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.
EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK!!
When the door to the guesthouse opened, Logan adopted a smile, ready to be as sympathetic as the situation demanded. The poor girl would be sadly pulled, no doubt. He could only hope she wouldn’t spend the entire trip weeping into her handkerchief and bemoaning her fate. If she did, he’d have to retrieve the flask of very fine whisky he’d stowed in his travel kit for a necessary fortification.
A tall young woman wearing a stunningly ugly bonnet stalked out to the porch and stopped short when she saw him. Her gaze scanned him from head to toe, and then her tight-lipped expression transformed into one of outright disapproval.
For his part, he could do nothing but stare back at her like a chucklehead.
Miss Donella Haddon looked neither pale nor morose, and not particularly nunlike. In fact, she was the most beautiful girl Logan had seen in a long time.
“Excuse me,” she said. “Are you going to stand there gaping at me all afternoon? Will I have to go down to the inn and fetch the carriage myself?”
She had a bonny voice, as clear and musical as a rippling Highland stream. At the moment, it was as chilly as one, too.
Sister Margaret appeared from inside. “Gracious, Donella. Remember what Mother told you about intemperate language.”
“As if I could ever bloody forget,” Miss Haddon muttered.
When Logan choked back a laugh, she shot him a lethal stare, as if daring him to say a word.
“I’m sorry, my child,” Sister Margaret said in a long-suffering voice. “I do not believe I heard you correctly.”
Miss Haddon closed her spectacular green eyes and sucked in a deep breath. Naturally, that pulled Logan’s attention to her bosom, which seemed a little too large for her ill-fitting, drab pelisse.
Why she was so poorly dressed? As Riddick’s niece, she needn’t go into the world looking like a charity case.
Even with the deplorable outfit and her irate glower, Donella Haddon was a true Scottish beauty, with pale, perfect features, an enchanting spray of freckles across her nose, and bright auburn hair peeking out from under her bonnet. Her tall, elegant figure also possessed enough curves to satisfy the most exacting of men.
Why the hell hadn’t anyone told him the girl was so bloody gorgeous? He’d been expecting a dreary little miss, and instead he’d been saddled with a beauty, something he surely didn’t need.
Logan had sworn off women for some time now. He was too busy for one thing. For another, he had no intention of getting married again. Taken together, they meant avoiding any eligible lasses that wandered into his orbit.
Ineligible lasses were off-limits, too. Nick would murder him if he engaged in that sort of nonsense, especially in a city as small and gossipy as Glasgow.
Unfortunately, he was not immune to the lure of a pretty girl—far from it, in fact, given his monklike state. He could only hope that her chaperone for the trip was the most dour and suspicious of nuns.
He pulled himself together. “Sister Margaret, I’d imagine the poor girl is distressed to be saying good-bye to you and the others. It’s no wonder she’s fashed.”
When Donella opened her eyes, her frustrated expression suggested she’d like to cosh him over the head.
Sister Margaret obviously read the same message and laid a gentle hand on Donella’s arm. “I’m sure you’re upset, my child. But Mother gave you excellent advice that will help you to face this particular challenge with a lighter heart. Is that not so?”
The girl visibly collected herself before giving the elderly nun a sweet smile. “Yes. Thank you for the reminder, Sister.”
“You must do more than remember, my child,” Sister chided. “You must act on it, too.”
Donella’s expression changed again, and for a long moment she looked like a sad, lost little girl. Logan had to resist the insane urge to pull her into his arms for a comforting cuddle.
“I will do my best to take Mother’s advice to heart,” she said.
Sister Margaret nodded her approval. “We all have our crosses to bear, my dear. Try to bear yours with a glad heart, and never forget that our heavenly Father will provide.”
Lord Riddick certainly would, anyway. Logan hoped the old fellow would do it without piling on the lectures. That would be adding insult to injury at this point.
“Can’t blame her for being a wee bit snippy, Sister,” he said. “I’d probably feel the same if I found myself tossed out on my—”
Logan caught himself just in time. While the nun regarded him with mild horror, Donella’s gaze was cold enough to send his balls into full retreat.
“There’s no need to linger, Mr. Kendrick,” Sister Margaret said. “We sent Miss Haddon’s trunk down to the inn this morning so it will already be in the carriage.” She glanced up at the sky. “Dusk will come soon enough.”
