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Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage

Jennifer Ashley - Author

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ISBN 9781101442265 | 336 pages | 06 Jul 2010 | Berkley | 18 - AND UP
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Lady Isabella Scranton scandalized London by leaving her husband, notorious artist Lord Mac Mackenzie, after only three turbulent years of marriage. But Mac has a few tricks to get the Lady back in his life, and more importantly, back into his bed.

Read a deleted scene from Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage.

Deleted Scene from Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage

Dear Reader:

What happens when a young, innocent debutante marries a notorious rake? She enjoys a wild, tempestuous marriage that makes her deliriously happy and at the same time drives her out of her mind.

What happens to the lady when she leaves the rake, in search of a moment’s peace? She becomes the darling of the ton, one of the most popular ladies in London, but she never does find her peace.

And then the rake decides he wants her back.

Welcome to the tale of Lady Isabella’s Scandalous Marriage. The story begins one week after the Scottish wedding of Ian and Beth in The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie. Lady Isabella Mackenzie takes a train from Scotland to London to resume her hostess duties—she is to introduce a talented new singer to London society.

Unbeknownst to Isabella, her estranged husband, Lord Mac, an artist of some notoriety, has decided it’s time to bring Isabella back into his life. He’s reformed, he’s sober, and now it’s time to reconcile.

Mac boards the same train as Isabella with every intent of slowly seducing her back to him. He swept her off her feet once—Mac will use every trick he knows to do it again.

The scene here introduces Mac’s pursuit of Isabella as Isabella discovers that not only is Mac on the train with her, but that he is determined to end their three years of silence. This scene did not make it into the final version of the novel, but it provides a good example of Mac’s relentless pursuit.

The Series

The Mackenzie series follows the lives of four brothers, from youngest to oldest: Ian, Mac, Cameron, Hart. Rumors surround them--of tragic violence, of their mistresses, of their dark appetites, of scandals that set England and Scotland abuzz.

The brothers have shocking reputations—from the decadence of Hart, Duke of Kilmorgan; to Lord Cameron’s wicked ways with the ladies; to Lord Mac’s wild recklessness; to the supposed madness of Lord Ian. They’re each a genius in their own way as well: Ian with numbers, Mac with art, Cam with horses, Hart with intrigue.

Please enjoy the deleted scene and the book, and I hope you fall in love with the Mackenzies as much as I have.

Best wishes,

Jennifer Ashley



********************

“I do not wish to alarm you, my dear,” Mrs. Ephram Ross said, her diamond-covered bosom drooping alarmingly near her soup, “but that gentleman is staring at you most insistently.”

Lady Isabella Mackenzie knew full well who she meant without having to turn her head. She’d sensed his unmistakable presence when he entered the dining car five minutes ago, heard his familiar tread, felt his copper-colored gaze burning the back of her skull.

What the devil was he doing here? She’d heard Mac tell his brothers that he’d linger in Scotland a while before he meandered down to Doncaster and the St. Leger Day race with Cameron. Yet now he hurtled southward on the same train as Isabella, making for London. Had he followed her to drive her mad, or did he have some other nefarious purpose? Isabella trusted Lord Mac Mackenzie about as far as she could heave him, which wasn’t very far, she knew from experience.

Mrs. Ross stared at him over Isabella’s shoulder until her eyes watered. “Gracious, what impertinence. Shall I have the waiter send him off?”

Isabella lifted her glass of sherry as though she didn’t care two straws for Mac and his impertinence. “No, indeed, take no notice. Some gentlemen have no manners.”

Mrs. Ross continued to take plenty of notice, her pale gaze fixed as she watched Mac.

Of course she watched him. What woman wouldn’t? Not only was Mac one of the notorious Mackenzies and brother to the lofty Duke of Kilmorgan, he was tall, rich, handsome as sin, and had a smile that made the most virtuous woman crave to be wicked with him. Decadent, that was the word. With his tall body and warm eyes, every woman in England went weak in the knees when he walked by.

Mrs. Ross stiffened. “Good heavens, he is coming over here.”

