A riveting tale of family, love, and betrayal.
Left jilted at the altar by his bride, Rory MacLeod, the Duke of Skye and chief of the MacLeod clan finds himself becoming the subject of unsavory gossip. Marriage to a respectable young lady of impeccable breeding is the only way Rory can hope to silence the gossips. Licking his wounds, he returns to London for the upcoming session of Parliament and Season. He brings with him his sister Lily. It will be her first season and one which Rory intends to find a bride of his own. He doesn't have to look far.
Victoria, the Duke of Hargrove's daughter, catches more than his eye the moment he meets her. She is everything his duchess needs to be. She is smart, beautiful and devoted to Rory. Not even his darkest secret can sway her. The bliss of married life is ripped apart by betrayal of the worst kind. His sister is kidnapped and forced into a marriage with only one purpose. Money. Even worse is who is behind it all.
With his own reputation and that of his family and clan at stake, Rory must carefully negotiate his sister's return without the world finding out about his secret. Not only could it bring shame to everyone he holds dear, it would mean his ruination and worse.
Release date: February 12, 2021
Publisher: Oliver Heber Books
Print pages: 208
Content advisory: Sizzling scenes
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The Sins of Rory MacLeod
J R Salisbury
He stood in front of the looking glass. At the man standing before him. A man he almost didn't recognize. His dress plaid hung at his knees. The black jacket fit him perfectly. Not that he hadn't dressed like this numerous times before. This time was different.
Today he was getting married. It was supposed to be a joyous occasion. Even for couples who married for convenience. The family felt happiness and joy for the union. He felt none.
He was simply going through the motions and doing what was expected of him. After all, he was laird of the MacLeod clan. He was supposed to marry and produce an heir to ensure the family line. He was Rory MacLeod, Duke of Skye.
And yet he felt nothing for his bride, Alice. She was his choice, the sister of his closest friend, Will. Alice was using his friendship with Will to her advantage to secure her place as his duchess. Bloody hell!
Shaking his head full of ginger hair, he walked across his room to the window. Even the day wasn't happy with his nuptials. A fog lay heavy across the loch, showing no signs of disappearing.
His betrothal to Alice had surprised everyone. Everyone except his brother, Donnan. But then Donnan had always had a knack for knowing his feelings and thoughts.
His mother and other siblings, though, had been taken by surprise. He was marrying someone beneath him when he could have had his choice of lasses coming from aristocracy. Instead, he chose his heart, though his heart was for another.
A knock on the door made all his thoughts disappear.
The door opened, and in walked his brother, Malcolm. He was dressed similarly, except Mac walked with a swagger. He'd lost his somewhere along the way.
Rory eyed his brother closely. "Has the bride arrived?"
"Nay. We have a problem, brother."
He sighed. "What sort of problem?"
"Your bride and her brother are gone."
"What do you mean gone?"
Mac pulled a paper out of his jacket and handed it to him. "Read this, and you'll understand. They're gone. Both of them."
Rory grabbed the paper, unfolded it, and began reading. What Mac was telling him was true. Alice had gotten cold feet. They'd both left, leaving Rory a jilted bridegroom.
Alice couldn't live a lie. Not even for her brother. Not all the money or extravagant gifts could make her stay. It was a nightmare Rory had foreseen but hoped wouldn't come to fruition.
"Who else knows?"
"Donnan. He accompanied me to their cottage."
"You're sure they're gone?"
"The cottage is empty except for furniture. Like they'd never been there."
"They can't have simply vanished into thin air," Rory bellowed. "Send a man to the barge. If they left the isle, they would know."
Donnan entered the room. "Let them go, Rory."
Of all his siblings, Donnan knew his deepest secrets. Only Donnan truly understood what was going on here. He had for years.
"He's right," Mac replied. "She obviously doesn't want to marry you. Forcing her would only make both your lives miserable."
"I still wish to know if they've fled the isle."
Mac nodded. "Very well. I'll send a man to the barge to find out."
"How do you want to proceed?" Donnan asked. He laid his hand on Rory's shoulder.
"I suppose I need to tell Mother before we inform the guests there'll be no wedding."
"I'll tell her," Donnan replied.
"Thank you, but this is something I need to do. Make sure our guests are entertained until I can make that announcement."
