The Forfar Inn
Forfar, Angus, Scotland
Roslyn Grant pulled her cloak tighter around her as she watched the coach pull away from the inn, her thin shoulders shivering in the cold air. What to do now? The coach fare to Forfar had cost every last penny of her small savings, and what had it gained her but a mere forty miles from her villainous stepbrother?
“Kin I help ye wit’ yer bag, miss?”
A boy about twelve in a torn jacket and brown wool cap pointed at the small valise at her feet.
Roslyn blinked and bent down to pick it up herself. “Thank you, but no, I can manage it myself.” No doubt he was wanting to earn a coin or two, not knowing that her pockets were as bare as his. In any case, the bag was light enough, as she’d had time only to stuff inside a spare gown, stockings and undergarments, and her nightrail.
The boy stared at her curiously and she realized she must appear a strange sight, standing immobile in the middle of an inn yard with a cold wind whirling about her.
“I’d best go inside,” she said hesitantly.
“There’s a first-rate fire goin’ in the public room,” he offered.
She nodded. “Yes, of course.” The worst they could do was throw her out again. So she took brave steps to the door and made her way inside.
Two men sitting at the bar eyed her with interest, but she walked past them with practiced ease toward the fireplace, where she put down her bag and stretched her hands out toward the fire.
“Kin I git ye somethin’, miss?” A weary-looking woman carrying a jug approached her.
She yearned for a cup of tea, but without coin to pay for it, she shook her head. “No, thank you.”
The door opened again, letting in a gust of icy air and about a half-dozen rough-looking men, cursing and behaving raucously. Roslyn ignored them, leaning closer to the fire, but the harassed serving maid could not.
“Liz-zie! Git yerself over ‘n wait on the new folk! I ain’t payin’ ye to stand there ‘n flap yer tongue!”
Lizzie reddened. “Ye don’t pay me to do the work o’ two,” she said under her breath. “When I see that Ellen girl agin, I’ll give her a piece ‘o my mind, ‘n that’s a fact.”
Roslyn perked up. “Are you short of staff then? I-I might be able to help.”
Lizzie looked her up and down. “Needin’ some o’ the ready, are ye?”
Roslyn nodded. “I-I’m looking for a position, yes.”
“Ye sure ye kin handle rough folk like these ‘uns?” She waved her hand toward the newcomers.
Roslyn set her shoulders back, untied her cloak, and hung it across a chair before making long confident steps toward the table of hooligans.
“Can I get ye some ale, gentlemen? Or is it food yer wantin’ We’ve some fine stew this evenin’,” she said with a look at Lizzie, who appeared to be stifling laughter.
“That so?” said one man, taller and bigger than the rest. “Ole Jack’s stew’s never bin called ‘fine’ afore. Jack git a new cook?”
“He did,” she fibbed. “Me. I cooked up the stew tonight.”
The innkeeper, ‘Ole Jack,’ stared at her incredulously from the kitchen door.
“In that case,” said the big red-headed fellow, “we’ll each have a bowl o’ the pretty gel’s stew. Won’t we, mates?”
They all roared their agreement, and Roslyn hustled toward the kitchen, shrugging sheepishly at the innkeeper. “Yer hired,” he said. “Fer tonight. Wot’s yer name?”
“Ros-er-Rachel,” she lied, using the alias she’d invented previously, in an attempt to cover her tracks.
“Rachel,” he said with a conspiratorial wink. “Git in the kitchen ‘n serve up the stew. Mebbe fancy it up a little. Lizzie! Git ’em some ale!”
Roslyn tied an apron around her waist and went to work on the stew, first siphoning the fat from the top and then adding in some finely chopped onion and thickening it with a little flour. The men, when they tasted it, declared it was the best stew they’d ever had. Roslyn brushed off their improper advances with such practiced good humor that their ringleader declared his intention to return the next night to wear down her resolve.
“Ye say ye need a job?” inquired the innkeeper. “Ye kin have Ellen’s. A lazier lass I never saw. Comes in late more ‘n half the time ‘n sometimes not atall.”
