Restless and impatient, Marcus Cynster waits for Fate to come calling. He knows his destiny lies in the lands surrounding his family home, but what will his future be and with whom will he share it?
Of one fact he feels certain: his fated bride will not be Niniver Carrick. His elusive neighbor attracts him mightily, yet he feels compelled to protect her—even from himself. Fickle Fate, he’s sure, would never be so kind as to decree that Niniver should be his. The best he can do for them both is to avoid her.
Niniver has vowed to return her clan to prosperity. The epitome of fragile femininity, her delicate and ethereal exterior cloaks a stubborn will and an unflinching devotion to the people in her care. She accepts that she cannot risk marrying and losing her grip on the clan’s reins to an inevitably controlling husband. Unfortunately, many local men see her as their opportunity.
Soon, she’s forced to seek help to get rid of her unwelcome suitors. Powerful and dangerous, Marcus Cynster is perfect for the task. Suppressing her wariness over tangling with a gentleman who so excites her passions, she appeals to him for assistance with her peculiar problem.
Although at first he resists, Marcus discovers that, contrary to his expectations, his fated role is to stand by Niniver’s side and, ultimately, to claim her hand. Yet in order to convince her to be his bride, they must plunge headlong into a journey full of challenges, unforeseen dangers, passion, and yearning, until Niniver grasps the essential truth—that she is indeed a match for Marcus Cynster.
Catriona broke it. “That last fact—that Nolan loved Nigel—and yet, when it was clear there was a real risk of Lucilla seeing Manachan, realizing he was being poisoned, and raising the alarm, Nolan had to sacrifice Nigel to give the authorities and society a villain they would be content with…Having killed the one person he actually loved would account for Nolan’s descent into madness.”
“If I may make so bold,” Phelps said, “if Nolan had intended to keep Nigel alive—to let Nigel be the laird, but for him, Nolan, to be the clever one managing the estate, and all else, from Nigel’s shadow—if that’s what Nolan had wanted, but then he was forced to kill Nigel to protect himself, that would also make sense of the blatherings Sean’s been hearing for months. Aye, and what all of us heard today up on that ledge.”
“It also explains,” Ferguson said, “why, having Nigel’s body close by, Nolan went to the ledge to talk to him—to still be close to him.”
Thomas stirred. His expression stony, he said, “I agree. If we accept that Nolan wanted revenge on Manachan, and that Nolan effectively controlled Nigel, then killing Manachan and having Nigel become laird…That might well have been the sum of Nolan’s intentions. He wouldn’t have had to shoulder any responsibility—no matter what happened, all blame would fall on Nigel’s shoulders. I can see that as being a nice revenge for Nolan. He would get to pull the strings Manachan had intended to be in Nigel’s hands, and any failures would be sheeted home to Nigel.”
They revisited various matters, recasting conclusions in the light of what they now understood, but it was clear that no doubt lingered in anyone’s mind as to the truth of what had occurred in the months leading to Manachan’s death.
Finally, Sir Godfrey called them to order. “I believe we’re all agreed that Nolan was the villain, first to last, in the matter of the old laird’s death, and also the deaths of the Burns sisters.” Sir Godfrey fixed his gaze on Niniver. “My earlier judgment will need to be rescinded, but I imagine you and the clan”—with a glance he included the other clan members—”would rather we accomplished what we need to do with a minimum of fuss, heh?”
Relief swept through Niniver. “Exactly.” She glanced at Thomas, then at the others. “The clan has suffered through the scandal of Papa’s murder, supposedly by Nigel. We would prefer not to have to go through that ordeal again.” She looked at Sir Godfrey, then at Lord Richard. “Yet we need to have Nigel exonerated so he can be buried next to Papa. Is it possible do that while avoiding more public scandal?”
Sir Godfrey arched his brows. After a moment, he looked at Richard.
Richard returned his regard. “What if we took Nolan’s suicide as a confession? Which, in effect, it was.”
“And,” Thomas said, “there’s no need for a trial, given the murderer has taken his own life. He’s no longer here to be punished.”
“Ah.” Sir Godfrey looked more hopeful. After a moment’s cogitation, he nodded decisively. “Yes, indeed. That will work.”
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