Historical

Triumph and Treasure By Collette Cameron

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Excerpt

The splashing, soft moos, and rustling of the cattle milling about below rose to Angelina’s ears.

Perhaps if she called out someone might hear her, although with the ruckus the animals were making, that was doubtful.

Still, she drew a deep breath and released a most unladylike shout. “Help. I’m stuck in a tree. Help, someone, please.”

“Are you in need of assistance?” A man’s voice, a deep baritone, floated up to her.

Angelina started and swung her head to gawk at the much too attractive gentleman squinting at her atop a light dun gelding. Why couldn’t a groom or a tenant have found her?

“I’d think that was obvious. That foul-tempered brute chased me up here.” She pointed to the bull, now affecting a completely docile demeanor as he rubbed his head against a contented cow.

The gentleman stared at her, an odd glint in his eye. His rugged good looks made Charles seem almost effeminate.

Heavens, where did that come from?

“You’re American.”

The way the man spoke bordered on accusatory. Did he have something against Americans? Perhaps. The war hadn’t ended so very long ago.

She shook her head, never releasing her death grip on the branch beside her. “Not exactly. I was born in Scotland. My parents, both Scottish, settled in Salem when I was an infant. I recently arrived, um, for a holiday and to visit my family.”

“In Scotland?” He appeared a trifle confused.

“No, in England. My uncle is English.”

She surveyed the area. Where had the gentleman come from?

As if he heard her unspoken question, he pointed to the meadow. “A length of fencing is in need of attention where a gate has fallen on the other side.”

He surveyed the cattle. “These are mine. I’ll send word for some of my stable hands to retrieve them and make the repair.”

“What kind are they?” Angelina leaned over a fraction. “I’ve never seen cattle with such long hair. They’re enormous.”

“Indeed. They are Galloways, a Scottish breed. Very hale and hearty.” Though polite, his tone held a distinct coolness.

She angled her head, fully observing him for the first time.

Quality for certain. His seat was excellent; his attire first rate from his black coat to his gleaming boots. Not more than thirty, he possessed an angular, rather chiseled face and his nose sported a distinct bump.

A most handsome man. Truth to tell, sinfully handsome, and young and virile as well.

A tremor of awareness skittered across her skin.

Cease this instance.

She’d yielded to that temptation once before, and the outcome had been wretched.

An aura of sorrow lingered about the gentleman, evident in the set of his finely molded mouth, the shadows beneath dark jade eyes, and the haunted glint in their depths.

She’d wager this man had known recent suffering. Her heart lurched in sympathy.

No.

She’d no business taking note of any gentleman’s appearance, especially his mouth.
And what in heaven’s blessed name was she doing sitting in a tree, talking with him as if they were making polite conversation in a drawing room? She didn’t even know his name, for pity’s sake.

“Can you get down yourself?”

He dismounted. After removing his gloves and hat, he placed them on the same boulder she’d used for her stockings. He spied her discarded belongings, his gaze pausing on a stocking dangling from a bush. A purely masculine smile bowed his mouth.

Mortification swept her.

He held his riding crop as he purposefully made his way to the tree. He placed a booted foot atop the branch resting on the ground. “Here, I’ll come up.”

“No, I can manage perfectly on my own. You assure that devil keeps his distance.”

Sure-footed, Angelina edged along, her bare feet gripping the limb beneath her. Her injured toe protested, but the pain was unimportant. She must make haste. It wouldn’t
do to be discovered with a man without a chaperone present.

The stranger released a hearty chuckle and raised the crop. “That’s what this is for. One or two sound smacks on his muzzle usually does the trick nicely.”

Usually?

“And what happens if it doesn’t do the trick?” She maneuvered the last few inches to the fork in the tree.

The gentlemen pointed the crop at the tree. “We run for it. He’s not named Deamhan for nothing.”

She sniffed. “Deamhan? Oh, that’s Scottish?”

“Yes, Gaelic for demon.”

“A most fitting name. Only Satan would be more appropriate.”

Shoving her hair off her face, she stepped onto the lowest limb, and hesitated a moment before taking his outstretched hand. She nearly jerked hers away when a jolt of sensation vibrated clear to her shoulder.

Once safely on the ground, she disengaged her hand. “Thank you.”

“I’d bow before I introduce myself, but I don’t trust him.” Gesturing toward the dozing bull, the man flashed perfect white teeth.

Of course they were. Just like Charles’s. And what a bounder he’d turned out to be.

New rule.

Don’t trust men with nice teeth.

She met the gentleman’s curious perusal.

Or beautiful eyes and sinfully thick lashes.