Scotland, 1817. The Duke of Manchester's sister, Lady Sarah Lacey, always abides by the rules of etiquette. Fate, however, has no such confines. On a journey to the Scottish Highlands, Lady Sarah is set upon by misfortune–leaving her without carriage or chaperone, and left to the mercy of a kind and handsome gentleman. Whom (in order to secure a room at an inn) she announces is her husband.
When she proclaims they’re married in public, Professor Braeden McKinnon can't bring himself to correct the lovely Lady Sarah. After all, her reputation would be ruined. Nor can he tell her that her proclamation is not only legally binding in Scotland, but sharing a room is considered to be an act of consummation...
Now they are bound together until death do they part–even if Sarah has no intention of becoming any man's wife.
The Marriage Mart Mayhem series is best enjoyed in order.
Book #1 The Elusive Wife
Book #2 The Duke's Quandary
Book #3 The Lady's Disgrace
Book #4 The Baron's Betrayal
Book #5 The Highlander's Choice
Book #6 The Highlander's Accidental Marriage
Book #7 The Earl's Return
About the Author
Callie has been making up stories since elementary school, and writing gave her a way to turn off the voices in her head. She's had a number of articles and interviews published over the years, and finally decided to put her writing skills to the test and write novels.
Oklahoma is where she hangs her hat with her husband of thirty-six years, two young adult children, and three dogs.
You can catch her hanging out at Facebook, Twitter - @CallieHutton, and her home base, www.calliehutton.com. Stop by sometimes and say hello.
Read an Excerpt
The Highlander's Accidental Marriage
A Marriage Mart Mayhem Novel
By Callie Hutton, Erin Molta
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Callie Hutton
All rights reserved.
On a road outside of Edinburgh, Scotland
Braeden McKinnon glanced up at the sky at the light drizzle and menacing clouds gathering. "I hope we make it to the inn before the skies open up." His voice carried in the wind to Monty Blackwood riding beside him, both of their horses covered with sweat from the hard ride.
"Ach, it won't be the first time we've gotten soaked."
"Nay. And not the last," Braeden said. They continued on for several minutes, the wind whipping around them preventing any type of conversation.
They'd been on the road from Edinburgh University for most of the morning. Braeden was on his way home to the northwestern Highlands and Monty to his on the east coast. Although the difference in their ages spanned two decades, they were close friends and fellow professors at the esteemed school.
At twenty-eight, Braeden was the youngest full professor at Edinburgh and, indeed, probably in all of Scotland and England. As odd as the situation was, given his superior intellect, he'd always been more comfortable with those much older than him.
"What is that up ahead?" Monty pulled on the reins to slow his horse at the sight of two women standing at the side of the road. One woman had her arm around the other, obviously comforting her.
"'Tis the middle of nowhere. What the devil are they doing?" Monty's brow furrowed as they came to a complete halt.
Braeden slid from his horse and strode to the women. "What happened, lasses?"
The wee one, with huge hazel eyes and dark brown curls tumbling around her ears continued to pat the other one on the back. "We had an accident." Her voice came out breathless and shaky. Her pale features and wide eyes registered shock.
"What sort of an accident?" Monty said as he joined them.
The other lady, older and obviously the employer of the tiny maid, wailed. "Our carriage slid in the mud, and then hit that boulder." She pointed to the massive protrusion a bit farther down. "And then ... and then ..." She buried her head into her maid's neck.
Her speech told him the ladies were from England — far from home.
The maid once again patted the older woman on the back. "It's all right. Just try to calm yourself." She turned to Braeden. "Both of us were thrown from the carriage when the door swung open after it hit the boulder. But the carriage went over the side. I'm terribly afraid the driver and footman, along with the poor horses, might have been injured. Or perhaps even killed."
The little bit of drizzle had turned into a steady rain. The only shelter was a copse of trees a short distance from the road. "Why don't ye lasses move over under those trees? Monty and I will see what we can learn about yer driver and footman."
