The Scottish Bride (The Brides of Holland Springs Book 5)

Chapter One

Cadence Romanov was done with hiding how she truly felt about Maddox Stewart. Come hell or high water, she was going to tell him today.

No more waiting.

No more obsessing over what he’d say in return.

No more being a child who stalked her big brother’s best friend.

She was twenty-three, dang it, and she could date who she liked. Only she hadn’t liked the guys she’d dated very much. They simply didn’t compare to Maddox with his bright blue eyes, and hair as black as ink. None of them spoke four languages, had a body honed by dedication to a sport that turned into a career, or had ever held her hair back while she spent the night puking after drinking too much at girls’ night out.

That was when she knew it was love... and she’d been waiting months for the perfect moment to confess everything to him.

Peering through the window of her bedroom, she watched as he got out of his car and walked with her brother to the house. Her heart flipped and her stomach dipped as he laughed at something Jude said.

No guy had Maddox’s smile.

She’d always loved watching Maddox as he worked, as he played, and as he flirted. He’d always seemed so sure of himself, so confident in everything he did, that if she hadn’t loved him, she would have been too jealous for words.

Confidence had eluded her at the age of fourteen, her body suddenly like a woman’s while she still felt like a child. Having a beautiful older sister didn’t help, nor did the fact that every guy who crossed paths with Waverly fell in insta-love/lust with her.

Cadence was the afterthought, the one they’d all attempted to settle for when Waverly said no. Except Cadence turned them down as well... until Maddox. But then, he had never been in love with her sister.

At least, she didn’t think so.

His head tipped up, and he looked straight at her.

“Oh crap.” Panicking, she let the curtain fall and stepped back. Taking a deep breath, she hurried to the vanity that had belonged to her great-grandmother and checked her appearance one last time.

The door opened and Waverly stuck her head inside, looking every inch a goddess. Cadence almost decided right then that she’d stay in her room for the rest of the day—Thanksgiving dinner or not.

“Momma wants you to come down and finish making the cucumber sandwiches.”

“I’ll be right there.” She frowned, wondering if she should put on what she always wore—a cute top and jeans—or keep the ridiculously expensive dress on.

Waverly walked inside, shutting the door behind her. “What’s wrong?”

Cadence tried to hide the blush she felt heating her cheeks. “Nothing.”

Her sister tilted her head. “Uh-huh. Want to try again?”

“Maddox is here and... I... I want to let him know that I have major feelings for him,” she said in a rush.

Waverly’s blue eyes rounded. “In the middle of dinner?”

“No.” She gave her sister a look. “Either before or afterwards.”

“You don’t have a plan.”

Cadence shook her head. “I’m more of a by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of gal.”

“Tell me something I don’t know,” Waverly said with a wry smile. “What can I do to help?”

“Not be so beautiful?” And perfect. And kind. And smart. Basically everything Cadence wanted to be all the time. Those traits came easily for her sister. Naturally. Meanwhile, Cadence had to bite her tongue and not say the first thing that came to mind.

Waverly rolled her eyes. “Maddox isn’t interested in this particular Romanov and never has been.”

“Oh my Lord.” Cadence gasped, her heart pounding. “You mean he was interested in—”

“If you name anyone other than yourself, not only will I smack some sense into you, but I also won’t help you,” her sister threatened.

“So he’s only been interested in me? I mean, duh... sheesh, I’m awesome and beautiful. Smart. Got all my teeth straight with braces.” Hope started to bloom in her chest even as she felt like the biggest dork in the world. “Just to clarify, he’s been interested in me because I’m his best friend’s little sister... or he’s always wanted to do me against the nearest wall?”

“Yeah... okay, the phrase he wants to do me against the nearest wall will never leave your mouth in my presence again,” Waverly said, tossing her head. “I can’t think of my little sister like that.”

“Consider it retracted. Swallowed. Gone.” She sat down on the bed and looked up at Waverly. “What should I do?”

“Be yourself.”

With a groan, Cadence flopped down on the bed. “Myself isn’t good enough, not when you’re around.” Maybe when Maddox saw Waverly, he’d decide that everything was just a fluke. That he could do so much better by being with Waverly instead.

“I can leave.”

“No.” Cadence sighed thickly. “Momma and Daddy would miss you too much.”

Waverly kicked her, and Cadence winced a little. “But you wouldn’t?”

“Not this time,” she answered honestly, earning another kick. “Fine, I’d miss you a little.”

Her sister sat beside her. “Stop being this way. Maddox has had his eye on you for a long time. In fact... no, never mind, you’d never believe me.”

Cadence shot to a sitting position, grabbing Waverly’s arm. “Yes, I would. You always tell me the truth.”

