Scotch Swords, Muskets and LoveBy: Riley Moreno
In 18th Century Scotland, dueling is still a recognized and legal method of resolving disputes, and Susan MacGuinness, a quick-thinking, passionate and pretty young woman is no stranger to duelists – having been betrayed and having had her heart broken by the most skilled swordsman in Edinburgh. But when a strong and dashing highlander from the hills walks into her shop one day with an unusual request and a mystery to be solved, Susan finds herself being drawn into the world of life-or-death duels once again – except this time the stakes involve the love of her life, and their future together. Will Susan and her new lover survive the greatest duel of her life? Find out in Scotch Swords, Muskets and Love.
Edinburgh, Scotland, July 1782
Susan MacGuinness stared wistfully out the window, twirling an idle finger in her long, silky auburn hair as she watched the world of Edinburgh passing by. Horse-drawn carriages bumped and shuddered as they rolled along the cobbled street, people moved in a bustling throng, smiling and laughing in the late summer afternoon sunshine. Outside the gray stone buildings were splashed with golden light, and lovers walked arm in arm, stealing kisses and longing glances as they went, while children laughed and danced circles around their parents as they walked. All the world was alive and filled with the joy of summertime – everyone, it seemed, except Susan.
She sighed and looked away after a few minutes of watching the strangers revel in their collective happiness, and then, after having had too much of it, she closed the window. Still, she couldn't resist one more glance, and she traced a longing finger along the diamond pattern of the lead window frames.
It was a poorly-chosen moment to look one more time out the window: he was there. With her.
Seamas McSwiggan. The man she had been supposed to marry; tall, dashingly handsome, and the second son of a nobleman from the hills of West Scotland. A dandy with fine taste in clothes and fashion, and an acute sense for business and profit-making.
Susan had fallen head over heels for him, and he for her – or so it had seemed. They had been together for just six months when Seamas had proposed marriage, and Susan, being a naïve 21-year-old, had accepted the thirty-year-old's offer without question. Plans had been made, dates had been set, a dress was even made, right here, in her father's dress-making store, at great expense to her family.
And that was when she had found out about Gertrude.
Susan had never felt like more of an idiot in her life than when she had found out about Seamas's cheating and womanizing ways. That had been a year ago, and of course she had broken off the engagement immediately, but the hurt remained. She had genuinely loved Seamas, even if, as it had turned out, she had been nothing but a plaything for him. Her father had tried to stand up for her honor, and had attempted to demand payment at least for the expensive wedding dress he had made for his daughter, but Seamas – a skilled swordsman, had said that he was quite willing to duel over the matter, and of course Susan's half-blind old father, who had never picked up a weapon in his life, had had to back down.
Susan shook her head and squeezed her temples between her forefinger and thumb, as if trying to force the bad memories out of her skull. But there he was, strolling casually down the street, arm-in-arm with a new lady – some pretty young thing, gazing lovingly into Seamas's eyes. She was in for a rude awakening, thought Susan bitterly to herself. Seamas looked across the street at the dress-making store, and Susan jerked her head back away from the window, her heart pounding with sudden anxiety. She really hoped Seamas hadn't seen her. She didn't want to give him the satisfaction of knowing that some small part of her still loved him, as awful a person as he was.
Just then, the doorbell jangled as someone walked into the store. Susan let out a quiet sigh of relief; dealing with a customer would at least provide a momentary distraction from this stew of horrible feelings that was percolating in her gut.
She hurried down the narrow, dimly-lit spiral stairway to get down to the ground level of the house, where the store was. And when she saw the man waiting at the counter, she couldn't help but pause and let out a quiet gasp.
He wasn't one of the city folk from Edinburgh; that much was obvious. He was attired in a white poet shirt, and a bold red and green pattern tartan kilt. He wore a broadsword on his hip, and two pistols were tucked into his belt, and he wore a leather satchel over his shoulder. He was tall, but not excessively so, and broad-shouldered and strongly-built, but by no means muscle-bound like a blacksmith or wood-chopper. No; he had just the right balance of leanness and muscle, which was just how Susan liked her men.