Triumph and Treasure
Highland Heather Romancing a Scot Series, #1
She was a means to an end…he wasn’t supposed to ever love her.
He lived an idyllic life…
One day, Flynn, Earl of Luxmoore, was a wealthy, carefree lord, courting the woman he intended to wed. And the next day, he’s stripped of all but his title and left with no means to care for his loved ones. When the person responsible for his ruination offers him a solution—marriage to an unwilling and resentful American beauty—he has no choice but to accept. Not if he wants to care for his ailing mother, elderly grandmother, and disabled sister.
Fate dealt her a cruel hand…
Angelina Ellsworth unwittingly committed bigamy, and when she finds herself pregnant, she’ll do anything to protect her baby. Including fleeing to England and marrying a handsome nobleman, every bit as desperate and opposed to their marriage of convenience as she. She agrees to wed Flynn, stipulating two conditions: the union is in name only, and after a year, they’ll go their separate ways. Except, Angelina didn’t count on her first husband, refusing to let her go.
Resentment and anger war with passion and desire…
Flynn risks his life to protect Angelina from the madman pursuing her, but is his sacrifice enough? Can a woman who’s vowed to never trust a man again and an embittered lord find contentment in an arranged marriage neither wanted?
Though this book can easily be read as a stand-alone, most readers prefer to read the series in order.
Contains adult content and language.
See what Readers are Saying!
“The setting up of a love affair based in reality, with a heavy dose of hot Scottish men, is a remarkable start to a new series that readers should have set to auto-buy!” ★★★★★ ~InD’Tale Magazine, Julie York
“Collette Cameron has an amazing skill with historical romances. This is my first book by this author but I can guarantee it will definitely not be the last.” ★★★★★ ~Night Owl Reviews
“Everything from the setting details to the smallest phrase a secondary character might say is spot-on and makes the reading experience spectacular.” ★★★★★ ~Red Pump Reviews
“It’s rare to read a historical romance novel with such lovely main characters.” ★★★★★ ~Kilts and Swords
“This is one novel that should be on everyone’s to be read list! I highly recommend Triumph and Treasure!” ★★★★★ ~Girly Girl Book Reviews
“Cameron conveys the tone of the Regency era well… highlights for the reader how far we’ve come as women in society… I will seek out further novels…” ★★★★★ ~Rabid Readers Reviews
“Fantastic start to Cameron’s new series. I can’t wait to read more & would definitely recommend it to others.” ★★★★★ ~Pure Jonel
“In all ways this is a fabulous read. I give it five glorious stars.” ★★★★★~Liza O’Connor
2015 RONE Award Finalist and Honorable Mention Winner in Post-Medieval Historical Romance
Chapter One Excerpt
Late March 1818
Angelina Ellsworth—no, she was Mrs. Moreau now—cast her husband of six hours a look of adoration as he escorted her across the marble floor of the luxurious Plaza Hotel. She resisted the urge to dance a giddy jig.
She was married.
She tried not to gawk at the immense glittering eight-foot crystal chandeliers, marble pillars, and life-size, almost nude—er, make that entirely nude—statues of mythical gods and goddesses. Cherubs, their chubby feet and legs immersed in the water, edged a towering fountain burbling cheerily in the lobby’s center.
“Rather dazzling, chérie, non?”
Meeting Charles’s amused expression, heat tingled her cheeks. She’d been craning her neck, staring at the trompe l’oiel ceiling depicting gods and other immortals—also bare as Norfolk dumplings.
Papa would’ve been utterly scandalized.
Nudity, mythical gods, vulgar displays of wealth. Blasphemous.
And utterly splendid.
She released a happy sigh.
If Papa had been alive, he’d never have consented to Charles courting her. Papa had been determined she marry a gentleman of his ilk: a staid, devout, dull fellow. Better yet, a man of the cloth. And with dowries the size of thimbles, Angelina and her sisters had few suitors, let alone debonair young men such as Charles.