"You're sure?" Donnan asked.
Mac patted him on the back and squeezed his shoulder. "Best to have found out Alice's true feelings now rather than later."
Rory nodded. "You're right."
"We'll go entertain our guests while you inform Mother of this turn of events," Donnan said.
He watched as both Donnan and Malcolm left the room. The three of them were as different as night and day yet were the closest of the six brothers.
He stared out at the fog once again, trying to get his nerve up to go in and tell his mother. Though it'd been close to ten years since his father, her husband, died, Edana MacLeod still ruled the castle.
She fiercely fought for her children regardless of what their endeavors were. She had no favorites, though Rory had always held a special place in her heart, knowing her first born would someday inherit the burden of his father and ancestors before him.
He walked over to a table that held a crystal decanter of MacLeod whiskey. He picked up a glass and poured a good splash and swallowed it.
He knocked on the door to his mother's suites a few minutes later. He didn't have to wait long for the dowager duchess to open it.
"Rory. I was expecting Malcolm to come get me." She stared at him hard. "What's wrong?"
Rory stepped into his mother's sitting room. The room was inviting, with all his mother's personal touches. He heard the door shut behind him. He hadn’t been in these suites too often. Once his father had died, his mother moved out of the duchess's chambers inside the ducal suites and into these. Those suites, the ones Alice was to have occupied, were more familiar to him as a child. Happy memories. Ones he'd hoped he and Alice could eventually have.
"There is no easy way to say this. Alice has changed her mind."
"She told you this? When?"
"She left a letter for me. Evidently, she and Will have left Skye."
His mother's eyes flashed. "I knew it! I knew Alice would never be happy here. But why take Will with her? You gave him a position here."
"I imagine he's escorting her to wherever it is she went. She made it clear in her letter that neither she nor Will would be returning."
He felt his mother's gentle touch on his forearm. "I know this is a setback, but trust me. You will find yourself the perfect bride. The perfect duchess."
"I know you're right."
"Maybe you and Malcolm should think of going to London for the season."
"I should go anyway. There are things going on in Parliament I should be present for."
"Well, we can discuss it later. What do you want to do about today?"
Rory patted his mother's hand and placed his over her smaller one. "I believe I need to inform our guests. After which everyone can feast on the wedding breakfast. No sense letting it go to waste simply because a wedding didn't occur today."
"Then let us greet our guests."
He followed his mother to the door, and together they walked downstairs into the huge drawing room which had been transformed into a garden for the day.
Edana stood at his side. He noted both his brothers, along with his sister, Lily, and youngest brother, Wallace, all standing together. He was sure Malcolm and Donnan had let the other two know what was going on.
Malcolm neared. "They took the barge off the isle late last night. The moon gave them the perfect opportunity."
Rory nodded. So his bride had scurried off the isle like a common thief in the night. It surprised him Will had let her talk him into it, but then he'd never been one to say no to his sister.
He found himself explaining to the relatives and close friends who had gathered for what was supposed to have been a blessed event that there would be no wedding. He went into no details other than to say the bride had changed her mind.
They would enjoy the wedding breakfast. Later in the day, everyone within miles of the castle would come for a feast that was to have been a celebration of the MacLeod laird's wedding. He wouldn't disappoint his people.
When he finished, he saw his sister making her way to him. "Are you all right, brother? I knew she'd never see it through."
Lily had grown into a beautiful young woman in her own right. She favored their mother in looks but sported the MacLeod dark red hair. He would need to find her a husband before long. Perhaps now he could take her to London as well. If his mother didn't join them, perhaps his aunt Fiona would act as her chaperone.
So much to decide. Today, his mind was running a mile a minute. He needed to let it go and try to enjoy the day as best he could.
"I'm fine. It's better things happened the way they did."
"What will you do now?"
"Enjoy the day as best I can. Tomorrow, I'll decide what I need to do."
Lily shook her head, a scolding look on her face. "You need a wife, brother. Have you thought of attending the season in London? You could take me. I need to be presented, you know."
He smiled at her. "We'll talk tomorrow."
Donnan had approached with his wife, Rosalind. The pair were expecting a babe. She was glowing, and his roguish brother seemed to be ecstatic by the news. "Lily, don't be bothering Rory with your ideas. Not today."
