When his brother leaves him in charge of Llynmore Castle, Robert Townsend is determined to make everything go smoothly. What does it matter if he’s inexplicably drawn to Ian Cameron, the estate’s stoic steward? Robert is sure he can ignore the way the Highlander’s apparent dislike of him gets under his skin. They’ll muddle along just fine so long as they avoid one another. An excellent plan…until a fire forces Ian into the castle—and Robert’s personal space.
Ian Cameron has worked for everything he owns, unlike spoiled Robert Townsend. And he may not have friends, but he has the Highlands and the stars, and what more could he really need? But when a guest’s stolen possession appears in his room, he doesn’t have much choice but to admit to the handsome and aggravatingly charming Townsend brother that he needs help. To solve this mystery, they’ll have to put aside their differences. And as Ian learns more about Robert, he’ll have to guard his heart…or it may be the next thing stolen.
Ian Cameron was going through some of the quarry expenses when a knock sounded at his door. It was past dawn, but the sky was still dark from low-hanging clouds. He paused, wondering if he could ignore it, but whoever was knocking had probably already seen the light from his candle seeping beneath the door.
He half expected it to be Townsend.
His pulse kicked up. From irritation. Fine…maybe not entirely from irritation. He could admit Robert Townsend was as handsome as the devil, and he had a voice to match, deep and dark and smooth and curled with smoke at the edges.
He hadn’t thought it would be a problem when he’d agreed to move in temporarily. He’d observed the man—couldn’t help but observe him—and been relieved to find that Townsend didn’t have much else to recommend him. He was like a nicely wrapped package with nothing in it, and Ian wasn’t so young that he found that appealing.
To Ian, Townsend epitomized the worst of his class. He had no profession and didn’t seem to want one, either—from everything Ian had observed, he was content to while away his days, sleep until noon, and live off his brother for the rest of his life. He was flippant, idle.
Townsend was the prime example of a younger son from an upper-class family with a certain amount of wealth, drifting through life on charm and other people’s affection and an aversion to effort.
It wasn’t that Ian disliked Townsend, exactly. But to someone like Ian, who’d worked for everything he had, who’d never been handed a thing in his life, Townsend was a creature he couldn’t contemplate and cared even less to know.
And maybe Ian should have felt guiltier about what he’d said the night before, but he didn’t. Ian was perfectly content to ignore Townsend and go about his work and be ignored in returned, but Townsend wouldn’t let him. He was always making jests and being so damn nice, no matter how many indifferent replies he received in return.
If Ian was vainer, he might have thought Townsend was attracted to him, but he’d seen the man with one of the tenant families once, and it was the same with them—he was smooth, attentive, kind. It probably added to his self-importance, having people like him.
Ian would be a fool to think he was special.
He opened the door with a little too much force, but at least he kept his expression bland.
“Mr. Cameron, good morning!”
Georgina, not her brother, stood in front of him, and if she was nearly as amiable as her older sibling, for some reason, it didn’t grate on him quite as much.
“I never had a chance to ask you how you’re settling in.”
It wasn’t entirely a lie.
Ian was used to being alone. He preferred things that way. His work kept him occupied, and through the course of a day he might speak to Lord Arden or the tenants, but that was more routine than friendship.
Staying at Llynmore, living with other people…it was something of an adjustment.
At least he had his own room, though.
“A castle takes a little getting used to after living in a cottage,” he added.
She smiled. “Llynmore takes some getting used to after anything, I think, but we’ve all fallen in love with it.”
“All of ye?” he asked, before he could stop himself. He should have thought it through more before he spoke. Words were powerful. They could be revealing, unintentionally, and he wasn’t always easy with them. He usually spoke with more care.
“All of us? Who do you mean?”
“Your brother…seems like he would prefer the city.”
Georgina only smiled kindly. “Robert does like the city, but he’s quite at home here, too. And the whisky isn’t good in the Lowlands.”
“No, it isna.” Ian felt the smallest smirk curling his lips. It wasn’t the Lowlanders’ fault they couldn’t produce good whisky with the kind of taxation and regulations that England enforced, but still, he was proud of the Highlands.
“You two have something in common, then.”
Something in common with Townsend? The idea was both startling and unwelcome. Ian preferred to think of the ways they were different, not the ways they were the same.
“He took the ferry to Skye not long ago and brought some back with him. Which, now that I think about it, might not technically be legal”—though she didn’t seem too concerned about the legality of the matter. Most people weren’t, when it came to Highland whisky—“I’m sure he would be happy to share it.”
Drinking with Townsend sounded like an all-around bad idea.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Lily Maxton grew up in the Midwest, reading, writing, and daydreaming amidst cornfields. After graduating with a degree in English, she decided to put her natural inclinations to good use and embark on a career as a writer. When she’s not working on a new story, she likes to tour old houses, add to her tea stash, and think of reasons to avoid housework.