Friday, June 22, 2018

Kissing the Lass

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Kissing the Lass
A MacGregor and Other Trents Novel


Anagburn Manor, Bonnybridge, Scotland - 1815

Happiness and melancholy lingered within Arabella MacGregor’s heart. Oh, she was overjoyed that Uncle Aiden had fallen in love and married Rose, the former Dowager Countess of Bentley. However, as much as Arabella was enjoying her uncle and new aunt’s wedding celebration, her disappointment lay in the fact that none of the bachelors in attendance had given her any further consideration or attention beyond a polite greeting when they arrived.
Why didn’t any of them wish to engage her in conversation in the manner in which Camden Breckenridge was conversing with Rhona Murry? They were so focused on each other that they barely acknowledged that anyone else was present? Arabella wasn’t so unattractive, was she? Or was Uncle Aiden correct in that no man would be interested in her because she preferred golfing and falcons to any other genteel entertainments?
Well, if that was the case, she’d rather do without those men anyway. Besides, falcons were much preferable to be around. They didn’t order her about.
 “Who is that?” Sheena, her younger cousin, asked as she reached Arabella.
Arabella glanced around. “Who is who?”
“The man who just arrived. He’s speakin’ with Davina.” Sheena pointed to her older sister who was standing at the entrance leading from the ballroom to the terrace.
Goodness. She’d thought Camden was handsome, but the man who stood with Davina put every other fellow at the wedding to shame.
“I wonder where Davina is takin’ him?” Sheena asked after the two disappeared inside.
“Perhaps he’s lost and in need of direction.” Though Arabella hoped he wouldn’t leave too soon.
“Possibly,” Sheena agreed thoughtfully. “Though a servant could have provided any direction and wouldna require the attention of my sister.” At that, Sheena let out a sigh. “I’m not enjoyin’ myself as much as I enjoyed the ball.”
“Neither am I,” Arabella admitted.
“Why doona the men ask us to dance? We were barely without a partner at the ball, but not one man has asked me today.”
A few weeks ago, Uncle Aiden had held a ball with the intention of making matches for his nieces. Though Arabella and Sheena had danced nearly every set, not one man had come to call in the days that followed.
Arabella glanced around at their guests and frowned. “Apparently Uncle Aiden’s plans did work out well, just not for us. Did ye note how many of the bachelors appear to be courtin’ other lasses.”
“Aye,” Sheena agreed with disappointment. “Perhaps we’ll find someone in London.”
Now that the former Rose Trent was married to Uncle Aiden, their new aunt intended to take Arabella, along with her cousins, Sheena and Davina to London next season. As thrilling as the holiday might sound, and as much as she wished to visit London, Arabella did not want to end up with an English husband. “Why must it be London?” Arabella found herself asking.
Sheena tilted her head and stared at Arabella as if she were daft. “It’s where the Season is held.”
Of course she knew that. “What of Edinburgh instead?” Arabella warmed to the very idea the more she considered the option. “We’ve visited Edinburgh only a few times, doona ye think we should become more familiar with what Scotland has to offer over the English?”
“I suppose…” Sheena answered in confusion.
“Fanella and Jesse Grant have both had at least two Seasons and not come away with a groom. Why should it be any different for us?”
“Aye, but their sister, Mary, found a groom right away.”
“And, she’s not been home since,” Arabella reminded her cousin. “I have no wish to be so far from my family or Scotland.”
Sheena opened her mouth to speak, but no words were spoken. Then she frowned.
“Besides, doona ye wish to see New Town? So much has been built since we last visited, at least according to Donovan.”
Donovan was Arabella’s oldest brother and loved to tell her of his visits to Edinburgh. He often traveled there for financial reasons, but his description of the newer shopping thoroughfares made Arabella fairly itch to explore. Which shouldn’t be a surprise as they rarely left Annagburn, let alone the town of Bonnybridge. Any place outside of her narrow world sounded exciting—especially London, as long as she could manage to visit and not end up with an English husband. But, she feared Rose had every intention of seeing her new nieces married next spring.
“Rose spoke of the lovely shops she visited.”
“And that is what we shall do,” Arabella determined. “Convince Rose to allow us a Season in Edinburgh instead of London.”
Again Sheena frowned. “Does Edinburgh even have a season?”
Arabella dismissed her with a wave of her hand. “It matters not. There are still lairds, ladies and all manner of gentry who live there who also hold balls. Uncle Aiden is well connected, as is Rose, so we shouldna have any difficulty obtainin’ invitations. And, if Edinburgh doesna favor us, then we will travel to London the followin’ year.” Though, Arabella was determined to find a husband in Edinburgh. She could not, under any circumstances, marry a man from England. She was a Scot and she was determined to remain in Scotland.
“If ye say so,” Sheena finally agreed, though she clearly did not hold the same convictions as Arabella.
“Who do ye believe he is?” Sheena asked after a moment and nodded to the back of the manor.
Arabella turned her head. Davina had just appeared with the stranger once again.
“Instead of wonderin’, I believe I will find out for myself.” With that, she picked up the hem of her skirts, walked past Camden and Rhona, whom she completely ignored, and made her way toward her cousin and the very handsome stranger.