"I wouldn't think of it," she replied with a mischievous grin.
"Breakfast is ready, if you are," Rosalind whispered.
He nodded. "Lily, would you do me the honor of sitting with me?"
"I would love to! Thank you." She beamed as he took her hand and placed it in the crook of his arm.
He walked through the room, his sister next to him. She was the safest choice to fill the spot where Alice should have been seated.
Once he got through today, he would put this all behind him. He needed to focus on his place in Parliament. He could easily go to London. Donnan could oversee everything here.
First, though, he had to get through today. While he was secretly happy things had turned out the way they had, he still mourned the way it had transpired. He and Will had been close friends for many years. Never in a thousand years would he have expected Will to have taken the easy way out.
On the other hand, maybe this was a warning to him. To move on and not look back on that part of his life. It was easier said than done when he still had urges. With his friend away, it would be much easier to control those urges.
"Rory?" Lily asked. She was looking at him as they proceeded into the dining room.
"You were lost in your thoughts. You didn't hear a thing I said."
He shook his head. "I'm sorry. Tell me again."
"It's not important. We can talk tomorrow."
"For what?" She smiled and looked up at him. His sister was a tall woman, but she still had to look up at him and any of her brothers.
"For understanding and just being here for me."
"You're my brother. You're hurt, and I can't bear it. I want to see you find true happiness."
"And I will. It may not happen overnight, but trust me, it will happen."
"Can I tell you something?"
He sighed. "Yes, if you must."
"I'm glad she left. She was going to be too demanding. She already wanted far more than most women."
"There is that."
"Yes, and now why don't we speak of more pleasant things? Regardless of what has happened. Today should be a glorious one. A new beginning."
He stared at his sister in disbelief. How had she become so wise and at such a young age? "You're absolutely right. This is a new beginning."
"You don't think Mother is going to start the line of marriageable young women again, do you?"
"No. I think she'll respect my wishes this time around."
"And what are Rory's wishes? How does he intend on finding the perfect wife?"
He laughed. The one thing about Lily was she was persistent. "This is a new beginning, remember? My search for a bride will be new as well. And that, sister, is all you'll get out of me today."
Two days later, Rory found himself walking to the distillery office. The late morning was still brisk as a wind from the loch blew around him. He'd made his mind up and needed to discuss it with his brothers. And he didn't want to have the conversation inside where one of the lingering guests might hear.
He would go to London. Lily would accompany him. There he'd outfit her for her first season and see her presented to the queen. He could be there for the start of Parliament, and with any luck, his sister might find a suitable match before the season ended.
The idea of balls and all the parties made him shudder. His mission, however, was two-fold. Find himself an eligible young woman. One who didn't regard a Scot as a foreign creature. Shouldn't be hard. He was, after all, a duke. Women flocked at his feet, wanting his attention. He could have his pick of marriageable women. At least that's what he hoped.
Rory entered the building where the whiskey was made. Inside, he heard Malcolm and Donnan talking.
"I thought I'd never get away from those women," he said as he came out of his great coat.
"You are back on the marriage mart," Donnan quipped.
He eyed Malcolm, who seemed to be enjoying his brother's misery with great glee. "How did you manage to escape?"
"It wasn't hard."
He sat down in one of the empty chairs near the fire. "I wanted to speak with both of you. Away from our guests."
"If you're going to tell us you're going to take Lily to London for her first season, we already know. Poor girl's in a state of chaos at the idea of being presented to the queen," Malcolm drawled as he sat across from Rory.
"That's exactly what I'm planning. I've spoken with Mother. She refuses to leave when the birth of her first grandchild is this close."
"Lily needs a female chaperone as well as you," Donnan said. "Someone to help her with her wardrobe."
"I've spoken to Aunt Fiona. She's agreeable to the idea."
Malcolm laughed. "And you? Are you going to put yourself back on the marriage mart?"
"Yes. I'm sure there'll be no shortage of available young women wanting to marry a duke."
"Try to find yourself a bride you can learn to love. That is, if you don't fall head over heels for some pretty young thing," Donnan added.
Rory avoided his brother's probing eyes. He had to put that part of his life behind him. No good would ever come of it. "I plan on doing just that. Not sure about love at first sight, but I'll find someone I'm comfortable with. Lily is my main concern."
