Exclusive Excerpt: The Laird of Blackloch

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Revenge might be sweet, but love is far sweeter…

Sarah wasn’t sure when she first noticed the mysterious man dressed in black, watching her. Perhaps it was when Malcolm had escorted Damaris out onto the ballroom floor for a minuet.

Movement and noise surrounded her: laughter and chatter and the elegant strains of the small orchestra filled the air; the swirl of opulent silks and satins and velvets, and the flash of jewels dazzled the eye as dancing couples floated by. But lingering in the shadows on the other side of the room was a tall, dark stranger. He stood perfectly still, his attention focused solely on her. She could almost feel the weight of his gaze like a physical, intimate touch upon her—or so she imagined—and her cheeks grew hot, first with embarrassment and then silent indignation. How rude. Where were his manners?

With a lift of her chin, she turned her head away and directed her gaze back to Malcolm and his sister. But it was all for naught; her eyes kept straying to the man in black. There was something inexplicably compelling about him. Even though he was some distance away, she could tell he was handsome beneath his black half-mask. Unlike many of the other gentlemen of the party, including Malcolm, he was sans peruke. His raven black hair was clubbed at the nape, revealing the sharp cut of his square jaw above the frothy white lace of his jabot. Aside from white silk stockings and a touch of white lace at his cuffs, everything else he wore, including his cloak, was as dark as midnight.

Who was he? And why was he so interested in her? Since her father’s passing six months ago, she’d been in mourning and hadn’t been out and about that much. And considering she had only been in Scotland since Hogmanay, she wasn’t all that well acquainted with Edinburgh’s polite society yet.

She was about to ask Aunt Judith, her erstwhile guardian, if she’d noticed the stranger’s pointed interest when a young, fair-haired woman, in a scandalously low-cut gown of scarlet and gold brocade, touched his arm in a familiar fashion before murmuring something in his ear. The man’s wide, well-shaped mouth curved into a slight smile and his attention shifted to the dancers. Was he studying Malcolm now? How peculiar. Sarah’s nape prickled with unease.

Something odd was going on, she was sure of it. She would discreetly mention the stranger to Malcolm when he returned to her. Perhaps they were just old acquaintances …

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