Authors: Julie Moffett
Her Kilt-Clad Rogue
By Julie Moffett
Englishwoman Genevieve Fitzsimmons never expected she’d return to the wilds of Scotland. And she certainly didn’t expect to become governess to the son of Connor Douglas, the man with whom she shared her first kiss and her first heartbreak. The man who still intrigues her…
For Connor, duty means everything. Years ago, it forced him to break Genevieve’s heart and marry another woman—one who made him miserable. Now a widower at odds with his son, he’s determined to put his heart first.
As Connor and Genevieve begin to find their way toward a future together, they can’t escape the past. Someone is bent upon revenge against Connor and his feelings for Genevieve make her the perfect target.
Previously published, newly revised by author.
I feel as though it was just last week I was attending 2010 conferences and telling authors and readers who were wondering what was next for Carina Press, “we’ve only been publishing books for four months, give us time” and now, here it is, a year later. Carina Press has been bringing you quality romance, mystery, science fiction, fantasy and more for over twelve months. This just boggles my mind.
But though we’re celebrating our one-year anniversary (with champagne and chocolate, of course) we’re not slowing down. Every week brings something new for us, and we continue to look for ways to grow, expand and improve. This summer, we’ll continue to bring you new genres, new authors and new niches—and we plan to publish the unexpected for years to come.
So whether you’re reading this in the middle of a summer heat wave, looking to escape from the hot summer nights and sultry afternoons, or whether you’re reading this in the dead of winter, searching for a respite from the cold, months after I’ve written it, you can be assured that our promise to take you on new adventures, bring you great stories and discover new talent remains the same.
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Executive Editor, Carina Press
To my beloved mom. Words cannot express how grateful I am to
have such a wonderful and loving person to call my mother. I am
truly blessed. I love you.
The magnificence of spring in the Scottish Highlands splashed across the countryside, covering the meadows in a riotous patchwork of yellow, green and purple. Genevieve Fitzsimmons peered curiously at the sight through the dusty carriage window, thinking Scotland didn’t seem all that barbaric in the bright sunlight. But it wasn’t the scenery that had her worried.
, Connor Douglas. Scottish rogue and her future employer.
She narrowed her eyes and squinted in the distance, waiting for the famed twin turrets of
Caisteal na Mara,
or Castle by the Sea, to appear. The castle by the sea would be her new home, at least temporarily. For years her grandfather had spun delightful and frightening tales about the castle inhabitants.
Huddling in one corner of the otherwise empty carriage, Genevieve peered out the window and clung desperately to the seat. The carriage rocked so badly, she was certain a spill was imminent. Her stomach dropped as the road wound around a steep hill, revealing a precipitous rocky cliff on one side. Daring a glance down, she could see waves crashing against a boulder-strewn beach. Seagulls screeched in the sky as they circled, almost as if crying a warning to her.
The carriage continued its dangerous trek around the tor until suddenly the castle loomed ahead. Genevieve’s breath caught at the sight of the imposing stone fortress. Surrounded by a thick, high wall on one side and the natural defense of the cliffs on the other, the only visible edifices she could see were the jutting twin turrets in the northeast and southeast corners.
At last the wheels lurched to a stop and Genevieve peered out the window. They were about to cross a bridge leading to the imposing castle. She craned her neck, looking up at the impressive structure just as her driver pulled forward across the bridge and into the bumpy courtyard.
The door opened and the grizzled driver held out his hand. “I hope the ride wasna too rough for ye, miss. Welcome to
Caisteal na Mara
She alighted, wanting to drop to her knees and kiss the ground, thankful she was yet alive. But instead she smiled graciously. “I thank you, sir.” She placed her bonnet firmly back on her head, tucking in a few strands of her flyaway brown hair and tying the ribbon under her chin.
A middle-aged woman with a starched apron and white cap on her hair appeared at the doorway to the castle. She waved her hand at Genevieve. “Miss Fitzsimmons?”
“Yes.” Genevieve walked toward her. “Are you Mrs. MacDougal?”
“Aye, I am.” The housekeeper had a round, friendly face and Genevieve liked her instantly. “I trust the journey wasna too difficult.”
She resisted the urge to rub her aching bum. “We stayed last night in the village, so the trip this morning was quite brief.” She couldn’t help but stare up at the castle, feeling small in its shadow. “’Tis quite an impressive structure.”
“Aye, ’tis so. And we welcome ye warmly.”
“Really?” Genevieve murmured.
The housekeeper must have heard her for she smiled. “Dinna fret, lass. Ye’ll be treated fairly here. Although for many o’ us, ’twas quite a surprise to hear Mr. Douglas had hired an Englishwoman. Sometimes, I fear the world has gone mad, I do.”
Genevieve didn’t sense any hostility behind the words, but something in her tone seemed odd. “You don’t approve of an English governess?”
