Elizabeth St. Claire has always been hard to please. Dreaming solely of Highlander men her whole life, no prancing London Lord can stand a chance at winning her heart...
… But perhaps a Scotsman can.
Elizabeth watches intrigued as the Highlander of her dreams, a Scotsman named Hamish Robb, arrives to oversee her season at the behest of her cousin, the Duke of Caithness. Elizabeth doesn’t hide her feelings for the striking Scot. But Hamish, determined to obey his order to protect the St. Claire sisters, steadfastly rejects her every seducing lure.
Believing that the debutante Elizabeth deserves a better, wealthier man, Hamish continues to turn away from her affection, even though he doesn’t exactly want to. Can this Highlander Scot resist the tempting seductress’ attempts to win his heart?
About the Author
Sabrina York is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of more than twenty hot, humorous written works, including Hannah and the Highlander. Her stories range from sweet and sexy to scorching romance.
Read an Excerpt
The door closed on Lords Twiggenberry and Blackworth, and Elizabeth St. Claire collapsed on the divan. "Thank heaven they're gone," she gusted. They'd stayed far too long for a morning call. Aside from that, Twiggenberry's pungent pomade made her stomach churn.
"That is hardly polite," Anne said with a sniff, primly taking a sip of her tea. Though to be fair, Anne was prim in all things.
"That Twiggenberry is an excellent prospect," Aunt Esmeralda said with her eyes aglow. Her chins quivered with excitement. It was her fervent goal to get all of her nieces married into the highest echelons of the ton or die trying.
Elizabeth suppressed a shudder. Or perhaps she didn't suppress it. Twiggenberry was, after all, shudder worthy. Especially when he nattered on about his mama and her "expectations" for his wife. "I'm sure he and Anne will make a fine match," she said with a barely hidden smirk.
Four heads whipped around. "Are you daft?" Mary said. The youngest of the St. Claire four, she was barely out of leading strings. This would be her first season and she was over the moon for the coming events. "Twiggenberry only had eyes for you, Lizzie."
Egads. What a horrible thought. He was hardly the kind of man she had dreamed of marrying. For one thing, like his name, he was tall and slender and had a sharply carved face with wooden expressions. She could only imagine, should he kiss her, she might come away with scratches. And then there was that stench. Her nostrils twitched at the memory. Or, perhaps, the lingering scent of him in the room. "I am certain he was staring at Anne," she felt compelled to suggest.
"Only when Anne mentioned her fondness for books," Victoria quipped.
Mary nodded. "And then, in horror."
Victoria leaned in and whispered, sotto voce, "No doubt Mama would not approve of a wife who reads."
"How vulgar," Mary warbled in a tone far too like Lady Twiggenberry's for comfort.
"Please do stop," Anne said on a sigh. As the oldest she was somber and long-suffering, but with younger sisters like the irrepressible Elizabeth, Victoria, and Mary, she would be. Dealing with them was, she often said, like herding kittens in a henhouse.
"You do need to marry too," Elizabeth reminded her. Their cousin — very far removed — the Duke of Caithness, upon whose generosity they were living, had insisted on it.
Anne came as close to putting out a lip as her nature would allow. "I am firmly on the shelf," she said, and not for the first time. Elizabeth was sure she caught a hint of satisfaction in her tone. When their parents had died, the girls' dreams of a season had died with them. It had not been until they'd been embraced by the duke that such opportunities had returned to them. Although Elizabeth suspected Anne had been relieved by the reprieve. Balls and soirees and manic husband hunting had never suited her. She was much more at home in a quiet library with her nose deep in a historical treatise or some scientific exploration.
Bluestocking was hardly a kind word, but Anne embodied and embraced it. She had no desire to marry and didn't believe in love at all.
"No worries. We will find the right husbands for each of you," Aunt Esmeralda averred and, as she was absorbed with the cake she was nibbling, she missed Anne's grimace. "Soon the duke will arrive. He will wave his ducal wand and the suitors shall come out of the woodwork. How could they resist? Four beautiful sisters from a good family with healthy dowries thanks to a duke of the realm?"
