Isobel Dounreay Lochlannach is a fierce and independent Scots lass. She has no intention to marry—to submit to a man—especially not an Englishman.
But when she meets a devilish stable lad on the way to London, she can’t help but sneak a kiss with the handsome stranger, sure to never see him again.
Nick Wyeth is not a stable lad. He’s Viscount Stirling, and heir to one of the most powerful dukes in the realm. If their indiscretion is discovered, Isobel will be forced to marry him, to succumb to a fate she has always spurned. Nick wants nothing but to call this wild Scottish lass his own, and is determined to show her how an English Viscount can make her swoon, and be his forever in What a Highlander’s Got To Do by New York Times bestselling author Sabrina York.
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
It is said that if one listens at doors, one cannot expect to hear something pleasant. Isobel Dounreay Lochlannach knew this to be true — she'd listened at her share of doors in her time — but the maxim came home hard as she paused at Lady Willouby's parlor door to smooth her skirts before entering for afternoon tea.
It was a trial, this — smoothing one's skirts, suffering the attentions of Lady Willouby's hairdresser, attending tea. Wearing dresses. But when one was a guest, it behooved one to make the attempt. At least, that was what Mama said.
Isobel wasn't sure which was more irritating, going to all the trouble to make that attempt — as her mother had implored her so vociferously to do — or standing here and listening to the ladies in Lady Willouby's parlor dissecting her character with a fervent venom. Or a combination of the two.
The dress was a tad too tight, the shoes pinched, and the pins in her coif scratched.
That she was in possession of a coif was bad enough. How she wished she was riding now, in her ragged habit with her hair free and flowing behind her in the wild wind ...
Not that the wind was so very wild in Newcastle.
A mild breeze, at best.
Still, she coveted it. Anything was better than attending a stuffy tea party and being scrutinized and picked apart like a bug by the local gentility.
As though she had prodded them with her thoughts, one of them spoke. "So they left her with you while they gallivant about the countryside?" she said with a sniff, this invisible creature in a sharp, bitter, superior drawl.
"They are hardly gallivanting," Lady Willouby responded gently. "They've gone to visit an ailing aunt."
"A likely story. No doubt they needed respite from her."
"You do have my sympathies," another, a lady with a nasal condition, tittered.
"Nonsense, Lady Swofford," Lady Willouby said quite crisply. "She's been a pleasant surprise."
"I cannot imagine it," a third chirped. "I heard she was a hoyden."
"I, a savage," another said. This was a voice Isobel didn't recognize and didn't care to. "Isn't it true she blew up Scrabster's castle?" "Only the one wing," Lady Willouby said. "In her defense, he was a traitorous little worm." The clinking of teacups ensued, and Isobel assumed they were being refilled.
"Still, she was what? Five?"
"Can you imagine what she's since become?"
"As I said. A savage. And she's heading for the halls of Almack's. I cannot imagine my Wilfred being interested in such a creature."
Lady Willouby chuckled. "You might be surprised. She is quite lovely."
A snort. "Lovely or not, she has no place attending the Season. None of them do."
"The Duke of Caithness is a peer," Lady Willouby said reminded them; Isobel could hear the tension in her voice. She was, in all probability, losing her patience. Lady Willouby was a lady in nature as well as in title, unlike the others in her drawing room.
"He's a Scot," Lady Swofford hissed, as though she were accusing Uncle Lachlan of having the pox. "Can you imagine? The lot of them, descending on the London Season as though they belong?" Isobel set her teeth. Such vitriol against her people had always annoyed her, especially coming from the English.
With great delight, she considered the prospect of waltzing into the drawing room and showing them what a savage really looked like. What a pity her mother had refused to let her bring her bow on this heinous journey.
But then she remembered her mother's admonitions, and she was sorely torn. Three distinct options occurred to her.
First, she could waltz into the drawing room and show them what a real savage looked like — which would, undoubtedly, bring shame on dear Lady Willouby, who had defended her so ferociously. It would, in all probability, vex her mother as well, when she heard of it.
Or Isobel could waltz into the drawing room, hands folded demurely, and show these vipers such refinement and elegance as to cause them to choke on their ugly words. In which case, Isobel would probably develop an aneurysm and expire on the spot. And that would definitely vex her mother.
Or, she could go riding.
It took only a moment to decide.
She was up the staircase in a trice.
* * *
"Milady ... are you s-sure?" the groom sputtered, even as Isobel launched herself into the saddle. He was a sweet boy, only slightly spotted, and she'd found him delightfully manageable.
She smiled down at him in a manner that caused his Adam's apple to bobble precariously. "I'm verra sure," she said. "I can handle him. I promise."
"But the mare is much gentler," he said with a hint of panic in his voice.
"I'm certain she is," Isobel responded with a wink. And then she set her heels to the stallion's sides and they launched from the stable yard.
She leaned over his neck, encouraging him on. "Och, you want this, don't you, boy?" she whispered into his ear, and he nickered his delight. "Faster then. Faster. Let's fly!"
