Matho and Meg Douglas meet when she rides into Stirling thinking how best to befriend the Dowager Queen, Marie de Guise. He and his friend Harry Wharton are plotting how best to kidnap the Dowager's infant daughter, Mary.
"Riding into Stirling, Meg eyed Broad Street with a calculating eye, but decided it was not a place she would choose to live. A cheerful crowd, jostling for a view of the gallows, surged about the open space between the Mercat Cross and the grim old Tolbooth. A hanging must be imminent. Her escort closed protectively around her and forced a way through to the top of the hill.
Both her destination and the castle came into view at the same time. Meg caught her breath at the sight of the Great Hall, pale as day-old cream in the October light, shining like a beacon against the darker stone of the older castle buildings.
‘You there! Shift yer hide!’ The sharp order from her Serjeant snagged her attention. He had halted his horse and glared at two men sitting on the perimeter wall surrounding Douglas House. The taller of the two slid off the wall and disappeared in the direction of Broad Street before she had time to glimpse his face. When she looked at the other man, her heart gave a single, painful bound.
She blinked, and found she’d raised a gloved hand to her throat. Her heart thudded light and fast in her chest. Like Thomas, this man’s skin had been coloured by wind and sun, and his hair held the same dark-red fire of beech leaves. Yet Thomas Howard had been dead these six years. When the fellow slid from the wall, she realised the resemblance was no more than a trick of the light.
He glared at her little company as they rode by. Such insolence! His torn sheepskin and rough, darned hose labelled him as farm labourer in town for the day. She raised her nose in the air. He stiffened, and drew his heavy brows together. With a snort of disgust, he turned and walked toward the town.
She stared after him. The tilt of his head and the lithe grace of his walk were so reminiscent of Thomas. Shave this stranger, dress him in velvet, satin and jewels, and the likeness would be remarkable.
Turning in the saddle, she faced Douglas House and rode into the courtyard without registering the recently refurbished dormer windows and freshly carved stone griffons that adorned the roofline."
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