Morgan’s Folly
                                                                         Work in Progress - Georgian Historical
                                                                                           Coming in 2016/17


     Outrage screamed through Lily.  “You have no right.”  Her voice sounded composed, but no doubt she ruined the effect by bunching her sapphire-velvet skirt in tight fists.  She longed to run from this elegantly appointed salon to her clean, sunlit herb garden, but the man sitting on the dais would have her dragged back.  That had been one of her first lessons.
     Lord Covington – her husband – watched her with amusement dancing in his cat-like eyes.  “On the contrary, my dear, I have every right.”  He reached over to run his thin, white fingers through the blond hair of the boy at his feet.  Rather like absentmindedly stroking a dog.  Only this “dog’s” eyes shadowed a bit more with each touch.  “You simply misunderstood my promise.  I gave you my word I would not claim my marital rights.  I said nothing about allowing another man the dubious honor.”
     Fury rose, stalking her like a creature from her nightmares.   Just survive today.  Just survive today.  The repeated thought steadied her.  “You want to be cuckolded.  Why?  What if there’s a child?”   The possibility brought bile to her throat.  She’d die before allowing this man anywhere near a child she might bear.
     “I have my reasons, and they are not your concern.”  His voice became silky-smooth, and a shiver ran up her spine.  “Your brother would want you to cooperate.  Debtors’ prison would do nothing for his fragile constitution.” He gave a slight shrug.  “It would not surprise me if he chose death over the indignities of prison.  I would.” 
     She closed her eyes.  A vision of Ash, shackled to a damp cell wall, made her lips tremble until she forced them into a straight line.  Her brother’s life or her virginity?  It had been foolish to hope she’d someday leave this debacle with both. 
     Shoulders squared, she opened her eyes and met Covington’s gaze.  She wouldn’t beg.  It would only increase the blackguard’s enjoyment.
     He raised a well-shaped brow and smirked, giving his face a Puckish appearance.  But unlike the errant sprite, Covington’s form of “mischief” tore at the soul.  “Do you need instruction on what to do with a man?”
     “No.”  Her face flooded with heat, ruining her attempt to appear calm and dignified. 
     A smile played around her husband’s mouth.  “Perhaps I married a ruined flower?”  He leaned forward to study her as if she were a new breed of beetle he’d discovered for his collection.
     The movement caused his cloying scent to waft over her.  She tried not to inhale too deeply.  Until she’d married she’d loved the smell of cloves, but even that he’d taken from her.
     She bit the skin on the inside of her mouth to keep from reacting to his perusal.  Too bad she hadn’t been ruined so she could throw it in his face, but her parents had been very protective.  In the twenty years of her life she’d never so much as kissed a man. 
     Her husband’s pretty features relaxed as he sat back.  “No matter, your experience should make it more enjoyable for my guest.”  He glanced at the boy sitting rigid on the raised platform, then picked up one of the child’s curls and rubbed it between his thumb and index finger.  “Though I prefer innocence.”   
     Lily fought the urge to yank the child out of his grasp.  So many boys had come and gone over the last six months, she’d stopped even trying to learn their names.  Was this boy worth her brother’s life?  She looked down at the swirling pattern on the carpet, feeling sucked in by circumstances beyond her control.  The last time she’d interfered... At least Ash still believed his injury was due to a hunting accident – though Covington had made sure she knew the truth.
     Stomach quivering, she fought to appear calm as she met her husband’s gaze, but she couldn’t control the disgust that laced her voice.  “You are despicable, and I promise, there will come a time when you rue this decision.”
     For a moment he looked startled at her threat, then his fingers tightened in the boy’s hair until the child winced.  “Suitable attire is awaiting you in your chamber.  When you are ready, a servant will escort you to my guest.”  His mouth drew inward until his rouged lips were a red slash across his pale face. 
     She turned to leave, but his words stopped her.  “If you think to deceive me, know this.  I’ll be in the adjoining room – watching.”  His gaze bored into her as if trying to discover what she was thinking, then he leaned forward and bent a finger for her to approach.
     Her revulsion must have shown on her face, but she did as he asked. 
     He reached down and skimmed her cheek with his fingertips.  At her shudder he smiled.  “You are a pretty bauble, my pet, but heed my warning.  Do not release your lover or tell him who you are.  If you do, you will both pay the price.”

