An Excerpt From ‘The Amethyst Bride’

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Penelope marched up the steps of the MacLeod townhome, blank music sheets and a new bottle of ink following her by way of a footman. She was lead into the library where Flora sat before the fireplace, a small book in her hand.

“Good morning, Penelope.” The girl grinned, marking her place in the novel and shutting it.

“Good morning,” Penelope replied. “Where is everyone?”

“Charlotte and Conner have gone to the children’s home to prepare for the opening on Saturday. You’ll be there, yes?”

“Of course, although I’ll be quite sad, as it marks the end of their stay here.” Penelope took her supplies from the footman and placed them upon the desk. “And Drummond?”

“He’s around here, somewhere.” Flora beckoned the footman. “Summon Drummond, if you will?”

“I don’t want to bother him,” Penelope said hurriedly.

Flora’s blue eyes flashed. “Oh, trust me, it won’t bother him in the slightest.”

Penelope ignored her and busied herself with unpinning her fashionably feathered hat. She had just placed it next to her sheet music when Drummond entered, rolling his sleeves up to his elbows.

“Penelope,” he greeted, “I hope the day finds ye well?”

“Substantially better now that I’ve found something to do,” Penelope replied lightly. “I was hoping you would have time to work on your manuscript, today?”

Drummond paused for a moment before answered with a small glance towards Flora. “Aye, I do.”

“Fantastic.” Penelope gathered up the paper and ink. “I assumed there’s some manner of piano, somewhere?”

“Oh, yes, in the ladies’ drawing room. Drummond knows where it is,” Flora said, picking up her book again.

“Will you not come with us?” Penelope asked.

Flora didn’t bother looking up from her pages. “Oh, no, I’m going to stay here and finish this novel. It’s quite interesting.”

Penelope rolled her eyes and looked up at the large Scotsman. Propriety would demand she call for a maid to play chaperone but, as Drummond was basically an employee of the MacLeods, she didn’t see the harm in being alone with him. There were many times where she had been with a footman, or butler, without someone to oversee them. “Lead the way.”

Drummond strode down the long hall, Penelope double stepping to keep up with his long strides. He opened a door near the end, motioning for her to enter first. This room was smaller than the regular drawing room with only one small fireplace, a piano, a settee, and a small writing desk. Drummond left the door open, something that didn’t escape Penelope’s attention.

She slid onto the piano stool and flipped up the mahogany top to reveal the keys. With no hesitation, Penelope tested the keys with one of her favorite songs that she long ago had memorized. She was pleased to hear that the instrument was finely tuned. “Perfect. This shall do quite nicely.”

“So, what are we to do, now?” he asked, leaning back against the wall beside the piano. “I do no’ know where to start.”

“Well, I was thinking that we should go through some of the better known tunes you are familiar with, and go from there. I also thought that it might be smart to pick songs that have a backstory, as did the first one you sung at the dinner party.”

“And ye can write the music?”

“Of course. All I need you to do is sing and talk; let me take care of the rest.” She smiled reassuringly and placed a blank sheet atop the piano and the tumbler of ink. “Oh, dash it all,” Penelope muttered as she realized she forgot a pen.

“Lookin’ for one o’ these?” Drummond had pulled one from his sporran and held it out to her, lips curled in amusement.

“You’ve read my mind,” she she muttered, taking the pen. “Now, let’s begin. Sing it once and then I’ll try to follow along with the piano.”

He cleared his throat before beginning the haunting tune. Penelope listened hard, her fingers itching to touch the ivories. Once he had gotten through the first round, she motioned for him to begin again. This time, she attempted to mimic the flow of his voice with the sound of the keys.

“No’ bad.” Drummond nodded his head as Penelope repeated her playing again for him to review. “Ye are rather good at this.”

“I have an ear for music,” she told him plainly, dipping the pen in the ink. She made several marks upon the paper with one hand, the other slowly playing. “You will need to write down the words, though. I don’t know what you’re saying, nor do I know how to spell it.”

“Do ye really think people would wish to read somethin’ like this?” he asked, pulling out the desk’s seat and placing it beside the piano.