"We shouldn't be talking to them, it is not proper." The older woman kept her back to them, but her whispered words reached him anyway.
"Madam, we are not standing in a London ballroom, I'm afraid. Ye need to get yerselves out of the rain and let us take a look at the carriage. If it makes ye feel better, I am Professor Braeden McKinnon, and this is Professor Monty Blackwood. We're both scholars at Edinburgh University." Realizing the women were distraught, he softened his voice. "I ken this is not a formal introduction, but 'tis the best we can do for now."
"They're Scottish!" the older woman said.
"Yes, dear, we are in Scotland, remember?" The wee one tilted her lips in a slight smile at Braeden. He shook his head at the nonsense London ladies were wont to spout off.
"See, now all is fine. Let us go out of the rain and allow the men to do what they need to." Thank goodness the young maid had a great deal more sense than her employer. She urged the older woman toward the copse of trees.
He stared after them. By the saints, even with her wet hair plastered to her forehead and the rain dripping from her pert nose, the lass was beautiful. Though tiny, she had curves in all the right places. His hands itched to run over the dips and rises of her body. Ach! He didn't usually have such a fascination for a lass.
Monty nudged him out of the trance the lass had put him into, and they set off toward the edge of the cliff. The climb down the hill where the carriage lay at the bottom was difficult with the rain making the descent slippery and hazardous. Grasping onto roots and branches, they cautiously made their way down.
The carriage lay on its side, broken parts of it scattered around the rocky spot where it had landed. It didn't take much to note that both the driver and footman had perished in the crash. Monty reluctantly drew his pistol and shot one of the two horses who hadn't died but was seriously injured.
"We'll have to send someone back to retrieve the bodies," Braeden said.
"Aye. But what will we do about the lasses?"
"Not much we can do. We can't leave them by the side of the road. We'll have to get them to the nearest inn so they can make arrangements to continue with their journey."
Braeden eyed the large trunk still strapped to the back of the broken carriage. "I imagine the lasses will want their belongings. Mayhap we can haul that trunk up for them."
"For what purpose? We can't set it on the backs of our horses. Let whoever comes for the bodies bring it back to the inn for them."
"A good idea." Braeden reached for a strong-looking branch and hauled himself up. After slipping and sliding their way back up the muddy hill, both men reached the top.
The young maid had left the older lady under the trees while she peeked over the edge of the cliff. "Are they dead?" Her tangled mass of wet hair spilled over her shoulders, almost blocking his vision of her lovely face. 'Twas too bad a beauty such as her was stuck tending to an older, and most likely complaining, Englishwoman.
"Aye, I'm afraid so, lass."
Tears filled her eyes as she took in the news. "How horrible. Their families must be notified."
"Where is it ye and yer lady are traveling?"
The lass seemed to shake herself from deep thought and regarded him.
"We are traveling to the northwestern Highlands."
"Monty and I can take the two of ye to the nearest inn where ye can make whatever arrangements ye need."
"Yes, that would be wonderful. Thank you so much." She started to move away, and then turned back to him. Once more he was struck by her loveliness. She chewed on her lower lip, making him wish to cover the plumpness with his mouth.
What the devil is wrong with me?
"One thing, sir. Would it be possible to bring the trunk up here?"
"Now, lass. What good would that do ye? Surely ye can wait until whoever comes back here for the bodies to bring the trunk to ye," Monty said.
"Oh, no. Highwaymen could come by and riffle through our things. There are jewels in that trunk that cannot be left behind."
"Lass, we've only two horses — for two of us and two of ye. 'Tis enough of a burden without expecting the poor animals to carry a trunk." Braeden removed his spectacles and wiped the water from his eyes.
"Of course not." She raised her chin. Lord, she was a bonny little thing. Her eyes flashed as if she stood several feet above him, instead of barely coming up to his chin. "I will merely remove a few pieces that should not be left behind."
Braeden glanced over at Monty who rolled his eyes.
