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Chapter One

No way around it: Clan Cameron had definitely seen better days. The same went for its young laird, Jamie Cameron.

If he had any reason to question that sad fact, it vanished like the morning mist as he sat slouched in the inner hall of the crumbling grey stone castle surrounded by towering trees. Glancing around, he saw, once more, that the paneled walls and carved wooden pillars had long since ceased to shine, since no one had the time to polish them properly.
 
But then, the House of Stuart had seen better days as well. It was true, of course, that they were still the lawful rulers of the entire British Isles: England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. His father had fought for their right, defending the true King James III against the foreign usurpers. No matter how much it had cost his family, Jamie had always been proud of that fact.

But that had been 30 long years ago, six years before he was born. It was now 1745, and the Elector of Hanover was safe on the British throne. There were rumors, of course, that the rightful King’s son, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, was coming home from exile in France, to claim the throne in his father’s name. Such rumors had been cropping up for a long time, though, and they had always proven to be idle dreams.

Those rumors would not even impress the two servants who were still at Cameron Castle. Emma and William did their best and more, working day and night to keep the place tidy and clean…but it was as much of a lost cause as…well…the Stuart Restoration.

With a sigh, Jamie Cameron ran his hand through his long dark hair. Since he saw no way to either inherit money or win it by force of arms, he would have to do the next best thing by finding a wealthy woman to marry him, in exchange for his noble title.

He sat up straight and even started to smile, as he remembered hearing about a very wealthy English widow named Celia Lavery. She had recently come to Scotland to visit her Aunt Catherine, while bringing the 30 thousand pounds sterling that King James III had asked all loyal Jacobites to donate to his cause.

Her auntie was said to have very strong pro-Stuart sympathies of her own. Perhaps he could find some way to meet both of those ladies, before Mistress Lavery made her donation to the King. If he won her heart in marriage, he would take control of her fortune, too…and it would be his gift to the Stuarts, should they ever rise again. No doubt the true royal family would be very grateful…to him, that is…if they ever regained their throne.

Of course, it would take time to win her over. But with King James and the Crown Prince Charles in exile in France, he had plenty of time for that.
 
As it turned out, though, he had much less of that than he knew.

His maidservant interrupted his thoughts by banging on the heavily paneled door. “My laird, there is great news!” Emma cried. “Prince Charles Edward has landed at Eriskay and is marching towards Glenfinnan, with the clans joining up with him along the way.”

“I thank you for telling me, but we have both heard such reports many times before,” he replied. “They have all turned out to be false, so I don’t want you to get your hopes up and be sadly disappointed again. I suppose the royal family will eventually reach these shores, but it will be a while before they do.”

“But I tell you, Sir, he has landed already!” Emma wailed.

Jamie was much too fond of his maidservant to accuse her of spreading servants’ gossip…even though he was hardly as fond of her as she was obviously fond of him.

“It is more than a rumor this time!” she cried, as she raced into the room and bobbed a quick curtsey, while pushing her unkempt brown hair out of her pale eyes. “I heard it from William, your manservant, who had it from Jennie, a MacGregor chambermaid, who said that her master had sent for all of his kinsmen to join the Prince. They are all marching to Glenfinnan now!”

For a moment, Jamie’s blue eyes flashed with excitement in his dark, high-cheekboned face. Then he shook his head sadly. “I am afraid you and William are the only followers I have left,” he responded. “I am more than grateful for your loyal service, but I don’t even have enough money left to pay you with anything more than your food and lodging, let alone hiring a Scottish army.” And I don’t have enough time to gain a wife with a great enough fortune to let me do that, he silently told himself.

“Not only Scottish!” she answered. “Jennie also heard her mistress say that there are plenty of good people in England who are waiting to join in the cause. All of King Jamie’s followers are joining together as true Jacobites. Not that I know why they call themselves any such thing, since our rightful King is named James and not Jacob.”

“It’s because ‘Jacob’ is the Latin version of ‘James,’” he informed her. “In any case, one of these English Jacobites is staying with her Scottish auntie nearby.”

“And judging by what I have heard from her auntie’s friends, that good lady has enough money to help support a regiment.”

“And more than enough to support me in fine style.” Seeing his servant’s shocked face, he quickly added, “I was only joking, Emma. I am glad she has enough money to help our Prince.”
                               
