When a rake’s silver tongue fail to charm…
Ian Grant has wanted to court a certain lass for quite some time, but when his usual charm has no effect on Davina MacGregor, he stops talking and kisses her instead. And what a wonderful kiss it is too. Unfortunately, his rakish reputation precedes him and Ian somehow finds his honor in question and a challenge issued. Can he go to London for a Season without kissing anyone else?
A lass finds the tables turned on her….
Davina MacGregor only meant to protect her foolish family from being sent to the gallows should anyone discover what they’d done. She didn’t want to make Ian court her in secret, she just didn’t have another choice. But when he tires of her games and issues a challenge of his own…
Will the lass truly court the Scot?
Near Bonnybridge, Scotland - March 1, 1815 Miss Davina MacGregor set her arrow and raised the bow. Her sight narrowed onto the bull’s eye as she pulled back on the string. Just as she was about to release, a large arm slipped around her waist. Startled, Davina let go, and the arrow flew high before arcing down and embedding itself in the dirt, just short of the bales of hay she’d stacked and painted for practice. She suppressed the delicious shiver at his touch. “Are ye so afraid of losin’ to me that ye have to cheat?” She’d known Ian Grant her entire life and though some may consider his arm around her an impropriety, she knew it was only so she’d miss the target. The MacGregors and Grants had a long family history, and she was just as certain Ian saw her no differently than he did his younger sisters, Fanella and Jesse. “I wasna cheatin’, lass. I couldna help myself.” Ian’s warm breath against her neck caused her skin to prickle. Davina snorted as she turned, placed a palm against his hard chest and pushed him away. “I’m not one of yer Edinburgh or London ladies who swoon at yer nearness, Ian Grant.” Though she could certainly understand why they did. “Yer charms willna work on me. I’ve kent ye far too long to ken ye’ll try anythin’ to win a match.” Even though he did not hold a title, he was still landed, wealthy and handsome, and many ladies would not mind making Ian Grant their husband. Of course, there was the potential title that might hold the interest of many. If his older brother died without issue, as their uncle had, there was a possibility Ian would become the next Marquess of Brachton. Not that any of that mattered to Davina. She much preferred it when the marquessate had been held distantly, and in England, with the Scottish Grants being no different than her family. “Ye wound me, Davina.” He placed a hand over his heart. “I’m not tryin’ to charm ye, lass.” His green eyes twinkled as he grinned. “But is it workin’?” She laughed and turned away from him, set another arrow and took aim at the target. “Ye stay away this time. The last one doesna count.” Oh, if only he truly were trying to charm her, but she was no more than just another sister to Ian. Davina pulled back the string then let the arrow fly. It struck dead center and she turned, a wide grin on her face for she had finally beaten Ian Grant for the very first time. Except, Ian wasn’t looking at the target, but right at her. He wasn’t angry that she’d beat him. Instead, he studied her, an odd look of approval in his green eyes. “What?” “Do my charms really not work on ye?” he asked quietly, as if he really wished they did. Ian couldn’t be trying to flirt with her, could he? The very idea was frightening and thrilling, but Davina knew that if she answered honestly, she’d be setting herself up to be teased. Ian could never know she’d been half in love with him for the past year. If she answered honestly and he laughed at her, not only would she be crushed, but humiliated as well. “If yer missin’ the attention of a female, why don’t ye go off to London? It’s spring, the city will be fillin’ with ladies ready to hang on yer every word and prayin’ that ye’ll notice them.” “I’m not leavin’ this spring.” He still didn’t break eye contact. Instead he studied Davina, as if trying to gauge her reaction. Heat rose to her cheeks, and she quickly grabbed another arrow. “I thought ye were to accompany yer mother and sisters.” Ever since his sister, Mary, had gone off to London, married Lieutenant Soares, and followed the drum, their mother wouldn’t let another daughter have a Season without her. It wasn’t that they objected to the Lieutenant. They didn’t like that they hadn’t seen Mary in over two years. Davina set the arrow, pulled back on the string and let the arrow fly. It struck just to the side of the center mark. “They