About the book
From the first moment she saw him, she has been dancing with the devil...
When Ellen Holton’s father dies, she faces yet another adversity: for her father to forge the business alliance he always wanted, she must marry the son of a Scottish Laird. But arriving at the Highlands she discovers two brothers and, unfortunately, she falls for the wrong one…
Alexander Golgow, the youngest of Laird Elairon’s sons, is a man of honor and a true Highland warrior. But the moment he first lays his eyes on his brother’s bride, he feels torn between his duty and his heart.
However, trying to escape the luring erotic ropes slowly embracing them is more difficult than they think…
When Ellen realizes her father’s death was not an accident, her life changes for the third time. Now she and Alexander must quickly uncover the one behind all misfortunes—the one person who has been pulling the strings right from the very start.
“It isn’t fair,” Ellen cried for the tenth time that morning, her voice breaking on the last word.
She was sitting at her dressing table, letting her maid arrange her long dark tresses as she wept openly; her tears dropped down onto her black dress and stained the heavy fabric. She didn’t care; the thing was as ugly as sin and just as uncomfortable. Who had decided that those in mourning should be absent not only their loved ones, but the pleasure of soft fabric and clean lines, as well?
“It will be all right, Madam,” the maid said with conviction, but her words fell on deaf ears.
Nothing will ever be all right again.
She was inconsolable—she had been since three days prior when Charles Braiser, her father’s best friend and business advisor, had come running into the house shouting incomprehensibly about her father and an accident.
But Ellen’s father’s death wasn’t an accident. That much was clear. He had been killed by unknown attackers on his way back from a business trip, his body bruised and bloodied in the streets by men so strong and large that Charles and the accompanying footmen had nary a chance of fighting them off. He hadn’t had a chance of surviving even if he had been able to seek medical attention right away.
Ellen still couldn’t understand it. Who would want to kill her father, the kindest, most generous man she had ever known?
Victor Holton was a king among men, lauded up and down Hertfordshire as a fair, intelligent business man, loyal friend, and amiable neighbor. He had taken care of Ellen all by himself after her mother and sibling passed away, comforting her when he himself was still reeling from the tragedy. That such a pillar of strength and hope in her life could be gone so suddenly was still difficult to fathom.
“How can it be? My father is dead. Papa is dead, and I’m now to marry some man I’ve never met. Oh, if only I were a man, Marie! If I were a man, none of this would be happening. I could grieve in peace and quiet, and not have to worry about a trousseau and a new husband to entertain. Everyone would respect my wishes to simply be left alone.”
The maid said nothing. Instead she continued to look sympathetically at Ellen before sticking a few more pins in the tastefully-simple updo she had crafted for her mistress’ hair. Ellen instinctively leaned in to the look in the mirror and but a black shroud was covering the glass. The maids had covered all the looking glasses in the house as soon as Dr. Foster had pronounced her father dead. It was the custom of mourning families, after all, but a morbid one.
Lacking something to show her what her hair looked like, Ellen instead brushed Marie’s hands away and felt around her head. Oh dear, how dreadful, she thought as she felt around the soft locks coiled on her head. She could tell even from the touch of her fingers that she instantly hated the style. It did nothing to show off her curls, and instead hid them away in an ugly bun at the nape of her neck that was so tight that not even a few stray tendrils could fall at her cheeks.
Ellen was used to tying her hair only partly up, letting the rest of it cascade down her back. It was far more comfortable and far more flattering, but then, she supposed, mourning dresses and hair were not supposed to be comfortable or flattering. They were about being modest, about evaporating into the walls so that the only thing people could focus on was the dead. But Ellen didn’t need special clothing or hairstyles to do that. There was little else she could focus on.
However, Ellen did not want to focus on her father’s death. She wanted to get up, walk down the hall and find her father in his study, smoking a cheroot and squinting at a piece of paper in his hands which he would mutter under his breath was “an infernal paradox if I ever saw one.”
Oh, to hear his voice again! It would be like angels ringing down from heaven to hear her father say her name just one more time in that way of his, that soft way that made her name sound both sweet and important.
Barring that, Ellen would settle for getting up from her stool, taking the sharp pins from her hair and crawling back into bed. In bed, she could seek refuge under the softness of her sheets as they dried her tears and cocooned her into a deep sleep. Unlike many sleeps she had experienced since her father’s passing.
