He's the scourge of the Season...
Reasons to quit London:
1. It's not the Highlands.
2. It will never be the Highlands.
3. It's full of the bloody English.
When his wild spitfire of a sister makes a scene by drawing a claymore in Hyde Park, Highlander Robert Waters knows something must be done. To forestall the inevitable scandal, he hires widowed Prudence Whittaker to teach his sister how to be a lady-never expecting to find unbridled passion beneath the clever Englishwoman's prim exterior.
Mrs. Whittaker is a fraud. Born Lady Prudence Farthington, daughter of the ruined earl of Lynwood, she's never even been married. In order to make her way in the world, she has to rely on her wits and a web of lies...lies a sexy Highlander is all too close to unraveling.
He swears he will possess her; she vows he will do nothing of the sort. Yet as passions heat, Prudence comes to realize the illicit pleasure that can be had in going toe-to-toe with a Scot.
Broadswords and Ballrooms:
How to Seduce a Scot
How to Wed a Warrior
How to Train Your Highlander
Praise for Christy English:
"Grace Burrowes and Amanda Quick fans will enjoy the strong ladies in the latest fun read from the ascending English." -Booklist
"With its quick and engaging characters, here's a pleasurable evening's escape." -RT Book Reviews
About the Author
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How to Wed a Warrior
By CHRISTY ENGLISH
Sourcebooks, Inc.Copyright © 2016 Christy English
All rights reserved.
Lady Prudence was late for tea with Miss Harrington when she passed a young lady drawing a sword on the Earl of Grathton.
Prudence had deliberately chosen Hyde Park over the vulgar, newer part of London so that she might walk in quiet and remember better times. In only one day more, she would complete arrangements with the Harringtons of Bombay to become their daughter's companion, and the last remnant of her old life would be swept away. She never anticipated that as she strolled, her peaceful contemplation would be shattered by the glint of a long blade ... or by the hulking form of an exasperated Scot.
"Mary Elizabeth, what in God's holy name are you doin'?"
The fine man stood beside the sword-wielding girl, glaring at her, his brogue thick and almost musical. Save for his height, which was almost six feet, and his broad shoulders, which were almost bursting from his dark blue coat, the Scot looked almost civilized. His curling, auburn hair was a bit longer than fashion dictated, touching the edge of his high collar and his simply tied cravat. But it was the gleam in his eyes that made her think of mayhem, and the steel in his furious gaze that made her certain that, if she did not intervene, he would murder the young lady standing with him in the middle of the Promenade Hour.
The slight, slender girl was still holding a large sword with what looked to be bizarre comfort and ease, aiming it in the direction of Lord Grathton's stomach, while Lady Cecelia Wellington cowered behind him.
Pru did not think of self-preservation. She did not think of her carefully constructed disguise of the past five years, or of the fact that, as her brother's best friend, the earl would be able to see right through it. She simply stepped between the girl's sword tip and Lord Grathton, certain that it would all come out right in the end.
As it must. Or so she always told herself. Surely, someday, at some point, things would come out all right.
She held tight to that belief yet again and cleared her throat. "Good day, my lord. It seems you are having some difficulty picking up your fiancée's reticule. Might I be of assistance?" For the young blonde girl with the blade had placed herself protectively over the small bag that Grathton's companion, Lady Cecelia Wellington, had dropped in the verge.
Upon hearing that the owner of the bag was Lord Grathton's companion, the lovely girl brandishing the overlarge sword blinked twice and lowered her weapon.
"I beg your pardon, sir. I thought you were a robber." The girl's sword gleamed in the light of the late afternoon sun. She did not move to put it away, but stood staring at Lord Grathton as if expecting him to speak to her without an introduction after she had threatened his life.
The large Scot stepped forward to intervene at last. Pru placed herself discretely between him and the earl, hoping he would follow her lead, even though men rarely did. Still, a woman might live in hope.
"If you will excuse us, Lord Grathton," Prudence said. "My companions and I are a bit confused at this late hour. Too much sun, and a desperate need for a cup of tea. I do beg your pardon."
Grathton did not seem to be listening to her words, but to the sound of her voice. He stared into her face, trying to peer beyond her glasses, beyond the chasm of years that separated them. She had not seen him since the summer her brother had been lost at sea, taking her family's fortune with him — the year she had disappeared from polite society altogether. She prayed for a miracle, that Grathton might not remember her, but she saw the moment when the flint of memory sparked and caught fire.
"Pru?" Grathton asked, his voice filled with wonder and with something else she would rather not remember. Five years was not long enough, it seemed, for him to have forgotten. Pru would have sworn silently to herself had she not been the remnant of a lady.
"I beg your pardon, my lord. We must leave you and your lady in peace."
The Lady Cecelia stared down her long nose at Pru, who was a head shorter than she was. The lady's cold, blue gaze took in her frumpy dress and the hideous bonnet perched over her curls. Pru felt color rise to her cheeks, and she was catapulted back to the time when the ton had turned their backs on her en masse, and had ceased to receive her family altogether.
