Read An Excerpt

by Karen Hawkins

Genre: Scotland, Historical Romance

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Piqued at being ignored, Mary wandered near Angus’s desk, pretending to examine a globe that had been placed on a low shelf near him. From there, she could peer almost over his shoulder and see—

"What in the hell are you doing?"

She jumped, her heart pounding at the crack of his voice. “N-Nothing!”

His brow lowered. “You are trying to read over my shoulder.”

She had been, of course, and it occurred to her that a prudent woman might lie and say she’d done no such thing. But Mary was tired of being prudent. So instead, she took a short breath and pointed to the drawings on his desk. "May I see those?"

He blinked, apparently astonished at her request. "Why?"

"Because I'm curious about them. I frequently do drawings myself, you know, so I—"

"I know, I know. According to you, you do the drawings for your brother's research and also write the serial about him for the newspaper. I daresay next you'll tell me you authored his research papers, too."

"I wasn't going to say any such thing." She plopped down in the chair beside his and peered over the desk. "If you won’t let me see the drawings, the least you can do it tell me what you’re reading that has you so engrossed.”“No.” He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his broad chest, his icy green gaze boring into her. "And I did not invite you to sit there."

"I know." She reached over and picked up some of his papers. "Ah, from the Royal Society. This is one of yours." She began reading, noting that while he continued to stare at her with hostility, he didn’t take the paper from her.

After a few minutes, she replaced it upon his desk.

"Well? Are you going to tell me I should have mentioned the Euphrates connection or that I needed to expound a bit more on the evidence supporting that Ramssess II was involved?"

"I would never be so rude." At his disbelieving glance, she flushed for she’d done just that thing earlier today. "Well, I wouldn’t be so rude unless someone goaded me mercilessly. Then I might say something."

“Pray don’t begin holding your tongue now. I’m beginning to get used to your critiques of my life.” He picked up the paper and looked at it. "You've already told me that my drawings are inferior."

"I was a bit angry."

"You meant it."

"Well . . . yes."

His green gaze gleamed with something other than irritation. "And you think you could do better?"

“Why, yes. I could.” She lifted a brow and grinned. "Want to see?"

He returned her look for a long moment, then he reached into his desk and withdrew some paper and a small golden statue that could fit easily in the palm of one’s hand. He placed them both before her on the corner of his desk and then set the inkwell and pen beside it.

Mary flexed her fingers. Finally, a chance to prove myself!

She examined the object for a few moments, then dipped her pen into the ink, tapped it carefully on the lip of the inkwell, and began to draw.

This was the part she loved, transcribing the minute details of an object so it could be shared with others. Some may see drawings as an artistic endeavor, and indeed artistic talent was required, but Mary knew the drawings for a scientific paper were far more important. Unlike works of art, these renderings were required to be true to life, precise, and detailed. They often provided clues for other discoveries.

Her pen began to cross the page, growing in steadiness and smoothness as Mary got lost in the process.

Beside her, Angus watched, mesmerized, as her calm gaze seemed to take in the small gold statue and measure it, shape it, and then reproduce it, tiny line by tiny line.

The clock ticked over the mantel, yet she never halted. Twice, she squinted at the small statue and then bit her lip and added another small detail. Yet another time, a wisp of her golden hair fell onto her cheek and she brushed it aside, not knowing that his fingers mysteriously itched to do the same.

Damn, but she was a lush woman, all curves and silken skin and-

"There!” She replaced the pen in the holder. “It's still wet, but it's done." She slid the paper across the desk to him.

Angus instantly recognized the same delicate hand that had drawn Michael Hurst's papers.

The impact of this didn't have time to register for as he lifted his head to address her, the end of his scarf fluttered down and he realized it had come unwrapped, the scars along his lower jaw and neck in full views.

Her eyes widened as she caught sight of his burned, scarred skin.

His heart thudded sickly and he yanked the scarf back in place, refusing to meet her gaze. He had an instant vision of her face twisted in disgust and the thought was like a knife turning in his stomach.

A warm hand came to rest on his cheek.

Too startled to move, Angus found himself staring into Mary’s golden brown eyes.

Her fingers slipped down to the scarf and she pushed it away, once again revealing his scars.

He reached for the scarf to replace it, but she caught his hands, her fingers surprisingly strong on his. “Don’t!” Just . . . leave it."

Angus's jaw tightened. "Why? Haven't you seen enough?" His voice was harsh, crackling through the air like the snap of unexpected thunder.

She released his hand and chuckled, the sound as warm and gentle as her touch. "There's not that much to see. Frankly, the scars are far less noticeable than always wearing that silly scarf."