Thank goodness, Mama entertained her ideas, and after his passing, had voiced and implemented them with complete disregard as to what her late husband would’ve preferred.
A romantic at heart, once Mama realized Angelina loved Charles, she readily consented to the match.
Angelina shook off her dreary thoughts.
This was her wedding day. A rush of excitement caused her breath to quicken. In two days, she and Charles would sail to the Continent for a lengthy honeymoon in Italy by way of France.
Prior to meeting him, she’d only dared hope that, perhaps, someday, she might visit her aunt and uncle, the Duke and Duchess of Waterford, in England. She’d never met them. Aunt Camille was her mother’s twin, and they exchanged correspondences on occasion.
“Here’s your room key, sir.”
The skeleton key clinking onto the countertop reined in Angelina’s ruminations.
“Thank you.” Charles slipped the key into his coat pocket before taking her arm. “Is the room prepared?”
“Yes, sir. Everything is as you requested.” The clerk’s lips bent into a knowing smile. “May I offer my congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Moreau?”
“Thank you.” Angelina and Charles spoke simultaneously.
He patted her arm, giving her a crooked grin.
Her stomach wobbled with that peculiar flip-flop it did whenever her new husband smiled at her. She cast him a sidelong peek as he guided her toward the curved staircase. A mere three months ago, this splendid man had entered her life.
If it hadn’t been for Mama’s insistence that Angelina attend the Dennison’s Yuletide ball, she might never have met him. She hadn’t wanted to attend, aware her father’s cohort—horrid yellow-toothed Abraham Stockton—would be there. The paunchy man always stank of garlic and sweat. And he was five and forty if he was a day.
Despite Mama’s adamant refusal to allow him to call upon Angelina, he’d been trying to court her the three years since she turned seventeen. Mama claimed the man was dicked in the nob if he thought to marry Angelina.
For her part, Angelina suspected, had he lived, Papa would’ve arranged a match between her and Mr. Stockton. She shuddered at the notion. In fact, she’d been hiding from him in a curtained alcove at the Dennison’s when a man darted into the enclosure.
Unaware she huddled on a sofa tucked in the corner, he peeked between the heavy velvet panels, muttering, “A more persistent match-making maman I’ve never encountered. And zut, four plainer, pudgier mademoiselles—”
Angelina had erupted into laughter. “Mrs. Twiggels and the quartet, I’d wager.”
Charles had spun around, peering into the shadowy nook. He’d chuckled, a pleasant low vibration deep in his chest. “Non, Twiggels? Please tell me you jest.”
Yes, indeed, God had smiled on her that evening, for Charles had arrived in Massachusetts that very day, brought to Salem on business. His presence at the ball had been pure chance. His associate had received an invitation and insisted Charles join him for the festivities.
Angelina swept Charles another love-filled gaze.
His lips skewed into a devilishly wicked smile, and the glint smoldering within his tawny eyes caused her heart to patter in anticipation.
With his black hair and high cheekbones, he cut a dashing figure. The navy blue of his coat enhanced his unusual brandy-colored eyes and emphasized the breadth of his shoulders. Shoulders, she itched to feel beneath her fingers.
Despite her gloves, her palms dampened. She brushed her hands against her champagne-colored silk gauze gown, allowing herself to imagine Charles’s hands caressing her.
Soon they would be.
They’d shared several fervent kisses during their short courtship, and once betrothed, he suggested they become more intimate. Raised by her zealot father, Angelina couldn’t bring herself to sin that way. Not that she wasn’t anticipating the marriage bed.
She most definitely was.
Followed by four porters carrying their luggage, she and Charles climbed the arched risers. Their trunks had already been sent to the ship.
As they ascended the stairs, Charles’s caressed her spine.
A delicious tremor spiraled outward from where his palm lingered. She suppressed a slight gasp. Something more than curiosity stirred, making her impatient for his touches and kisses.
And he was a most skilled kisser.
A widower, forced at the tender age of twenty to marry a much older woman to save his family’s estate, in the seven years since, he’d made a fortune in commerce.
