Beware a Scot’s Revenge
From The School for Heiresses
Beware a Scot’s Revenge
Lady Venetia Campbell makes a visit to her childhood home of Scotland, only to be kidnapped at pistol-point by her father’s sworn enemy. Sir Lachlan Ross is widely feared in his guise as “The Scottish Scourge,” but Venetia can’t help but remember her former neighbor as a handsome youth whose attentions she craved.
Now a wickedly sexy man, Lachlan tries to treat his childhood friend as a foe, but his scorching kisses tell another tale. And despite his plan to use her as a weapon against her father, Venetia is determined that Lachlan’s lust for revenge will be trumped by an even more powerful desire.
The music began, and Sir Lachlan Ross forced himself to move, forced himself to ignore the throbbing in his half-healed ribs and the ache in his recently-broken thigh bone. Although certain steps proved a minor agony, dancing with Lady Venetia was better than standing about, listening to her aunt talk of his family, unraveling his plans with each casual word.
How in God’s name had the woman seen the resemblance between him and Father? For that matter, how had Lady Venetia noticed it? He was wearing a wig and mask! Not to mention that neither lady had laid eyes on him in years.
No one must recognize him, or this would be over before it began. His mother and clan had worked hard to hide the fact that he was alive by holding a pretend funeral for him. He mustn’t ruin it by appearing to have risen from the grave to dance a reel at a masquerade ball with Lady Venetia Campbell.
The bonnie Lady Venetia Campbell. God help him, he hadn’t expected that.
When last he’d seen her, he’d been a gangly lad and she a pale-skinned brat. Prancing about in satin and lace, she’d looked down her nose at him, chiding him for not behaving as “the future laird of Clan Ross” ought. He’d rewarded her uppity temper by ignoring her.
He sure as the devil couldn’t ignore her now. Even dressed as a farmer’s daughter, the sensuous beauty would corrupt a saint. Sinner that he was, she made his blood run hot whenever she flashed him that sweet-as-seduction smile. Or stepped lively in the reel, twirling and skirling and—
Holy Christ, he was waxing poetical. It had clearly been too long since he’d had a wench beneath him. Not that he’d ever shared a bed with a lass so bonnie as she. Camp followers and trollops had always been his lot and were like to be so until he chose a wife.
But first he had to settle things with Duncannon.
He came down hard on his bad leg in a turn, and pain jolted through him from knee to hip, making him grit his teeth. Worse yet, he could see Venetia watching him, trying to figure out why his dancing was so stiff.
Mo chreach, she wasn’t only beautiful, she was canny as the very devil, with her assessing glances and her probing questions. She’d even guessed he’d served in a regiment! ’Twas a wonder she hadn’t worked out his entire plot already.
He hoped this ball hadn’t been a mistake. But tomorrow wouldn’t work unless she could be easy with him.
The plan had been simple: come here tonight and cozy up to the grown Princess Proud, who he’d expected to be a vapid debutante. Rousing her interest in him was supposed to make the kidnapping go easier tomorrow. Except she wasn’t vapid, and the only thing he was rousing was her childhood memories of him. And her curiosity.
He could handle vapid girls—and had, a few times, when he’d ridden as the Scourge. That only required a firm voice and a stern look. The threat of a blunderbuss didn’t hurt either.
But cowing them was easy compared to snatching Duncannon’s clever daughter from Holyrood Park, in the center of a city where half the lords and magistrates of Scotland were staying during the king’s visit. The latter required more finesse.
He shook his head. How did her sort turn out as anything but vapid after prancing about at a fancy school, then swishing through polite society for years?
And why the devil had she grown so beautiful? He’d heard she was bonnie, but no one had warned him that her hair shone like glossy black silk beneath the candlelight, or that her lips had the sweet little bow shape that tempted a man to trace it with the tip of his tongue…
He swore under his breath, missed a step, then almost lost his balance when his bad leg buckled. It was a timely, though painful, reminder of why he was here.
This battle between him and her father had naught to do with the lass; she was only a means to an end. Best to remember that. Because once he threw off the veil tomorrow, she’d turn on him like a cornered wildcat. There could be no truce between him and Duncannon’s family.
Thankfully, the set ended without his making a fool of himself. Lachlan slowed his steps. “Are ye from Edinburgh?” he asked, before she could start wondering why he didn’t show more interest in her background.
“London. But I used to live in the Highlands.”
“Why did you leave?” How much of the truth had her father told her?
“My mother died, and Papa couldn’t bear to stay in Scotland without her.”
So Duncannon hadn’t told her a damned thing. Not that he was surprised; the man was too wily to let his daughter know he’d abandoned his responsibilities. “Then yer father didn’t come to Scotland with you,” he said, though he knew the answer.
“No. He vowed never to return and won’t break that vow even for this. I had a hard time even persuading him to let me come. That’s why I must return directly to England once it’s over.” With a sigh, she swept her hand to indicate the ballroom. “This is as close as I get to the real Scotland on this trip.”
