For the first time as a standalone e-original novella, fall in love with two reunited loves in Anna Harrington's historical highland romance, A Match Made in Healther.
She was the laird's daughter. He was nothing more than a penniless, nameless Scot with nothing to offer but his heart. Fate tore them apart, but now he's back in her life with status, money and a title. Can they let go of past hurts and find love?
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Publishing Group|
|File size:||855 KB|
About the Author
Anna Harrington fell in love with historical romances—and all those dashing Regency heroes—while living in London, where she studied literature and theatre. She loves to travel, fly airplanes, and hike, and when she isn’t busy writing her next novel, she can usually be found in her garden, fussing over her roses. Anna is the author of The Secret Life of Scoundrels series, including Along Came a Rogue.
Read an Excerpt
Arabel Rowland's mouth fell open as she stared at the solicitor sitting across the desk as the terms of her uncle's will was read. Great Uncle Malcolm had been ill for months before finally passing on to heaven six months ago. His death had been expected.
But this certainly wasn't.
"I beg your pardon?" Her mind swam. "I've inherited ..."
"Castle Highburn, yes," Mr. Davidson confirmed. He pushed his spectacles into place on his nose and repeated, "Laird Rowland has bequeathed the property to you."
"Highburn," she repeated, her chest tightening with both disbelief and grief.
The ancestral home of the Rowland clan, Castle Highburn had been where Arabel spent a great deal of time as a girl visiting her uncle and auntie, riding horses across the hills, and climbing in the castle ruins. Even now, she could practically smell the sweet scent of heather rising from the fields and the earthy aroma of peat fires in stone cottages. She'd been free in the highlands in a way she couldn't be after her family was forced to move to Edinburgh. Even this short trip to Kincardine felt like returning home.
Her grieving heart warmed, as it always did when she thought of Highburn, and her eyes blurred with emotion.
"You are the last Rowland relation still in Scotland," Davidson continued. "The land would have passed to distant cousins — in the McDougal clan, I believe — so you understand why he left it to you."
Oh yes. Because the only thing more loathsome to Uncle Malcolm than leaving property to a woman was leaving it to a McDougal.
"What wonderful news." Her fiancé reached over to squeeze her hands as she held them lightly folded in her lap. She found no affection in his touch, but then, neither did she give any in return. She'd agreed to marry Ewan Murray only because he was proving to be her last chance at a suitable husband, and because her family now needed both the financial support and the respectable reputation he could provide. "And a proper wedding gift for you, too."
"Yes, a gift," she whispered, her heart too full of loss and gratitude in equal measure to find her voice. "But not for our wedding."
He stiffened. "What do you mean?"
"We cannot wed as planned," she explained softly. "Not next month. Not so quickly on the heels of this."
"His death was six months ago," Ewan reminded her. "Everyone will understand."
"The delay in notifying you of your inheritance is my fault, I'm afraid," the solicitor interjected, misunderstanding their argument.
Arabel breathed out a silent sigh of relief, glad for the interruption. Lately, as their wedding day approached, she and Ewan argued more and more. Certainly, it was only due to her nervousness over the upcoming ceremony, but she did so wish he would stop telling her what to do.
But if he didn't want a woman with spirit and a mind of her own, he had no business marrying her. A man could take the lass out of the highlands, but he could never take the highlands out of the lass.
"Settling the estate took longer than anticipated," Davidson explained. "There was a problem with the entailment."
"Problem?" Arabel blinked. "What kind of —"
"I believe he means me," a masculine voice answered from behind her.
The deep voice curled down her spine with a forgotten heat that set her trembling, one that pulsed electric through her and stirred up long-dead emotions. The same voice that had once inhabited her dreams ...
"Garrick," she breathed, his name barely forming on her lips.
He strode into the office as if he owned it, full of confidence and exuding the same quiet strength she remembered from ten years ago.
Ten years ... Good God. How could it seem as if she'd last seen him only yesterday, when she was still a girl and he barely more than a lad? Now, though, there was nothing boyish about him. More broad and solid than she could have imagined, he filled out the gray cashmere jacket he wore over a ruby brocade waistcoat and snow white cravat, decorated with a single ruby pin. Every inch of him bespoke wealth and fine taste, right down to the shine on his black boots. He dominated the small office, and the air crackled with his presence.
Yet it was his eyes that captured her, holding her stunned and breathless. They were the same emerald green she remembered, the ones she'd stared into for hours. But now their green pools held only a cold contempt as he deliberately raked his gaze over her, scalding her with its iciness.
Mr. Davidson nodded. "Lord Townsend."
Lord Townsend? Her lips parted in bewilderment. Impossible. This man was Garrick McGuiness, son of a blacksmith and former groom in her uncle's stables. She knew him as well as she knew her own face. Not even ten years' distance could make her forget him.
Mr. Davidson introduced them. "Your lordship, may I present Miss Arabel Rowland and her fiancé, Mr. Ewan Murray? Miss Rowland and Mr. Murray ... Garrick McGuiness, Earl of Townsend."
