Illegitimate yet thoroughly irresistible, the Renegade Royals are leaving behind their careers as daring spies for the greatest adventure of all…At sixteen, Alasdair Gilbride, heir to a Scottish earldom, fled the Highlands and an arranged betrothal. Ten years later, Alasdair must travel home to face his responsibilities. It’s a task that would be much easier without the distracting presence of the most enticing woman he’s ever met…After one escapade too many, Eden Whitney has been snubbed by the ton. The solution: rusticating in the Scottish wilderness, miles from all temptation. Except, of course, for brawny, charming Alasdair. The man is so exasperating she’d likely kill him before they reach the border—if someone else weren’t trying to do just that. Now Eden and Alasdair are plunging into a scandalous affair with his life and her reputation at stake—and their hearts already irreparably lost…
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As she came down the elegant cantilevered staircase, one of the doors off the entrance hall opened and Gilbride strode out. When he looked up and smiled, Edie almost missed a step. That charming smile did something peculiar to her insides, something fluttery and warm. It was an unfamiliar sensation and her mental jury had yet to rule on whether she approved of it or not.
“Good morning, Miss Whitney,” he said in a friendly voice. Much too friendly considering that the last time they’d exchanged more than two words she’d called him a great Scottish oaf. She still winced thinking about it.
His smoky gray gaze drifted over her figure, lingering with an appreciation that made her blink in surprise.
“You’re looking particularly lovely today,” he said as he handed her down the final step. “I count myself fortunate to have you join me this morning. It’s been an age since we spent any time together.”
And now he was back to teasing her, drat him. He knew very well she’d been avoiding him, and he clearly wanted her to realize that he knew. But she refused to play that game.
“Mamma hasn’t been well, the poor dear. She simply wouldn’t let me leave her side for a moment.” She punctuated that canard with a melancholy smile meant to communicate how trying the last few days had been. With any of her suitors, it would have brought them to their knees with abject apologies.
Gilbride, however, was made of sterner stuff.
He leaned in close, towering over her, and his eyes gleamed with a wicked intent that promised things she couldn’t even begin to name. Edie resisted the impulse to retreat because she never took a step back from any man. To do so would be a fatal show of weakness.
Besides, he was only pretending to flirt so as to annoy her.
“Ah, lassie, you can’t fool me,” he said, that seductive Scottish burr roughening his voice. It dragged across her nerves, making her shiver. “I’m not one of those man- milliners you lead around by the nose like docile geldings. I know very well you’ve been avoiding me.”
She placed a hand on his brawny chest and gave him a shove. He stepped back, not because she could move him on her own—the man was a proverbial mountain—but because she’d obviously surprised him.
“I do not lead anybody around by the nose, and please desist using that absurd brogue. It makes you sound like an actor in a second-rate touring company performance of Macbeth.”
He looked stunned for a second then let out a deep laugh. If the brogue made her shiver, the laugh was even worse. She almost hoped she was coming down with her mother’s cold.
“Miss Whitney, if you think my brogue is heavy, I doubt you’ll be able to understand anyone at Blairgal.”
“That will be something to look forward to, won’t it? Although I must say that so far I haven’t had any trouble understanding the staff here at Breadie Manor.”
He took her elbow and led her across the entrance hall to the front door, where a footman in livery sprang to open it. Even though Edie had teased her mother about the kilts and the bearskins, she’d been a tad surprised to encounter such superbly trained servants, decked out in the finest livery. They wouldn’t be out of place at Carlton House.
Truthfully, she’d been rather hoping for kilts and tartans, or someone who spouted at least a few lines from Marmion or The Lady of the Lake.
Vanessa Kelly is an award-winning author who was named by Booklist, the review journal of the American Library Association, as one of the “New Stars of Historical Romance.” Her Regency-set historical romances have been nominated for awards in a number of contests, and her second book, Sex and The Single Earl, won the prestigious Maggie Medallion for Best Historical Romance. Her current series, The Renegade Royals, is a national bestseller. Vanessa also writes USA Today Bestselling contemporary romance with her husband under the pen name of V.K. Sykes.
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