Book Series: The Cameron Sisters

In the Highlander’s Bed

They’re on the brink of ecstasy . . .

Highland warrior Gordon Lachlan has spent his life fiercely battling the English. Now, to claim victory for his clan, he must retrieve the legendary Sword of the MacKenna from the hands of his mortal enemies. His plan: to kidnap Constance Cameron from her remote boarding school and force her wellborn relatives to surrender the sword as her ransom.

But Lachlan is surprised that the woman he’s snatched from her bed is no malleable miss. Constance longs for adventure. She’s tantalized by Lachlan and his passionate cause . . . and tempted enough by his seductive ways to wonder what it would be like to find herself in the Highlander’s bed . . .

AVON Books | Paperback | eBook | Audio

Publisher: Avon
February 2008
ISBN-10: 0-06-112210-6
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-112210-1

Ollie’s Mill, Scotland
November 1808

Desperate men resorted to desperate measures.

Or so Gordon Lachlan reminded himself as he raised his hand, an order for the three men he traveled with to halt on the moonlit road.

His plan was to kidnap Miss Constance Cameron, a pupil at Madame Lavaliere’s Academy for Young Women and the duke of Colster’s sister by marriage. The price of her ransom would be the Sword of the MacKenna, a weapon revered throughout the highlands. The man who wielded that sword would have enough power to lead his countryman into the very bowels of hell.

Gordon didn’t want to go that far. He just wanted to throw the English out of Scotland, and he needed the authority of the Sword of the MacKenna to do it.

Unfortunately, Colster wasn’t of a mind to hand it over to him. The fine duke had forgotten his Scottish loyalties. Upon accepting his title, he’d sworn allegiance to the king. He was going to need coercion. Gordon didn’t want to kidnap Miss Constance Cameron, but His Grace left him no other choice.

“Dismount and lead your horses up across the ditch into the trees,” he ordered softly. “We’ll walk from here. The school is about a mile through that pine forest. Wait until your eyes adjust to the darkness before you move. I don’t want any stumbling around.”

Horses and riders crossed the ditch by the side of the road. They had just melted into the shadows of the trees when a rumbling vibration beneath their feet warned them they were not alone.

Gordon and his men raised their hands to their horses to keep them quiet just as a large party of men came galloping on the road, heading toward the Academy. English soldiers. Mostly officers by the amount of gold braiding on their uniforms. Moonlight turned the red of their military jackets to black and their wigs to silver. They were obviously from the garrison at Edinburgh and riding as if they couldn’t wait to reach their destination.

The four Scots waited until the soldiers had safely passed. Thomas was the first to break the silence by spitting his opinion of the English on the ground. He was a giant, a bear of a man, with black hair he wore pulled back in a queue under a wide brimmed gray hat. A scruff of whiskers always darkened his jaw. “Did you not say this road dead ends at the school? What business would they have on this road this night?”

“You don’t think they know about us, do you, Gordon?” Robbie asked.

“They couldn’t,” Gordon assured him. This plan was too new and had been kept too secret to have been compromised.

“Are we going to continue?” Brian wanted to know. “They outnumber us three to one.”

“They could outnumber us a hundred to one and we’d go forward,” Gordon said. “Follow me.”

Enough of the rising moon’s thin light came through the trees to guide their path. Gordon wouldn’t show it, but he was concerned about the English.

Madame Lavaliere’s Academy for Young Women catered to the daughters of the wealthy, the privileged. There could be a number of reasons a party of soldiers could be rushing to the school.

What Gordon didn’t want was to delay his plans. Winter was upon them. He had a camp of five hundred men, women, and children who depended upon him to see them safe. He needed the Sword of the MacKenna. It would give him credit to purchase gunpowder and shot as well as food for empty bellies.

The soldiers might complicate matters a bit but they would not deter Gordon from his quarry. He had traveled a long way to kidnap Constance Cameron and kidnap tonight he would.

When he estimated they were close to the school, he motioned for Brian to hold the horses while he and the others took the climbing ropes and made their way to where the forest met the edge of the school’s vast, manicured lawn.

Gordon’s plan was simple and expedient. They would wait until the students were settled for the night. He would then climb the wall to second floor window where Constance Cameron slept. He’d tie her up and carry her away. His horses were fast and his men traveled light. They could out ride anyone pursuing them, even a party of English soldiers.

After all, they’d done it time and time before.

However, as they came into sight of the school, Gordon came to an abrupt halt in surprise. The school was ablaze with light. Grooms walked horses along the front drive while the faint, but distinct, sound of fiddles and drums drifted in the air toward them. Amongst those grooms were several of the King’s soldiers holding some very fine horses.

They were having a bloody dance. Gordon swore in disbelief and ordered his men back into the shadows with a curt gesture.

“What now?” Robbie whispered.

Gordon didn’t answer immediately. Madame Lavaliere’s Academy had been an abbey back in Scotland’s Roman Catholic days. Over the centuries, towers and buildings had been added. “Her room is on the second floor by that far garret.” He’d paid a maid for the information. Obviously, the puss had forgotten an important detail—like the dance. “I was to be in and out in ten minutes.”

“We knew we had to wait,” Thomas said. “After dancing all night, they’ll be sleeping all the better.” He leaned against a tree, making himself comfortable. “At least now we know why the Sassenachs were in such a hurry.” He referred to the English soldiers. “They’ve come a wooing.” He drew out the syllables of that last word making Robbie smile. “They want to catch a rich man’s daughter. We should go dancing, too.”

Gordon scowled.

“Och, come on, Gordon. You are too serious. We’ll take her. We just have to bide our time, or have you forgotten the price on your head?”

“How can I with you reminding me of it every time I turn around?”

Thomas grinned, unrepentant. “You’re just lucky it’s such a pittance or even I might be tempted.”

“As if you’d dare,” Gordon shot back good naturedly. He and Thomas had been boyhood friends. Many a time, each had trusted the other to guard his back. “You aren’t so big and ugly I can’t still take you.”

“What? And mark your pretty face? The lasses would never forgive me, would they, Robbie?” Thomas settled himself more comfortably against his tree, before continuing philosophically, “Then again, such golden looks are wasted on Gordon. He’s become practically a monk.” He rolled his eyes heavenward. “God, why couldn’t you have given that face to me? I’d have put it to good use. Instead, it’s my lot to console all the lasses Gordon rejects. Sometimes it’s more work than one man can stand.”

