Book Series: The Marriage Novels

The Marriage Contract

He was a man exiled from society – handsome, unpredictable, and proud. Dark rumours surrounded his name. But Anne Burnett had signed a marriage contract binding her to Aiden Black, the Earl of Tiebauld. And although she’d never met him, she’s determined to keep her word and make theirs a marriage in truth. Because a well-bred lady with little fortune to recommend her has no choice.

From the moment she arrived, Anne fell in love with Kelwin Castle and its roguishly handsome laird. By day, he instils a fierce loyalty in his people with his masterful ways…and by night, he tempts Anne to surrender her innocence to him. But while he is willing to offer his body, Aiden refuses to give Anne his heart…making her wonder what prevents him from truly claiming her as his wife.

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Mass Market Paperback : 384 pages
ISBN-10 : 9780380808335
ISBN-13 : 978-0380808335

Anne knew she was about to be dinner. Then, the wildcat’s gaze shifted to a point past her shoulder. It hissed and crouched with an angry growl.


From behind her, a voice as deep as Mephistopheles’ said, “Don’t move.”

Anne’s heart stopped.

So. Who stood behind?

She turned and found herself looking–not at Todd’s ghost but at something more startling. Less than an arm’s length behind her stood a mythic Celtic warrior, over six feet tall and with shoulders so broad they blocked the sun.

He wore a kilt of forest green cloth, rough suede boots, and nothing else. Muscles banded his chest. His legs appeared carved of solid oak. Bits of leaves and twigs clung to his dark shaggy hair that hung down to his shoulders. But most frightening of all was the vivid blue paint covering his face and the sharp, wicked knife in his hand.

Anne screamed at the same moment the cat attacked.

“Bloody hell,” the warrior said and unceremoniously pushed Anne to the ground.

The wildcat leaped past her and sank its claws into the Celt’s shoulder. Real blood appeared. She could smell it. He was no ghost but flesh and bone.

For a second, man and animal struggled over her head and then his hand holding the knife lifted and he buried it into the animal’s back. The wildcat jerk spasmodically, but continued to fight. They fell to the ground, mere feet from her head, and battled to the death.

Terrified, she watched, not knowing which she wanted to win. The scene reminded her of a picture she’d once seen of the mighty Hercules fighting a lion. The very earth seemed to shake from their struggle.

Again, the knife blade appeared and the warrior stabbed the writhing cat over and over until at last the animal went still.

Anne released the breath she’d been holding. She was crying. Silly. She never cried. And yet, she’d been doing it without realizing it. She swiped her eyes. The warrior moved. He turned his head and looked right at her. In the evening light, the features of his face were hidden in shadow but his eyes burned brightly. They assessed her critically and Anne had one clear thought: now might be a good time to leave.

Carefully, awkwardly, she got to her feet. He rose with her, his movements easy, almost graceful for such a large man. He lifted the knife.

Anne froze expecting him to plunge it into her heart. Instead, he bent to wipe the blood off his blade against the cat’s fur.

Her gaze on his bowed back, Anne edged one step away and then the other. He turned to her and she stopped, her feet suddenly glued to the ground.

“Are you all right?”

She took a full minute to comprehend he’d spoken to her and she couldn’t reply. Her mouth refused to form words. Even if he was human, such a man could be capable of anything. She took another step in the direction of the coach.

“I’ve been hunting this animal for hours,” he explained as if she’d asked the question. “A sheep killer. A cat like this is too dangerous to leave free.”

He spoke the king’s English with a trace of a brogue but she wasn’t going to chitchat with him about it. Instead, she hiked her skirts and took off running for the shelter and sanity of the coach. Maybe all of this including Todd’s death was a bad dream. Maybe if she reached the coach she would wake up.

“Wait!” he shouted.

From the shadows surrounding the overturned vehicle stepped two men dressed in the same half-naked, blue-faced fashion of the warrior. They weren’t as huge or powerful but they appeared just as disreputable.

