The MacAulay Bride
by Nancy Pirri
In 1888, widowed Brianna MacAulay is an independent woman struggling to support her two sons. She turns her home into a boarding house, believing this will preserve her from accepting another unhappy marriage proposal. But her late husband's brother, Harrison MacAulay, has lusted after Brianna for years. Now that his brother is dead, he's determined to win and wed her. He journeys from Scotland to America to coerce her to move to his home in Edinburgh. She soon learns her sons are under his guardianship, a stipulation in her husband's will, and she has no choice but to move to Scotland. Sexual sparks fly as their mutual attraction deepens, but just when Brianna is beginning to trust him, Harrison makes a critical mistake. Brianna tries to escape but Harrison holds her captive. He soon learns that love, not dominance, will win her heart.
Release Date: June 2, 2015
Genre: Historical Romance
June 1, 1888
Winterhaven Manor, Edinburgh, Scotland
“My God, Raleigh,” Harrison MacAulay said, “I feel as though I've just awakened from a bad dream, and none of what you have told me is true. Och! You are saying I must produce an heir or lose my home?”
“That's precisely what I'm saying,” his solicitor replied. “It's right here, in your father's will, which he drafted when he was healthy and of sound mind, in case you have doubts.”
Raleigh McKenna smoothed the parchment on the desk and read the old laird's words aloud. “My elder son, Harrison James McKenna, shall produce an heir by his thirty-first birthday. Otherwise, the MacAulay estates, including the ancestral home, Winterhaven Manor, shall accede to my second son, Payton Edward.”
Harrison paced the green and gold Aubusson carpet, from one end of the walnut-paneled library to the other, a scowl firmly planted on his face. After a while, he paused and leveled his gaze on Raleigh. “Must I abide by this?”
Raleigh folded his hands on the desk and leaned forward. “If you expect to keep possession of your home and wealth.”
“What in the world was the old man thinking, other than the fact he held a deep obsession at the prospect of becoming a grandfather?” Harrison raged. “Did you know Payton had contacted Father from America years ago and told him about his own two sons? Payton wrote to me and said he never received an acknowledgement from Father.”
“You're not surprised by the lack of response from your father, are you? Your brother fought a duel, killed a man and left the country, never to be seen again. Not to mention leaving the family name tarnished.”
“Not surprised at all. I was the one who took the brunt of my father's fury with Payton's leaving.” Harrison would never forget that fateful day ten years ago. Payton had killed the husband of his latest mistress. In order to avoid repercussions from the law, and to save his own life, he was forced to flee Scotland.
“You do earn a decent living from your work as a physician. Would it be devastating to give up the home and lands to your brother?”
Harrison shrugged. “Not at all. I spend more time at my townhouse in Edinburgh than at Winterhaven, anyway, since my clinic is nearby. But have you any doubt that Payton would run the place into the ground?”
“I see your point.” Raleigh grimaced. “That younger brother of yours has been undeniably irresponsible at times.”
Harrison snorted in disgust. “And what about all the cousins who reside here? I took on the responsibility of supporting and raising the young ones when their families couldn't, not to mention my duty caring for our tenant families. Payton wasn't raised for the job. So, it appears I must marry, hmm?”
A frown creased Raleigh's forehead as he perused the document. “Don't see marriage mentioned at all.”
That gave Harrison pause. “But would my heir be legal if I weren't married?”
“Of course! This is Scotland, man, not England!” Harrison’s lips twitched at the irritable look on his solicitor’s face as he continued, Hell, you could run off in an instant to Gretna Green and handfast, instead, for the required year and a day, then end the relationship.”
Harrison scoffed, “Handfasting is an old tradition, but hardly legal.”
“Yes, ‘tis legal. Scotland’s laws still recognize the tradition.”
“If my handfasted wife provided me with an heir, would I be obligated to remain with her—to marry her officially after the fact?”
“No, not at all, which is likely why so many men have encouraged their lovers over the years to handfast instead of marry, I would imagine. Have you anyone particular in mind?”
“Connie MacPhearson?” he suggested.
Harrison heard the stiff tone in Raleigh's voice as he sank into a chair across from his friend. “Not even remotely.”
Raleigh growled, “Och, are ye saying she's not good enough for ye?”
“Hell, no, certainly not,” Harrison said, laughter in his voice. “Watch it, Englishman. You're starting to sound like a Scot. She would not have me because she's in love with you.”
Sputtering, Raleigh jumped from his chair. “Now, see here... that is preposterous!”
“A moment ago you were ready to blow my head off at my response,” Harrison drawled. “Thank God you hadn't a gun in your hand. When are you going to admit you're in love with the woman? You must know she's in love with you. The two of you are too stubborn for your own good, do you know that?”
“Enough,” Raleigh snapped. “As your solicitor, I advise you to find a woman. Quickly. In eighteen months, you will be thirty-one. I'm leaving now. Do you require anything else?”
“No.” Harrison rose and followed Raleigh to the door. “My thanks,” he said, shaking his friend's hand. “I'll be making my decision soon.”
After Raleigh left, Harrison stared out a long, narrow window, his hands folded behind his back. He watched his solicitor and long-time friend mount his horse and gallop away, all the while contemplating his choice of available womanhood.
Other than one particular woman who was always on his mind, none was appropriate. Brianna MacAulay was the only woman he'd thought about on a daily basis for the past ten years. The only woman he’d ever truly wanted yet had never met her—from the moment he’d seen her in the wedding picture Payton had sent to him.
It was truly unfortunate she was his brother's wife.