“I know you were only teasing, Sir,” she assured him. He was left with the same vague fondness he always felt for her…knowing how she dreamed of becoming his bride, but knowing, too, that their marriage could never be, with such a vast difference in rank. He could only hope that she was satisfied with being his trusted, faithful servant.

Since he did value Emma’s faith and trust, he did not share his private thoughts with her, about Mistress Celia, her fortune, and her devotion to the Stuart family. Which were… that it would do him no good at all to see her spend her fortune on her Prince.  

No…he had to find a way to claim that money as his own, and then pass it along to the Stuart Prince as his own donation. What’s more, he had to do it quickly, before the revolt began, because he had little time to win her heart.

There was a way to do it quickly, too…following the laws of Scotland, but he violently shook his head to drive the idea away. The unwelcome plan soon came creeping back, though, leaving him with a grim expression that made his serving girl flinch.

How did that old saying go? He silently demanded. All was fair in love…and war…and both.
***
It need not come to that, he assured himself. Mistress Celia shared his principals, after all...and she could share his noble title as well. Perhaps he could win her heart with a swift assault, and without relying on those laws of Scotland that had always seemed so savage, barbaric and completely outdated before, even to a good Highlander like himself.

He felt sure he could win her peacefully, if he only had the time. But if Emma had told the truth about the Prince’s landing, there were not enough hours left for him to ignore the ancient rules.

True, those laws had been intended to protect women from rape, by forcing the attacker to marry her. But they often seemed to have the opposite effect, of encouraging rapists…especially when money was at stake. Because the other law of marriage, which existed throughout the civilized world, was that a husband took possession of his wife’s entire fortune…no matter how he had acquired it.

It did not have to come to that, though, he assured himself again. He might still win her heart, thus gaining her willing consent. With that prospect firmly in mind, he sent a message to her elderly relative asking for an invitation to meet their charming guest.
***
After five minutes with Celia Lavery in her aunt’s old brick country house, he no longer felt any great desire to marry her, except for financial reasons.
 
It was not that her appearance left anything to be desired. On the contrary, with her golden curls falling around her pink heart-shaped face, and her ample bosom rising above her fashionable lace bodice, she was his very ideal of beauty.

What’s more, her blue eyes flashed with anger and her breasts heaved with indignation when the conversation turned to King George…or German Georgie, as she and her fellow Jacobites liked to call him.

It made him especially glad to be a good Jacobite himself, with little love for the usurping foreign king. She was more than just a Jacobite, though…she was one of those “female rebels,” like Lady Primrose who was scandalizing all of London. He could not resist asking Mistress Celia if she knew her…and was not surprised to learn that she certainly did.

On hearing her friend’s name, Mistress Celia set down her cup with a clatter, completely forgetting her tea. “Did you know that she was Irish?” Celia asked. “That’s all the more reason why she supports our rightful King.”

So My Lady Primrose is a female rebel and an Irish one as well, Jamie thought. Well, once they were married, he would make his Lady Celia forget old friends like those. Raising his voice so her deaf aunt could hear him, he all but shouted, “I had not known that she was from Ireland, but that helps to explain why she is a good Jacobite.”

“And I am one too!” Aunt Catherine exclaimed, her wrinkled cheeks turning even pinker with emotion. “You may think that only the young girls support our Prince, because they scream and faint when he marches through their towns. But I can assure you that if I were any younger, I would have joined them myself.”
 
“And who could blame them…or you?” Celia asked, with a sigh. “I always wear his image in this locket that lies above my heart.” Leaning forward, she opened the golden trinket to reveal a copy of one of his famous portraits.

It showed the Prince to his full advantage, with his golden curls, fair oval face, curved pink lips and compelling brown eyes, above the blue sash that was draped from his slim waist to his broad shoulder above his armored vest.

To his own surprise, Jamie was filled with jealousy…until he reminded himself that he was good Jacobite, too.

“So no doubt you will support his campaign with more than your loyal sentiments,” he said.

As though the thought had just occurred to him, he added, “And if your husband were a good Jacobite, too, he would want to spend your money on the cause as well.”

“But the law would let him spend it at gambling houses and brothels, if he preferred, the way my late husband did,” the girl answered in a bitter tone. “He was shot when he was caught cheating at cards…in a game held at a brothel.

“If had not died when he did, he would have squandered all the inheritance my parents left to me. He even made sure that he took me only right after my monthly bleeding, so there would be no child to share my fortune with him. No, I will keep control of my own money now.”

