Miss Sheena MacGregor had loved Camdyn Oaks, Earl of Irvine, once upon a time. How could she not fall for his charm, honeyed words, and seductive lips? When she found out it was all a ploy, his betrayal cut deep. Never would she be such a fool again.
Camdyn Oaks had set out to charm secrets out of Miss Sheena MacGregor. Instead, she captivated him and stole his heart. Before Camdyn could explain, confess the truth, and beg for forgiveness, she walked away and refused to ever speak to him again.
Now with Christmas drawing near, Sheena is stuck on the English side of the border and forced to seek shelter in his home. Camdyn is determined to win her heart once again but fears that it may be lost to him forever.
Sheena MacGregor’s first Season in London was more than she could have ever dreamed. It helped that neither her Uncle Aiden, nor her older, overly protective brothers were here. They had to remain back at Anagburn, their family estate in Bonnybridge, Scotland, to see that the oats and barley were planted. However, they did intend to join her and Aunt Rose shortly. Sheena couldn’t help but hope that the planting had been delayed, thus her male relatives would be as well.
These first six weeks had been absolutely magical, and Sheena was also quite certain that she was in love.
She blew out a sigh and glanced about the ballroom looking for Camdyn Oaks, Earl of Irvine. He’d made her acquaintance at the first ball she had attended. During that first sennight, they had encountered each other occasionally and he always requested a dance. And then, he had asked for the supper waltz, which Sheena happily granted. Following that night, he had called on her regularly and they had taken drives in the park, visited Gunter’s, attended the theatre, sat near each other at musical entertainments, and picnicked together. It was everyone’s opinion that he was courting her. It simply wasn’t official because Uncle Aiden wasn’t in London to grant such.
Sheena was torn between wanting Uncle Aiden here so that Lord Irvine’s courtship could become official, or that he’d remain in Scotland so she could have more time without her brothers acting as unwanted chaperones.
Aye, she wanted the men to remain away, for if they were here, Camdyn wouldn’t be able to take her off and steal kisses.
Yes, he had asked that she call him Camdyn when others were not around, and he called her Sheena instead of Miss Sheena. There was not so much of a difference in his address of her, but there was certainly one in her calling him by his Christian name instead of Lord Irvine.
“Are you looking for me?”
Sheena grinned and turned to find Camdyn behind her.
“I was simply admirin’ all the handsome gentlemen,” she teased.
“You wound me.” Camdyn placed a hand over his heart, but laughter lit in his light blue eyes. “I thought I was the only one you thought handsome.”
“Ye are not the only one,” she informed him. “But ye are the handsomest.”
“And you are the loveliest,” he returned.
“Gentleman?” Sheena quirked a brow.
“Miss,” he answered with a chuckle. “As you well know.”
No matter how often Camdyn complimented her, Sheena’s cheeks still warmed.
And then, when he looked down at her, his blue eyes darkening with an intensity, almost smoldering, she warmed all over inside and out.
“It is a pleasant night. Would you care to stroll with me in the garden?” Camdyn offered his arm.
Sheena glanced to Aunt Rose for permission. Her aunt gave a slight nod with a knowing smile, though she had warned Sheena not to become too attached to Lord Irvine until she had a chance to speak with Uncle Aiden. Her aunt was being overly cautious because Sheena could not imagine that her uncle would object.
As Camdyn led her from the ball and onto the terrace and further into the gardens, the cacophony of voices and laughter faded as did the music. Once they reached the edge of the garden, and with no one around, Camdyn stopped, turned, and looked down at her. He was no longer smiling and appeared gravely serious.
“I have changed my mind, Sheena.”
She fought a wee bit of panic that settled in the pit of her stomach. What had he changed his mind about?
“I will not be asking your uncle to court you when he comes to London.”
Sheena’s heart ceased for a moment. He had promised to request an audience with Uncle Aiden the moment he arrived. Did Camdyn no longer care for her?
“Instead, I am going to ask him for your hand in marriage.” The relief was so overwhelming that Sheena’s knees nearly buckled.
“What did you fear that I was going to say?” The corner of his mouth tipped. “Certainly, you know my heart.”
Sheena thought she knew his heart when in truth she only knew her own. And that was that she loved Camdyn Oaks, the Earl of Irvine.
“Unless you do not want to marry me?” He studied her with concern.
“Aye, I do.” She was not going to let him believe anything else.
He smiled and relaxed. “I am glad to hear that is your response.” Camdyn lifted her right hand and then removed her glove, gently pulling on each finger until her hand was free, then put it inside of his coat.
She did not know what he was about, but a delicious thrill swept through her body as he brought her hand to his lips. Camdyn first kissed the back of her fingers, then turned her hand over and put his lips against the pulse at her wrist before kissing her palm—an open kiss in which she felt the tip of his tongue.
Goodness. Her knees weakened, breasts tightened, and warmth flooded her nether regions. She’d had a similar response to his caresses before, but never this strongly.
