Scent of Scotland: Lord of Moray #4

Book Cover: Scent of Scotland: Lord of Moray #4

All is not well in the city of Edinburgh, as Abby and her mate Lord Moray are about to discover. They travel to the great capital in search of answers to the murderous attempt on Moray’s life and find themselves among greater questions. Information from McKenna brings them into danger, and Abby learns the streets of the old city are very different from those in London. The harrowing adventures leave her with worry, but the strong arms of her mate bring her comfort as they try to solve the mystery of the silver dagger.

Excerpt:

A jolt awakened me. My eyes fluttered open and I found myself in a carriage. One glance out the window told me I was in a city. There were tall brick buildings with soaring chimneys that stood against one another. People and handsomes passed the carriage in which I rode, and their gay and noisy chatter was a welcome respite from the quiet of the carriage.
“London?” I whispered.
A scent hit my nostrils that told me this was not London. It was a repugnant smell, and I wrinkled my nose to dispel it from my nostrils.
“That is the scent of malt whiskey,” a voice spoke up.
I realized then that I leaned against someone’s shoulder, and I looked up into the smiling face of Kenneth Moray, Lord of Moray.
I sat up and blushed. “I-I’m sorry,” I apologized.
He chuckled. “Never apologize for touching me. I rather like it.”
“Yes, well, so this is Edinburgh?” I wondered.

