Read Highland Love Song (DeWinter's Song 2) Online

Authors: Constance O'Banyon

Tags: #Historical, #Romance, #Fiction, #Regency, #19th Century, #Scottish Highlands, #Adult, #Adventure, #Action, #DeWinter Family, #HIGHLAND LOVE SONG, #Daughter, #English Duke, #Highland Castle, #Warrick Glencarin, #Family Feud, #Betrothed, #Bitter Anger, #Scot Warriors, #Honor, #Loving Touch

Highland Love Song (DeWinter's Song 2) (10 page)

BOOK: Highland Love Song (DeWinter's Song 2)
11.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

"I won't make that promise. You may be certain that I shall try every possible means of escaping from you."

He smiled. "So it's to be a contest of wills. It's been too long since I have been offered such a charming challenge, my lady."




Arrian reluctantly allowed Warrick to place her on his horse while he climbed on behind her. Her attempt to hold herself rigid so she wouldn't come in contact with his body only brought laughter to his lips.

The journey back to the castle took them past a frozen stream that twisted and meandered through the valley.

"My lord," she said, feeling ungracious, "your Highlands are cold, damp, and cheerless. They appear to be a barbaric country devoid of comforts."

Warrick halted his horse and glanced at the wide panorama, as if trying to see the land through her eyes.

"Have you been to the Highlands in the spring or in high summer, my lady?"

"No, this is my first time. I wish I had forgone the pleasure altogether."

"On my land there are majestic mountains, streams teeming with salmon and trout, and several mysterious lochs. There are valleys that in the summer are dotted with purple heather, and in high summer there are breathtaking crimson sunsets."

She glanced down at the hands that held the reins.

They were strong hands, capable hands, and yet he had been gentle with her. Could a man be all bad when he had such a love for his land?

"The Highlands, my lady, is not an easy land. Our women are hearty and healthy, not puny and weak like Englishwomen."

"Hearty, perhaps, but I would not discount the strength of an Englishwoman."

Her hood had fallen back, and she tossed her hair into a silken swirl, which drew a look of admiration from Warrick. "I will allow that you might be the exception, but I would attribute your strength to the Scottish blood that runs in your veins."

She looked back at him with triumph in her eyes. "Maclvors blood, my lord."

He suddenly scowled and urged his horse forward. She was far too clever for his liking.

Lord Warrick was a complicated man, Arrian thought. One moment he was ruthless, and the next he could be gentle. If only she had never met him and become involved in his scheme.

She felt his breath tickle the back of her neck and jumped as if he had struck her. He was a man intent on having his own way, and for the moment he seemed to want her.

In the distance Arrian saw Ironworth Castle standing gray against the whiteness of the snow. To her it would be a prison from which she might never escape. But she would try—oh, yes, she would definitely try.

"You will soon grow accustomed to our climate," he told her, watching how the ermine lining of her hood lay softly against her cheek.

"I won't be here that long," she replied.


With a heavy heart Arrian climbed the stairs and went directly to her aunt's room. She was surprised to find Dr. Edmondson adjusting a bandage around her aunt's forehead, even though her aunt was asleep.

"How is she, doctor?" she asked.

"Her leg was giving her great pain, so I gave her a dose of tincture of opiate."

"I want very much to talk to her. Will she awaken soon?"

"She should sleep for two or three hours."

"I'm so worried about her. Do you think the delay in treatment will have damaged her leg?"

"I'm a country doctor, m'lady, and I can only tell you that your aunt's leg is not healing properly."

Arrian picked up Lady Mary's hand and held it to her cheek. "When can she be moved?"

Dr. Edmondson scratched his chin thoughtfully. "I believe she should be taken to Edinburgh as soon as possible. But I have no say in the matter."

"Could you impress upon his lordship the seriousness of my aunt's condition?"

"I have already done so. He says your aunt will leave tomorrow, weather permitting."

So Lord Warrick would keep his word and allow her aunt to go free if she complied with his wishes. Arrian saw no way out of her dilemma.