Camdyn looked up, his blue eyes dark and intense, the side of his mouth quirked and then she was in his arms.
“I have fallen in love with you Sheena MacGregor. You are my heart and I do not want to go another day without you by my side.”
Her heart melted at that moment. Those were the words that she had longed to hear from his lips. “And you have my heart, Camdyn. I love ye as well.”
His hands caressed her back, down to her waist and then her bottom.
“Perhaps we should not wait for your uncle. We could leave for Gretna Green tonight.”
Oh, the idea was so very tempting. She did wish to wed him as soon as it was possible to do so.
“Come with me now.”
“My aunt will notice,” Sheena laughed.
“I will come for you as soon as your household has retired. Be waiting for me and we will travel to Gretna Green as fast as the horses can take us there.”
He was so earnest, and Sheena wanted to agree with his plan, but she had no intention of bringing scandal to the family. Her Aunt Rose was formerly a Trent, and that family had faced enough scandal these past few years and she would not add to it, especially since Clayton Trent, the Earl of Bentley, had been so kind to allow her and Aunt Rose to reside in their London home this Season. “While the offer is tempting, and it would put us both much closer to home, I do not feel that it would be right to run off.”
He stared into her eyes. “Are you certain?”
“I canna do that to them.”
Camdyn groaned and pulled her closer. “Then I hope your uncle arrives soon so that we can have this matter settled and wed.”
Sheena may have wanted her uncle and brothers to be delayed earlier, but she wished they were here right now.
“I have a desire for you, Sheena. A hunger. My heart is full of love for you and my body craves yours so strongly that once we wed, I may keep you in my chamber for a sennight.”
A delicious thrill swept through her when he pressed his lips against her neck. “Those are the words and the promise of a rogue.”
“But it is not just my own pleasure that I seek, but yours as well, and I hope that it will be as great as mine and you will not wish to leave either.”
Sheena still was not certain what happened in the marriage chamber but could not wait to find out since her sister confided that the secret side of marriage was also the most pleasurable.
His lips then found hers and Sheena eagerly kissed him in return, parting her lips as he invaded her mouth. Sheena tilted her head and wrapped her arms about his shoulders. There was no longer tentativeness for Camdyn had kissed her in this manner several times and whenever they could sneak away from others. His arms tightened, bringing her against his body.
Oh, she knew it was wrong to behave in such a wanton manner, but Sheena was helpless when Camdyn’s lips touched hers.
“I need you, Sheena.”
“Aye, and I you.”
His hand slid down her back and to her waist and then to her bottom, pressing her against him as another hand came forward and cupped her breast.
Sheena gasped. He’d never been so bold before, but she had no will to deny him, especially when he broke the kiss and trailed kisses down her neck and across her bodice.
Goodness, it was becoming difficult to breathe as her breasts grew heavy and ached. If what happened in the privacy of the marriage chamber was anything like this, she may never want to leave.
With a sigh, Camdyn straightened and took a step back before he blew out a breath.
“I hope your uncle does not insist on a long betrothal.”
Sheena nearly laughed. “He is more than likely to insist upon a Special License.”
“That is what I will do,” Camdyn announced. “I will obtain a Special License so that the moment he allows it, we can be married.”
His hand caressed her cheek and Camdyn leaned in and kissed her, then once again pulled her close.
Sheena was beginning to wonder if they would return to the ball that night, but also did not care if they did. She didn’t want to be anywhere else than in Camdyn’s arms, just as she was at that moment.
And then she wasn’t.
Her mind barely registered what was occurring when the eldest of her brothers, Alistair stepped between them and planted Camdyn a facer.
Camdyn raised a hand to his chin but her other brother, Ewan came forward and struck him a second time, and with enough force to send Camdyn flying back. He struck the brick wall before he crumpled to the ground.
With a gasp, Sheena ran forward and knelt beside him. Other than blood at the corner of his mouth from where he’d been struck, he had no other injuries, expect he was unconscious. Yet, he breathed, and she could only pray that it was only a minor injury, and he would wake quickly.
“What is goin’ on?” her Uncle Aiden barked.
“They struck him for no reason,” Sheena cried.
“There was a reason. He was takin’ advantage of ye,” Ewan argued.
It was on the tip of her tongue to insist that he was not and that she had welcomed Camdyn’s kisses but thought it better to hold her tongue given the glares of her two brothers.
“There is only one thing left to do,” Alistair announced.
They all looked at him in anticipation.
As that was what she and Camdyn wanted, Sheena was not going to voice an objection.
“Not so quickly.” Uncle Aiden held up a hand to stop her brothers from making any more decisions. “If they were just walking or sharing a simple kiss, there is no reason to force a marriage.”
“But his hand…” Ewan’s face began to turn red, and he leaned over to whisper to Uncle Aiden.
Sheena could only guess what they’d seen.
Uncle Aiden straightened and glared. “Marriage it is!” he declared. “Now, let me see who my new nephew-in-law is to be.”