The air grew warmer and more vibrant at his approach. As the scent of cigar smoke and Mac’s favored soap drifted over her, Isabella’s thoughts shot back to nights he’d lain next to her in bed, damp from his bath. He’d lean on his elbow, trail a warm finger across her breasts, and kiss her skin. “What shall we do tonight, love?” he’d ask.

Isabella closed her eyes. Heat brushed her back and the weight of his hand rested on her chair.

“Good evening, m’lady,” he said. His voice was low, seductive.

“My lord.” Isabella opened her eyes but refused to look at him. “And here I thought you’d stayed in Scotland.”

“Business takes me to London. But I will have plenty of time for leisure. Perhaps I will see you there.” Neutral words, but with Mac, nothing was neutral.

“I very much doubt it, my lord,” Isabella said in cool tones. “I have much to do, and our paths are not likely to cross.”

Warm pressure touched a seam on the back of her bodice, a secret caress hidden from her fellow passengers. He’d touched her like this quite often, once upon a time—in public but out of sight, a private pleasure between them. Isabella clenched her hands in her lap, trying to stave off panic.

“On the contrary,” he said, warm breath in her ear, “I imagine our paths will cross quite frequently.”

Oh, damn him. His voice and touch would melt her into a puddle, right here in front of the disapproving Mrs. Ephram Ross. Then he’d laugh and walk away, knowing that even after all this time, after all her effort to distance herself from his devastating effect on her, Mac still had the upper hand.

Mac removed his burning touch, and Isabella nearly sagged in relief. “Good evening, my lady,” he said. “Madam.”

He nodded in Mrs. Ross’s direction before he turned and walked out of the car. No, he sauntered out. His Mackenzie plaid moved against his backside, and Isabella couldn’t stop her gaze from riveting to it. The door slid closed behind him, and the air in the room lost its electric tingle.

Mrs. Ross blew out a long breath. “Good heavens, who was that insolent creature?”

Isabella lifted her sherry in a shaking hand and forced herself to take a sip. The sweetness of the drink was suddenly cloying, and she wanted to hurl the glass against the wall or burst into tears, or both.

She controlled herself with effort. “That creature,” she said, her voice dry as dust, “is most unfortunately my husband.”



“Do you need a tonic, my lady?” In Isabella’s compartment, Evans, Isabella’s lady’s maid, held up a dire-looking bottle. “You look peaky. It’ll be your dinner, I warrant. I don’t trust food on trains.”

Isabella sank into the cushioned seat and waved away the bottle. “No, thank you, Evans. I’m merely tired.”

Evans put down the tonic and snatched up the Scots whiskey Mac’s oldest brother Hart had pressed on Isabella before she’d departed from Kilmorgan. Hart always let Isabella have her pick of the best Mackenzie malt.

Ladies don’t drink spirits. The voice of Miss Pringle at the Select Academy for Young Ladies rang down the years. Ladies drink lemonade, tea, and at most, a little sherry. Never strong drink.

The Mackenzies didn’t consider whiskey strong drink; they considered it essential to life. They’d taught Isabella to take it neat and to savor the smoky goodness of it.

“I don’t want anything, Evans,” Isabella said. “Thank you.”

Evans looked disappointed and returned the bottle to its box. She unhooked and removed Isabella’s bodice and skirts, unlaced her stays, and helped her into a quilted silk dressing gown.

Isabella sat back as Evans readied Isabella’s night things, her thoughts full of her encounter with Mac. She hadn’t noticed Mac boarding the train, not that she’d been watching the platform either in Kilmorgan or Edinburgh.

Did Mac truly have business in London? Only so many trains ran between Scotland and London, after all. The timing could be coincidence.

No, she didn’t believe that. Nothing Mac Mackenzie did ever involved coincidence. He’d have known which train Isabella would take; she’d not kept it a secret. He’d deliberately boarded the same train in Edinburgh and entered the dining car when he knew good and well that she’d be there. He’d watched her as though she were prey he stalked. Mac was good at stalking prey.