Angelina held no doubts his handsomeness availed him of many a willing bed partner, though she wasn’t supposed to know of such things. If the Dennison’s ball was any indication, women threw themselves at him in droves.
However, much to her astonishment and delight, he’d chosen to make her his wife.
Charles vowed he’d never loved another and that Angelina would be his until the day he died. She had no misgivings about his affection. A man couldn’t pretend the warmth in his amber eyes or the husky timbre of his voice when he spoke of his adoration.
She pressed her fingers against the ruby and diamond ring encircling her finger.
Yes, this is real.
“Happy, mon ange?” He gave her waist a slight squeeze.
Smiling, she nodded, releasing a contented sigh. “Yes, blessedly and deliriously happy.”
How could she not be? She’d found love. Something her parents’ marriage had always lacked. Until meeting Charles, she hadn’t been altogether certain love existed outside her novels.
“Here we are.” Charles’s rested his hand on the curve of her ribs, his thumb rubbing against her gown. It tickled.
To stifle her giggle, she bit her lower lip.
He waited for the attendant to unlock their suite, a glint of anticipation in his eyes. The door swung open, revealing a room resplendent with roses of every imaginable shade.
Stepping inside, she spun in a slow circle, her skirts swishing about her ankles. The heady perfume of a hundred fragrant blossoms permeated the air. She sniffed in appreciation. Surveying the chamber, she spied more flowers in the adjoining bedchamber and dashed to the parted door.
After peering within, she sent a glance over her shoulder. “What in heaven’s name?”
Still speaking to the porters, Charles didn’t hear her.
Untying the ribbons at her chin, Angelina breathed in the heady aroma before removing her bonnet. Her spencer followed. She placed the items on the table beside the bedchamber door, adding her reticule atop the pile.
She studied the bed dominating the room. A monstrous thing with carvings on the bedposts and along the canopy, from which hung scarlet bed curtains, it was a blessed wonder the frame supported the oversized mattress.
She stepped closer, inspecting the engraved posts.
Nude forms entwined in various acts of intimacy coiled around the wood.
Heat burned her cheeks.
Similar images of Greek and Roman gods adorned the walls and ceilings. Wicked as Sodom and Gomorrah. For the first time since entering the dazzling hotel, she experienced a tinge of discomfit. Though very luxurious, the chamber’s blatant carnality embarrassed her.
She wandered to the bedchamber’s entrance.
Charles finished speaking to the remaining attendant and passed the young man a coin.
“Of course, sir. Right away.” The porter smiled widely and stepped into the corridor. He hesitated, staring at the luggage piled about the entrance. “Do you wish me to have a maid sent up to unpack your bags?”
Charles shook his head, a strand of midnight hair falling across his forehead. “Non, we’re only staying two nights. We sail the day after tomorrow. I’m confident my wife and I can manage.”
He turned to wink at Angelina.
She grinned in return. Incorrigible rogue. But he was her rogue.
He closed the door before crossing to her in several elongated strides. Sweeping her into his arms, he nuzzled her neck.
She adored how she fit beneath his chin. At five feet eight inches, she stood taller than most women of her acquaintance. Yet, within Charles’s embrace, she felt dainty and feminine.
Angelina laughed huskily. “My goodness, why all the roses?”
“For you mon ange rose. I wasn’t able to fill the room with angels, but roses? That I could arrange. I’ve imagined you naked, lying on a bed scattered with rose petals for weeks.”
Should she be shocked? For the life of her, she couldn’t summon a jot of chagrin.
My, I’ve become scandalous since meeting Charles.
He stepped away and unbuttoned his cutaway coat. The gleam in his eye caused her pulse to do all manner of odd things. Good Lord, he didn’t intend to—
She glanced at the window, searching the sky. Enshrouded in a smoky violet-gray, dusk had scarcely fallen. Making love was most improper during the daytime. Wasn’t it?