“Madam, I believe it’s time,” the maid said, waking Ellen up from her daydream. She sighed. Her fantasy was not to be. She needed to play her part, the part of the dutiful daughter walking behind the funeral procession, head down, gaze focused on her hands as she contemplated her lost loved one. It was at times like these when she wished women were not relegated to such customs. In fact, it was at all times that she wished it.
“I suppose you’re right, Marie. There is no sense in postponing the inevitable, is there?” she asked, getting up from the stool and taking a last look down at her dress, smoothing out a few wrinkles as though that could somehow make it look more attractive. She was sure her face mirrored the fabric—unflattering, depressed and wrinkled. The perfect style for a funeral, really.
Ellen’s spirits brightened slightly as she descended the stairs and her guardian and godfather Charles Braiser came into view. Though to most of his acquaintances Charles was a difficult man, closed off and gruff in his mannerisms, Ellen knew the real man, the one she had called “Uncle Charles” since she was a child. That man laughed openly at her jokes, delighted in a jaunt around the garden and begged Cook to make extra currant cakes for him to take back with him to his own apartments just up the road. Surely, he of all people could cheer her up at a time like this.
Though Charles did embrace her warmly and give Ellen what she could only assume was a false compliment about her hair and dress, he immediately ruined the moment when he went on to say, “Lachlan Golgow will be here today. I thought you should know.”
Lachlan Golgow was the Scottish Laird’s son Ellen was to marry in what she believed to be an inordinately short amount of time of just three weeks. She had only found out about the arrangement after her father’s death, and was still privately seething at being handed off so easily to the son of a family she had never met and, were it not for the contract binding them together, would never have wanted to associate herself with.
She had nothing against Scotsmen; she simply didn’t want to marry one, as it would mean leaving Hertfordshire and England. However, it appeared she did not have a choice in the matter, last wills and testaments being legally binding and whatnot.
Ellen’s shoulders slumped at the very mention of the man. “Oh Uncle Charles, I won’t be forced to speak with him, will I? I’m not sure I can bear it, today of all days.”
Charles gestured for Ellen to take his arm and led them both into the sitting room. Ellen took a seat on the chaise nearest to the door. It was her preferred reading spot on sunny winter afternoons when the light slanted in through the windows at just the right angle to provide a pleasant warmth on her cheeks and hair as she laid on a pillow, novel in hand. Today, however, was a cloudy, cold February day with not a lick of sun or warmth to it, and Ellen doubted she would have any time at all to enjoy a good novel. Again, the weather was rather perfect for a funeral.
“Do not fret. You won’t be expected to speak to him today. Today, you are allowed to occupy a corner of the church by yourself and mourn in quiet solitude. No one is expecting anything of you today, my dear. However, we will soon need to nail down plans for the future, for your future with the Golgows. It cannot be avoided. I hate to mention it today, but I’m afraid it is of a time-sensitive nature, with the wedding so close.”
“Can it not? Can it not wait even today?” Ellen cried, slumping further onto the seat of the chaise. “Uncle Charles, why did Father do this? Why did he tie me forever to a man I don’t even know? Why couldn’t he have allowed me to choose my own partner in my own good time, a nice, quiet Englishman who would let me reside right where I’m supposed to—here?!” Ellen said, her voice thickening as she spoke.
Why didn’t he take my feelings into account? Ellen asked herself, and not for the first or even third time since her father’s death.
She couldn’t help it—even thinking about Lachlan Golgow caused her skin to prickle with a combination of fear and anxiety. She was so scared to leave her home, to try and slot herself into someone else’s life. She had barely come to terms with her father’s death, and in just three weeks she was expected to leave the only home she had ever known and become some strange man’s wife.
It simply did not seem fair, given all that had happened. And more so than that, she was without any sort of female influence to help her prepare for the wedding. Absent a mother and with few close friends, there was no one to tell her what to expect from marriage, how to handle the relationship between a man and his wife both inside and outside the bedroom. Though, if Ellen was being honest with herself, it was the bedroom relationship that concerned her most. Try as she might, she had scoured all the books in the library and come up with few explanations of just what to put where.
Seeing her distress, Charles scooted his armchair closer to Ellen and took her hand, squeezing it in comfort. “You know why he did it. You might be far smarter than most women at twenty years of age, but the fact of the matter is that you cannot run the company on your own. It isn’t proper. You must have a man by your side, and at the time that this deal was struck, your father thought that the Golgow boy was the best man for the job, so to speak.”
