Mending a Highland Heart (Preview)
Isle of Mull, Seat of Clan MacLean, Late February 1718
Charlotte Andrews wiped the young man’s brow as he lay on the small bed in his cottage. “He’s nae been eating, mistress, I’ve tried everything.” An old woman stood next to her, wringing her hands. Tears began to form in her eyes. “I’ve nae seen a sickness like it. What could it be?”
Charlotte leaned back in her chair and sighed. She had not seen anything like it before either, and it troubled her that she was unable to come to a conclusion. She wanted to be there for these people, showing them that she was just as good as an educated male doctor, but here she was, struggling to find the answer. The young man and a few others on the island shared symptoms. They were heavily bruised; some of their teeth were loosening and threatening to fall out; they had purple gums and a dry, almost scale-like skin.
She was afraid something was spreading around the island, but she couldn’t decipher what the symptoms meant. It wasn’t scarlet fever, or sepsis, or anything like that. She turned to smile at the old woman. “I will do my best for him, ma’am. But I am unsure yet as to what the illness could be. Keep him resting and make sure he is drinking plenty of water if you can find it. Boil it first.”
“Should we nae set the leeches upon him?”
Charlotte shook her head violently. “No, I beg you would not do that. There are much better ways of dealing with an illness. I will think on it and see what I can do for your son. I will come to you tomorrow.”
The woman nodded and showed Charlotte to the door. “I thank ye, mistress. We have nae had a healer for many a year, and the one across the water cannae be trusted tae come in time, and sometimes he doesnae come at all.”
Charlotte clasped the woman’s hand and smiled. Then she left the house and straddled the horse that was tied outside. Her brow was furrowed in concentration as she steered the horse back towards Duart Castle. It was not a long ride, and Charlotte loved the beautiful path by the water, giving her an excellent view of most of the island and its mesmerizing castle. She wanted to let the worries of the illness float off of her, just for a moment.
Charlotte had arrived at the Isle of Mull a few months ago to visit her dear cousin, Julia Bradford, who was, at Charlotte’s arrival, in the clutches of her evil uncle, who was trying to force her into matrimony with one of his friends. Julia’s now-husband, Laird Calum MacLean, and his brother, Angus, had saved her and brought her back to her new home to live forever as Lady MacLean.
Julia was an orphan and had attempted to escape her uncle while they were traveling to Scotland. Her uncle had arranged her marriage to a friend of his, General George Whiteman, a fearsome, unscrupulous, and a much older man.
But now, Julia was a very happy woman indeed, married to the dashing Laird Calum MacLean. Charlotte smiled to think of it. She had never expected either she or Julia to end up where they were.
Charlotte’s mind and thoughts of marriage were always in the direction of an Earl’s or Marquess’ son. Her father was the younger son of a Duke, and Charlotte’s mother had been an Earl’s daughter, so she had aristocracy on her side. She was an only child, and so she had a good dowry. She had no desire to marry below her station, nor did her father. He had great plans for her.
Despite Charlotte’s father’s less than civil comments on the match between his niece and the Scottish laird, Calum MacLean was a good man: kind and wise, devilishly handsome, and completely besotted with Julia. It made Charlotte happy, and she was wholly in support of the marriage. After the life she’d had, Julia needed a good man. But, she knew that she could never choose such a man.
Charlotte slowed her horse as she approached Duart Castle from the side. This was her favorite part of the journey. She took a deep breath and stared in awe at the stone structure, jutting out into the shore of the Sound of Mull, its tall, imposing figure beautiful with the backdrop of a blue sky and bright sun.
In spite of their plans for Charlotte to marry a wealthy man in London and become an integral part of London society, Charlotte’s father, also a general, had decided to move to Fort William to take command after the death of the former leader, General Whiteman.
He had been there for some weeks now and was happy to let her live with Julia. But, she knew that soon enough, he might call her to come and live with him. Once she left Duart, she would be going to the fort, only a few miles away, and she would not be going back to London for some time.
But in her heart, she was content. She had never felt such beautiful freedom. She was allowed to roam as she pleased, healing those who needed it and spending time with her cousin.
The clan was working towards rebuilding after a time of stagnation and loss, and so she was assisting Julia in any way that she needed. There was only one fly in the ointment. Angus, Calum’s tall, brown-haired brother, had begun to pester her with his constant presence. He seemed to have eyes and ears everywhere, watching her with the pretense of protection.
