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Reforming the Gambler

Reforming the Gambler

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He has lost everything. She has everything to lose.

Main Tropes

  • Rake
  • In Hiding
  • Single Mother


Lord Ian Pinkerton enjoyed a carefree life, until his brother cut him off without a penny. But when he wins an estate in a card game, he thinks his luck may be changing. Until he sees it. With no funds to fix his rundown house, Ian considers leaving Scotland. That is until he meets his beautiful neighbor. But to his surprise, she seems to detest him.

Catriona Melton, Baroness of Crannach, has been in hiding with her son on a remote Scottish isle. When she meets her new neighbor, the handsome Lord Ian, she quickly decides she wants nothing to do with him. She knows his sort. But every encounter they have seems to contradict her earlier assumptions.

When an old foe threatens to take everything from Cat, Ian steps in to help and she must decide if her old assumptions or her heart will prevail.

Intro. Into Chapter One

Lord Ian Pinkerton steered
his horse onto the graveled drive, letting the breeze blow the tension from his shoulders. His life was about to return to normal and by end of month, he would be back in London enjoying the
pleasures it had to offer someone of his station. Winning this estate a fortnight ago was precisely what he’d needed.

At present, except for the
clothes in his trunk, this estate was his only possession. Even his horse wasn’t his own.

Ian’s shoulders tightened, pain shooting up the back of his neck, making his head throb. Conrad—His Greatness, the Marquess of Kendal and Ian’s identical twin—was never at a loss for words where Ian was concerned. Conrad had not even given Ian the papers of ownership for the horse he was riding. He had said the animal could not be gambled away without them.

Ian smirked. Nobody cared about papers when in the throws of a good wager. Ian’s hold tightened on the reins, causing Ethelred to toss his head several times.

“If,” Conrad had said, “you do manage to lose Ethelred on a bet, I will have you hanged for horse thievery.”

Ian shifted in his saddle. He didn’t believe Conrad would actually follow through on the threat, but Ian hadn’t believed his brother would cut him off
financially, either.

Ian growled low in his throat. His Greatness thought himself so above everyone.

Shaking out his arms and shoulders, Ian took several deep breaths and relaxed into his
saddle. A tingle in his stomach accompanied the grin on his face. For now, this estate would provide the needed refuge from his creditors while he arranged for its sale. Then he would be flush. Perhaps there would be enough left over to increase his station.

Ian’s breath hitched as Dunbarton came into view, only to whoosh from his lungs a
moment later.

His mouth dropped open and he pulled Ethelred to a stop. This was it? This was his great winnings? He stooped forward, his head shaking slightly. The castle before him was grand, or it had been forty years prior. Now it looked to be almost in ruins.

Ian choked on a cry, tears stinging his eyes. Wesley had told him the house was in need of small repairs to ready it for sale…but this?

A large man ambled out of the small house to the side of the drive. He stopped when he saw Ian. In his prime, the man
was likely taller than Ian, by at least a hand, but with his stooped back and shoulders he was surely an inch or two shorter.

“Can I help you, sir?” His gruff Scottish accent made it difficult to understand all of his words.

Ian slid from his horse, standing in front of the old man. “I am Lord Ian Pinkerton and this is my estate.”

The man shook his head. “I am the bailiff here. And I know Mr.
Charles Wesley is the owner of this estate.”

Ian tipped his head to the side. If he left now, perhaps he could make it back to Westmorland by the end of day tomorrow next. He could try reasoning with Conrad again and forget this whole thing had ever happened. Why had he told Conrad he
did not need him or his money? Would it be so difficult to live as his brother demanded?

Ian dropped his head back and looked up at the sky. There was also the matter of the house party he had planned. Why had he invited his friends to join him
here? Ian chided himself. It was all to prove he was not as desperate as was actually
the case.

He reached a hand into his saddlebag and withdrew a paper, handing it over to the old man. “This paper indicates Mr. Wesley lost this estate to me in a hand of whist.” Ian turned his eyes back to the castle, muttering. “Although, his descriptions were vastly different from reality.”

The man squinted at the paper, rubbing a hand over his bristled chin. “You said you were a lord?”

Ian nodded absently. “In name only. My father was the Marquess
of Kendal. A title my brother now holds.” Did the bailiff look disappointed? It was not the first time Ian had seen that look. What did Ian care what this stranger thought of him? He turned, looking at the missing windows and crumbling rock edifice. “And you are?”

“Mr. Docherty. I have been the bailiff of this estate for the past twenty years.”

Ian gave the man a bland expression. “You may not wish to
admit as much. The estate does not show you as…capable in your duties.”

Mr. Docherty glared at Ian. “I cannot do what I have not been given funds for. If not for me, this house would be a pile of rubble. I have not received a pence in nearly a decade.”

Ian’s brow furrowed. “Why do you stay?”

“My family has worked at this castle for over three hundred years. They helped build it for the Chief of the MacDillon Clan in the late fourteen hundreds.” He raised his chin, pride evident in his look. “I will stay until I am no longer allowed to remain.”

