A MARRIAGE COVENANT
Why does a handsome, powerful noble of the highest rank in England stoop to marry a mere Lady of Lowland Scotland?
A GREAT SECRET
Are the whispered stories about him true? With his shadowy past and strange behavior what awful secret does he hide? Each change of clothes transforms him into a different man.
AN IMPOSSIBLE CHOICE
Can Lady Cailin keep her vow to make her marriage happy and successful, unlike that of her parents, or to save her unborn child, must she arrange for the Duke’s accidental death?
Castle Drummond, home of Lord and Lady MacMurry, near the Village of Kirkmichael in Lowland Scotland -– April 19, 1746
“I won’t run.” A shudder skipped down Lady Cailin MacMurry’s spine, and she stared at her younger sister. “I’m committed.”
“It’s not too late. I heard another scandalous rumor about Duke Avondale.” Lady Megan MacMurry grasped Cailin’s arm.
“I won’t listen to gossip.” Cailin pulled away from her sister and lifted her wedding bouquet to inhale the white rose fragrance. If only the sweet scent could overcome Megan’s words, and her own misgivings. Though most arranged marriages turned out badly, surely God would give her a loving one. After all, since her earliest years, she’d prayed for a happily-ever-after love.
“Ask yourself why such a grand noble would stoop to marry a Scottish lass with but the title Lady? Why did he not choose an English Duchess or Marchioness or even a Countess?” Megan tilted her head and lifted elegant brows.
Why indeed? Cailin clutched her enormous diamond engagement necklace. The thing felt heavy with responsibility.
“The man’s an English duke. He owns palaces all over England.” Megan planted her hands on her slender, mossy-green silk covered hips. “Every noble lass in the land should be offering to give her right arm to be in your shoes. And yet they are not.”
New knots formed in the nape of Cailin’s neck. She held her finger to her lips. “Too late to turn back now. The wedding chorus has begun.” She forced her feet to take the first step and then began the slow glide from the stone castle’s rear archway through the garden toward the rose arbor.
With a jerk, Megan lifted and straightened Cailin’s cumbersome satin train. “In truth, beyond his wealth and titles, our family knows little about the English Duke.” She gathered up her own long skirts, and ran ahead to lead Cailin down the flower-strewn path.
Seven bridesmaids stopped giggling and chatting and moved to their places in front of Megan to head the procession.
Beneath her veil, Cailin smoothed her frown.
Papa had chosen to take this path in light of the violent upheaval following England’s latest battle with the Highlanders. Her marriage to the Duke would shelter her family with his great cloak of protection. Neither the English nor the Scots would dare invade a castle guarded by the powerful Duke’s Coat of Arms.
More goosebump fingers shivered her spine. Surely jealousy fueled the flagrant tittle-tattle. She pulled in a deep breath, straightened her shoulders, and took measured steps in time to the music toward the loch gleaming in the late afternoon sunlight. She would not let whispers spoil her wedding. She laid her hand lightly on her father’s offered arm.
Their procession passed the scores of guests assembled on both sides of the flowered path. Ahead her groom stood beneath the rose bower, sunlight from the loch gleaming on him, the pastor, and his groomsman.
Her heart fluttered.
The Duke looked the perfect picture of manhood. He towered above his shorter groomsman and the pastor. Sun glinting off his iceberg blue satin coat, heavily laced with gold, almost blinded her. His chocolate eyes gazed past the dazzling crowd of guests and focused on her. Beneath those beckoning eyes, the straight bridge of his nose above softly smiling lips formed the most handsome face she’d ever seen. Her pulse quickened. Butterflies flitted from her stomach to her heart and back.
As she reached her groom and the chamber music died, her high-heeled slippers sunk into the grassy moor, but her foreboding dissolved like fog before the sunshine.
The rose bower in the garden where she and the Duke stood together and promised their fidelity was pure romance with its lush greenery, heavy scent of roses, and panorama of softly rolling, newly green glen. Though she didn’t know the man she wed, she repeated with all her heart to love, honor, and obey him as long as she should live.
Marrying a man one had barely met happened more often than not to daughters of Lords. So why were her knees shaking? Her attractive groom, with his mahogany hair, wide shoulders, and square jaw, held her hand gently in his warm, strong grasp. Rumors were just rumors, and, truth be told, if he were not perfect, neither was she.
A breeze loosened strands of brown hair from the gold band that tied the thick mass neatly behind his muscular neck to dance around his face.
She was glad he had not powdered his hair. Her throat tightened. Loving him would be easy.
Oh God, please let him love me.
She would love him so greatly, with everything inside her heart. Surely he would love her in return. She would work hard to make certain her marriage turned out differently from Mums. There would be no coldness, nor violent arguments between her and her grand Duke. No sleeping in separate parts of the castle. No making their daughters’ lives miserable with the dislike they bore one another.
As the magnificent sunset painted him gold, the Duke’s chestnut eyes stared into hers with promise, his inviting lips tipped upwards at the corners, and his demeanor was affectionate and approving.
Joy burst through her chest, and she gave him a brilliant smile. Yes, her marriage would be happy. A storybook marriage like Cinderella’s.
The English parson the Duke had brought with him raised a hand in blessing. “I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride.”
She handed her heavy bouquet of roses and lilies to Megan and tipped her chin up.
The tall, lithe, young Duke stepped forward and lifted her expensive Brussels veil. She was so very fortunate he was not old.
She closed her eyes.
He touched his lips to hers.
Oh! Her eyes flew open. The bridal kiss had been so short…and disappointing. The pledge in his gaze had led her to expect so much more. She frowned. Their first kiss was like melding lips with someone on stage, acting a part.
He dropped his arms and moved back.
She’d scarcely been around men, and the Duke was a stranger. She frowned. And his kiss had held so little promise.
A terrifying thought swirled through her brain like a ghost. Since Papa had betrothed Megan to a cruel man, what type of man had he selected for her? Were safety and titles and lands more important to Papa than both his daughters’ happiness?
ANNE GREENE BIO
ANNE GREENE delights in writing about wounded heroes and gutsy heroines. Her second novel, a Scottish historical, Masquerade Marriage, won the New England Reader Choice award, the Laurel Wreath Award, and the Heart of Excellence Award. The sequel Marriage By Arrangement released in December, 2013. A Texas Christmas Mystery also won several awards. She makes her home in McKinney, Texas. Tim LaHaye led her to the Lord when she was twenty-one and Chuck Swindoll is her Pastor. View Anne’s travel pictures and art work at http://www.AnneGreeneAuthor.com. Anne’s highest hope is that her stories transport the reader to an awesome new world and touch hearts to seek a deeper spiritual relationship with the Lord Jesus. Buy Anne’s books at http://www.PelicanBookGroup.com. Or at http://www.Amazon.com.
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