He’d done exactly the same the night they’d met, the night he’d arrogantly strode into her father’s London ballroom without invitation. Mac had paused in the middle of the room, standing a head above most of the crowd, scanning the dancers in a bored manner until his gaze rested on Isabella.

She remembered the exact moment their eyes had met, how her laughter had died on her lips, how a tingle had shot through her as though she’d touched an electric spark. He’d stilled for an instant, and then a sudden, wicked smile had spread across his face, and he’d moved through the ballroom toward her.

Her friends whispered about him as he approached. That was the notorious Lord Mac Mackenzie, they said, brother to the Scottish Duke of Kilmorgan. The Mackenzies had scandalous reputations, wild rakes all. Lord Mac painted women, my dear, with their clothes off.

“He could hardly paint them with their clothes on, could he?” Isabella had tried to quip. “It would be quite messy.” The witticism had been feeble at best, she knew, but Isabella’s sycophants obediently tittered.

Mac stopped in front of her, and Isabella had to tilt her head back to take him in. He was impossibly tall, taller than any gentleman she’d ever met, but his large body did not make him awkward in any way. He moved with a comfortable grace that made her wonder what it would be like to dance with him. How would it feel to have his broad shoulder beneath her fingers, that large hand cupping her waist? Isabella drew in a shaking breath and hoped he couldn’t see how much she trembled.

Perhaps he did see, because his smile was knowing. Come, sweetheart. Sin with me.

He wore a kilt of complex red, blue, and green plaid. As a girl, Isabella had giggled with her friends at Miss Pringle’s Select Academy about what a Scotsman wore under his kilt. Then, they’d been visualizing elderly gentlemen prancing around the cold Highlands in skirts. The man in front of her now made her laughter die as her mouth dried.

His eyes were the strangest shade, almost the color of copper, the irises outlined in black. His eyes went with his hair, which was a cross between dark brown and red. Mahogany was that color.

Isabella’s friends gathered behind her like chicks behind a mother hen, waiting to watch Isabella rebuff him. Isabella was good at snubbing suitors, letting them know that the daughter of Earl Scranton didn’t stoop to speak to just any gentleman.

But nothing would come out of her mouth. She knew that if she opened her lips, a croak or something equally unladylike would emerge, and then he would laugh, this giant of a man with the wickedly beautiful eyes.

Lord Mac held out his hand in a large kid glove. “My lady, may I have this waltz?”

The words were ones any gentleman at the ball would use. But his voice, deep, rich, with a hint of Scots, further weakened her knees.

Isabella lifted her wrist, letting her dance card dangle from it. “What a pity. My card is full.” Every single waltz was claimed, thank heavens, and one of her father’s handpicked gentlemen would be pushing his way through to her any moment now.

Mac caught the card in his hand, removed a pencil from his pocket, and slashed a heavy diagonal line through all the names. Across this line he wrote in his now-familiar scrawl—Mac Mackenzie.

He dropped the card, the cord tugging her wrist. “Come dance with me, Lady Isabella.” His eyes finished, I dare you . . .

Isabella should have frozen him with a cutting dismissal. She should walk away, her nose in the air. She should seek her father’s footmen and instruct them to throw the blackguard out.

Instead, she’d placed her hand in his.

Mac’s face had changed, his teasing smile becoming feral. He’d closed his appallingly strong hand over hers and pulled her to the dance floor.

Isabella had eloped with him that very night.

The whistle shrieked as the train dove into an echoing tunnel. At the same time the door to the compartment slammed open, sending in a rush of chill air.

Mac Mackenzie filled the doorway. He looked neither apologetic nor inquisitive; he simply studied Isabella with the same arrogance he’d used in her father’s ballroom all those years ago.

Isabella touched a languid hand to her brow. “Pray check the door, Evans,” she said. “There seems to be a draft.”

Mac stepped all the way inside, making the roomy compartment suddenly full. “Good evening, Evans,” he said. “I hope you are well. Will you excuse us, please? I wish to speak with my wife.”


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