And oh. They did. And it was glorious.
The ride, of course, but also leaving those horrible women behind.
Newcastle lacked the exhilarating rocky terrain of the Highlands, but in turn, it had long languid country roads that curved gently through apple orchards, along golden fields, and through fallow land spotted with bright-yellow flowers. There was a babbling brook to her right and the broad blue line of the horizon before her. She had, in that moment, the flight of fancy that she could ride forever.
The air was cool and clear, with a hint of lingering loam. And the sun, when she hit it in gentle splashes wandering through the leaves, was a kiss of warmth. They made their own breeze, she and Lord Willouby's stallion. It caressed her face and tangled in her hair and it was magnificent.
Much better than tea with the local ladies.
It was, in fact, perfection.
Until a thundering sound disrupted her peace.
Hoofbeats from behind, intruding on the splendid rhythm she and the stallion had created.
She glanced over her shoulder and frowned. Another stallion pounded after them, with a dark-haired stranger urging him on. She'd heard about highwaymen in these parts, veterans from the war and such, who had turned to crime. And while she'd thought the prospect of such a thing wildly romantic when reading it in a novel, she did not, in truth, care to be robbed or manhandled by such a man.
She tapped her mount's side with her heels and urged him to go faster, even as a thrill of excitement sizzled through her. She was certain she could outride her pursuer, but how delicious would it be to confront an actual highwayman and have a story to tell Catriona?
Not that the two of them tried to outdo each other in their tales, but they did.
Isobel caught her breath and focused on the road ahead. It curved out of sight behind a large hill. Not knowing the terrain, she knew she had to slow, lest she injure her horse, and that was her downfall.
He caught her then, as she rounded the curve and, to her shock and dismay, wrapped a strong arm around her waist and lifted her bodily from her saddle and onto his lap.
She had one stunning impression of hard hot man.
He was slick with sweat from the mad ride, as was she, but on his skin, it rose in a thick musk that teased her nostrils and made her belly lurch.
Surely it was not an attractive scent.
She refused to believe this to be so.
At the same time, she screeched her outrage and wiggled to be free, which had a disturbing result.
He tightened his hold on her.
Dear God, he was strong, this beastly highwayman.
"Hold still," he snapped. "You'll fall."
Of course she wanted to fall. She wanted to hit the ground before he did so she had time to retrieve her blade from the scabbard on her thigh before he caught her again.
What a pity he didn't let her fall. He held her even tighter — she could barely breathe — and pulled on the reins to slow his mount.
Before she had time to react, he'd slipped off and was helping her down.
Helping her down.
No one had ever helped her down. She'd never allowed it.
The man was, in a word, infuriating.
Once her feet hit the ground she elbowed him in the stomach and whirled away. She glared at him, though he was unaware of this, doubled over and wheezing as he was. This gave her time to free her blade and point it in his general direction, so when he recovered himself, when he stood and stared at her, it was, indeed, a fearsome sight he saw.
She had no earthly idea why he laughed.
No earthly idea why her first glimpse of him — this bandit who had just impugned her person — made her heart stop.
Oh, he was handsome, for sure, with dark eyes and rampant black curls. There was a birthmark just above his lip that gave him a rakish air, and the hint of a scar bisected his left eyebrow. But his smile was white and broad and caused an irksome raft of dimples to erupt on his cheek.
He wore the stained, frayed clothes of a workingman, with boots caked in mud.
And good lord, he was tall. Tall and muscled and exquisitely formed.
She wasn't sure which of his perfections annoyed her more.
And then he spoke, and she knew for certain. It was his voice, a mellifluous tenor, crisp with British superiority and the hint of a laugh.
She abhorred being laughed at.
"Well," he said, nodding at her knife — which, in retrospect, seemed far too small. "Aren't you the fierce one?"
It took a moment to stifle her growl. No doubt it would give him even more to mock. "What do you expect? You chased me. Grabbed me from behind. Manhandled me."
His eyes widened and he stared at her for a moment, then his grin widened. "You're a Scot." Not a question.
"You're bluidy right I am, so don't try anything. You'll not be the first man I've skewered."
A laugh. "I don't doubt it for a moment." He continued studying her, though, in a way that made her skin prickle.
"What?" she said, breaking the silence against her will.
He shrugged, some lazy careless gesture that made her want to smack his supercilious face. "I just thought all Scottish lasses had red hair, is all."
"Did you now?" Did he want to see red? Well, it danced before her eyes.
He must have realized his comment incensed her, because he laughed again. "Doona skewer me, lass," he said in a perfect brogue. For some reason, that made her even angrier.
"Why no'? Are you no' a highwayman, come to rob me?"
"A highwayman?" His beautiful perfect brows lifted in mock surprise. He had the audacity to bow before her. "My lady, I've just saved your life."
She gaped at him. She was aware she was gaping, like a landed cod, but could not manage to form words.