Robbie’s teeth flashed white in his smile. “I’m always happy to help if you need it–”

“I can manage,” Thomas assured him quickly. “Some tasks are a pleasure.”

Gordon only paid half an ear to their banter. He’d never enjoyed cooling his heels, although it seemed as if he’d been waiting forever for that moment when he could avenge his father’s death.

What would his father have said? What advice would he offer in circumstances such as this? He’d been a prudent man, an honest one. He would have waited.

“I’m going in,” Gordon said.

“Later?” Thomas asked.

“No, now.” Gordon turned and headed back toward where they’d left the horses. “I’m going to the dance.”

Thomas and Robbie hurried to catch up with him. “What are you planning to do?” Thomas asked furiously. “Walk in there and ask Miss Constance for a dance?”

“Yes. That’s a good plan,” Gordon answered. The more he thought about it, the more he liked it. He rubbed a hand over his chin. “I need to shave. Any of you have your kit with you?”

“I do,” Robbie said. It stood to reason. Robbie was the dandy of the group.

“Let me have it. And your jacket, too. It’s better than my own.”

They’d reached Brian who appeared confused to have them return so quickly and without Miss Constance. But before he could ask questions, Thomas blocked Gordon’s path, saying, “Have you forgotten you are a wanted man?” There was no teasing in his tone now.

Gordon laughed, his spirits rising at the challenge. “Those soldiers won’t recognize me,” he said with confidence. “Or even my name. Most likely they haven’t ever heard of Nathraichean. And if they have, they’ve forgotten, especially when there are heiresses to court. They are thinking about themselves. But someday soon, lads, they will know our names, and they’ll never forget them. As for now, I’m going to the dance. I want to see this Miss Constance up close and perhaps, with a wee bit of luck, I may pry her away from watchful eyes and save us a climb up a wall. Or were you looking forward to that, Thomas?”

The giant grumbled his answer.

“What was that?” Gordon prodded.

“I said, come here, and I’ll shine your boots,” Thomas answered with little grace. “If you want to play the gentleman, then I won’t stop you. I might even come to your hanging so I can laugh.”

“I’d appreciate that,” Gordon replied, slipping on Robbie’s coat. He hated cooling his heels. He preferred action. “Now, what do you believe the odds are that I can steal one of those officers’ fine horses as I’m leaving?”

“Grab the gray,” Thomas advised. “It will show up better in the dark when they come chasing you.”

Gordon grinned.

Bedding the Heiress

A proper lady determined to restore her honor—and a rebel duke with only one goal in mind…

When a loathsome rake steals one of her most cherished family heirlooms—and nearly her virtue as well!—Francesca Dunroy devises the perfect plan to put him in his place. At a ball being held in her honor—she didn’t “take” in her first season, now her family is determined to get her a match in her second—she’ll offer him a clandestine kiss sure to convince him to return what is rightfully hers. But in the dark hallways surrounding the ballroom, Francesca makes a terrifying mistake. She seduces the wrong man!

The recipient of Francesca’s caresses is none other than Justin Maddox, London’s newly titled duke and most eligible bachelor. A defiant Scotsman who disdains London society, he’s sworn to steer clear of the ladies of the ton, but he can’t escape the memory of Francesca urgently pressing her lips upon his . . . and neither can she. But when a shocking and dangerous secret from Justin’s past resurfaces, the couple will have to risk tattered reputations and treacherous enemies to nurture what has quickly become true love.

AVON Books | Paperback | eBook | Audio

Publisher: Avon
April 2007
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-112180-7
ISBN-10: 0-06-112180-0

In the Bed of a Duke

Nothing is more delicious than sleeping with the enemy. . .

The distressed traveler Charlotte Cameron encounters on a rainy Scottish night is absolutely the worst man she could have invited into her carriage! It is Phillip Maddox, the reprehensible Duke of Colster, who brought the full weight of the ton’s fury down upon her—simply because Charlotte encouraged her sister not to wed the powerful peer. And now the seductive devil responsible for her social ruin is sitting close enough to kiss…

Phillip’s distaste for the meddlesome beauty matches Charlotte’s—though, under alternate circumstances, he might have enjoyed sampling the sensuous charms of the tempting young chit.

There is grave danger, however, on the journey they now must reluctantly share—and a nemisis who means them both mortal harm. But can passion that inconveniently ignites in the face of disaster erase a painful past . . . and lead two sworn enemies to a most unanticpated destination: the bedchamber?

AVON Books | Paperback | eBook | Audio

Publisher: Avon
May 2006
ISBN-10: 0-06-074058-2
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-074058-0

Scotland , 1807


It wasn’t easy being an enemy of the Duke of Colster, Charlotte Cameron thought bitterly as she clutched any handhold she could find to keep herself from being tossed and bounced around the inside of the ancient coach being pulled by shaggy, half-starved horses through the highland storm. If not for the Duke, she wouldn’t have had to accept a position as a governess for Laird Mackey’s children. She’d be back in London —where it was spring —and not in fear of the coach being blown over into some rocky gully.

In truth, the suddenness and ferocity of the highland storm had caught her completely by surprise. The day had started pleasantly with a promise of spring in the air. The wind had been strong but, she had been assured, nothing out of the ordinary.

She and the Laird’s drivers Klem and Fergus had left Fort William on the North Road . Apparently the Laird lived at the farthest north point of Scotland where, “Not even the Vikings dared to disturb us,” Fergus had informed her with pride. “This is a wee breeze compared to the winds off the Atlantic .”

His promise was not reassuring. Charlotte wasn’t certain she wanted to go to a place where even Vikings feared to tread—especially once the heavy winds kicked up into a storm that caused the coach to sway so strongly she feared they’d all toppled over into one of the rocky gorges on either side of the road. The road disappeared into two muddy ruts. She didn’t understand how the horses could continue pulling them forward.