"A Scottish duke," Victoria reminded her. Lords of London were frequently unimpressed by anything in the least Scottish.
Esmeralda fluttered a dismissive hand. "He is still a duke. And he is an extraordinarily wealthy man. And a powerful force to be reckoned with. His influence will see you all to rights. Mark my words."
Elizabeth nodded, but only to be polite. Since she'd learned of Lachlan Sinclair's existence, she'd fantasized about the duke. He was handsome, titled, and wealthy beyond imagining. How wondrous would it be to meet such a man and have him fall irrevocably in love with her? But of course, the thing that most captivated her wasn't his title or his wealth. It was the fact that he was a Scotsman.
She'd been fascinated with all things Scottish since she'd been a girl.
They'd traveled there once, long ago, before Mama and Papa had died, and Elizabeth had fallen in love. With the food, the scent in the air, the rawness of the landscape, the people ... Everything had enraptured her.
Beyond that, her friend Catherine Ross, who'd been raised in the Highlands, fueled her imagination with tales of the brave young Scots lad who had saved her life — and kissed her. How romantic was it that Catherine and that boy — now a man — had just become engaged? Catherine was living with them at Sinclair House while the banns were being read, but this morning, she had claimed a megrim and was sleeping in.
Of course, Elizabeth knew the truth. It wasn't a megrim. Catherine couldn't stand Twiggenberry's pomade either.
Fortunately for her, Catherine had found her man. And what a man he was. Duncan Mackay was tall, dark, and braw, the quintessential Scotsman from the top of his head to the tips of his toes. Not a hint of pomade to be found. It was hard not to be jealous, but Elizabeth loved Catherine and her friend deserved the best.
Still, she could not help fantasizing about a Scot for herself.
It was probably to be expected that she should fall love with the duke without even laying eyes on him. That he had saved them from penury hadn't hurt.
Oh, how devastated she'd been when word had come that the duke had taken a bride.
She'd gone into an absolute decline.
Anne had not been sympathetic to her sister's melodrama. But then Anne didn't share Elizabeth's attraction to brawny Highlanders. In fact, she rather despised them.
It hadn't always been that way. During their one sojourn to the north, Anne had met a boy and fallen in love with him. She'd been crushed to find her beau in the arms of another woman. It had completely shattered her heart and she'd never looked at another man since. But in truth, it was Scotsmen who took the brunt of her disdain. Faithless philanderers, all of them, she avowed, which Elizabeth found to be patently unfair.
Only one of them had broken her heart.
"I cannot wait to finally meet the duke," Victoria sighed.
"Me either," Mary said.
Elizabeth merely sniffed. The man was taken now and useless to her. From all accounts, he was madly in love with his new wife. "Does he have a brother, do you suppose?"
Aunt Esmeralda frowned at her. "You know he does not."
"I've told you everything about him, gel."
She probably had, but Elizabeth had long ago learned to tune her aunt out when she pontificated. And she did go on. "Do you suppose there are more cakes?" she asked instead, staring at the empty plate.
"You shouldn't eat too many," Esmeralda said. "You will plump out."
"Men love rounded women," Victoria exclaimed, though how she would know was a mystery. Or perhaps she also wanted more cakes. "I shall ring for Henley."
But there was no need. Just then, Henley scratched on the parlor door.
"Come!" Aunt Esmeralda barked, sounding no less regal than the Queen of Sheba.
"Milady. You have ... visitors." This he said with a sniff. Above all things, Henley was a proper English butler. He could convey a novel with a look. And this look said he was utterly unimpressed with the persons in the foyer. "They're ... Scotsmen."
"Oooh!" Elizabeth leaped to her feet and straightened her dress and smoothed her hair. "How exciting. The duke is here." Finally, she'd be able to hear that lovely Scottish brogue again. How she'd missed it.
Her sisters all perked up as well, and Aunt Esmeralda went a little pink in the cheeks. Her lips puffed out and she snapped open her fan.