He chuckled and tucked two long fingers under her chin and gently closed it. Then he hooked her arm in his and led her farther along the track, where Lord Willouby's stallion stood alongside the road ripping out tufts of grass. "There," he said, waving at a stone bridge just beyond the hill, arching over the river.
Isobel yanked her arm away. "There, what?"
He followed her as she made her way to the bridge and then stood next to her, rocking back on his heels, as she studied the structure. Or what remained of it.
The stone pilings were all in place, as were the abutments on either end, but as for the rest of it ...
"The flood last month took out all the timbers," he said in a far-too-smug tone.
She crossed her arms and studied the distance from one bank to the other. "No doubt we could have made the jump."
He turned to stare at her for a long moment, and then he laughed again.
She was becoming quite tired of his laugh, and at the same time craving it. That was probably why — though she would deny it until the day she died — her lips quirked. Just a tad, but it was enough encouragement for him, apparently.
"I believe you owe me," he said with a wicked smile.
"I owe you?" She turned and tipped up her chin and stared into his eyes — really stared into them — for the first time. They were a lovely warm brown with flecks of gold, and they were amused. There was something else in there, a certain heat, that she preferred to ignore.
"I did save your life."
"I believe I made it clear, I could have made the jump."
"I don't doubt that for a moment, but your stallion?" He glanced at the steed, who was trying to lip an apple from the tree. "That is questionable."
"Perhaps." She sighed. "So what reward would you ask?"
"First, that you put away your blade."
"First? How many rewards are you asking for?" Was she enjoying this ... sparring? Why yes. She was.
He was terribly handsome, and not a highwayman after all. Probably, judging from his clothes, a stable lad. Or a farmer's son.
He shrugged. "How much do you value your life?"
"What kind of question is that?"
"Just as it is. I would like to ask for a kiss ..." Her heart skipped. "But to be frank, I prefer not to kiss lasses with knives in their fists. You know, just in case."
She straightened up and peered down her nose at him — no easy feat, as he was much taller than she. "I doona kiss just anyone."
He splayed his hand over his heart. "I am gratified to hear it."
"Certainly not ..." She waved at his person. "Stable hands."
He grinned. "Is that what I am then?"
She pointed to his boots. "Do tell me that is mud."
"What else could it be?" His playful tone made clear it might well be something else one might find in a stable.
"And look at your hands."
He did. She did, too. They were large, well made, with long fingers. There was mud there, too, beneath his fingernails. One would hope.
"I can wash them in the river, if you like." Again, that charming smile.
She smiled back, but with a hint of restraint. It was an odd feeling cloaking her shoulders. Restraint was hardly her forte. "Please do."
He nodded and she tried to ignore the curl that flopped onto his forehead as he turned and trotted down the bank.
With a sigh of regret, she took the reins of Lord Willouby's stallion and mounted. Best be gone before he returned or she might be tempted to give him what he wanted.
She wanted it, too, which was stupid.
She was here for a few weeks while she waited for the various arms of her family to collect here, and then they would make the long trip down to London for a miserable Season. There was no time for a romance, and certainly not one with a farm boy. Not even one as handsome as he.
Though she had to admit, she was tempted.
She kicked the stallion into motion and began riding back the way she'd come.
What a pity.
She would have liked a kiss. Just one. She would have liked to know if he tasted as delicious as she imagined. She would have liked to have a story to tell Catriona, one that didn't end with her plunging to her death into the River of the Broken Bridge.
She should have known he would follow.
She heard the hoofbeats behind her and urged her stallion on, bending low on his neck and whispering encouragement.
Her heart pounded.
She knew he would catch her.
He had before.
But still, she persevered.
She had no idea why she smiled. No idea why her soul sang.
No idea why, when he caught her, swooping her up into his arms and onto his lap, she laughed.
No idea why she smiled as he cupped her face with his still-damp hands and stared at her lips like a starving man.
No idea why, when his lips touched hers, fragrant and soft and oh-so-sweet, she sank into the kiss with all she had.
Or perhaps she did have an idea after all.
God, she was sweet.
Nick Wyeth pulled the lass closer and opened his mouth on hers, allowing her scent to sink into him like a river. It filled him up, suffused him, transported him.
He nearly forgot they were sitting astride Boomer, which could have been disastrous, indeed.
Fortunately, he was able to keep some fraction of his sanity.
He shifted her gently, so she faced him more fully, and he deepened the kiss, exploring the velvet cave of her mouth.
Had he ever tasted a woman so divine? Had he ever been so frantic for a kiss?
From the moment he set eyes on her, that angel in distress, on a runaway horse, pounding toward perdition, his blood, his body, had gone on point.
The pursuit had enraged the beast within him. It had seemed, almost, that she was trying to outrun him, which had inflamed him more.
And then, when he'd saved her — and she'd plowed her elbow into his gut, so close to other tender parts — he'd been stunned. But not as stunned as he'd been when he stood and saw her full-on for the first time.
An odd recognition had flooded him. It was as though he'd known her somehow, though they'd never met.
Excerpted from "What A Highlander's Got To Do"
Copyright © 2018 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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