 
 
  “I’m making a list of the qualities I want in a husband. That way I’ll just score each potential candidate. I’ll marry whomever has the greatest number of points.”
     Declan should have expected something like this from Alex. “Admirable. But have you forgotten I have a say in whom you marry?” He would agree to most anyone who was suitable, just to put her out of temptation’s way, but she didn’t need to know that.
     “No,” she retorted. “I intend to choose someone you can’t object to.”
     “So, what qualities do you find desirable in a male?” He’d never posed that question to any other woman, but he couldn’t contain his curiosity as to what Alex found attractive in a man. “Perhaps, you’d like an intellectual.” He pretended to ponder his choice, then gave a slight shrug. “Oh, but there wouldn’t be any sport in that. You’d run the poor man through before he’d even raised his weapon.”
     “I suppose no man could match you in prowess with a rapier.” Alex perused her list, making an elaborate production out of studying every item. “No, I don’t find arrogance on here anywhere. You’d never be a choice.”
     “I wouldn’t be a choice, because I choose not to marry until I must. When I do, it will be a business arrangement, nothing more.” He didn’t want to think about his inevitable marriage. Instead, he turned his attention to the rapier collection near the fireplace. “These weren’t here when I was a child. When did your grandfather start collecting?”
     He studied the rapiers with a critical eye. They were of the finest quality, about thirty in all, with various grips and blades. He didn’t know much about antiquated weapons, but some appeared to be from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
     “They’re mine.” Alex came to stand next to him. “I would select what I wanted, and Grandfather would purchase them for me. Most vendors have an aversion to selling to women.” She gave him a slight smirk. “Even if I could out-fence every one of them.”
     “Now who’s being arrogant?”
     “Not arrogant. Confident.” Alex smiled up at him. “There’s a difference.”
     “Is there?” Her teasing smile undid him. She was so close he could smell the vanilla fragrance she favored. “Might I find confidence on this list?”
He’d meant to grab only the paper, but somehow ended up taking her hand. Her pale fingers were devoid of jewelry but perfectly formed. Everything about her fascinated him. He lifted his  gaze to her luminous green eyes. She was exquisite. He’d known many beautiful women, but they’d never affected him like this. He desperately wanted to feel her pressed against him. “I
think I should warn you about arrogant men,” Declan whispered. “They’re liable to take advantage of a situation.” He brought his other hand up to caress the silky hair at the back of her head, and slowly drew her mouth to his.


 All I Want For Christmas Is A Soul Mate (Christmas Anthology)

  A Highlander For Christmas
~ Legend has it that if the need is great enough, and the hearts pure, the magic of Christmas will guide the way, crossing all barriers to help two lost souls become one. Such was the case on this Christmas Eve . .
 
So begins my time-travel short story set in Ithaca, New York, but it could just as easily have happened in any small city or village. That is, if you believe in time travel and the destiny of love. Mine is just one of twenty stories in this Christmas Anthology created by Soul Mate Publishing.

     Caden's grasp tightened. “What brings you here?”    
     Now that was the million dollar question. Somehow Ariel didn’t believe he’d accept, You did. Or Your ring did. Speaking of which, where was the ring?
     She searched the floor. No sign of a box.
     “What are you looking for?”
     “The ring.”

     “What ring?”
     “The Mackay Ring of Belief.’”
     Caden released her as if she had a disease, then stepped back. “That ring was lost years ago. Only its myth survives.” His dark brows drew together and Ariel suspected that look had intimidated more than one person.
     She clenched her jaw and squared her shoulders. She’d dealt with men like him before. It never accomplished anything to show fear. “Then the Mackay who gave me the ring didn’t know it was a ‘myth.’”

