Lured to the night (the brotherhood series book 4)

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Contents

Title Page

Copyright

Books by Adele Clee

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Epilogue

Thank You

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lured to the Night

 

A Brotherhood Novella

 

Book 4

 

 

Adele Clee

 

 

 

This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination. All characters are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

No part of this book may be copied or reproduced in any manner without the author’s permission.

 

http://www.adeleclee.com

 

Copyright © 2016 Adele Clee

All rights reserved.

ISBN-13: 978-0-993529106-0

 

Cover designed byJay Aheer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books by Adele Clee

To Save a Sinner

A Curse of the Heart

What Every Lord Wants

 

Anything for Love Series

What You Desire

What You Propose

What You Deserve

 

The Brotherhood Series

Lost to the Night

Slave to the Night

Abandoned to the Night

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

 

Castle Craig, Perthshire, Scotland, 1822

 

“They think I’m a witch?” Isla Maclean jumped up from her chair near the fire and gaped at the man she had known all her life. “I dare say the villagers would have a shock if they knew I had the fangs of a wolf and drank blood for supper.”

Douglas growled and clenched his jaw. He hated her speaking so candidly about her affliction. “I swear I’ll kill that foreign beggar if he so much as looks at ye again.”

Her bottom lip quivered at the thought of Nikolai returning. Her father’s trusted friend was no match for a monster. “It’s been almost three years, Douglas. Let us pray he has tumbled from his horse and broken his wicked neck.”

The corners of Douglas’ mouth curled up. “Aye, now isn’t that a sweet thought.”

“It is what I hope for each day when I’ve no choice but to hide in the shadows.” The image of her father’s harrowed expression flashed into her mind. Witnessing his daughter’s abominable cravings had been too much for his weak heart to bear. She would never forgive Nikolai for that. “But there are more pressing matters to concern ourselves with now.”

Douglas shook his head so vigorously a strand of long grey hair fell from his queue. “They’ll nae listen this time. There’s talk you’ve brought a curse down on the village. That you’re the one responsible for the death of their livestock.”

Isla snorted. “What, am I stealing animal organs to use in my evil potions?” She had said it in jest, but the solemn look on Douglas’ face suggested there was an element of truth in her words. “It was a joke, Douglas. Please tell me they have a little more faith in me than that.”

There were many rumours about why no one saw her during the daylight hours. Nikolai’s curse had forced her to become an outcast in her own village.

“They’re simple folk, with nary an ounce of sense between them.” Douglas frowned. “But I fear someone is feeding their weird notions. Someone is filling their weak heads with nonsense.”

Only one person had a strong enough grievance to cause her any trouble. Only one person was respected enough to give credence to the tales.

Lachlan Carrick.

“Malmuirie said Lachlan has come home.” It took a tremendous effort to let his name fall from her lips. “I’ll warrant he’s not got a pretty word to say about me.”

Douglas glanced up at the ceiling and sighed. “Aye, but Lachlan is a man of honour. He would nae embroil himself in village tittle-tattle. If yer maid says otherwise, I’ll see her crawl the length of Artney Glen.”

“Malmuirie said he is not the same since he left.” Isla had been promised to Lachlan since birth. The laird’s only son had made no secret of the fact he regarded her marriage to Nikolai as betrayal. “She said he has a heart of stone. She said he no longer has any respect for women.”

Malmuirie had painted a vivid picture of a scoundrel and debaucher. Apparently, there were ladies in Edinburgh who had no care for their virtue. There were widows who wanted a strong, virile man to warm their bed, nothing more. The image of soft hands trailing over Lachlan’s broad chest caused jealousy to slither through her body.

“No respect for women? Well as I dinnae wear a dress I cannae say.” Douglas smiled. “Does such a thought bother ye, lass? Do ye still hold a torch for Lachlan?”

Isla made an odd puffing sound. “While our fathers may have had different ideas, I’ve only ever thought of him as a friend.”

Douglas folded his arms across his chest. “As a friend ye say? So you’ve never locked lips with him on the banks of the burn?”

Isla’s cheeks flamed. She thrust her hands on her hips and straightened her spine. “Did Malmuirie tell you that?”

“No, lass. But yer father would nae have his only daughter roaming about the countryside without someone keeping an eye on her.”