“Well, I heard Jude talking with Rhys about Maddox not wanting to go out with them.”

“Rhys isn’t exactly the most fun guy to go out with,” she pointed out. They might be cousins and all, but Rhys was so dang moody and snooty that no one wanted to be around him.

“Anyway, Jude made some smartass remark about how Maddox’s celibacy made him the best wing man when they went out.”

“You’re saying that he’s been...”

Waverly nodded. “That’s exactly what I’m saying. For years, too.”

“I can’t... but why?”

Her sister stood. “Maybe you should ask him.”

Cadence almost said no, but then again, she’d never been afraid to ask Maddox anything. Only, this was about his sex life, or lack of one. How exactly would she ask that?

Hey, Maddox. What’s up? Could you tell me about your years of celibacy?

That sounded horrible in her head, so she could only imagine how it would sound spoken out loud.

“I can’t ask him that. It’s none of my business.”

Waverly shrugged as she opened the bedroom door. “Find a way to make it your business.”

***

Cadence gave herself ten minutes after Waverly left before she headed downstairs. She took the back stairs, hoping to avoid everyone until she was good and ready.

She wiped her damp palms against her thighs before pushing the kitchen door open, and her heart nearly stopped in her chest.

“Maddox?” she whispered.

He turned to her, his dark hair gleaming nearly blue in the light as he smiled. “Took you long enough.” His blue eyes roamed over her. “I like the dress.”

She almost answered him coyly, but opted for the truth instead. “I wore it for you.”

His brows rose. “Did you now?”

She nodded, licking her bottom lip. “I wanted to be more... me.”

After crossing the distance between them, Maddox put his hands on her hips. Heat jumped, and desired flared between them. “If you’re not comfortable in your pretty dress, I’ll help you change.”

“Don’t say things you don’t mean.”

“I mean to get you out of your clothes.” He dipped his head, bringing their mouth inches apart. “But don’t dress up on my account if you’d rather wear jeans.”

“That women who want your autograph don’t wear jeans.” They never did. His fans showed up in skimpy dresses and short shorts, pushing out their boobs for him to sign.

“Really? I didn’t notice. Too busy thinking about you.”

Coming from another man, Cadence knew this would be a line, but coming from Maddox... anything but a line. “You were thinking about me wearing jeans?”

“Not exactly,” he admitted. “More like thinking about you wearing nothing at all.”

“I can make that happen.” She tried to kiss him, but he wouldn’t let her move. “What’s wrong?”

He tilted his head, studying her. “I’m no saint, sweetheart, and I want you more than life itself, but we’ll wait a bit longer.”

Her forehead scrunched. “Wait longer? But we’re officially together now—it’s been six months!”

He brushed a kiss against her lips. “Then you and I can wait six more.”

“Six more months?” she asked with a squeak. “I’m tired of being a nun.”

He smiled, his bearded face ridiculously handsome. “Ah, Cadence, you are very tempting, but I won’t give in. The woman I want will get a proper courting before—”

She slammed her mouth against his, almost knocking their teeth together. He groaned in his throat, his fingers winding in her hair as he deepened their kiss. His tongue swept inside her mouth, teasing and tasting.

Oh, she could kiss him for hours.

Usually, that was what they did... until one of them had to stop. Take it slow had been their motto, but she was done with slow. Cadence wanted full speed ahead.

“You won’t sway me,” he said between kisses, but the evidence of his arousal hitting her stomach made him a liar.

She began to rub against him, eliciting a full-on groan. It made her feel so powerful that she couldn’t help but reply, “I can and I will.”

“Cadence,” her mother called, and they broke apart like boxers in a ring. “Have you finished making the sandwiches?”

“Not yet,” she replied.

“Okay, but don’t wait too much longer, honey.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Maddox caressed her cheek. “We have to tell them.”

“Soon,” she promised. “But for now...”

He bowed his head, touching his forehead to hers. “I know... that’s the other reason I’m keeping it in my pants. Your dad will kill me when he finds out about us.”

“Does that mean you want to stop seeing me?” Cadence lightly asked.

His blue eyes grew diamond hard. “Never.”

It was a vow. And all the encouragement she needed. “I love you,” she said boldly... yet softly. She didn’t want everyone to overhear her declaration to her boyfriend.

The fierceness faded from his gaze, replaced by a softness she’d only glimpsed on occasion. “I should have known you’d be a hell of a lot braver than I could ever be.”

“Does this mean you feel the same way?” She sucked in a breath of air, holding it in until he kissed her forehead, his warm breath coasting over her skin.

“I love you, Cadence Romanov, with my body, heart, and soul.”