Published by Scarsdale Publishing on April 30th 2017
No one guessed that an innocent would bring the Devil of Delny to his knees…
Spinster Chastity Hamilton is the Duke of Roxburgh’s heir. Her father insists she marry. She insists that the man who wins her hand must first find matches for her three younger sisters. Sir Stirling James takes up the challenge, and the sisters are shocked when he announces the engagement of their youngest sister to the Devil of Delny.
When Quin Ramsey’s surrogate brother Sir Stirling James informs him he is to wed the fourth daughter of a lesser duke, he refuses. But when he waltzes with the lovely innocent, he realizes that he wants no other man to waltz with her
Other books in the Marriage Maker seriesThe Marriage Wager--He lost at cards, but won at love…A Lady by Chance--He bargained for a lady, but the hoyden stole his heart…How to Catch an Heiress--It takes cunning to catch an heiress…and a handsome face doesn’t hurt
Who doesn’t love the idea of a handsome Highlander playing cupid? Make this handsome rogue’s reward for marrying three sisters to good men the hand of the eldest sister in marriage, and you’ve got The Marriage Maker series.
We loved the fairy tale idea of the hero accepting the challenge of bringing about a happily-ever-after ending. Our regency romp begins with a decree from the Duke of Roxburg that his eldest daughter will wed—come what may. Chastity finds a very unique way of avoiding marriage. A plan that just might backfire if the Marriage Maker has his way. Each book in The Marriage Maker series is a complete romance of its own…and brings Chastity one step closer to her destiny.
Inverness, Scotland 1811
Chastity resisted the urge to fling her morning tea at her father as he paced the floor at the head of the breakfast table. Her three sisters—Jessica especially, who seldom sat more than five minutes without causing some small havoc—managed to keep neutral expressions when he bemoaned his advanced age.
Chastity bit back a laugh when Jessica silently mouthed his words as he said, “I have no male heir; therefore, it is your responsibility to marry and give me an heir to carry on my title.” Three years ago, Chastity would have interrupted the speech. Now, however, she waited as he added, “I am old. Don’t I deserve to go to my grave knowing the title doesn’t end with me?”
“Papa, please,” Lucy, the youngest, interjected as she always did, “we cannot bear to hear you talk as if you will die tomorrow.”
“For all we know, I may,” the duke replied with his usual dramatic flair. He turned his stare onto Chastity. “You will marry.”
In the past, Chastity had answered with a dozen different arguments. ‘I am young and carry your title. I have plenty of time to find a suitable husband.’ Or, ‘Would you doom me to a life shackled to a fortune hunter?’ Today, she said, “What will become of my sisters if my husband doesn’t care for them as we do?”
Lucy smiled affectionately at him. “You cannot blame Chastity for wanting to find a man as kind as you.”
Lucy, only seventeen, was by far the wisest, for she understood the power of flattery on a man. This time, however, even her shrewd maneuverings failed to move their sire.
He stared down at Chastity, eyes bright with an intelligence untouched by his fifty-five years. “Ye have put me off for five years, Daughter. No more. You will marry within two months.”
“Two months?” Olivia blurted. “It cannot be done.”
He ignored Olivia. “You are twenty-four years old, Chastity, and well on the shelf.”
This argument was familiar, but she couldn’t halt the retort. “Even were I grayed with a grizzled chin, I would still have suitors. Few men care about age or beauty when a title is included. I will always have my pick of marriageable men.”
His eyes blazed. “Then pick one—or I will.”
He reached into his coat pocket, withdrew a document, and tossed it onto the table. It slid a few inches, then halted against a plate of eggs. Chastity caught sight of the header Robert Campbell Esquire, her father’s solicitor—and the words ‘Marriage License’ below his name.
She snapped her gaze onto the duke. “You wouldn’t dare.”
Olivia picked up the document and unfolded it. Her eye caught on the word ‘Bride’ and— She looked up. “Oh dear, that is your name.”
Olivia turned the document toward her. Chastity’s gaze shifted to Olivia’s place-keeping fingertip where her name was written. Olivia scanned ahead to the groom’s name. Blank. Maybe their father wasn’t serious, after all, but only meant to frighten Chastity.
She looked up. “At least the groom’s name isn’t recorded.”
Chastity shot to her feet, heedless of the napkin that dropped from her lap. “You would marry me to some stranger?”
