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Cassie and Kade. What do you get when you mix a spoiled and sassy miss from Dallas with a stern and oh so sexy Scotsman? Sparks, that’s what! From the moment of their first meeting, Cassie realizes that she has not only met her match, she has found a man who doesn’t disappear in her daddy’s shadow. As their relationship blossomed, Kade proved time and time again that he was more than capable of dealing with her attitude and tantrums. Now they’re engaged and looking forward to a bright future.
Then comes the call that shatters their plans, and they learn the truth of the adage, Man plans and God laughs. A tragic accident has killed both Kade’s uncle, the Earl of Berwick, and his only son, the viscount. Kade is now the new earl and must return immediately to Inverness and accept his responsibilities. As his fiancée, Cassie comes along, but after the funerals, when reality hits, she’s not at all sure this new life is what she wants.
The weather is cold and damp, the estate buildings are in poor condition and, worst of all, if she marries Kade now, she’ll become a countess, something she’s dead set against. Her heart is torn between her love for Kade and her desire to remain in Texas, where she can be simply Cassie from Dallas. Leaving her ring behind, she returns home to think.
How can she possibly choose between the man she loves dearly – a man who is now an earl in Scotland – and the life she’s always wanted back in Texas? And will Kade be content to simply wait, or will his all-consuming love for his little lass have him doing some thinking of his own?
Publisher’s Note: This book contains elements of power exchange and old-fashioned discipline. If these offend you, please do not purchase.
“Cassie Lynn, I won’t take no for an answer. We need to plan your engagement announcement, and we want to hear all about your trip. We’ll see you and Kade on Saturday at six.”
Cissy hung up before her daughter could find any more objections. She simply didn’t understand why Cassie was dragging her feet on all this. You’d think she’d be excited. She’d just returned from a trip to Scotland engaged to her boyfriend, who was also her boss, but she acted as if life was just going to continue in the same way—no engagement parties, no newspaper announcement, nothing out of the ordinary. Well, as usual, she, Cissy Davidson, socialite par excellence, would have to be the one to make sure things were done correctly.
It wasn’t like it was just any old engagement. Her daughter’s fiancé, Hamish Kade MacPherson, had Scottish titles on both sides of his family—a marquess and his marchioness, two earls and their countess wives, a viscount, and several more she couldn’t remember off the top of her head. It certainly wasn’t your everyday engagement, at least not in Dallas, and she intended for every one of her friends and acquaintances to know exactly what kind of prize her daughter had caught for herself! She probably wouldn’t mention that none of the titles belonged to Kade himself.
“Was that your mother?” asked Kade as he saw Cassie making a face at her phone. He liked her mother, but he also recognized her tendency to focus too much on what other people in her social circle thought.
“Who else? We have a command performance on Saturday.” She rolled her eyes.
“She means well, and she loves you.”
“Yes, she does, and she loves me even more now that I can deliver wedding guests with titles.”
“I hope she knows they’ll look just like any of the other guests. No one will look like he’s just stepped out of a Hollywood movie.”
They’d been back from their Scotland trip for three days now, and life was beginning to return to normal. During the day they worked together in the office in Las Colinas where Kade oversaw his mother’s inherited business interests in America, mostly oil and ranching, and then they split their free time between Cassie’s apartment in Deep Ellum, an artsy district east of downtown Dallas, and Kade’s high-end Las Colinas apartment. Lately, it seemed like they were in Las Colinas more often.
Cassie’s somewhat bohemian Deep Ellum building was deceiving, for, when her father, real-estate magnate Harper Bellingworth, had found out his ‘sugah plum’ was going to live in such an ‘interesting’ area, he’d bought the building and installed latest-technology security throughout. He was also highly selective in who he allowed to live there, and Cassie sometimes suspected she was being watched when she went out and about in the neighborhood.
It was the end of the business day, and they’d been closing up when her mother had called, so now Kade shut down his computer and turned back to Cassie.
“Do you want to cook at home or stop somewhere?”
“I could really use some barbecue. How about Meat U Anywhere?”
Kade chuckled. “Aren’t we a little overdressed?”
“Well, if you can’t eat barbecue without getting it on your tie, we can change first.” She threw him a mocking look as she picked up her purse.
“I see Cassie’s back. I’d been wondering where she’d gone.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means you were reasonably well behaved in Scotland, so I’d almost forgotten how sassy your little mouth can be.”
“Since when is the truth sassy?”
“Cassie, my dear, you could make the Bible sound sassy.”