doona need me to escort them about,” Ian scoffed. “Besides, Lachlan is better suited for that position than me. He and Maddie are more capable of makin’ all the proper introductions.” Lachlan had married Madeline Trent little over a year ago. She was a lady, though Davina knew nothing of her family. Hopefully Maddie would have better luck with Ian’s sisters than Lachlan had, and there would be no more matches with Lieutenants leaving for the Continent. “Well, I suppose someone needs to remain behind to see to the crops and business.” Whisky business. Illegal whisky. Ian did have the full weight of the family business upon his shoulders. These days, Lachlan lived in England most of the time, and it was Ian who oversaw each and every detail from the planting of the first barley seed, to bundling up bottles and small barrels to sneak into England, much like her own family. For generations, the Grants and MacGregors had competed as to who produced the best whisky, while they worked together to avoid the excisemen. Except, the MacGregors hadn’t shipped anything in nearly a year. Uncle Aiden hadn’t been happy with the quality of whisky and decided to let the barrels age another year while trying to improve the taste of the batches they were brewing. “That is one of the reasons,” he answered slowly. Only one of them? What other reasons kept Ian here? It was a question Davina was afraid to ask. Instead, she grabbed another arrow to cover her nervousness. Why was he different today? This wasn’t the same Ian who teased and often irritated her. “Ye dinna ask the other reasons.” “I’m sure ‘tis none of my business.” Davina pulled back on the string and hoped he could not tell that her hands now shook. “I’d be goin’ to London if ye were,” he said just as she let go. She watched the arrow fly toward the mark, sail over the hay and disappear into the woods. It wasn’t so much the words he spoke that shook her composure but the lower timbre of his voice that hinted at a promise. “Did ye hear what I said?” Ian had moved so close that his heat penetrated the back of her dress. As much as she wanted to read more into his words, she was too afraid to ask for fear the answer wasn’t one she’d dreamed of. “Ye ken Uncle Aiden doesna have time to take us off for a holiday in London.” She shrugged and strode away from Ian to gather her arrows. “Besides, we doona belong in London. Not like yer family.” “I said that I’d be in London if ye were.” Ian gently grabbed her arm to stop her from going any further and turned Davina toward him. Davina blinked up at him. “I heard ye,” she answered, a little breathier than she’d like. His hand came up to cradle her cheek and Davina sucked in a breath. “Doesna that mean anythin’ to ye, lass?” His intense green eyes studied her. “What does it mean to ye?” she countered as her pulse thundered through her veins. “I wish to be here, with ye.” With that he lowered his head and brushed his lips against hers. Davina dropped her bow and grabbed his arm to keep from falling as her knees suddenly grew weak. Ian Grant was kissing her! *** He’d thought he’d have to chase Davina MacGregor all over the field while she collected her arrows before he could claim a kiss. Not that he was certain he’d gain one. She could just as easily have slapped him for his advances instead of returning it as she was doing now. It had been a risk, that he well knew, but he could no longer keep the desire to have her in his arms buried any longer. A risk he was glad he’d taken. Pulling her close, his arms around her back, he traced the seam of her lip. When she parted, he swept in. This first kiss was meant to be a sweet one. In time, he would build from there, but he should have known better. He’d waited weeks and wasn’t ready to let her go with a promise to call again in a few days. Davina tilted her head and he tangled his tongue with hers. At first she was tentative, then fully engaged as her hands came up and her fingers threaded through his hair. He should have known that kissing Davina wouldn’t be like any other woman. This was not the first kiss he had stolen from an innocent, not that those hadn’t been given willingly, but they lacked even the barest hint of passion and were far too decorous for his tastes. Not Davina. Once her lips parted and she learned her way, she was giving as well as she was taking. He’d always known it would be this way with her. Davina, a brave, beautiful and bold lass would not demur quietly or turn five shades of crimson after the mere brushing of lips. No, she’d conquer and demand more if it was something she liked, and Davina appeared to be liking