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Chapter One


Charles! I say, Charles!”

Major Charles Tyrone, up to his waist in the ice cold rush of a Highland stream, failed to hear his assistant’s shout. A veteran of the Peninsular campaign, he had thought seven years of war enough to make him indifferent to every discomfort. But with his bare feet precariously balanced on an uneven bed of granite and water of glacial temperatures threatening his most private parts in spite of his stout woolen trousers, visions of a hot Spanish plain in high summer were the only thing keeping him warm. Devil take all Scots, particularly those who wanted a bridge where nature never intended a bridge to go. And, more particularly, mad English engineers who thought they could build one anyway. And, most particularly, Devil take his personal decision as owner of the Tyrone Company of Engineers to build the blasted thing in the springtime when the water cascading down from the cloud-capped mountains above had been snow only a day or two before.

Charles gritted his teeth, scowling at the half-built bridge of stone and timber. Only from here, in the middle of the stream, could he truly judge if the foundations and their approaches were well balanced. Would the weight of the bridge be evenly distributed, assuring it a long life? Or would it be tilted, like the surrounding terrain, causing most of the weight to settle on one side?

So far . . . yes, it looked good. But he needed a wider panorama. With care, the former major slid his feet backward, toes curling over rounded stones, sinking into piles of pebbles. He kicked aside a tree branch stuck in an underwater crevice, kept moving back, a slow smile of satisfaction spreading over his ruggedly handsome features as he confirmed that the Tyrone Company’s bridge was still looking straight and solid.

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