An hour later, dressed casually and seated on red metal folding chairs, they relaxed over barbecue and sides.
“I think I’ll tell Mama I want barbecue for my wedding reception.” She laughed. “This might be Texas, but that would be a surefire cardiac event for her.”
He frowned slightly. “And that would be good?”
“When you see the production she’s going to make out of this wedding, you’ll be lining up right behind me.”
“You keep mentioning that. Is there something I should know about her plans?”
“We haven’t talked specifics yet, but I’ve known the woman my whole life, and I’m betting she’ll be stiff competition for the Rose Bowl Parade.”
“It’s your wedding, Cassie. If you don’t want it that way, tell her.”
“I don’t really know what I want,” she admitted. “I haven’t given it a lot of thought.”
Kade looked at her strangely. “I thought it was something all little girls dreamed of.”
“It is, but those are little girl dreams and almost always involve Cinderella-type dresses and a Prince Charming, but most adult women move on to other ideas. It’s the adult thoughts I haven’t given much time to.”
“I thought I was your Prince Charming.”
Cassie laughed. “How can you be Prince Charming when you don’t have any titles? You’re not even Baron Charming.”
Kade smiled wryly. “And now I know for sure Cassie’s back.”
* * *
“I wonder if we really need two apartments,” asked Kade as they sat on his balcony later that evening.
“Yes, we do.”
“Now that we’re engaged, living together is pretty much a given, so why not just live in one place?”
“Because I’m betting you’re thinking of this place, and I don’t want to give up Deep Ellum.”
Kade was silent for a minute. “I can understand that,” he admitted finally. “It’s an interesting neighborhood. It just seems silly to keep up both places, and we don’t sleep over there very often anymore.”
“But I have it, and that’s important to me. After all the arguing my family did about my moving there, I’d hate to just throw in the towel. Anyway, this way, if I get mad at you, I can always go stay there.”
Kade looked thoughtful. “Then I’d have to come bring you back again.”
“Daddy’s security people would keep you out,” she reminded him with a smug look.
“All the more reason to not have the place, then. I don’t expect my fiancée to lock herself up in an untouchable tower the minute she gets angry with me.”
Cassie looked at him with an impudent smile. “There are many things you may not expect, Mr. MacPherson, but that doesn’t mean they won’t happen.”
“Do I need to make the gold-star-black-circle chart after all?”
Cassie rolled her eyes. “Why don’t you stop worrying about labeling things and just enjoy the ride?”
“Because not all rides are equally enjoyable.”
Cassie’s tendency to be outrageous had finally caused Kade one evening to threaten a chart with gold stars or black circles, depending on her behavior, and with appropriate consequences for each. The chart had stayed an idea only, but the terms ‘gold star’ and ‘black circle’ had entered their vocabularies.
“You’re wrong, Kade. If I’m along, any ride can be enjoyable.”
“I agree it can be, but it isn’t always.”
Cassie jumped up. “I’m tired of this discussion. Let’s go do something fun.”
* * *
Kade smiled as he studied Cassie’s face, which was still flushed from two intense orgasms that had left her breathless. “Was that more fun?”
“Do I get to be your Prince Charming now?”
“That performance might knock you up to King Charming.”
* * *
“Do you think we should discuss our plans before we go to your mother’s tonight?” asked Kade. It was Saturday morning, and they were sitting on the pergola-and-vine-shaded patio of Trevi’s Restaurant in the Omni Hotel enjoying the breakfast buffet.
“Which ones exactly?”
“Any of them. If your mother’s going to want to talk plans, it seems like we should already be on the same page.”
“Hmm. How about this: Whatever she suggests, we’ll say we want the opposite.” She laughed briefly at her own humor.
“That should make for a productive evening.” In fact, he was somewhat bothered by her lack of interest in wedding plans. He knew she loved him, but she didn’t seem to be in any hurry to be formally married. Maybe that’s where they should start.
“What are your thoughts on a date?” he asked.
“I don’t know. What do you think?”
“The sooner, the better, but I realize wedding planning takes time. Are you all right for a wedding as soon as your mother can plan it?”
Kade frowned. “You don’t sound very enthusiastic.”
“I’m sorry. It has nothing to do with you. It’s just that I’ve been in so many weddings, and it’s always such a big production. It might be fun just to have a tiny wedding—a few immediate family members, tiny chapel—that type of thing, with no one worrying about wedding planners and orchestras. I want to be married to you, but it’s the getting there that’s the problem.”
“It’s your wedding, Cassie, and it should be exactly what you want.”
“I thought it was our wedding.”
