Kathleen Harrington

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Authors: Lachlan's Bride
of being immoral?” he taunted. “I’ve a notion you’d never met a Highlander until yesterday.”
    She merely lifted her brows. “I noticed you weren’t at Mass this morning,” she said, making the statement an accusation.
    Lachlan wisely kept one hand planted firmly on the oaken panel above her head. With the other, he reached out and lightly traced the satiny curve of her cheekbone with the tip of his finger. “Did you look for me, Lady Francine?” he asked huskily. “How sweet of you to care.”
    She batted his hand away and moved to the center of the room, out of arm’s reach. Lacing her fingers in front of her, she tilted her head to one side and gazed at him, as though taken aback by his presumptuousness.
    “As a Christian lady, sir, how could I not care about the state of your heathen soul?”
    Though her words were disdainful, her sloe eyes twinkled with a gleeful naughtiness. She wanted to annoy him, just enough to provoke him into responding like an unmannerly barbarian. She didn’t realize it, but he was far from being annoyed. At that very moment, there was nothing more he’d like to do than toss her on the sheets of his unmade bed and have his heathen way with her.
    “And did you say a prayer for me?” he asked, leaving the door to step toward her. “For this is one pagan who’d gladly throw away his idolatrous statues to worship your beautiful body instead.”
    At his provocative words, her demeanor changed in an instant.
    “Fie,” she admonished in a suffocated tone, “a silver-tongued buccaneer, who doesn’t hesitate to blaspheme.”
    Too late, the lady had realized the strategic error of moving farther away from her only avenue of escape. She glanced around the room, no doubt looking for some means to defend herself. For a brief second, she stared at Lachlan’s sword and dirk, then back at his bare chest. She blinked in near panic.
    Lachlan took a step back, and then another, widening the space between them, as he recognized his own blunder. Hell. The very last thing he wanted to do was frighten her. When it came to seducing a gorgeous female, he wasn’t usually this goddamn clumsy.
    “There’s no need to be alarmed, milady,” he said in his most reassuring tone. “You may leave whenever you wish. Would you like me to check the passageway to see if it’s empty now?”
    “Hmph,” she replied with stubborn a tilt of her chin. “What makes you think I’m afraid of you, Scotsman? You wouldn’t dare touch me without my permission. Why they’d boil you in oil if you did.”
    He couldn’t help smiling at her show of bravado. “You have me terrified at the very thought. I shall endeavor to always seek your permission first, my lady. I can’t promise I’ll succeed.” Unable to stop himself, he took another step toward her. “Would you really have them boil me in oil?”
    “Never doubt it,” she warned with an indignant sniff, but her eyes betrayed her growing agitation. She gathered a flounce of her skirt in one hand and took a determined half-step forward. “And you are quite mistaken. There is no need for you to look in the hallway. I’m not hiding from anyone, let alone a disappointed swain.”
    An obvious lie, of course.
    Once again, Lachlan was struck by her artless attempt at deception. In spite of the fact that she was a peeress of the Tudor court, and a widow at that, an aura of guileless innocence shone from her eyes. While she embodied all the womanly graces of a titled English aristocrat, she lacked the brittle sophistication he’d come to expect.
    He folded his arms across his chest. “If you’re not avoiding a scorned lover, why are you hiding in my chamber?” he asked in an attempt to forestall her retreat.
    The countess looked down at the lace edging on her velvet bodice, her luxuriant lashes hiding her magnificent eyes. “I came on Princess Margaret’s behalf, to make certain you have everything you need for our departure this morning.”
    She lied so

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