The Wrong Highland Bridegroom | April 2014
Second in the new trilogy of short stories set in medieval Scotland, Effie Campbell cannot fathom marrying a stranger just because her brother arranged it and is determined to marry only for love. In this regard she finds an unlikely ally in Connor Maclachlan, her intended husband, who also balks at being led by his parents to the altar. They scheme to support each other in the pursuit of true love, but when the object of her affection disappoints, she finds more than a friend in Connor.
Effie climbed the North tower of Castle Alnsworth, welcoming the cool, fresh air. The Great Hall was hot and the air was thick with the smell of roasting meat, wood smoke, and throngs of people. She enjoyed the festivities, but a cool respite after hours of feasting was a welcome relief. She pulled herself up through the trap door to the top of the tower and stood, breathing deep.
"Good evening," said a low voice.
Effie spun around and nearly fell back through the trap door. "Oh my word! Sir Connor, ye gave me a fright!" Effie regarded her intended husband with certain displeasure and a pounding heart. She had been introduced to him at the feast, but had no intention of marrying a man she did not know.
"I apologize if I frightened ye."
"Nay, I should look where I am going. But what are ye doing here?"
"My room is one below. I thought to get some cool air."
"My room is two below," said Effie. The fact that she had the same thought as he struck her as wrong somehow. She would prefer they share nothing in common. "Twas hot in the Hall."
"Aye," he said from the other side of the tower.
Silence descended on them, surrounding them like the black night sky. Effie was not sure how to say what she wanted to say and Sir Connor appeared to have no interest in helping with any sort of conversation.
"I dinna wish to marry ye." blurted Effie.
Connor's eyebrows shot up and he said nothing for a moment, regarding her with surprise. He bowed, his face somber once more. "As ye wish." He stepped toward the trap door to leave the tower.
"I know this must sound mad," Effie hastened to add. "I wish to do my own choosing when it comes to marriage."
"Have I offended?" Connor stopped, his eyes searching hers.
"Nay, I can have no complaint against ye. I find ye a very attractive man." Effie stopped short. Attractive? Had she just said attractive? Of all the benign compliments she could have given, why would she say attractive? "I mean, ye are nice man, a good match."
Connor walked toward her until he stood beside her along the stone battlements. "But ye do no' wish to be my wife."
Effie had to tilt her head up to look him in the eye. She was relatively tall herself, as were all the Campbells, which made his own height more notable. She swallowed hard on a throat that was suddenly dry. "I understand I have strange notions, but I have watched how happy my brother has become after he wedded Isabelle. He was supposed to marry another, but followed his heart and they have both been verra happy. I also wish to find true love."
Effie looked away out to the thousands of stars twinkling in the inky black sky. "I'm sure ye think me touched in the head. Everyone says I'm mad."
"Nay," said Connor thoughtfully. "There is some sense to what ye say. I dinna wish to marry a lass who would be displeased with the union."
"No, indeed!" Effie was pleased he did not immediately reject her concerns. "Ye should find a lass who truly loves ye to be yer bride.
"Faith, there is truth in what ye say. I shall talk to my parents and yer brother tomorrow and dissolve the arrangement."
"Aye," said Effie slowly, considering with displeasure what her brother's reaction would be. She knew he would never force her to wed against her will, but he had spent months arranging a good match for her and she did not wish him to think her ungrateful. "My brother will no' be pleased."
"My parents less so," said Connor.
"What if we dinna tell them."
Connor raised an eyebrow. "And what should we say when it comes time for the wedding?"
"That winna be for a while. We can pretend to go along with the plan and use the time to find marriage partners that are more suited to us. When we both find a partner to our liking, we can tell our relatives. I believe the news would be less disappointing if we had a substitute in mind."
A small smile crept slowly over Connor's lips. "So we feign an engagement until we can find marriage partners of our own."
"'Tis a goodly plan." Effie smiled in return. She could not help it. Sir Connor Maclachlan was an attractive man and even more so when he smiled.
This is an incredibly adorable and sweet novella, filled with the magic of the Highlands and political history. ~ Buried Under Romance