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I studied the towering buildings with their deep cellars. The carriage wound its way down a curved cobblestone street. None of the city streets appeared to be straight but for a single one to our far left.
“Aye,” he confirmed.
“Are there many people here?” I asked him.
“Many thousands, and all packed within a square mile,” he told me.
I turned to him with a frown. “Why so small a space?”
“The city has a blessing and a curse. It is surrounded by very tall fortifications that give it protection, but stifle its growth,” he explained.
“Oh, I see,” I mused as I sat back. “And where again are we to stay here?”
“A friend of mine is fortunate enough to own his own residence at the foot of Castle Rock,” he reminded me.
“And where is this Castle Rock?” I wondered.
He turned to our left and nodded. “It is that hill there.”
I followed his gaze northward and saw he meant a tall hill situated in the northwesterly portion of the city. A formidable castle sat at its peak, and many houses and roads dotted the hillside. The castle was protected on three sides by a steep slope, and the fourth was the winding road up the less severe side of the hill. The thick, fortified stone walls of the structure discouraged any intruder bold enough to scale the hill. Towers sat at each of its four corners and looked imperiously upon the city and surrounding country.
My mouth dropped open as I beheld the castle. “Is that-?”
“The Castle of Edinburgh, though it is no longer the sole royal residence,” Moray told me.
I studied the large, thick walls and battlements before I wrinkled my nose and sat back. “I much prefer St. James.”
He chuckled. “There is something lacking in a heavily fortified structure that cannot compare to a palace, but it is a more suitable residence during an invasion.” Moray leaned towards the window and nodded at the structures to our right. “But there. You might find my friend’s home a little more comfortable.”
I followed his motion and beheld a three-floor stone house of some hundred feet in length. The windows were wide and welcoming, and the front stoop, hewn from some ancient marble, was clean and inviting. The walk in front of the house was just as clean, and the curtains were drawn in all the rooms to allow natural light into the interior. We sailed past the door and turned at the first street on our right just past the house.
The small side road led into a courtyard behind the house. Our left was occupied by the wall of the neighboring house, and before us was a large stable. To our right was more of the house and a behind us was a pair of large doors that led into the rear of the house. The carriage stopped and the doors opened.
A young man of twenty-five hurried out. He was dressed in a smart suit cut to fit perfectly his lean, though not skinny, figure. He did not wear a wig, and his hair was sandy-colored and short. His face was open and pleasing, and his eyes shone with a strong, firm light. The only defect in his person appeared to be the use of cane to make up for a slight limp. He stopped a few feet from the carriage and waited for us to alight.
“Moray! How you have aged!” he exclaimed as he hurried forward and grasped Moray’s hand. He gave it a strong shake that rattled my mate. “I should not have recognized you but for your dark, evil eyes!”
Moray cracked a smile and returned the shake with a strong earthquake of his own. “And you, Cael, are as ugly as a newborn duckling.”
Cael, our host, laughed and shook his head. “That was a poor retort, old friend, so I claim the victory. You will have to try harder next time.”
Moray chuckled as they released each other from their rough shaking. “I admit I was not prepared for your usual welcome.”
“I have cheated, haven’t I?” Cael agreed as he turned his eyes to me. “You are at a disadvantage with your lady present. Well, we shall call it a draw, and the winners and losers must have a forfeit of a drink of wine.”
“That is hardly a reward,” Moray teased.
“Then we shall consider it a punishment for your not visiting me long before this,” Cael returned. He leaned on his cane and studied me. “But I must admit seeing your lovely mate was worth the wait. Won’t you introduce us?”
Moray placed a gentle hand on the small of my back and raised his other hand to the gentleman. “Miss Abigail Glenn, allow me to introduce you to Mr. Caelan MacLain. Cael, this is Abigail.”
Cael furrowed his brow and his eyes flickered to Moray. “Not Lady Moray?”
“If you wish to call me that than you may,” I replied as I curtsied. I noticed the corner’s of Moray’s lips curled downward just a little, and a pain of regret stabbed at my heart.
“But you are mates?” he guessed.
“We still have the finer points to work out,” Moray commented.
Cael raised an eyebrow. “I see. I think. But come, let us inside before we all catch our death of cold.”
Moray offered me his arm and we were guided into the house by Cael. The interior was as clean as the exterior, with white wallpaper speckled with flowers and a floor that shone with polish. The halls were narrow, but not uncomfortable, and paintings hung on the walls to give color. Busts sat in recesses and smiled at us as we passed down the center of the house and to the front. The house was divided into two wings, and Cael led us into the front east wing room. It had a grand view of the busy, darkening street.
The parlor was not large, but it was comfortable. A bright fire burned in a fireplace opposite the doorway, and furniture was arranged around the warmth. Cael limped around one side of the furniture and gestured to the couch.
“Please make yourselves comfortable,” he offered as he himself took a seat in a nearby chair very close to the fire.
Moray and I sat together on the couch, and my eyes couldn’t help but stare at the cane Cael placed to one side of himself.
“You wonder at my need for the cane, Lady Moray?” Cael asked me.
I started and blushed. “Please, call me Abby,” I requested.
“I will overlook your not answering my question for the honor of addressing you in such familiar terms,” he teased.
“I’m sorry if it is a sore subject,” I apologized.
He chuckled. “The wound is often sore, yes, but not the subject. I received the wound in a fight against another werewolf.”
