Ian looked out the window. “I have a man in London who keeps an eye out for pieces for me. He wired me the evening we went to the casino that there was a bowl here that Lyndon Mather had his eye on.”
Beth stared at him, feeling her life spinning out of control. “That means you would have left Paris the next morning, whether you married me or not.”
Ian looked at her briefly, then returned his gaze to the passing streets. “I would have brought you with me, no matter what. I’d not have left you alone. Marrying you was the best way of thwarting Fellows.”
“I see.” She felt cold. “Thwarting Mather was a bonus, was it?”
“I intend to thwart Mather out of everything.” Beth studied him, his strong profile turned away, his large hand resting easily on the box next to him. “I’m not a porcelain bowl, Ian,” she said softly.
He looked at her with a frown. “Are you joking?” “You didn’t want Mather to have the bowls, and you didn’t want him to have me.”
He stared a moment. Then he leaned to her, suddenly fierce. “When I saw you, I knew I had to take you away from him. He had no idea what you were worth, just like he can’t price the damn bowls. He’s a philistine.”
“I think I feel marginally better.”
Ian’s gaze wandered back to the window, as though the conversation were over. She studied his broad chest, the long legs that filled up the carriage. Her thoughts strayed to what it felt like to have his legs stretched next to hers in bed. “I suppose it will be good to stay a few nights in London,” she said. “I’ll have to buy things for Scotland—I imagine the weather is quite a bit cooler.”
“We’re not staying a few nights in London. We’re taking the night train out. Curry has arranged the tickets.”
Beth blinked. “I thought when you said ‘stopping in London’ you meant stopping for a night or two. Not whizzing in and out,”
“We need to get to Kilmorgan.”
“I see.” A cold knot formed in her chest. “What will we do once we get to Kilmorgan?”
“Wait for what?”
“Time to pass.”
Beth stilled, but there was no more forthcoming. “You are maddening, Ian.”
Ian said nothing.
“Well.” Beth sat back, the tightness in her body corkscrewing. “I can see this will be a different sort of marriage than what I was used to.”
“You’ll be safe. The Mackenzie name will protect you. That’s why Mac wouldn’t divorce Isabella—so Isabella could retain her money and security.”
Beth thought of the laughing, gregarious Isabella and the pain in her eyes. “How very thoughtful of him.” “I’ll never ruin you.”
“Even if I have to communicate with you via notes through Curry?”
His brows drew down, and Beth caught his hand “Never mind, I was joking that time. I’ve never taken a night train to Scotland—well, any train to Scotland. It will be a new adventure. Will the bunks be as interesting as the compartment from Dover, I wonder?”
They arrived in the morning in Glasgow, and then the train went on to Edinburgh. When they rolled into Edinburgh, Beth looked about with hungry eyes. The city was bathed in fog but didn’t lack in beauty for all that.
She barely had time to take in the castle on the hill and the avenue that led between castle and palace before she had to hurry, sandy-eyed, into another train that chugged slowly northward.
At long last, many miles and countless hours since they’d left Paris, the train pulled into a small station on an empty, rolling plain. A mountain ridge rose like a wall to the north and west, cool air flowing from it even in the height of summer. Ian returned from his pacing up and down the corridor in time to hand her out of the train. The sign announced they’d arrived at Kilmorgan Halt, but other than that the platform was empty. A tiny station house crouched beyond the platform, and the station master scuttled back to it after he’d waved his flag for the train to move on.
Ian took Beth’s arm and steered her down the steps past the station house to the small drive beyond. A carriage waited there, a lush chaise with the top folded down to expose plum-colored velvet seats. The horses were well-matched bays, the buckles of the harness gleaming. The coachman, dressed in red livery with a brush in his hat, leapt from his box and tossed the reins to a boy who climbed up to take his place.
“Ye’ve arrived, then, m’lord,” the coachman said with a broad Scots burr. “M’lady.”
He opened the door and Ian boosted Beth in. She settled herself, marveling at the luxury of such a vehicle up here in the wild end of the world.
But Kilmorgan belonged to a duke, one of the most prominent dukes in Britain. In order of precedence, she’d learned from Isabella, the Duke of Kilmorgan came behind only the Duke of Norfolk and the Archbishop of Canterbury. Small wonder the coach that took them to the duke’s seat would be the most sumptuous she’d ever beheld. “I suppose Curry arranged this, too,” she said to Ian as the coachman climbed back to his box.
“We have the telegraph even in Kilmorgan,” Ian answered gravely.
Beth laughed. “You’ve made a joke, Ian Mackenzie.” He didn’t answer. They rolled through a village of whitewashed houses, an inevitable pub, and a long, low building that might be a school or a council house or both together. A stone church with a new roof and a spire stood a little way from the village with a steep path leading to it. Beyond the village, the land dipped to a wooded valley, and the carriage thudded over a bridge that crossed a rushing stream. Up into hills again, the earth undulating in green and purple waves to the sharp mountains in the background The hills were covered in mist, but the sun shone, the afternoon soft.