At that moment, he wished it were just him and Donnan together. At least he could talk freely. Mac would never understand.
"Mac, would you like to join us?"
"Perhaps after you've gotten our sister settled. As much as I love Lily, she can be quite tiring with all her enthusiasm."
"You're right about that," Donnan agreed, shaking his dark ginger locks.
"Besides, you'll be busy with the start of Parliament," Mac added.
"True. I need to be there. There are a couple of items I want to be present for. I can't continue not to act as though I don't care."
"You know you could have simply picked a husband for Lily. You have that authority," Mac said. He didn't care much for politics and tried to stay away from them. It was one of his ways of pretending that should anything happen to Rory, the mess wouldn't fall on his shoulders.
"Yes, but I'll not deny our only sister her chance to be properly presented to society. Who knows, maybe she'll be lucky in love."
"There is that, and I am extremely thankful I don't have to be part of it," Donnan laughed.
"I'm leaving you in charge when Mac leaves for London."
"What? I don't know anything about running this place."
"Yes, you do," Rory replied. "You know far more than you give yourself credit for. I need Mac to tend to distillery customers. We can't leave it to someone else. It has to be a MacLeod. Meaning one of us."
"You're right," Donnan said.
"You'll be fine, Donnan. Don't sell yourself short. Or has married life made you soft?" Mac cackled.
"Mac's right. Rose is a force to be reckoned with."
"I'm the one who's in charge I'll have you know. Don't let me ever hear either of you suggest anything different."
"Oh, so you simply allow Rose to think she's in charge?" Mac muttered as he tried hard not to laugh.
"Sometimes it's best to let a woman think that. Especially on some items. It makes things easier," Donnan replied. He eyed both his brothers closely. "You'll find out when you both get married."
"I don't ever plan on getting married," Mac retorted, rocking back in his chair.
"We'll see about that. Rory? What do we need to go over?"
"What you need to oversee. You'll need to check in on the tenants. I always try and do that at least quarterly. You can ask Mother as well. She'll know if there's anyone with needs."
"Aye, our mother has quite a solid reputation with the tenants. They adore her," Mac said.
"What of Travis and Kent? If they should write."
"Ignore them. You can have any correspondence from them forwarded to me in London or give it to Mac to bring. I don't expect them to write. Not for a while. I'm pretty sure they're quite mad at me right now."
"I can do that. I'd rather not have to deal with either of them. They've not learned a lesson yet. They've done nothing wrong in their eyes."
Rory stood and walked over to a long cabinet that lined one wall. He picked up a decanter of whiskey. "Care to join me?"
He didn't wait for a reply; instead, he poured three glasses of MacLeod whiskey and passed his brothers each a glass. He picked his own up, taking the bottle with him.
"What are we drinking to so early in the day?" Donnan inquired.
"Nothing," Rory replied. He swallowed the liquid and poured himself another.
"Getting foxed isn't going to solve a thing," Mac said.
Rory shook his head of ginger curls. "What would either of you know?"
"Excuse me?" Mac said. He sat up in his chair and put his glass on a table next to him.
"You heard me. What would either of you know of family obligation?"
A silence fell on the room for a brief moment.
"I think we both know something about it. We may not have the same obligations as you do, but we have them," Donnan replied.
"You never cared a thing about this family until you married Rosalind. As a younger son, nothing has ever been expected of you."
"Then what am I doing here? Why am I making sure the family distillery runs smoothly like it has for generations? Because you asked me, and you are family."
"If I hadn't asked, you wouldn't be here."
Mac ran a hand through his ginger locks. "What's really going on here, Rory? This isn't like you."
"For once in my life, I would like to be free of any and all obligations. To be able to live my life as I choose. That isn't possible. Never has been and never will be."
"So you're feeling sorry for yourself? The great Rory MacLeod is having a vulnerable moment? You're allowed. You're only human," Mac replied.
Rory glared at them both. "Just do as I have asked you while I'm in London. That's all I ask. After that, you both can do whatever you bloody well want."
"Did you ever think we're doing it because we want to? Go to London. Things will be fine here. I promise you that," Donnan replied.
Rory poured himself another glass and drank it. He stood and gathered his great coat before walking out the door without another word to either of his brothers.