Ian rubbed at his chest as it warmed. What made a man stay even though he received
nothing for his work? Not even an acknowledgment or a word of thanks. It was odd, to say the least.          

Docherty’s eyes widened slightly. “Have you come to restore Dunbarton to its former

Ian began to run a hand through his hair but quickly pulled it back, instead fisting it at his side. Conrad always mussed his hair
when he was frustrated. Ian cared too much about his appearance to do such a thing, but lately, he’d found himself doing it without thinking. “It was my intention, but…” His gaze drifted back to the large castle.

“Were you not told it was
in need of repair?” The old man followed Ian’s gaze.

“Repair? Wesley indicated
the house was in need of minor work.” Ian looked at the missing south side roof. The lump formed in his throat again and he rubbed at his temple with his fingers. “Is there any place not on the verge
of collapsing? Or shall I return to the village and secure lodging there?”

The old man rubbed at the scruff on his chin. “The dower house is
habitable. Most likely not up to your standards, but it will keep the rain off.”

Ian sighed. “And
where is this dower house?”

Docherty motioned with his head down the lane Ian had just traveled. “It is on the left, just as you enter the estate. It is set back a ways, so you may have missed it when you came in.” He turned away from Ian. “I will inform the Mrs. of your arrival and have
her see to the dust covers.”

Nodding to no one, Ian placed his foot in the stirrup. “I would be grateful for her help. I believe I will return to Tobermory. I have a letter I need to post… immediately.”

Docherty disappeared down a neatly trimmed path. As Ian looked around him, he could see
the areas where money was not needed for upkeep. The hedges and trees were all cut and maintained. The gardens to the left, what Ian could see of them,
appeared quite lovely.

Ian looked one last time at the castle and slumped in his saddle. His guests could not sleep in the gardens when they visited. He was still in a muddle, even if
the grounds were well kept. His stomach burned and gurgled at the thought of asking Conrad for money. But he had few other options.

Tugging the reins to the right, Ian directed his horse back down the lane toward the village. His throat was dry and he felt like his mouth was full of sand. He needed a drink.

As he spotted the dower house, he pulled his horse to a stop. He could determine the outline of the cottage, for that was the best description. It was barely
visible behind a copse of trees. Seeing how well the rest of the grounds were kept, Ian could only assume the house was intentionally hidden. Ian glared at
the trees, his teeth grinding together. When I find Wesley…
A facer was the least that scoundrel deserved.

Turning from the drive, he continued on to Tobermory. He felt the pocket where his watch had once resided, but now only a few coins occupied the space. He did not have even enough funds to purchase parchment and ink, let alone frank the letter.

As he entered the village, he spotted an inn to the left. Feeling thirstier than he had in days, he veered in that direction, deciding his letter could wait.

Ian entered the darkened, mostly empty, tap room. Looking for the darkest corner, he sat down and dropped his head into his hands.

A skinny man wearing an apron came from a back room. “What
can I get you, sir?”

Without thought, Ian murmured, “Whiskey.”

The man bobbed his head and moved to a long bar top. Withdrawing a bottle from
beneath, he poured some into a glass. Setting it on the table in front of Ian, the innkeeper asked, “You visiting Mull, sir?”

Ian shook his head, draining the glass in one swallow. “If only I were so fortunate. I am the new owner of Dunbarton.” He tapped the glass.

The man picked it up. “The place was not as you expected?”

Ian shrugged. “I expected it to at least have a roof.”

The innkeeper left, returning with a bottle in hand. He poured some more of the amber liquid into Ian’s glass.

“And what be the name of
the new master of Dunbarton?”

Ian again drained the glass again. His empty stomach churned as the liquor settled. “Lord
Ian Pinkerton.”

The innkeeper bowed. “Welcome to Mull, my lord.”

Ian grunted and tapped the glass again.

The innkeeper stared at Ian. “Will you be settling the bill today, my

Ian shook his head. “I have only just arrived and am short on
coin. You can request payment from the Marquess of Kendal at Penymoor in Westmorland.” A smile turned up the corners of Ian’s mouth as he imagined Conrad’s reaction when the request for payment arrived.
The least his brother could do was pay for a few drinks. Ian looked at the man pointedly and tapped the glass again, harder this time.

The innkeeper raised a brow. “Would you care for some food, my lord?”

Ian shook his head before closing his eyes and dropping his head back into his hands. He needed to write to Conrad, but he couldn’t bring himself to leave the table. Until recently, Conrad had always lectured Ian, pacing about the floor before finally relenting and giving Ian the money he sought. But since the house party last summer, Conrad had changed. Oh, he still lectured, but no blunt followed. Ian knew asking for his help was risky, but he did not see any other option. Conrad would
likely demand the estate be put in his own name until Ian paid him back.

Ian sighed. He missed the old Conrad. His brother had not always been the serious, curmudgeon he was now. When they were children, he had been fun.

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