But the worse part of this whole situation was that she was trapped inside the coach like a mouse caught in a cage. When the storm had first hit, she’d attempted to convince the drivers to pull over and stop until it had passed but they were apparently under Laird Mackey’s orders to get her to him as soon as earthly possible and were determined to do so. He was probably paying them handsomely for their dedication. After all, he had paid her first quarter’s wages to her in advance. That money had been her main reason for accepting the position, that and her pride. Now, she wondered if she may have been too hasty. It was as if they were in a mad race to reach Griorgair, but Charlotte didn’t know whom they were racing against.

If she lived through this storm—and that was a big if –she want to know why the Laird was so desperate for a governess he’d ordered his men to deliver her posthaste. The answer could be simple. He might be just an overly generous man. Or his children could be hellions who tied governesses to their beds and terrorized their parents.

Or he might have a more sinister motive, one in keeping with the character of the two drivers he had sent for her. Klem and Fergus both enjoyed her discomfort a bit too much. There were moments over these past two days when she’d sensed they shared a joke that didn’t bode well for her–

The earth seemed to drop out from under one side of the coach. Charlotte felt the wheels leave the road. She screamed, realizing they were in danger of tipping over.

Outside, her drivers cursed. One yelled, “Weight on the other side, weight on the other side.”

Charlotte grabbed her precious knitting bag and scrambled best she could toward the opposite door, bringing every ounce of weight at her disposal toward the task of preventing the coach from flipping.

For one breathless second, the vehicle seemed suspended over disaster.

And then, it jerked as the horses surged forward. The wheels hit the road with a teeth jarring bounce and the coach rolled to a stop.

Charlotte didn’t move. She was too busy thanking God that she was still alive.

The small door in the roof that served as a means of communication between the driver and the passenger slid open. “Did that give you the frights, miss?” Klem asked. In the gray light of the stormy day, his face appeared even more baleful.

“I did, Mr. Klem,” she responded, thankful that her voice was strong.

He cackled his pleasure. “Scared me, too.” His brogue was heavy. She had to listen hard to understand him. “The road had washed out. Fergus said we couldn’t go through it but I was out to prove him wrong. I should have listened to him.”

“You should indeed,” she agreed dryly, her pride refusing to let her yell at him for his stupidity. “Where is he now? I don’t hear him gloating.”

“He fell off.”

“Good heavens, is he all right?”

Rain splattered in though the door opening as he grinned at her. “He splashed around a bit but he’s climbing aboard,” he answered with his characteristic rustic humor. The coach gave to one side as she sensed Fergus climb back up into the seat.

“We must pull over and wait this storm out,” she insisted.

“No, can’t do that,” Klem assured her. “The laird would not be pleased.” He shut the door before she could argue. A beat later, she heard Fergus giving Klem the devil for his driving. Klem’s response was that he could have left Fergus back there. With a jerk, they were on their way again.

Her fingers trembled as she pulled out her knitting needles and wool and set to work. She knit when she was uncertain and when she needed to think a problem through. She knew she ran a risk of getting a bit sick by knitting while she traveled but feeling ill appeared to be the least of her problems.

She hated not being the one making decisions. She felt trapped in this coach like a mouse caught in a cage and Charlotte wasn’t one who enjoyed obeying another’s authority. She shouldn’t have been so eager to take Laird Mackey’s offer until she’d asked a few questions about him. Her pride that had pushed her to accept the position–but then, what other choice had she had?

Seven months earlier her sister Miranda had jilted the Duke of Colster by eloping with another man. Society had been scandalized. Apparently no one would ever think of rejecting a duke, especially one as powerful as Colster.

They obviously didn’t know Miranda.

Actually, it had never been Miranda’s idea to leave the Ohio frontier where she, Charlotte, and their youngest sister Constance had been raised and return to England . Charlotte had bullied her into it. Charlotte had wanted something more for herself and her sisters than living in a backwoods trading post their father had run. Their mother had been the daughter of an earl—a bankrupt one, but titled all the same. They had a heritage waiting for them in England and Charlotte wanted to not only claim it but escape the physical, often violent life in the wilderness. Ever since her mother and baby brother had been murdered by Indians, her one dream had been to escape.

The plan had been to send Miranda, the most lovely of the three of them, to England first to see if she could catch a wealthy husband who would then see to bringing Charlotte and Constance to over. It had been a good plan. Miranda had caught Colster’s eye, and she would have married him for the sake of her sisters. But then, Charlotte realized expecting Miranda to give up Alex Haddon, the man she truly did love, was wrong.

Charlotte would have explained it all to Colster if he hadn’t been so angry. She would have apologized and told him she knew how he felt. She’d once been jilted herself. She understood what it meant to be so publicly rejected.

Unfortunately, Colster had been beyond rational thought. Miranda and Alex were safely at sea, probably in the Orient or some other exotic place. However, back in England , Colster was doing everything in his power to see all doors were closed to she and Constance. No one would even speak to them. He was also attempting to close the doors of the firm Severson and Haddon, Ltd.

Well, Colster wasn’t the only one with pride. Charlotte could not stand the thought of the Seversons suffering for being kind to her and her sister. She also had to protect nineteen year old Constance at all costs. She’d found a school in Scotland that would take Constance and teach her what she needed to know to be a lady. Granted it was an unfashionable location, but it seemed Colster’s authority didn’t extend to the farthest regions of the kingdom, and perhaps that was another reason Laird Mackey’s offer appealed to her. First, she would have her own income and secondly, she doubted Highlanders had even heard of the Duke of Colster, let alone cared to follow his orders–

Suddenly, the coach came to a halt.

Charlotte braced herself. Now what?

“I need a ride to the next village,” she heard a man’s voice say outside to her drivers. An English voice, one with a note of authority as if he were a soldier or accustomed to being in command. He must have waved the coach down. “My horse lost his footing on the road and fell. Can you help me?”

“Where’s the horse now?” Charlotte heard Klem ask.

“Broke his leg. I had to put him down,” the man answered, his words terse. She could tell he was unhappy. “I’ll pay well for the ride and not trouble you once we reach an inn or village where I can hire a mount.”

The rain had let up a bit but it was still a wet, miserable day. Charlotte would not want to be stranded in this place. The man was probably knee-deep in mud. She waited for Klem or Fergus to answer.

They didn’t. They seemed perfectly content to make the stranger stand in the rain and beg.