The duke shrugged. “Not a stranger. Lord Hathaway comes to mind. As you well know, he expressed an interest in marrying you this last year.”
“Eww.” Jessica shuddered. “He’s old.”
Chastity curled her fingers into fists. “Not to mention despicable.”
“He is a very decent man, and he would take good care of ye.”
“No doubt,” she muttered. “He is twenty-five years my senior, and would enjoy a young wife in his bed.”
“A man expects to enjoy his wife’s charms.”
She started to reply, but he cut her off. “Marry, or I will sign these papers.”
He didn’t mean it. He couldn’t. But the glint in his eyes revealed a determination she’d never before seen.
“Would you really see me wed Lord Hathaway?”
“He is a good man. I have no qualms with him.”
Chastity leaned on the table for support. “And it matters not that I do not want him?”
“You do not want anyone,” he said with an effort at calm.
“How could I want any of the men you have paraded before me these past years? They are greedy, stupid, weak-kneed idiots. That is the sort of man you want to sire your grandchildren?”
Jessica shoved aside a lock of red hair that had escaped her chignon. “There was Lord Everson. He was not weak or stupid.”
“Jessica.” Olivia cast a quick look at their father, but his expression revealed nothing of his memory of the fortune hunter who had raced with Chastity to Gretna Green four years ago.
“I would rather see the title die than marry—” Chastity broke off at the thunderous look in her father’s eyes.
“Rather than marry…” he repeated in a quiet voice.
She swallowed against a dry throat. “I will not marry Hathaway.”
“If you haven’t married another within two months, you will.”
“Two months?” Chastity blurted. Her head whirled.
Even Lucy blanched at the decree. “What of Lord Blakely?” she quickly asked. “He is preferable to a relic—er, gentleman—such as Lord Hathaway. He is only three years older than you.”
Chastity snorted. “He is an arrogant fop. His mother governs him.” The thought of his long white fingers touching her intimately soured her stomach.
Lucy exchanged a knowing glance with Olivia, then said, “Truly, papa, two months is unreasonable. Four months, at least. We cannot have even a decent wedding gown sewn in so short a time.”
“What of my sisters?” Chastity demanded. “Who will care for them when I am gone?”
“It isn’t Chastity’s fault that she spent the last eight years being our mother,” Jessica said.
Chastity started at the wistful note in Jessica’s voice. Did she still miss their mother so desperately?
Lucy patted Jessica’s hand. “Of course, it isn’t her fault, but perhaps we have stood in Chastity’s way of finding happiness.”
Chastity blinked. “What?”
“You have selflessly cared for us these eight years.” Lucy smiled gently. “You deserve a family of your own.”
“You are my family,” Chastity insisted.
“It is your duty to marry,” the duke said. “Your sisters will follow suit.” He waved a hand. “You only set an example for them in avoiding marriage.”
The younger sisters cried out in protest.
“You know nothing of your daughters,” Chastity said coldly. “They are women of sense who will not marry out of obligation.”
He nodded slowly. “Another notion you put into their heads.”
Chastity pursed her lips. “I suppose you will marry them to some old reprobate if they don’t follow your dictates.”
“Chastity,” Olivia and Lucy said in unison.
“Your three sisters will have no trouble finding husbands,” he continued. “Olivia had two offers, but you said the men weren’t up to snuff, so she rejected them. It is because of you that she has no family.”
The younger sisters gasped.
Chastity scooped up her teacup and hurled it at her father. Tea spewed across Olivia’s pale blue morning dress. He barely jerked aside as the cup whizzed a hair’s breadth past his nose then crashed into the marble hearth behind him.
He shifted his gaze onto the shattered china, stared for two heartbeats, then slowly turned cold eyes onto his daughter. “I tolerated your mother’s temper. I will not tolerate yours.”
A chill raced across her arms at the deadly quiet in his voice. Her heart pounded. “I will not marry Hathaway,” she whispered.
“Then marry another.”
He was serious. Her head swam. She couldn’t bear life with the moon-faced Lord Hathaway. If she didn’t find someone else— She felt sick.
Lucy jumped to her feet and hurried around the table to her. “Look, Papa, you have upset her. Come.” She eased Chastity back onto her chair. “You must not worry about us,” Lucy said. “We are old enough to care for ourselves. We are all going to enjoy a season—this is to my first, remember? Who knows, we might find husbands of our own. We wouldn’t want to leave you all alone. You may search for a nice gentleman when you chaperone us this season.”