“’Tis no’ my station to approve or disapprove. ’Tis simply unusual, that is. After all, ’twas the English that stole our land, forbid us to own a dirk and play the pipes. Yet here comes an English lassie ready to learn the young master. Canna blame me for thinking ’tis a bit odd.”
“I don’t blame you. It’s just that my family has been friends with the Douglases for years. Not to mention that the war ended forty-five years ago.”
She shook her head. “No’ around here, it didna. Come, ye must be quite weary. I’ll show ye to your room.” She stepped through the doorway.
Genevieve followed the woman into the castle. She couldn’t help but gawk at the furnishings as they traipsed down a long hallway. Ornate furniture lined the hall—elegant chairs with velvet cushions, beautiful wooden lowboys and sidebars. Candles flickered along the walls, held in place by gleaming golden candlestick holders. Thick woven tapestries adorned the walls, accompanied by a few enormous oil paintings of people she presumed were past inhabitants of the castle.
A gorgeous tapestry depicting some fierce battle caught her eye and she paused to study it. Barbarians half-dressed in blue and green plaid skirts, stockings and no shirts, swung swords and dirks in close proximity. She caught her breath as her eyes fell on one of the figures. Black hair, blazing blue eyes and a muscular chest had been frozen in time. The figure clutched his dirk above his head, his face a mask of anger and violence. Her heart stumbled in her chest. He was the mirror image of Connor Douglas.
She nearly jumped out of her shoes as she whirled around. Malcom Douglas, the patriarch of the Douglas family, shuffled out from a room behind her, leaning heavily on an ornate wooden cane. His hair had gone white since she’d last seen him five years ago during a visit he’d made to Alnwick. His eyes still shone with a fierce intelligence and kindness. Upon seeing him, Mrs. MacDougal nodded and then disappeared down the corridor, leaving the two of them alone.
“My dear lass.” He took her hand, clasping it with his gnarled fingers. “How fare ye?”
For a moment he reminded her of own beloved grandfather and a wave of grief hit her. Swallowing hard, she managed a smile.
“As well as can be expected under the circumstances.”
Malcom nodded. “’Twas my great sadness that I couldn’t attend Randall’s funeral.” He pointed ruefully at his leg. “It pains me so much I didn’t think ’twould take the agony o’ such a long journey. I hope his end was peaceful, was it no’?”
Genevieve felt another stab of pain. “He died in his sleep. I can’t thank you enough for offering me the position here. Grandfather’s debts were quite unexpected.”
She saw pity and sadness in his eyes. “Our business was no’ as profitable as we had hoped. I didna know he had invested everything in our venture or I would have warned him otherwise.”
“I’m not certain it would have made a difference. Grandfather could be quite stubborn sometimes.”
Malcom nodded, a sheen of wetness in his eyes. Despite their vastly different backgrounds, the men had been close friends. “He was a verra good man.”
She nodded, fighting back her own tears. “Yes, he was.”
They fell silent a moment before she cleared her throat. “I wanted to let you know that I’m honored you feel me qualified to serve in your household. I am well educated in all subjects including letters, sums, geography and literature. I can—”
Malcom cut her off with a wave of his hand. “Genevieve, I have no doubts as to your abilities. Ye have impressed me more than once wi’ your keen wit. But I should mention that
Caisteal na Mara
is no longer my household. Connor now rules wi’ what some o’ us affectionately refer to as an iron fist. And just ’tween us, he is welcome to it. My days as a laird are o’er and ’twas my great pleasure to pass it into such capable hands. But I know he’s glad to have ye here, too, lass. He thinks quite fondly o’ ye.”
Heat rushed to Genevieve’s cheeks and she hated herself for the show of emotion. After all it had been ten years since she’d last seen Connor. A decade since he’d broken the heart of a shy, tender girl. But she was a girl no longer.
“I’m not at all certain he’ll remember me.”
Malcom’s answer was quick, firm. “Och, but he does. I assure ye o’ that.”
Her face burned hotter and she turned away, praying for composure. She needed this job and a summer dalliance of many years past would not interfere with that now. She turned her gaze back to the painting and the brutish man with the dirk.
“’Tis Gavin Douglas, one of the Douglases who once lived in this castle.” He pointed to the dirk. “A fierce fighter, but sadly no’ one o’ much honor. Instead o’ siding wi’ his clansmen in the fight against the English in the fifteenth century, he instead allied himself wi’ the crown against his own kind. At first, he acquired himself much o’ the forfeited Douglas property and became a mighty rich man. But he sold his soul to the devil to acquire it. When he was but thirty-seven years old, one o’ the few surviving Douglases hunted him down. Hung him from the very bridge ye crossed coming into this castle. Gavin had no legitimate male heirs, so ’twas his bastard who eventually avenged him, bringing the castle back under our control again. Black Gavin is our direct ancestor. Looks a wee bit like Connor now, doesna he?”
Appalled by the story and yet nonetheless fascinated, Genevieve could only nod. Black Gavin looked more than just a
bit like Connor.