“But I wouldn’t be alone! You own half of the business anyway! You could help me learn what I should do with the business. Why do we need another man to complicate things? You know I’m smart enough to hold my own as a businesswoman. Father has been letting me help him with his correspondence since I was a little girl. I know the ins and outs of it all. I know I could do it, Uncle Charles. I just wish someone would let me.”
Charles sighed, and suddenly Ellen could see that for as hard as this had been on her, it must have been even harder on him. He had been the one to call the doctor, arrange the funeral, settle her father’s affairs with the solicitors, all while continuing to run the business. Though Ellen had bemoaned the fact that she was forced to sit inside, with the windows and mirrors covered and her wardrobe stripped of anything that wasn’t black, at least she had time to rest. Grief was exhausting, and she imagined it was even more so when you were dealing directly with the repercussions of it, as Charles had been.
“Uncle Charles, I’m sorry. I know I’m being a nuisance. I’m just tired and upset and missing my father. It’s unfair of me to take it out on you just because I’m feeling this way.”
“I miss him too, child,” Charles said, smiling sadly and squeezing her hand. “But we must both of us be strong today, for him. I know you might not understand his wish to see you married after he died, and to the Golgow boy of all people, and especially to a man you’ve never met, but trust that he had a good reason. When did he not? Your father was the smartest man I knew,” Charles said, laughing to himself.
He continued, “There wasn’t a thing he didn’t understand. He read every one of those books in that library and could debate better than any Oxford scholar I’ve ever met. And you were his whole world. Everything he did, he did for you. So we must both place our trust in him, in his intelligence and his good nature and his love for you. I, too, am confused about the marriage, but we must continue on despite our misgivings. Soon, this day will be over, and you and I can retire back here with a pot of tea and biscuits and relax. Do you think you can stand it until then?”
Ellen sighed. She sat up and nodded, pasting a smile on her face. “Yes, I do believe I can. Shall we?” she said, getting up and gesturing toward the clock. “It’s nearly ten. The pallbearers will be arriving at the church soon.”
The church was filled with people as Ellen entered and took a seat in the back row. Faces both familiar and strange turned to her, peering at her as though they might be able to see through her veil to the dejected woman beneath. Ellen kept her head lowered, not wanting anyone to know just how distraught she was feeling.
She’d thought she would be able to handle seeing the casket; after all, nothing could have been worse than seeing her father lying on the floor of their front entryway, blood soaking his clothes, his eyes glassy and unmoving. In comparison, Ellen had assumed that the casket, which was, after all, just a few pieces of wood nailed together, would be hardly more upsetting than any other part of the day, but she was wrong.
Oh, was she wrong.
Because the moment the pallbearers placed the casket onto their shoulders and began their procession, Ellen’s eyes had filled with tears so quickly she could barely see. She’d stumbled as she walked, stubbing her toe on a crack in the street and nearly falling to her knees, scuffing her boots and the hem of her dress in the process. Even after she had righted herself and regained a steady gait, she felt off-kilter, and continued to feel so now, like the world was at an odd angle, giving everything a distorted, dizzying slant.
The casket, with her father inside, had been sitting in the morning room of the house. The room had been draped in black cloth by the maids while a local midwife—in fact, the woman who had helped Ellen’s mother deliver both her and her brother—prepared his body.
Ellen had been so relieved when Charles had hired professionals to keep vigil over her father’s body, as was the custom; at the time, she had been too far into the throes of grief to even contemplate sitting in the same room as her father’s dead corpse. Ellen laughed bitterly, realizing the fate she thought she had avoided had come to pass regardless. And the church looked remarkably similar to the glimpse of the morning room she’d had; the windows were draped in black, and no expense was spared in making it look like a den of depression and misery.
At least the service itself was thankfully short, the vicar giving the briefest of eulogies, as was her father’s request, him not being a man able to cope with the verbosity of usual Anglican sermons. The casket was spirited away to the graveyard to be buried, something Ellen was quite glad she would be missing. She wasn’t sure she would be able to handle seeing the remnants of her father lowered into the ground like so much detritus.
At the gathering back at her father’s home, or rather, her home, with the funeral bells still ringing in her ears, Ellen found the crowded room was hardly preferable to standing in the light spring rain at the graveyard, tossing in the required three clumps of fresh earth.
At least there would have been fresh air outside, instead of the stuffiness of a hundred people cramped into this room.