She skidded to a halt. Were they men? Or devils?

Anne didn’t think, she reacted, swerving away from them. Her foot almost tripped over a piece of wood broken off from the coach’s crash. She scooped it up, hefting its weight in her hand.

“What is the matter with you, lass?” the shorter of the two warriors asked. His was the strong lilting brogue she’d come to expect from the highlanders.

“Don’t come any closer,” she warned them, holding her stick like a club.

“And who are you, lass, to be threatening us?” the older one of them demanded belligerently. The carrot-red of his hair and sparse beard was a comical contrast to the blue paint. His clean-shaven companion was much younger with brown curling hair covering not only his head but his chest and back. It was all very unnerving.

Before Anne could answer she heard a step behind her. The warrior. He’d moved with such stealth she hadn’t been aware of his approach.

“Here now,” he said reaching for her makeshift weapon.

Anne whirled to defend herself, swinging her club with all her might and whacked him hard right across the mid- section.

Unfortunately, he moved at the same time and she hit him a bit lower than she’d planned.

His response was immediate. The air left his body with a “whoosh.” He doubled over, falling to his knees right in front of her.

Anne took a step back. She hadn’t known she was so strong.

The brown haired man winced in sympathy. “Och, right in the bloody bollocks. Did you see that, Deacon? The lass neutered Tiebauld.”

Neutered? Tiebauld?

Anne dropped the club, her mind numb with horror. “You are Lord Tiebauld?”

The warrior couldn’t speak. He wheezed something which the man called Deacon interpreted, “He says he is.” Deacon’s voice was laced with lazy humor.

“He may never be the same,” the brown-haired companion predicted.

“Aye,” Deacon agreed. “Tis a pity. The lasses will have to turn to us for comfort, Hugh.”

“We’ll be forced to work twice as hard to please them,” Hugh answered.

Anne didn’t care about their problems. She had to make amends with her husband . . . before she could tell him he was her husband. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered, reaching to help him rise.

He pulled back, his arm staving her off. “It will be fine. Shortly.” His voice was hoarse from pain.

“Please, I-” She fell silent, seeing what she should have seen from the very beginning. Sharp blue eyes identical to Lady Waldo’s. The eyes in the miniature . . . . although the rest of him was now a far cry from Anne’s image of an idealistic scholar. Lord Tiebauld had filled out as a man. More than filled out-he seemed to have doubled in size.

The effect was intimidating, even when he was on his knees.

And then he stood up.

It hadn’t been her imagination–he was tall. And strong. Anne wiped her nervous palms against her skirts and stepped back. For the second time since being his company, words stuck in her throat.

A strand of hair had come loose from her braid. It blew across her face. He surprised her by pushing it back, a gentle gesture, a thoughtful one. Certainly not a threatening one from a man called the Madman of Scotland–

“Is the man on the hill your husband?”

Anne blinked, disoriented by the word husband. Then she understood he wasn’t speaking about himself. “Todd? No, he was my coachman.”

Now was the time to tell him.

She hesitated. Then, “How did you know I was married?”

Straight, even teeth flashed in the blue paint of his face. “That is a wedding ring on your finger, isn’t it?”

Anne had an unreasonable desire to hide her hand in the folds of her skirts. She clenched her fist. She wasn’t ready for the confession, not ready at all.

He misinterpreted her fears, his gaze softened. “Your husband will be happy to know you are safe after such a bad accident.”

“I hope he will,” she managed to say. Tell him, her inner voice urged. Now.

But Deacon had joined them. “Our faces probably frightened the wits out of her, Tiebauld.”

Her husband looked down at the way he was dressed and laughed in agreement. He had a melodic, carefree laugh for such a large man. Anne knew he would have a fine singing voice, too. And he didn’t sound mad at all.

“It’s a ritual Hugh, Deacon, and I have,” he explained with a touch of sheepishness over his peculiar dress. “Based on Celt customs. Well, actually, they are customs of our own. They make the sport more enjoyable. Adds to the game of the chase.”


