Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage

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Mac loved that Isabella so unflinchingly embraced his family. When she'd met them shortly after marrying Mac, his sweet little bride had instantly charmed his rather skeptical brothers. Cameron had liked her right away, laughing in his loud way and telling Mac she would lead him a merry life. Ian had regarded Isabella for a time with his sideways look, before offering to show her his collection of Ming bowls. For Ian, this was the equivalent of declaring undying devotion.
Hart had taken slightly longer, having faced Isabella's father in political battles-Hart pro-Scottish; Earl Scranton still annoyed about the Highland uprising a hundred and forty years ago. Isabella had won Hart over by not letting him tread on her. Hart respected strong women, and he'd softened toward Isabella within days. Hart had done much the same with Beth, Mac had heard, Mac still sorry he'd missed that encounter.
As soon as they entered the house, Isabella and Beth headed toward the terrace, arms about each other's waists, their nonstop chatter punctuated with much giggling. Mac watched them go with some regret then turned to Ian and clapped his brother on the shoulder. It spoke of how far Ian had relaxed that he didn't immediately pull away. Ian didn't like to be touched-except by Beth. He'd made that abundantly clear.
Ian met Mac's eyes fleetingly, his golden gaze sliding away almost at once. Ian had always had trouble meeting another's eyes, but he was getting better at it. Six months ago, he wouldn't have been able to give Mac even that fleeting glance.
"Have you done it?" Ian asked him.
Mac blinked. "Done what?"
"Is Isabella your wife again?" Ian asked impatiently. His look said, What else would I be talking about?
Mac shrugged. "Things are proceeding."
"Does that mean no or yes?"
Ian, always literal. "It means, I am working toward our reconciliation."
"You mean no."
"All right, damn you. No, we're not husband and wife again. Isabella needs time."
"You have had three years and seven months," Ian said. "Tell her you are together again and be done."
"Ah, to live as simple a life as you do," Mac said. "You chased Beth to Paris and cornered her in a pension. A quick wedding, and she devoted herself to you, you lucky sod. What is between Isabella and me is more complicated."
Ian didn't answer, craning to watch Beth through the windows to the terrace. Mac realized that Ian had little idea what Mac was babbling about, and what's more, didn't care.
Mac fell silent while the dogs flowed around them, trying to decide whether to stay with the dullards in the hall or rush into the sunshine with the ladies. Giving up on the dullards, the dogs clattered through the open door after Beth and Isabella.
Ian broke his obsessive gaze and glanced briefly at Mac. "Simple? Of course it's simple. Just get on with it ."
Ian strode away and out the doors, pulled by an invisible tether to the woman he loved.
Chapter 9
Clan Mackenzie were seen at Doncaster, their box graced by the radiant beauty of the Lady from Mount Street. The others danced attendance on their lovely Sister, but despite the return of her Lord and their apparent reconciliation, no rumor has yet reached our ears of another impending heir to the Mackenzie throne.
-September 1876
Mac remembered Ian's words the next day as they gathered at the Doncaster racetrack to watch the opening races. Cameron and Daniel disappeared to the stables as soon as they reached the track, Cam muttering something about having been away from the horses too long.
Hart also disappeared on whatever business he hoped to accomplish. Hart used any opportunity to push his political agendas, which meant wandering about every social occasion talking to people-bullying them into seeing things his way, Mac thought, half in irritation. Hart liked people to dance to his tune.
Hart had been rather short-tempered during the drive to the race, and Mac had sensed tension between him and Ian since arriving at the Doncaster house. Isabella and Beth talking nonstop covered things nicely, but the underlying strain was obvious.
Beth explained the problem as she and Ian, Isabella and Mac settled themselves into the Mackenzie box high above the track. It seemed that Hart had requested Beth to act as hostess for him at upcoming social functions at Kilmorgan Castle. Hart wanted to woo various members of Parliament in his capacity as duke and needed a lovely woman to smile at them and soften them up. Ian had grown protective and annoyed and told Hart to find his own damned wife.
Mac laughed out loud. "I wish I had witnessed that. I love it when you tell Hart to stuff himself, Ian. Though I'm sorry you had to be caught in it, Beth. No one deserves to be squeezed inside a Mackenzie argument."
Isabella rolled her eyes under her ostentatious hat. "That is an understatement."
"I don't mind," Beth said quickly. "I agreed to help a bit, but it's good for Hart learn too that he can't always have things his own way. And Ian is right; Hart does need to marry again. Cameron is worried to death that Hart will fall off a horse and pass the title to him."
An ongoing conundrum. Mac had always felt himself happily removed from the dukedom-he had Cameron and Daniel safely between him and the coronet. If Hart would just pick out a woman and get on with it, Mac could find even more distance between himself and the title. But after the death of Hart's young wife and child, the damn man had stayed stubbornly off the marriage mart. The family had speculated whether he'd again try to win Eleanor Ramsay, who'd previously jilted him but was still unmarried, but Hart had made no move to do so.

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Copyright © novelfull All Rights Reserved.