The library was indeed filled to the brim with her father’s business acquaintances, old family friends and neighbors, all of whom dressed in the same drab colors that clashed terribly with the cheerful, bright hues of the furniture. Ellen had always loved the way her mother had decorated their house, but now, the colors seemed somehow mocking given the somber occasion, as though like everything else, they too should be draped in black cloth.
“Ellen? Ellen, my dear, how are you holding up?” Ellen’s neighbor, Mrs. Brown asked. Ellen looked over and was met with wide, sympathetic eyes that instantly made her feel more comfortable. Mrs. Brown had been her mother’s friend since they were children, and after her mother’s death she had often stopped by for tea to check on a then-adolescent Ellen. Ellen only wished she could spend more time with Mrs. Brown now; but before she would be able to receive callers, she would be off to Scotland, sipping tea with strange women with red hair and odd, unintelligible accents, absent the soothing tones and sympathetic looks of the woman in front of her.
“As well as can be expected, Mrs. Brown. I miss Father terribly, but I suppose there’s nothing I can do about that. It was the same with Mother, and as I remember, the feeling dissipated with time. I just have to wait for the pain to ebb,” Ellen said, trying for a smile but managing only a grimace.
“Indeed it does take time, but it will recede, and perhaps more quickly now. After all, you are so much older now than you were then, in years and in maturity. You have been through so much in your short life, but I have no doubt you will get through this hardship too, my dear girl, and go on to lead the happy life your mother, father and brother would be proud of,” Mrs. Brown said, reaching out and patting Ellen on the shoulder affectionately.
Ellen wished that she and Mrs. Brown could secret themselves away somewhere in the house, far from the crowds of mourners to somewhere warm, with a fire and a large plate of biscuits. She wanted to ask Mrs. Brown the same question she did nearly every time she saw her: “Tell me a story about my mother.” Mrs. Brown always told Ellen the most wonderful stories about their shared childhood growing up in London, but Ellen knew such a request would be inappropriate at a time like this.
She would have to visit Mrs. Brown before she left for Scotland and get her fill of stories then, as well as beg the woman to write to her. Lord knew she would need someone other than poor Charles to moan to when her life in Scotland went sour, which she knew it would inevitably do. No one had ever achieved safety and happiness in the arms of a stranger, of that much she was sure.
Since they could not talk of the late Mrs. Holton, instead, Ellen and Mrs. Brown talked of drab, mundane things, like embroidery and where the next ball would be held and when. Ellen answered “yes” when Mrs. Brown asked if Ellen would be attending; she knew she couldn’t yet inform people of her engagement to Lachlan Golgow, not until after the funeral. It would seem untoward to be boasting of what, to most people, was a happy occasion in the midst of so much sadness, though Ellen thought the engagement was nearly as depressing as the funeral itself.
“I see Mrs. Hughes over by the cold meats, my dear, and I’ve been meaning to ask for a clipping from her rose bush for my spring garden. Would you mind if I left you? I want to catch her before she flits away again,” Mrs. Brown said. Ellen smiled and nodded, glad to have a moment to herself. Finding that she was suddenly quite thirsty, she began to walk over to a table where hot tea was being served by one of the maids.
But before she could get herself a fortifying cup, Charles’ voice sounded behind her. “Ellen, my love. How are you? I haven’t laid eyes on you since we left the house,” he said, leading her to a quiet spot in a corner by the far window of the library. Ellen looked longingly at the tea before turning to her guardian.
“Fine, just fine, Uncle Charles. A little tired, but that is to be expected, I suppose,” she said, hoping that Charles would take the hint and send her up to her room to rest. If she couldn’t have tea, a nap was the next best thing. And bless him, it was as though Charles read her mind, for that is exactly what he did.
“You are looking quite exhausted, my dear. I don’t like those dark circles marring your eyes one bit. Why don’t you adjourn to your room and rest for a few hours? There is no obligation for you to socialize any more than you already have. I hereby release you from your duties,” he said, adding a laugh at the end that, to passersby, almost seemed genuine.
Ellen smiled and did her best not to run from the room, though she knew that her walk was quite a bit faster than was proper. She sped past the various faces peeking out from drab black suits and crepe dresses.
But she didn’t care. Finally, she could undo her hair from its vicious bun, ring for her maid to undress her, and crawl back into the warmth and safety of her bed, just as she’d been imaging earlier that day. At least one of her dreams was coming true.
Though Ellen thought that Charles was merely being emotionally sensitive in sending her away, in fact, it was because there was business he had to attend to, and he didn’t feel comfortable doing so with her in the room.