He also gave her advice about how to behave and how to stay safe, and she was fed up with it. When she had first met him, she was dazzled by the strength and beauty of him. She remembered the feel of his strong leg and his muscled chest as she had cleaned his wounds after a small battle a few months before. His light brown eyes had watched her every movement, and she had felt a tingle in her breast at his nearness.
But now, it was totally different. She remembered back to only a week ago when she had taken the idea to go for a walk to collect winter berries and whatever hardy herbs she could find in the cold weather. She needed to restock her supply of medicines, or else she would need to travel back over the Sound to collect what she could.
She had been having a pleasant enough time, when just as she was kneeling to collect a bunch of berries, Angus appeared, his face stern. “What are ye doing out in this weather? ‘Tis a bloody ice-cold day! Ye’ll get sick, and then we’ll be without a healer.” He’d practically yelled the words at her. She had jumped in fright.
“Good Lord!” she’d cried. “Must you appear everywhere that I am? I do have business to conduct. I am here solely to collect much-needed medicines for my work. Can you not understand?” Despite her fury at the time, she was annoyed at how she’d focused on how handsome and imposing he had appeared to her, his hands on his hips, the sharp line of his jaw even more evident in the stark, cold daylight.
He’d had the audacity to march her straight back to the castle as she protested the whole way, and she yelled back, “You know I’ll just come back out again as soon as you’re not looking. This is absolutely ridiculous!” And even as she’d said it, she thought to herself, I could never be with someone like him.
Ha! As if he’d ever have a chance! Not only was he completely frustrating and controlling, but she would never lower herself in such a way, and her father would never approve. He meant to increase their station soon so that he could leave the military and live out his days as a gentleman.
She thought they would come to be friends, or at least civil to one another, after discussing how to help free Julia, but then he’d gone and saved her without any help from Charlotte. And, after that, once it was known that Julia and Calum would need to go to London for a while to attend the trial, Angus had begun to take a strong leadership role, trying to control her every movement. She didn’t understand what had happened. He had, at first, seemed slightly in awe of her, with her brazen words and lack of shyness, but now he was stoic and unpleasant, and Charlotte was not looking forward to when Julia and Calum left. She would be stuck with him.
Angus and Calum MacLean stood in the study together, Calum grinning. He was a different man now, Angus noted, and it made his heart full for his brother. He’d known that Julia was the woman for Calum the moment he met her, and he kept thanking God that he had found her that day, nearly frozen in the woods after she’d escaped from her uncle and that Calum had finally stopped being too hard-headed to notice her.
“Are ye sure ye’ll be all right when we leave, brother? Ye’ll have a lot of responsibility.”
Angus rolled his eyes. “Am I nae used tae that? After ye practically disappeared for years after Arya left?”
Calum chuckled. Talk of the past hurt him no longer. “I know ye’ll be fine, but now ye’ve got the new lass tae think of? Charlotte? Will she nae be staying around? I think Julia was thinking of asking her. Julia knows first-hand just how dull those bloody barracks can be.”
Angus didn’t reply. He didn’t want to talk about Charlotte. He knew what Calum was thinking, and he didn’t want to go down that road. Charlotte had become his burden to bear. He loved his new sister-in-law so much, and with all of the new responsibility being laid at his feet to save the clan while Calum was away, Angus felt like he needed to protect Charlotte more than ever, knowing how dear she was to his beloved sister. He didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize the new happiness that had so lately come to Duart Castle, after so many years of despair.
But Charlotte Andrews was a nuisance, always heading out on her own to do the healing without informing him or anyone of her whereabouts. What would he do if something happened to her? The blame would be on his head, so he tried to know what she was doing and where she was going. He hoped that she would see sense and stop fighting him, understanding that, for her own protection, someone needed to know where she was at all times, then he could stop worrying about her and take care of what the clan needed. But it hadn’t worked. It merely made them sour against each other.
“If Julia asks her, I’m sure she will stay around as long as she can. She seems tae enjoy her work here,” Angus said without a smile.
“Julia mentioned that she might need tae leave soon tae go and stay with her father, now that he’s been installed at Fort William, but she might try tae persuade him tae allow her tae stay a bit longer. He’s allowed it thus far.”
Angus grumbled. “‘Tis good that she helps us out with her skills as a healer, but she only causes trouble. Might be better for her tae stay with her father so that he can keep an eye on her.”
“Why? Ye worried about the lass’ safety?” Calum said with a grin, and Angus stood up to leave.