“But to do that you must never marry again,” her aunt softly replied. “And you were already 26 when he died, two years ago.”

So she is four years older than I am, he realized. Well then, she must be desperate for marriage, especially to a noble family like mine…and especially one who will support the Jacobite cause.

Her next words showed how wrong he was about that.

“Remaining a widow will be a small sacrifice,” Celia retorted, “compared to the honor of serving our Prince. My fortune will belong to him and him alone.”

And your heart, too, Jamie thought, startled at his own sudden burst of jealousy.

But His Royal Highness is welcome to your heart, he told himself…if I can bring him your fortune as well. That will buy me a high position in his court, when “The King will enjoy his own again.” To his own surprise, he realized that he was humming that popular tune.

“Exactly!” Celia cried. “Those are my sentiments exactly. “‘Then look for no peace, for the wars will not cease, ‘til the King will enjoy his own again…’”

“I share your feelings completely,” Jamie assured her. Silently, he added, “…and soon I will share more even more of your belongings…all that you own, in fact.” Hastily, he reminded himself that he would be taking all her property for their Prince’s sake, as the loyal subject he was…even if his plans were making him feel more and more like a common highwayman.
***
 “What brings you back here at this hour?” she asked, as she pulled open the heavy door, in response to the constant banging. “If my aunt were not so deaf, you would have awakened us both. Did you forget something here?”

She drew back then, seeing the pistol he held clenched in his fist.

“Are you here to rob us?” she gasped, clutching her woolen robe around her...because she found herself shivering, despite the warmth of that July night. “If so, your path is clear, since my aunt’s manservants have all gone to fight for her Prince…as you must have known already, when you came here this afternoon and found us alone.”
 
“I wish to take nothing from you,” he told her. “On the contrary, I wish to give you all I have, starting with my noble name.”

“Noble?” she finally retorted, as her fear gave way to outrage. “If you boast such noble ancestors, then why are you disgracing them by coming here with a gun in your hand and playing the common thief…or even worse, the common rapist?”

When he stayed silent, she raced on, “Because that is your mission, is it not? To ravish me, which will make me your wife, under the ancient laws of Scotland…and bring you all the money I possess.

“You knew I was planning to donate it to our Prince, so you pretended to be his great admirer, when all the while you were plotting to rob both him and me. And to think that I believed you were loyal to His Royal Highness...” Silently, she added to herself, …the same way I believed that my worthless husband loved me.
 
“And so I am a loyal Jacobite!” he cried, grasping the weapon even more tightly. “This is my way of making sure that your fortune…OUR fortune…will all go to our Prince.”
 
“And he will reward you richly, will he not, with great titles and lands, in return for the money you stole from me,” she sneered.
 
“You must not talk of stealing!” he shouted. “That money will all be mine by right, once we are married. And once I am your husband, why should you care if I won you by sweet words or manly deeds?”

For a long moment, she could only stare at him in open-mouthed dismay. “Don’t you KNOW?” she finally managed to gasp. “Do you really not see the difference between many behavior and rape?”

“There isn’t any difference here in our nation,” he told her shortly.

“So you would ravish me under my aunt’s own roof, and after she showed such generous hospitality to you?”

He had to think about that, with his pistol wavering in his hand.

“That would be a disgrace to her,” he finally admitted. “So I will take you back to my own house instead, once I have found your stash of coins. I will search the whole house for them too, so you might as well tell me where they are, before I tear the place apart. Once I have them, you can ride on my horse behind me…but if I must ride empty-handed instead, then you can walk beside me all the way. So tell me, where do you keep them?”

“In the drawer beside my bed,” she muttered. “I would have concealed them more carefully, but I did not expect a thief to come looking for them.”

Ignoring her bitter words, he followed her to her bedroom, holding tight to her right arm. Once his left hand was clutching the bag of coins and the barrel of his pistol, he pulled her down the stairs and out the door. Lifting her onto his horse, he jumped onto the saddle in front of her.

She rode in silence through the warm July night, clutching him tightly as the steed galloped away through the woods. As she did, she felt the warmth of her captor’s broad back against her cheek. It was all enough to make her squirm against the saddle, as her own warmth and wetness filled her secret parts.

Even more, her sudden, strange surge of desire was almost sufficient to make her trust him enough to join him in working with him to restore their Prince. Shocked at the thought, she pulled back from him, as far as her encircling arms would allow. She had trusted one man, she remembered…and that had turned out badly enough.

