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To Win his Highland Wife

Written by Elisabeth Hobbes

Chapter Nine

You’re very interested in that young man,” Angus said. “Are ye planning to offer him a position in Castle Lochmore?”

Hamish blinked in surprise, hearing jealousy in Angus’ voice. The possibility of employing John had not occurred to him. If he thought about it he couldn’t even explain what impulse had prompted his invitation.

“He intrigues me, but it’s his sister I’m more interested in,” he admitted.

“Good.”

Angus looked defiant. Hamish embraced him, doubting any wife could ever be as close as he and Angus. Leadership would be a lonely path without Angus beside him.

“Even if I did employ him, he wouldnae replace you. You’ll stay beside me as my second in command?”

“Will ye tell me the great secret when you learn it?”

“I cannae do that,” Hamish grinned.

He did not know what his father had referred to, but the serious expression in Ewan’s eyes made him certain the secret was significant. If Malcolm would learn it, Hamish was determined he would know as soon as possible, even if it meant taking a bride he’d never met.

“Some mimsy-mannered little lass who’ll just sit and sew and get with child. That’s not the bride I want,” he sighed.

“Perhaps that’ll be the best kind of woman for you,” Angus retorted. “Someone who will stay at home and not ask too many questions.”

Hamish held his tongue. He hadn’t intended to speak his thoughts aloud.

“I’m your man to the death,” Angus laughed. “Someone will need to take you out whoring and drinking, and that boy doesnae look like he knows his way round a woman.”

Hamish grinned. John did seem remarkably innocent. He was standing alone by the shore now, thrusting and twirling his stave against an imaginary opponent with a gracefulness that made it look more like dancing. The way he had blushed at Angus’ offer had been endearing. His sister must be equally pure, which gave Hamish’s conscience a slight twinge at what he’d been imagining doing with her. Perhaps his father had been right and it was time to stop dallying with lasses.

“Only until I’m wed,” he sighed.

“Marriage won’t stop you,” Angus assured him. He ducked inside the inn, already unbuckling his belt.

Hamish returned to the castle. Since leaving the smithy, he’d been unable to get Annis’ eyes out of his mind. They’d flashed with contempt, but she’d had more spirit than he imagined Fiona MacNeish would. More than her brother, even. He’d never liked passive women, and Annis’ irascible temperament spoke to him more than any woman he could think of.

After eating, he found John sitting alone by the loch. Hamish threw himself down with a cheerful greeting. John jumped and pulled his brat nervously over his knees. He relaxed when he recognised Hamish, then his eyes became wary once more and he retreated into the depths of his brat.

Hamish poured two generous cups of uisge beatha.

Time to loosen the boy’s tongue and discover what made the Gowen siblings so nervous in his presence.

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Elisabeth Hobbes

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