     “His name.”
     Great, there probably was a Sterling Mackay in this century, but he certainly couldn’t substantiate her story. “I didn’t get his name.”
     Caden’s brows raised, and he crossed his arms. “You’ll not leave here till I have the truth.”
     The haziness had started to lift from her brain. If he truly believed the ring was lost, that meant it hadn’t been discovered yet. Damn, she should have paid more attention to how the ring had been found in Caden’s time. Her main concern had been the insurance her company had been loath to pay the Sutherlands. She’d been after a thief, not an age old mystery. “Well, I guess we’re at an impasse, because I don’t think you’d believe the truth.”
     “Ranald, take her to Ena for one of Fiona’s old gowns. I know not what garments these might be, but I’ll not have the men distracted. Then bring our ‘guest’ to the great room.
     At Caden’s comment, she glanced at the other men gathered behind him. They were, to a man, ogling her like she was a stripper. Suddenly, her jeans and t-shirt felt more revealing than a bikini. The only man in the room who didn’t appear turned on was Caden.
     If this was a dream, shouldn’t he find her irresistible? She picked up Scruffy, finding comfort in his warm little body.
     Caden stopped her as she passed; his touch on her arm disconcerting. “Lassie, you never asked my name.”
     Ariel sighed and rubbed Scruffy’s good ear. “That’s because, if you aren’t an illusion, you’re Caden Mackay, of the clan Mackay. It must be the late 1700’s, and I suspect it’s before that blasted painting because in the portrait you’re wearing the elusive ring.”
     “You don’t ken its 1775?”
     “No, I don’t, because you see, I don’t belong here.”
     His assessing gaze bored into her. “Aye lassie, you don’t.”


Caden Mackay would never bed a Sutherland, let alonemarry one. Bloody hell, what had possessed his twin brother to propose to one of the she-devils? And what is Caden to do with the Sutherland beauty who appears, as if by magic, in his library? The defiant intruder is the enemy, but she is unlike any woman Caden’s ever known, and her tantalizing curves and wide green eyes could tempt a monk. He must devise a way to stop the wedding. But can he stop the desire that makes him long to make Ariel Sutherland his own? 

Ariel’s life had never gone the way she’d hoped, but ending up in eighteenth century Scotland was a stretch, even for her. If not for her dog, Scruffy, she might have thought she’d walked into a romantic daydream. Especially since the object of her desire appears to be entirely too virile. But can she find her way back to her time, before her too-handsome Highlander makes her believe that love can conquer in any century? 

Known as The Marble Duke amongst the Ton, Garret Weston, the Duke of Kendal sets himself apart from his peers. Nothing will hinder his guilt-driven attempt to become a perfect duke.  Nothing that is, save the alluring and imaginative betrothed he’d thought dead. His intended believes-of all things-that she is a Vicar’s daughter. The “perfect” duke needs a “perfect” duchess, but how was he to discern her suitability? Employing her as a governess to his niece seemed like an ideal solution. But whose “suitability” is being tested? His betrothed refuses to see he is beyond redemption. And most grievous of all, she stirs his blood, making him forget what’s important.
Cara believes fairy tales really can come true, until she meets the unrelenting and arrogant Duke of Kendal. He looks like a Prince, but acts like a Beast. Why must he challenge her at every turn? Her greatest peril is her attraction to the vulnerable, seductive man behind the title. A match between them would be impossible. But can she show him, without losing her heart, that “perfect” is in the eye of the beholder? 
 
 

Known as The Marble Duke amongst the Ton, Garret Weston, the Duke of Kendal sets himself apart from his peers. Nothing will hinder his guilt-driven attempt to become a perfect duke.  Nothing that is, save the alluring and imaginative betrothed he’d thought dead. His intended believes-of all things-that she is a Vicar’s daughter. The “perfect” duke needs a “perfect” duchess, but how was he to discern her suitability? Employing her as a governess to his niece seemed like an ideal solution. But whose “suitability” is being tested? His betrothed refuses to see he is beyond redemption. And most grievous of all, she stirs his blood, making him forget what’s important.

​Cara believes fairy tales really can come true, until she meets the unrelenting and arrogant Duke of Kendal. He looks like a Prince, but acts like a Beast. Why must he challenge her at every turn? Her greatest peril is her attraction to the vulnerable, seductive man behind the title. A match between them would be impossible. But can she show him, without losing her heart, that “perfect” is in the eye of the beholder?     