A widow, woman of the world, and lady of the top shelf of the ton, Esmeralda Van Cleve was rarely ruffled, so it was amusing to witness her agitation. She took a moment to collect herself and then imposingly intoned, "Do send him in." Then she stood and took a moment to strike a pose before the fireplace, looking nothing less than a sovereign monarch standing for a portrait.
Elizabeth bit back a smile. This was too amusing.
When the door swung open, however, her attention snapped to the two men standing in the foyer. Surely one of them was the duke —
But, oh dear.
Neither of them looked in the least ducal.
In fact, they appeared bedraggled and travel worn and rather ... ordinary.
Well, one of them was a little more than ordinary. Though he wore dusty clothes and scuffed boots, he was tall, broad, and striking. His face was beautifully sculpted and raw, like the tors. His chin was square and he had laughing green eyes. And his hair ... a lovely shade of burnished red.
When he looked at her and smiled, and a dimple winked on his cheek, her knees went weak.
Elizabeth knew this man was not the duke, because Lachlan Sinclair had hair the color of ink.
Oddly enough, the other man — no less imposing — had sandy brown hair tied back in a queue.
Clearly, from this, and their bearing, neither of these men was the long-awaited duke.
Aunt Esmeralda, taking their measure and coming to the same conclusion, deflated. "Oh, I say," she said. Apparently it was all she could manage.
"Lady Van Cleve." The man with the brown hair stepped forward and bowed. "I am Ranald Gunn, Baron of Bower, and this is Hamish Robb."
Ooh. His name was Hamish. It suited him.
"We are emissaries of the duke."
"Emissaries?" A squawk. Oh, Esmeralda was not pleased in the least.
"Aye, my lady. His Grace sent us in his stead with the mission of seeing your girls through the season."
"Emissaries?" Apparently she could process nothing further.
"Aye, my lady."
Esmeralda tipped back her head so she could look down her nose at these emissaries. "But the duke was supposed to come."
"He sends his regrets," the baron said in a warm, sincere tone. In fact, everything about him was warm and sincere, and Elizabeth liked him at once.
"Do come in and sit down," she said, because it was the polite thing to do and her aunt appeared to have forgotten herself. "Henley, can you bring more tea and cakes?"
"Especially more cakes," Victoria chirped.
"You must be tired and thirsty." Elizabeth shot a glance at Hamish to find him smiling at her again.
"It was a long ride," the baron responded, tugging her attention away from those entrancing green eyes. Like the rolling hills of the Highlands, they were.
"Please, sit," Anne bestirred herself to say. She hardly even curled her nose.
When they did take their seats, puffs of dust arose; Esmeralda made a sound that was something like a squeak.
Nonplussed, Hamish brushed more dust onto the carpet.
"Do tell us all about your journey," Mary said, her eyes alight. "I want to hear every detail." Mary had always been entranced with the prospect of traveling, though she'd had very few opportunities. She'd been but a babe when they'd visited Scotland.
"First things first," Esmeralda said cuttingly.
"Introductions?" Elizabeth asked.
Her aunt fixed her with a bemused look. Though why she was bemused was a mystery. Anyone who was anyone knew that introductions were always the first thing.
"Oh, all right," she huffed. "Ranald Gunn. Hamish Robb. These girls are Anne, Elizabeth, Victoria, and Mary," she said, rudely pointing at them in turn.
"And you are the incomparable Lady Esmeralda," Hamish said with a wink.
This blandishment had the desired effect. Aunt Esmeralda softened. A tad.
"We've heard all about your amazing exploits, all the way up to Duncansby Head," he continued.
Elizabeth suppressed a shudder at his mellifluous tone. Oh, he had a beautiful voice. And when he was about the business of smoothing ruffled feathers, he was very good.
"Yes, well," Esmeralda grumbled. "Of course you have."
"His Grace speaks very highly of you," the baron said. "He counts himself as very lucky to have you to guide his cousins through the coils of the season."
"Well, he would." Esmeralda practically preened.
