Read How to Abduct a Highland Lord Online

Authors: Karen Hawkins

Tags: #Scotland - Social life and customs - 19th century, #Historical, #Fiction, #Man-woman relationships, #Clans - Scotland, #England - Social life and customs - 19th century, #Regency, #Love stories, #General, #Romance

How to Abduct a Highland Lord

BOOK: How to Abduct a Highland Lord
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 AnOriginal Publication of POCKET BOOKS

 

 

POCKET BOOKS, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

 

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

 Copyright © 2007 by Karen Hawkins

 

 All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information address Pocket Books, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

 

 ISBN: 1-4165-3831-3

 

 POCKET and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

 

 Visit us on the World Wide Web:

http://www.SimonSays.com

 

 To Nate V. N.

Thank you for never getting tired of my endless quest

for “just the right word” and for keeping your

snickering to a minimum when I sing in the shower.

Nate, you make my heart smile.

 

 

 T. A. I.

 

 Acknowledgments

 

 I would like to acknowledge my agent, Karen Solem, who never says, “You want to write WHAT?”

 

 And a huge hug to my new editor, Micki Nuding, who was also my old editor from a long time ago. Micki, you were right! We’re working together again! WOOHOO!

 

 How to Abduct a Highland Lord

 

 Prologue

 

 Och, lassies! Such doubters ye are! I’ve met men who were cursed. And women, too…

 

 OLDWOMANNORA OFLOCHLOMOND

TO HER THREE WEE GRANDDAUGHTERS ONE COLD NIGHT

 

 Stirling, Scotland

April 9, 1807

 

 Jack Kincaid died as he had lived: awash in a haze of fine bourbon, his perfectly tailored coat pockets stuffed with his winnings from a night of wild gaming, and reeking faintly of the perfume of another man’s wife.

 

 Jack had whiled away this particular evening at a grand house outside Stirling, lured from London by the charms of the lovely Lady Lucinda Featherington. Lord Featherington, ambassador to a distant foreign clime, was due home any day. Jack had overcome the lady’s qualms at his presence with a heated kiss and a murmured suggestion that had sent a delighted flush through that not-easily-shocked woman. “Black Jack” lived lustily, and many were the hearts tossed his way only to be smashed upon the hard rocks of his heart. Women were always guaranteed a good time in his bed, though.

 

 Hours later, the sound of a carriage rumbling up the drive had caused the lady to gasp, throw back the covers and scramble from Jack’s arms. Jack just laughed. He didn’t fear Lord Featherington; the man was a pitiful shot and had never hit his man. Jack never missed.

 

 But Lucinda had no wish for a scandal. Concern for her reputation outweighed her feelings for Jack, and she begged him to leave.

 

 Amused and a mite tipsy from sampling her husband’s excellent cellars, Jack allowed himself to be coaxed into climbing out the window. Just as the doorknob of the master bedchamber turned, Jack leapt from the trellis to the garden below.

 

 Whistling to himself, he sauntered through the gardens to the stable, where he gathered his horse from a surprised groom. Then he was off, flying back to the amusements to be had in London. If he changed horses along the way, he would arrive in two days, in plenty of time for Lord Mooreland’s private card party. Mooreland was a fool, but he entertained with a lushness that was unparalleled.

 

 A more prudent gentleman would have taken the York Road, with its wide avenue and frequent inns. Jack took the stage road to Ayr, a dark and lonely road notorious for its highwaymen. The Ayr Road was doubly dangerous for a lone man on horse, especially one dressed in London finery, a ruby flashing on one hand, his head muddled by Lord Featherington’s best bourbon.

 

 Jack urged his spirited horse to a gallop, heedless of the darkness and highwaymen alike.

 

 As he turned a corner, the calm, balmy weather changed with an abruptness that stunned him. The skies suddenly opened with a clap of thunder, and a heavy, drenching rain slashed down. Cold and sharp, it soaked him in a second, and the thunder caused his horse to rear. Jack’s hands slipped from the wet reins, and he fell. As the ground rushed up to greet him, the faint scent of lilacs tickled his nose, then the fall stole both his breath and his consciousness.

 

 Sometime later, he awoke to the stinging slap of rain on his face. He lay in a deep puddle of mud, its thick ooze gluing him in place. His hair stuck to his forehead and clung to his neck, rain running over him in rivulets. The warm mud that held him to the ground was in striking contrast to the cold rain sluicing down upon him. Rain that smelled like lilacs…

 

 Fiona MacLean.

 

 But surely not. He hadn’t spoken to her in fifteen years, though he could still picture her exactly as he’d seen her last: rich brown hair falling about her face, her tears hidden by the rain—

 

 His heart tightened. There was no sense in remembering that. And to think that this accident involved Fiona merely because of the scent of lilacs was ridiculous. He must have hit his head harder than he thought. Indeed, it was difficult to think at all, his temples ached so much.

 

 Bloody hell, he didn’t have time for this. There were women to be bedded, wagers to be won, bourbon to be tasted.

