Authors: Elaine Coffman
Blush Sensuality Level: This is a suggestive romance
(love scenes are not graphic).
Lady Juliette Pemberton is ready for marriage, even if it
means being forced to marry a Scottish earl. Bored with dull English society
and ready for adventure, she never expects it to give her the opportunity to
gaze at length at the first naked man she has ever seen, and a handsome one at
that. If all Scots look this good, being forced to wed doesn’t seem so bad… If
only he was the mysterious man she was here to marry.
from Ellora’s Cave
For Jamie Mondragon for all his help.
In the Years Following the Battle of Culloden
He was the first naked man she had ever seen. Lady Juliette
Pemberton fervently prayed he would not be the last.
Standing unclothed in the water herself, she knew no lady of
breeding would dare ogle a naked man, but any lady who always did the expected
had a very dull time of it.
There, across the pond, was the most splendid example of
manhood that she had ever seen. Up until this moment, she had thought the Earl
of Devonshire’s wickedly tight breeches the height of male magnificence, but
now she realized there was a higher level.
Not being one to pass by any of life’s offerings, she felt
not one shred of embarrassment as she gaped like a rustic. A situation such as
this was simply too good to be missed.
After all, her own father had sent her from her home in
England to marry the most dreaded man in all of Scotland. And he’d done it by
quoting Pittacus. “Daughter,
know thine opportunity
,” he had said.
Well, obedient daughter that she was, she was taking
advantage of an opportunity right now.
Juliette stared into the mist that hung over the pool,
considering her good fortune. In her mind, any woman who chose not to look
would have to be worse than thick-witted. She would have to be dead.
Juliette’s mind was fertile with imaginings. Only this
morning she had prayed for a bit of adventure to bring some excitement into her
life. A naked man…yes, that was just what she needed. Some black-haired devil,
proud as Lucifer, bare as the day he was born. With lip-smacking relish, she
parted the reeds and craned her neck to get a better look.
Ah, Scotland. Here two days, and she loved it already. If
there was anything the English nobility lacked, it was gloriously naked men
without a speck of modesty.
If this is an example of Scottish manhood, then
I most assuredly have something to look forward to…
Hers might be a marriage forced upon her by the King of
England, but in Lady Juliette’s opinion, marriage to a man such as this
black-haired Scot would be far, far better than any prospects she had at home,
where many a maiden fished fair and caught a frog.
Naked as a needle herself, Lady Juliette hid among the
rushes near the opposite shore, feeling her skin shrivel and knowing she had
tarried overlong with her bath. She shivered. The water in Scotland was far
colder than in England, but not even the likelihood of turning blue from the
cold could lure her away.
From out of nowhere he had appeared like temptation, and for
what seemed an eternity he stood on a rock that jutted out over the pool—as
beautiful as sin, as perfect as the first man.
She felt as if she had partaken of the fruit of the tree of
knowledge. Desire spread its open wings before her, giving her a glimpse into a
new world, velvet black and honey gold, sweet and forbidden. In spite of the
chill water, something seemed to burn within her, some intense heat that came
whenever she looked at him, an instinctive flow of need that made her want to
do more than simply look. For the first time in her young life, she knew a
thirst she could not quench.
Yea, the serpent had beguiled her.
At that moment, he glanced in her direction, and for a
trembling instant she felt the heat of his gaze upon her. Everything within her
seemed to melt. This is what she had been wishing for—a man such as this who
would unlock all the deep secrets she yearned to have revealed. Faith! She
didn’t know her own body anymore. Everything above the water’s surface was cold
and confused, while everything below was as hot and steaming as a fresh-baked
She told herself she should go, or at least duck down to hide,
but she knew he couldn’t see her, hidden as she was. Unable to look away, she
stared back at him, and the rest of the world faded into oblivion.
And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were
Adam and Eve may have been ashamed, but she was fair to
bursting with a desire to march over and take a closer look at him. She glanced
down at her own bare breasts skimming the water’s surface. Would he find as
much pleasure looking at her as she did in looking at him?
