Authors: Lauren Royal
FOREVERMORE by Lauren Royal - Author's Cut Edition
Published by Novelty Books, a division of Novelty Publishers, LLC, 848 N. Rainbow Blvd, Suite 4390, Las Vegas NV 89107
Originally published in paperback by Penguin Putnam Inc.
COPYRIGHT © Lauren Royal 2001, 2012
Cover by Kimberly Killion
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be used or reproduced or transmitted in any manner whatsoever, electronically, in print, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of both Lauren Royal and Novelty Books, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Authors work months or years on their books and need to feed their families, just like you do.
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each reader. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy.
Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Learn more about the author and her books at
For Terri Castoro,
critique partner and friend forevermore
I couldn't do it without you!
Village of Cainewood, England
They'd sent a carriage to take her to the castle.
In all her thirty-one years, Clarice Bradford had never ridden in a carriage. Gingerly she climbed inside and perched on the leather seat, settling the pink skirts of her Sunday gown.
Dressed in blue to match her eyes, Clarice's five-year-old daughter bounced up and down on the seat opposite. "I've been in this carriage, Mama. When Lord Cainewood brought me to live with you."
In her short life, Mary had been orphaned by the plague and then abandoned during the Great Fire of London. But in the year since Lord Cainewood brought Mary to her doorstep, Clarice had come to love the girl like her own.
"I remember you climbing out of this carriage. That's one day I'm unlikely to ever forget." Clarice reached across and tweaked her daughter on the chin. "It's a fine carriage, isn't it?"
Mary shrugged, her blond ringlets bouncing on her shoulders in the same rhythm as the vehicle. "I would rather ride a horse."
"That wouldn't be a very elegant way to arrive at a nobleman's wedding."
A sigh wafted from Mary's rosy lips. "I s'pose not." She nibbled on a fingernail until Clarice pulled her hand from her mouth. "Who is Lord Cainewood marrying?"
"I haven't met her, poppet, but if she's marrying Lord Cainewood, she must be a grand lady. I've heard she's from Scotland."
"Scotland. Is that very far away?"
"Far enough." Clarice leaned across the cabin and took Mary's hands in hers. "Can you believe we're going to a wedding at the castle?"
Though Mary smiled, it was clear she wasn't overly impressed. "I lived at the castle before." Last year, after Lord Cainewood's brother had swept her from the fire and brought her to Cainewood. "For a whole month."
"Well, I've only been in the great hall for Christmas dinner once a year," Clarice said. "I've never seen any of the other rooms."
"I'll show you around," her daughter proclaimed, displaying nary a hint of the awe that made Clarice's heart beat a rapid tattoo.
The castle was grandly ancient; the very thought of entering the family's private living space was both daunting and exciting. And the carriage was clattering over the drawbridge already.
Shadows sheathed the carriage's windows as they passed beneath the barbican. Then it was bright again, and Clarice Bradford found herself inside the crenelated walls of Cainewood Castle.
The carriage door was flung open, and Mary ran down the steps into the enormous grassy quadrangle. "Who are you?" Clarice heard her ask. "And who is this?"
"You must be Miss Mary," came a masculine voice. Clarice alighted from the carriage to see a man crouched by her daughter, an infant in his arms. "And this is baby Jewel. Lord Cainewood is an uncle now, aye?"
"Lord Cainewood plays games with me sometimes. The babe is lucky to have him for an uncle." Four stories of stately living quarters looming behind her, Mary ran a small finger down the child's tiny nose. "But Jewel is an odd name. 'Specially for a boy."
"Ah, but Jewel is a lass." A grin appeared on the stranger's face, lopsided and indulgent. "Though she has little hair on her head yet, she's a girl."
"Oh. Will she have hair soon?"
"Aye. A bonnie lass she'll be. Just like you."
Mary's giggle tinkled into the summer air as the man rose to his full height and caught Clarice's gaze with his.
Something stirred inside her when she met his warm hazel eyes. Since he hadn't answered Mary, Clarice had no idea who he was. He looked to be a wedding guest, though, dressed in a fancy blue suit trimmed with bright gold braid. She'd been told this would be a small family wedding. Judging from his accent, he must belong to the bride's side.
The stranger was tall. Clarice was not a short woman, but he topped her by nearly a head. Straight wheaten hair skimmed his shoulders and fluttered in the light breeze, shimmering in the sunshine. And those eyes…she felt she could get lost in them.
She gave herself a mental shake. This magical fairytale day was sparking her imagination—that was all. She'd never thought to be inside the castle walls as an invited guest to the lord's wedding—she and Mary the only commoners invited—the only non-family invited, come to that. Lord Cainewood had said that since their misfortune had inadvertently led to his marriage, he wanted them with him to celebrate. The sheer wonder of it was going to her sensible head. Making her giddy.
"You talk funny," Mary said to the stranger.
"Mary!" Clarice exclaimed, but she couldn't seem to look at her daughter. Her gaze was still riveted to the man's. He didn't talk funny, either. To the contrary, the Scottish cadence of his words seemed to flow right into her and melt her very bones.
Lud, she was afraid her knees might give out.
"Do you think so?" He tore his gaze from Clarice's and looked down at Mary. "Ye should gae a' folk the hearin', ye ken?" he said in an accent so broad it was obviously exaggerated.
At the look on her daughter's face, Clarice laughed, then clapped a hand over her mouth. Surely laughter wasn't appropriate at a lord's wedding. She schooled her expression to be properly sober. "He means you should listen to people without passing judgment," she told Mary.
The man grinned, showing even white teeth. "I'm Cameron Leslie," he said. "Cousin of the bride." Shifting the baby to one arm, he reached for Clarice's hand. When he pressed his warm lips to the back, her breath caught and she thought she might swoon.
Clarice Bradford had never swooned.
"And you two must be the mother and daughter I've heard so much about, whose trials set Cainewood on the road to meet and woo my cousin Cait." She released her breath when he dropped her hand. "Though to hear Lord Cainewood's side of it," Mr. Leslie added with a jaunty wink, "it was Caithren who did the wooing."
Clarice couldn't help but smile. His cousin Caithren sounded like just what serious Lord Cainewood needed. "I'm Clarice Bradford," she said.
"It's pleased I am to meet you." He looked down when Mary tugged on one leg of his velvet breeches. "What is it, sweet?"
"Will you pick me up?"
"Mary!" Clarice frowned and set a hand on the girl's shoulder.
But the man handed the baby to Clarice, then reached down and swung her daughter into his arms. "Of course I'll hold you, princess." His eyes danced with pleasure. "She's charming," he told Clarice.
"I…" She cradled the sweet-smelling babe, at a loss for words. Mary was acting inappropriately forward, to the point of burrowing into the man's neck. And Clarice…
It was absurd. The planes of his face were clean-shaven, his skin flawless and…young. The man was incredibly young. Early twenties, she'd guess. She could see it in his complexion, the straightness of his lanky form, the angle of his head. This was not a man who had yet suffered the slings and arrows of life.
And Clarice was nearly thirty-two years old. Old enough to know she had no business lusting over a young man of any sort, let alone one dressed in the trappings of aristocracy.
She'd never lusted before, ever. It was quite a heady emotion.
Her daughter was clearly just as smitten.
Clarice startled out of her trance when the whine of bagpipes filled the quadrangle.