"And we are honored to be here in his stead."
This seemed to bring the maven back to the ground. She cleared her throat in a rumble. "Which begs the question ... Why has the duke deserted us?"
"Och!" the baron said. "'Tis nothing of the sort." He leaned in and whispered conspiratorially, "His wife is increasing."
"Pish," Esmeralda sputtered. "He could have come without her."
Hamish laughed and Elizabeth found herself staring at him once more. It was a lovely sound and transformed his face from intriguing to downright irresistible. "If you knew Lachlan, you would understand. He's no' leaving Lana. Ever."
The Baron of Bower nodded. "True love, that. They are inseparable."
"That is so romantic," Victoria gushed.
"That is so annoying," Esmeralda snapped. "The duke promised to attend the season."
"Dear aunt." Anne reached over and patted her hand. "The duke has generously agreed to finance us. I think we can be gracious in understanding his regrets."
"I promise you, we will do all in our power to make him proud," the baron said.
"But can you reel in the lords?"
The baron paled. "I beg your pardon?"
Esmeralda's bountiful bosom swelled. "These girls need suitors. Titled suitors. Wealthy suitors. We were counting on the duke's name to attract them."
"We still have that connection with the duke," Anne assured her.
"But it is nowhere near as sensational as having a duke to parade around." Was that the hint of a pout in Esmeralda's tone?
"I'm quite certain the duke would not appreciate being paraded anyway," Elizabeth felt obligated to say.
"Nonsense. Dukes love pomp and circumstance."
The baron bit back a smile. "Not Lachlan Sinclair, madam. He is a very private man."
"Well, what good is that?" Esmeralda barked. "What is the point of being a duke if you aren't going to rub it in people's faces?"
There was no answer to that. Fortunately, Henley arrived just then with the refreshed tea tray and what followed was a genial conversation as the men tucked in to finger sandwiches and cakes. It was clear they would have preferred something stronger than tea, but neither complained.
As they ate, they shared the details of their journey and answered all of Mary's questions with an amiable aplomb. For her part, Elizabeth was content to sit and listen to the melodious accents and watch as Hamish devoured his food. He really was a very handsome man. Beyond that, she liked his smile and the twinkle in his eye.
She liked it a bit too much, considering he was here to be her protector during the season. She couldn't help her mind from wandering. Imagining what it would be like to be held in those muscular arms, to be kissed by those beautiful lips. More than once he caught her gaze upon him and he would smile at her. Each time, her heart fluttered.
She was probably being a silly girl. She knew nothing about him. Certainly not if he was married.
She found she really wanted to know.
But there was no time or opportunity to ask. As soon as the men finished eating, her aunt sprang to her feet and gusted a sigh. "Well, it was lovely getting to know you. You will probably want to be heading off to your lodgings to rest."
"Oh," said the baron. "We'll be staying here."
Esmeralda's eyes went wide. Her nostrils flared. "You're not staying here."
The baron pulled a crumpled letter from his pocket and handed it over. As Esmeralda scanned it, her face puckered. "Why, yes ma'am. We are," he said. "The duke insisted upon it."
Ach. This was going to be difficult, Hamish thought as the disgruntled butler and young footman — who carried their bags — led them up the sprawling staircase to their rooms, which, for some reason, were at the far end of the east wing, a portion of the mansion that was apparently very rarely used.
And by difficult, he did not refer to the mission the duke had given them. Not even to an unwanted visit to London.
He hadn't expected to be this attracted to one of his charges, and it had hit him like an anvil.
It had been all he could do to maintain a placid demeanor. To not stare.
But damn, she was beautiful.
They all were, the St. Claire sisters. Anne was tall and willowy with serene brown eyes, and Victoria sparkled like a diamond. Even wee Mary was a beauty.
She took his breath away.
Small and elegant with a spritely smile and bouncing black curls, she was the most beautiful woman he'd ever laid eyes on.
Excerpted from "The Highlander Is All That"
Copyright © 2017 Sabrina York.
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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