Chastity looked at her. “What did you say?”
“I said, you will probably find a very nice gentleman this year at some ball we attend.”
Not bloody likely, she thought. Despite Lucy’s youth, she was too wise to fall for the first handsome man who whispered pretty nothings in her ear. Jessica had no intention of marrying—ever. Olivia— Shame stabbed. Was her father right, had she doomed Olivia’s last two offers? Bah! The men were not worthy of her sister, nor had they understood her bluestocking ways. The fact no other gentleman had offered for her only demonstrated the male sex’s insecurities. Olivia found more pleasure in her books than she would in a man. She would be miserable with anyone who insisted she give them up.
Chastity looked at the duke. “What if I agree to marry?”
A hard glint appeared in his eyes. “Refuse and I marry you to the first man who proves he can use a sword.”
Her fingers itched to snatch up the saucer and hurl it. “Use his sword, you mean.”
“As you will,” he muttered.
She forced calm and said, “I have a proposition.”
Quinn Ramsey, the infamous Devil of Delny, leaned back in his library’s padded chair and saluted his surrogate brother with a lift of his sherry glass. He drank the contents in one gulp, then set the glass on the table between them. “I will marry once I am old enough to know the difference between lust and love.”
“Christ, Quinn, didn’t I teach you the difference?” Stirling propped his booted foot on the chaise lounge and rested his elbow on his knee. “It has been almost a year. How long do ye plan to ignore your father’s dying wish?”
Quinn nodded toward the windows overlooking the hills beyond his estate. “Have you ever noticed how the gloaming loses color as the hours tick into night?”
“Darkness tends to do that to the sky, lad.”
Quinn returned his gaze to Stirling. “I will not have the light and color leeched out of my life by some conniving, title-seeking chit—and her mamma.”
Stirling picked up his glass of sherry from the table to his left. “I was present when your father died, remember? I am not a man to give my promise lightly.”
Quinn blew out an exasperated breath. “You and that damned promise. “How many times must I hear about it?”
“Until you keep your promise.”
The young man grimaced. “You mean, until I shackle myself to some milk-faced female who will bear me milk-faced children, a milk-faced heir in particular. Then she will delight me further by nightly sitting in front of the hearth, dutifully awaiting my return home. Thank you, but no.”
Stirling sipped his sherry. “Your word means nothing, then?”
It did, damn him for knowing that. “I never promised when I would marry.”
“The when is now, my young friend. I have just the woman for you.”
“God help me, I can imagine the sort of harridan you would choose for me.”
Amusement twitched the corner of Stirling’s mouth. “Indeed?”
“A fearsome female to reform the Devil of Delny.”
“Every man who marries must reform in some way,” Stirling said with a straight face.
Quinn gave him a narrow-eyed look. “Spoken like a man with no plans to wed, you lucky lout. It is only fair that I don’t have to marry until you do.”
Stirling sipped more sherry. ‘When I marry, you will marry, eh?”
He shrugged carelessly. “Why not? If you shun marriage, I should enjoy the same privilege.”
“What if I were to marry, say, five weeks from now?”
Quinn snorted. “You? I am more likely to marry before you. I haven’t forgotten all the times you deftly avoided marriage—and warned me to steer clear of matchmaking mammas.”
“I stand by my assessment,” Stirling said.
Quinn’s housekeeper entered with a tray of light refreshments, including oatcakes, a selection of cheeses, and sliced fruit. She set the tray on the table between them.
“Still trying to fatten me up with some of your apple-walnut scones, Mrs. McPhee?” Stirling teased.
“If you say so, sir,” she replied crisply. “I can’t help it if they’re a favorite of yours.” She straightened and faced Quinn. “Will ye need anything further, my lord?”
“Nae. Thank you, Mrs. McPhee.”
When she left, Stirling selected a scone, took a bite, then said, “I concede your point. Most mammas do not represent their daughters with honesty. Still, being a titled lord carries responsibility.”
Quinn frowned. “I would trade places with you in a moment. You are a lucky devil to wed as you please.”
“You are right, and what I please is to wed in June.”
Ramsey blinked. “What? You are jesting.”
“I have never been more serious in my life. June first, I will marry Lady Chastity.”
