A victim of a madman who wants revenge on her family, Fiona MacLeod is kidnapped and committed to the Dublin Lunatic Asylum. Her only bit of good luck is that the asylum
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"Are ye sure this neckline is nae too low, Mari?" Fiona MacLeod asked as she sat in front of the dressing table and viewed herself in the mirror.
"Not a bit," her sister-in-law answered and tugged one of Fiona's inky curls down a little more to touch her bared shoulder. "You will make those ninnyhammers at the ball simply green with envy."
"Then I guess 'tis a good thing my gown is blue," Fiona replied with a smile. "I feel so nervous though."
"Totally understandable," Mari assured her as she fussed with another curl. "The first ball of the Little Season is always exciting. Just remember, you already passed scrutiny at Lady Jersey's soiree and Lady Sefton's dinner — not to mention impressing Lord Sefton's nephew."
Fiona felt her cheeks warm. "Brice — I mean, Mr. Molyneux — I keep forgetting London society doesnae use first names — was rather attentive."
Mari giggled. "If that is the word you want to use. He could hardly take his eyes off you long enough to put some food on his fork."
"Not by much. Several girls were looking daggers at you across the table because he paid no attention to them."
"But most of them have quines!"
"Beaus," Mari corrected and then shrugged. "Debutantes like to collect them so they can make the best choice for a husband based on wealth and title."
"'Tis nae the way it should be. Do they nae want love?"
"Perhaps, but most of the ton do not marry for love."
"Yes." Mari paused, hairbrush in hand. "Did you know that I thought your brother was the most aggravating man I had ever met?"
Fiona laughed. "Jamie can be that and some."
"Thank goodness, he is also stubborn or he might not have stayed around long enough for me to come to my senses."
"Ye are good for each other," Fiona said and then furrowed her brows. "Jamie thinks Brice is a rake."
Mari looked heavenward. "Jamie thinks all Englishmen are rakes and dandies."
"That he does." Fiona eased the frown. "He can be overly protective." Not that it was always a bad thing ... she knew she could count on him.
"You do not have to tell me," Mari replied. "When he found out what we did to retrieve your cousin Shane's letters from the Customs House, Jamie threatened to lock me in our bedchambers." She dimpled. "I told him only if he stayed in there as well."
Fiona held up her hand. "Doona tell me!"
Mari giggled. "I was not going to." She put down the brush. "Come along. We do not want to be late making a grand entrance to your first ball."
Fiona had second thoughts about arriving fashionably late when she saw the throng of people milling about the grand ballroom of Lord Castlereagh's Mayfair residence. All summer, while she had been at her brother Ian's country estate of Cantford, she had looked forward to this moment — the beginning of a real London Season. Now that she was here, excitement and anticipation turned to uncertainty. She had tried practicing an English accent while at Cantford to no avail. Scots — her brothers notwithstanding — were not exactly welcome assets to ton society.
The uncertainty rose to alarm when the butler announced her and an instant hush fell on the crowd. Heads turned to stare, the women's faces either curious or hostile, the men with more appraising gazes.
Beside her, Jamie growled.
Mari raised an eyebrow at her husband and laid an encouraging hand on Fiona's arm. "Just smile."
Fiona took a deep breath and did as Mari asked, keeping her eyes on a distant potted palm that didn't seem too menacing. Slowly, the chatter began again, rising from a low murmur to the near uproar she'd heard upon entry.
Several young men broke away from the masses and rushed toward her, affecting another low growl from her brother. "Why are they coming —?"
"Your dance card," Mari replied, picking up the small placard that dangled from a blue satin ribbon on Fiona's wrist. "They want to request a dance."
"Only one apiece," Jamie added as the young men approached. "I'll nae be having some dandy put claims on ye."
"Shhh," Mari said and gave Jamie a playful pat. "Let me handle this."
Thankful that Mari had experience with such matters, Fiona acquiesced, smiling and nodding as names were scribbled on her card and the young men took their leave.
"How am I ever going to ken which one to dance with and who is who?"
Mari smiled. "Do not worry. They will find you, and I dare say, they will also talk non-stop about themselves, so you will have no doubt who each of them is."
"I hope I am not too late." Brice Molyneux appeared beside her. "Pray tell me you have saved a dance."
Stricken, Fiona put a hand to her mouth. "Oh, dear. I —"
"She did save you a dance, Mr. Molyneux," Mari said with a practiced smile and held up Fiona's arm. "I believe the last dance is yours."
Fiona widened her eyes as she looked down at the card. Sure enough, the last line was blank. She glanced at Mari who winked back.
"Très bien," Brice said as he wrote his name and then bowed to brush a kiss across Fiona's gloved knuckles. "Time will linger long until then."
Jamie began to growl again, only to have Mari tuck her hand into the crook of his arm. "Perhaps we should get some punch?"
"Yes, let's do," Fiona said, her voice a bit shaky as she watched Brice's retreating back. He certainly did look dashing in the black frockcoat that set off his blond hair.