Pru rallied, reminding herself to leave the past behind, and tapped the young blonde's arm. Without having to be told twice, the Scottish girl slipped away, making an oddly graceful curtsy, the hilt of the long sword still clutched in both fists.
"Good day," the girl said to no one in particular, attracting the icy glare of Lady Cecelia as she slipped toward a carriage that waited by the side of the road. The girl did not seem to notice or care that she was the focus of so much censure. Pru was glad to have the lady's stare removed from her person, but could feel the heated gaze of both Grathton and the hulking Scot take its place. She swallowed the lump that had risen in her throat.
"Forgive the intrusion," Prudence said to Grathton. "Good day."
She thought to slip away and perhaps hide herself behind a convenient bush until she could find a way out of the park, but the Scotsman stepped up and took her arm, bowing to Lord Grathton. "Good day, my lord."
Grathton did not speak. His fiancée, however, did. "My word," Cecelia drawled, speaking to Grathton as if no one else were there. "What a bizarre episode. I cannot understand why foreigners are even allowed in the park, much less among civilized people. What is Town coming to?" Her acid tongue drew a flush to Prudence's skin as if the woman's vitriol was directed at her.
Lady Cecelia did not wait for Grathton to answer but glanced over her lover's shoulder to the path beyond to see who might be watching. She saw a boon companion driving by, and waved to her, dismissing Pru and the two Scots as if they had never existed.
Pru remembered the chill of that cold shoulder from the ladies who had once been her mother's bosom friends. Once the family money disappeared, society's interest in her family had vanished as well. Except for Grathton. When she had been cast out into utter darkness, he had tried to help, though to stand by her would have meant his own ruin. He looked as if he wanted to help again now, no matter what the cost to his reputation. She could not allow that.
She took the Scot's arm and propelled the man back toward his waiting coach. "Hoist me up," she told him, and he obliged, lifting her above the tall wheels of the carriage. The young girl had hidden her sword away again, or perhaps had tossed it behind a tree, for now she sat as demure as you please, her skirt arranged around her neatly on the carriage seat and her gloved hands folded neatly in her lap.
"The claymore is under the seat," the girl said, blithely answering Pru's unspoken question.
The Scot rose up beside them on the high seat. Pru did not address the girl beside her, but the man. "Drive."
And he did.
* * *
Why on God's blessed green earth Robert Waters had chosen to listen to a single word the slip of a woman said, he did not know. Not only that, he found himself obeying her as she ordered him around as if he were her bootblack. Perhaps it was the blue of her eyes that did it, an indigo that was a sea for a man to drown in.
No, not that. Robbie didn't care a fig for a woman's eyes.
Perhaps it was her neat, curved figure, currently swathed in an abundance of sickly gray worsted wool and pale cream lace. He never noticed a woman's clothes, but these were just ugly enough to repulse him, had they not contained the soft breasts and rounded behind of a woman of quality. How he knew she was quality, he could not say. Perhaps it was the snap in her eyes that had joined the snap in her voice when she spoke to him.
Whatever the reason, he'd found himself standing back and allowing her to rescue his sister from herself in the middle of Hyde Park, in the middle of the fashionable hour.
When he found his tongue again, Robert did not ask the name of the impressive lady who now sat so primly beside him, for he was not at all sure that she would relinquish it. Instead, he used his reclaimed voice to browbeat his sister.
"Mary Elizabeth, for the love of God, the English are going to burn us out! You benighted fool, how could you draw a blade on an Englishman in the middle of a London park in broad daylight? And not just an Englishman, but one of their lairds? Christ wept, Mary, you'll get us all run out on a rail."
"Don't be dramatic," Mary Elizabeth answered, resting herself, as relaxed as you please, against the soft cushions of the fancy carriage seat. "The English won't burn us out. We're staying with the Duchess of Northumberland and they won't touch the house of one of their own."
"They might kill us in the street the next time we chance to get your ices at Gunter's," he groused.
"You might lower your voice a trifle, sir," the lady said. "You seem to be attracting more unwanted attention."
Robert did not give a tinker's dam for what the English thought of him, but he caught himself before he shouted again. He could smell the bossy, curvy woman beside him, and her perfume was making him even more irritable. She smelled of hyacinths and heather. He would swear, if he had not known better, that she smelled of home.
He cursed himself for a fool and focused his mind where it belonged. Not on some spinster virgin who was trying to hide her beauty for some mad reason, but on his sister, who was certain to drive him to drown himself before the week was through.
"What will Alex say when he hears you've drawn a sword in public?" Robert asked.
Mary Elizabeth shrugged one shoulder, looking out over the traffic and the houses as they passed them. People had stopped nodding to them ever since Mary Elizabeth had shown them her steel, and now simply stared as though they were apparitions or demons risen up from hell. Robert swore, out loud this time, and the bossy woman spoke.
"I would thank you to keep a civil tongue in your head, if you please, sir. Pull over here," she said, for all the world as if she paid him five pounds per annum as a servant boy.
Robert looked at her, his eyebrow rising, but did as he was told. His mother had drummed into him the simple stricture: never hold a lady against her will. His gaze wandered along the front of the woman's hideous gown, sussing out the sweet curve of her breasts beneath. Now, if she were a widow woman, or a woman of ill repute, there might be some negotiating to be done.