“I do believe so,” Penelope replied, looking up from her work. “If not, it’s still nice for you to have for your people. History is often spun, when not properly recorded. We’re basically historians.”

Drummond sat down, his elbows upon his knees and his hands dangling. He watched as she wrote and Penelope could feel his eyes upon her. It almost felt unsettling, but at the same time, it was rather comforting to have such a gentle giant close at hand. While the dangers were limited in a drawing room in the fashionable side of London, aside from the terror of being served cold tea, Penelope still valued his competent company.

They worked with companionable ease that truly surprised her. She had never been so close to a man that she was not related to, well certainly not for so long and with such casual manners. If she were perfectly honest with herself, she would admit that those facts made her more nervous than she would like. Of course, nothing would occur between them, as Penelope had more sense than to be too familiar.

Drummond explaining the spellings, and meanings, of the Gaelic lyrics, while Penelope jotted down the notes and translations. After about an hour, she was pleased enough with their progress to move on to the next song in the book.

They were about to begin when Flora entered, carrying a tea tray. “I thought you could use a break.”

“Thank you.” Penelope took a cup and held it out, allowing Flora to pour her some tea.

“Getting a lot done?” Flora asked, handing a piece of china to Drummond.

Penelope held in a laugh at the sight of the tiny teacup in his hand. She often forgot how large he was until moments such as that. “Yes, we’ve finished one already.”

“Aye, Penelope has a way with the piano,” Drummond told Flora.

Penelope pinked at his compliment and took a sip of tea, hoping the cup hid some of her face. “Well, Drummond has a way with song.”

Flora made a small humming noise, her face unreadable. “I really must go upstairs, I had to go through my gowns and select something for Saturday.”

“But, you just got here,” Penelope pointed out. She was going frustrated with Flora’s constant need to cause mischief.

She placed her unfinished tea back onto the tray. “Shall I send up something for you to nibble on?”

“Aye, this is hungry work.” Drummond stretched. “But somethin’ a bit more substantial than wee cakes and sugared fruit.”

“Can do.” Flora glided form the room, leaving them alone again.

Penelope placed her cup back on its saucer and turned to Drummond. “So, what’s next?”

He shrugged, leaning forward to look at her sheets of lyrics and notes. His face was close to hers then and, with his attention firmly on the papers, Penelope could really take a moment to see him, really see him.

Drummond had clear skin, tanned with hours of full sunlight. His lashes were dark, and his lips sat in a firm line as he read. Full, wavy, hair brushed his shoulders; wonderfully tousled in a way that made him look both savage, and carefree. The sleeves of his shirt were pushed up and Penelope caught a glimpse of rough-looking skin. It was such a contrast to the rest of his flawless visible body that Penelope couldn’t help but gawk.

“Frightenin’, is it?” Drummond asked, looking at her intently under a heavy brow.

Penelope blushed and averted her eyes. “I’m sorry, that was exceptionally rude of me to stare so.”

“Donna fash.” He pulled his sleeves down, covering the marred flesh. “Ye would no’ be the first to stare.”

“I really do apologize. It’s not frightening, I’m just a discourteous fool.”

“Perhaps that’s enough for one day.” Drummond made a move to stand, but Penelope held out a hand, placing it upon his arm.

“Please, don’t,” she pleaded, her cheeks still heated with shame at humiliating him. “I feel terrible. Please forgive me.”

He shifted in his seat, glancing down at her hand, so small compared to his. “Do no’ think o’ it. I’m sure the sight surprised ye.”

“It did,” she admitted. “But, it isn’t frightening. You must trust that I’m speaking true, as a genteel lady. As you know, a lady always faints upon seeing something really dreadful and I am the picture of health and stability at the present moment.”

Drummond’s serious façade cracked and his mouth turned into an amused grin. “Ye are a strange woman, Penelope.”

“Well, that’s not very polite, so I assume we’re even,” she stated primly, taking her hand away from his arm and straightening her back.

“Should I show ye and get it over with?” he asked quietly.