She caught her breath as the world shifted beneath her. Somehow she'd slipped into a nightmare and was staring at a ghost.
"Welcome to Village Kincardine, sir," Davidson said.
At that, Garrick's lips twitched, such a small reaction to the irony of the solicitor's greeting that no one else would have noticed. But Arabel did. There was a time when she'd noticed everything about him, so in love was she that she'd wanted to burn into her heart's memory every detail about him.
She had loved him. More than she ever thought possible. Garrick hadn't cared that she was only eighteen, with a stubborn streak and temper that sometimes got the better of her. Or that her ginger hair was more unruly than fashionable, and that she loved to ride and shoot just as much as her brothers. When she was with him, she'd felt feminine and soft, and he calmed her, reassuring her in ways no one else could. He'd been tall and broad, all solid muscle, but with her he was gentle as a lamb. She'd soon begun inventing reasons to linger with him in the stables. Then she'd found herself in his arms, and he'd found his way into her heart.
She'd never doubted that she would be his, as the beloved wife who would give him children and keep his home.
Until everything changed.
With the old anguish rising inside her, Arabel stood with as much dignity as she could muster. "Lord Townsend needs no welcome." She offered her hand to him, not at all certain of the protocol for meeting again the man she'd refused to marry. "He was born in Village Kincardine and once worked at Highburn."
"Aye, I did. But apparently I now own it." A dark smile of amusement played at his lips as he ignored her outstretched hand until she uncomfortably lowered it to her side. "Or at least partially." His eyes flicked to Davidson. "That was what you wrote in your letter, requesting this meeting. A co-bequeathal." When his gaze returned to Arabel, the iciness in him sent a shiver speeding through her. "Although you failed to mention with whom."
The blood seeped from her face, and Arabel sank slowly onto her chair, not caring how rude that was. If she didn't sit, she would have fallen to the floor.
Davidson gestured for Garrick to sit, but the earl declined with a wave of his hand and remained standing. His commanding presence in the tiny office only grew as he widened his stance and rested one hand behind his back in a posture of pure authority and power.
Sensing the tension between them, Ewan placed his hand on her shoulder. "You are distressing my fiancée." Oblivious to the sharp narrowing of Garrick's eyes at that blatant scolding, Ewan turned to Davidson. "Explain, sir."
For once, Arabel was grateful that her mother had convinced her to marry him. As a banker in Edinburgh, he knew how deeds and entailments worked.
The solicitor cleared his throat. "Laird Rowland wanted the property's ownership to be split between Miss Rowland and Lord Townsend. Apparently, he felt that running the estate would be too much of a burden for Miss Rowland to assume by herself."
Knowing her uncle's conservative nature, Arabel was certain of it. But with Garrick, of all men! Had her uncle gone mad?
"The provision was made last year. Miss Rowland had no one to help her with the property when her uncle revised his will," Davidson explained.
Ewan's chest swelled with possession, certainly not with love. "She does now."
"Yes," Garrick answered, interjecting himself into the conversation as he sank lazily into the chair. "She has me."
Arabel gaped at him. Oh, he was mistaken about that! She hadn't had him to support her since that night ten years ago when he walked out of her life. Her family had needed her. She'd tried so hard to explain all that to him, to make him understand, to ask only for a delay in their plans. But he'd vanished in the night, without so much as a goodbye.
If he thought he could come sweeping back into her life now, after the way he'd wounded her, he was sadly mistaken.
With anger rising inside her at his audacity, she turned to the solicitor. "Lord Townsend has no familial connection to the estate. Why would Uncle Malcolm leave it to him?"
Garrick said nothing, most likely wondering the same.
"Your uncle claimed to be indebted to Lord Townsend," Davidson explained, shuffling through his papers. "Stemming from an incident shortly after his lordship began working for him." Blinking rapidly behind his spectacles as he read through his notes, the solicitor glanced up at Garrick with an expression of awe. "You saved his life?"
Garrick casually shrugged. Only when Arabel arched a brow did he quietly explain, "The harness broke on the four-in-hand. There was no postilion on the lead horse and no way to control the team, so I stopped them."
"How?" Ewan demanded.
"I jumped from the top of the carriage onto the rear horse, then climbed across the thill to the lead and wrestled it to stop."
Arabel let out her breath, not realizing until then that she'd been holding it or that her heart flipped painfully at the way he'd risked his life.
Ewan scoffed. "Anyone could have done that."
Wordlessly, Garrick slid his gaze sideways to Ewan, as if critically sizing him up. Then he looked away with a roll of his eyes.
Arabel grabbed for Ewan's hand to keep him from attacking Garrick. And to keep Garrick from pummeling him senseless in return.
"Apparently, Laird Rowland assumed that Lord Townsend not only deserved compensation but would be the right man to help oversee the estate." Davidson set down the paper and folded his hands on top of it. "The property is evenly split between you."
With careful composure, Arabel sat forward. "Then I would like you to begin proceedings for Lord Townsend to sell me his share."
Garrick replied coldly, "I have no intention of selling."
"B-but you have to!" she stammered out. "We cannot own property together."