He walked through the cold bitter wind. He needed to send correspondence on to London. The house needed to be prepared for his arrival among other things. They were leaving in two days. He needed to ready himself for not only the long journey, but what would await him in London.
A certain jilted Scottish duke has arrived to attend the season. Is he attending for his sister, whom he brought along or is he attending for himself? He was left at the altar by his runaway bride. Will the mothers of all eligible young ladies be lining their daughters up for a chance with this eligible bachelor? Or will he be shunned?
Rory put the paper aside with an amused smile on his face. He took a bite of toast. They'd only arrived two days before, and already he was the subject of the gossip pages.
How they got their information was curious. Probably when Lily went to the dressmaker with Aunt Fiona the day before. Not that either of them would divulge any information. Just the fact they were there and the bills were to be sent to him was all they needed.
He himself had an appointment with a tailor. He needed a couple of suits. It wasn't as though he could wear his kilt everywhere. He wanted something smart and up to date.
The rustle of skirts brought him out of his thoughts. He looked up and saw his aunt Fiona entering the room. He stood and nodded his head.
"Good morning, Aunt. I trust you slept well last night?"
"Yes, thank you."
She sat across from Rory and waited as a footman brought her a plate of toast and a cup of tea.
"What do you and Lily have planned for today?"
She smiled. "I think you mean what does Lily have planned for today, don't you?"
He wasn't sure. Women were so complicated at times. They could twist the simplest of conversation around where one didn't know what it was about.
"My sister is excited?"
"Yes. She can't wait for the Abbott ball."
"Isn't she excited to be presented to the Queen tomorrow?"
"But of course. It's just that the Abbott ball will be her first official function."
Actually he didn't. The female mind was something that always confused him. He took Mac's lead and simply let them have their way.
He slid the newspaper across the table to his aunt. Fiona was his father's younger sister. She had endured tragedy when her husband had been killed in a hunting accident two weeks after they'd married. He often wondered why she'd never remarried. She was still a beautiful woman.
"It seems we've made the gossip columns already."
She smiled at Rory. "Oh, my. I hope it's all good."
He nodded. "It is. More of a curiosity about me."
"Ah, yes, the jilted bridegroom. Of course."
"Which I don't intend to get in my way."
Fiona tilted her head. "You're serious about finding a bride. Even if she's English."
"Aye. It matters not if she's English or Scot. I need a wife. It's time."
"You are a continuous surprise to me, Rory."
"Just when I think I know what you're going to do, you do something I don't see coming."
He laughed. "That's the way I prefer to keep things. Mysterious."
"And that you do."
Rory stood and walked around the table to his aunt. He kissed her on the cheek. "I need to see to some things in my study. If you have time to help me go through the stack of invitations, I'd appreciate it. Tyler says there are quite a few."
"This should prove to be interesting. I'll be there in a few minutes."
"For making this trip and seeing to Lily's needs. I know Mother didn't want to be far when Rose gives birth, so I'm glad you stepped in."
"Say no more. I'm more than happy to ensure Lily's first season is a success. Edana has been on Skye for far too long. London society makes her nervous."
"I know. We all do. That's why Lily didn't raise a fuss about her not attending."
"We all have our reasons and our secrets. Remember that, Rory, and don't judge people by who they are."
He nodded and left the room. He knew better than to get into a discussion of that sort with his aunt. She was too wise. Sometimes more than a woman should be.
His desk study had a good size stack of correspondence. He sat down and began to go through everything. One pile for his own correspondence, another for what appeared to be invitations. Fiona would go through those with him. Together they would decide which were the best to attend. He wanted Lily to be seen at only the best. It would assure both of them would have a greater chance of finding a spouse.
A sound across the room caused him to look up. "I wasn't expecting you for a while," he said dryly.
"This needs to be done. The sooner we know what we're attending, the better we can plan," Fiona replied, sitting across from him. She smoothed her skirts and slid the stack of invitations closer.
"Besides, your sister has our day planned."
"I imagine she does."
Fiona opened the first invitation. "And you? Have you any plans?"
"Indeed I do. I've an appointment with a tailor and lunch at White's. I'm meeting the Earl of Salisbury."
"For work or pleasure?" she asked as she placed the paper to the side of the desk.
