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Authors: Rebecca Sinclair

Perfect Strangers

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Perfect Strangers

by

Rebecca Sinclair

Published by:
ePublishing Works!

www.epublishingworks.com

ISBN: 978-1-61417-073-0

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-exclusive,
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Please Note

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

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Copyright © 1996, 2011 by Rebecca Sinclair. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions.

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Perfect Strangers

"Lass, this toddie has double the normal portion of whisky in it. Did ye not notice that when ye drained half of it?"

"Now that you mention it, I did think it a bit potent."

Connor's grin broadened. She hadn't lied and said she wasn't the one who'd drank it. For some reason, that pleased him. He leaned to the side and started to set the goblet back down on the table but changed his mind. "Here, now be a good lass and drink up the rest. There's nae better cure for the fever that's making yer cheeks ruddy and yer eyes o'er bright. Go on now.
Slainte a mhar!"

Gabrielle sneezed, sniffled, then accepted the goblet with shaky fingers. And what, she wondered, would The Black Douglas say if he found out the color in her cheeks and sparkle in her eyes had precious little to do with her fever...
and everything to do with him?

Dedication

To... Dorothy, Darlene and Shelly—my
sisters
, for teaching me what family really means. You are diamonds, each unique & special... I love you!

And to hubby... for teaching me all the things I never learned in school—you wicked boy, you... I like!

Dear Reader,

When
Perfect Strangers
was released back in 1996, I was still a very new writer. I'd already published several books, however, looking back, I think I hadn't really found my writer's feet yet. In the years since, including my well known 10 year sabbatical from writing and publishing, I've learned
a lot!
I'm no longer so green in the gills, but instead am a much more experienced and seasoned writer now.

So what, exactly, is it I changed about
Perfect Strangers
? I smoothed over a sentence here and there, nothing terribly noticeable. Mostly the hard work went to tweaking Connor's (and his relative's) thick Scots burrs. You see, aside from the truckload of positive fan mail I received for
Perfect Strangers
, I also received enough letters saying that, while the reader genuinely enjoyed Connor and Gabby's story, there were times when the Scots burr was so thick as to get in the way of the reader's pleasure. It is, after all, difficult to enjoy a story where you can't read half the dialogue! Or, worse, you have to struggle and plod through it.

Of course, there was nothing I could do at the time;
Perfect Strangers
had already been released, and calling all the copies back to the warehouses to make such minor changes... well, it just doesn't happen for a paperback original in the publishing industry. That's why I was so excited to be able to include
Perfect Strangers
as one of the titles I'm making available for Nook, Kindle, Sony, etc. Finally, I get to correct a mistake that has been bugging me for years!

Enjoy the Read...

Reb

"The good ol' law, the simple plan.

That they should take who ha' the power,

And they should keep who can."

~A popular Scots Border Ballad

"...the brave Connor Douglas,

Who is both fierce and fell,

He will not give one inch o' ground,

For all the devils in hell."

~A more popular Scots Border Ballad

Connor Douglas disagrees.

Chapter 1

London, England

February 1603

Sitting on the edge of a hand-embroidered settee in Queen Elizabeth's starkly furnished sitting room, Gabrielle Carelton awaited the meeting Her Majesty had called last night. It was to begin a mere five minutes from now.

Gabrielle tapped her toe impatiently on the carpeted floor. Her full rose silk skirt rustled as she shifted uncomfortably on the settee. The movement encouraged a spirally black curl to fall forward over her right shoulder. The settee looked fragile, and she always worried the delicate, spindley legs might someday collapse beneath the burden of her weight. Thus far had proved to be a solid, trustworthy piece of furniture.

Commanding an impromptu, private audience with one of her ladies was not Elizabeth's custom, especially a meeting so early in the day. Everyone at court knew Her Majesty was a late riser. So why had Elizabeth done it? Gabrielle wondered.

Why today?

And, more importantly, why with
her?

A noise in the corridor outside snagged Gabrielle's attention. Her green eyes jerked upward, fixing on the oak door. A distinct metal-on-metal grinding sound announced the door was being unlatched from without.

Gabrielle's pulse accelerated. Why, she wondered again, had Elizabeth called this unexpected audience? A troubled feeling settled in her stomach like a ball of lead; she was about to find out.

The dark hair at her nape prickled with nervous anticipation. Her stomach fluttered, her breathing shallowed. Somewhere deep down inside, Gabrielle Carelton knew she was not going to like this audience with Elizabeth.

Nay, she was not going to like it at all.

* * *

Bracklenaer Castle, Scots Border

February 1603

"What do ye mean I'll not like it? Och! mon, dinny be sitting there deep in yer ale, grunting vague, one-word answers, and staring into the fire as though it holds the key to some great mystery. What that hearth holds is hot coals, ashes, and flames, but naught else." Ella Douglas gave a toss of her head, sending her unbound hair swaying like a thick bolt of dark-red velvet to her tiny waist. Despite the heat emanating from the dwindling fire, the great hall was dark and cold and damp at this hour of the night. Shivering, she pulled the woolen plaid closely about her shoulders and scowled down at her cousin. "As always, ye're being a fine muckle evasive, Connor. Will ye please just have out with it? Tell me exactly
what
it is I'll not like hearing, then
I'll
be telling
ye
if I like it or nay."

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