“Aye, a little danger is a healthy thing.” He shrugged with a rueful grin, like a overgrown boy who couldn’t help himself from pulling prank.

Relief teetered inside her. Her husband didn’t sound raving mad-just unconventional. He had a reason for being blue. Of course, she didn’t know what to make of a man who considered it a game to fight a wildcat with his bare hands, a man who enjoyed danger, but then, this was Scotland.

And as long as he wasn’t howling at the moon, her marriage might work.

The notion made her feel wifely. She should nurse the scratches left by the cat’s claws. Simultaneously, she realized his chest didn’t have as much hair as his companions. Indeed, his chest could have been two of theirs.

The directions of her thoughts must have shown on her face because he crossed his arms making his muscles flex and tighten.

Heat rose in her own cheeks. She attempted to make her interest a purely medical one. “Perhaps someone should put a salve on those scratches.”

“They can wait.” He changed the subject. I’m sorry, I don’t know your name.”

Here it was, the perfect opportunity. She had to tell him before courage deserted her. She opened her mouth just as Hugh cried out, “You are not going to believe what I’ve found!” They all turned to where his head poked out of the coach door. He waved the silver framed miniature in his hand.

“Is it money or a woman?” Deacon asked baldly.


“Then it can’t be of value,” Deacon replied dismissively.

Her husband prodded her introduction, “I’m sorry. You were saying?”

“It’s a picture of Tiebauld,” Hugh announced grandly, “when he was nothing more than a beardless youth. Remember when he first came here, Deacon, what a sad, sorry sight he was?”

Now he had her husband’s full attention. “A picture of me?”

Hugh climbed out of the coach and jumped to the ground. Her husband’s long legs ate up the distance to the coach. He grabbed the miniature from his friend.

“I know that picture. My sister had it.” He looked at Anne with new eyes. “Did you come from Alpina? Have you seen her?” A pause. “Is she fine?”

His voice held genuine concern. She answered honestly, “She is not well.”

“Tell me.” He walked back to her. No, he stomped back. A man of his size didn’t move quietly when angered.

“I don’t know much about her illness.” Anne lifted her chin, pretending a courage she didn’t feel. “She sent me to you.”

“For what purpose?”

Here it was. Anne could avoid the confrontation no longer. “She chose me for you. My name is Anne. I am your wife.” She held out her ring finger. Even in the fading light, the family heraldic badge could be seen etched in the gold. She was surprised he hadn’t noticed it before.

Hugh and Deacon gathered around for a look. Hugh made a low whistle. Deacon scowled.

Her husband’s response was more direct. “You lie.”

A Scandalous Marriage

Every young lady of the ton knows the rules –never dance with the same man twice in a row, always walk attended…and never, ever get caught in a scandal. Because society can be cruel to those who break the rules…even to


Leah Carrollton had dreams of meeting–and marrying–the perfect man. Then a scandalous affair ended in abandonment, and she left London rather than face her disgrace. With no one to turn to, Leah ran away to the country. Abruptly Devon Marshall, Viscount Huxhold, strides into her life, enveloping her in his strong embrace and offering her a chance to recapture what she’d lost.

Heir to one of England’s most honorable titles, Devon has spent his life breaking the rules–and giving Leah and her fatherless child his name is just one more way to flaunt convention. But Devon discovers Leah tantalizes him as no other woman ever has, making him long for all the sweet bliss that marriage has to offer. But can a marriage made in scandal become a happily-ever-after affair?

AVON Books | Paperback | eBook | Audio

Publisher: Avon Books
February 2000
ISBN-10: 0-380-80832-3
ISBN-13: 978-0-380-80832-8

Devon Marshall, Viscount Huxhold, turned the corner of the cow shed and found himself on the other side of a pig sty from the young woman. She had not yet noticed him.


“Excuse me,” he said.