After a few seconds of silence, she reached up and knocked on the trap door.

Klem slid it open. “Yes, Miss?”

“Give the man a ride.”

For a second he stared at her before drawling, “Are you certain, Miss?”

Charlotte couldn’t understand why he was challenging her. On the frontier, a person didn’t hesitate to help another in distress. “Of course I’m certain.”

“Aye then.” He closed the door and she heard him say to the stranger, “The lady says you can join her in the coach.”

That wasn’t exactly what Charlotte had said, and she was irritated that Klem had phrased it that way.

However, the gentleman was grateful. “May I put my saddle and tack in the boot?” he asked.

Klem must have nodded because a moment later, Charlotte felt the lid lift on the storage boot located on the other side of the wall behind her seat, then slam shut. His footsteps squished in the mud.

The horses were restless to get moving in the rain. They took a step or two forward and Fergus shouted at them to quiet.

The door opened.

Gathering her knitting into its bag, Charlotte slid across the seat to give him room.

The coach gave under his weight as he climbed in, his hatless head bowed against the elements. “Thank you,” he said, taking a moment to shake out the drenched great coat he’d removed before joining her. “I was afraid I’d have to walk for miles on this lonely road before I’d see anyone–”

He stopped, obviously as surprised to see her as she was him.

Charlotte couldn’t speak. She could barely think. Here was Colster, as wet as a drowned rat and looking every inch the Duke.

His grace appeared equally surprised. He didn’t pretend not to recognize her. His mouth flattened and he reached for the door to climb back out.

However, with the crack of the whip, Klem set the horses in motion. The coach jumped forward, propelling Colster forward to land on top of Charlotte .

The Price of Indiscretion

New York Times bestselling author Cathy Maxwell has captivated her readers with her unforgettable love stores. Now she asks the question: What is the price a woman pays for one indiscretion?

The granddaughter of an earl, Miranda Cameron has had an unconventional upbringing. However, for the sake of her sisters, she must charm the ton, and make a spectacular match. Miranda believes she is prepared for the task ahead—until she is confronted by Alex Haddon, the renegade son of a British general.

Alex has tempted fate to raise himself from a man scorned by society to one with vast wealth and influence. There had been a time when Miranda meant everything to him. His love for her had almost cost him his life. Now, all he sees is a woman willing to sell herself to the highest bidder—provided the bidder isn’t him.

What man can resist such a challenge?

Miranda enchants London’s powerful noblemen, even as she keeps her past a secret. Alex is not immune to her intoxicating sensuality. Scanda, and far worse, is what she must risk for another chance with the man she still loves…no matter the price.

Avon Books | Paperback | eBook | Audio

Cameron Sisters Series #2
Publisher: Avon
August 2005
ISBN-10: 0-06-074057-4
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-074057-3


A low appreciative whistle, the sort any woman-loving male makes when he’s sees a pretty lass cut across the air.

Alex Haddon may be the Warrior’s captain but he moved like every other member of the crew to the bulwark. Oliver was right at his heels. A group of his men had already gathered there. They moved aside to make room for their captain.

Nor was the Warrior the only ship to take notice. Up and the down the wharf, men were lining up along the dock and gathering along their ships’ rails and looking toward the merchantman that had thwarted Alex’s meeting with Esteves. Apparently many knew what they were waiting for. Several climbed rigging wanting a better look and the air vibrated with excitement.

Alex had never seen the like. He craned his neck and noticed a knot of ships’ officers and merchants gathering at the foot of the merchantman’s gangway. This woman must be something special to produce so much interest.

The crowd of gentlemen parted. A woman of some thirty years wearing a green dress and matching bonnet stepped forward on a gentleman’s arm.

Alex frowned, disappointed. The woman was comely enough but not worth so much attention—and then, a woman holding a parasol appeared, making her way down the gangway. He couldn’t see beneath her face but his gaze was riveted by the trimmest of ankles in silk stockings he’d seen in some time.

Here was something definitely worth his time.

Her face was blocked by that blasted parasol, but what he could see, he liked. The breeze off the water teased the gauzy white muslin hem of dress. It pressed the thin material to her form, revealing long shapely legs, feminine hips, a sweetly indented waist, and curve of breasts. Beautiful, luscious breasts.

She had the body of a goddess and there wasn’t a man on the pier who wasn’t ready to fall to his knees in front of her.

“Blue,” Oliver said decisively.

“Blue what?” Jon Bowen, the sailor beside him, asked.

“Her eyes,” Oliver answered.

“What makes you think that?” Jon countered. “She could have brown eyes and hair as black as a raven’s. I like dark hair galies.”

“Look at the color of the ribbons trimming her dress and parasol,” Oliver said. “Women always chose their trimin’s to match their eyes. She’s got eyes so blue a man could swim in them. I can tell you that without even seeing them.”

“I’ll bet you a quid they’re brown,” Jon answered.

“Done,” Oliver agreed, “but you are wasting your money.”

His boast and the wager upped the ante for the Warrior’s crew. Almost all of them were gathered there, all straining to be the first to see her eyes.

Refusing the numerous arms offered to her for assistance, the beauty stepped off the gangway and daintily began picking her way past the barrels and crates, masts and spars piled along the dock. Her growing coterie of admirers trailed after them like lapdogs—and amongst them saw the elusive Esteves. The portly pilot was doing everything under his power to get under the parasol with the girl.

The sight of the pilot brought Alex’s head back to business. Damn the man. He’d fobbed off the Warrior for the merchantman because of a woman.

Alex leaned over the railing. “Esteves! I want a word with you.”

His voice of command carried in the salt air. The hapless Esteves, a silver-haired fellow with a black goatee and mustache, looked around in confusion as did everyone else.

“Up here, Esteves,” Alex said.

“Look up here, look up here,” Oliver quietly commanded the Beauty, a plea shared by his shipmates. “We just want one look at your lovely eyes–”

The parasol tilted back. There was a brief glimpse of a blue velvet cap trimmed in feathers and blonde curls as radiant as the sun. Alex dismissed the unexpected sense of familiarity. She wouldn’t be here. There was no way such a thing were possible. His mind played tricks.