"Aye. We'll haul it up here for ye." Braeden reached out to grab a branch and headed back down the trail.
With a great deal of groaning and swearing, they managed to get the trunk off the carriage and drag it up to the road and over to where the ladies sat under the trees. The rain continued its relentless assault, chilling him to the bone. The lasses must have been even worse off with their small size, especially the tiny maid.
Braeden set his hands on his hips, panting from the climb. "Here ye are. I suggest ye get what ye need and make it fast. Ye'll both be suffering from the ague if we don't get out of this rain."
The older lady continued to wail and moan as the maid opened the trunk only far enough to reach her hand in. She drew out a small pouch and proceeded to open it and don necklaces, bracelets, and rings, one after another. Her employer must have been quite lenient to allow her to adorn herself with the lady's jewels.
Wiping her forehead with the back of her bejeweled hand to push the ringlets plastered there, she continued to loop jewelry over her neck until she looked like a gypsy he had once seen at a fair. Both men stood watching her as she slid her hand in once again and dragged out a gown. Standing up, she pulled it over her head.
It wasn't until she had pulled on several more garments and draped them around her that Braeden's attention was caught. "How is it for a maid ye have so many frocks?"
"A maid?" The older woman exclaimed. She stood and straightened her shoulders, looking him in the eye. "How dare you, sir!"
Braeden and Monty exchanged surprised glances.
The outraged woman pointed to the wee lass. "I will have you know this is Lady Sarah Lacey, sister to the Duke of Manchester."
The little minx smiled at him and shimmied into another gown.
Sarah smirked. So the young handsome one — who'd introduced himself as Professor McKinnon — with the piercing blue eyes covered with spectacles that he kept wiping with his fingers, thought she was a maid? How amusing. His strong features and black wavy hair that skimmed his forehead put him in a class of men she'd spent a lot of time avoiding the last few years.
Tamping down the fluttering in her stomach, Sarah continued to drop one gown after another over her head until she no longer had the ability to move her arms. Of course, they were all getting ruined by the rain, but perhaps Alice could salvage most of them when they reached an inn. Leaving them at the bottom of that trail had not been a choice.
Hopefully, there was an inn nearby. She was soaked to the skin and wanted nothing more than a fireplace, a hot bath, and a cup of tea. Blasted Highlands. If it wasn't her twin sister she was traveling over this godforsaken land to see, she would turn right around and go home. She missed Sybil so much. Since her twin had married a Scotsman — a Scotsman! — Sarah had no choice if she wanted to see her new niece or nephew born. That was if she made it on time. This debacle would certainly delay them.
"Are ye done, lass? With the weight of me, ye, and all those wet clothes on my horse's back, we'll be lucky to make the next inn by nightfall."
She smiled at him. "Yes. I am ready." Without another word, she sashayed over to his horse and stood next to it, her eyebrows raised. "Well. Are we leaving?"
Professor McKinnon had to shut his mouth, which hung open. He stomped over and, grasping her waist, flung her onto the horse's back. She immediately began to slide to the other side, the weight of the wet clothes pulling her over. He reached out and grabbed her, tugging her the other way. Her arms flailing, she slid toward him and fell off, landing on him, sending both of them into the mud.
She lay sprawled on top of his muscular body, not more than an inch from his surprised expression. Mud splattered his spectacles as well as the rest of his face. Unable to help herself, she burst out laughing. He glowered at her and then his muscles relaxed, a slight smile teasing his lips, which turned into a grin. "I'd love to lie here with ye on top of me, lass, but I dinna think we'll get very far if ye do. 'Tis not fond of an audience, I am."
Red-faced, Sarah scrambled off him, the layers of wet clothes making her every move awkward.
"I'm so happy yer enjoying yourself with the lass, McKinnon, but my verra bones are beginning to get wet." Professor Blackwood groused.
"Yay. 'Tis right. We need to move along." Professor McKinnon rose from his mud bath and grasped her waist once more. "Yer very slippery, lass. So be careful as I place ye on my horse."