A smile of relief touched her lips. She certainly hadn't expected Garrick to capitulate so easily —
"Which is why I'll let you sell your portion to me."
Her eyes flared at his nerve. Sell Highburn? Never. Given the sorry state to which her family had fallen, she owed it to her clan's legacy to retain the estate and care for it. To restore the importance they once held in the highlands. That Garrick, of all people, had ended up with the other half of it — the irony was biting. "That property belongs to the Rowlands."
"Murray, talk sense into your fiancée," Garrick urged with a nonchalant flick of his wrist, although his hard gaze never left her. "If you're able to."
Ignoring his baiting, she announced quietly, "I will never part with it." Then, unable to tamp down a dark urge inside her to strike out from the pain he'd caused her, she raised her chin and added, "I would never simply walk away from something I loved."
His jaw clenched hard, her arrow striking home. "I have no intention of selling —"
"Neither of you can sell your portion, actually," Davidson interrupted. All eyes turned to the solicitor. "Laird Rowland insisted that a clause be attached to the bequeathal."
"What kind of clause?" Ewan demanded, snatching up the will from the desk and scanning over it. His face fell as he read, "A month's settlement period."
"For which both owners must reside at Highburn with Lady Rowland, to help her transition into the dower house," Davidson explained. "During which time the property cannot be sold, including to each other."
Arabel glanced at Garrick, attempting to discern his reaction. But his handsome face remained inscrutable. He said nothing, focusing his gaze straight ahead.
"Further, if either party vacates the premises during this time, full ownership defaults immediately and without compensation to the remaining owner."
Dear God. Panic flooded through her as a dark smile curled slowly at Garrick's lips. She pressed the back of her hand to her mouth. Her aunt and uncle had been eccentric, but this — oh, they'd gone utterly insane!
"No," she whispered past her fingers. "What they're asking ... Why would they do such a thing?"
The solicitor shook his head. "I tried to talk Laird Rowland out of the clause, but he wouldn't be moved. Said something about an old wrong needing to be righted, but he was too ill to elaborate." He removed his spectacles and rubbed at the bridge of his nose. "And there you have it. Mrs. Stewart, the housekeeper at Highburn, is expecting both of you as guests for the next month. After that ..." He sighed heavily and perched the spectacles back into place, giving him the appearance of a fledgling owl. "I will gladly assist you with whatever arrangements you'd like to make concerning selling your shares."
Absolutely none. She cared nothing that Garrick had returned as a peer or that he'd somehow managed to make a name and fortune for himself. Highburn would never be his.
"This is absurd," Ewan interjected. "This cannot be legal."
"Oh, I'm certain it is." Garrick's cool gaze slid to Arabel. "But if Miss Rowland doesn't want to follow her uncle's last wishes, then I'll gladly take the property off her hands."
"You'll do no such thing!" Ewan snapped. He didn't understand how important her family's legacy was to her, but as a banker, he certainly understood the price of land and how much wealth it suddenly brought to their impending marriage. "That property belongs to Arabel."
Garrick grinned triumphantly. "And to me."
Helplessness ached hollowly in her chest. Her dream and her worst nightmare had collided, and there was nothing she could do about it.
"I wish to speak with Lord Townsend. Alone." She rose to her feet, forcing all three men to do the same, although Garrick took his sweet time. "Would you give us a few moments' privacy?"
Ewan stiffened. "I will not leave you alone with him."
Arabel bit back the retort that she'd be living in the same house with Garrick for the next month, if she couldn't persuade him to give up his share of the property this afternoon.
"Please." She held Garrick's gaze as she dismissed Ewan and Mr. Davidson. "There's no need to worry. Lord Townsend won't hurt me. Will you, my lord?"
His dark gaze never wavered from her. "I would never dream of it."
Casting uncertain glances at the peculiar turn of conversation, Ewan and Mr. Davidson reluctantly left. The door closed.
"You," she whispered to keep from being overheard by the two men outside, her voice little more than a furious rasp. "You have no right —"
"Me," he interrupted with all the impudence of a man born to the peerage rather than one who had achieved it. "And I have every right."
Brushing past her, he arrogantly walked away. He reached toward a decanter set sitting on the side table.
"Still Miss Rowland, is it?" he drawled, his back toward her. "I'm surprised. Thought for certain you'd be Lady Ian Campbell by now."
"Ian and I did not marry," she answered tersely.
He examined the scotch, then splashed two fingers' worth into a glass. "So Campbell refused to buy used goods, did he?"
He turned toward her just in time to see the flash of hurt his words shot through her, and he froze, the glass raised halfway to his lips. As if he couldn't quite believe he'd insulted her so viciously. Then his gaze dropped to his glass as he swirled the whisky, untasted.
Arabel flinched at the cruelty of his attack, but her heart kept pounding away furiously — the same as it used to whenever he'd kissed her or told her how beautiful she was. The same as it had the last time she'd seen him, even as it shattered when she'd watched him walk away.
Excerpted from "A Match Made in Heather"
Copyright © 2017 Anna Harrington.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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