Pig grunts drowned him out. The earth was soft and warm here and his boots sunk a bit into the muck. He tried not to think what it was he stood in.

Shoving aside a surge of frustration, he raised his voice, “Excuse me!”

This time he caught her attention. The woman looked up, startled to find she was not alone. Holding the slop bucket protectively in front of her, she lifted the brim of her hat, the better to see him–and then gave a loud gasp surprise.

Devon was no less shocked himself. Could his eyes be deceiving him? This was no pig girl. It was Leah Carrollton, a London debutante who only months ago had been the reigning belle of Society.

In the whisk of a second, he no longer saw himself standing by some yeoman’s pig sty but back in London almost a year ago when he’d been badgered into attending a ball. He usually avoided such affairs and he’d been determined to escape this one as early as possible . . . that is, until he had seen her. Leah Carrollton–although he hadn’t known her name at the time.

She had been standing with a group of other debutantes, all dressed in pastels, smelling of rosewater, and full of shy giggles. But she had been different. There was a worldliness about her, a sensuality even, that made her seem old before her time.

She’d sensed him staring at her. She’d turned and looked right at him–and in that moment time stopped.

Oh, she was lovely to look at. Curling dark hair framed exotic almond-colored eyes. Her petite figure was buxom perfection and when her gaze met his, it was as if he’d been struck by lightning. Cupid’s arrow had found him. For the first time in his life, Devon was smitten.

And it wasn’t just her beauty that drew him. No, it was something deeper and something he’d never felt before. He wasn’t a fanciful man but he could swear he’d been waiting for her to walk into his life.

She smiled. The most charming dimple appeared at the corner of her mouth and his feet moved of their own volition. He wasn’t even conscious that he was walking until he stood in front of her.

“Dance with me.” He held out his hand. He would not take no for an answer.

She placed her hand in his. It was a magic moment. He felt as if he’d been changed in some indefinable way.

He pressed her gloved fingers to his lips. “Do you feel what I feel? The draw? The pull?”

She nodded. “My heart is beating as if I’ve been racing a great distance.

Devon smiled. “As is mine. Tell me your name.”


Leah. He loved the sound of it. “I’m Devon. Do you feel what I’m feeling, Leah?”

“As if we were destined to meet?”

Her answer reinforced his belief that something greater than both of them was at work.

“Come.” He lead her out onto the dance floor where they took their places for the Pavane, the sort of ritualistic promenade he usually hated. But not tonight. Tonight, he was transformed. Him! A man who had sworn that one woman was as good as another and had sampled most. Colors were suddenly brighter, the music sweeter, the world full of possibilities. Looking at her, he felt he’d discovered something that had been missing in his life–

A rough hand grabbed his arm. Devon whirled on his attacker, ready to defend her. Before him stood Harold Carrollton, his face red with anger, his fists clenched.

Devon wasn’t afraid. Harold was more bluster than bully. The man was a shiftless gambler, just like all the other members of the family.

The Marshall’s and the Carrollton’s did not mix. Especially since Devon blamed Harold’s father for his own father’s death.

“Take your bloody hands off my sister.” Carrollton spat the words out.

Carrollton’s sister!

The floor seemed to disappear beneath Devon’s feet. He didn’t look at her. Didn’t want to see her face and damning confirmation.

Instead, he’d turned and left the ballroom without looking back. But he’d never forgotten her or those precious, magic moments . . .

Now here she was in the middle of no where, slopping pigs, and looking more lovely than he had remembered her.

She was also very, very pregnant.

The sudden jolt of jealousy was staggering.

Married in Haste

A scandalous gamble . . .

With her exceptional beauty, heiress Tess Hamlin has been dubbed “the Incomparable” by the lords of the ton. Though she can have her pick of suitors, Tess has no desire to wed. She’d rather delight in the intoxicating effect she has on men when she enters a room. But when she makes a daring wager and must secure a marriage proposal in one evening, she plays a dangerous charade with the first man who’s ever set her pulse racing.