Just as her first husband had betrayed her with his helpless gambling, this one would do the same thing, much more eagerly, through his own ambition and greed. She had to keep a tight rein on her feelings…and if she did not, then she would deserve the most bitter disappointment he brought her.

Her plight reminded her of that silly novel “Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded,” where the innocent young housemaid was imprisoned by her master, who wanted to make her his sex slave…until he fell in love with her and made her his wife instead.

She had always dismissed that nonsense as the most ridiculous rubbish ever written, without ever understanding why so many young women were devouring the story in one sitting. Now, to her own shame, she understood their sentiments…that being forced into marriage might be a pleasant fate indeed…but still, the prospect was all the more reason to keep fighting her foolish feelings.

***
She kept that thought firmly in mind, as he pushed her ahead of him up the winding stairs.

“Aren’t your servants going to welcome their new mistress?” she sneered. “Or have they too much decency to take part in this ravishment?”

“They have already gone to bed, just as I told them to. And now we will, too.”

Once again, despite herself, she found that he was arousing her deepest, most shameful and secret desires, with his commanding words. She pushed those sensations angrily away, as she struggled with both arms against him.

It grew more and more difficult to fight her foolish feelings, let alone his physical power, as he threw her onto the shabby red velvet cover of the fourposter bed. She tried to stare at the beamed ceiling as he pulled her robe apart, but could not keep from gazing  at him in shameful fascination.

Feeling his hot breath on her cheeks, she watched him raise his kilt to his waist, revealing the long, thick, hard member beneath. It was a sensation she had never had for her lawful mate, and it filled her with amazement.

As he thrust himself deep into her, he gave a triumphant cry…and she would have echoed it almost as loudly, if she had not remembered, just in time, that he was celebrating his capture of her fortune, rather than his conquest of her heart.

When he rolled to the side, he lay staring up at the ceiling, as though studying every chipped wooden beam. She listened to his heavy breathing, until he was calm enough to ask, “Did I hurt you very badly?”

“I am a widow, remember,” she answered, as she used the sheet to wipe his liquid off her thighs. “I had no maidenhead to break.” She was about to thank him for his concern, when he interrupted her in his most smug, triumphant tone.

“Or rather, you WERE a widow,” he reminded her. “Now you are my Lady Cameron, remember.”

“And you own all my fortune,” she replied, as she was struck once more by the cold, hard fact that that had been his motive all along.

“But perhaps, some day soon, I may also own your heart.”

“In return for abducting and ravishing me? That would hardly make you the husband I dream of.”

“No, you dream only of the Bonnie Prince!” She jumped at his angry tone, as he quickly sat up beside her. “If he had carried you off and raped you, then you would be kissing his hand with joy…like all those silly girls who scream and faint when they see him.”

One more, she was speechless with outrage. Then she finally managed to answer, in a voice as furious as his own, “How dare you even suggest that His Royal Highness would ever do such a thing to any woman, for any reason at all! If he ever learned what you did to me, he would never give you a post as his lackey!”

“That is true, is it not?” he answered slowly, in a calm tone that frightened her more than his most furious rage had done. “Once you tell him what I did to you, he will have nothing more to do with me, no matter how much of your gold I bring him.”

Even more thoughtfully, he went on, “Our Prince would have to turn me away, would he not, to keep from outraging those female rebels of his. And to keep our story out of the newspapers as well. I am sure that the London Courant would love to spread the scandal throughout all of England and Scotland both, doing the Prince no end of harm.”

“His name is as dear to me as my own,” she quickly replied. “I would do nothing to sully it.”

“I don’t believe you,” he replied, even more coldly. “No, you would be too busy trying to prove that you are an injured innocent, and the Prince is, too. So there is only one thing for me to do…”

“…which is?” and now she could not keep her voice from shaking.

“…which is, that I must keep you locked up here until Prince Charlie is on his throne…and I am by his side.” Trying to ignore her look of sheer dismay, he climbed out of bed as he told her, “So I will say good night to you now, and spare you any more of my hateful presence, which fills you with such contempt.”

He deliberately turned his head away, feeling all too certain that his presence would be hateful indeed…to any decent person in the world, let alone his Bonnie Prince…or his own ravished bride, for that matter. One thing Jamie knew for sure: His own late father would not have been proud of him at all.

 


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