Sheena scrambled out of the way when Alistair crouched down and lifted Camdyn so that he was sitting up. He was still unconscious, but the light from the torches allowed them to see his face.
In turn, Uncle Aiden’s features hardened even further and his eyes grew cold.
Sheena’s stomach sank.
“Irvine!” he ground out. “Ye willna be marryin’ him, lass.”
“Why?” Sheena asked in alarm.
“Nor was that my son’s intention.” A man stepped from the shadows.
My son’s intention. Was that Camdyn’s father and had he been watching them the entire time? She had not met him yet as he had not come to London. Apparently, everyone had arrived tonight.
“Since you havena been successful in ruinin’ my family, you sent your son to ruin my niece?” Uncle Aiden demanded.
Sheena’s throat began to tighten in panic. They did not understand.
“Why?” Sheena found herself asking, though they were all wrong about Camdyn. They didn’t know how much they loved the other and that they were to wed, but given their reactions, she and Camdyn may need to head to Gretna Green after all.
“I will one day see your uncle, brothers, and cousins arrested for their criminal activity,” the man informed Sheena.
Sheena gasped. “Illegal activity?”
“Do not play innocent,” Lord Walsingham barked. “They smuggle Scotch whisky across the border and have for years. They are likely thieves and murderers but have not been caught in doing that either.”
“They are not,” Sheena insisted.
“Hold your tongue,” Uncle Aiden instructed.
“He is accusing ye of crimes,” Sheena cried.
“We have a long history of accusations between the two families,” Uncle Aiden grumbled with little patience.
“My son will not be marrying her.”
“Nor will I allow it,” Uncle Aiden insisted.
“But Uncle Aiden you did not see what he did,” Ewan insisted.
“He was simply wanting information,” Walsingham dismissed.
“What do you mean he wanted information?” Sheena asked.
Lord Walsingham chuckled. “You did not think he would actually marry you?” And he laughed again.
“Aye, he asked me to.”
“That is only because he was running out of time.”
“What do you mean?” Alistair asked fisting his hand.
“My son was tasked with obtaining information from Sheena. We thought with sweet words and seduction she would reveal the roads and the trails you take from Scotland into England to deliver your whisky and who those customers may be. We were determined to catch you once and for all. My son hadn’t gotten all the information yet but knew that he must press the suit before you arrived and tell her whatever she needed to hear in order to share her secrets.”
Sheena grew sick. “Seduce me for information?”
What he was saying could not be true. Camdyn would not do such a thing.
“To say whatever is necessary for you to trust him, even if he had to seduce you in the process.”
“There is nothing to tell,” Sheena cried. “The only whisky we have is what we distill for ourselves.” Sheena knew never ever to mention anything about their illegal whisky smuggling, or the family would be ruined and possibly jailed. As much as she loved Camdyn, that was a secret she did not share because it was not hers alone.
However, she still did not believe Lord Walsingham. He had not been in London, so he did not know what she shared with Camdyn.
“I guess you are not as naïve and foolish as Camdyn thought you to be.” His eyes grew cold. “Yet, you still believe that he loves you.”
Sheena sucked in a breath at the cruel words.
“My son will never marry the likes of you,” he snorted. “My son will marry a lady from Society, not a Scot and certainly never a MacGregor.”
“He was using ye, lass.”
She did not want Alistair’s opinion.
“I have to agree with your brother,” said Uncle Aiden. “The Oaks are not honorable men. I have known them long enough to never trust a single word out of their mouths.” Uncle Aiden glared at Walsingham.
“But in this case, I believe the marquess. If Irvine made promises, it was only so he could gain something else.”
Her stomach churned and Sheena swallowed the bile that threatened to rise and glanced from her uncle to her two brothers and then to their enemy.
Camdyn began to moan. She needed him to wake and tell her that the others were wrong.
Sheena rushed to him when Camdyn groaned and sat up rubbing the back of his head. “Is it true?”
“Is what true?”
“What your father said?”
“My father?” Camdyn glanced past her, and his eyes widened.
“What did he tell you?” Camdyn asked quietly.
“That you came to London to seduce me for information.”
Camdyn’s lips hardened, but he did not deny her words, just glared at his father.
“Ye hoped to learn all that you could about my family’s supposed illegal whisky smuggling, which they doona do.”
Camdyn looked into her eyes. “Let me explain.”
Her blood ran cold. “Enough has been explained. Is what he says true? Did you beg an introduction for the single reason in hopes of gaining information? To seduce it out of me if you had to?”
“Yes,” he answered, then reached out to her. “That was my intention, but...” She didn’t allow him to say another word and slapped him so hard that her hand may sting for days.
“Ye are a rogue. The worst of the rogues. The worst rogue ever!” As tears blinded her vision, Sheena rose to return to her uncle. “Take me home.”
“Sheena, wait,” he called.
“She has heard enough,” Alistair said. “Doona come near her again.”
“I will take you back to Bentley’s townhouse right away.”
“Scotland,” she clarified. “Home is Anagburn. I want to go home.”