“Like a sack of oats?”
“Nay, lass. Like a bride.”
He hefted her into his arms and carried her out of the hall, to his men’s cheers and her aunt’s evident delight.
Once they’d made it out of the hall, however, Logan realized he had no idea where he was going. “How do I get to your rooms?”
She gave him directions. The directions involved a great many stairs.
“You walk up all of these steps each evening?” he asked, trying to hide the fact that he’d grown a bit winded.
“Usually multiple times a day.”
That was the problem with Scottish tower houses, he supposed. They were built tall and narrow for greatest protection from siege—and inside, they were all stairs.
“The original lairds would have housed the servants all the way up here. Why don’t you use a room on one of the lower floors?”
She shrugged. “I like the view.”
Her bedchamber, once they reached it, was warmly furnished and cozy. The spaces under the sloping gabled ceilings were filled with rows of books and small curiosities. It wasn’t at all the way he would have expected an English heiress’s room to be—but having read Maddie’s letters, he could recognize it as entirely her.
His eye was drawn to a pair of miniatures on the dressing table, depicting two fair-haired children, one boy and one girl. Logan knew them at once.
“That’s Henry and Emma,” he said.
“Yes. How did you know?”
He shrugged. “Maybe I recognized them from your letters.”
The truth was, not only did he recognize the children but he also recognized Maddie’s hand at work in the miniatures.
A strange sense of intimacy overtook him.
Fast on its heels came an inconvenient wave of guilt.
He set her down.
“Thank you for carrying me.”
“You weigh less than a bird. It was nothing.”
“It was distressingly romantic, is what it was. Would you try to be a bit less dashing? This is meant to be a convenient arrangement.”
“As you like, mo chridhe.”
She was right. Romance was not in their bargain. Now that he had her upstairs, in a bedchamber, he was eager to get on with the parts they did agree to.
The two of them, in a bed.
He nodded to her as he left the room. “I’ll give you a half hour to make ready. And then I’ll return.”
I’ll give you a half hour to make ready.
A half hour?
Maddie tried not to panic. What was a half hour to prepare for becoming a wife? A mere blink, surely. Thirty minutes were nowhere near enough time to make herself ready.
Thirty years might not be enough time to feel ready. There was simply too much to absorb.
She was married. She was about to lose her virginity. And worst of all, she was feeling stupidly infatuated with her new husband.
At this very moment, her heart was throbbing with a sweet, tender ache.
For heaven’s sake, she’d only known him half a day, and he’d been terrible for most of it. Her brain argued back and forth with her foolish, sentimental heart.
He blackmailed you into marriage.
And then kissed me by the loch.
His behavior to you was detestable.
But his loyalty to his men is admirable.
He threatened to carry you like a sack of oats.
And swept me off my feet instead.
Maddie, you are impossible.
She sighed and muttered, “No argument there.”
She decided against calling in the maid to help her prepare.
As she removed her plaid sash and gown, she sternly reminded herself that this Captain Logan MacKenzie was not the hero she’d spent her girlhood dreaming of. When he returned to this room in—she checked the clock—nineteen minutes’ time, it would not be with the intent of sparking romance; he would come to complete a transaction.
But, but, but . . .
Lightning flashed outside. She froze in the act of unrolling her stockings, suddenly awash with the memory. His arm, wrapping tight around her when the thunder crashed. He’d looked so handsome by candlelight. Not to mention, rather thrilling when he’d whisked her up the stairs.
Oh, she was in so much trouble.
As she pulled a brush through her unbound hair, shivers of anticipation coursed through her. They played a naughty game of tag as they chased from one secret part of her body to the next. Her skin felt warm and tingly. Willing.
She closed her eyes and drew a deep, slow breath. She should not be looking forward to this. She should not be imagining this encounter to mean things that it didn’t. That kind of foolishness could only lead to getting hurt.
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