“If ye’ve naething more, brother, I’ll be on my way.”
Calum couldn’t stop laughing. “Angus, yer growing back intae yer old grouchy self. I thought a new Angus was emerging once Julia came tae stay, but now ye’re all hardened and screwed up inside. Could be dangerous. Ye know how women have a desire to untangle messes of that nature.”
Angus grit his teeth. “We’ll talk later, brother.” He left to get out of the castle, so many thoughts swirling in his mind. He was happy for his brother, but he was afraid that when he left to go to London, the clan would fall to ruin once more, and it would be all his fault. It had fallen to ruin when Calum had descended into despair all those years ago, and he had tried to take charge, but it hadn’t worked.
Now, Calum was entrusting the fate of the clan to him, and he wasn’t sure that he would be up to the task. He left the castle and strode towards the shore, taking deep breaths of the breeze off the Sound. He watched the ripples in the water and thought about how they would soon need to go for another hunt again. He needed to do everything possible to be organized in time for the Campbell’s return.
The Campbell clan was in league with the English, particularly General Whiteman. They had come before winter to threaten them that if they did not bring their clan back to health, their land would be taken and given to the English. But the Campbells had had mercy on them and offered to wait until winter’s end before coming to make their claim. They had waited because Angus and Calum had exposed that the English were actually exploiting them and extorting money out of them. General Whiteman, unbeknownst to anyone, had been taking extra money in taxes, and so John Campbell, the Campbell laird’s much more able younger brother, had killed him by pushing him out of a window.
Campbell had been tried and acquitted by Charlotte’s father, and now, it was only a matter of time before the Campbells would live up to what they had said and come to see how clan MacLean fared after a long, hard winter.
They had done well, but Angus didn’t have the confidence to keep it going. His mind kept going over all of the bad possibilities when he was interrupted by a scream from the woods near the shore of the Sound. He turned and ran in that direction, his hand on his sword. His heart was beating rapidly. The first word that came to his mind was Charlotte. He wasn’t sure why, but as soon as he saw what was happening, he knew he was right to be worried.
Charlotte slowed her horse, taking in the view of the castle, the familiar, thick clump of trees at her side. It was an idyllic moment, and she knew that as soon as her father required her presence, the idyllic moment would be lost and replaced with the smell of leather boots, dirty men, and the clang of metal. She had done her best to convince him thus far of allowing her to stay longer, but once Julia left, there would hardly be any seemly reason for her to stay. They may need a healer, but her father would never approve of her duties in that respect; her only real purpose, as far as he was concerned, was to be a companion to Julia. She would continue to try and persuade him to let her stay for as long as she could.
And she would enjoy what time she had left. As she rode, she spotted a dark figure at the edge of the woods. The man was hooded and had a long beard. Usually, the inhabitants of the island knew her by name and would call out to her in friendly greeting or offer her tea or fresh bread. This man said nothing, and Charlotte was filled with a deep sense of unease. In order to calm herself, she called out a friendly, “Hello!” to the man, but he did nothing.
She did not recognize him. He was wearing a kilt, but under the long cloak, she couldn’t quite make out the colors and identify the clan. But it didn’t seem to be MacLean. She shrugged her shoulders, and as she was trotting by, decided to kick her horse into gear to move faster away from the man, but he was too quick.
He grabbed onto her leg and skirts and pulled her from the horse. The beast neighed in protest, going up on its hind legs in fear, before galloping off towards the castle. Charlotte toppled down onto the gravelly sand and winced as she fell. Part of her body had fallen on top of the man, and so he had cushioned her head. She was so in shock that she didn’t even yell.
Suddenly, as if in a dream, the man began pulling at her skirts, lifting them up above her thighs. She couldn’t believe what was happening. It was like she was frozen in a body, not her own. It was as if she was watching the attack from above, floating outside herself. He said nothing, but he was hoodless now, and Charlotte could see his cold eyes as he grunted in his effort. He stunk of alcohol and sweat, and lines of dirt-streaked his face.
She saw him lifting his kilt, and underneath she could see his pale member spring forward, long and hard. At that moment, she knew what he was about, and her body allowed her to yell out a long, blood-curdling scream. The man slapped her hard, and her head fell back in shock, bouncing sharply against the stones. She clutched her hand to her cheek, feeling the pricks of pain.
