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Lady Maura O’Donnell swore to her father that she would recover the Circle of Light, an enchanted Celtic relic that had brought the family prosperity—until it was stolen two centuries earlier by a notorious pirate. Now the pirate’s descendant, the Duke of Gleneden, holds this rare treasure, and Maura will do anything to get it back

Alec McBride knows when he’s been had. Lady Maura tricked him into marriage, and now she’ll pay. He’ll tempt her, tame her—until she sorely wishes she’d never heard of the Duke of Gleneden. Caught up in their game of revenge, Alec and Maura never notice what is happening in their hearts—until it’s too late.

It's a four-author extravaganza -- and it's FREE! Available only on this website and the websites of Julia Quinn, Kathryn Caskie, and Elizabeth Boyle, get the free poster of four bookmarks heralding their latest releases. Cut them out or leave the pdf whole, this is a collectors' item. Tell your friends!

 


 

February 24, 2009
Avon

ISBN-10 0060899409
ISBN-13 978-0060899400

 

 

Bride of a Wicked Scotsman

Alec McBride, Duke of Gleneden, is the very first Duke I’ve written.

The pirate you read about in the excerpt, Grace O’Malley, really did exist. Until my research trip to Ireland, I hadn’t a clue there had ever been a female pirate, yet alone a 16th century pirate.

Also in the aforementioned excerpt, Maura tells Alec the legend of how Giant’s Causeway came to be -- the legend of Finn McCool, an Irish giant pitted against a Scottish giant. I had no trouble envisioning Finn McCool lumbering toward Scotland and leaving those giant stair steps behind. Pretty amazing. Giant’s Causeway is sometimes called the eighth natural wonder of the world.

My fellow travelers laughed at me for packing a stocking cap, gloves, scarf and winter coat for a mid-July trip to Ireland. Did I need it? Oh, yes. My advice for a summer in the Emerald Isle? Pack your winter gear—and hang onto your if you’re at the Cliffs of Moher. A gust of wind took mine sailing away across the Atlantic.

Driving can be a little tricky in Ireland. No big deal, I thought, since a handheld navigation system came with the car rental. The nav was quickly nicknamed Molly. Molly liked to take shortcuts – soon to be dubbed Molly-cuts. Mischievous Molly liked to take one far-afield . . . Molly must have been taken over by leprechauns.

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Bestseller News!!
#20 on the New York Times bestseller list for the week ending March 15th - it spent a total of three weeks on the NYT!
#47 on the USA Today list – a total of three weeks on the USA Today

 

Romantic Times Top Pick with 4 1/2 stars!

"With a hero who's not so much wicked as delicious, James merges the aura of an ancient legend into a wondrous love story. The magic is truly in her storytelling and the depth of emotion and sensuality she brings to each perfect tale."
-- Kathe Robin for Romantic Times BOOK reviews
(posted 2.24.09)

 
 

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Bride of a Wicked ScotsmanAlec McBride, Duke of Gleneden, stood at the edge of the ballroom and scanned the crowd once more. It was really quite a crush. A faint smile rimmed his lips. He'd never been particularly fond of masquerades. But as he was the guest of honor, he was obliged to work his way around the room, shaking the hands of those he’d met during his time here -- despite the costumes.

He spied Lady Alicia McDormand, dressed as a vampiress. Another dressed as Marie Antoinette with her great white wig. A man sauntered by, enrobed in black, with a deep cowl that completely shadowed his face. The man paused, and when a hand with great claws emerged to bring the fingers of a gaily laughing witch to his lips, Alec chuckled. He was acquainted with the inspiration for the man’s costume. Tonight he was The Demon of Dartmoor penned by his brother Aidan’s wife, known to the world as F.J. Sparrow.

They would laugh when they learned the frenzy had extended to Ireland. Of course now they were halfway around the world on their honeymoon.

Ah, yes, while he’d enjoyed his time in Ireland, he was chafing to be home. He’d remained in London in the spring for Aidan’s wedding. He’d visited Annie and Simon in Yorkshire, and his mother in Bath prior to making his trip to Ireland. He wouldn’t forego the baron’s invitation, not when his father and the baron had been such great friends. But the thought of returning to Gleneden, sitting in the great hall in his favorite chair, his feet propped up and sipping a whiskey at his leisure, was appealing beyond belief. And--

The thought stopped mid-stream.