She became aware that the doctor was staring at her strangely. "I was surprised to hear that you'll be marrying him. Never thought I'd see the day when the blood of a Maclvors would again mingle with a Drummond, not after what happened to Lady Gwendolyn."

"If you are talking about the sham that will take place here tonight, I will never consider it a real marriage."

He looked taken aback. "You have not consented to the marriage?"

"Oh, I'll stand up with Lord Warrick and say what he demands of me, but I will not be his wife."

His weathered face creased in a smile. "Better look to the laws of Scotland, lass. You could be more married than you'll be wanting to be."

Her blue eyes snapped with anger. "Scottish laws do not apply to me—I'm an English citizen, Dr. Edmondson."

He walked out of the room, shaking his head. The lass must have overlooked the fact that Scotland was tied to England. Well, it was not for him to interfere in matters of the heart. Apparently his lordship knew what he was about.

Arrian walked to the window and threw it open. Ignoring the icy blast of wind, she stared at the churning sea. How bitterly she regretted the storm that had blown the
off course and landed her in this harsh land.

In just four weeks time, she was to have become Ian's wife. Now she would be forced to pretend marriage to a man she detested.

She shivered and closed the window, but not before a gust of wind blew out the candle, leaving the room in shadows.

Arrian picked up her shawl and pulled it around her shoulders, feeling as if she were being drawn into a dark abyss from which there was no escape. The time was approaching for the mock wedding, and she was frightened.

What would Ian think when he learned she had given in to Lord Warrick's demands? Surely he would understand that she would not willingly dishonor him.


Arrian could not find an appropriate gown among her trousseau, so she borrowed a plain black dress and a black veil from her aunt. She had trouble hooking the back, but at last she stood before a mirror and observed her appearance with satisfaction.

The stark black gown would show everyone how she felt about this wedding. She arranged the veil over her face, feeling pleased with her cleverness. Surely Lord Warrick would be displeased by her attire. He'd not have everything his way tonight. In a final defiant deed, she picked up her ruby betrothal ring and slipped it on her finger.

"Well, my girl," she told her own image, "you look more like a woman going into mourning than a bride." She smiled behind the veil. She would show that arrogant lord the contempt with which she viewed him.

There was a knock at the door, and she wrenched it open, expecting to find Lord Warrick. Instead Mrs. Haddington greeted her.

The housekeeper was clearly shocked by Arrian's appearance. "I'm ta take you to Lady Mary's room, m'lady." There was something cold and distant in the housekeeper's eyes that had not been there before.

"I'm ready, Mrs. Haddington," Arrian said, raising the veil and putting a brave foot forward.

As they walked down the hallway, the housekeeper spoke in a hurried whisper. "May I ask, m'lady, if you are truly related to Lord Gille Maclvors?"

"I am proud to be his great-granddaughter. My aunt Mary is his daughter."

The housekeeper sucked in her breath. "It would have been far better if you'd no ha come here. Nothing good has ere come from joining a Drummond to a Maclvors."

"I will not be joined to your chief—it's all playacting for Lord Warrick's benefit. He seems to derive some pleasure in demonstrating his hold over my aunt and me."

"I'm sure his lordship has his reasons."

By now they had reached Lady Mary's room, and Arrian rushed to her aunt. She had hoped to prepare her aunt for the ceremony earlier but had not found her awake. Lady Mary's eyes were still closed.

Barra looked at Arrian with the same coldness her mother had shown. "Her ladyship comes and goes. Tis the drug," she said.

Arrian was almost glad her aunt would not have to witness her humiliation. But she felt so alone in a hostile world. She touched her aunt's cheek, and the older woman's eyes fluttered open.

"Arrian, my dear, why are you dressed in my black gown? No one has died, have . . . they?" She tried to sit up but fell back. "We must . . . leave this . . . place."

"Aunt Mary, you see—"

Her aunt's eyes closed, and Arrian brushed a tear from her cheek. "Sleep, dearest," she whispered, "and don't weep for me. You will soon be safely away from this place."