Leads to the most unexpected passion . . .

As the new, impoverished Earl of Merton, Brenn Owen needs to find a wealthy wife—and fast. He can think of no better woman than Tess. She’s stunning, intriguing— and rich! Utterly captivated by Tess, Brenn vows to have her. When news of Tess’s wager breaks, her brother, who hopes to avoid the ensuing scandal, accepts Brenn’s offer to marry his sister—much to Tess’s dismay. Now will a marriage made in haste lead to disaster . . . or the most blissful desire?

AVON Books | Paperback | eBook | Audio


Publisher: Avon
June 25, 2013 Reissue edition
ISBN-10: 0-380-80831-5
ISBN-13: 978-0-380-80831-1

Brenn leaned back against the door. “I’m not a Corinthian or a fancy man, Tess. I’m accustomed to plain-speaking.”

She folded her hands in front of her. “I am honored by your offer of marriage, my lord.”

“Why?” he repeated.

Her eyes narrowed and there was a flash of the spirited girl he had seen the night before. “For the reasons anyone marries.”

Brenn knew a stalemate when confronted with one.

He pushed away from the door and walked across the carpet to her. He stopped when they stood so close they were almost toe to toe. “No, Tess. You’re hiding something. Confide in me. Trust me. We each have our own reasons for wanting this match. Let us clear the air and go on about it.”

For the first time since she’d walked into the room, her gaze met his openly and honestly. Panic lurked in their blue depths. Her lips parted. “I–” She stopped as if the other words choked her . . . and then the set of her mouth hardened with firm resolve. “There is nothing to confide.”

Brenn stared at her, uncertain he’d heard her correctly and then felt the swift rise of anger. Why was she being so bloody difficult?

Why was he pressing the issue?

After all, what did it matter if she had been with another man or not? He was marrying her for her fortune. She could have slept with a regiment of men and she would still be his choice because he needed the money. He’d be willing to marry her even if she’d been big as a barrel with child.

So, why did her refusal to be honest make him a little crazy?

Because it did, that’s why. No rational reason, just a primitive anger at her stubborness. And because it mattered, he resolved the issue with the same force of action he would have handled a problem on the battlefield.

He took her by both arms and kissed her.

Her lips parted in surprise. He took advantage of it, pulling her closer to him. At first she opposed him. She attempted to turn her head away, placing her hands on his chest. But something deep and primal that had been lurking within him from the moment she’d first walked into the room now urged him to press forward, to make her respond and bend to him.

It wasn’t just lust. He liked the taste of her. Very much. More than he’d anticipated. And to his satisfaction, ever so slowly, she relented. He deepened the kiss. She responded, tentative at first and then with growing passion.

His tongue touched hers. She started to draw back but he wouldn’t let her. His hand followed the curve of her spine, keeping her close to him.

Her nipples hardened. He could feel them even through the layers of clothes between them and he knew he could have her. Boldly, he pressed himself against her, wanting her to feel his desire for her.

She caught her breath, making a small sound of surprise. Brenn looped her arm over his shoulder while his other hand held her captive. Slowly, deliberately, he began making love to her with his tongue. He knew how to pleasure a woman. A man didn’t travel half the world without learning something about the art of making love.

And one of the things he’d learned is that not every partner sparked this sudden wild desire in him or responded with such innocent inhibiton. Her body fit so well with his. She didn’t protest when he ground his hips against hers, aping the movements of his tongue. She moaned, both arms now around his neck as she held on for support.

He cupped her buttock and lifted her slightly, the better to position himself close to her. She was hot, ready. His fingers started tugging at the skirt of her dress, wanting to remove barriers between them–

A knock on the door was the only warning he had that their privacy was about to be disturbed. They broke apart immediately and managed to place a small sofa between them just as her brother Neil and his wife entered the room.

“So, I hope the two of you have had a moment to get to know each other,” Neil said jovially.

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