Fight back, her mind said. Kick him. Hit him. Do something! But she felt trapped; she could not control her movement, and it unnerved her. But to her surprise, the man was pulled upwards and knocked away. She looked to the side at his lumped form, lying still on the stones. She was breathing heavily, and she pushed her skirts down as she looked up into the brown eyes of Angus MacLean.
Angus’ face showed his concern, and he held out a hand to Charlotte, who was breathing hard, clutching her hands to her skirts. He could tell she was nervous and afraid, but she hadn’t cried, and that surprised him. He waited, his heart practically beating out of his chest with fear. “Come, lass. Are ye all right?”
He looked to the side to see the man stirring awake. He ran to him, kicked him in the stomach, and then knelt close, his sword at his throat. He could see the kilt now that his mind wasn’t filled with Charlotte’s safety, and he nearly toppled over with surprise.
He pressed the point of the blade into the skin of the man’s throat. The man was trembling and held up his hands. Angus practically growled, “Did John Campbell send ye? Why are ye here upon our isle, hurting our women, ye bastard?” Angus spat on the ground next to him as Charlotte watched in surprise from afar.
The man was nervous, but he was not repentant. “I’m a Campbell, aye, and John sent me tae report back how the clan was doing, thinking ye might nae have survived the winter. He didnae forbid me from tasting what wares ye have tae offer.” Angus threw a punch into the man’s face, his rage taking over his self-control.
The man turned back slowly to face Angus, his lip cut and bleeding. Angus said in an angry voice, “Ye return tae that bastard and tell him that Angus MacLean says if he sees ye again on our land, he will kill ye and send yer body tae the bottom of the loch.”
He moved away then and returned to Charlotte. The man stood hesitantly and then turned, running back towards a small boat on the edge of the shore. Then, Angus turned and held out his hand again, which Charlotte took gratefully, and he helped her to stand. “Lass, I’m so sorry ye had tae go through that. The people of our isle are peaceful and kind. I dinnae know how the watchmen missed the entry of that man.”
Charlotte smiled weakly. “Well, the trees make this part of the shore quite remote.” Her voice was shaky, and she struggled to calm it. Angus could feel his heart twinge in pain at the sight.
She said, “Thank you, Angus. You were here before…anything happened. You always seem to be nearby, as I have mentioned before.”
Angus nearly collapsed with relief. Julia would be pleased that nothing had happened to her dear cousin, and he was pleased as well. For her, of course. And, she’d said that last sentence without the malice and anger her words usually carried. He knew she hated his constant control and watch over her.
But he knew that he had to keep an even better eye on her now. At a slight pull from Charlotte, he noticed he hadn’t let go of her hand. He dropped it quickly, as if afraid of it, and then moved to assist her to mount her horse. He grabbed her at the waist and hoisted her up. His fingers wrapped around the hard layer of her corset, feeling the thinness of her waist. For such a small woman, she had borne the attack well. Angus would report this immediately to Julia and Calum.
Once Charlotte was astride her horse, she turned back to Angus, gripping the reins tightly in her hands. Her beautiful golden-red hair had come loose and was now wrapped around her as the breeze blew over the shore. Despite the fact that leaves and sticks were knotted throughout her locks from the tussle, for a moment, Angus was frozen with the sight. He swallowed. No, this would not do. She was absolutely stunning, to be sure, but he had no business thinking about his sister-in-law’s cousin this way. He had to stop himself from imagining her reaching out for him, her pale skin glowing in the firelight of his room.
He tried to shake off the image. She had just been through a terrible ordeal, and he was thinking about getting her into bed? What kind of man was he? Charlotte cleared her throat and said, “Angus, I would appreciate it if you did not mention the attack to Calum or to Julia. Now that it is passed, and the man is gone, there is no need to worry. They will wish to confine me to the castle walls or send me back to my father if they hear of it.”
As do I. The voice in his head had come through strongly, knowing that he had to do something to protect her. No, he would have to tell them. He would need support on his side, for she would fight tooth and nail against him. Of that, he was completely certain.
He didn’t say anything but merely stared up at her, concern etched on his face. “Lass, I dinnae think…”
“Please,” she begged. “My father has allowed me to stay thus far, but if he hears of this…” She trailed off. In the few months that he had known this wild woman, he had never seen her so vulnerable or pleading. It was strange, but his mind was made up. He could either tell them and risk her anger or simply protect her even more. Even though he wouldn’t really have the time once Calum left.
He nodded tersely, and Charlotte smiled. He then grabbed the reins from her and swung up behind her, to her surprise. He felt her back tighten, and he said, “I need tae accompany ye back tae the stable. I was nae with my horse when I heard yer cry.”