Robert loved the company of women almost as much as he loved leaving them behind once they began to become tedious. But this one was tempting him to forget his good reason and why he had come to London at all. No woman had ever tossed his bad manners back in his face before. He found that he liked it.
He thought of the money he had set aside, that he barely needed and almost never touched. It would be easy enough to dip into that money and set this little baggage up in her own parlor, with a quiet back stair that might lead to a bedroom he also paid for. He thought of the delights he and this little bit of fluff might find there, and he found himself smiling.
The bit of fluff seemed to read his thoughts and where they were tending. She met his eyes, and her blue gaze filled with the Wrath of God. Had he been a lesser man, he would have been singed where he sat. She was anything but fluffy, it seemed. He merely smiled once more. If he had ever seen a woman besides his mother face him down like that, he could not remember it.
"I would thank you to hand me down to the street, sir. I believe we have made our escape."
"And now you hope to make yours," he answered.
Mary Elizabeth frowned at him. "Don't mind my brother. He has the manners of an ape. Thank you for helping me. I'm afraid I stepped in it quite badly back there."
The lady turned her eyes away from him, and as soon as she did, her face softened into a smile. "No thanks are necessary, miss. But I must warn you not to draw on Lord Grathton again. He is a crack shot. And while he would never call out a lady, he might call on your brother here."
Mary Elizabeth laughed. "God help him. Robbie's a fury with his fists and with a sword. The laird might have his work cut out for him."
For some mad reason, Robbie felt himself swell with pride at his sister's casual description of him. He was indeed a fury on the field of battle, wherever that field might lie, but he had not expected his sister to know it. He looked to the lady beside him, but she did not seem impressed. She did not even look his way, but sniffed.
"Well," she said. "That's as may be. But please keep your weapon sheathed when out in polite company in future."
Robbie thought of one or two choice things to say to that, but he held his tongue.
"I thought he was robbing her," Mary Elizabeth said.
"At such a time, a lady must allow a gentleman to intervene," she said.
If he or his brother Alex had offered such sage advice, Mary Elizabeth would have ignored them both. But she listened to the woman and nodded, as if by stating the obvious, she had revealed a deep mystery, and solved a puzzling riddle.
"Indeed," Mary Elizabeth said. "I might consider that."
Robert climbed down and offered his hand, wondering how he was going to get this woman's name, and learn where she lived. He needn't have worried. With her best friend Catherine now run off with their brother Alex, Mary Elizabeth was ripe for a new conquest.
"You must come and take tea with us tomorrow," Mary Elizabeth said. "We live at the Duchess of Northumberland's house. I am Mary Elizabeth Waters, and this lout is Robert."
Robert sketched a bow, and the lady raised one eyebrow. She did not curtsy back.
"Good day," she said to him, before turning a much friendlier gaze on his sister. "And I am Mrs. Prudence Whittaker. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance."
"Why were you walking alone?" Mary Elizabeth asked.
Robert wanted the answer to this question himself. He smiled down at the fine, honey-brown curls that were trying to escape from beneath the ugly straw bonnet she had clapped over them. She ignored him as if he were not there.
"As a widow, I often have occasion to stroll in the park without a maid," she said.
Robert knew that this was considered barbaric even among the heathen English, who had no better care for their women than he had for a stray sow, but he did not question her. He wanted to see what outlandish thing she might say next. It hit him then, the word she had spoken, the most important word in that sentence.
"We'll see you tomorrow afternoon at four then," he said. "Shall I come and pick you up in the duchess's carriage?"
He saw the light of battle flare in her eyes before she tamped it down. It seemed this Mrs. Whittaker was a feisty bit. He was looking forward to finding out how feisty she could be, and how often.
"I thank you, Mr. Waters. But I will find my own way there." She smiled at Mary Elizabeth before she strode away. "Good day."CHAPTER 2
Pru did not know what possessed her to agree to take tea at a duchess's house with a broad-shouldered Scot and his wayward sister. Perhaps it was the way his blue eyes had seemed to hold her still, like a butterfly under glass. A part of her simply could not catch her breath when he looked at her. Even though she had been strict with herself, and kept her eyes from him except to frown, she had felt his gaze on her. It lingered like the warmth of a sun she had never felt before.
Perhaps she had simply run mad.
So the next day, she set aside her misgivings in her borrowed room in the house of her aunt, and dressed in her ugliest gown. Aunt Winifred Whittaker, whose last name Pru had adopted, looked her over, inspecting her disguise for flaws, as she always did before Pru went out into the world. Her aunt's unswerving gaze always on her was one more reason she was finally seeking employment as a companion. Out in the world, no matter how odd or unpleasant the family she ended up with might turn out to be, no one would watch her as her mother's sister did — always searching for a defect.
"It will serve," Winifred said at last. "But I think that bonnet could do without the flower."
Excerpted from How to Wed a Warrior by CHRISTY ENGLISH. Copyright © 2016 Christy English. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
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