Today we’re welcoming two authors and two books and first one up is Vanessa Kelly with Mia Marlowe’s book. You can check out my review of it here.
Not any dashing English lord’s idea of a good time. But now that Lord Alexander Mallory has won a Scottish estate in a hand of cards, he is the unlikely laird of the wild, snowy Bonniebroch.
Worse yet, the ancient pile of stones comes with a betrothal. To a fiery red-headed virgin. And a curse. Alex will have his hands full honoring the first, seducing the second and breaking the third . . . all by Twelfth Night.
Somewhere off the coast of Scotland
The Agatha May rolled with a monstrous swell. Lord Alexander Mallory splayed his hand across the coins and banknotes in the center of the table to keep them from cascading to the plank floor. It was a good thing the table was bolted to the teak or the whole thing might have toppled over.
“That’s one hundred pounds to you, MacMartin,” he said. The stakes of this poque game were ridiculously high, but Alexander had his reasons for allowing it to spiral out of control.
Sir Darren MacMartin dabbed his face with a perfumed handkerchief. At any other time, Alexander might have had sympathy for MacMartin since he suffered so from mal de mer; the man had spent the better part of the voyage leaning over the gunwale. But MacMartin’s seasickness made it more difficult for Alexander to read him when he bluffed.
MacMartin tossed down the required bet and stared at his cards, his face immovable as Gibraltar despite the pinpricks of perspiration blooming on his brow. “So what will you do with yourself in Edinburgh, Mallory?”
“Clarindon and I will help Lord Rankin prepare for the royal progression next August,” Alex said cautiously. “What’s your interest in a Christmastide visit to Scotland?”
“I’ve an estate there which requires my immediate attention,” MacMartin said, frowning at his cards. “Bonniebroch. Means ‘lovely tower,’ or some such silly thing. All in all, it’s a tidy barony, though.”
Alexander already knew that. The estate was the whole point of the game.
“So while you’re in Scotland, you’ll go by Lord Bonniebroch instead of Sir Darren?” Alexander asked.
“I should, especially once the king arrives next summer, in order to show that I hold honors on both sides of the border. He likes that sort of thing, I’m told,” MacMartin said. “I suspect Lord Rankin picked you for this assignment because of your Scottish connections. Should smooth the way, what? If memory serves, your mother was a MacGregor, wasn’t she?”
Alexander’s mouth tightened. The man knew damned well she was. His friend Clarindon tried to change the topic of conversation, but MacMartin returned to worry it like a dog on its last bone.
“Surely that whole sorry business doesn’t still distress you, Mallory. My apologies, if it does. Didn’t mean to bring up . . . I mean, I didn’t think you’d be bothered after all this time.”
Of course, you did. Distracting other players from their hands was MacMartin’s gaming strategy. Alexander waved away the false apology. Besides, it really shouldn’t matter anymore.
Except that it did. And for a blinding second, he was four years old again, weeping over the bit of unconsecrated ground that was his mother’s grave.
“Stop your sniveling,” his father had growled at him. “She doesn’t deserve your tears. Remember, your mother chose to leave us.”
Alexander ran a hand over his eyes and consigned the memory back to the vault where he kept all such disturbing recollections. Occasionally, they crept out to torment him, but he always shoved them away. Someday he hoped he’d be able to make sense of his mother’s end, but he doubted it.
Clarindon tossed in his hand, leaving just MacMartin and Alex still playing. Alexander upped the bid by another two hundred pounds.
“I shall give you my vowels,” MacMartin said as he pulled out a scrap of paper and began to scribble an IOU.
“Sorry, old chap,” Alexander said. “We agreed to a cash in hand game.” Then he purposely scratched his nose, the gesture he’d been using as his tell throughout the game and hoped Sir Darren would rise to the bait.
The man scowled furiously, twisted off his signet ring and slammed it down on the pile of bank notes. It was a barbaric piece, fashioned of heavy gold with a cabochon ruby carved intaglio style. “I will not allow you to buy this pot. That ring signifies the title and estate of Bonniebroch, which is better than cash. Now throw down.” He tossed his cards onto the table face up.
“Three queens,” Alex said with a gulp. “A formidable hand.”
Sir Darren flashed an oily smile. “Show your cards, sir.”
Alex laid them down one at a time, four eights in a lovely row, which handily beat three queens. Then he picked up the signet ring and slipped it on his forefinger. It was much heavier than he expected.
Scottish titles at the rank of baron weren’t dependent upon bloodlines. They could be bought, sold or won in a game of chance, as Alex had just done. The estate at Bonniebroch would give him the pretext he needed to remain in Scotland till the royal visit next August. And would mask his true purpose for being there.
Sir Darren stared at the cards in disbelief. Then he rose shakily to his feet, his eyes narrowing. “Enjoy your winnings while you can, Mallory, much good may they do you.”
“That sounds suspiciously like a threat. Do you feel yourself ill-used? If it’s satisfaction you crave, as soon as we reach dry land, I’m at your disposal.”
“My satisfaction will come from seeing how poorly you fare as Lord Bonniebroch,” MacMartin said. “Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Alex chuckled. “Warn me of what? Is the ‘tidy barony’ nothing but a tumbled down croft with sheep grazing on the roof?”
“You may laugh now. You won’t be laughing after you’ve spent a few nights with the weeping woman. You may not believe in Scottish curses, but I promise you, they are real. Clarindon, I bid you good day.” He bowed to Alexander’s friend and weaved from the cabin, looking greener around the gills than usual.
“Hope he makes it to the rail this time,” Clarindon said as he helped Alex scoop up the impressive pile of winnings. “What do you make of his talk of curses?”
“We’re within spitting distance of Scotland, aren’t we?” Alex glanced out the porthole, catching a glimpse of the hazy coastline of his mother’s homeland before another swell washed over the heavy glass. “I’d only be surprised if there was no talk of a curse.”
Don’t miss a chance to read “Plaid to the Bone”, now FREE on:
*** *** ***
*One lucky Commenter will end up with ‘Plaid Tidings’ by Mia Marlowe!
GIVEAWAY: US/ Canada, print or Kindle copy!
Won’t you join our celebration by:
1) Telling us what you liked about this Excerpt and why…
2) Subscribing to our Blog…
3) ‘LIKE’ -ing us on our Facebook!
All three is required for aTRIPLE chance to win in theGrand Giveaway!
If a follower & FB buddy, just COMMENT on the upcoming posts and you’ll be entered.
*** *** ***
AUTHOR INFO: Vanessa Kelly is an award-winning author who was named by Booklist as one of the “New Stars of Historical Romance.” Her sensual, Regency-set historical romances have been nominated for awards in a number of contests, and her second book, ‘Sex and The Single Earl‘, won the prestigious Maggie Medallion for Best Historical Romance. Her third book, ‘My Favorite Countess‘, was nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Regency Historical Romance.
Vanessa’s next series, The Renegade Royals, is due to hit the shelves in November with an introductory novella, ‘Lost in a Royal Kiss‘. Book One in the series, ‘Secrets For Seducing a Royal Bodyguard‘, will release in January, 2014.