“It is, but you and I both know it’s the woman who makes most of the wedding decisions, and if you want a micro-wedding, that’s what you should tell your mother.”
“What about your family? Do you think they’ll really come to a wedding in Dallas?”
“My immediate family certainly will, but beyond that, I’m not sure. My grandparents might come, but I don’t know about my grandmother who lives in Nice, although she might just tag along with Matt. It won’t be a large group, though.” Matt was his younger brother.
“We could elope.”
“And deprive your father of the chance to walk his little sugar plum down the aisle? I think not. Your tiny pink gun might not be the only Texas weapon I come in contact with.”
Cassie laughed at the memory. A few months earlier, Kade had taken her on a business trip to his mother’s ranch in the Texas Panhandle, and, when they’d encountered a snake while riding, she’d whipped out a tiny pink-and-black Beretta Nano she had tucked into her boot and shot it while Kade was getting ready to use his rifle on it. To say Kade had been shocked would be a huge understatement. He was from Scotland, and the idea that the petite woman at his side was packing heat had never crossed his mind.
“Let’s go to Deep Ellum when we’re finished here. I have a few things I want to pick up.”
Half an hour later they were entering the small parking area for Cassie’s building when Kade spotted a familiar vehicle. “Isn’t that your father’s car?”
Cassie looked where he was pointing and saw a shiny midnight blue Mercedes S-600. “Yes. He must be here,” she replied happily. “Let me call him and see where he is.”
“Hey, Daddy,” she said when he answered. “We’re in the parking garage. Where are you?” She listened a minute and then said, “Okay, we’ll see you in a few minutes.”
“He’s going to meet us at the apartment,” she said happily as they headed for the elevator.
“There’s my sugah plum,” came a booming voice as they got off the elevator. A large silver-haired man moved towards them, the picture of a successful Texan.
“Hey, Daddy,” Cassie said for the second time in five minutes. She ran into his arms and gave him a big hug. “What are you doing here?”
“There were a few things that needed checking.”
“Can’t one of your managers do it?”
“Ah take a personal interest in this building, darlin’,” he said, winking at her and grinning broadly at Kade. Then he put out his hand. “How are you doing, son?”
“Just fine, sir,” replied Kade, taking his hand.
“Well, congratulations to my favorite couple. When’s the date going to be?”
“We don’t know yet, Daddy. We’re having dinner with Mama and Miles tonight, so I’m sure she’ll have input.”
“I’m sure she will, sugah plum, but you make sure you get what you want.” He and Cissy had been married for almost twenty years, so he knew well Cissy’s love of social show and fanfare.
“Do you want to come in, Daddy?” asked Cassie as she rummaged for her keys.
“Ah can’t stay, sugah plum. Ah’ve got a lunch date in Fort Worth.” He put his big arms around Cassie and gave her another hug. “You tell your mama that if she doesn’t give you what you want, Ah will.”
Cassie giggled. “That should go down well.”
“Ah’m serious. You’re not gonna be like your mama and me. You’re gonna do this only once, but you’re gonna do it right. Whatever you want, you’ve got it, you hear me?”
Cassie stood on her tiptoes to kiss him goodbye. “I love you,” she whispered.
Kade shook hands with Harper once more and then watched as he disappeared into the elevator. Once they were in the apartment, Kade turned to Cassie with a straight face and took her right hand in his own.
“I only have one question,” he said, taking hold of her little finger and holding it up. “How does such a large man wrap himself around such a tiny thing?”
“Let me see the ring,” were the first words out of Cissy’s mouth after she’d greeted Cassie and Kade. Cassie held out her hand and Cissy inspected it, saying all the appropriate words—it was a lovely antique, and how nice it was a family ring, but, truthfully, she would have preferred to see a big rock on her daughter’s hand. Why, this antique stone couldn’t be more than two carats!
“It came from Kade’s mother,” Cassie told her mother again.
The lack of enthusiasm in Cissy’s voice was hard to miss, and Kade spoke up. “I’ve told her we can buy something here if she’d rather, but she says she likes having a family ring.”
“Well, it’s not a forever thing,” added Kade. “If you ever change your mind, we can get a different ring.”
Cissy looked hopeful, but Cassie shook her head and took Kade’s hand. “I think an engagement ring is a forever thing.”
They followed Cissy into the house and accepted a glass of sangria before sitting down in the oversized great room.
“Where’s Miles?” asked Cassie, looking around. Miles Davidson, a prominent plastic surgeon, had been married to her mother ever since Cassie’s high school days.