Charlotte nodded but said nothing, her back remaining stiff as he wrapped his arms around her, taking the reins and kicking the horse into stride. They rode in silence towards the stables next to the castle, and Angus felt the wind on his face and the tickle of Charlotte’s free hair. It smelled like honeysuckle, and his stomach clenched with the sweetness and freshness of it and the longing it threatened to inspire. This was dangerous. They were too close. He could feel the shape of her on his chest, and it felt too good. He was glad to arrive at the stables and help her down, giving the reins to the stable boy.
He helped her down, his hands on her waist once again, but this time, she faced him. As she stared into his face, her light green eyes changed from pleading to scrutinizing.
What was she thinking? Angus asked himself; he found Charlotte Andrews’ inner world, both confusing and intriguing at the same time. He knew that many of the men on the Isle of Mull were cream in her hands, taken in by her alluring, mysterious stare.
She pushed away from him gently. “Thank you again, Angus. But I will be able to take care of myself from here.” She looked away and started walking towards the castle. Angus followed her with his eyes before turning to the stable boy.
“Lad, keep an eye out for the mistress. Whenever she comes tae take her horse out for a ride, ye will send me word. Try tae figure out her destination as well.”
The stable boy nodded and then grinned. “Willnae be hard tae keep an eye on her, Sir. She’s a bonny one.” Angus threw the young boy a dark look, and the boy moved away into the shadows of the stone stables.
Aye, she was bonny. Too bonny.
Charlotte returned to her room, and once she was safely inside, she felt like she could release her breath. She took herself to the chair by the hearth and sat in shock for a while, still breathing heavily. She found the decanter of red wine in her room that she had requested when she had first arrived and poured herself a hearty glass to calm her nerves. She drank the whole glass down in two swallows.
She sat down again, feeling better from the effects of the alcohol. She had almost been raped. Never before had she envisioned such a thing happening. She knew it happened to low prostitutes in the streets, but she always imagined it occurring in alleyways, where one was never meant to be walking.
This had nearly happened on an island that she had explored far and wide, a place where she had always felt safe. Charlotte liked to think that she was well-experienced with men. Many a time, she had moved onto balconies or walked in gardens in the moonlight with men during a society ball, earning a forbidden kiss. But now, she wasn’t so sure. If Angus hadn’t come when he had…she shuddered to think about what would have been the result.
Angus MacLean. For once in the whole time that she’d known him, she was grateful for his constant presence. It was like he knew that she would be in trouble, and he’d hurried to her side. His face as he looked down at her, his hand outstretched, was burned in her memory. He was as handsome as ever, with his brown hair tied back at the nape of his neck and a light beard covering his strong jaw, but this time, he looked afraid for her. The concern was obvious as he called her name. He was kind to her and, for a moment, had lost that stony look of his, which was unusual. At the sight, Charlotte had felt a frisson of happiness that seemed totally separate from being happy to be rescued.
And when she watched him threaten her attacker, she felt safe, watching the strength of his arm as he punched the man and pushed the blade near his throat. He towered over the cowering figure, and she was so unutterably grateful to be safe once more that she was afraid she’d rush up and kiss him once he came back to help her.
No, she couldn’t do that. She was glad that she hadn’t acted on that impulse. She would have to control herself and the wild emotions that were suddenly raging through her at every moment. It was simply the fact that he had saved her from rape, and perhaps even death. That’s why she was all aflutter as she sat in her room. It had nothing to do with those eyes of his, which were so expressive and watchful even when he said nothing.
No, it really couldn’t be that. She had no interest in Angus MacLean. He ignored any of the sort of female flirtations she had put into action when she’d first arrived, and so now, she really wanted nothing to do with him. When she first came, she thought it would be a little bit of entertainment to toy with him just as she’d toyed with other men. She would flutter her eyelashes and touch him on the arm with a laugh, but it elicited nothing. He would nearly recoil at her attentions, and her strange defeat put Charlotte at odds with him, and all the other occurrences built up against him as well.
The only thing was to put it out of her mind and get ready for the mid-day meal with Julia and Calum. They would be leaving the next morning, and she needed to present a calm front. What should she think about besides what had happened? Or Angus MacLean? Or Julia leaving?
She sighed. She could think about her patients, she supposed, and the fact that more and more were falling ill, or she could think about how her father would surely call her back soon, and she’d be stuck in the most boring place on earth: the barracks. She had nothing pleasant or positive to think of. Excellent.