The memory of the summer afternoon flooded her mind. The sun had been high, the rays bright. The water from the stream had played its own trickling melody. She had stared into Lachlan’s piercing blue eyes and put her trembling hand to his cheek. As their innocent mouths touched softly, she knew then that there would never be another man for her and her heart had raced at the prospect of becoming his wife.

“Then you would have seen the man took liberties.” Lies were easier to live with than the truth. “You would have witnessed my indifference to his amorous advances.”

Douglas smirked. “Aye, if ye say so. Though I—”

The sound of Malmuirie’s irate voice echoed from the hallway beyond the solid oak door. Douglas moved to stand at Isla’s side as she contemplated walking over to investigate. When the door suddenly flew open, she put her hand to her chest, gulped and tried to catch her breath.

“Forgive me.” Malmuirie scurried into the Great Hall accompanied by Lachlan Carrick. “I’ve told him you don’t receive visitors.”

“Visitors?” Lachlan snorted, his confident strides conveying a certain arrogance. “Surely your mistress will welcome an old friend.”

Isla blinked rapidly to clear her vision. The man before her looked vastly different from the one she had said goodbye to some three years earlier. He had lost the naive, boyish charm. Now his blue eyes were cold, his hard jaw less forgiving. The dark brown hair brushing his brow was not as wild and untamed as she remembered. He’d discarded his kilt for a pair of breeks, had covered his muscular arms with a blue coat cut in a fashionable English style.

Douglas stepped forward; the men shook hands, patted each other on the upper arm.

“What brings ye to Castle Craig at this late hour?” Douglas’ friendly tone held no hint of suspicion, but with all the strange talk in the village, Isla suspected it was not a coincidence.

Lachlan’s contemptuous gaze drifted over her. “I would have come at a respectable hour, but I hear your mistress prefers doing business in the dark.”

“Do they not have manners in Edinburgh, Lachlan?” She would not be intimidated by his veiled insults. “Do they not see fit to offer a greeting when they barge into people’s homes?”

He stepped forward and inclined his head. “Miss Maclean. I bid you good evening.”

Isla narrowed her gaze. “I have not been Miss Maclean for three years. Or had you forgotten?” In truth, most people still called her by her birth name. There were some, particularly Douglas, who still questioned the validity of her marriage to Nikolai.

The muscle in Lachlan’s cheek twitched. “No. I have not forgotten.”

“Well, perhaps you have forgotten that there’s no longer a law preventing you from wearing the clothes of your clansmen.” She waved her hand at his stuffy attire. “Or is this what appeals to the ladies in Edinburgh.”

A low growl emanated from the back of his throat. “You were not so concerned about the habits of your countrymen when you married a foreigner.”

They stared at each other for a moment. She imagined that whatever expression he wore, his eyes would still hold a look of disdain.

“Come now. Let us all sit and catch our breath.” Douglas waved to the chairs hugging the stone hearth.

Lachlan cleared his throat. “I prefer to stand.”

“Then say what you’ve come to say.” Isla’s temper flared. She contemplated flashing her sharp teeth, to let him know she commanded a power he could not even begin to comprehend.

Lachlan shook his head and inhaled deeply. “I have come with a proposition. One I believe will be to our mutual advantage.”

During wistful daydreams she had pictured a similar conversation, though she imagined his tone would be warmer, his passionate gaze burning with intensity. In reality, she suspected a proposal of an intimate nature would be the furthest thing from his mind. The thought fuelled her ire. Perhaps she should tease him, chip away at the arrogance that oozed from his pores.

“I hear you’re a man familiar with propositions. I hear that in Edinburgh you’ve gained experience with proposals that are mutually advantageous.”

She had once seen lust and desire flash in his bright blue eyes. She knew how magnificent such a specimen of strength and brawn must appear to ladies looking for pleasure.

His expression darkened. “I hear you’re a witch set to kill every animal in the village to make your brews and potions.” He raised a brow. “If gossip were fact, there’d be many a man hanging from the bough of a tree. Besides, I doubt Douglas wishes to hear your jealous banter.”

Och, the man could provoke the Devil.

“Did you learn your conceit in Edinburgh, too? What need do I have to be jealous?” The erratic nature of her emotions made her forget they were in company. “You were the one who ran away. You were the one who let bitterness stand in the way of our friendship.”

It was wrong of her to blame Lachlan. The fault was hers and hers alone. She had not wanted to marry Nikolai, but he had a forceful way of speaking that made the most abhorrent acts seem appealing. She had been completely at his mercy. She had been powerless to say no to him.

