Meghan Innes had no wish to marry a goat. If for no other reason than that, she looked about the hall full of bachelors with a speculative eye. Though she was not interested in marrying just yet, her father had threatened her with a livestock wedding if she did not choose a suitable husband. Two days before, her father had announced they would travel to Earl Seamus Graham’s small keep to participate in the Mayday celebrations. Since Oengus Innes rarely participated in such festivities, Meghan asked him why they were going.
“D’ye think I need a reason?” he asked sourly.
“Nay, but ye usually have one,” Meghan replied, well used to his brusqueness.
Oengus laughed at that. “Aye, I’m no the type of man to gad about wi’out a purpose, am I? I want to take a look at Seamus’ new breeding stock. I hear he’s a new stallion from France.”
Meghan nodded. Innesbrook, her family home, had a reputation for breeding strong horses.
“Oh, I though we might as well see about gettin’ ye a husband. ‘Tis well past time ye were wed. I need an heir and the clan needs a future leader.”
“I’m your heir,” Meghan mumbled to herself but her father had a hunter’s ears.
“Aye, but no Scot worth his salt would follow a woman into battle.” Oengus’ lips twisted with suppressed rage and grief. “I’ll no find a man to replace your brothers, but mayhap I can raise another to do the job.”
He turned his shrewd gaze on her. “Ye’ll provide me that heir before I die and I’ll train him to lead clan Innes.”
Meghan turned away before she sighed so her father would not hear its frustration. Since the death of her brothers, her father had become obsessed with obtaining an heir and though she felt she had well proven herself as an administrator and leader, the very fact that she was a woman invalidated her successes in her father’s eyes.
Thus here she was, dressed in a new gown with her wild copper curls clean and neatly brushed for once, her mother’s necklace of silver at her neck: a fit prize for an eligible bachelor. No, a trussed goose for a hungry wolf. Meghan laughed at the thought.
“Is it a joke worth sharing?” a deep voice rumbled in her ear.
Swallowing her laughter, Meghan spun around, her grey eyes wide with surprise. Before her stood Black William. Though she’d never before met him, indeed, had never seen him before tonight, her cousins had pointed him out to her earlier. He was a profligate flirt and a ne’er-do-well of uncertain family, so she was led to believe.
Meghan inspected him from head to toe. Black William was a tall, broad-shouldered man. He wore an indiscriminate hunting plaid of muted browns and greens which displayed comely legs, firm with muscle. His nose was crooked, as if it had been broken one too many times and his hair was the intense black of a moonless night, hopelessly rumpled, but thick and glossy. A handsome enough man, she thought, until she looked in his eyes and was mesmerized. The cool green of summer grass after a storm, his eyes fair glittered with life. Flecked with gold and silver and fringed with inky black lashes, they were heart-stopping in their beauty. Faint laugh lines grooved the tanned skin around his eyes, lending an aura of good humour. What stole Meghan’s breath, however, was the way he looked at her—as if he saw no one else in the hall but her.
She suddenly realized she’d not answered his question. In truth, she had no recollection of what he had asked. Trying to cover her embarrassment, she breezily asked, “Do I know you?”
He laughed at that, and she felt her cheeks warm even as she wished she could make him laugh again.
“Know me, you do not. But I’m hopeful you’ll allow me to change that.” A smile as crooked as his nose touched his lips. As if to counter their lopsided frame, his teeth were straight and startlingly white. Meghan felt her own lips curl in response.
Though she had little enough experience with flirtation, intuition warned her that many a feminine heart had been broken by that smile. Casting him a sidelong glance, she said, “I’m not at all certain that would be wise.”
His brows flickered up at the challenge. “Wise? Nay, but pleasurable? Aye, that it will be.”