Jamie shot her a sharp glance. "Doona be getting daft in the head about that one."
Fiona gave him an annoyed look. "I like him."
Jamie shook his head. "'Tis just a feeling I have. Ye ken nothing about him."
"Ye ken nothing either." Fiona turned to Mari. "Is Mr. Molyneux nae the nephew of an earl?"
"Yes, the Earl of Sefton."
"Lord Dashalong," Jamie added derisively.
"What kind of a name is that?" Fiona asked, her interest piqued in spite of the fact that Jamie was really acting the overly-protective brother.
"'Tis what he's called since he drives his team like a madman, nae caring how reckless he is. Ye ken how I feel about nae caring for yer horses."
Fiona knew. "I agree with ye on that, but how can ye lay the blame on the nephew? 'Tis nae his fault."
"Mayhap. Just have a care, lass."
"I will, but remember I can take care of myself."
Jamie burst out laughing.
Fiona set her mouth. "Well, I can."
"Here comes your first partner," Mari said as the band began to play. She tugged on Jamie's arm. "And I would really like some punch."
He glowered at the young man who stopped a good arm's length away and Mari tugged again, this time succeeding in getting Jamie to move toward the punch bowl. Fiona stared after him. Mari had the right of it. Fiona loved her brother, but he could be both annoying and stubborn. How in the world was she ever going to have a good time if he frightened off every potential beau? She glanced at the young man who stood waiting, an anxious expression on his face. She forced a smile and held out her hand. With one more glance in Jamie's direction, the young man took it and led her to the dance floor.
Once Fiona's feet started moving, she forgot about Jamie. The reels she knew, but she finally had a chance to test her skills in the quadrille and cotillion she had been practicing all summer. A little breathless, she moved from one partner to the other, flushed with the pleasure of dancing until suddenly it was time for the last dance of the evening. Looking around the room, she couldn't find Brice. Had he forgotten? Or left with someone?
"I am right behind you," he whispered in her ear as he placed one hand on her waist to turn her. "You did not think I would leave, did you?"
Fiona felt herself blush. Had she been that obvious? "I ... no, I guess not."
"Faire ne souci pas. I have been looking forward to this dance all night, mademoiselle."
"You speak French? I thought you were English,"
He smiled easily. "I am, but I have been travelling in France the past year."
"How exciting. I would love to hear of your adventures."
"Certainement." Brice took one of her hands in his and placed the other on his shoulder. "Have you danced a waltz before?"
"Nae. I mean, no."
He smiled again and put his arm around her waist to draw her closer. "Relax. Just follow me."
The intimacy of his embrace made Fiona tingle all over. She'd heard of the waltz but had no idea being held so close could have such an effect. Lord, if Jamie saw ... In near panic, she scoured the room. The last thing she needed was for her brother to come thundering across the floor to land Brice on his arse. To her relief, Jamie was dancing with Mari. Fiona blinked. Jamie was dancing?
"Would you like to take the air with me?" Brice asked when the waltz ended. "We could step out to the veranda."
With a quick glance to make sure Jamie was still preoccupied, Fiona nodded. "I would love to."
"Unfortunately, it seems many others feel the same way," Brice said as they moved to the crowded porch. "Perhaps you would care to walk? The garden paths are well lit."
Fiona looked out on the grounds. A few couples were already strolling, so it should be fine. "Yes."
Brice tucked her hand inside his elbow and guided her down the steps. "Oh, look," Fiona said and pointed to an ornamental building to her right. "A folly."
"Everyone will be heading to the gazebo." Brice gestured to the left. "Let us go that way instead."
The path wound around several trellises covered in ivy, the dense foliage dulling the light. "Perhaps we should turn back," Fiona said as the pathway narrowed toward the edge of the property.
"In a minute," Brice said and stepped off the stone walk, pulling her with him. "I thought I might steal a kiss first."
Fiona inhaled sharply. Did she want Brice to kiss her? Mari had warned her such behavior was considered scandalous. But then ... no one was going to see. It would just be one kiss — and she'd not had a real kiss before.
Something rustled in the bushes. "What was that?"
"Probably another couple who got here before us," Brice said, stepping closer. "Close your eyes, chérie."
As Fiona did, she heard a solid thud and felt Brice toppling over. Before she could bend to help him, a burly arm was wrapped around her throat and a foul-smelling cloth pressed against her nose, cutting off her air.
"Did your ruffians have to hit me so hard?" Brice asked as he touched his swollen jaw gingerly an hour later when he met with Wesley Alton in a seedy flat far from Mayfair. "I got the girl outside like you asked."
"The strike needed to seem authentic in case there were witnesses to see you both dragged away," Wesley replied as he handed Brice a cognac. "The last thing you want is for one of those damn MacLeods to suspect you."
"Why would they suspect me? I have the proper credentials of gentry."
"Credentials that also got you into Faro games you could not afford," Wesley answered, "which is why I hold your vowels."