Lady Juliette knew all too well to whom that beckoning voice
belonged, and she knew what her maid Edith would say if she looked in her
direction. Ignoring Edith, she continued to drink in the sight of him and felt
the moment shatter with disappointment when he made a perfect dive into the
pool. As the ripples spread outward and lapped against her breasts, she knew a
new fear, for now he was in the same small pool.
This wouldn’t do. Edith would persist until the two of them
were caught. Juliette sighed. It was just as well, she supposed. As much as she
was tempted to stay, it would not do for the betrothed of the Black Scot to
find herself in a compromising position with another man.
A worried frown marred her small oval face. The King of
England was exasperated with her as it was. If she angered him further, he
might decide to lop off her head instead of send her to Scotland to marry the
dreaded Black Scot.
With a sigh of regret, she watched the ripples of the pool
spread in ever-widening circles, then fade. Just as he surfaced, slinging water
from his black head, she turned away, losing herself in the tall rushes that
lined the bank.
A moment later, she reached for the blanket Edith handed her
and wrapped it around herself as she made her way to the spot where her clothes
hung on the branches of a tree.
“For shame, Lady Juliette,” Edith said. “Looking at that
naked savage when a lady of your breeding should have averted her head.”
“I didn’t see you averting yours.”
Edith looked properly dignified. “I’m an old woman.”
Juliette smiled. “But you still like to look.”
Edith shrugged. “At my age, looking is about all I can do.”
Juliette began to dress, her expression taking on an
enraptured look. “He was the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen.”
“And you saw plenty, or I miss my guess.”
Juliette wanted to say she had not seen nearly enough.
“Truly, Edith, he was like the angel of darkness, Lucifer before the fall, when
he was the most beautiful of all the angels. Such dark skin and such long black
hair…” Her voice drifted off. She sighed. “Tell me, are all Scots so…so wild
Edith snorted. “The whole race is wild, child. They’re no
more than savages, but enough of that. You’d best be worrying about the
particular beastly savage the king has promised you. I hear he uses human bones
to pick his teeth.”
Juliette laughed, clapping her hands over her mouth to
muffle the sound. “Oh, Edith, you don’t believe all those stories, do you? The
king might be a bit put out with me for talking Papa into rejecting the offers
of suitors he has sent our way, but he has always been fond of me.”
“Your papa is far too lenient with you, m’lady, and I have
told you so before. It is a fair shame, the way he has made your sisters wait
on their own marriages until a suitable husband could be found for you. Your
father coddles you overmuch.”
Juliette smiled in fond recollection of her dear papa.
“Perhaps he does, but I do know the king wouldn’t promise me to a madman, no
matter how exasperated he was with me for rejecting his previous suggestions.”
“Every advantage has its tax,” Edith said. “Besides, the
king is more interested in soothing the feelings of these Highland savages than
he is in making the likes of you happy. Your father’s position as one of his
favored earls only meant yours was the first name that popped into the king’s
head when he thought of an appropriate sacrifice.”
Juliette barely listened. Her mind was on the man in the
pool; she was convinced that marriage to a Scot would be no sacrifice. Nay, it
would be pure pleasure.
“Come on,” Juliette said, when she finished dressing, “we
best be getting back to camp. You can finish scolding me there, while you braid
“Aren’t you going to dry it first?”
Juliette looked around at the heavy mist that had lingered
since their arrival the day before. “It will never dry in this weather.”
“You could dry it over the fire, m’lady.”
“And go to my betrothed smelling of woodsmoke?”
Edith snorted again. “It’s probably better than what he’s
Juliette smiled at Edith, knowing the woman who had served
her since infancy was terrified of coming to Scotland. Poor Edith. She had no
way of knowing how the image of the naked Scot was emblazoned in Juliette’s
mind. Not even marriage to the infamous Black Scot would dispel what she had seen
With all her heart Juliette wished that the man she had
glimpsed in his magnificent nakedness was her betrothed. Even as she thought
it, she knew it was foolish to think a man as important as the Black Scot, a
Highlander whose realm lay far to the north, would be leisurely bathing in a
simple Lowland pool.