He was obliged to revise it.

Ah, yes, he decided. Appealing beyond belief . . .

His return to Scotland was forgotten. He stood some twenty paces distant near a tall fluted column when he spied her . . . a woman who gazed into the throng as if searching for someone.

The set of her shoulders was proud. She was tall for a woman, but small-boned. Brave of her to appear with her hair loose -- and bold of her, he thought with a vent of admiration, to wear a skirt that clung to her hips, revealing the shape of her buttocks as she turned ever so slightly. Aware of a low simmer alight in his belly, he surveyed her, an admiring assessment.

She was exquisite. Indeed, there was much to appreciate about the lady.

And most fortuitous for him that her costume of choice was the same as his, for it provided him an avenue of introduction.

Almost before he knew it, Alec found himself standing before her. He had no memory of crossing the black and white tiled floor.

He executed a slight bow. As he straightened, he secured two glasses of wine from a passing footman and handed one to her.

“Good evening, my fellow pirate,” he said smoothly. “Are you expecting someone? Your escort, perhaps?”

He gazed straight into her eyes, eyes that were a startling, vivid shade of green. At his question, the lovely said nothing, but shook her head. The tip of her tongue came out to run over her lips, leaving them dewy and damp, the color of blooming heather after a misting of rain. Desire, sharp and swift, clamped hold of him. He was a startled at its strength.

Alec’s gaze had already roved her from head to toe. Her skin was almost iridescent, and no doubt as smooth as a pearl, he was certain. Alec battled the impulse to reach out and touch, to confirm his assessment.

As if he needed such an excuse. He was well aware he was right.

Her breasts quivered with a deep, indrawn breath. Alec quite enjoyed the view. She gazed up at him. Her feet were braced slightly apart, one slim hand on her cutlass, as if, indeed, she balanced herself on the rolling deck of her ship.

And certainly there was nothing tentative in her appraisal of him. It was no less thorough than his. Alec took a swallow of wine, aware of her forthright study. Was it bedding she wanted? If so, he would accommodate. Oh, indeed, quite obligingly.

But he discovered himself rather impatient. Dammit, he wanted to hear her voice. Sweet and musical? Low and sensuous? The latter, he decided.

“I applaud your costume.” He allowed a faint smile to curl his lips. “I believe it is the first time I’ve seen a lady play the part of pirate.”

“Indeed.” He was right. Her voice was low. Vibrant. “Have ye never heard of Ireland’s most famous lady-pirate, Grace O’Malley?”

“I have not. Pray tell me of this pirate.”

Bride of a Wicked ScotsmanShe smiled, running her tongue over her lips again. A stab of sheer, raw desire bolted through Alec. Vaguely he wondered how she would taste . . . He had to drag his gaze away from her lips to concentrate on what she was saying.

“Many called Grace O’Malley The Sea Queen Of Connaught. Her father was involved in shipping and trading. Irish legend tells it that as a young girl, Grace wished to accompany her father on a trading expedition. When she was told she could not because her hair would catch in the ship's ropes, she cut it off.” She gave a low, husky laugh, flipping her own hair back over her shoulder.

Alec took a sip of wine. His gaze had sharpened. Beneath her pirate’s scarf, her hair was beautiful. Thick, tumbling waves flowed down her back, the glossy black of a raven. Of course, if their meeting had been under other circumstances, her hair would have been hidden neatly tucked beneath a bonnet, or pulled back into a tight, restrained bun, no doubt. Instead, it was wild and unrestrained . . . as wild and unrestrained as she was, he suspected.

“I should imagine every man here is glad you did not do as the young Grace O’Malley,” he murmured. “I should consider it almost sacrilege.”

She made no comment, but continued. “Even once she was wed, Grace sailed the seas. A fierce sailor, our Grace O’Malley, who would not be beaten down by the English as they tried to take over Irish lands.”

“She sounds quite fierce. Why, I almost hate to reveal to you that I am half-English.”

Her head tipped to the side. Black, piquant brows arched high. Wordlessly she eyed his plaid.

Alec gave a mock sigh. “And aye, half-Scots.”