Penelope raised a brow. “What?”

“My scars. I can show ye so ye do no’ have to wonder.”

“I don’t think that’s truly necessary.”

“But, ye are curious?”

“A bit,” she confessed quietly. “But I don’t think that would be terribly proper.”

“It’s naught but a medical display,” he assured her, rising form his seat. He unbuttoned several buttons at his throat before pulling the thin linen off.

Penelope immediately gasped and spun in her seat. Her body burned from the tips of her toes to the roots ofher hair and her heart thumped wildly, knowing his naked torso was but a mere two feet away. Maybe even less. “Do get dressed before someone sees you!”

“Ye did no’ even look.”

“There’s nothing to look at!”

“Well, that’s rather rude,” he mumbled with a laugh. “Just look and get it over with.”

Penelope squared her shoulders and turned towards him. She saw immediately why he might feel insecure about his bare skin. His left arm, shoulder, and some of his chest were wrapped in the spidery scars, the kind that is only left by burns. The skin was pink and puckered, obviously old, but not well healed.

Drummond sat again and held out an arm for her closer inspection. “See? It frightens ye, I can tell by the way the blood left your face.”

“But I haven’t fainted,” she argued pointedly, trying to sound braver than she felt.

“That does no’ mean ye would no’, given the opportunity.”

Tentatively, she reached out and brushed the marred skin with her fingers. It was warm beneath her palm and she squeezed lightly. “I’m not frightened,” Penelope said softly, but firmly, her eyes settling resolutely upon his. “It’s just not every day someone strips before me.”

He brushed his free hand through his hair, breaking their eye contact. “Ye’d be the first to no’ be frightened.”

“May I ask how this happened?”

“A few years ago we were raging against the MacKinney clan. They stole some horses, we stole them back, along with some sheep; normal disputes. But, they took it too far and burned a small village on the MacLeod lands, to the ground. I went to help put out the fires but got caught up in a barn while releasing the livestock. A beam had fallen on me and left me this way.”

Penelope’s brows knit with worry as her mind flashed to small baby cows and tiny sheep. “But what of the livestock?”

Drummond’s brows shot up and he let out a booming laugh that made Penelope jump. “But what of the livestock…” He doubled over in mirth, his hand on Penelope’s, anchoring her in place.

He seemed closer than before, as each of them teetered on the edges of their seats, their knees touching. Well, if Penelope was honest, they were more than just touching. Her legs were tucked between his and their faces were closer than was proper, as he was still bent low, trying to catch his breath. She smiled at the sight of him, so filled with humor. But she was still temped by the bare skin of his chest, almost made more ruggedly appealing by the scar. She could feel the twisted pattern of the burn beneath her fingers and almost wished she could feel the skin of his shoulder, his torso…

When Drummond saw her staring again, he paused, looking back at her between curtains of russet locks. His full lips parted and Penelope felt herself growing closer still, as if pulled by an invisible force. She waited for him to say something, a joke, or a smart remark. But she heard nothing more than her own heartbeat in her breast.

“Am I interrupting?” Flora asked from the doorway, her clever face impassable.

Penelope stood abruptly, nearly overturning the piano stool with her bustled skirt. “Oh, no, we’ve just finished. I really must go home now!”

“No need,” Flora said hurriedly. “I have much more to take care of. I was just seeing if you had been brought refreshments.”

“Don’t worry about it, I really must be going.” Penelope began gathering her things. “It must be getting terribly late.”

“Please, stay for supper,” Flora implored, her face breaking into a ridiculous grin.

“I can’t,” she replied, attempting to take control of her flighty fingers that shook as she tried to carefully stack the sheets. “Drummond, top notch musical work, I’ll be in touch about our scholarly pursuits.”

“Should I see ye home, Penelope?” he asked, pulling his shirt back on.

“Oh, that won’t be necessary.” Penelope avoided looking in his direction. “Goodbye! I’ll see you both, soon!”

She scurried from the house, leaving her hat behind.

 ***

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That’s all for The Amethyst Bride! But you can read more about Drum, Penelope, and the rest of the series here!

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