Instead, he said in a voice commanding the attention of everyone on the wharves, “Yes, you , Esteves. I want to talk to you.”

At that moment, Diego pushed his way through the crowd, apparently finally finding his uncle. He tugged on Esteves’s arm, and pointed in Alex’s direction.

Everyone in the crowd looked up to where Alex stood on the Warrior’s deck , including the Beauty.

“They are blue!” Oliver declared in triumphant. His mates leaned closer to have a better look

But Alex didn’t move. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Blue eyes, blonde hair, full, ripe lips . . . a determined chin. He’d never forget the stubborn tilt of that chin—

He broke off his thoughts with a shake of his head. I t couldn’t be. There was no possibility—

Oliver heaved a mighty sigh of longing. “She’d fit right well under a man’s arm,” he said wistfully, speaking for the crew.

“And in other places, too,” Jon added slyly, a comment to which everyone else guffawed agreement, save for Alex. He knew exactly how well she’d fit in “other” places. He knew the feel of her skin, the scent of her hair, the weight of her breasts.

Oh, yes, she fit in other places very well.

Alex practically fell back from the bulkhead, suddenly anxious that she not see him. What the devil was Miranda Cameron doing the Azores of all places on earth dressed in muslins and lace and with shoes on her feet? He couldn’t believe it.

What he could believe is that she was being eaten up alive by the hungry gazes of every man in this port.

Over the years, he’d been asked why he’d never married. Oh, he flirted with women. He enjoyed them, but he would not marry and the reason was standing down there on that dock.

Alex returned to the ship’s railing with a frown. Miranda was listening to something a gentleman to her left was saying. She was completely unaware of his presence on the deck of the ship not far from her. There had been a time when they’d been so close they could sense each other’s presence–

“Is there something wrong, Captain?” Oliver asked.

Alex looked at him blankly, forgetting for a moment where he was. He brought himself back to the present. “Nothing’s wrong.” The past could stay where it was. He didn’t need her—had never needed her.

Of course, Miranda appeared as if she hadn’t needed him either. It had been ten years since they’d parted and they appeared to have been prosperous ones for her.

But then, wasn’t that just the way women were? They were like cats, always landing on their feet and equally as selfish. Certainly, the French woman who had convinced his father to desert his country and son and turn traitor had not thought of anyone but herself. Even his own mother had abandoned him, leaving him with his British father and returning to her people. There, she’d found a new man and started another family.

So, why did Alex want to believe Miranda Cameron was different? Why, against all logic, did he feel such a sense of betrayal?

Because he’d wanted to believe she was different —

“Captain?” Oliver repeated.

Alex started. He turned to see his men staring at him as if he had gone daft. He wondered what expression shown on his face and realized he was squeezing the railing of the ship so tightly his knuckles were white.

He tried to relax, feeling completely disconnected to anything that had mattered or had been of importance moments ago. Miranda and her entourage had reached the ebony painted bow of the Warrior.

She closed her parasol.

Alex braced himself. The moment was at hand. She had only to look up and she would see him—and then Esteves commanded her attention, begging to have the honor of carrying her parasol.

Immediately the other men surrounding her offered their services as well. Miranda played coy a moment. She made a great pretense of choosing the gentleman to have the honor before handing the parasol to the pilot, smiling her appreciation.

No one had a smile like Miranda Cameron. Its force was kindred to the sun bursting out behind the clouds after a storm. It filled a man with its warmth and assured him anything was possible. Anything.

Oliver, Jon, even Flat Nose and Vijay were caught by surprise by the force of that smile. Up and down the dock, men sighed in collective admiration.

“Her eyes are blue as the deepest sapphires,” Vijay said in a romantic burst Alex had not thought possible of him.. “Blue as the depths of the Great Sea .”

“Yes,” Alex agreed sourly, thoroughly disgusted by the power Miranda wielded effortlessly over men. “Or as blue as the back of biting flies.”

His crew heard him. Their heads whipped around in shock. He met their gazes with an innocent one of his own. After enduring their stares for several seconds, he said, “What? It’s a poetic term.”

Jon scratched his chin. “Poets compare women’s eyes to flies?”

“Some do,” Alex answered and couldn’t help adding, “If they are wise.”

“Now we know why you are single,” Oliver muttered.

“That isn’t the only reason,” Alex answered. The main one stood on the pier right down there in front of him.

He braced his hands against the railing. In the back of his mind, he realized he’d always known their paths would cross again someday. He just hadn’t expected it to be this one.

Nor had he anticipated the emotional impact he’d have at seeing her again. He didn’t like it. Not one bit.

Esteves holding the parasol looked for all the world to see like a silly old man. Miranda and her chaperone continued their promenade.

She’d not looked up. Had not seen Alex.

It was just as well. He had no desire to be part of the growing mob of men following her. He preferred to watch in disdain as grizzly old seamen, anxious to pay court, hurried from their ships dressed in their ruffles and lace. Some of their finery was a size too small, most of it out of fashion, and all of it was wrinkled from being packed away in sea trunks. They, like Esteves, were making bloody fools of themselves and Alex felt immensely superior that he wasn’t one of their number.

A riot could have broken out when a local merchant elbowed another out of the way while trying to gain Miranda’s attention. However, at that moment, a dinghy from the warship hit the dock with a bump and three officers clambered up to the pier, pushing on their bosun’s head for balance. They were young, vital men in full dress with gleaming gold braid on their lapels. They were following by a man moving at a more sedate pace. By the gold braid on his shoulders, he was no less a person that the captain of the ship—and his sights were set on Miranda.

Alex watched as the King’s men neatly elbowed Esteves and the others out of the way. Introductions were made. Miranda’s companion appeared ready to swoon over the honor of meeting the British commander. The pilot now looked silly holding the lace parasol, and Alex couldn’t help feeling a bit sorry for him.

Miranda said something and the British commander laughed as if she were the cleverest of creatures, a sound echoed by his junior offices. Their laughter made the scars on Alex’s back prickle. He rarely thought of those scars but at this moment, they felt as they had when the cuts were fresh and the pain alive.

There had been a time when he’d laughed at her jokes, too, and had confessed his secrets. A time he’d made a perfect ass of himself–

He turned away from the railing, shutting his mind to the memories. “We are we doing standing around here gawking,” he barked to his men. “We’re leaving on morning tide. You have stores to lay in and that rigging on the top gallant begs to be repaired.”

