body against him so that she could feel the hardness she had created. She moaned when he slide his tongue into her mouth and gently rubbed against hers in an invitation to join.

Before she could a knock sounded on the door making her jump in surprise. Dale groaned. 

Chris pulled back and gently kissed him on the lips as his arms dropped.

“Thank ye.” She turned and quickly left the room. Eddie stood in the doorway and watched as his boss watched Chris walk away.

His hands were fisted at his sides and his hair was sticking up. 
“Her hair,” Dale muttered, “Her hair has red glints in it,” he said in a husk voice then went and slumped against the side of his desk.  

Christina discreetly pulled at the bodice of her gown as she notice several women looking at her and waving their fans furiously in front of their faces.

She sighed then quickly scanned the crowd for a glimpse of Dale. She towered over everyone here except for a few men.

One of those men was making his way toward her now. She turned quickly trying to pretend that she had not noticed him. 
“Lady Marget.” Chris heard him clear his throat and turned back with a resigned sigh.

“Lady Christina. May I say you’re looking in fine form tonight?” 
“You may say it sir and I’ll thank ye.” 
She heard Margot cough but she ignored her. 
“May I have this dance?” 
“Aye.” 

He smiled and taking her elbow guided her out onto the dance floor. Chris didn’t know how the English did it.

They never touched when they danced only the hands and the woman’s waist. Also they danced to music more suited for a funeral. In Scotland everyone would be laughing and jostling into one another having a good time. 
“Lady Christina?” 

Chris heard the thread of impatience in his voice and knew that he had been talking to her. “I’m sorry sir. What did ye say?” 
“I asked how do you like England so far?” 

Chris thought about if she should give the man an honest answer as she would do Dale and decided not to. “So far my visit to England has consisted of my Aunt Rose’s home and the park.” 

“Then you’re missing the true beauty of England.” He smiled down at her and she smiled stiffly back. 

She couldn’t remember the man’s name. Damn Dale! She should have more than one prospect. She forcefully pushed Dale from her mind and leaned in a little closer. The gentleman raised an eyebrow but didn’t say anything. 

“Sir, I regret to inform ye that I have forgotten your name.” 
Once again he smiled and this time she smiled warmly back. “Sir Walter Quinn at your service milady. Now as I was saying, the countryside is England’s crown jewel. Have you…” 

Dale looked at the clock in the corner as he straightened from looking at his ledgers.

He liked to do his own accounting that way he was assured that if there was a mistake it was his own doing. His horses at his country estate were fairing where at the Derby’s pulling in a fair amount of money.

His side business, shipping, was not doing as well as he hoped. Some ships trade was getting along well but there was one ship in particular that caught his eye. It had very low trade amounts.

He had to pay a visit to the shipping dock sometime in the near future. Suddenly his mind registered what his eyes saw. He shoved back his chair and stood. 

“Eddie!” he bellowed yanking his shirt off as he walked to the door. He pulled it open. “Ed-“ He was cut off when he saw Eddie running down the stairs. 
“Why the bloody hell didn’t you tell me it was past twelve o’clock? I told Christina that I would meet her at Lord and Lady Miloncester’s soirée. Oh never mind. I suppose it’s too late for me to go now.” 
Eddie shook his head. “Sir, I-“ 
“Eddie? What are you doing?” 

Dale glanced upstairs at the sound of the feminine voice. “Is that widow Reynolds?” 
“Aye.” 

Dale shook his head in weary amusement and walked back into the study. The light from the fireplace reflected off of his bronzed skin and showed the skin stretched taunt over muscles.

He sat down on the edge of his desk and sighed then growled in frustration. At these soirées and balls he knew men that were looking for women to either warm their bed or brides to fatten their pockets.

There would be few men not intimidated with Christina’s stature.

Such as Sir Walter Quinn. Known in some circles as Sir Queer because the women who had warmed his bed said he had wanted to do queer things with them. 

