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By Tessa Dare

On the cusp of her first London season, pass over Madeline Gracechurch used to be shy, beautiful, and proficient with a drawing pencil, yet hopelessly awkward with gents. She used to be sure to be a depressing failure at the London marriage mart. So Maddie did what generations of shy, awkward younger women have performed: she invented a sweetheart.

A Scottish sweetheart. person who was once good-looking and honorable and dedicated to her, yet very easily by no means round. Maddie poured her center into writing the imaginary Captain MacKenzie letter after letter . . . and via pretending to be devastated whilst he was once (not particularly) killed in conflict, she controlled to prevent the pressures of London society entirely.

Until years later, while this kilted Highland lover of her imaginings indicates up within the flesh. the genuine Captain Logan MacKenzie arrives on her doorstep—handsome as something, yet now not solely honorable. he is wounded, jaded, in ownership of her letters . . . and able to make solid on each promise Maddie by no means anticipated to keep.

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Yet immobilized in freezing, waist-­deep dust with the designated hazard of by no means operating herself loose? This used to be no longer her thought of a delightful afternoon. particularly while it appeared more likely to turn into her ultimate afternoon. Logan, against this, appeared to be having the time of his existence. He sat down on a little bit rock close by. “Say, do not forget that time if you received mired within the bathroom? ” He chuckled to himself. “What a reminiscence. We have been there all day. Made a picnic of it. We sang songs for an hour or . Counted to 5 thousand, only for larks. you then insisted i'm going for sandwiches, and . . . ” She forged him a beseeching glance. He checked out the dust. “If I pull you loose, will you promise to mattress me for my pains? ” “Here’s what I’ll promise, Logan MacKenzie. when you don’t get me unfastened, i'll get back from the grave and hang-out you. Relentlessly. ” “For a timid English bluestocking, you will be fairly fierce in the event you decide to be. I similar to it. ” She hugged herself to maintain her palms out of the creeping dust. “Logan, please. i urge you, cease teasing and get me out of this. I’m chilly. And I’m worried. ” “Look at me. ” She checked out him. His gaze held hers, blue and unwavering. All teasing went out of his voice. “I’m now not leaving you. Ten years within the British military, and I’ve by no means left a guy in the back of. I’m no longer leaving you. I’ll have you ever out of this. comprehend? ” She nodded. She was once starting to understand why his squaddies may keep on with him anyplace, and why the tenants relied on him on sight. while Logan MacKenzie took a soul below his security, he may die sooner than he allow them to undergo damage. Maddie’s wasn’t a soul lower than his safety, now not actually. He intended to take advantage of her for her lands, undeniable and straightforward. yet not less than she had the relaxation of this information: He couldn’t depart her right here. as long as their marriage remained unconsummated, she used to be of no need to him useless. “First, draw an excellent breath,” he advised her. “In after which out. Slowly. ” “I don’t are looking to waste time with respiring. Can’t you simply pull me out of this? ” “Breathe,” he repeated. it is going to appear he wouldn’t support her till she obeyed him. She closed her eyes, drew a breath, then published it. “That’s it, back. extra slowly this time. And back, until eventually you’ve calmed. ” these part dozen gradual, pressured breaths have been the main torturous moments of her lifestyles. yet on the finish of them, she did suppose slightly better. Her rioting heartbeat had calmed to a marginally much less deafening clamor. “When you’re ready,” he acknowledged, “you can start to circulation backward and forward. ” “How? ” “Just rock back and forth. as though you’re dancing. ” “Oh, Lord. That’s it. I’ll die the following. I don’t know the way to bounce. ” He chuckled. “Lass, the lavatory doesna be aware of that. ” She did as he directed, swaying backward and forward. She felt like a clock’s pendulum relocating in treacle. at the start, she may simply movement an inch or to each side, yet after a couple of minutes’ attempt, she may perhaps deal with an inexpensive sway. “That’s it. are you able to suppose water circulating approximately your legs? ” She nodded. “Then you’re doing it correct. stick with it. even perhaps a section quicker. you'll want to have your legs unfastened sooner than .

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