Well, there were Angus’ eyes, of course. No! They needed to leave her thoughts immediately. She wrestled with herself for a few more moments when a knock came at the door. “Come in!” Charlotte froze, hoping it wasn’t Julia. She wasn’t ready to see her yet.
A maid entered, and curtsied. “Miss, lunch will be ready soon.”
“Thank you,” Charlotte smiled and watched gratefully as the door closed. She needed to freshen up, and she was a little surprised at the state of her appearance once she sat in front of her vanity mirror. She knew her hair had fallen down, but it looked practically savage! She blushed at the thought of Angus seeing her like this, leaves and twigs twisted into it, all frizzy and unkempt.
She had wanted Angus and all men, really, to see her as a perfect, well-kempt woman, who never had any ill-looking days. Now, she had gone and messed that up entirely. But he had been a gentleman and hadn’t said anything about it. He was probably gleeful to see her in such a state. No, that was unfair. Charlotte freshened herself and adjusted her hair. She did not wish to call for the maid as she wanted to be alone, so she did what she could and braided a long braid down her shoulder. It would do for now.
She met everyone down in the great hall for the mid-day meal. Julia smiled as she arrived. Charlotte caught eyes with Angus, but she was glad he didn’t say anything. Looking at Julia’s smile, he had kept to his promise.
Julia said, “Charlotte, how was everyone today? Did you enjoy your island journey?”
They began to eat as servants brought food to the table. Charlotte was overjoyed to watch her wine glass being filled, and she took a sip before speaking. She looked at Angus quickly. “It was lovely, but I’m afraid I cannot identify the illness that is plaguing many of the inhabitants. It doesn’t behave like other illnesses, and so it confounds me. I will visit them tomorrow to see how they fare after the instructions I gave them today.”
Angus piped up. “Perhaps we should call for someone else tae come and take a look at them. A trained male doctor, who can keep himself safe as he travels around.”
Julia looked confused, and Charlotte opened her eyes wide in Angus’ direction, warning him. He raised his eyebrows slightly but continued to look impassive. Charlotte shook her head. “No, I do not think that a MALE could do any better. I will simply have to return to the library this evening to see what I might find in your extensive collection.”
Calum nodded. “Aye, I hope so, cousin, for we’d like ye tae stay on once we leave and help with the healing and tae save ye from what boredom lie across the water.”
Julia smiled. “If you think your father would allow it. I know how much you’re enjoying it here.”
Charlotte brightened, so happy that she had been formally requested to stay on, “Oh, I’m sure I could convince him for at least a little bit longer! I would love to stay – truly. I fear the barracks will be as dull as tombs.”
Angus stiffened at the words. “Brother, I had nae notion that ye’d want the lass tae stay on. Surely the barracks would be a safer place for her.”
Calum grinned in Angus’ direction and winked at his brother, unbeknownst to the ladies. Angus clenched his jaw. Charlotte waved a hand in the air and said with a little too much heat. “Always concerned for my welfare, once more. You would consign me to rot in the unexciting barracks, Mr. MacLean.”
Angus replied, “Is that nae better than getting hurt somewhere?”
Charlotte paused and turned to see Julia and Calum staring at them, looks of confusion and entertainment on their faces. She chuckled nervously. “All is well. You know me, Julia, I would simply die in a place like that, and I hope my father does not call for me any time soon. But, of course, I will have to let him know.”
“Of course, Charlotte. I do hope ye’ll send him a letter today. I know we’re leaving tomorrow, but it would make me feel so much better if you’d stay. I hate to leave you so soon after we’ve been reunited, though.”
Charlotte smiled. “I know. You’ve both been so good to me.” She made a point of turning her shoulder slightly to block Angus out of her kind words. “I thank you for all your hospitality. You’ve certainly saved me from a life of drudgery while my father continues to reside in Scotland, and therefore, so must I.”
Calum then said, mirth in his voice, “Well, perhaps when we’re gone, ye’ll be able tae find something tae entertain yerself.” He glanced at his brother and said, “Angus would be happy tae assist, I’m sure.”
Charlotte blushed, and Angus glared at Calum, clenching his fists underneath the table. “The lass knows her own mind well enough and will surely find her own amusement without my help.”
Charlotte filled with gratitude at Angus’ defense, but she couldn’t help but feel the slightest of tug of interest at the thought of what Angus MacLean might do to…entertain.
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