Flat Nose immediately turned to go about his business but the others were more reluctant to lose sight of Miranda. Even Oliver.

Well, Alex knew the duplicity of character hiding behind that pretty face. “Do you need an invitation to work?” he asked.

His crew came to their senses. They knew that tone in is voice. It was one not to be ignored.

They hopped to, and Alex meant to join them. Hard work was exactly what he needed to take his mind off Miranda.

But as he headed toward the quarterdeck, a new thought struck him and he stopped.

Why should he be the one to run away?

Besides, he did have some questions. What had she been up to these past years? Would she remember him if he were to place himself directly in front of her?

More importantly–had she married? Was there someone else in her life? Children she’d borne to another man?

She certainly appeared prosperous now and that had not been how he’d left Veral Cameron’s daughter.

Before he could reason it out, Alex turned and started down the gangway, heading for Miranda.

Temptation of a Proper Governess

Society dictates that a governess should be modest, quiet, and keep to herself.
She should never contradict her employer.
And, above all, she must not attract the attention of any male in the household.

But Michael Severson doesn’t see Isabel Halloran as a governess—he sees her as a woman, one whose lush curves cannot be hidden behind a dowdy gown. . .and whose efforts at hiding behind her sparkling intelligence are betrayed by her wit.

Years before, Michael had left Regency England, falsely accused of a crime. Now he is back, dedicated to seeking retribution—but not to taking a bride. But when his scandalous actions compromise Isabel’s reputation, he does the unthinkable and offers her his hand—a marriage in name only.

But although his bride’s passions are untried, Isabel’s sensuality clearly matches his own. And with each day, and night, that passes, Michael becomes determined that every kiss, every caress, will be made with one goal: to seduce his proper wife into tender submission.

Mass Market Paperback | eBook | Audio

Cameron Sisters #1

Publisher: Avon
September 2004
ISBN-10: 0-06-009298-X
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-009298-6

March, 1804

Miss Lillian Wardley’s bed was empty.

Isabel Halloran, her governess, greeted the sight with a combination of frustration and panic. Lillian had a reputation for being promiscuous. Curbing her ways was one of the things Isabel had been hired to do three months ago.

Nor did Isabel need a clash of wills with Lillian tonight. She was fighting her own demons. Lord Riggs, Richard, a man she had once believed she’d loved until he had attempted to take her by force, was a guest under this roof and she was determined to avoid him. She didn’t want him to know she was here. His betrayal of her trust was still too fresh.

Isabel had no desire to be out wandering the halls to look for her errant charge.

She should have known Lillian was up to something. The seventeen-year-old had been too quiet, too accommodating, and had excused herself far too early for bed this evening. Her unquestioning obedience was out of character and had disturbed Isabel enough for her to rise from her own bed, throw her brown day dress over her night gown, and check on Lillian.

It was now half past midnight . . . and she had a sinking suspicion where Lillian might be.

Holding a protective hand around the candle flame, Isabel hurried across the hall to knock on Nanny’s door. It took more than one knock to disturb the older woman’s sleep.

The door opened. “Miss Halloran, is there something with the children?” Nanny rasped, squinting at the candle flame. She had the care of Mr. Wardley’s three younger children by his second wife, a very buxom former tavern girl with ambition to match her husband’s.

“Lillian is missing.”

“Missing?” Nanny repeated without comprehension.

“She’s not in her bed. I need your help finding her.”

Nanny came awake. “Oh, dear.” She opened the door while she reached for her dressing gown hanging on a nearby nail. “The last time she did this we found her with the stable lad. ‘Twas before your time. I know you’ve heard about it.”

“I thought I was making progress with her.”

“I thought so, too.” Nanny slipped her arms into her gown, leaving her night cap on her head. “The Master had the boy transported to Australia.” Isabel had heard this story but Nanny never tired from repeating it. “He begged for mercy, he did, but the Master would hear none of it. Them with the money makes the rules. That’s what my mother used to say. Let’s pray Miss Lillian’s not got another young laddie in trouble.”

“No, I think she has her sights set higher.” Isabel started for the stairs as the end of the hall. Her nightly braid had come loose but she wasn’t going to waste time rebraiding it.

Nanny moved with surprising speed and caught Isabel’s arm. “One of the guests? Why, the Master’s friends are all rakes and scoundrels even if they do have titles to their names. They’d gobble up a young girl like her and spit out the bones and the Master wouldn’t be able to do a thing about it.”

“I know,” Isabel answered. She couldn’t answer for all of Mr. Wardley’s guests but Richard certainly fit that description.

“We could lose our positions.”

“Yes.” Isabel was relieved Nanny now grasped exactly what was at stake.

“We’d best hurry,” the older woman said. She picked up a candle stub from the hallway table where they were kept, and lighting it off of Isabel’s. The two women hurried toward the stairs. “I wish the Master would marry Miss Lillian off as soon as possible. Yes, she’s young but she is going to come to grief with her wild ways.”

Their Master was Mr. Thomas Wardley, a merchant who had made fortune brokering wool to the army and now fancied his money could buy his way into Society. He was fond of waxing on about how he was part of the “new social order” where a man didn’t need a title to be accepted—but all the servants knew he desperately wanted one. They often called him “Sir” Thomas behind his back to mock his obsequious ways around nobility.

And Isabel knew he was wrong about a new social order. The divide between the Aristocracy and the rest of them was deeper than the ocean. Richard had taught her that, just as he’d taught her that a title didn’t make a man a gentleman. The five lords visiting this week were supposedly here for hunting—although no one had gone hunting once. Instead, the downstairs reeked of port and brandy and Nanny and Isabel had their hands full keeping the children away from influences.

The two women reached the floor where the guest bedrooms were. Candles in wall sconces had the area ablaze with light. Mr. Wardley might be stingy with his servants but no expense was spared for guests.

Isabel paused. The footman who usually sat in a chair at the top of the stairs leading down to the main floor was missing from his post. She felt a cold suspicion.

The quiet of the hallway was broken by a burst o f boisterous male laughter drifted up the stairs from the dining room where the gentlemen liked to play cards. “They are having a rowdy good time tonight,” Nanny muttered.