"I beg pardon?" The remark caught him off guard. His aunt usually wasn't this inquisitive as to his personal life.
"Your meeting with the earl."
He watched her pick up another invitation and shake her head. That one was placed on the chair next to her.
"I understand the man carries a great deal of influence these days."
Rory smiled. "So they say. He's offered to bring me up to date on a couple of key issues that will dominate Parliament."
She looked up from another invitation. Rory wished he knew which pile was which. One was getting rather large. "If you would like to start by replying to the acceptable invitations and keep a list of who and when, I'll finish here."
She nodded to the rather large pile on his desk.
"Isn't that a lot?"
"If you want Lily to become betrothed, you need to have her seen. Especially her first season."
He shook his head. "I suppose you're right."
"Of course I'm right. You don't think you'll find a wife by sitting here at night do you?"
"Of course not."
His aunt was brutally honest, always had been. She was right. He wouldn't find a wife unless he attended these wretched affairs.
He began to write his acceptances when he looked up to see his sister walk in. She was dressed for her outing. A lavender day dress, which complimented her coloring quite nicely. It was hard to believe she was almost a grown woman.
"I was told I could find you both in here. Really, Rory, Aunt Fiona and I have some shopping to do. Must you burden her with your correspondence?"
"This burden, as you put it, are invitations to the best social affairs in London. I am happy to help your brother sort through them," Fiona retorted.
"I meant no harm. I just know Rory would rather flee than deal with polite society."
"Yet shocking as it may seem, here I am. I'm going to attend all of these with you."
"Of course you are; you need to find a wife since that wretched Alice left you."
"Lily!" Fiona scolded.
Rory sat back in his chair and eyed his sister. "It's all right, Fiona. She speaks only the truth. Alice did the cowardly thing by not speaking to me face to face."
"You'll find someone far better suited here," Lily said. She sat down on a fabric settee with better drama than most actresses.
"I'm sure between you and Aunt Fiona, there'll be a long line of suitable young women."
Lily giggled. "You're a duke, Rory. You don't need us to find you a bride."
"True, but I need someone to decide if they're worthy and suitable of becoming my duchess," he smartly replied.
"Don't worry, we'll see to that, won't we, Lily?"
"Yes, we will."
Rory sighed and responded to another invitation. Somehow he knew it was going to be a long few months with these two women on the hunt for not only the perfect bride for him, but a man worthy of being his sister's husband.
Lily somehow knew what he was thinking. "Don't think you're going to scare away any potential suitors, Rory MacLeod. You may be a duke and my brother, but I won't have you being a brute. Not when it comes to this."
"I only want the best for you."
"As do I. But I don't need my oldest brother scaring them off. I'll not have it."
"You have my word. Unless the man's a known scoundrel or only after your dowry, I won't chase them off."
Fiona stood from her chair. "There'll be more to come, you know. You might also want to think about hosting a ball, Rory."
"It might be a good way to get to know your constituents better. In a social setting of your choosing."
"You're right. I hadn't thought of it like that. We'll talk about it later. You two go on. I'm sure I can finish these up without your help."
Lily squealed, jumping up off the settee. "A ball would be wonderful. Thank you."
"I said Fiona and I would discuss it later. I didn't agree to anything."
"Yes, you did."
"Off with you before I change my mind on a matter I haven't agreed to," he replied. He winked at his sister and watched her rush out of the room.
"Enjoy your day, nephew," Fiona said as she lifted her skirts and began to walk across the room.
"I shall. You as well."
Having been fitted for new suits at one of Bond Street’s best tailors, Rory entered White's. He was more than ready for a good meal, drink, and engaging conversation. While he still proudly wore his kilt even in London, there were places where trousers might be better suited. He never had gotten used to them. Doubted he ever would.
He was shown to a private room where the Earl of Salisbury sat in a tall, comfortable leather chair. He was with another man Rory recognized as the Duke of Leicester.
"Gentlemen," Rory said as he approached the two.
"Ah, good of you to join us," the earl said. "I believe you know the Duke of Leicester."
"Yes, we've met a few times," Rory replied. He sat down in an empty chair. A footman brought him a glass of whiskey.
"It's not your MacLeod whiskey, but it isn't bad," the earl said.
