A Yuletide Highlander
Having fled her childhood home, noblewoman Sarah Paine has one thought when she barges into Gregor McTavish’s office… Escaping the blackguards chasing her. She never expected the brawny Highlander to endanger his life to help her, or that his gallantry and kindness would earn her trust and eventually win her heart. Neither could she anticipate the impossible choice she’d have to make…Her love for Gregor or her brother’s safety.
When Gregor left Scotland to start a new life in England, he gave up his dream of becoming a doctor. A year later, bored and no closer to finding the contentment he sought, he reluctantly decides to return home. Until a desperate, bonnie lass interrupts his plans. He convinces Sarah to trust him and accept his protection, but what was meant as a distraction becomes something much more meaningful, and he doesn’t ever want to let her go.
For the first time in his life, Gregor anticipates celebrating Christmas, but the madman pursuing Sarah casts a shadow over the holiday. Can the Yuletide work its magic, allowing Gregor to apprehend the fiend and at last bring him and Sarah the love and peace they desperately seek?
In this humorous scene, our heroine Sarah Paine hasn’t told our hero her real name. She and her brother have been running for their lives, but Gregor McTavish wants to know who the woman is he’s taken under his wing. Even though Gregor has been perfect gentleman, gallant even, she’s not certain she can trust him.
Cat continued to make little chirping noises and nudged Sarah’s ankles.
“Come here.” She gathered the tubby feline into her arms, burying her face in his fur.
Cat closed his eyes, and contented rumbles echoed from his fluffy chest.
“I’ve never had a pet,” she said. “Except for Biscuit, my yellow-billed parrot. I always wanted a dog though. Once, when I was a little girl, I saw a long, skinny dog with short legs at Port Royal. He was black with reddish-brown markings and looked like a long sausage with fat feet. He was the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. If I ever have a dog, I want one like that,” she declared with a firm nod.
Not much chance of that ever happening. Not when she could scarcely feed herself and Chris. Cutting Gregor a side-eyed peek through her lashes, mischievousness swept her. “And I shall name it Sausage.” The latter she declared to make the Highlander laugh and see if she’d been right about the lines framing his eyes.
He sliced her a disbelieving look and chuckled, the sound a mellow rustle deep in his chest, as he settled into the other chair.
She hid a grin in Cat’s back. Very nice indeed. She quite liked his laugh.
Some men’s were harsh and grating, but his reverberated in his chest, a welcoming, warm invitation to join in his humor. Sarah also liked his melodious brogue. It, too, invited one to listen to his lilting speech. To snuggle into his chest, place her ear upon the wide expanse, and melt into the sound.
“Biscuit? Ye named a bird Biscuit?” He slapped his knee and chortled again. “And ye want to name a dog Sausage?”
The bird’s name wasn’t that funny.
She raised an eyebrow. Her most reproachful one. “Must I remind you that you have a fat feline named Cat, Highlander? And you dare laugh because, as a little girl, I couldn’t pronounce Hibiscus?” Another wave of melancholy bathed her. “I had to leave her behind. I don’t know what happened to her.”
He’d removed his coat and rolled up his shirt sleeves. Resting his forearms on his knees, sympathy softened his face. “I am sorry, lass. Ye’ve no’ had an easy time of it, but we need to decide what to do next. I dinna think Santano will easily give up lookin’ for ye.”
The coals glowed reddish-orange, their flames radiating delicious heat. The high sides of the chair captured the warmth, and for the first time in a long while, Sarah enjoyed a toasty fire as well as a small sense of contentment.
Keeping her expression carefully neutral, she threaded her fingers in Cat’s fur. He arched his back, a contented kitty smile upon his wide face.
“I know we do, Mr. McTavish, and I don’t wish to impose upon you further—”
He lifted a wide palm, halting her. “It’s too late for second thoughts. I willnae abandon ye and yer brother now.”
She hadn’t even had to ask him. He’d volunteered of his own accord. It had been so long since anyone had cared about or helped her.
“But I do need to ken who ye really are.” His tone changed the merest bit, and all signs of amusement fled his features. His blue-gray gaze probed hers, looking into the depths of her soul, and Sarah barely refrained from squirming.
Averting her attention, she swallowed twice. No one in England knew. Other than her grandmother and the viscountess’s odious butler. “I concede you’ve no reason whatsoever to trust me,” she said softly, still unwilling to take the final step and reveal her true identity.
Relaxing back in his chair, he hooked an ankle over his knee, totally at ease, watching her from beneath hooded eyes. “And ye’ve nae reason to trust me, either, but we’re beyond that, dinna ye think?” The palms of both hands splayed open, his voice held no censure.
She acknowledged the truth of his words and lifted her chin a couple of inches, although her attention remained on the flames frolicking behind the grate.
“Let’s begin again, shall we, lass?” He pressed a massive arm to his chest and dipped his chin in a mock semblance of a bow.
Eyebrows scrunched, she angled her head. What the devil was he about?
“I am Gregor Lieth Conall McTavish of Craiglocky Keep, cousin to the Laird Ewan McTavish, who is also Viscount Sethwick. His wife, Yvette, owns Stapleton Shipping and Supplies, and just under a year ago I left the Highlands to manage these London offices. I have a twin, Alasdair, and my parents Duncan and Kitta live at Craiglocky too.”
He clasped a hand across his abdomen, drawing her reluctant attention to his muscled forearms once more. This was no weak fop. From his broad shoulders straining the fabric of his shirt, and the well-muscled thighs defined by his fawn-colored trousers, the Highlander was a fabulous specimen of masculine power and grace.
“Now, tell me who ye are.” He rested his square chin with the merest hint of golden stubble on his fist. “And I’ll have the truth this time, Sassenach.”
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About Collette Cameron:
USA Today Bestselling author, COLLETTE CAMERON pens Scottish and Regency historicals, featuring rogues, rapscallions, rakes, and the intelligent, intrepid damsels who reform them. Collette admits to a quirky sense of humor, enjoys inspiring quotes, and anything cobalt blue. A self-confessed Cadbury chocoholic, she lives in Oregon with her miniature dachshunds.
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