Waiting for a Scot Like You (Union of the Rakes #3) - Eva Leigh
Eton College, 1797
It was impossible to ignore the hissing.
Duncan McCameron kept his head down in a valiant effort to focus on the essay he and the other four boys had to write by the end of the day. The composition was part of their punishment, along with spending hours stuck inside the library, and though Duncan preferred being out on the field kicking a football or running races, he had a reasonable amount of brains and could write a relatively convincing paper.
The essay’s topic was who they believed themselves to be. What a ridiculous question. Everyone at Eton knew who they were—they wouldn’t be here if they didn’t.
“Psst!” came the irritating, insistent voice behind him. “Oi—McCameron!”
Duncan twisted in his seat. Peering out from between the library stacks was Theodore Curtis, who smirked at him. He and Curtis had very little to do with each other, since hulking brute Curtis was a rule-breaking troublemaker rumored to be a viscount’s bastard. Duncan, on the other hand, was the legitimate second son of the Earl of Glenkirk, a venerable and ancient Scottish title that dated back to Robert the Bruce. But Duncan didn’t give a rat’s arse about lineage—it was a lad’s character that mattered, and Curtis was a scofflaw delinquent to his core.
“C’mere,” Curtis said, motioning for Duncan to join him.
Duncan glanced at the other three boys who shared in the day’s discipline. Scholarly Sebastian Holloway was bent over his desk, his pen flying across a sheet of foolscap as he industriously labored away at his composition. Lord Clair had his feet propped up on his desk as he contemplated Holloway, likely trying to find a way to get the other boy to write his paper for him.
William Rowe, however, stared at Duncan from behind his shaggy hair, wearing his usual strange little smile.
“McCameron . . .” Curtis said in a singsong voice. “McCameronnn . . .”
Ignoring him clearly wasn’t possible, so Duncan shot to his feet and stalked into the stacks.
“Quiet,” Duncan snapped. “The senior boy might come back at any minute, and if he finds us talking, we’ll get flogged.”
“You don’t know anything about flogging,” Curtis sneered. “You never had a cane across your backside.”
“Unlike you, I don’t make a practice of it,” Duncan shot back.
But Curtis didn’t seem offended by this remark. If anything, he looked pleased at the notion of cultivating a terrible reputation. That was precisely what Duncan did not want for himself.
“Help me get out of here,” Curtis said.
Duncan stared at him. “Beg pardon?”
“Eddings locked the door behind him, but there’s a window just up there—” Curtis pointed toward a narrow window set high in the wall. “I reckon with some help I can scramble up there and get out—and you’re going to help me, Corinthian that you are. Bet you can climb anything, and I’ll need someone up there to help pry the window open so I can wriggle out.”
“Bloody hell, Curtis.” Duncan gaped at the other boy. “That’s against the rules.”
“Of course it is, you nitwit,” Curtis spat.
“That’s the point,” a crowlike voice said behind Duncan.
Spinning around, Duncan faced Rowe. The boy stood three feet away, and this close, his angular face and pale eyes looked even more uncanny. Rowe had made no noise as he had approached. Even though Duncan knew the fairy stories he’d heard as a lad had been nonsense, if someone told him that Rowe was a changeling, Duncan would have believed them.
“No point in doing something unless it’s against the rules,” Rowe added. “Ain’t that so, Curtis?”
Curtis frowned in puzzlement, as if he couldn’t quite believe that the uncanny Rowe had spoken to him, let alone that his words had made a twisted kind of sense.
But for Duncan, who’d grown up in the shadow of his family’s motto—Dignitas, Honestas, Pietas, Dignity, Honor, Duty—it was the very opposite of everything he knew to be true.
Rules were in place for a reason. He’d been taught since infancy that rules existed to keep everything running smoothly, and without them, the world itself would eventually fall to pieces.
“What are we doing?” Clair drawled from behind Rowe. Naturally, the school’s most popular boy had to be in the thick of everything.
“We are doing nothing,” Duncan bit out. “Curtis wants me to help him bolt, but I won’t do it. Bad enough that I’m here. Not going to make it worse by insubordination.”
Curtis rolled his eyes. “God. You are such a goody two-shoes.” He sang the last words, digging needles of annoyance under Duncan’s skin.