“I don’t know why Mrs. Wardley tolerates it,” Isabel said.

“The mistress is usually down there with them.”

Isabel frowned but feared she’d already said too much. A governess walked a fine line. She was a servant and yet had a higher standing than the others. It didn’t help the situation that Isabel was not good at being subservient. Pride was her besetting sin and she didn’t like it when her employers pretended she was invisible.

“You don’t think Miss Lillian is down there with them?” Nanny wondered in round tones.

“No.” Isabel studied the closed doors lining the hall. “Which room do you believe is Mr. Severson’s?”

The mention of the man’s name brought forth a gasp of horror from Nanny. “You can’t be serious.”

“He’s all she could talk about from the moment she saw him arrive this morning.”

“He’s all any of the maids can talk about, too. I went down to the kitchen after the children were in bed and even the Cook was sighing over his looks. Have you seen him?”

“No, and Miss Lillian shouldn’t have either. Her mother took her downstairs for introductions. I don’t know what Mrs. Wardley was thinking introducing her daughter to any of those men.” Especially Richard.

“He’s rumored to be very wealthy.”

“Who?” Isabel asked, confused, her mind on Richard. In spite of his title, Richard was a fervent gambler who rarely had a penny to name.

“Mr. Severson,” Nanny answered.

That was even worse. “I don’t care how much money he has. He’s also been accused of murder,” Isabel stated.

Nanny’s jaw dropped. For the first time since Isabel had met her, the older woman was speechless.

“It happened years ago,” Isabel explained. “He killed a woman in a jealous fit. The judge claimed there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him.”

“How do you know this?”

“I just do,” Isabel said with a shrug, realizing that she’d been so upset by Richard’s appearance at Wardley Manor, she’d barely given a thought to a man who had once been of great interest to her.

Isabel knew of Mr. Severson’s murder trial because she had her own secret–she was the bastard daughter of the marquis of Elswick, a piece of information she kept to herself. She was the by-blow of an affair between the marquis and her mother who had loved him madly. That love had not been returned. Indeed, Isabel doubted if the marquis ever gave a thought to her existence.

On the other hand, Isabel had grown up aware of anything that had to do with the marquis. From the moment she could read, she had collected London papers to scan for mention of his name.

The windfall had been Severson’s trial for the murder of an opera dancer. From the stand, Severson had accused her half-brother, Henry, Lord Tainter of being the murderer. It had made for sensational reading. The murdered dancer had been popular in London and even in a parish as small as hers, people wanted details. She’d even been inspired to write the marquis a letter telling him she didn’t believe anyone in their family could commit such a foul deed.

She had never received a response.

And now, the murderous Severson was a guest under the same roof where she was living and she was more concerned with avoiding Richard.

Life took strange turns.

“That is the best bedroom, right?” Isabel nodded to the one at the end of the hall.

“It’s the biggest,” Nanny agreed.

There was another burst of crowing male laughter and then the crash of glass. Isabel drew a deep breath. “We start there. Keep guard while I talk to his valet.”

“He doesn’t have one,” Nanny said and added, “Servants’ gossip. Only one of the lot to not bring a man with him.”

Isabel nodded. Sometimes gossip was good. She walked to the door, placed her hand on the door handle, and drew a fortifying breath. Who knew what sight would greet her on the other side of this door? Her mind flashed the memory of Richard trapping her, attempting to force her to his will–

She pushed the shame aside and opened the door.

The room was in blackness. There was not even a fire in the grate. Isabel held her candle high. Its light shone on the huge, four-poster bed covered in blue silk that dominated the space in the room. In the middle of the bed, Lillian glared at her with open defiance.

To Isabel’s eternal relief, Mr. Severson was no place in sight.

“Go away,” Lillian ordered. “I’m not going upstairs with you. ”

“Yes, you are,” Isabel said. She set her candle on the bedside table. “Now, we can do this with rational intelligence and you can get out of that bed and come with us or you can be carried upstairs. The choice is yours.”

“I’m not going,” Lillian announced.

“Very well,” Isabel answered. “Nanny, I’ll need your help.” The older woman left her guard post by the stairs to come to her aide. In a sweeping gesture, and before Lillian knew what to expect, Isabel threw back the covers, trying not to shocked that the girl was stark naked beneath them.

“Merciful heavens,” Nanny said under her breath. “The child knows no shame.”

“I’m not a child anymore,” Lillian declared and would have snatched the covers back but Isabel was quicker. She caught the girl by the ear, gave it a twist, and cupped a hand over her mouth before she could scream. Nanny removed her own dressing gown and threw it over Lillian’s nakedness. Together, the two of them herded the squirming, kicking girl out into the hall and up the stairs. It was a battle but one Isabel was angry to win. She didn’t breathe easy until they had Lillian locked in her room.

Isabel fell back against the door exhausted. Lillian let the world know what she thought by pounding her fists against the wood and screaming at the top of her lungs.

“You are stronger than you look,” Nanny said, gasping for breath. “I don’t know that I was that much help.”

“It took the both of us,” Isabel assured her.

“She’s going to wake the babies if she keeps that up,” Nanny worried and as if on cue, one of the little ones gave a call for her. “You are on your own now,” she whispered and hurried across the hall to see to her charges who shared the room next to her own.

“You think you are so clever,” Lillian shouted, the thick door muffling her voice. “My father will be furious with you!”

“Your father will thank me for saving your reputation,” Isabel corrected her, and was tempted to add, such as it is. But she didn’t. She knew how important it was for a young girl to have someone believe in the best of her. She was desperately attempting to do that for Lillian.

Lillian kicked the door and yelped upon hurting her toe.

“Go to bed,” Isabel instructed her. “And stay there. We shall discuss this in the morning.”

“We’ll discuss nothing!” Lillian sounded as if she spat at the door. “Father wants me to be in Severson’s bed. He wants me to have a rich husband.”

“Husband?” Isabel turned and stared at the door. “How? By entrapping him?”

“Everyone knows you aren’t the best governess. They know about you and Lord Riggs. They’ll blame you for my getting into trouble,” Lillian taunted.