Charles wound his arms around her once more, reining in her wayward thoughts. He kissed her like a man long-starved.
Looping her arms behind his neck, Angelina returned the kiss.
He nudged his hips against her belly, his desire evident. “I must have you now, mon amour. I cannot wait.”
She hadn’t expected he would be quite so eager to bed her—and before dinner, it would seem. The knowledge both thrilled and disconcerted her.
“Help me with the hooks, will you?” She made to turn her back, needing his assistance to unfasten the gown.
“Non, that will take too long.”
Before she knew precisely what he intended, he scooped her into his arms. In two strides, he reached the bed then laid her upon the lush counterpane. Charles shoved her skirts to her thighs, and after fumbling with the falls of his trousers, parted her legs.
Apprehension swept her.
“Charles, I’m not…This is so sudden. I don’t—” She gasped on a choked cry.
“Mon Dieu,” he groaned against her neck.
Blinking back tears and biting her lip against the stinging pain, Angelina stared at a lurid picture on the wall. Was the act supposed to hurt this much?
Charles stiffened, giving a final moan before collapsing atop her.
All the whispered fuss was about that? Awash in disappointment and miffed at his callousness, she barely took note when he rose from the bed and fastened his trousers.
He chuckled, trailing a finger across her lips. “You resemble a femme légère. A wanton, lying there with your breasts revealed and your legs spread.”
Shame and humiliation surged through her. She turned her face away, shoving the gown to her knees with one hand and tugging the bodice over her breasts with the other. She swallowed against the tears burning at the back of her throat.
How could he say that?
“Chérie?” Charles touched her cheek, turning her face and forcing her to meet his eyes. “Forgive me, mon amour. I’m a selfish oaf. I promise I’ll take my time next go-round. You will see how wonderful making love can be.”
He bent and kissed her.
Someone knocked on the outer door. Another rap immediately followed this time with more insistence.
“Ah, that must be our food.” He gave her a boyish grin as he fastened his jacket. “I hope you don’t mind. I requested an intimate dinner in our rooms rather than the noisy restaurant below.”
After helping her off the bed, he placed another tender kiss on her lips. “I love you, amoureux.”
The outer door rattled once more. Someone was most impatient.
“I’ll answer the door while you repair your appearance.” Whistling, he left the chamber, closing the door behind him.
Repair her appearance?
She’d much rather take a hot, lengthy bath liberally dosed with scented oil. She’d been anticipating becoming a woman for weeks, and truth to tell, the unpleasant experience didn’t measure up to her naïve expectations.
Something wet trickled down her thighs, and she rushed to the bathing chamber. After dampening a cloth from the washstand pitcher, she made quick work of cleansing herself, grimacing at the blood on the linen. After washing away the evidence of her virginity and Charles’s virility, she smoothed her chemise and dress, shaking the fabric until the folds fell into place.
The pearl pendant above her breasts, a wedding gift from Charles, hung askew. She straightened the necklace, and then adjusted her bodice, wincing slightly. He had certainly been exuberant in his attentions.
Mama had explained what to expect, nonetheless…
As she tidied her hair, Angelina examined her face in the looking glass. Several curly tendrils had escaped the Grecian knot atop her head. Other than rosy lips and cheeks, she didn’t appear different from the woman who had entered the chamber a few minutes ago.
Except, I am no longer an untried maid.
She trusted the next time would be more satisfying.
As she made her way through the bedchamber, men’s angry voices clashed in the other room. She hesitated, listening.
“Up to your old tricks, Pierre?” an unfamiliar, slightly French-accented voice accused.
Angelina opened the door but stopped short at the threshold.
The man before Charles was no servant. Sporting a thin mustache, the stranger stood attired in the latest fashion. From his gleaming Hessians and cream-colored pantaloons to his jade green coat and knotted neckcloth—from which a jeweled stickpin glistened—he exuded quality.
He was profoundly handsome. And extremely angry.
Another man stood by the entrance. Much less refined, he grasped the handle of a gun tucked into his waistband.