“I wouldn’t want to take Ellen’s position,” Roslyn said. “But I don’t mind helping out for a day or two, until I can find something permanent. In return for food and a place to sleep,” she added.
It would be too easy for Teryn to find her at the Forfar Inn, whatever name she used. Her most pressing need, however, was food and lodging. Once that was satisfied, she could work on devising a longer-term solution.
Roslyn Grant is fleeing the stepbrother who stole her inheritance and sold her to a brothel. Without money and facing the perilous Scottish winter weather, she has only her wits to keep her safe.
In search of one of the Flowers of Scotland, Quinn Murray finds her at his estranged uncle’s home, employed as a housekeeper. Slaying her dragons for her might not be enough, however. Can there be a happy ending for this earl’s heir and a long-lost descendent of Robert the Bruce?
This story will be coming out in the spring with the rest of the stories in the Flowers of Scotland series.
About The Flowers of Scotland series
Only The Marriage Maker can pull flowers from the ashes…
Few men are legends in their own time, great fame more often coming years, even centuries later, and by the pens of scribes who rely on long-told tales rather than fact. Even so, now and again, larger-than-life heroes appear, the sheer force of their personalities raising them above all others. These are the fabled ones, flesh and blood men whose lights blaze so bright they eclipse all who’ve gone before them, as well as those who follow.
In the early years of the thirteen century, when medieval Scotland was entrenched in the treachery and chaos of the Wars of Independence, one such man emerged from the tall shadow of the great William Wallace. This man went on to lead Scotland in a fierce fight for freedom that culminated with his 1306 crowning as King of Scots and then, in 1314, with his stunning victory against Edward II of England at the Battle of Bannockburn.
This man was Robert the Bruce, Scotland’s greatest hero king. Even after his triumph at Bannockburn, he railed against England for another fourteen years, finally securing full Scottish independence in 1328, one year before his death.
Extraordinarily beloved by his men, Robert Bruce was also known for his good looks and charm. Yes, he loved the ladies, and they flocked to him. Such adoration from beautiful women is hard for any man to ignore, especially a warrior king always on the move, long away from hearth and home. The Bruce was married twice and is known to have especially loved his second wife. Yet, medieval wars were brutal and it proved too great a temptation to decline the feminine comfort offered him at every turn.
In short, he succumbed. The hero king who came to be known as the Flower of Scotland for his chivalry, sired many bastards and, great-hearted as he was, he ensured that each one lacked for nothing.
But time rolls on, and after but a few centuries, glory-seekers claimed descent from Scotland’s most revered king. Fortunes turned, and some of his true descendants fell from favor. Eventually, no one remembered that their blood carried the richness of such a great and heroic man.
Of course, no one forgot Robert Bruce. His fame burns as brightly as ever. Some historians are obsessed with him, delving deep into history to uncover every nuance of his life and deeds, including the amorous tales.
When one such historian discovers four young women whose lineages trace directly to the Bruce, this man is deeply troubled. The Flowers of Scotland, as he views these Bruce descendants, should not suffer lives of hardship and obscurity as these women do.
Something must be done and he knows just the man to help them; Sir Stirling James, The Marriage Maker. Sir James is a regular at the Inverness pub run by the hobby historian, an establishment named The Melrose for the final resting place of Robert the Bruce’s heart; Melrose Abbey.
Sir James, a true patriot, and history buff himself, agrees that the four young women deserve triumphs of their own. He knows just the four men worthy of them—men who, like the Bruce, possess charm, rank and standing. These heroes can sweep the lassies off their feet and into a world of happiness and love they never dreamed possible.
About the Author
Susana Ellis has always had stories in her head waiting to come out, especially when she learned to read and her imagination began to soar.
A former teacher, Susana lives in Toledo, Ohio in the summer and Florida in the winter. She is a member of the Central Florida Romance Writers and the Beau Monde chapters of RWA, Maumee Valley Romance Inc., and the (in)famous Bluestocking Belles.
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