“He had an emergency consultation this afternoon, but he called a short while ago and said he’d be home within the hour.”
They all smiled politely at each other, and then Kade said, “So, Cissy, did Cassie tell you about her foggy night in the wilds?”
“She only told me some, but it was more than enough to give me the shivers. I hope that isn’t a regular occurrence.” She shuddered for emphasis.
“Hardly,” he said with a laugh. “We gave her the full treatment to break her in, and, except for one scream in the middle of the night, she did quite well.”
“Scream? What happened?” Cissy looked at Cassie expectantly.
“I went to use the make-shift little girls’ room behind a big bush, but it was the middle of the night, and I saw yellow eyes staring at me.”
“Oh, my!” Cissy put her hand on her heart and looked shocked. “I would have fainted dead away.”
Kade chuckled. “She couldn’t. She was too busy screaming.”
During their trip to Scotland, Kade had taken Cassie up on his uncle’s helicopter to see their herds and do some sightseeing, but bad weather had moved in without warning, and a lightning strike had forced them down in dense fog. They’d had to make do with a tarp shelter and emergency rations until the fog finally lifted the next day.
“Well, I see the travelers are back.” Miles entered the room and gave Cassie a quick hug and then shook Kade’s hand. “And by the way, who was screaming?”
Cassie quickly caught him up to date while Cissy brought him a glass of sangria.
“Do you still want to grill, honey?” she asked as she gave him his drink.
“Sure. Let me change my clothes and I’ll fire it up. How about you, Kade? Are you a grill man?”
“Absolutely. You want some company?”
Cassie glared at him, but he just smiled at her. “You and your mama can talk announcements or whatever while I’m gone.”
“Well, I’m going to need input from you, too,” Cissy told him. “I’ll need to know all your relatives’ names and titles.”
“Why?” He didn’t mean to sound rude, but he was surprised.
“For the announcement, of course.”
Kade still looked puzzled, so Cissy continued. “Maybe they do it differently in Scotland, but here we always tell about the person’s family—their parents, grandparents, any other notable relatives, things like that. And that reminds me, an announcement should go in your newspapers over there, too, so I’ll need the names and contact addresses for those.”
Kade was starting to look uncomfortable, but when he glanced at Cassie, she had a smug smile on her face as if to say, “I told you so.”
“All right, Kade, let’s go see what we can do with the grill.”
Talk about a timely save, he thought to himself as he got up and followed Miles.
“What are they grilling, and what else are we having?” asked Cassie, partly because she wanted to change the subject, and partly because she was truly hungry.
“Oh, here, darling, I have some little nibbles for us while we wait.” Cissy left and returned almost immediately with a plate of miscellaneous ‘nibbles,’ which Cassie immediately took several of.
“Now, let’s get down to business,” announced Cissy as she picked up a notebook and pen. “It would be good if we could have an approximate wedding date to include in the announcement. What date are you all thinking about?”
“We don’t know.”
Cissy looked at her amazed. “How can you not know?”
“Because we don’t. We haven’t decided.”
“Well, darling, reservations have to be made long in advance. You can’t just waltz into the club and reserve for a wedding a month ahead of time.”
By ‘the club’ she meant of course the Dallas Country Club, a bastion of the city’s elite, where she spent much of her time.
“How about a hotel?”
“That’s a possibility, too,” conceded Cissy. “Which one did you have in mind?”
“I really don’t know. I just threw it out as an idea.”
Cissy looked impatient. “Fine, we’ll leave that for later. Now, how about the announcement. Do you know the name of Kade’s father?”
“He’s dead, Mama.”
“I know that, but it still goes in the announcement. What was his name?”
“I don’t know. I think his first name was Hamish, like Kade.”
Cissy sighed. “What about his grandparents?”
“I don’t know.”
“I thought you went to a ball at their home.”
“We did, but I can’t really tell you their names like you’d put them in the paper. I met them as Lord and Lady Carberry. Why don’t you use that report Daddy got that had everyone listed? It probably has more information than I know.”
“Darling! You’re a genius! Why didn’t I think of that?” Cissy jumped up and hurried out of the room to go find the controversial report that had caused problems between mother and daughter once before. When Cassie had first mentioned Kade as the man who would escort her to a Dallas function, Harper had immediately requested a full report on his background, which is how Cissy had discovered all the titles in his family tree that so impressed her.
As Cissy was going out one door, Kade was coming in another. “We’re getting close with the meats. How are things coming in here?”