He narrowed his eyes at the thought of Quinn moving in on Christina while he was sitting at home and cursed. At this rate his plan would backfire. His plan was to let Christina court him and when she got up the nerve to ask him to marry her he would refuse then he would begin to court her in the normal fashion.

How things were looking now he would be crossed off her list and she’d move on to the next man on it. Knowing her passionate nature as he did he knew some man would try to take advantage of it, bed her, then throw her aside for the next virgin that came along. He wouldn’t let that happen. 

Back at the soirée Christina’s eyes had began to glaze over as she listen to Sir Quinn drone on and on about one thing or the other.

He had been monopolizing her the whole evening. When she wanted to sit down he had gotten her something to drink and sat down next to her.

It was now half past twelve and her eyes were beginning to droop from the amount of champagne she had drank to get a moments peace from Sir Quinn.

She felt him lean over her. 

“Do you want to go home with me?” 
In her drunken state she heard: “Do you…want to…go home?” 
“Yes please.” Her voice was slightly slurred. “That would be nice.” She heard him suck in a breath and turned to see him looking past her shoulder to someone sitting behind her.

She slowly turned to see Dale reclining in the chair behind her glaring at Quinn. 
“Lord Winterburgh, I didn’t see you there.” 
“Apparently not or else you wouldn’t have said what you did.” 

Chris tried to glare at Dale but to no avail. Finally she shrugged. “Ye stay out of this Lord Winter’s. This is none of yer business.” 
“Anything that had to do with you is my business.” 

Chris snorted and pointed, or at least tried to point at him. She ended up pointing over his left shoulder. He finally glanced at her. 

“You sir, are no gentleman. You can’t keep your word.” She hadn’t noticed that her words were slurred but Dale had. 
His head swung back to Quinn’s and he looked like a fierce warrior. “You got her drunk?” he asked him in a dangerously low voice. Walter grew pale and began to fiddle with his cravat. 

“She said she was thirsty several times.

Who am I to refuse a beautiful woman?” 
Chris turned to smile at Walter. “Ye called me beautiful and this time ye weren’t commenting on my breast. That tis-” 

“Let me give you fair warning Quinn. Christina is mine. She doesn’t realize it yet but-“ 
“Why don’t you give her a choice then Winterburgh?” 
Dale realized that Quinn had gotten his nerve back. “Alright.” 
“Word of honor?” 

“Word of honor.” He knew at that moment that his life hung in the balance.

With Christina there would be years of happiness, frustration, love, yelling, and screaming and breaking of things.

Without her his life would be a void. “What are the stakes?” 
“I’ll ask Christina if she wants to go home with me. If she says yes you must leave it at that.” 
Dale slowly nodded then turned to Christina.

A smile broke out on his face as he realized she had fallen asleep. “I guess the bet is off.” With that said he picked up Christina and almost lost his footing.

She was like dead weight in his arms, but she was a shapely woman, however, he thought as he carried her to the door. 

“What’s wrong with Christina, milord?” 
Slowly Dale turned to glare down at Marget. “What were you doing while Sir Walter Quinn was trying to seduce your cousin?” 
“Seduce her? But for-“ 

“Where were you?” he demanded coldly. Marget stepped back. 
“I was in the parlor playing cards with some of the other ladies.” 
“Instead of watching out for your cousin who is from another place and knows next to nothing in the ways of men because she is so well respected in Scotland.

You failed in your duty you selfish little-“ 

“Excuse me sir? Your carriage is waiting outside.” 
Dale turned without another word and began to walk down the stairs. “Wait! Where are you taking her?” 

“Home.” He heard her gasp and sighed. “To your mother’s home.” 

I would meet her at Lord and Lady Miloncester’s soirée. Oh never mind. I suppose it’s too late for me to go now.” 
Eddie shook his head. “Sir, I-“ 
“Eddie? What are you doing?” 
Dale glanced upstairs at the sound of the feminine voice. “Is that widow Reynolds?” 
“Aye.” 

Dale shook his head in weary amusement and walked back into the study.

The light from the fireplace reflected off of his bronzed skin and showed the skin stretched taunt over muscles.