It seemed there was always business to attend to nowadays, ever since Victor’s death. First with the doctor, then the solicitor, then clients, the men they did business with, and now, he had to attend to a far more delicate matter: the matter of Ellen’s betrothal to the oldest son of the Golgow family, Lachlan. Raibert and Lachlan Golgow had journeyed down for the funeral and Charles knew it would be rude if he did not take them aside and speak with them about the future, about the wedding. It was unorthodox, of course, but with their departure to Scotland and the wedding so soon, the topic was unavoidable.
“Raibert!” Charles said, pasting a false smile on his face as he walked toward the Scottish Laird of Elairon. Raibert had just waved him over to the section of the room where Charles knew Victor kept all his volumes of Shakespeare and Milton. It was his friend’s favorite part of the room, one he could often be found hiding in with a hefty tome in one hand and a large glass of scotch in the other.
Charles missed his friend already. He felt Victor’s absence with every step he took. Life seemed so strange without his best friend and business partner by his side.
“A good afternoon to ye, Charles, on this saddest of occasions. I hope ye’ll take me and me boy’s sincerest apologies for Victor’s loss to heart. A good man, he was. A good man indeed.”
Charles nodded, accepting the compliment. “Thank you, Raibert. That is most appreciated. And thank you for travelling all this way. I imagine it was something of an imposition.”
Raibert waved the comment away, nearly hitting his son Lachlan on the nose in the process. “Nae at all, nae at all. A bit o’ time on the horse is good for the soul, isn’t it no’? Besides, this is me Lachlan’s first time south of the border. Needs to see where his lass hails from, does he no’?”
Charles looked to Lachlan, who was sneering at his father. “Lachlan, I do not believe we have been introduced. I am Charles Braiser, Victor’s business partner and Ellen’s guardian. I’m pleased to meet you, despite the circumstances. Victor told me many good things about you,” Charles fibbed, holding his hand out to the man in front of him.
Lachlan looked at Charles for a moment with a mixture of boredom and disdain, before limply shaking Charles’s hand for barely more than a second.
Rude git, Charles thought to himself. He might have only met the lad a few moments earlier, but he could already tell he was not the fellow he would have chosen to saddle Ellen with for all eternity. Not by a long shot.
“Pleasure’s all mine, sir,” Lachlan said in a tone that Charles could clearly tell was laced with condescension. Again, insults flooded his mind, and again he kept them to himself like the diplomatic businessman he was. The man Victor had taught him to be.
“Now, onto business, Charles. We need to discuss in greater detail this pact between me family and yer Victor’s,” Raibert said, steering Charles’ gaze back to him. Charles found it something of a relief; Raibert was constantly smiling and his jovial grin that made it impossible not to feel at ease in his presence. Charles wondered just what had gone wrong with Lachlan; he was so different from his father, a dark cloudy day in comparison to Raibert’s piercing summer sunshine.
“Indeed. Might I invite you to Victor’s study, where we can discuss the matter in privacy? I have a bottle of good Scotch to add to the bargain,” Charles said, desperate for a drink.
“Aye, what Scot could say no to that!” Raibert said, his boisterous laugh causing a few heads to turn their way. Charles led a still giggling Raibert and a sour-looking Lachlan down the hall and into Victor’s study, trying to ignore the way the space still smelled of dry ink and pipe tobacco—two smells Charles would forever associated with his best friend. Charles could only hope the smells would never fade. They would provide him some solace in the lonely years to come.
“Now, as I’m sure you understand, I’m hesitant to let Ellen go so far away so soon. She’s the only member of the Holton family left, and I find myself loathe to let her out of my sight, let alone out of the country. And as she is similarly reticent, as I’m sure you can naturally understand, I propose a compromise of sorts—one that of course allows the wedding to go forth, but also gives Ellen some time to…adapt,” Charles said to the two Scotsmen in front of him.
Raibert nodded and gestured for Charles to continue, but when Charles looked to Lachlan, he found him wearing the same expression of disinterest that had graced his handsome face from the moment they had entered the study a half hour ago.
This face was, in fact, why Charles was about to suggest that Ellen go to the castle before the marriage officially took place, to “acclimate herself to the Scottish land and culture.” Of course, this was really complete bollocks. Ellen didn’t need any introduction to Scotland, not with how widely she read and how much she already knew of the country from her father’s stories of it.
After all, he and Charles had journeyed there countless times over the years to do business with one clan or another, proving to many a Scotsman that not all Sassenachs were complete beef heads. Victor had come back each time regaling first the entire family and then, after the tragedy, just Ellen, about all the things they saw and people they met.
