Title: How to Train Your Highlander
Series: Broadswords and Ballrooms, #3
Author: Christy English
Pub Date: December 6, 2016
She’s the Hellion of Hyde Park…
A foolproof plan to avoid marriage:
- Always carry at least three blades.
- Ride circles around any man.
- Never get caught in a handsome duke’s arms.
Wild Highlander Mary Elizabeth Waters is living on borrowed time. She’s managed to dodge the marriage banns up to now, but even Englishmen can only be put off for so long…and there’s one in particular who has her in his sights.
Harold Percy, Duke of Northumberland, is enchanted by the beautiful hellion who outrides every man on his estate and dances Scottish reels while the ton looks on in horror. The more he sees Mary, the more he knows he has to have her, tradition and good sense be damned. But what’s a powerful man to do when the Highland spitfire of his dreams has no desire to be tamed…
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In which Harry proposes for the first time, then kisses Mary Elizabeth on a roof after a tot of the whisky:
“Harry, what did you want to ask me?”
“I want you to marry me.”
Mary Elizabeth did not seem impressed with the moment, momentous as it was. She looked at him with a squint of suspicion, and then she said, “You’ve no head at all for whisky, do you?”
“I do not, but that does not signify. I asked you a question, and I would like an answer.”
“Harry, you asked a daft question, and I will not answer it. Only yesterday you told me in the picture gallery of this very hall that you could not marry me, nor even kiss me. And now you are on a roof, asking me to wed. Are you mad, then?”
“I am,” Harry said. “I am mad for you.” He knew he was making a botch of it, and he wondered if he should start over, begin again by telling her that he was the duke, lord of all he surveyed, a man who could keep her happy and warm and set up with fine whisky and sharp blades for the rest of her life.
“Harry, we had better go in. You’re not in a fit state of mind to be speaking with a lady.”
“I am in the best state of mind to be speaking to you. You’re the only lady I want to speak with. I love you. You are wonderful and funny and filled with life. Marry me, and make me the happiest man ever to walk these halls.”
Mary Elizabeth sighed and moved to the window. He caught her by the skirt to hold her with him and she glared at him over her shoulder. “Let go, Harry. You’re foxed from two tots, and I am going in.”
“No,” he said. “I’m not foxed. I swear.”
They both slipped a little then, down the slanting roof. Harry caught himself with his slippered foot against the gable rim, and caught her to him so that she would not slide any farther. The heat of his body seemed to speak better for him than his words did, for Mary Elizabeth raised her arms over his shoulders and clasped her hands behind the back of his neck, burying her fingers in his hair.
“You’re talking daft, and I won’t hold you to it come sunrise, if you won’t hold me to my promise until then either,” she said.
He was not sure what she meant until her lips were on his, her luscious breasts pressed against the front of his dress coat. He could feel the heat of her body through the layers of clothes that separated them and knew that if they had been in a bed, or even safe on a rug somewhere, he would have drawn her skirt up and taken her right there. As it was, his foot lost its purchase, and they slid a little farther down the roofline.
Harry would not have cared, but Mary Elizabeth was pulling away from him.
“Harry, you daft man. Let me go before we fall.”
He obeyed her at once, though his body was screaming to touch her again. Separated from her, he looked down and saw that, indeed, they were actually in peril. He turned his mind from his lust to try and figure a way to get them both safely off that roof without sliding down it any farther when he saw Mary draw out a knife from God alone knew where and slice off the gold sash that had displayed her breasts all evening.
It seemed there was a good deal more material than just the section that made her breasts stand out so beautifully. At least six feet of cloth of gold was in her hands, which she deftly secured to the roof with her dagger, placing the blade between two shingles and burying it deep in the wood beneath.
“This is what comes of canoodling on a roof,” she said almost to herself as she cut away the ribbons on her dancing slippers with a second blade and kicked them off, so that they went sliding down the roofline and into the garden below.
Harry expected her to cry a little at their loss, as any other woman might have done, or perhaps simply to cry from fright at the danger they were in, but Mary Elizabeth Waters did not cry. She shimmied carefully out of her stockings, letting both stockings and garters fall down the same path as her shoes.
“Is that a yes, then?” Harry asked.
“Shut your fool mouth, Harry, and let me work.”
She used her now-bare feet to gain purchase on the roof’s slippery surface. She took hold of the gold sash and yanked it hard twice, as if to test its strength.
She spoke to him then as to a simpleton, slowly and clearly. “Harry, I am going to climb back up to the window. I need you to stay here and not move. At all. Do you understand me?”
He found himself smiling back at her. “Yes, ma’am.” He snuck a hand toward her supple calf and ran his fingertips along it, almost meditatively, reveling in the softness of her skin.
“Harry, I swear, if we live to get off this roof and tell this tale, I may very well kill you.”
About the Author
Ever since Christy English picked up a fake sword in stage combat class at the age of fourteen, she has lived vicariously through the sword-wielding women of her imagination. A banker by day and a writer by night, she loves to eat chocolate, drink too many soft drinks, and walk the mountain trails of her home in North Carolina.
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