Lachlan clenched his jaw. “You know why I left.”

Aye, to be far away from her. She had wanted him to stay and fight for her. She had wanted him to kill the devil, Nikolai, with his bare hands.

“Aye, perhaps you’re a coward.” Isla regretted saying the words as soon as they’d left her lips. If she were a man, she would not be standing.

Douglas sucked in a breath. “Have a care, lass.”

Lachlan snorted. “It seems I’m not the only man you’ve chased away.” His tone dripped with resentment. “I hear your husband fled into the night and has not been back for three years. Perhaps he’s gone to Edinburgh where the ladies hearts are kind and tender, where he’ll not find a lifetime’s worth of bother.”

Douglas shook his head and tutted. “Keep yer head, lad, and remember why ye came.”

Isla felt the tips of her fangs burst from their sheath as an intense rage burned in her chest. Her hand flew to her mouth in a bid to disguise it. It was not the pain of Nikolai’s rejection that induced such a virulent reaction. It was the pain of knowing she had lost Lachlan’s love.

She turned her back, couldn’t face the man she had once hoped to call her husband. “Get out, Lachlan. Get out of my home.”

Douglas stepped up to her shoulder. “Will ye nae just listen to his proposition, lass?”

“You listen to him if—” Her voice sounded strange whilst baring her fangs. She could not let Lachlan see what she had become. Fear and pity were not emotions she wanted to see in his beguiling eyes.

Without another word, she turned and ran from the room. She would not go to her chamber. Douglas would send Malmuirie up to pry, and she was too agitated to talk. Grabbing her cape from the coat stand, she rushed out into the night. Perhaps she should go down to the village, scour the fields for an animal to sink her teeth into just to add credence to their silly stories.

But she chose to walk in the forest.

In the forest, she did not feel so alone. There were other nocturnal creatures roaming the darkness. There were other creatures wandering aimlessly, lured to the night.

 

 

Chapter 2

 

 

 

“Ah, away and dunk yer head in a horse trough.” Douglas Dougan threw his hands up in the air. “Why did yer have to go and say that to the lass?”

Lachlan shrugged. “Even after all this time, Isla still knows how to rouse my ire.”

“You’re nae a wee laddie anymore, Lachlan. You’re a grown man. If yer shoulders get any broader, you won’t fit through the door.” Douglas sighed. “There’s nae point dwelling on the past.”

Lachlan had spent three years trying to cleanse his mind and body of Isla Maclean. Drink only helped to numb his senses for a few hours, women for even less than that. Despite everything, the essence of the woman he’d once thought would be his wife still clung to his skin. He would often wake at night and imagine it was Isla’s warm body lying curled next to him. He would often catch her scent lingering in the air and feel forced to trace the source of the enticing aroma. All hope of ever moving on with his life seemed to diminish by the day. If he stood any chance of finding happiness, there was only one option left open to him.

“What’s done is done. I’ve no wish to dwell on it anymore.” He tugged at the lapels of his coat, the action a way of reaffirming his decision. “I came at your behest, not to cause trouble. Besides, I plan to take a wife, Douglas. I intend to reside in Edinburgh.” His father’s refusal to accept his decision was one of the reasons he had not already left.

“A wife!” Douglas gave him a reassuring pat on the arm. “Well, there’s nae need to sound so sombre about it. I take it ye have someone in mind.”

“Aye.” He raised his chin in acknowledgement.

In truth, he knew a handful of women who were more than willing. As soon as he returned to Edinburgh, he would make his choice. There were a few stipulations. She could not have waves of golden locks that shimmered in the sunlight. She could not have seductive blue eyes, the silvery hue reminding him of the moon’s reflection on the rippling waters of Loch Earn. She could not have a fiery temper that made a man want to claim her until the only sound to leave her lips was a soft moan of pleasure.

“Granted, I’d rather see ye wed to Isla,” Douglas said disturbing his reverie, “but that sleeky devil ruined all hope for that union. He had us all under his wicked spell, what with his smooth drawl and fancy ways.”

“The man certainly had a persuasive way about him.” Lachlan often wondered if the foreigner possessed a mystical power to force others to do his bidding. “Nikolai,” he paused. The name did not come easily to him. “He had a cold, detached look, one so opposed to his soft words. When he commanded me to leave on the night before the wedding, I felt compelled to obey.”

He’d wanted to rip the blackguard’s throat out. He’d thought of challenging him for the right to Isla’s hand, just as his brethren of old would have done.