“In truth?”

“Oh, aye, in truth. Does that mean I shall be unable to curry favor with you?”

A slow-growing smile edged her lips. “Are you familiar with the Giant’s Causeway in Antrim?”

“I am. I visited there a scant three days ago.” Alec was reminded of the huge basalt columns, descending from the cliffs to the sea like giant steps.

“Then perhaps you’ve heard of the legend of Finn McCool, who lived there with his wife Oonagh. From across the channel there, the Scottish giant Benandonner began taunting him, telling Finn that he was but a wee giant compared to him. Benandonner declared that he was the stronger and he could prove it, if only the channel did not stand in the way.”

She ran a finger around the rim of her wine glass, all the while maintaining that alluring smile. “Now, Finn could not stand for such insult from his Scottish rival. So Finn built a causeway out of the stones to cross the water and demanded that Benandonner come prove himself. Alas, Finn was so exhausted from building the causeway, that when Benandonner came, he needed a wee rest before battling him. Thus, his wife Oonag disguised Finn as a baby and put him in a cradle, should Benandonner come before Finn was ready.” His lady-pirate spread her hands wide. In some far distant part of his mind, he noted her tendency to speak with her hands as well.

“And Benandonner did indeed come chasing after Finn, thinking to best him. Yet when Benandonner arrived and spied Finn sleeping quietly in his cradle, he feared the mighty giant Finn even more after seeing Finn’s ‘baby’. So frightened was he that he had not the courage to face Finn. He fled back to Scotland, terrified, tearing up the causeway so Finn could not follow.”

Alec tipped his head to the side. “I have heard this story. But I was told the Scottish giant was much larger than the Irish.”

His lovely lady-pirate waggled her finger back and forth. “Oh, no, no.” She spread her fingers, turning her hand palm up. “However, even if that were true, Finn’s wife Oonagh proved herself the smarter of either of them.”

Alec laughed softly. “At first I was convinced I must prepare to defend my Scottish heritage. And now I find I must defend my gender as well.” He gazed down at her. “Perhaps we should resume our role as pirates. Are we acquainted with each other?”

“I think not.”

“Never on the high seas? Fighting over the booty of a ship gone down? In port where we shared . . . perhaps . . . a pint or two of ale or a bottle of rum?”

 “I daresay,” she said lightly, “that we are evenly matched on the high seas, sir. And” -- she drank from her wine, smiling as she did so. That seductive smile was still in place as she lowered the glass. “Perhaps elsewhere as well,” she finished with a faint laugh.

“I see.” Alec leaned against the pillar, as if considering. “A pity. I could hardly call myself a pirate were I not the sort to kidnap ladies and do . . . ” He let the sentence trail away, his meaning clear.

She met and matched him full-on. “Perhaps you should fear what I might do were I to kidnap you, Scotsman. Why, I might take you to some warm, distant island across the ocean. You’d be forced to spend long nights alone in my cabin. And when we arrived, why, I might bind you. Tie you to a tree so I might indulge my preferences. You see, at such times I have this urgent . . . need, shall we say.”

“Need?” He arched a brow. “What need?” Her lips were damp and red from the wine. He wanted them wet with the wash of his tongue.

“It is the land, you see. After those many days and nights at sea, I revel in the feel of land beneath my feet. And it’s then--”

“Yes?”

“--that I prefer to dance naked round the fire. I fear it is the pirate in me.”

Alec threw back his head and laughed. A coquette? Without question. No timid miss here. The brazen display of her breasts, her suggestive, outrageous banter, all proclaimed otherwise.

A tiny smile lingered at the corner of her lips. Alec watched as she swallowed the remainder of her wine. “Why have I not seen you before today? Are you a guest of the baron’s?” Lord above, he’d have remembered those emerald eyes. He’d never seen such lush, brilliant green . . . as green as the landscape of this rocky isle.

“Only for tonight,” she said.

“Then perhaps introductions are in order.” He wanted to know who she was. “I am--”

“Wait!” She held up a hand. “No, no! Do not tell me. This is a masquerade, is it not? A night to disguise our true selves. What say we dispense with names?” That tiny smile evolved into seduction itself.

Alec laughed. She was sheer delight. And quite the flirt. “As you wish, Irish.”

