Taming the Heiress

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Authors: Susan King
lady, was his mother.
    Angela Shaw and Mrs. Berry had guessed soon enough that their new mistress, the young newly inherited baroness, was with child. Later, they knew that the child had been born on the island and given away for fostering. But they never asked about the father, believing him to be some callous young Islesman who had deserted the girl to her fate before she had inherited the estate. She trusted them to keep her secret safe.
    But she felt her world crumbling around her. Dougal Robertson Stewart might soon realize the rest of her secrets. And he could expose their brief love affair and claim his child. No one would doubt his paternity, once they saw the resemblance between the man and the boy.
    One day the each-uisge will come back to Caransay for his son and his bride, and he will take them with him to the bottom of the sea, Elga had told her years ago, repeating it.
    The kelpie, Meg thought, was far less a threat than the engineer.
    * * *
    Dougal sailed back to the island at midmorning, leaving Alan Clarke and the others to their work of laying black powder charges in preparation for clearing the foundation pit. Intending to return before the fuses were lit that afternoon, Dougal needed to fetch some plans that had been left on the island.
    He had promised the baroness that the construction would not significantly alter the landscape, and he would keep his word. The beauty of the island and the Caran Reef meant as much to him as it did to her. In his heart, he would dedicate every stone of the lighthouse to those whose lives had been taken by the reef. He looked forward to the day when he could set in place a ray of light to sweep the waters and protect those who sailed through these seas.
    Now, with a little time to spare before he needed to return to the black rock, Dougal walked toward the Great House, the baroness's holiday home, Clachan Mor. Caransay was not large, seven miles long in all, three wide at its broadest point. The manor house was just two miles from the harbor over the machair. After the night's rain, the weather was glorious and sunny; puffy white clouds in the summer-blue sky moved with brisk, fresh winds. Here, as everywhere on Caransay, he could hear the steady soothing rush of the waves and the constant call of seabirds.
    No wonder the baroness cared so much about this place and its wildlife, he thought, glancing at some gulls wheeling overhead. The island had a strong, simple beauty. He sensed the peaceful, perfect balance of sea and air and sunshine, earth and rock. Another part of the magic of the place were its earnest, handsome people and their fascinating legends. He would never disturb such beauty and serenity, no matter what the baroness believed.
    Climbing the rise of a hill, he saw Clachan Mor in the distance, a grand stone house atop a heathery hill, with a pathway leading to a small bay and a swath of beach. If the baroness visited the island, he would walk up and knock on that door. He preferred direct conversation to the delay of letters.
    Strolling along a line of sand dunes, he heard women's voices chattering and laughing. Walking to the top of the dune, he saw four women with two young children.
    Looking golden in the sunshine, Margaret MacNeill sat on a blanket on sand, legs curled under her dark skirt, a straw hat on her head rather than the provincial shawl. She held a book in her hand. Nearby, he saw two older women—Norrie MacNeill's wife and his mother, he thought—with a chubby baby and a small blond boy.
    A fourth woman waded in the water and called back to the others, laughing. She hiked up the black skirt of her elaborate swimming costume to edge deeper into the surf.
    Then the little boy turned, saw Dougal, and waved. He raised hand in response, recognizing the bold little fellow who had climbed the headland the other day. The boy ran toward him as the women turned, calling after him. Margaret stood quickly, and Dougal decided he might as well go down and

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