I frowned and turned to Moray. “But can you not heal prodigiously well from wounds?” I asked him.
“That is true, but this wound nearly separated me from my leg,” Cael explained. “As such, my ability to heal had quite a task and could only perform to moderate success.”
“Do werewolves often fight one another?” I wondered.
Moray shook his head. “No more often than humans, and perhaps less so. There are not many of us, and a fight generally ends in the death of one or both combatants.”
“But let us speak of happier subjects,” Cael interrupted. His eyes flickered between us and his smile widened. “I must say, but you two make a fine pair, even if the decision is not firmly settled.”
“And you? Have you any luck in finding yours?” Moray asked him.
Cael smiled and shook his head. “I haven’t the finances as you do to hire out a service, but I have friends who daily search on my behalf. I hope that they will find my mate before I reach fifty years of age.”
“And you know she is alive?” I asked him.
He nodded. “Aye, she is. I can feel it in my soul.”
“And yet you cannot feel where she is?” I wondered.
Cael sighed and shook his head. “No, but so long as I feel her I will continue to search.”
“I might be able to assist in your search,” Moray offered.
Cael laughed and shook his head. “No, old friend. Though I appreciate the offer, a werewolf as poor as I must keep some of my pride.”
I glanced around the room at the elegant furniture and paintings. “Are you so poor?” I asked him.
He followed my gaze and a small smile slipped onto his lips. “It doesn’t seem so, does it? But yes. I have more wealth in my veins than in my pocketbook.”
“In your veins? You mean because you are a werewolf?” I guessed.
“No. I come from a long line of titled men and women.” He gestured to the paintings on the walls. “It was they who gathered these great treasures, and in their fancy they spent all the wealth my family owned.”
“But not their inherited good humor,” Moray spoke up.
His eyes fell on Moray and his smile broadened. “Indeed! And for that I have no lack of friends, nor food, nor servants, in my simple way, and so I am content.” He took up his cane and stood. “But enough of this moody talk! Let us have livelier conversation and better promises for the future! I am sure you have not guessed what I have in store for merriment during your visit.”
Moray raised an eyebrow. “What do you propose?”
Cael pocketed his free hand and glanced between us. “What would you both say if I told you I have accepted, on your behalf, an invitation to a small gathering at the Abbey of Holyrood?”
Moray frowned. “Have you?”
“I have, and don’t you dare refuse, Ken,” Cael insisted.
“An entertainment at an abbey?” I wondered.
Cael turned to me and nodded. “Aye. It is the current residence of our king and queen, God bless them both, and they are to hold a small assembly tomorrow. Few are invited, and you two are among them.”
“I feel I must remind you we are not here for pleasures,” Moray argued.
“And I have not forgotten,” Cael agreed. “But though the reason for your stay may be unpleasant, that doesn’t necessarily mean the stay itself may be unpleasant. Besides, surely one night of entertainment will do no harm, and your beautiful mate here must not be kept hidden from the world.”
Moray’s eyes fell on me. “Do you wish to attend?”
I blinked at him. “Would not the choice be yours to make?” I returned.
“I would not have you deprived of such an honor,” Moray told me.
“I-I am not sure. I have never attended such a gathering,” I pointed out.
“It is like any other,” he commented.
Cael stepped up to us and his eyes fell on me. “If I might interrupt your indecision, my wonderful lady, but my friend here is trying, in his own way, to tell you he cares not a hang for assemblies, but will be glad to go through the torture of society if it would give you pleasure.”
I turned to Moray and blinked at him. “Is this true?”
“Not in so many words, but yes,” he admitted.
I smiled and clasped his hand in mine. “Then I would dearly like to attend.”
Moray sighed, but bowed his head to Cael. “Then we accept.”
Cael grinned and bowed to us. “Excellent! Now what do you say to some dinner and drink? You must be tired-” Moray stood and shook his head.
“That we must refuse for we have a prior engagement,” Moray informed him.
Cael raised an eyebrow. “So soon? Did you meet an old acquaintance on your drive through the city?”
“No, this was planned prior to our coming, but if you would excuse me I would rather not drag you into this distasteful business,” Moray requested.
His old friend frowned and pushed away from the mantel. “You know I don’t like to pry into the business of others, Ken, but if your coming here is of such great importance than I wish you wouldn’t shoulder the burden alone.”
Moray shook his head. “No. The danger of one knowing our secret is a great risk I would not place on you.”
Cael sighed, but there was a small smile on his lips. “Well, I am at least glad that you share this secret with your mate.”
“Aye, but we must be off. I ordered my driver to keep the horses harnessed and at the ready for this appointment,” Moray revealed.
“Why not take mine? My driver, Hearn, is an admirable man and can keep a secret as well as anyone,” Cael suggested.
Moray shook his head. “I would not have your family crest involved in this affair until I have gathered enough details to prove my theories.”
“And those theories are what?” Cael persisted.
“No, old friend, I will not fall into your trick of making me reveal my inner thoughts,” Moray told him.
“Then you can at least tell me to where you travel. What if an urgent message were to come for you?” he pointed out.
“I instructed Swain to withhold sending messages, and should one come I would not wish for you to open it. Merely place the letter in our room,” Moray requested. He offered me his hand and pulled me to my feet. “Now if you would excuse us.”
Moray led me out of the room and down the hall towards the stables, and Cael followed us as far as the parlor entrance. “You might at least tell me when you will return!” he called to us.
“Before dawn,” Moray called back.

COLLAPSE

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