Gentle Readers,

The following tidbit of long ago doings in Scotland was recovered by an anonymous source. We read with interest the, ahem, musings of Lady Peigi about her sister. We are sure you will enjoy them too, especially given the antics of a certain Lord MacDonald at Almack’s last evening.

Yuletide. 1546. Lady Peigi Grant’s account of her sister’s marriage.

There’s something in James MacDonald’s eyes when he gazes at my wee sister, Aileana. He is one of our clan’s greatest enemies, the Devil, we call him. And his reputation is well-earned. He’s demanding my brother marry one of us to him to compensate for her stealing food from his hunting camp, and yet, he doesn’t want to marry me, Lady Peigi Grant. Nay… He wants Aileana. There’s vengeance in his eyes. I can see it brimming there. Unhealed anger betwixt his folk and mine, too. She defied him. And challenged him. She dared to steal from him when he’s stolen from us for years. And therefore, he has singled her out for his punishment.

“I’ll never make ye marry a man ye nay want,” my brother is whispering to us in the corridor, as we peer through the archway into our castle’s great hall to watch MacDonald twist his brimming goblet in slow, calculating revolutions, when we have barely any food or drink for ourselves as it is from MacDonald’s raids. “But Peigi is demure. Older. Well trained in a lady’s pursuits. She’d make a more suitable bride—”

“I’ll nay see Peigi punished for my actions,” Aileana argues, shielding me with her body as if my brother might pluck me right up from the floor pavers himself to deliver me to the Devil. My wee, fierce sister, always protective when I’m frozen with fear just looking at that terrifying warrior in our hall, blond like his Norse heritage, eyes so icy blue. Knuckles so battered from a life lived with a claymore in his fist. “I’ll—I’ll be the one to marry him.”

“Aileana,” I beg, grasping her. “Nay do this.”

“Sister…” Seamus is frowning, but our wee sister just darted away, and sakes, but I can nay stop her!

“I’ll do it,” she’s just announced to the Devil as we chase after her, even though she’s quaking in her boots.

“I accept,” the Devil rumbles in reply without giving any pause.

And there’s a twinkle in those icy blues I didna’ notice before, a promise as he assures my brother that Aileana will nay be mistreated, that any lady of his castle will be afforded all the comforts of her station. There’s something solemn in the way he’s wrapped their hands in a strip of his tartan wool to handfast them—to claim her as his—as if he’s taking this moment seriously.

I realize in awe… “He likes her,” I whisper.

Our people are enemies, but I see curiosity in MacDonald’s astute gaze. Most men overlook the things that make Aileana beautiful, for she is brash, bold, and never afeared of rolling up her sleeves to get work done. God knows we’ve endured enough raids over the years that there is always plenty of work to do. And mayhap, just mayhap…this handfast will be a Christmastide miracle that ends our clan’s bitter feud?

About Twelfth Night’s Bride: Lady Aileana Grant just wants to help her starving clan at Christmastide. So she pilfers some vegetables from the bastard Laird James MacDonald–the Devil, they call him. When the Devil shows up and demands marriage as recompense for the thievery, Aileana can’t believe it when her brother agrees. Even if she’s able to negotiate a severance on Twelfth Night, that’s still two weeks to put up with the laird in enemy territory. She’s counting down the days, even if James isn’t quite the disgusting cretin she’d imagined.

James needs to marry an enemy bride in order to inherit his fortune. Cursed restrictions. He’d been unable to look away from Aileana’s untamed beauty ever since she squared off with him. He might as well handfast with the infernal lass. He’d get his money and perhaps some peace among the clans. He has a fortnight to win the heart of the lady with the voice of an angel despite her sharp tongue.

Twelfth Night is merry and bright as Aileana and James realize a true connection between them. But when Aileana discovers the reason the Devil forced her into marriage, how can she ever believe he truly wants her?

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