“That is my wish, Scotsman.”

Bride of a Wicked ScotsmanAlec settled down to enjoy the thrust-and-parry. “May I get you something? A plate perhaps? The desserts are quite exquisite.” God help him, the dessert he had in mind was her.

“I am quite satisfied just as I am.”

He was not, thought Alec with unabashed fervor. “Well, then, Irish, perhaps you would care to dance?” Manners dictated he ask. He allowed a smile to curve his lips. “Much to my regret, however, I fear you’ll not be able to dance naked round the fire.”

Oh, but that was a sight he would dearly love to see! Beneath her eye mask, her cheekbones were high, the line of her jaw daintily formed. He longed to tear away the mask, to see the whole of her face, to appreciate every last feature.

She gave a mock sigh. “Alas, you are right, Scotsman. And truth be told, I should only be so inclined if you were to dance naked round the fire with me.”

By heaven, he was right. She was not just a flirt, she was quite an accomplished flirt!

Their eyes met. Meshed. Alec moved so that their sleeves touched. Her smell drifted to his nostrils. Warm, sweet flesh, and the merest hint of perfume.

He wanted her. He was not a rogue. Not a man for whom lust struck quickly and blindly. He was not a man to trespass where he should not. He was discreet in his relationships. He was not a man to take a tumble simply for the sake of slaking passion.

Never had he experienced a rush of such passion. Moreover, so quickly. He'd wanted women before, but not like this. Never like this. Never had Alec desired a woman the way he desired this one. What he felt was immediate. Intoxicating. A little overwhelming, even. Not that he should desire her. She was, after all, a woman who would turn any man’s eye. It was simply that the strength of his desire caught him by surprise.

Perhaps it was this masquerade. Her suggestion that they remain anonymous.

He cupped his palm beneath her elbow. “There are so many people. The air grows stale. Shall we walk?”

Laughing green eyes turned up to his. “I thought you should never ask.”

A stone terrace ran the length of the house. They passed a few other couples, strolling arm in arm. All at once, she stumbled. Quite deliberately, Alec knew. Not that he was disinclined to play the rescuer.

He caught her by the waist and brought her around to face him. “Careful, Irish.”

“Thank you, Scotsman. I am in your debt.” She gazed up at him, her fingertips poised on his chest, moist lips raised to his.

Alec’s gut tightened. She was so tempting. Too tempting to resist. Too tempting to even try.

A smile played about his lips. Behind her mask, invitation glimmered in her eyes. “Is it a kiss you’re wanting, Irish?” He knew very well that she did.

“Are you asking permission, Scotsman?”

The smoldering inside him deepened. “No. But, I have a confession to make.” He lowered his head so that their lips almost touched. “I’ve never kissed an Irish lass before.”

“And I’ve never kissed a Scotsman before.”

“So once again it seems we are evenly matched, are we not?”

“Mmmm, so it would seem--”

Alec could stand no more. That was as far as she got. His mouth trapped hers. A jolt shot through him the instant their lips touched. He felt a tremor of reaction in her, and he knew then just how much she returned his passion. His mouth opened over hers. He'd wanted women before. But not like he wanted this one. It was as if she'd cast a spell over him.

Bride of a Wicked ScotsmanAnd he kissed her the way he’d wanted to all evening, with a heady thoroughness, delving into the far corners of her mouth with the heat of his tongue. Tasting the promise inside her. Harder, until he was almost mindless with need.

She tore her mouth away. She was panting softly. “Scotsman!” she whispered.

Alec opened his eyes. His breathing was labored. It took a moment for his eyes to focus, for her words to penetrate his consciousness.

“What if we should be seen? Perhaps – we should go elsewhere.”

There was no mistaking her meaning. His Irish lady-pirate was willing -- and he was quite wanting. Oh yes, definitely wanting.

“I agree, Irish. I quite agree.” He tugged at her hand and started to lead her toward the next set of double-doors.

“Where are you taking me?”

He stopped short. “What! I thought you knew, Irish.”

“Tell me.”

He slid his hand beneath her hair and turned her face up to his. “Why, I’m about to kidnap you, Irish.” He smiled against her lips. “I fear it is the pirate in me.”


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