Brice looked around the shabby tenement with a cryptic eye. "I am going to get paid, am I not?"
For a moment, Wesley was tempted to throw the arrogant bastard out. He'd spent the better part of a year in the slums of the East End, assuming the alias Walter Avery, wearing disguises, and keeping well-hidden from the authorities who wanted him in connection with his lover's death — not to mention his escape from Bedlam. Did this young pup think himself superior?
"You will get paid," Wesley snapped. "Despite these sordid trappings, my son Nicholas sent me more than enough money to take care of this ... situation."
"If I had not met Nicholas in France last year, I doubt you could have convinced me to help you with this ... situation."
"If Nicholas had not picked up your debt, you would probably be dead." Wesley watched as the young man turned an unbecoming shade of red. It had truly been a stroke of luck that his son was an excellent gambler. "Did you follow the rest of my orders?"
Brice nodded. "The girl is trussed up in the carriage outside."
"I would assume so. One of your blackguards had the ether handy."
"Good. I do not want the little MacLeod bitch coming to her senses until she's safely locked up and can't escape." He'd been plotting this abduction all summer, ever since he'd learned the girl was in town. Nothing had better go wrong now.
"Why do you hate the MacLeods so much?"
Wesley ground his teeth. "Let us just say Ian MacLeod was responsible for my losing my title and the woman who was rightfully supposed to be my wife."
"Did he not marry Mari MacLeod's sister, the Marchioness of Newburn? I remember my aunt writing to me about a huge scandal ... something about the marchioness nearly being raped by the lover of the Countess of Sherrington, who died unexpectedly at Newburn. It was quite the talk of town. The countess's lover was a suspected madman ..." Brice paused and a look of alarm crossed his face. "You. You were the one ..."
Wesley narrowed his eyes. "I am sorry you made that connection. I had fully intended to pay you in cash, but this may be just as well." He took a step closer, slipped the knife down from inside his sleeve and thrust it deep into Brice Molyneux's gut. The man gasped, clutched his abdomen and sank to the floor.
Wesley stepped aside, avoiding the spattered blood and picked up his valise. The ship on which he'd booked passage would be sailing with the tide before dawn. He smiled. By mid-afternoon, his poor delusional, demented daughter, Fiona, would be safely admitted to the lunatic asylum in Dublin. He'd made the contacts there when he'd learned she was in London. Soon, he would have his just revenge on the MacLeod bastards. If they ever found their sister, she would be a broken person with a fractured soul.
Wesley adjusted his cravat and smoothed his waistcoat. It felt good to be wearing proper clothes again. He might have to keep his alias of Walter Avery in Dublin — where he would visit his daughter to make sure she stayed an inmate — but at least he could walk among proper society again and assume his rightful place.
Wesley glanced down at the bloodied heap on the floor and smiled benignly. "You do understand, sir, why I killed you? I am sure you will agree it is always better to leave no witnesses." Then he closed the door and descended the steps to where the carriage waited.
Fiona woke feeling groggy, her stomach roiling as she fought off a wave of nausea. Her head ached and she had trouble focusing as objects swam in and out of her vision and the room moved around her. It took her a moment to recognize the familiar pitching of a ship and another to realize she was in the dimly lit interior of a cabin. But why? And how had she gotten here? She tried to sit up in her bunk only to discover her arms were bound to the rails of the bed. Panic washed over her. What had happened?
She heard muffled voices outside the door. One sounded American and authoritative, the other French, albeit with a hint of a British accent.
"Your daughter should eat something," the American voice said.
"She has bouts of seasickness," the other answered, "but perhaps some tea would be good."
"I'll have some sent down."
"No need. I will go and get it myself."
The voices faded away along with the footsteps and Fiona stared at the low ceiling. Her woozy mind stuck on the conversation. Whose daughter was seasick? The best thing for that was fresh air and a solid horizon to look upon. Someone had told her that or maybe she had experienced it ... she really couldn't remember. But why was she on a ship in the first place?
The door opened and a middle-aged man with a wiry build and brown hair entered. He set a tin mug of tea on the small table bolted to the wall and undid the leather straps binding her to the bed. Fiona struggled to sit, nearly overcome by dizziness. "Who are you?"
"Ma enfant. You do not remember me?" he asked.
Fiona started to shake her head, but that made everything around her swirl and her stomach roiled again. "Should I?"
"Such a pity what happened," he replied and handed her the cup. "Here, drink the tea. You will feel better. We can talk later."
Fiona took a sip and wrinkled her nose at the tangy bittersweet flavor. "This tastes awful."
The man shrugged. "Americans do not know how to make tea properly. Nevertheless, drink it."
Fiona took another sip. Surprisingly, her head seemed to ache less. She took several more swallows and then set the mug down and rubbed her wrists. "Why was I tied to the bed?"
Excerpted from "Sister of Rogues"
Copyright © 2015 Cynthia Breeding.
Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This was not as good as the other three books. Out of the four that are out I liked the Rogue of the Border the best #3.