"That's the trouble, sir. You didn't place me on your horse. You tossed me like a sack of flour." Heat rose to her face when she realized his hands still held her as they had this exchange. Her heart sped up, and she felt the heat radiating from his body, despite how wet they both were.
"Lad, do ye suppose we could move along? Ye can have all the conversations ye wish with the lass once we are out of this blasted weather." Blackwood spoke over his shoulder as he gingerly placed Alice on his horse.
Without another word, the young professor placed her gently on the horse's back and climbed up behind her. Having had years of experience riding astride — as her sisters did as well — Sarah was comfortable with her position. However, she usually rode in breeches, and having all the wet, soggy gowns wrapped around her legs hindered any familiar posture she could assume.
Her head jerked back as Professor McKinnon moved the horse forward.
"We have to go slow since the muddy roads are dangerous, as ye've found out. 'Tis sorry I am for it, lass, but I'm afraid ye won't be out of this cold rain for a bit." The feel of his soft warm breath on her neck started goose bumps rising on her skin.
"If ye lean back against me, it would make the ride a bit warmer for both of us."
Her mother would be scandalized. Not only was she riding in front of a stranger, her bottom was secure against the part of him of which no innocent miss should be aware. The many layers of clothing provided not much of a buffer between their bodies.
Now he wanted her to rest against him? She should certainly give him a setdown for suggesting such a thing. But he had, after all, rescued them. And, truth be known, he had been a very good sport about dragging her trunk up and when she had laughed at him after she'd tumbled them both into the mud. But the wind blowing on them, along with her wet clothes, made the ride downright miserable. Well, mother, some things simply cannot be helped.
With that thought, she eased her body back until she touched his muscled chest. She held herself stiffly, not wanting to get too comfortable. My, I feel warmer already. In fact, she wouldn't be surprised if she saw steam rising from where their bodies met.
Now that she had acquiesced, he wrapped his arm around her waist and tugged her closer, chuckling in her ear. "Lass, ye have so many garments on, no one would be shocked. Relax."
Almost as if he'd read her mind.
"Do you know how far the next inn is?"
"I've been this way many times, and if I am correct, we should be near The Bush Inn. Mayhap no more than three quarters of an hour or so."
Her back tingled with the vibrations from his voice. Deep and solid. Just like the rest of him. He'd mentioned he and his travel companion were professors at Edinburgh University. He appeared terribly young for such a spot. He seemed only a few years her senior. Maybe she had misunderstood him.
Now that they were nearing the inn, she had to decide what she could do about her travel plans. No doubt she and Alice would require a day or two to recover from this mishap. That is if they didn't come down with an ague that prevented them from continuing on for longer. Luckily, she'd always had a strong constitution, but she couldn't say the same for her maid. Alice had been a last-minute substitution, because her own lady's maid had returned to her family's home for a funeral.
With no carriage, driver, or footman, they were certainly in a quandary. Yet, she had no intention of turning back. They would need to rent a carriage to take them home, anyway, so why not rent one to carry them on to Bedlay Castle?
The professor held out his arm. "Beyond that bend is the inn."
"Not too soon, to be sure," she said. She'd begun to shiver miles back and now she felt as if icicles dripped from her chin. Thankfully, the rain had turned to a light drizzle.
Even though it was only late afternoon, the sky was dark, and the lights from the inn glowed brightly, already making her feel warmer as they approached. Her escort brought the horse to a halt and slid down, handing the reins to a young stableboy. He reached up for Sarah and lifted her off. She continued to shake and shiver, almost unable to walk.
"Are ye all right, lass?"
"I th-th-think so."
Professor Blackwood and Alice were already hurrying to the door. Sarah took one step and stumbled. With the cold, the extra clothes, and the long ride, her legs wouldn't hold her, and she began to slide to the ground. He scooped her up and headed to the door.
Excerpted from The Highlander's Accidental Marriage by Callie Hutton, Erin Molta. Copyright © 2015 Callie Hutton. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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