Nobody at Grant Manor had warned Lord Gideon Trent that he’d be walking in on a wedding celebration when he arrived at Anagburn Manor. However, this wasn’t like any wedding breakfast he’d ever attended. It more resembled a picnic or house party. Tables were loaded with food, couples danced on the terrace, families sat beneath trees or on blankets and some guests participated in croquet. Though he spotted a few Trents among the guests, he had not seen John or Elizabeth since he arrived.
Why were they attending a wedding when their step-mother had been kidnapped? Shouldn’t they be looking for her? Unless, she’d been found. If that were the case, this had been a wasted trip.
A lovely brunette with dark brown eyes approached. “May I help ye?”
“I need to speak with Mr. John Trent,” he announced. “I was told he’d be here.”
“And ye are?”
“My pardon.” He bowed quickly. “Lord Gideon Trent.”
Her dark eyebrows rose in an instant reaction. “There are more of ye? I thought all the Trents were here.”
 “A distant, distant relative, I assure you.” He chuckled.
“It’s a pleasure to make yer acquaintance.” She dropped into a quick curtsey. “I am Miss Davina MacGregor.”
“I happened to be in the area when I learned my cousins were here, and I do need a word with John, if it is convenient.” He couldn’t very well tell her the truth, though he’d like to find John so he could address the reason he’d been sent north and then be gone. “I apologize. I did not realize I would be interrupting a celebration.”
Miss MacGregor grinned. “My uncle, Aiden MacGregor married Rose Trent today.”
Gideon blinked, Rose Trent as in Lady Bentley? The woman who had been kidnapped almost a month ago and now she’d just married some Scot? How the blazes had that occurred? Then again, matrimony did tend to move quicker in Scotland since they didn’t require three weeks of reading of the banns or a special license. But how had Lady Bentley gone from being kidnapped to being a bride in so short of time?
The young woman slipped her hand into the crook of his arm and led him back inside.
“Did ye come to help rescue her?” Miss MacGregor whispered the question.
So, this young woman knew of the kidnapping, but Gideon was not ready to reveal what he knew of the matter. “I’m certain I don’t know what you mean.”
“Ye are a poor liar, Lord Gideon.” She laughed. “But Rose is no longer in need of rescuin’ and is quiet happy with her circumstances.”
Actually, he was a very good liar. Or had been at one time, but as he’d put his former professions behind him, Gideon no longer schooled his features as he once had. There was no reason to hide his thoughts any longer. “If you don’t mind, I’d rather confirm your observation with my cousins.”
“Of course.” She smiled. “But how did ye even ken…?” As she trailed off, her dark eyes grew wide. “Ye received the letter, dinna ye?”
Miss MacGregor knew far more than she should, unless the Trents had already told her everything. Or she had been part of the kidnapping, which Gideon found rather ridiculous to contemplate. But she did speak the truth. His family had received the ransom demand intended for Bentley, the dowager’s step-son, which was the only reason Gideon knew about the kidnapping in the first place. Gideon cleared his throat. “We may have received a certain correspondence.”
“Aye, well it was my foolish brother who delivered it. But it has all worked out well.”
Her brother? The MacGregors had kidnapped Lady Bentley? “Worked out well?” he nearly choked.
“Aye. The two are married, as ye can see, and there is no need to rescue anyone.”
In the few years that he’d worked for the Home Office, Gideon had never come across such a bizarre set of circumstances. “Forgive me if I don’t simply take your word on the matter.”
“Of course. Yer cousins are out there, though I suspect most of them are over by the distillery tastin’ whisky.” She smiled and then led him back to the terrace.
“Davina, would ye care to introduce me to our new guest?”
Gideon glanced toward the sweet, lyrical voice and forgot to breathe. Auburn curls framed a delicate face, gentle brow, full lips and the bluest eyes he’d ever encountered.
“Arabella, this is Lord Gideon Trent, he is searchin’ for John Trent.” Miss MacGregor turned to Gideon. “My cousin, Miss Arabella MacGregor.”
The young woman dipped a quick curtsey as Gideon bowed, unable to take his eyes from her.
“Would ye be a dear and help Lord Gideon find John?” Miss MacGregor asked her cousin. “I need to speak with the cook.”
“Of course,” Miss Arabella assured her and then offered her arm to Gideon.