 

 But as with all things in Jack Kincaid’s badly lived life, it was too late.

 

 Far too late.

 

 Groaning, he rolled to his elbow, the mud sucking at him, his head protesting with a burst of colors and pain as he moved. Suddenly, he knew this was the end. He wasn’t going to make it.This is death. And here I am; cold, sodden, and alone. He’d never meant to die like this. He’d never meant to die at all. His eyes slid closed as a wave of blackness descended upon him, and he fell backward into the mud.

 

 And there he lay, the rain slowing to a faint splatter on his upturned face.

 

 Chapter One

 

 The MacLeans are an ancient family, long of grace and fair of face. ’Tis a pity they know their own worth, fer it makes ’em difficult to bargain with. Shrewd they are; ’tis rare they come out on the bottom side of any bargain. Yer own pa says he’d rather be bit by a sheep than dicker with a MacLean.

 

 OLDWOMANNORA OFLOCHLOMOND

TO HER THREE WEE GRANDDAUGHTERS ONE COLD NIGHT

 

 Gretna Green, Scotland

April 9, 1807

 

 Fiona MacLean forced herself to smile. “Father MacCanney, we’ve come to be married.”

 

 The heavyset priest looked uncertainly from Fiona to the groom and then back. “B-but—he’s not—I canna—”

 

 “Yes you can, Father,” Fiona said in her calmest voice, her hands fiercely fisted in the strings of her reticule.

 

 Come hell or high water, she was about to end the longest, most drawn-out, and most foolish feud in all Scotland. And thereby lose her freedom, her carefully planned future, and perhaps even a bit of her heart.

 

 The thought made her stomach sink lower. But this marriage was necessary if she wished to keep her brothers safe from their own foolish tempers.It’s the only way. I cannot waver.

 

 “Fiona, lass,” Father MacCanney said in an exasperated voice, “he’s not fit to be a groom!”

 

 “All the more reason for me to marry the fool.” At the priest’s blink of surprise, she quickly added, “’Tis a known fact that a good woman can turn even the most contrary, rotten, stubborn ne’er-do-well into a responsible man.”

 

 The priest glanced uneasily at her prospective groom. “Aye, but—”

 

 “Have no fear for me, Father. I know he’s no prize, but he’s the one I want.”

 

 “Fiona, I know the lad might benefit from the match. ’Tis just—”

 

 “I know,” she said, sighing bravely. “He’s a philanderer who’s been with every woman from the North Sea to the fleshpots of London.”

 

 The priest flushed at the mention of fleshpots. “Yes, yes. So everyone knows, but—”

 

 “He is also a complete wastrel who has made no effort to embrace a useful life. I know he’s not the best choice of groom, but—”

 

 “He’s not even conscious!” the priest burst out. “He canna even say his own name!”

 

 Fiona glanced down to where her man, Hamish, had dropped her groom on the cold flagstone at her feet. Muddy rivulets dripped onto the church floor from Kincaid’s clothing. “I was afraid that was your problem.” Even unconscious, Jack was a royal pain. Some things never changed.

 

 “Lassie, ye canna drag an unconscious man to the altar.”

 

 “Why not?”

 

 “Because—because ’tis just not done, that’s why!”

 

 The priest eyed Hamish with suspicion. Fiona’s massive guard stood silently behind her as he’d done since she was a child. A large sword hung at his side, three primed pistols were stuck into his wide leather belt, his bushy red beard bristled, and his fierce gaze pinned them all in place.

 

 “How did the lad come to be unconscious and muddy?” Father MacCanney asked pointedly.

 

 Fiona hated to lie. She really did. But the less the priest knew, the safer he’d be from retribution from her brothers. Torn in pain at the loss of their youngest brother, they raged through Castle MacLean, fists lifted to the sky, fury pouring from them.

 

 The curse of the MacLeans had flowed then. Rain and thunder had flooded from the skies for days, threatening those who lived in the village below Castle MacLean. The river had already been swollen from early spring rains, and the danger of flooding was imminent.

 

 Fiona could not let that happen. And she knew how to stop the feud. First, she’d had to find Jack Kincaid. Thank goodness Hamish had heard rumors of his dalliance with some woman in nearby Stirling; it was simple to find the wastrel then.

 

 She could only hope that the rest of her plan would follow so easily. Somehow, she greatly doubted she’d be so blessed. She shrugged and said with as much cheerful indifference as she could muster, “We found him.”

 

 “Unconscious?”

 

 “Yes.”

 

 “Where?”

 

 “In the road. His horse must have bolted.”

 

 The priest did not look convinced. “How did the lad get so wet?” He eyed her with deep suspicion. “There’s not been any rain in this part of Scotland in over three weeks.”

 

 Fiona had to distract him. “Hamish, can you awaken the lout? Father MacCanney will not marry us unless he’s conscious.”

BOOK: How to Abduct a Highland Lord
7.6Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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