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by Jennifer Ashley

Genre: Victorian Period, Historical Romance

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Ainsley Douglas ducks behind the window curtains of Lord Cameron Mackenzie's bedchamber, which she'd been searching, when he enters with his mistress. Unfortunately, Lord Cam and his mistress decide to stay  . . .

Cameron’s strong thighs came into view, and Ainsley saw with shock that scars marked him from the back of his knees to the curve of his buttocks.

They were deep, knotted gashes, old wounds that had long since closed. Good heavens, Ainsley hadn’t seen that. She couldn’t stop the gasp that escaped her lips.

Phyllida raised her head. “Darling, did you hear something?”

“No.” Cameron had a deep voice, that one word gravelly.

“I’m certain I heard a noise. Would you be a love and check that window?”

Ainsley froze.

“Damn the window. It’s probably one of the dogs.”

“Darling, please.” Her pouting tone was done to perfection. Cameron growled something, and then Ainsley heard his heavy tread.

Her heart pounded. There were two windows in the bedchamber, one on either side of his bed. The odds were two-to-one that Lord Cameron would go to the other window. Even bet, Ainsley’s youngest brother, Steven, would say. Either Cameron would jerk back the curtain and reveal Ainsley sitting there, or he would not.

Steven didn’t like even bets. Not enough variables to be interesting, he insisted. That was because Steven wasn’t the one huddled on a window seat waiting to be revealed to Lord Cameron and the woman who was blackmailing the Queen of England.

Lord Cameron’s broad brown hands grasped the edges of the drapes in front of Ainsley and parted them a few inches.

Ainsley gazed up at Cameron, meeting his topaz gaze for the first time in six years. He looked at her fully, like a lion on a veldt eyeing a gazelle, and the gazelle in her wanted to run, run, run. The defiant tomboy from Miss Pringle’s Academy, however, now a lofty lady-in-waiting, stared boldly back at him.

Behind Cameron, Phyllida said, “What is it, darling? I saw you jump.”

“Nothing,” Cameron said. “A mouse.”

“I can’t bear mice. Do kill it, Cam.”

Cameron let his gaze tangle with Ainsley’s while she struggled to breathe in her too-tight lacings.

“I’ll let it live,” he said. “For now.” Cameron jerked the curtains closed, shutting Ainsley back into her glass and velvet tent. “We should go down.”

“Why? We’ve just arrived.”

“I saw too many people coming back into the house, including your husband. We’ll go down separately. I don’t want to embarrass Beth and Isabella.”

“Oh, very well.”

Phyllida didn’t seem much put out, but then, she likely assumed she could hole up with her Mackenzie lord anytime she pleased to enjoy his touch.

For one moment, Ainsley experienced deep, bone-wrenching envy.

The two fell silent, no doubt restoring clothing, and then Phyllida said, “I’ll speak with you later, darling.”

Ainsley heard the door open, more muffled conversation, and then the door closed, and all was silent. She waited a few more heart-pounding minutes to make certain they’d gone, before she flung back the draperies and scrambled down from the window seat.

She was across the room and reaching for the door handle when she heard a throat clear behind her.

Slowly, Ainsley turned around. Lord Cameron Mackenzie stood in the middle of the room in shirtsleeves and kilt, his golden gaze once more pinning her in place. He held up a key in his broad fingers.

“So tell me, Mrs. Douglas,” he said, his gravelly voice flowing over her. “What the devil are you doing in my bedchamber—this time?”