Now, the child had gone too far. “Of all the infamous, deceitful, underhanded—”

She stopped. Why was she surprised? Mr. Wardley had never impressed her as an honorable man. And Nanny was right, he wanted his daughter married off.

Murderer or not, not even Mr. Severson deserved Lillian. And no man would compromise her while Isabel was in charge. “Let me tell you something, Lillian, and you’d be wise to listen well. Whatever you heard about Lord Riggs and I is not the truth. He attempted to compromise me but I fought him off. Do you understand? Just because I am a woman doesn’t mean I don’t believe in honor and integrity, two qualities I’ve been attempting to instill in you. As for this night, you and your father can give up your silly plan. Someday, you will thank me for it.”

Lillian’s voice sounded as if it were close to the edge of the door. “Silly, silly governess,” she said softly. “I left my bracelet in his bed. I am compromised. He must marry me. Father says he wants to be accepted in society and will have no choice but to do exactly that. I am going to be a rich man’s wife and you will be dismissed.”

Righteous anger welled up inside Isabel to the point she shook with it. There was a way of doing things in this life. An order. Principles meant something. And people, even women, were not to be used as pawns in a chess game. They were important. Her mother had been important, and so had she. The marquis should have done better for them.

“I’m going to fetch that bracelet.”

“No!” Lillian slammed the locked door with her body as if to run through it and stop her, but Isabel was already on her way.

She’d left her candle in Mr. Severson’s room. She didn’t bother to pick up another off the hallway table. She knew the way.

The guest hallway was still empty and laughter echoed through the halls from downstairs. She could imagine fresh bottles of port being opened. That didn’t mean she had no time to spare. Anyone could come upstairs at any moment.

The door to Mr. Severson’s room was open. Neither she or Nanny had taken the time to close it when they’d carried Lillian out of the room. Her candle burned on the night table.

Entering the room, Isabel quietly closed the door and began a frantic searching of the sheets.


She felt under the feather pillow, then ran her hand between the mattress and the headboard probing with her fingers for the delicate gold chain. She knew the bracelet. It had been a gift from Mr. Wardley to his daughter for her birthday last month. There was a small charm attached to it engraved with Lillian’s initials.

Just as she pulled out the bed sheet, she caught a glimpse of her reflection in the looking glass over the chest of drawers across the room and was so startled she stopped. It was like staring at a stranger.

Her heavy dark hair had come loose from its braid and made her appear vulnerable. Her brown dress had ripped at the sleeves, probably during her battle with Lillian. She looked like a woman whose life had not played out the way she’d hoped.

And it was true. Regrets threatened to overwhelm her. She was tired. It had been a long day even without Lillian’s escapade. She worked so hard to be everything proper and right and this was where she found herself—searching a man’s bed clothes in the middle of the night and working for such crass people as the Wardleys.

Her mother’s death had changed her life. Isabel had never been a welcome addition to her stepfather’s family. She was a reminder of her mother’s past and that she had loved another. After her mother died, Isabel’s stepfather had wanted her gone, just like Mr. Wardley wanted to rid himself of his troublesome daughter.

Well, life was full of disappointments, Isabel reminded herself as she turned from the mirror. Nothing was everlasting, especially love, words her mother had repeatedly said to her–

She caught a glimpse of gold on the floor near the table. The bracelet. She practically leaped for it, scooping it up from the floor. The delicate charm reflected the candlelight and she released her breath with relief.

Isabel set to work remaking the bed. In minutes, it would be as if no one had been in the room.

She fluffed the pillows, threw them in place and yanked the silk spread up on her side. The bed was too wide to finish making by leaning across it. She had to walk around to the other side. Here, there was three feet of space between bed and wall, just enough room to allow it to be made with some ease. She pulled the other half of the spread up, soothed out any winkles, and had bent over to pick up a pillow that had been knocked to the floor when the bedroom door opened.

Isabel froze.

She hoped it was Nanny coming to help her.

It wasn’t.

It was Mr. Severson.

She caught a swift glance at his dark head and started to duck, but then stopped. She had nothing to hide. If anything, he should be grateful she had rescued him.

Isabel closed her fist around the bracelet and forced herself to straighten.

Mr. Severson slammed shut the door and walked directly to the dresser without seeing her standing in the far corner of the room. Isabel held her breath, uncertain of what to expect. He was taller than most men and, she sensed, stronger. His boots gleamed with champagne blacking. His neck cloth was crisp and snowy white. He wore the best. Nor did his tailored jacket of dark blue superfine did need padding to enhance the width of his shoulders. He was a Corinthian, a sportsman . . . a man in command of his world.

At the dresser, he placed a hand on each corner and braced his weight as he bowed his head. Isabel thought he was feeling the effects of drink. But then he faced the mirror, looking himself straight into the eye and said with stone, cold soberness, “Damn.”

The concise, angry word was laced with a wealth of frustration. “Go back down there,” he ordered himself. “Wait them out. One of them is the key.”

The key to what?

Isabel pulled back in the corner, her courage disappearing. It wasn’t just his size she found intimidating—it was his looks.

If the devil were to come to life to tempt women, this was the face he would chose. Black slashing brows, a lean jaw and brown eyes so penetrating they appeared as if they could look into another’s soul.

Her heart beat faster just looking at him . . . especially when she realized he was looking at her, too. He could see her reflection in the glass.

Panic paralyzed her, until pride took hold. Her motives were honorable. She refused to flinch from meeting his gaze.

It was an electrifying moment. The chain in the palm of her hand became an afterthought.

Neither spoke.

Isabel moved to the end of the bed, staying close to the wall, his gaze holding hers. Her heart beat so hard against her chest, she was certain he must hear it.

She stopped.

The light of the bedside candle didn’t reach this corner of the room and yet, she sensed, he missed no detail of her appearance. He was as aware of her bare toes peeking out from beneath her skirts as she. He knew she wore no undergarments, no small clothes or petticoats. His sharp gaze brushed over her hair, her eyes, her nose, her breasts.

And he liked what he saw.

Just as she liked him. The draw between them was indefinable and powerful. His lips curved into a lazy smile and she thought her legs would melt.

This man didn’t see her as a servant or a governess. He saw her as a woman. And when he said, “Come here,” she had no choice but to comply.