Publication Date: October 29, 2019
eBook & Paperback; 432 Pages
Series: Clan Kendrick, Book #2
Genre: Historical Romance/Scottish
In bestselling author Vanessa Kelly’s irresistible Clan Kendrick series, Christmas in the Highlands means family, celebration—and for one brother, the beginning of a passionate adventure . . . Being thrown over by the man she expected to marry was humiliating enough. Now that Donella Haddon, grandniece of the Earl of Riddick, has also proven a failure as a nun, she has no choice but to return to her family’s estate. The brawny Highlander sent to escort her is brash, handsome, and the only thing standing between Donella and a gang of would-be kidnappers. But the scandal in her past can’t be so easily outrun . . . Wealthy widower Logan Kendrick was expecting to meet a plain, pious spinster—not a gorgeous, sharp-tongued lass who can hold her own in any ambush. Though she’s known as the Flower of Clan Graham, Donella is no shrinking violet. In fact, she might be the perfect woman to bring happiness back to his lonely little son’s life, just in time for Christmas. But first he must protect her from ugly gossip and a mysterious threat—and convince her that their wild, unexpected desire is heaven sent.
“Now that we’re finally alone…” Donella cut Logan off. “Sir, we are in the middle of a busy street.” When he unleashed his slow, seductive smile, their surroundings faded away. She gazed up into his eyes, caught as always by their extraordinary color. They reminded her of northern seas under a bright summer sky—hidden depths of blue that stretched to the horizon. Part of her longed to plumb those depths, while the other part wanted to hoist sails and head in the opposite direction. Because she had secrets of her own, ones she needed to keep hidden safely away. Logan dipped his head closer. “There’s a park down that side street. We could take a quiet stroll, if you wish.” Donella resisted the competing urges to plant a hand on his chest and shove him away or grab his cravat and yank him down for a kiss. Instead, she tucked her hands inside her muff, wondering if she was losing her wits. It was an unfortunate prospect, since one insane woman in the family was already one too many. When she caught a disapproving glance from a pair of elderly ladies, she stepped back. It was perfectly respectable for Logan to escort her, but Glasgow wasn’t London. He’d been standing much too close, and he knew it. “I have no intention of slinking off to a park with you,” she replied. “So you can put that notion right out of your head.” “I didn’t ask you to slink. I asked you to go for a walk, so we could talk more privately.” She took his arm and began steering him along the sidewalk. “That, of course, is why you sent Angus and Joseph haring off. But as I already said, there is no need for a private discussion.” He extracted his elbow from her grip. “I’m the gentleman, lass. I’m supposed to be escorting you, remember? Unless you wish to generate more gossip with your masterful ways.” He jerked his head to indicate a couple in front of a milliner’s shop. They were eyeing her and Logan with disapproval. Since the pair looked vaguely familiar, Donella dredged up a smile. In response, the woman let out a censorious huff and disappeared with her companion into the shop. “They never should have let me out of the convent,” Donella said with a sigh. “I have absolutely no manners.” Logan chuckled. “Neither do I, but I suppose we should at least pretend we do while in public.” “This entire expedition is ridiculous,” she groused. “You quite obviously do not want to go shopping with me. You simply wish to badger me, so you might as well get it over with.” He adopted a long-suffering expression. “That is exactly what I’ve been trying to do.” “Well, you don’t need to drag me off to a secluded park to do so. That, I might add, would not help my reputation.” “Because it’s a rather delicate subject, I was hoping for some degree of privacy. But if you want to discuss it here in the middle of the bloody street, we certainly can.” “Since I’m not sneaking off for a clandestine conversation, that is your only choice.” His sideways glance held considerable frustration. “You can be an incredibly stubborn woman. Not to mention irritating.” She barely refrained from sticking her tongue out at him. And what would Sister Bernard have said about that? The image of Sister’s horrified reaction had her choking down a laugh and made her wish even more she could give in to her silly impulse. She’d certainly come a long way from her convent days. They walked in silence down the street. “Why don’t we walk up to the church at the end of the street?” she asked, looking for a compromise. “It’s not busy up there, so we should be able to talk without half of Glasgow giving us the evil eye.” He let out a sardonic snort. “I’d forgotten how small this town could feel. And how judgmental.” “I’d forgotten that, too. The Kendricks do have a special knack for generating tittle-tattle. It seems to be a particular family talent.” “Years of practice.” He steered her across the street to a quieter stretch of pavement. “That brings me to the point of this discussion. I owe you an apology, Donella. I was a complete buffoon last night, and I cannot tell you how much I regret it.” Her heart slammed against her ribs. Whether it was from hope or dread, she couldn’t yet tell. Don’t make a fool of yourself. “Thank you,” she calmly replied. “You were simply greeting an old friend you hadn’t seen in a long time. Your surprise was understandable.” “That doesn’t excuse my behavior. I all but abandoned you on the dance floor.” “We weren’t dancing.” “Donella — ” She flapped her muff at him to interrupt. “Very well, sir. You made your apology and I accepted it. There’s no need to discuss that business any further.” He shot her that narrow-eyed glare again, one that always indicated immense irritation. “There is every need to mention that business, because there has been some sort of misunderstanding about Jeannie and…I mean about Mrs. MacArthur and me.” Donella fixed her gaze on the tall steeple atop the church at the end of the street. “It’s truly none of my business.” He gently pulled her to a halt and turned her to face him. “It is your business,” he said in a terse voice. She avoided meeting his eyes. “I don’t see why.” “If you don’t see why, then you haven’t been paying attention. Mrs. MacArthur is an old friend. Nothing more.” “But Victoria said — ” “I don’t care what Victoria said. What happened with Mrs. MacArthur is long in the past and will remain there. I give you my word.” Rattled, she met his gaze. His irritation gave way to something much warmer, and that rattled her even more. A smile twitched at his lips. “You really haven’t been paying attention, have you?” He shook his head. “Or else I have made a complete hash of this. What a pair we are, my sweet lass.” Donella felt her mouth sag open. That turned his slight smile into a full-out grin as he tipped her chin back up with a gentle finger. Annoyed that she’d been gaping at him like a half-wit, she scowled. “Are you saying that you’re actually courting me?” “I tried to make that rather obvious, but apparently not obvious enough.” “Good Lord,” she whispered. When he continued to regard her with amusement, she made an effort to say something coherent. “But why? It makes no sense.” “Doesn’t it?” “I’m so happy you find this amusing,” she stiffly replied. “If I find out that Alasdair is bothering you about that stupid abduction attempt, I will murder you both. You need to stop acting like bacon-brained idiots. Absolutely nothing happened in that cabin, and you know it.” Liar. “One of the things I most like about you is your brutally refreshing honesty,” he said. “You think nothing of insulting a man to his face, even if he’s courting you. Especially if he’s courting you. It’s a bold tactic.” Donella couldn’t decide whether she wanted to slap him or herself for engaging in such a ridiculous conversation. How it had gotten so ridiculous, and so quickly, was a bit of a mystery.
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