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The Laird Takes a Bride

By:Lisa Berne

The Laird Takes a Bride, - Lisa Berne

Chapter 1





The stronghold of clan Douglass

Near Wick Bay, Scotland

1811



It was Fiona Douglass’s seventy-first wedding.

To be precise, it was her seventy-first time attending a wedding.

When you belonged to a large and thriving clan, there were naturally a lot of weddings to go to and the total number was bound to be high, especially if you weren’t a giddy girl any longer, but—to put it politely—a lady of considerable maturity.

So: seventy-one weddings for Fiona.

The details had long begun to blur, of course, but there were certain ceremonies that stood out in her mind.

Today would be memorable because her youngest sister, Rossalyn, was getting married.

Two years ago, in this very church, a spectacular brawl had erupted at the altar when the bridegroom’s twin brother (already roaring drunk) had lunged forward, seized the hapless bride, and tried to carry her off. A wild melee ensued as several other men (also already drunk) had, with joyful shouts, joined in. Forty-five minutes later, the combatants subdued by brute force and the bride’s veil hastily repaired, the ceremony had proceeded without further incident, the chastened, bloodied twin the very first to warmly shake his brother’s hand.

It was also in this church that three years ago Fiona had attended the wedding of her younger sister Dallis.

Seven years ago, old Mrs. Gibbs, aged ninety-eight and heartily disliked by nearly everyone in the entire clan, had loudly expired just before the vows were spoken. The general agreement was that she’d done it deliberately in a last triumphant bid for attention, and that she was likely chuckling up in heaven (or down below in the other place) because afterwards, as her corpse was being removed, her pet ferret had crawled out from a pocket in her skirt and dashed up the towering headdress of a haughty dowager from Glasgow, from which vantage point it had leaped gracefully onto the shoulder of Fiona’s own mother, who had screamed and then fainted, sending the bride into hysterics and several small boys into paroxysms of noisy laughter, thereby provoking Fiona’s father, the mighty chieftain of clan Douglass, into a fury so awful that the wedding was quietly called off and no one dared to partake of the gargantuan feast laid out in the Great Hall, resulting, of course, in a great deal of secret rejoicing in the servants’ hall for at least three days after that. The ferret was never seen again.

Eight years ago, it had rained so hard during the wedding of Fiona’s cousin Christie that the church had begun to leak in (Fiona had counted) fourteen places and quite a few hats had been ruined.

And nine years ago—why, nine years ago Fiona had watched as her younger sister Nairna had married the love of her life.

The love of Fiona’s life.

Fiona had never told Nairna that. She knew that seventeen-year-old Nairna was madly in love with Logan Munro, and as for Logan, who could fault him for preferring sweet Nairna Douglass, as soft and playful as a kitten, petite and rounded in all the right places and with masses of dark curls that framed her piquant little face most fetchingly? Who wouldn’t prefer Nairna to Fiona, at eighteen painfully thin and gawky and oversensitive, who blurted things out and tripped over her own feet? Especially since, at that moment in time, Nairna’s dowry had been substantially greater than Fiona’s.

It all made total sense.

Even back then, in the darkest period of her devastation, Fiona hadn’t been able to summon resentment or hostility toward Nairna, whom she had loved—still loved—with the fierce, protective devotion of an oldest sister for her younger siblings.

To be sure, there was a secret part of her, a sad and cowardly part, that would have driven her far from home on this lovely summer’s day, where she wouldn’t be forced to look upon Logan Munro’s handsome face, but to this desire she hadn’t succumbed; wild horses couldn’t have kept her from attending Rossalyn’s wedding. She had, though, slid inconspicuously into the very last pew. She did this also as a kindness to her fellow guests. Even with her hair twisted into smooth braids, all coiled together and set low on her nape, she was so tall that she could easily block the view of others behind her. Nonetheless, and thanks to her accursed height, she could plainly see Logan where he sat, several pews away, next to Nairna.

Logan’s hair was still black as a raven’s wing, still thick. His shoulders were still broad and heavily muscled beneath the fine mulberry-colored fabric of his fashionable coat.

And, Fiona realized, a heart could still physically hurt, could ache painfully within one’s breast, even after nine long years.

She made herself look away from Logan.

Instead she gazed down at her hands, loosely clasped in her lap. Hands that weren’t white as they ought to be, fingers that were a little coarsened by riding without gloves, by long hours working in her garden.

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