this very much. As much as he did. Her breasts burned against his chest, and he longed to feel the weight of them in his hands, to lift her skirts and have her legs about his waist as he thrust deep inside and took her to heights of passion. It was a shame they were in an open field where anyone could come upon them. He should have waited until she’d gone into the woods for that last arrow before kissing her. There wouldn’t have been a chance of them being seen, and he could press forward in his suit. He pulled back. What the bloody hell was he thinking? And then, with a groan, he rested his forehead against hers. Their labored breaths mingled, and Ian tried to come to terms with his thoughts and actions. Aye, he desired Davina, but that was no reason to treat her like some dockside whore. She was to be his. Now he knew that better than ever, and he would show her all the care and respect one did a future wife. Tossing her skirts up in the woods at the first chance he was given was not the proper way to court her. Davina pulled back, curiosity in her dark eyes. “Why did ye do that?” Ian simply stared at her. “Because I’ve been wantin’ to.” She pushed him away and anchored her hands on her hips. “But why?” “It’s not obvious?” She lifted one dark eyebrow. “Not to me.” “I’ve a likin’ for ye, Davina.” Bloody hell, he was blushing. “I have for some time now, and I thought perhaps ye might have a likin’ for me.” Slowly, she smiled. “I just might at that, Ian Grant.” Damn she was beautiful when she smiled. He reached out for her. Davina stepped back. “Nay. As much as I enjoyed yer kisses, I will no’ be playin’ that game with the likes of ye.” “Game?” “I’ve heard how ye go about breakin’ hearts in London and Edinburgh, I will not be yer next victim.” What the blazes was she talking about? “I doona go around breakin’ hearts.” She laughed and turned away from him, her homespun skirt billowing out. “Jesse and Fanella have told me all about how ye dance, kiss, melt a heart and go on to the next.” As soon as his sisters returned from London, he was going to throttle each of them. “I do no such thin’.” Davina grabbed an arrow from the ground and then turned to him. “Who do ye think I believe more? Yer sisters who are dear friends, or ye, an unrepentant rake?” Rake? He wasn’t a rake by any stretch of the imagination. “I would hope it is me, and that yer not callin’ my honor into question.” She tilted her head and frowned. “Not honor. I wouldna think to do so.” At least she thought he had honor. His sisters, on the other hand, had a lot to answer for. “I just doona think ye can help yerself.” “What?” Did she think he ran around kissing and caressing unsuspecting ladies, one after the other? “I think ye like ladies and if ye’re of a mind to be kissin’, ye kiss them.” Is that what she thought just happened? He simply felt like kissing her and now he’d move on? “I can assure ye that I doona go around kissin’ lasses just because it seems like a good idea in the moment.” “Ah ha, but ye do go around kissin’ them?” “Aye. Nay.” He stomped away from her and thrust his fingers through his hair. This was not what was supposed to happen next. “It isna what ye think.” “Then what is it?” Blast, how could he explain when he wasn’t so certain himself? He did like lasses, all lasses, but Davina was different. “I dinna ken what I was wantin’.” Somehow, he knew that explanation was not going to suffice. “And ye do now?” she asked incredulously. “Aye!” He turned around and marched right back to her. “Ye. I want ye.” Davina blinked up at him. “I wish I could believe ye, but I willna have my heart broken, Ian Grant. How can I be certain that next week ye willna tire of kissin’ me and find another?” “Because I willna,” Ian ground out. Davina sucked in a breath. “Then prove it.” “How the blazes can I prove somethin’ like that?” “By not kissin’ anynone else, of course.” Well, that should be easy enough. There wasn’t a lass within five counties that he had ever wanted to kiss besides Davina. “In London.” He jerked at her words. “London?” “Aye.” She lifted her chin. “If ye can enjoy the Season without kissin’ and dancin’ then I’ll ken ye willna break my heart. “Ye want me to go to London? Now?” “Or ye willna be kissin’ me again.” “I’m not goin’ to go off to London to prove myself.” “Then I guess we’ve reached an impasse.” With that, she picked her bow up off the ground and marched past him, toward the manor. Ian thrust his fingers through his hair. How the bloody hell had he ended up in this mess? He meant to kiss, court, marry and seduce. In that order. Not be given an ultimatum to prove himself.