“I can see I have a lot to learn about the Douglas family.”
Malcom put a gentle hand on her shoulder. “And yet I understand ye do have
familiarity with the Douglas men.”
She glanced at him in surprise and saw a twinkle in his eye. God’s mercy, did he tease her? Could it be possible he knew something of the stolen kisses and beautiful promises his son had given her beneath the summer moon long ago?
She groped for an appropriate response when he laughed. “Dinna worry, lass. You’ll learn all ye need to know about us Douglas menfolk soon enough. I’m verra glad to have ye here and canno’ think o’ anyone more qualified to help Connor. A sensible and sturdy lass is just who he needs to help him teach his son properly.”
She tried not to wince at his rather unflattering description of her. “I am sorry to hear about the death of Connor’s wife. It must be a very difficult time for all of you.”
Malcom cast his eyes down. “I’ll admit it has no’ been the best o’ times. The hearsay has been especially difficult for Connor.”
Genevieve blinked. “Hearsay?”
“Surely ye know o’ what I speak. All o’ Scotland has heard the gossip.”
“Need I remind you that I’m from England? Besides, Grandfather and I haven’t heard from you in months. I truly don’t know of what you speak.”
Malcom frowned. “Ye dinna know, then. Well, I might as well be the one to tell ye. Connor was accused o’ killing Janet.”
Genevieve took a step back, stunned. “Killing her?”
Malcom harrumphed. “’Twas naught but idle talk. Truth is she threw herself out o’ the tower window in a moment o’ madness. Left him alone and wi’ a young lad to raise, the foolish lass.”
She stared at him in horror. She’d assumed that Connor’s wife had died a death of natural causes.
“Suicide?” The word rolled unnaturally off her tongue. “Why?”
Malcom shrugged. “Who really knows except the woman herself? I’ve no wish to speak ill o’ the dead, but Janet was no’ right in her head, I’d say.”
“That’s dreadful. I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“’Tis been the most difficult for the lad.”
Malcom ran a trembling hand across his brow. “I willna lie to ye, Genevieve. Ewan is a strong-willed lad. We’ve no’ been able to keep a governess here for more than a few weeks. But I’m certain your presence here will change all that.”
She ignored a flutter of worry. “I’ll certainly do what I can to help. When will I have the opportunity to meet Ewan?”
“At supper. I do hope ye’ll join us.”
“I’d be delighted.” In truth, she wished to sup alone to recover from her long journey and absorb all the unsettling things he’d just told her. Yet her presence had been requested, so she would make a proper appearance.
Malcom bowed. “Well then, I’ll just deliver ye into Mrs. MacDougal’s verra capable hands.”
As if by magic, the housekeeper appeared. After parting ways with the elder Douglas, Genevieve followed the portly woman up a wide set of stone stairs and down a long, dim hallway before she stopped in front of a wooden door.
The housekeeper opened the door. “This is your room. It attaches to the schoolroom. Ewan’s room is on the other side.”
Genevieve stepped inside. She’d assumed she would be relegated to a small and functional room.
This chamber was huge and bright with three leaded windows above padded window seats, flanked by dark blue velvet drapes. A large hearth took up nearly one side of the room, and someone had lit the fire where a cheery blaze now emanated warmth. A heavy quilt of blue and white stripes covered the big canopied bed in the center of the room. Against another wall sat a tall wooden wardrobe. Her three valises already sat in front of it. Next to that was an elaborately carved lowboy atop which sat a chamber pot, a pitcher of water, a few folded linen cloths and a small looking-glass.
Genevieve smiled. “It’s a lovely chamber. Thank you.”
Mrs. MacDougal beamed, pointing to a door beside the hearth. “I’ll send up Lucinda to help ye unpack your valises if ye’d like.”
“No, thank you. I’m quite capable of doing that myself.”
“As ye wish. Supper is promptly at five o’clock. I’ll have someone fetch you.”
“I’d appreciate that.”
After Mrs. MacDougal left, Genevieve removed her bonnet, left her valises where they were and went to examine the schoolroom. She opened the door and stepped across the threshold, her gaze sweeping across the three small desks, the comfortable window seats and a long trundle table covered with numerous scratches and errant splashes of ink. She spied a child’s reader, a sum book and an exercise book. She picked up the third one and examined Ewan’s handwriting skills. The boy’s penmanship needed quite a bit of work.
“Are ye the new governess?”
She nearly dropped the book. Turning around she saw a young boy with a mop of unruly black hair and piercing blue eyes. He was rather tall and thin, and at this moment, completely filthy.
She set the exercise book down. “Hello. My name is Genevieve Fitzsimmons. You must be Ewan.”
“Ye’re English.” His lips curled in distaste. “No one told me the new governess was goin’ to be English.”
Had no one thought it necessary to prepare the boy? She smiled despite sensing a brewing problem. “Did you know our families have been friends for many years?”