“I do believe I made that point an hour ago,” Logan replied with polite sarcasm.
When the ladies stared at him again, he mentally winced. Taking potshots at nuns was hardly sporting, even if one of them was now an ex-nun. What the hell was wrong with him?
“Not that I minded waiting,” he added.
Donella turned her back on him, bending gracefully to hug the old woman. “I’ll miss you, Sister. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me.”
Sister Margaret sketched a blessing over her. “Write and tell us how you get on, my dear. And God bless you.”
With a stern nod to Logan, the nun disappeared into the guesthouse.
“Is the carriage waiting outside the gates,” Donella asked, “or down at the inn?”
“It should be here soon. And we’re still waiting for your chaperone, are we not?”
Donella looked blank. “I don’t have a chaperone.”
Oh, hell. “Isn’t one of the sisters coming as an escort?”
“That seems rather redundant. I’ve got you to escort me and, presumably, my uncle’s coachman and grooms.”
“We’ll be on the road for two days. You need a chaperone.” He waved a hand. “You know, to prevent gossip.”
She rolled her eyes. “No one is going to gossip about me, sir. Aside from my immediate family and the servants, no one even knows I’m leaving the convent.”
Logan’s irritation broke free. “I bloody well know, and I have no intention of spending two days on the road with a gently bred spinster.”
Donella regarded him with patent disbelief. “Your virtue is quite safe with me, sir. I just spent the last three years in a convent. Until last week, I was actually a nun.”
She turned on her heel and marched out the convent gates. Logan yanked off his hat, rubbed the back of his head where a headache was gathering, then jammed it back on and started after her.
“I don’t care if yer the Blessed Mother herself,” he said when he’d caught up with her. “Ye canna travel without a proper chaperone.”
When he was annoyed, his brogue tended to surface. And right now he was very annoyed.
Donella flicked a dismissive hand, not breaking stride as they headed down the dusty road toward the inn. The wind kicked up dirt devils and tossed his hat from his head.
Repressing a curse, Logan swiped it up. The lassie, naturally, didn’t wait for him, and he got an excellent if brief view of her pretty ankles when the wind off the nearby firth whipped her dress up around her shins.
Where the hell was the carriage? Foster should have picked them up by now, but he was nowhere in sight. That fit in with every other blasted thing gone wrong today.
He quickly caught up to Donella. “Don’t you even have a maid to accompany you?”
She stopped dead in her tracks, forcing him to skid to a halt.
“What?” he asked in response to her glower.
“I repeat. Until last week I was a nun. Nuns do not have maids.”
“No servants at all?” While he knew little about convents, she was the bloody niece of a rich, influential earl.
“I realize there are many silly myths about Catholics, but nuns do not have servants. And there are no mad monks, wailing ghosts, lurid orgies, or any other of the nonsense you might have heard.”
He swallowed the temptation to joke about orgies. “Och, lass, I have nothing against Papists. In fact, my—”
“I don’t care.”
When she stomped off, Logan couldn’t blame her. He’d sounded like a complete moron. But he was still debating what to do with her. They would spend two nights on the road without a chaperone. He couldn’t believe Lord Riddick hadn’t anticipated this rather pressing need. Did the old fellow really think the girl’s former status would protect her from the way gossip flew about the Highlands? Not likely. Not when she was travelling with a Kendrick male—especially this Kendrick male.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vanessa Kelly is a USA Today Bestselling, award-winning author who was named by Booklist, the review journal of the American Library Association, as one of the “New Stars of Historical Romance.” Her Regency-set historical romances have been nominated in a number of contests, and she has won multiple awards, including the prestigious Maggie Medallion for Best Historical Romance. Her books have been published in nine languages.
Vanessa’s latest book, The Highlander Who Protected Me, was a USA Today, Barnes & Noble, and BookScan bestseller. Her Renegade Royals Series was a national bestseller, as was The Improper Princesses Series. My Fair Princess was named a Goodreads Romance of the Month and is a USA Today and BookScan bestseller. The Highlander’s Princess Bride, book 3 in the series, was a Barnes and Noble top 50 bestseller.
When she’s not dreaming of plots for her next Regency novel, Vanessa is writing USA Today Bestselling books with her husband, under the pen name of V.K. Sykes.
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