Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage

Table of Contents
 
 
Praise for
THE MADNESS OF LORD IAN MACKENZIE
“Ever-versatile Ashley begins her new Victorian Highland Pleasures series with a deliciously dark and delectably sexy story of love and romantic redemption that will captivate readers with its complex characters and suspenseful plot.”

Booklist
 
“Ashley’s enthralling and poignant romance . . . touches readers on many levels. Brava!”

Romantic Times
 
“Mysterious, heartfelt, sensitive, and sensual . . . Two big thumbs up.”

Publishers Weekly
’s Beyond Her Book
 
“A story of mystery and intrigue with two wonderful, bright characters you’ll love . . . I look forward to more from Jennifer Ashley, an extremely gifted author.”
—Fresh Fiction
 
“Brimming with mystery, suspense, an intriguing plot, villains, romance, a tormented hero, and a feisty heroine, this book is a winner. I recommend
The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie
to anyone looking for a great read.”

Romance Junkies
 
“Wow! All I can say is
The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie
is one of the best books I have ever read. [It] gets the highest recommendation that I can give. It is a truly wonderful book.”

Once Upon A Romance
 
“When you’re reading a book that is a step or two—or six or seven—above the norm, you know it almost immediately. Such is the case with
The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie
. The characters here are so complex and so real that I was fascinated by their journey . . . [and] this story is as flat-out romantic as any I’ve read in a while . . . This is a series I am certainly looking forward to following.”

All About Romance
 
“A unique twist on the troubled hero . . . Fresh and interesting.”

Night Owl Romance
 
“A welcome addition to the genre.”

Dear Author
 
“Intriguing . . . Unique . . . Terrific.”

Midwest Book Review
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
 
LADY ISABELLA’S SCANDALOUS MARRIAGE
 
A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author
 
PRINTING HISTORY
Berkley Sensation mass-market edition / July 2010
 
Copyright © 2010 by Jennifer Ashley.
 
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,
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375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
 
eISBN : 978-1-101-44226-5
 
BERKLEY
®
SENSATION
Berkley Sensation Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
BERKLEY
®
SENSATION and the “B” design are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
 
 

http://us.penguingroup.com

Thanks go to my editor, Kate Seaver, and editorial assistant, Katherine Pelz, for all their efforts in support of this book. Also to those at Berkley who do so much work “ behind the scenes” to take a book from manuscript to printed novel.
 
And as always, to my husband, Forrest, for being there.
Chapter 1
All of London was amazed to learn of the sudden marriage of Lady I—S—and Lord M—M—, brother of the Duke of K—,last evening. The lady in question had her Come-Out and her Wedding the same night, leading debutantes to plead with fathers to make their coming-out balls just as eventful.
—From a London society newspaper, February 1875
SEPTEMBER 1881
 
Isabella’s footman rang the bell at the house of Lord Mac Mackenzie on Mount Street, while Isabella waited in the landau, wondering for the dozenth time since she’d set off whether this were wise.
Perhaps Mac would be out. Maybe the unpredictable man had gone off to Paris, or to Italy, where summer would linger for a time. She could investigate the matter she’d discovered by herself. Yes, that would be best.
As she opened her mouth to call back her footman, the large black door swung open, and Mac’s valet, a former pugilist, peered out. Isabella’s heart sank. Bellamy being here meant Mac was here, because Bellamy never strayed far from Mac’s side.
Bellamy peered into the landau, and a look of undisguised astonishment crossed his scarred face. Isabella hadn’t approached this house since the day she’d left it three and a half years ago. “M’lady?”
Isabella took Bellamy’s beefy hand to steady herself as she descended. The best way to do this, she decided, was simply to do it.
“How is your knee, Bellamy?” she asked. “Are you still using the liniment? Is it too much to hope that my husband is at home?”
As she talked, she breezed into the house, pretending not to notice the parlor maid and a footman popping out to stare.
“The knee’s much better, m’lady. Thank you. His lordship is . . .” Bellamy hesitated. “He’s painting, m’lady.”
“So early? There’s a wonder.” Isabella started up the stairs at a quick pace, not letting herself think about what she was doing. If she thought about it, she’d run far and fast, perhaps lock herself into her house and not come out. “Is he in his studio? No need to announce me. I’ll go up myself.”
“But m’lady.” Bellamy followed her, but his damaged knee wouldn’t let him move quickly, and Isabella reached the landing, three floors up, before Bellamy had mounted the second flight.
“M’lady, he said not to be disturbed,” Bellamy called upward.
“I won’t be long. I need only ask him a question.”
“But, m’lady, he’s . . .”
Isabella paused, hand on the white doorknob of the right-hand attic room. “I shall take full blame for invading his lordship’s privacy, Bellamy.”
She lifted her skirts as she swung open the door and walked into the room. Mac was there, all right, standing in front of a long easel, painting with fervor.
Isabella’s skirts slid from her nerveless fingers, the beauty of her estranged husband striking her like a blow. Mac wore a kilt, threadbare and paint-flecked, and he was naked from the waist up. Though it was cool in the studio, Mac’s torso gleamed with sweat, his skin tanned from spending the summer on the warmer Continent. He wore a red kerchief on his head, gypsy style, to keep paint out of his hair. He’d always done that, she remembered with a pang. It made his cheekbones more prominent, emphasized the handsomeness of his face. Even the rough boots, much worn and paint-splotched, were familiar and dear.
Mac laid paint on his canvas with energy, obviously not hearing Isabella open the door. He held the palette in his left hand, arm muscles tight, while his right moved the brush in swift, jerking strokes. Mac was a stunning man, made still more attractive when absorbed in doing something he loved.
Isabella used to sit in this very studio on an old sofa strewn with cushions, simply watching him paint. Mac might not say one word to her while he worked, but she had adored watching the play of muscles on his back, the way he’d smear paint on his cheek when he’d absently rub it. After a particularly good session, he’d turn to her with a wide smile and pull her into his arms, never minding that paint now smeared all over
her
skin.
So absorbed in Mac was she that Isabella didn’t notice what he painted with such intensity until she forced herself to look away from him and across the room. She barely stifled her dismay.
A young woman lay on a raised platform draped with yellow and red coverings. She was nude, which came as no surprise—Mac generally painted women who wore nothing or very little. But Isabella had never seen him paint anything so blatantly erotic. The model lay on her back with her knees bent, her legs wide apart. Her hand rested on her private place, and she was spreading herself open without shame. Mac scowled at the offering and painted with rapid brushstrokes.
Behind Isabella, Bellamy reached the top landing, puffing from exertion and distress. Mac heard him and growled but didn’t look ’round.
“Damn it, Bellamy, I told you I didn’t want to be disturbed this morning.”
“I’m sorry, sir. I couldn’t stop her.”
The model raised her head, spied Isabella, and grinned. “Oh, hello, yer ladyship.”
Mac glanced behind him once, twice, then his copper gaze riveted to Isabella. Paint dripped, unheeded, from his brush to the floor.
Isabella strove to keep her voice from shaking. “Hello, Molly. How is your little boy? It’s all right, Bellamy, you can leave us. This won’t take long, Mac. I only came to ask you a question.”

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