There was a knock on the door, and Arrian's heart filled with dread. Pulling the black veil into place so he wouldn't see her face, she turned to see Lord Warrick enter with a gentleman she had not met.

Warrick approached her and smiled ironically. "Your manner of dress doth stab at my heart, my lady."

"It reflects my feelings of the moment, my lord."

Warrick turned to the tall man beside him. "May I present my most trusted friend, Mactavish. He, along with your aunt, Mrs. Haddington, and Barra, will witness our joining."

Was there a look of compassion in the older man's eyes, Arrian wondered? No, surely if he was a friend of this devil he would feel no pity for her plight. She acknowledged the introduction with the merest nod. Then a terrible suspicion came to her. "You are not an ordained minister are you?"

"No, m'lady. I'm no more than Lord Warrick's steward and friend," Mactavish said.

Arrian was glad her face was hidden behind the veil, because she knew her eyes would reflect the terror she was feeling. Her hands trembled so that she clasped them behind her back.

"I'd sooner see this evening's work come to a hasty end, my lord," she said. "Could we not go on with this ritual?"

Warrick bowed stiffly to her. "As you wish, my lady." He extended his hand to her, and she reluctantly placed hers in his grasp. Something within her rebelled against this heinous deception. But she was trapped and had no alternative but to see it through to the end.

Lord Warrick moved forward until he stood beside Arrian while the others in the room closed in around them.

"Lady Mary," Warrick said in a soft voice, "can you hear me?"

To Arrian's dismay her aunt opened her eyes. "I hear you, you Drummond devil." Her gaze fell on Arrian. "What has happened?"

"I only want you to hear a pledge between myself and your niece," Warrick said.

"Well, do it and be done with it," Lady Mary said sleepily.

Before Arrian could protest, Warrick reached out and removed Arrian's veil and tossed it on the floor. "I don't even know your Christian name," he said with a smile twisting his lips. "Amazing, is it not?"

She stared at the crumpled veil and then into his silver eyes. "Arrian—Arrian DeWinter."

Warrick suddenly became serious. "Lady Arrian DeWinter, I take you as my lawful wife."

Arrian suddenly felt like laughing. This was indeed not to be a proper wedding. She was almost lighthearted when she answered him. "Lord Warrick Glencarin, I take you as my lawful—"

"No, Arrian, no!" her aunt protested in a weak voice. "Do not speak it—"

"Say the words," Warrick insisted forcefully.

Arrian saw the fear in her aunt's eyes. She then looked to the housekeeper and her daughter and saw hostility reflected on their faces. She would have done with this nonsense as soon as possible.

"I take you as my husband," she answered through stiff lips. "And there's the end of it."

There was a gleam of victory in Warrick's eyes as he took her hand and quickly removed the Maclvors betrothal ring. Before Arrian could object, he slid the Drummond wedding ring in its place.

"You give me back my ring," she said. "Give it to me at once!"

Warrick turned to Mrs. Haddington. "I believe you can all leave now. The deed is done."

Without a word the three witnesses filed out the door, then Warrick turned back to Arrian. "Now, what were you saying? You want what?"

Arrian held out her hand. "I told you to return my ring."

"Nay, my lady. I'll not have it on your finger. It will be returned to Ian Maclvors."

"You are hateful," she cried, wanting to strike out at him. "I despise you for the villain you are."

"Tut tut, my lady wife," he said, "married such a short time and our first quarrel."

Lady Mary reached out to Arrian. "Do you know what you have done, child? The deed cannot so easily be undone."

"You need not be concerned, Aunt Mary. This will not be a real marriage. Lord Warrick demanded this imitation wedding to fuel his own arrogance."

"Arrian, Arrian, what will your father say?"

"But you don't understand, Aunt Mary. There was no minister to sanction the marriage, so it isn't legal."

"Oh, my poor, dear child. In Scotland you need no minister. You are bound to this man as surely as if you had been married with your parents' blessings and with all the trappings."

Arrian's face whitened, and she turned to the man who was apparently her legal husband. "You tricked me! You let me believe—"

BOOK: Highland Love Song (DeWinter's Song 2)
11.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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