“The real Scotland?” He couldn’t suppress a snort. “This is no more the real Scotland than I am the real Charlie. Walter Scott trumped up this daft nonsense for the royal visit, with Lowlanders wearing tartan and half the Highlanders banned from town for being too rowdy.”
He stared out at the dance floor, his gut tightening. The very sight of the lairds dancing away in their kilts sickened him. Their people fled to America in droves to keep from starving, and the chiefs would only dance.
Bitterness laced his words. “Mustn’t frighten the English king with a show of arms. Or alarm the London Scots who want only a taste of the old country.”
She bristled. “Now see here, sir, you know nothing about ‘London Scots.’ If I had my way, I’d be living in the Highlands right now.” Her tone turned acid. “But while you men can do whatever you want, young women can’t go where they please. Not until they marry.”
“Of course not, lass.” Holy Christ, he was no good at cozying up to fine ladies. “Forgive me for speaking out o’ turn. Sometimes my love of home tramples my good sense.”
She accepted his apology, thank God. Then she ruined it by turning the conversation to him. “So you’re from the Highlands, too?”
Damn. But since she’d already guessed it— “Aye. Highland-born and bred.” He changed the subject before she could ask what part. “Looks like yer chaperone is arguing with Colonel Seton.”
She followed his gaze. “I should rescue her. She claims not to like him.”
“I think the problem is that she likes him too much.”
Good. That made everything easier. “Then we should give them time to work out which it is.” Dancing another set was out of the question; he’d barely endured the one. “If you like, I could show you the decorations for the Peers’ Ball Thursday night.” He gestured to a nearby curtain draped from floor to ceiling. “There’s a door hidden back there that leads to the other ballroom, which isn’t being used this evening. Care to have a look?”
A well-bred lass like her would know she shouldn’t go with him, but he could tell from her hesitation that she wanted to. And if she did, it boded well for tomorrow.
Mayhap a bit of coaxing was in order. “I’ll understand if those proprieties of yours are rearing their ugly heads. A fine lady like yerself—”
“Not at all,” she said with a breathless little hitch that sent his blood coursing to the wrong places. She took his arm. “Lead on, kind sir.”
Moments later they were in the next ballroom, watching servants drape tartan over chandeliers and position gold damask sofas on the narrow one-step-high stage built to surround the room, so the portly king would have a place to rest between dances.
“What a magnificent effect!” Her green eyes sparkled through the slits of her mask. “How kind of you to let me see it before the room is packed with people.”
She gifted him with a smile that would light up the barest crofter’s cottage, and he reacted with a swift intake of breath, followed by a swift throbbing in his ribs. “I’m glad the ballroom passes yer inspection,” he bit out over his pain.
His terse tone made her smile falter. “I can’t wait to see it fully lit on Friday.” She toyed with her fan. “I suppose you’re attending that ball as well?”
“No,” he said baldly. And neither are you, lassie.
The sympathy in her voice made him regret his blunt words. Now she thought him too low to be invited, since only peers or those with titled connections had received the coveted invitations. As clan chief he would also have been invited, if they hadn’t believed him dead.
His stung pride got the better of him. “I have to return to the north.”
“Where in the north?” she said, suddenly alert and eager.
“No place ye’d ken.” He had to get her off this dangerous subject. His eyes fell on the archway. “They removed the bow windows so guests could pass into the courtyard. Would you like to see what they’ve built out there?”
Her gaze turned sultry. “That would be lovely, thank you.”
His heart began to thud. Careful, laddie, keep a rein on yer urges. Mustn’t frighten her off.
Trying not to notice her delicate touch on his arm, he led her into the dark courtyard, where painted wooden pillars supported a tent of rose and white muslin. When they slipped inside, they found themselves in a very small and private space.
“A theater owner is having sets painted with pictures of the Highland countryside.” Lachlan gestured to one end. “Then they can draw back the muslin to show the scenes.”
He felt her gaze search his face. “You seem to know a great deal about the plans for the ball. Are you a friend of the theater owner?”
“I know people enough in Edinburgh,” he said evasively.
Her voice turned sly. “I suppose you made many friends in the army.”
He tensed. “I told you, I was never in any regiment.”
“Nonsense.” She planted her hands on her hips. “I’d swear that you adapted that costume from a regimental officer’s uniform.”
Devil take the lass. “I borrowed it from a soldier friend.”
“I see.” She snorted. “And that’s why the coat fits you to perfection. Did you borrow your military bearing from your soldier friend, too? And your tendency to pepper your speech with talk of skirmishes and inspections?”
Mo chreach, he hadn’t realized how he’d betrayed himself. Best turn the tables before she pieced together who he really was.
“I know why you’re so eager to make me into an officer.” He stepped closer. “Because you can’t make me into a peer, and only an officer or a lord can be fit company for a lady of yer breeding.”
She thrust out her chin. “I never claimed to be a lady of breeding. For all you know, I might be a milliner.”
“If you say so, lassie.” With a chuckle, he mimicked her earlier attack. “That’s why you carry yourself like a queen and spend your days collecting ballads, the way milliners do.”