“I cannae explain it.” Douglas frowned, the lines on his forehead thick and deep. “I never thought to see the day Alistair Maclean would break the oath he made with yer father.”

“An oath signed and sealed with their blood,” Lachlan added incredulously, keen to express that it had been more than a drunken agreement between old friends.

“Aye.” Douglas hung his head. “I’m ashamed to say I’d nae the will nor the strength to stop him.”

“It’s of no consequence. Alistair obviously knew Isla loved the man.” It was as though icy fingers gripped his heart and squeezed it tight, the nails filed to sharp points to inflict a more intense level of pain. “She has always been a woman ruled by her heart not her head.”

Douglas glanced back over his shoulder before leaning closer. “Nikolai had her under a spell, Lachlan. I’ll nae be surprised to find he is a devil’s disciple sent to cause mischief and misery.”

The thought that there might be some truth to Douglas’ words caused anger to flare. Of course, he did not believe that Nikolai was a sorcerer or a devil, but it was possible he may have used force to get his way. The thought of his evil hands crawling over Isla’s pure white skin could make a man lose his mind. Lachlan cursed inwardly. He should never have left.

“So where is her husband?” he snapped, failing to understand why any man would abandon such an intriguing woman. “Surely you must have heard something from him these last few years.”

Douglas shrugged. “On a stormy night, less than a week after they’d wed, he grabbed a lamp from the table and took Isla to the mine. He left her alone down there, and we’ve nae seen a hair or prickly whisker of him since.”

Lachlan stared at Douglas, yet the man struggled to hold his gaze. “There must be more to the story than that.”

“She cannae remember a darn thing about it.” Douglas glanced at the floor, and Lachlan suspected that wasn’t entirely true. “But the beggar took everything of value, everything his slimy fingers could carry.”

Had Nikolai ruined his life purely out of greed?

“Is that why you want me to offer to rent the mine?”

Douglas raised his chin. “The lass refuses to accept charity, even from me. But if she thinks it’s earned fairly, she’ll take a different view. There’s barely enough money to f-feed her and keep her warm come winter. I know yer father’s nae looking to invest, but there’s a thick vein of iron down there. A huge deposit. I’m sure it will be worth yer while to have a look.”

Judging by the condition of his father’s estate, there was barely a farthing to spare. While he had an income of his own, a man planning to take a wife needed to have a care what he did with his coin.

“Without her husband’s consent it will be nigh on impossible to work the mine,” Lachlan informed him. “I know I agreed to help you, and I will, but I’ll not trouble my father.”

In truth, he had agreed to assist Douglas without actually paying much attention to his plan. He would have sold his soul for an excuse to visit Castle Craig. Call it curiosity. Call it a need to know if the past still haunted him. Now he knew the answer.

“I understand.” Douglas rubbed the back of his neck. “It was wrong of me to mither and moan when yer trying to forge ahead with yer own plans. No doubt, the ladies in Edinburgh are nae as wild and hostile as Highland lasses.”

Lachlan found them vastly different. In the city, women often feigned a sweet nature to disguise vulgar habits — he preferred women who spoke their mind. Despite their material wealth, some were emotionally obsessive and needy. They paraded about in the finest silk; their bodies drenched in expensive perfume. The exotic packages failed to arouse him, and while his cock swelled sufficiently to enable him to perform, the rest of him felt numb to their charms.

“I prefer them a little more unruly, and there’s nothing like the sweet smell of heather on a woman’s hair and skin.”

Douglas chuckled. “Or a trail of midge bites leading from a trim ankle to a soft mound of moss.”

Lachlan laughed too. He had missed the old man’s humour. “I’ll tell Isla that I’m interested in renting the mine. I’ll take a look down there and see if I can find a few men willing to work. We won’t make it official, and it will have to be on a small scale, but I’m sure I will be able to pay her something.”

Douglas gasped. “Even if it’s enough to see her through the winter. If that thieving blighter has nae come back by spring, I’ll have to find a more permanent solution.”

The thought of Nikolai returning to claim his Scottish bride roused murderous thoughts.“Then I pray I have the sense to leave here before he does, else I’m sure to find a rope around my neck.” He put his hand to his throat. “I have no wish to dangle from the gallows.”

 

Forty minutes later, Lachlan strode through the hallway of Carrick Hall. In the evenings, his father could be found nestled in a chair in his study. There was little point heating the larger rooms for a man on his own and the intimate relationship he shared with his housekeeper required an element of privacy.