She slapped a hand to her mouth in an effort to stifle the gasp that tore from her.
As one, the men’s gazes came to rest on her: Charles’s worried and angry, the rough fellow’s, aloof, and the handsome man’s curious and compassionate?
“Whatever is going on, Charles?” To calm her tumultuous stomach, Angelina wrapped her arms about her waist.
Her husband’s face had taken on a distinct greenish hue, and she feared he might cast up his accounts. He opened his mouth to speak, but no sound emerged.
The mustached man shook his head contemptuously. “Charles? How unoriginal.”
He turned his attention to Angelina and into a formal bow. “Mademoiselle Ellsworth, allow me to introduce myself. I’m Jacques, Baron Devaux-Rousset.”
Angelina didn’t extend her hand. Instead, she tightened the grip around her middle.
Pale, his lips pressed into a thin line, Charles glowered at the Frenchman.
This man was no friend.
“My lord, did Charles not inform you? I’m Mrs. Moreau. We were married this morning. Please excuse my forwardness, but how are you acquainted with my husband? And who, pray tell, is Pierre? Him?” She pointed at the surly giant who continued to toy with his weapon.
The brute smiled, a humorless twisting of his thick lips.
Lord Devaux-Rousset speared Charles with an indiscernible glance before answering. “I’m his stepson. Though, paradoxically, we are the same age.”
Oh, the older woman Charles married.
He hadn’t mentioned she’d been a baroness or that she had children. Whyever was her son here? Boston was too far from France for Angelina to believe this was a chance encounter. Something was too smoky by far.
She sent Charles a sidelong glance.
Why didn’t he say something?
He stood seething with silent fury and glared daggers at the baron.
Angelina angled her head in deference. “Charles told me of his marriage to your mother. Please accept my sincere condolences for your loss.”
For a moment, the baron’s composure wavered. He gaped at her before turning a steely glower on Charles. “Vous avez dit que sa mère était morte?”
Drat, she didn’t speak French, but the baron had mentioned something about his mother’s death. That much she’d gleaned. Perhaps, she shouldn’t have offered her sympathies. The mourning period had ended months ago. At least she thought that was what Charles had told her.
Or, mayhap, it hadn’t been that long, which explained the baron’s annoyance at the news of Charles’s nuptials.
“Charles, are you not out of mourning?”
“Merde.” Charles stared at the floor and fisted his hands.
“There is a lady present, imbécile,” the baron snapped. “Hold your foul tongue.”
He turned his attention to Angelina, and his expression softened. With a wave of his manicured hand, he indicated the ivory and gold striped sofa beside her.
“Mademoiselle, perhaps you should have a seat, and I’ll explain.”
“Thank you, no. I’d rather stand, my lord.”
Why did he insist on calling her mademoiselle? Rather boorish of him. No, pointedly rude, truth to tell.
The baron regarded her for an extended moment. He gave a slight shrug. “As you wish.”
He turned to the brute blocking the door. “Please wait in the corridor and deter any staff. I don’t wish to be disturbed.”
After perusing Charles contemptuously one final time, the baron’s henchman gave a curt nod and exited the chamber.
Lord Devaux-Rousset sighed and slapped his beaver hat against his thigh. His gaze skimmed Angelina from her hair to her shoes, taking her measure. “You are lovely. I understand Pierre’s fascination. Thank God, I arrived before he compromised you.”
Angelina frowned, utterly confused. Was the man daft?
“Pierre? Who is Pierre? And how, in God’s precious name, can my husband possibly compromise me?”
His voice very soft, and equally as gentle, Lord Devaux-Rousset murmured, “I sincerely regret having to tell you, but the man you call husband is the well-known slave-trader, Pierre Renault.”
“What?” She blinked rapidly, certain she’d heard incorrectly. Charles couldn’t be slave-trader. He wouldn’t be a party to something so abhorrent.
Rousset leveled Charles a blistering glare. “And, I assure you, his wife, my mère, was very much alive when I left France.”