Cassie rolled her eyes but said, “I assume you’re talking food, and Mama hasn’t mentioned it. Let me go see what she has waiting in the kitchen.” They found a couple casseroles warming in the oven as well as several salads in the refrigerator, so Cassie pulled everything out.
“Where’s your mother?”
“She’s off looking for that report Daddy did about your family.”
“Why?” He sounded less than happy.
“Because she’s Mama, and she wants to get every last title right.”
“I think I need to know what she’s planning on putting in the announcement.”
“Ah-ha! I warned you about Mama and her projects, but you thought I was exaggerating.”
Kade frowned and put his finger to his lip, but it was too late.
“What about me and my projects?” asked Cissy as she entered the kitchen carrying the report.
“Nothing, Mama. Let’s eat. I’m starved.”
Once everyone was at the table, Cissy brought up the subject of titles again.
“You know, Kade, I admit I don’t understand any of this, but why is it that both of your grandparents have titles and you don’t?”
What was it with these Dallas women and titles? wondered Kade.
“Titles pass through the oldest son,” he explained patiently. “My father was the second son, so my grandfather’s title went to his first son, my uncle Camron, and then it will go to his oldest son, my cousin, Evan. On my mother’s side, since she’s not male, the title won’t come to her.”
“But she has a title, doesn’t she?”
“No, it’s not really a title. It’s more of a courtesy prefix.”
“I should think such an all-or-nothing system could give rise to hard feelings,” commented Cissy. “Your uncle got everything and your father got nothing.”
Kade looked surprised. “That’s not really true,” he said with a slight frown on his face. “The movies make titles seem like something very glamorous, but they can carry with them huge burdens of responsibility with very little in return. Some estates are in excellent condition, but others, for a variety of reasons, aren’t, and being responsible for an estate that’s in great physical disrepair and deeply in debt is no bed of roses. In today’s world, you have to find alternative sources of income for an estate or it becomes unviable. Frequently, it’s the later-borns who are the lucky ones, because they can choose their own paths in life and aren’t tied to estates buried in problems.”
“How interesting,” said Miles. “You don’t really hear about the other side of the coin, do you.”
“So, is that the way you feel, Kade?” asked Cissy, a little frown on her face. She sounded perplexed and obviously couldn’t conceive of such a thing. “Are you glad that you don’t have a title?”
“It’s not the title itself that’s the problem but the estate it’s tied to, and, in the case of the Berwick estate, the one on my father’s side, yes, I definitely feel that way. I’m very close with my uncle and cousin, and I work with them on estate affairs, but I don’t envy them their positions one bit. The earldom has serious problems, and it’s something they struggle with on a daily basis. It’s a life that can consume you if you let it.”
“Well.” For once in her life, Cissy seemed at a loss for words. Her idea of the ‘glamor’ that Cassie was marrying into had just been stood on its head. Still… She tried again.
“Didn’t you all go to a wonderful ball while you were there? Was that the same people?”
“No, Mama,” answered Cassie impatiently. “I told you before, that was Kade’s grandparents on his mother’s side, and their estate is in fine order as far as I know, not that it’s any of your business.”
“Cassie Lynn, don’t you be sassy!” Cissy sat up straight in her chair and stared at her daughter.
“I second that,” said Kade, looking hard at Cassie. “You owe your mama an apology.”
“I just said what you were probably thinking.” She looked at Kade with her chin stuck out resolutely.
“You have no idea what I was thinking, but right now I think you owe your mama an apology.”
“Fine,” she said huffily, turning to Cissy. “I apologize for speaking the truth, which obviously hurt.”
Kade gave Cassie a stern look. “Try again.”
“You wanted an apology and you got one.”
Kade didn’t want to cause a scene at her mother’s table, so he chose to move on for the moment and continue the discussion later, in the privacy of their own apartment.
The mood had been ruined, though, so the rest of the dinner conversation was forced, and shortly after the end of the meal, Cassie and Kade announced their departure. As he was saying goodbye, Kade apologized to Cissy for the ruined atmosphere.
“It’s not your fault,” she replied, taking his hand. “I’m afraid her daddy spoiled her horribly.”
“You’re just jealous,” put in Cassie, who obviously was still on a roll. “We always got along great, and, anyway, he told me that if you don’t give me what I want for a wedding, he will.”
With a smug look on her face, she flounced out the door, leaving everyone looking after her with their own thoughts. Miles, as often, stayed on the sideline of the family discord, Cissy looked like she might cry, and Kade’s face had a grim look as he followed Miss Cassie to the car. Her behavior had been appalling, and he intended to make sure it never happened again.