As Lachlan approached the study, he met Boyd, his father’s steward, exiting the room.

“Is he alone?” Lachlan gestured to the door.

“Aye. I’ve left him to his supper.” Boyd’s excessive facial hair practically covered his lips; the full beard muffled the sound of his voice, and Lachlan strained to listen. “We were just going through the accounts.” Boyd clutched the leather-bound ledger tight to his chest.

“Have you had time to compile the list of repairs I asked for?” Lachlan would make sure the house was fit for a man of his father’s growing years before he returned to Edinburgh.

“I’ll have it ready for you tomorrow.” Boyd patted Lachlan’s upper arm. “Once you agree, I’ll oversee whatever work needs doing. There’s no need for you to wallow around here when you’d rather be enjoying the delights of the city.” Boyd gave him a knowing wink. “I hear there is much to keep you entertained there of late.”

Lachlan smiled though he would not describe the drunken hours spent in various ladies beds as entertaining. It was simply a case of survival. “The women are amusing enough when you’re not choking on their powders and perfumes.”

“But you prefer them a little wilder,” Boyd chuckled, “a little more unrefined.”

His mind concocted a vision of Isla lying sprawled amongst the heather. Her hair splayed like a golden fan against the pretty purple sprigs. “The wild ones prove to be too unpredictable. I’ve come to believe no woman can be trusted.”

“Aye, I’ll second that,” Boyd said, well aware of his history with Isla Maclean. “I assume you’ve been to Castle Craig tonight. I know it’s not my place to say, but no good will come of dwelling on the past.”

“I had need to speak with Douglas.” And he had wanted to look into Isla’s eyes once more, to see if the evidence of her duplicity lingered there, to see if his affection had once blinded him to her deceit.

“Whatever you say.” Boyd shrugged. The man knew him well enough to know that was not entirely the truth. “But take my advice. There’s no future for you at Castle Craig. Go back to Edinburgh and find yourself a woman to marry. Find a woman whose head is not filled with nonsense. And avoid the pretty ones as they bring naught but trouble.”

Lachlan nodded purely to placate the man. “Perhaps you’re right. But I’ll stay until I’m confident there are enough funds available to see all the work undertaken.”

Boyd glanced to the floor. “I can’t help but feel responsible. I should have written to you. I should have informed you as to the state of things sooner. But your father’s mind is often preoccupied with other things. He lacks all interest in business matters.”

Lachlan grabbed Boyd’s shoulder firmly. “You already do the job of three men. My father’s lucky to have someone loyal at his side.” He nodded to the study door. “I’ll go and check on him and then, if you’ve nothing else to do, perhaps we should venture down to the alehouse.”

He wanted to hear more about the strange habits of the mistress of Castle Craig. And a few drinks would help to banish all amorous thoughts of Isla Maclean.

Boyd gave a disappointed sigh. “I’ve still got work to do. If my eyes can stand the strain, that is. But I have a full jug a whisky on my desk.” He tapped his finger on the side of his nose. “It’s distilled in a secret location not too far from here. We could share a glass or three while we discuss the repairs.”

“You certainly know how to tempt a man,” Lachlan said with a grin. “I assume it’s as potent as the last bottle we shared.”

A few glasses of whisky would surely guarantee a peaceful night’s sleep. Tomorrow he would call at Castle Craig with the sole intention of offering to rent the mine. Boyd would think him a fool. He was under no obligation to offer assistance. Indeed, he was still not sure why he felt a deep-rooted need to help. Perhaps Isla might be more hospitable next time. Either way, he would keep his promise to Douglas. A month providing financial assistance would significantly ease their burden. After that, he would concentrate his efforts on finding a wife: a timid raven-haired woman who would welcome his affections with open arms and who lacked the capacity to lie.

 

 

Chapter 3

 

 

 

Isla sat next to the fire in the Great Hall, staring at the dancing orange flames.

Douglas was right. With funds running low, there were few options left open. If Lachlan was willing to rent the mine, then she would just have to swallow her pride and let him. Nikolai had told her never to allow anyone access to the tunnel. No one must enter the mine. If he returned, surely he would understand that their dire circumstances were reason enough to go against his wishes.

Hearing voices echoing beyond the door, she checked the mantle clock and noted it was almost eight. Lachlan was never late. When Lachlan made a promise, he kept it.

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