A shaky laugh escaped her. “You’ve caught me, sir. I’m no milliner. But I could still be a gentlewoman of little means and fewer prospects.”
“Which is why you’re attending the Peer’s Ball.” He smiled. “Come now, why not just admit you’re a lady of rank?”
“Not until you admit you’re a soldier,” she said primly. Then she caught her breath. “That’s why you remind me of Lachlan Ross! He went off to join a regiment, too. I used to imagine him in his regimentals—”
He kissed her, a brief, soft kiss to shut her up. What else was he supposed to do, damn it? He had to keep her from making comparisons.
When he drew back, her breath came quickly. “I… I… what do you think you’re… doing, sir?”
“Proving that you’re a lady of breeding.” He slid his hand about her waist to draw her close. “Because there are certain liberties a lady would never allow me.”
“How do you know what a lady might allow?” Her warm, spicy breath teased his senses. “Some are more reckless than others, especially when they’re held in the arms of a strapping soldier—”
He kissed her thoroughly this time, sealing his mouth to hers, drinking in her hot breaths, enjoying the fine tremor of her body against his.
He’d been aching to do this all night. Not because she was Duncannon’s daughter or because she held the key to his clan’s future, or even because she’d grown into such a bonnie lass.
It was because she’d dressed as Flora MacDonald, even though it meant wearing a simpler costume than the other ladies. Because she collected Scottish ballads, of all things. Because she hadn’t been affronted by his hints that the gentlemen were going bare-arsed under their kilts. Hard to resist such a female.
Especially knowing that once she found out he was her enemy, she’d only look on him with a wild and furious hatred. So before that happened, he had to taste her…touch her…see how far he could tempt her.
Even if he suffered for it later.
For my research into the George IV’s visit to Scotland, I relied heavily on John Prebble’s book, The King’s Jaunt. I also turned to Wikipedia, which has an entire article about it! Although the masquerade ball was my invention, its location was not. The Edinburgh Assembly Rooms are still a popular venue, and my description of plans for the Peers Grand Ball there was exactly as recorded in period accounts. I followed the schedule, too, arranging my ball for a night when the king wasn’t doing public appearances.
The Clearances are well-documented all over the web and in books. I used John Prebble’s book, The Highland Clearances (can I help it if Prebble wrote about everything?), as well as several websites and sections of several other books on Scottish history. One site I found fascinating chronicled in detail the effects of the Clearances on Moidart. The chronologies for the period immediately before the book and during the book contained interesting tidbits of information. How chilling to read this running list of ships that left Scotland with emigrants bound for America and Canada! It gives you a true sense of the vast scope of the Clearances.
The Clan Ross is a real clan with a real tartan. I just sort of cheated in who I made its laird.
Not to burst anyone’s romantic bubble, but the idea of handfast marriages in Scotland is largely mythical. According to this article, it comes out of a misunderstanding of Scottish marriage law, which was confirmed in other sources I consulted. The vows I cited were actual Gaelic vows.
For a brief history of whisky production in Scotland, go here. You can also find lists of distilleries on the web. My favorite resource, however, was a DVD I bought at a local Scottish Highlands Games, called Scotch Whisky: The Myth and the Magic. I got as much enjoyment out of the beautiful images and the lush Scottish accents as I did out of doing research on whisky!
Thanks to you wonderful readers, the book hit the following bestseller lists:
- #14 on the New York Times (two weeks on the print list, one on the extended)
- Five weeks on USA Today
- Three weeks on Publishers Weekly
- #1 on Borders/Waldenbooks Romance for two weeks
- #5 on Borders Mass Market
- #1 on Waldenbooks Mass Market
- #6 on Barnes and Noble Mass Market
- Was also a Romantic Times Top Pick
- Winner of the Borders Group Award for the Bestselling Historical Romance of 2007
- Winner of the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award for the Best Scotland-Set Historical Romance of 2007
- Nominated for the Booksellers Best Award for Best Long Historical of 2007
- Nominated for Cover Contest’s Best Two-Image Cover of 2007
“Nothing ruins a good vacation quite like being kidnapped, as Lady Venetia Campbell, who has returned home to Scotland for the first time in five years, learns when she is captured by the ‘Scottish Scourge.’ The sexy highwayman turns out to be Lachlan Ross, her old neighbor and friend in disguise. Ross refuses to let Venetia go until her father repays an old debt, but Venetia vows that Ross is going to rue the day he decided to involve her in his plan for revenge. Two equally stubborn, delightfully strong-willed protagonists match wits and wiles with exceptionally entertaining and splendidly sexy results in the latest sparkling addition to Jeffries’ School for Heiresses Regency romance series.” —John Charles, Booklist
“Beware a Scot’s Revenge is a rollicking adventure of love, revenge and all the desires that drive determination. Venetia and Lachlan will have you in stitches, in tears and definitely enjoying their story.” —Romance Junkies
Beware a Scot’s Revenge now available in several countries across the globe.