No, Charles was suggesting this because he did not wholly trust Lachlan to take good enough care of his ward, and Charles wanted to make sure that Ellen was truly comfortable in the man’s presence before she tied herself to him forever.
Though he rued that the wedding had to take place at all, Victor’s wishes were set in stone, and the least Charles could do was give Victor’s daughter—whom Charles thought of like his own child—some time to acclimate to her fate. God willing, Lachlan’s taciturn nature and constant grimace were mere shields underneath which lurked a warm, loving man deserving of Ellen’s love.
A man can only hope.
“I think it perfectly acceptable, Charles. Life has thrown much at the lass as o’ late, and ye’d be right in thinkin’ she’ll need time ter get used to our way of life. Is that nae right, me son?” Raibert said, turning to look at Lachlan, who had been intently cleaning his fingernails with his dirk.
He raised his head only a fraction and, in answer to his father’s question, simply said, “Indeed.”
Raibert laughed and clapped him on the back affectionately. “Ye’ll hae to excuse me son, Charles. He’s never been one for chit-chat. Gets straight to the point, he does. Mayhap yer Ellen can teach him to change his taciturn ways.”
Charles nodded and smiled, secretly appalled by the idea that it should be Ellen’s job to teach a supposedly mature, grown man how to interact in polite society. However, years of business with similarly distasteful personages had taught Charles how to hide his feelings. Therefore, the smile he gave to Lachlan and Raibert betrayed none of the emotions rolling through his gut, a heady mixture of anxiety, fear, and the ever-present grief he knew he would carry with him for the rest of his days. Grief he would feel every morning he woke knowing Victor would not be there to sup with him and discuss the day’s business.
“Will that be all, Charles?” Raibert asked, and Charles nodded, suddenly feeling the exhaustion of the day begin to weigh down on him. With any luck, most of the funeral attendees would have left already, and Charles could retire to the sitting room with the rest of the bottle of Scotch that he and the Golgow men had been sipping. If there was ever a day for more than a few stiff drinks, it was the day he buried his best friend six feet under the freshly-turned Hertfordshire earth.
“Yes, Laird Elairon, that will be all. I can walk you to the hall and convey you back to your lodgings in one of my carriages, if you like,” Charles said, standing up and feeling the tightness in his back radiating down his legs and all the way to his toes. Perhaps a hot bath was in order as well.
“Nay, sir, we’ll nae trouble ye with our transport. Just see to it that yer lass is extended our best wishes, and we’ll ready the castle for her arrival. And do call me Raibert. We’ll be family soon, ye ken,” Raibert said, leaning across the desk to shake Charles’ hand. Charles returned to the firm shake and then turned to Lachlan, who again gave Charles a handshake that resembled nothing so much as a wet, flopping fish, accompanied by the barest of grins.
“Thank ye, sir,” Lachlan said, looking Charles in the eye for the first time that day. There was something in his glare that unsettled Charles, but before he could put his finger on it, the men were gone, walking out of Victor’s office and down the hall. Charles capped the bottle of Scotch next to him and then followed suit, walking in the opposite direction toward his rooms leaving, glass bottle in one hand, the other running through his hair, trying to work out the tension in his scalp.
Mr. Braiser!” the housekeeper, a stout Yorkshire woman named Mrs. Willow said, stopped Charles on his way up the stairs. “The guests have gone, and the girls are in the process of cleaning up. I’ve sent the footmen with the tub and hot water to your rooms, and a bath should be ready in the next quarter of an hour. I’ve also sent up some currant cakes fresh from Cook as well as a pot of tea for you to enjoy, as I’ve been told you’ve not had a thing to eat all morning. A silly thing to do if ever I heard it! Not eating with all this commotion! You’ll drive yourself to your sickbed, if you don’t mind my saying, sir,” she said, glaring at Charles with affection.
At that particular moment, Charles could have kissed her ruddy cheeks in gratitude, but, being the high-born merchant that he was, he simply bowed and thanked her, before trudging up the stairs, where rest, relaxation and, of course, contemplation awaited. A man in his position, the sole owner of a business—at least, until Ellen married and took up her half—and now alone in the world, he had much to contemplate amidst the steam and soap in the large metal tub. Tonight, Charles would need to contemplate just what it was about Lachlan Golgow that made him wonder if the man wasn’t quite what he seemed.
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