Mortimer Charles Chandler was from a long line of earls. Rory had known him since his father's death. Since he'd become duke. They hit it off the first time they met, and their mutual like of fine horseflesh always kept their conversations lively.
"I need to have Malcolm make a call on their spirits purchaser then," he quipped as he took a sip. No, it certainly wasn't MacLeod whiskey.
Henry George Louis Black, the twelfth Duke of Leicester added his own comment to the conversation. His dark hair seemed to already be graying, like his father's before him. It was said to be a family trait. "How long have the MacLeods been making whiskey?"
"Generations. Back to my fourth great grandfather MacLeod. In hard times, it has always been a way for the clan and family to make money. As it is now."
"In all the time I've known you, I don't believe I've ever tasted it," Black added.
Rory knew what he wanted. He wanted Rory to provide him with such. "I'll be sure to have Malcolm send you some to try."
Black nodded. "I understand you're here for Parliament. It'll be good to have you here. We need all the support we can get on a couple of matters."
"That is why I'm here," Rory replied.
"That and he's here to present his sister," Chandler added.
"Ah, yes. Does this mean you're looking for a wife as well, MacLeod?" Black asked as he finished his drink.
"It does. I thought since Lily's going to have her first season, what better time for me to look?" It really wasn't any of the man's business. On the other hand, Black was single, and he was one of the richest and most influential men in England. A match with his sister might not be a bad thing.
"Yes, I heard rumors you'd been jilted," Black said as he accepted another drink.
"It's not a rumor. She left without a word."
"Women can be such fickle creatures," Chandler added. He ran his hand through his blond hair and looked between both men.
"They can, though I plan on making the rounds this season," Black said.
"You're on the marriage mart?" Rory inquired.
"Same as you. Isn't that part of the reason we're both here in London?"
The three of them laughed. A footman neared, bent down, and whispered something to Chandler. Their lunch was ready.
"Come, let us eat. We can discuss potential young ladies for you both," Chandler said as he unfolded his lanky frame from the chair he'd occupied.
The trio moved to the table, which was filled with delicious food. Rory was glad to see Chandler had chosen White's remarkable steak for lunch. He'd have more than his fill of long, drawn-out meals over the next months.
"I do believe the Duke of Highgrove's daughter will be having her second season this year. She's a lovely young thing," Black drawled as he eyed the plate in front of him.
"Ah, you're considering her?" Rory asked.
"Heavens, no. The girl is all wrong for me."
Chandler leaned forward and eyed Rory. "You're going to the Abbott ball?"
"Yes, it's the one for young women to be at after being presented to the queen. Or so my aunt told me."
"She'll be there. Her name is Victoria, after the queen. She's quite lovely."
"As long as she isn't one of those silly young girls who's afraid to do anything," Rory replied.
"She's quite the horsewoman, I understand. She rides astride," Black said as though it were distasteful. Which it could be in some men's eyes. Men such as Black.
"She also is quite musically gifted and well traveled. The duke and duchess have taken her along with them on their many travels," Chandler added.
"Interesting. Is there anyone else I should know about?" Rory asked. He needed to keep himself engaged in the subject. Finding his own duchess was a necessary job of his.
"Doesn't Highgrove have an older daughter?" Chandler asked as he cut a piece of steak.
"Eve. Yes, I believe she isn't betrothed," Black replied, adding, "though she's close to being on the shelf. She's quite shy from what I've seen."
"Very shy, plus she has that speech problem. The girl becomes tongue tied the moment you try to talk with her," Chandler said, shaking his head.
Rory nodded, but said nothing. He didn't want to seem too over anxious over any one particular young lady. Perhaps Fiona might know of these sisters.
"What of your own sister?" Black remarked.
"Lily? She's my only sister; therefore, I might find myself biased when it comes to her."
"If I remember correctly from my visit there for your mother's birthday, she was quite beautiful and smart," Chandler said.
"She is that. She rides quite well. Astride as she believes a side saddle to be dangerous. She hasn't been sheltered as a lot of these young English girls."
Black picked up his wine glass. "I look forward to an introduction, MacLeod."
Rory nodded. He wondered whether or not his sister would approve. He would let her have her way, but if she chose wrong, he would step in. He needed his sister to marry. Alliances were forged by such things
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