Ramsey frowned. “Never heard of her. I don’t believe you. The marriage of one of Scotland’s wealthiest shipping barons—and most eligible bachelors in Inverness—would make every paper.”
Stirling laughed. “You give me far too much credit. I am a simple businessman.”
“I have known you longer than anyone. Not to mention, I accompanied you on your trip to Spain last month. That deal you made for those three ships wasn’t made by a simple businessman—and you had no plans for marriage.” Quinn popped an oatcake into his mouth.
Stirling grimaced. “Don’t remind me of that trip. I nearly took the bullet meant for you.”
“Not true,” he replied, feeling oddly wounded. “Betsy’s aim isn’t that good. She never came close with that muff pistol. It was the knife that had me worried.” He shuddered. “She must have learned how to use the damned thing from her husband.”
“That will teach you to dally with married women.” Stirling reached for another scone.
“That’s what I get for dallying with the wife of a butcher. Though I didn’t know that until it was too late, so don’t lecture me. She was an actress—the good friend of the actress you dallied with. So you can’t pretend we’re any different.”
“Perhaps,” Stirling said. “But my actress didn’t try to shoot—or fillet—me.”
“You have eleven years on me, man. By the time I’m your age, I’ll be as skilled with the ladies as you.”
It was Stirling’s turn to shudder. “Perish the thought. By the time you’re my age, you will be an old married man with four children.”
Ramsey widened his eyes in horror. “If you are trying to talk me into marriage, you’re going about it the wrong way.” Stirling’s expression sobered and Ramsey silently cursed. He knew that look, and it never boded well for him.
“How old did you say you were, now?” Stirling asked.
Quinn eyed him. “Twenty-one, as ye well know.”
“Four years remain before you come into your full inheritance.”
“Don’t bother with blackmail,” Quinn retorted. “You can keep the bloody inheritance. I would rather join the navy until I come of age than shackle myself to a wife who will make my life hell and then send me to an early grave.”
“Not all women are like Dahlia, your father’s second wife. Some are like your mother.” He paused and chuckled. “Iona suited your father in every way—his will of iron included—and he loved her with every breath he took. When she died, a part of him died along with her.”
“I know Iona was the only mother you ever knew,” Quinn said. “But Dahlia is the only mother I knew. Now you’re asking me to do the very same thing my father did: marry to ensure the title. That’s how he ended up with that bitch.”
Stirling regarded him. “When did you last hear from her?”
Quinn refilled their glasses, then threw himself back against the chair cushion. “Two days ago. She made sure I knew that she’d read in the paper about the ships you purchased in Spain.” He grunted a laugh. “Then she had the audacity to ask for more money.”
“I’m sorry, Quinn.”
Quinn shook his head. “Oh, you know I don’t blame you. She only favors you to hurt me.”
“You sent her the money, I assume?”
Quinn stared into the fire. “Father would have wanted it.”
“Aye, he would. Just as he would want you to keep your promise.”
“We know Dahlia has a nasty disposition,” Stirling cut in. “And, aye, she is the only mother ye knew. But she’s not the only woman you’ve known. Your father’s sister is one of the kindest women to walk this earth. So, forego the threat to join the navy. We both know how badly you would fare. For one, you suffer from seasickness. Second, you would spend all your time in the brig, for refusal to take orders. Your father begged you to marry within the year. That date is two weeks away.”
Ramsey’s chest constricted with the memory of his father lying in bed, his body a shell of its former strength. “I didn’t agree to that,” he said, then added when Stirling started to reply, “It matters not, I will no’ marry simply to appease a man who no longer lives. He can’t know the difference.”
“You can,” Stirling said in a soft voice.
“I won’t marry to satisfy my father—or you,” he said with heat. “I weary of this subject, Stirling. Too many men marry women like Dahlia. I have no desire to be one of them.”
“You like women well enough,” Stirling said.
“Aye, they can be pleasant.” He grimaced. “Until they open their mouths.”
Stirling ducked his head and Quinn felt certain he hid a laugh.
Stirling rose and stretched. “I must return home. There is a ball two days hence. I shall send you the particulars. You will meet the young lady who is to be your wife.”
Quinn shot to his feet. “I will not marry.”
“You did say that if I marry, you will marry. As I said, I am to wed June first.”
“Nae,” Quinn began, but Stirling shook his head.
“In this, you will do as I command, for I can do far worse to you than any navy commander.”
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