Putting such thoughts aside, she headed back toward camp,
Edith following behind. When they reached their tent, Juliette lifted the flap
and went inside. A few minutes later, Juliette was sitting on one of her
trunks, Edith standing behind her, brushing her hair. “Tell me more about what
you’ve heard about my betrothed, Edith.”
“I hear he drinks the blood of unbaptized babes for
Juliette laughed. “Tell me the truth. Have you heard he is
“Bah! As if handsomeness were important,” Edith said, as she
began to plait Juliette’s hair. “Just who would be telling me such as that? The
soldiers the king sent to escort us to the Scottish border?”
“So that’s where you’ve been getting all those horrid
stories. I’m ashamed of you, Edith. A woman of your years should know how
soldiers love to pontificate.”
Edith tied the ends of the long blonde braid that hung down
Juliette’s back. “There now, it’s finished, but mark my word, it won’t dry in a
plait like that.”
“Perhaps the Black Scot will ride into camp this day,”
Juliette said dreamily. “He will put me on his horse in front of him and we
will ride like the wind back to his castle, drying my hair as we go.”
“He is more apt to put your head on a pike,” Edith said,
wagging her finger. “You are English, Lady Juliette. Don’t be forgetting that.
And don’t be forgetting that the Scots hate the English above all things. This
bonny Black Scot that you fancy doesn’t share your sentiments, I’ll wager. He
is probably angry enough to chew logs over the entire affair. The Scots don’t
like to be told what to do, especially by an English king.” Edith shook her
head. “’Tis a pity, but I fear it is your wee body he’ll be taking out his
“Hmmm,” Juliette said. She had a vision of a wickedly
graceful man diving into the water and for just a moment wondered what it would
be like to feel his touch. “Oh, trifle!” she said. “I don’t think the Black
Scot is half as black as his name makes him out to be.” She looked thoughtful
for a moment. “Edith, have you any idea what it must be like to have a name
like Black Scot? Why, he was probably a darling baby who became a miserable man
by trying to live up to such a horrible name.”
the name, m’lady.”
Juliette’s expression remained wistful. “I don’t believe
Edith shrugged, giving Juliette a self-righteous look.
“That’s your romantic side talking, not your sensible one, but suit yourself,
m’lady.” She turned away, mumbling, “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Juliette came to her feet and crossed to the tent flap,
throwing it back and peering out. “It’s getting late,” she said, unable to hide
the disappointment in her voice. “I had hoped the clansmen of the Black Scot
would have been here by now.”
“They were supposed to be here yesterday, waiting for us
when we arrived. Of course, I didn’t expect them to be. It will give them no
small satisfaction to make us wait. They love to torment the English any way
they can. Who knows? They may never come.”
Juliette stared out into the sky, seeing the fringe of trees
standing dark and sullen in the distance. Her destiny lay out there in that
darkness. Out there, and with a man she had never seen, a man to whom she felt
“They will come,” she said, taking up her cape and ducking
through the opening. “I know it.”
“You have been wrong before,” Edith called after her.
Juliette smiled at Edith’s babbling, dropping the tent flap
behind her. She slipped the cape around her to ward off the chill.
“It will be night soon, will it not, captain?” Juliette
inquired of Captain Morrison as he passed by.
The captain stiffened in rigid attention. “Yes, m’lady,
black as pitch it will be. There’s a darkness here like no place else I’ve ever
seen. Can’t see a star in the sky, or your hand in front of your face.”
“I have found that to be true,” Juliette said, pulling her
cape more closely about her and suppressing an uneasiness that threatened to
grip her. It was blessedly difficult to remain cheerfully optimistic when those
about you were as pessimistic as spinsters. She glanced back at the tent,
feeling suddenly consumed by loneliness. Faith! She was in Scotland now, just
beyond the border, far from home and everything she knew—soon to be wed to a
mysterious stranger with a foreboding name and then surrounded by still more
strangers. “I suppose I should prepare myself for bed, then. Perhaps they will
come at dawn. I will need a good night’s sleep.”
“They will come when we least expect it, m’lady. It is the
“You know the Scots, then?”
“Yes, more than I would like.”
Juliette started to inquire more, but the closed look on the
captain’s face decided her against it. “Do you know anything of my betrothed,