He sat down on the edge of his desk and sighed then growled in frustration. At these soirées and balls he knew men that were looking for women to either warm their bed or brides to fatten their pockets.

There would be few men not intimidated with Christina’s stature. Such as Sir Walter Quinn. Known in some circles as Sir Queer because the women who had warmed his bed said he had wanted to do queer things with them. 

He narrowed his eyes at the thought of Quinn moving in on Christina while he was sitting at home and cursed. At this rate his plan would backfire.

His plan was to let Christina court him and when she got up the nerve to ask him to marry her he would refuse then he would begin to court her in the normal fashion. How things were looking now he would be crossed off her list and she’d move on to the next man on it.

Knowing her passionate nature as he did he knew some man would try to take advantage of it, bed her, then throw her aside for the next virgin that came along.

He wouldn’t let that happen. 
Back at the soirée Christina’s eyes had began to glaze over as she listen to Sir Quinn drone on and on about one thing or the other.

He had been monopolizing her the whole evening. When she wanted to sit down he had gotten her something to drink and sat down next to her.

It was now half past twelve and her eyes were beginning to droop from the amount of champagne she had drank to get a moments peace from Sir Quinn. She felt him lean over her. 

“Do you want to go home with me?” 
In her drunken state she heard: “Do you…want to…go home?” 

“Yes please.” Her voice was slightly slurred. “That would be nice.” She heard him suck in a breath and turned to see him looking past her shoulder to someone sitting behind her.

She slowly turned to see Dale reclining in the chair behind her glaring at Quinn. 
“Lord Winterburgh, I didn’t see you there.” 
“Apparently not or else you wouldn’t have said what you did.” 

Chris tried to glare at Dale but to no avail. Finally she shrugged. “Ye stay out of this Lord Winter’s. This is none of yer business.” 
“Anything that had to do with you is my business.” 

Chris snorted and pointed, or at least tried to point at him. She ended up pointing over his left shoulder. He finally glanced at her. 
“You sir, are no gentleman. You can’t keep your word.” She hadn’t noticed that her words were slurred but Dale had. 

His head swung back to Quinn’s and he looked like a fierce warrior.

“You got her drunk?” he asked him in a dangerously low voice. Walter grew pale and began to fiddle with his cravat. 
“She said she was thirsty several times. Who am I to refuse a beautiful woman?” 
Chris turned to smile at Walter.

“Ye called me beautiful and this time ye weren’t commenting on my breast. That tis-” 
“Let me give you fair warning Quinn. Christina is mine.

She doesn’t realize it yet but-“ 
“Why don’t you give her a choice then Winterburgh?” 
Dale realized that Quinn had gotten his nerve back. “Alright.” 
“Word of honor?” 

“Word of honor.” He knew at that moment that his life hung in the balance. With Christina there would be years of happiness, frustration, love, yelling, and screaming and breaking of things.

Without her his life would be a void.

“What are the stakes?” 
“I’ll ask Christina if she wants to go home with me. If she says yes you must leave it at that.” 

Dale slowly nodded then turned to Christina. A smile broke out on his face as he realized she had fallen asleep. “I guess the bet is off.” With that said he picked up Christina and almost lost his footing.

She was like dead weight in his arms, but she was a shapely woman, however, he thought as he carried her to the door. 

“What’s wrong with Christina, milord?” 

Slowly Dale turned to glare down at Marget. “What were you doing while Sir Walter Quinn was trying to seduce your cousin?” 
“Seduce her? But for-“ 

“Where were you?” he demanded coldly. Marget stepped back. 
“I was in the parlor playing cards with some of the other ladies.” 
“Instead of watching out for your cousin who is from another place and knows next to nothing in the ways of men because she is so well respected in Scotland. You failed in your duty you selfish little-“ 

“Excuse me sir? Your carriage is waiting outside.” 

Dale turned without another word and began to walk down the stairs. “Wait! Where are you taking her?” 
“Home.” He heard her gasp and sighed. “To your mother’s home.” 

To be continued…