Unlaced by the Outlaw

London, 1815

Her sister was missing.

Most older sisters would leave such a terrible problem in the hands of their parents. Or possibly alert the authorities. Margaret Andrews did neither.

For one, she knew exactly who had kidnapped Amelia. Second, she knew that the blackguard intended to force her sister to wed him. And third, Margaret had suffered untold humiliation when that same awful man had abandoned her only days before their wedding three years ago. Lord Lisford might have shattered her girlish dreams, humiliating her in the face of society, but Margaret would never let the same thing happen to her baby sister. This was more than a dangerous situation-this was her opportunity for vengeance.

It didn’t matter that it was the middle of the night or that she was the daughter of a baron. The man who had wronged her was about to destroy Amelia’s life, and Margaret was not about to stand aside and let it happen. She’d beg the devil himself, if she thought he could help her.

Cain Sinclair was the next best thing.

A flutter of nerves caught her stomach as her coach pulled to a stop in front of the inn where he was staying. It was nearly midnight, and she’d left Lady Rumford’s ball the moment she’d learned of Amelia’s disappearance. Margaret was still wearing the sage-green silk gown with white gloves, for she’d not taken the time to change.

This was a very bad idea. What was she thinking, venturing into a public inn while wearing a ball gown?
But it couldn’t be helped. Please let him be there, she prayed. The Highlander was a man she’d known for nine years. From the moment she’d laid eyes on him, she’d sensed that he was the sort of man her mother had warned her about.

Taller than most men, he had broad shoulders and lean muscles. His piercing blue eyes and black hair
gave him the look of a fallen angel. He wasn’t a gentleman and he didn’t care what anyone thought of him.

Ruthless was the best word to describe him. And when he wanted something, he never stopped until he got it.

Unfortunately, what he wanted was her.

She took a deep breath and stepped out of the coach. Her footman eyed the inn and shook his head.

“Miss Andrews, I think you should wait inside the coach. I’ll go and find Mr. Sinclair on your behalf.”

That was the sensible thing to do. It was what her mother would want. But she knew, without a single doubt, that Sinclair would ignore the footman and do whatever he wanted to. Whereas if she pleaded with him, there was a chance he might help her.

With every moment she sat in this coach, Lord Lisford was taking her sister farther north, toward
Scotland. Time was critical, and what did she care if it was not an establishment a lady would dare to enter? She was already ruined. After five Seasons, Margaret knew what the ton thought of her. They believed she was to blame for Lord Lisford abandoning her before her wedding.

The familiar ache of bitterness stiffened her spine. It was high time the viscount paid the price for what he’d done to her. And if he thought he could hurt her sister without serious consequences, he was sadly mistaken.

Margaret ignored her servant and marched straight toward the door. For a moment, she paused with her hand upon the doorknob. Go back, her conscience ordered. But instead, she gathered her courage and opened the door.

The haze of tobacco cloaked the room, while the scent of ale filled the space. Men were playing cards in one corner, while others busied themselves with getting drunk as soon as possible.

She stared at each of the men until at last she located Sinclair. He didn’t move, but his mouth tightened when she stepped closer. Her presence was as out of place as a pig in a ballroom, and every male eye fastened upon her.

Her conscience was still screeching at the idea. Get out of here! Ladies do not associate with men at an inn. You cannot be here.

Cain Sinclair’s icy blue eyes regarded her as if she’d lost her mind. And perhaps she had, since she’d gone to such lengths to seek his help.

“You don’t belong here, lass,” he said.

“Amelia’s been taken by Lord Lisford. You have to help me find her.” Margaret crossed her arms, staring coolly at a drunkard whose attention was fixed upon her bosom.

How did you think these men would react to your presence? her common sense chided. They’re nothing but rogues and vagrants. Any one of them would attack you, and then where would you be?

The Highlander leaned back in his chair, his long black hair falling past his shoulders. He wore a brown-and-green tartan, and his white shirtsleeves were rolled against his forearms. A faint scar edged his lower arm, a reminder that he’d been in many fights. Somehow, it made her feel somewhat safer, knowing that Sinclair could protect her far better than the elderly footman who had accompanied her.

“Come with me, and I’ll tell you more about what happened,” Margaret urged. The sooner she left this place, the better she would feel. The question was whether or not he would help her.

“Do your parents know?” he asked softly.

She shrugged. “I didn’t tell them. I want to find Amelia before any harm is done.”

They would find out soon enough. But more than that, she felt a sense of responsibility. She was supposed to have chaperoned Amelia at the ball. If she’d remained at her sister’s side at every moment, this wouldn’t have happened.

Her guilt was a hair shirt against her conscience. This was her fault, without question. And she had to atone for it, no matter the cost to her own reputation.

Sinclair took a slow drink of his ale, studying her. She couldn’t guess what he was thinking, but he needed to hurry up.

“Why did you come to me, lass, instead of the police?” His lazy tone held a hint of wickedness, and
she faltered.

“Because I-”

Because I know you’ll find her. I know you won’t let any harm come to her, and I trust you more than any man.

She drew closer and reached for his hand. It felt as if she’d thrown out every shred of decent behavior. A wildness thrummed in her blood as her fingers laced in his.

“Because I need your help,” she whispered.

His thumb brushed the edge of her palm in a silent caress that echoed deep inside. His rough hands were callused, but his touch was light enough to set her senses on fire. What did that say about her, that she would be so attracted to a man so inappropriate?

She was a good girl. She obeyed the rules, listened to her parents, and never wore a gown with a daring neckline. All her life, she’d been a model of proper behavior.

And yet, right now, she realized that she was asking this man to come with her. To be alone with her in a coach for hours on end.

Don’t do this, her sense of propriety begged. You cannot behave in this way. It’s not right.

But she met his gaze steadily and said, “Please.”

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