     They climbed an ornate staircase, wide enough for three women wearing panniers to walk side by side.  Flanking the stairs stood two birds carved in some type of wide-grained wood.  Their onyx eyes seemed to assess Cara's worthiness to ascend as she hurried past.  “Isabel, are you sure this is the right way?”
     A man’s deep voice carried up to her from the bottom of the stairs.  “That depends on who you are and what you are doing in my home.”  His tone was smooth, cultured, dangerous -- and without heart.
     The Marble Duke.  
     Cara cringed and gripped the railing, unable to climb another step.  She chewed on her lip, wondering if she had the courage to turn around. 
     What would have happened if Beauty had refused to face the Beast?  He would have eaten her alive. 
     Cara squared her shoulders.  Best to face her fear.  What was the worst that could happen?  She turned.
     It was him.  The man from her dream.
     She clutched a newel post as the stairs seemed to shift beneath her.  It couldn’t be.  With her eyes closed, she concentrated on her pounding heart until her breathing slowed, then risked another look at the coldly aloof figure who stood so still at the base of the staircase.  The same build and facial structure, but, no, it wasn’t him.
     Disappointment rushed through her as heat flushed her face.  The man in her dream had golden hair, an easy smile and laughing green eyes. 
     How could she have mistaken her dream lover for this bloodless nobleman?  Granted, their features looked enough alike for them to be twins, however, this man’s demeanor held no warmth.  He was speaking to Isabel, but his gaze never left Cara’s face.  A glimmer of... something... appeared in his eyes, then vanished.   
     Cara descended the steps one at a time, feeling her way, unable to resist the lure of the duke’s stare.  He broke the connection by taking a slow perusal downward. 
     When he met her gaze once again, he had one eyebrow raised ever so slightly, as if she didn’t merit the effort it took to show surprise.

Declan Deveraux, the Earl of Worthington, is a man who knows one thing for certain - he will never marry for love. With that aim, he pursues only the most vain, and spoiled, women of the Ton. Fate has other plans for him, however, and he’s made guardian to Alex Kendrick, a female he likes – God forbid. Now Declan has to get her suitably married, before he succumbs to the temptation to make this fiery temptress his own.

Alex, a rapier-wielding countess in her own right, doesn’t welcome a guardian and crosses swords with him at every opportunity. In spite of their less than auspicious beginning, she soon discovers Declan’s quick wit and Black-Irish looks inspire an emotion she can’t ignore, love. Now the battle is for Declan’s heart, because Alex will accept nothing less.

Two stories, centuries apart, connected by legacy and love . . .
BANE’S BELIEF by Dawn Ireland     (Meggan Connors and I each have a story in this book, linked by the Ring of Belief.)

Kenzie McCleod thought the witch-hunting frenzy would never find her in the Highlands. Her un-natural connection to animals and her bothersome beauty could be hidden, as long as she and her mother kept to themselves. So what had prompted her to accept the invitation of the compelling, and wickedly handsome, Laird of the Mackays?

Laird Bane Mackay knows he should marry a woman of his clan, but none have sparked his curiosity like the black-haired lass with the winning smile. Why can’t he ignore his attraction to this unsuitable stranger whose haunting violet eyes and strange abilities make him rethink magic in the world? In following his heart, he may very well bring the wrath of the Witch Pricker (hunter) down on them all.

PURCHASE NOW.

Declan Deveraux, the Earl of Worthington, is a man who knows one thing for certain - he will never marry for love. With that aim, he pursues only the most vain, and spoiled, women of the Ton. Fate has other plans for him, however, and he’s made guardian to Alex Kendrick, a female he likes – God forbid. Now Declan has to get her suitably married, before he succumbs to the temptation to make this fiery temptress his own.

Alex, a rapier-wielding countess in her own right, doesn’t welcome a guardian and crosses swords with him at every opportunity. In spite of their less than auspicious beginning, she soon discovers Declan’s quick wit and Black-Irish looks inspire an emotion she can’t ignore, love. Now the battle is for Declan’s heart, because Alex will accept nothing less.