As we lead up to the launch date of HOW TO SEDUCE A SCOT, I thought I might offer a taste of the novel here for you guys. I’ll be putting Chapter One up here in installments so you can take a gander over the next few weeks. Happy reading! I hope you love Catherine and Alexander as much as I do…
HOW TO SEDUCE A SCOT
Catherine Middlebrook surveyed the ballroom at Almackâ€™s, looking for a quiet, biddable man to marry. She needed to focus her attention properly if she wanted to catch the interest of a suitable man before her one and only Season was up. But she kept being distracted by a dark-eyed, wide-shouldered Highlander staring at her from across the room, and by his sister, who was prattling in her ear.
â€œThe problem with this hall is that there is only one way out,â€ Mary Elizabeth Waters said.
â€œIndeed?â€ She neednâ€™t have bothered saying anythingâ€”the Scottish girl seemed to need little encouragement to expound on her wild notions. Catherine welcomed those wild notions, for they helped her forget that she had been in Almackâ€™s for over an hour, and so far, not one man had asked her to dance. Not even Mr. Waters, who seemed intent on memorizing the planes of her face ever since she had saved his thankfully oblivious sister from another debutanteâ€™s cruel snub.
Though he made no move toward her, her new friendâ€™s brother kept staring. It made her skin prickle with a strange awareness. It would have been uncomfortable, had it not been so delicious.
Alexander Waters, a younger son from the wilds of Scotland, was not the kind of man Catherine needed to attract. He was too large, for one thing. Mr. Watersâ€™ shoulders were too broadâ€”both for the black superfine coat he wore and for the room he lurked in. Though he stood silent across the length of the ballroom from her and his sister, he seemed to take up all the air between them with his presence. Catherine was not certain that she would have enough breath in her body to dance a set with him in the room, even if she were asked.
His dark chocolate eyes hid depths that Catherine wished she might find the bottom of despite herself, and the sight of him drew her gaze no matter how she tried to keep her mind fixed elsewhere. Like all gentlemen present, he wore the requisite white breeches with knee buckles, and polished slippers. He simply did not look at home in them, as the other men did.
But of all his stellar attractions, Alexander Watersâ€™ lips drew her gaze the most. There was a quirk of humor to them that made her wonder what he found amusing. She would like to be let in on the joke.
Some days she felt as if she were the joke. And this evening was one of them. Never had the task she had set herself seemed so insurmountable as it did that night. The ballroom was full of lovely young girls, none of whom were on the last desperate leg of their familyâ€™s money. If by some chance Mr. Waters were looking for a bride, there would be no need to stare so fixedly at her, a girl with only her motherâ€™s good looks and five hundred pounds to recommend her.
She must be mistaken. No doubt the handsome Alexander Waters was not watching her at all, but keeping a close eye on his little sister, still chattering away beside her.
â€œOne would need a good stout rope of hemp to make it out of that window there,â€ Miss Waters was saying.
Catherine blinked, pulled back from her anxious thoughts. â€œI beg your pardon?â€
â€œYou are not attending, sweet Catherine. Pay attention. This is important. It may save your life someday. Say for example the English had cut off the staircaseâ€¦â€
Mary Elizabeth Waters paused for breath, and Catherine wondered if the girl realized the unsuitability of using her given name so freely. Perhaps such informality was common north of the border. Never having been further north than Mayfair, Catherine did not know.
She turned to survey the company, trying to see them as Miss Waters might, taking in the London ton all around her: the tabby-cat aunts who stood as chaperones, the Almackâ€™s patronesses who deigned or refused to let various young ladies dance, the young lords who preened before girls just out of the schoolroom, and the debutantes in delicate white who vied for those young lordsâ€™ attention. Most in that room, save for Mary Elizabeth and her brother, were English.
Catherineâ€™s young friend seemed to realize her mistake, for she began again. â€œSay for example the staircase had been cut off by some sort of ruffians, pirates perhapsâ€¦â€
â€œPirates in Almackâ€™s?â€ Catherine asked, keeping her voice free of the laughter that seemed to gather just at the back of her throat. It threatened to take her over in an unseemly bolt of hysterical mirth. Open laughter would be a true disaster, as no gentleman would approach her if she were to behave in such an unseemly fashion. Catherine schooled her features into a semblance of calm, even as her heart lightened for the first time since she had arrived. And as she felt the hot caress of Mr. Watersâ€™ gaze on her skin once again, the notion of pirates skulking about did not seem so outlandish.
â€œHighwaymen, then,â€ Miss Waters said. â€œThe type of ruffian doesnâ€™t signify.â€
â€œBut the ruffians are definitely English,â€ Catherine said, unable to suppress her smile.
Mary Elizabeth caught the gleam of humor in her new friendâ€™s eyes, and smiled as well. â€œRuffians are almost always English.â€
â€œI bow to your greater knowledge of nâ€™er-do-wells. Please continue.â€
â€œIf pirates or highwaymen had cut off our escape, we would need a good sound hemp rope to rappel down the side of the building to the street below, and to safety.â€
Catherine did her best to resist, even as her desire for propriety and good sense gave way to good fun. â€œBut do you think it would be at all proper for a lady to climb from a window? Might all on the street below take note?â€
Miss Waters waved one hand in dismissal. â€œIf the gents below want to get a gander at my undergarments, let them. Better to escape with my throat uncut, and let those below sort themselves out later.â€
Catherine felt her tell-tale blush rise as it always did, and she wondered how to steer this bizarre conversation to safer waters. She looked around at the company and saw that not one soul was paying any attention to them at all, save for Mary Elizabeth’s brother. She decided to let caution and prudence go, if only for the moment, and simply enjoy herself.
â€œI wonder if Almackâ€™s keeps such rope handy?â€ Catherine asked, joining her new friend in her outlandish speculations. â€œAnd if they do, would there be enough rope for all present to effectively make their escape?â€
â€œUnlikely,â€ Mary Elizabeth said. â€œBut we keep a sound hemp rope ladder in every room on the upper floors of the duchessâ€™ town house. You look shocked, Catherine, but it is quite proper. Even my uncle, the Bishop of London, keeps rope ladders in the bedrooms of his home. Just in case.â€
Catherine blinked. Mary Elizabeth had mentioned that she and her brothers were guests of the illustrious Duchess of Northumberland, who was sponsoring Miss Watersâ€™ debut. Catherine would never have guessed that such a headstrong girl would have such lofty connections, but in spite of them, Mary Elizabeth seemed completely unspoiled. Unfortunately, her alliance with the duchess had not drawn any men to her side, either.
Catherine brought her mind back to their bizarre conversation. â€œThe Bishop of London keeps rope handy above stairs in case of pirates?â€
â€œIn case of fire. But it would work if pirates invaded as well.â€
â€œOr the English.â€
Mary Elizabeth laughed, the velvet tone far too confident for such a gathering of fops and young ladies. â€œWeâ€™re in London, Catherine. The English are everywhere.â€
â€œI am sorry to bring up a sore subject,â€ Catherine said, â€œbut I am English.â€
â€œI beg to differ. You are a decent woman from the county of Devon. Thatâ€™s practically Cornwall. Thatâ€™s practically civilized.â€
Catherine was about to inquire as to Mary Elizabethâ€™s standards of civilization when she noticed that Mr. Waters had vanished from his accustomed place on the other side of the dance floor. In the next moment, the mystery of his whereabouts was solved when she felt the gentle touch of his hand on her arm. The heat of his palm, even encased in a leather glove, drove all rational thought from her mind for the moment, and most likely for the duration of the night.
She would have to begin her husband hunt again later, once she retrieved her good senseâ€”which had deserted her completely.