The Highlander’s English Bride

The Highlander’s English Bride

Clan Kendrick Book Three
Kensington Books
October 2019

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In this dazzling new novel from bestselling author Vanessa Kelly, the wildest member of Clan Kendrick has found his purpose as a government agent. Now he must also meet his match . . .

Lady Sabrina Bell has never been so embarrassed in her life. Not only did her new suitor fail to appear for their morning rendezvous in Hyde Park, but a thief pushed her into the Serpentine. Being rescued by a burly Highlander just adds to her humiliation. Nor is he content with rescuing her just once. Even when Sabrina travels to Edinburgh as part of King George’s entourage, Graeme Kendrick is there, interfering, exasperating, and so very tempting . . .

Once notorious for being the most unruly Kendrick brother, Graeme now runs dangerous missions for the King’s spymaster. Yet nothing has prepared him for Sabrina. The only child of a wealthy earl, and the pampered goddaughter of the king himself, she is stubborn, impetuous, and far too good for him. He doesn’t deserve her, but he can protect her and then send her safely back home. But the bonny Sassenach has her own ideas—and a plan for seduction that no red-blooded Highlander could resist . . .

BookScan Top 50 Bestseller

Barnes & Noble Top 50 Bestseller

“The central couple is delightfully well matched: Graeme is a grump with a heart of gold; Sabrina is a gentle soul with an impressive backbone. Readers will be gratified as the pair navigates their way to a thoroughly satisfying happy ending.” ~Publisher’s Weekly

“A Vanessa Kelly historical romance is a lot like being at a carnival: It’s a whirlwind of fun with the lightness of cotton candy, the rush of a tilt-a-whirl and the satisfaction of a night well planned. There are few better choices than than this bubbly romance that delivers a heartwarming happily ever after.” ~BookPage

“In the third book of the “Clan Kendrick” series, Kelly (The Highlander Who Protected Me) continues to show her skill at pairing witty banter and adventure-driven characters in a late-Regency romance. Fun for readers who prefer a heroine who does as much rescuing as the hero.” ~Library Journal

“If you enjoy historical romance and/or historical fiction novels, I HIGHLY, HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend this book! I could not wait to see what happened page after page, and did not want the book to end!”~@littlebutfiercebookdiary

“This is a great historical romance with an interesting plot and well-developed characters. A combination of romance, suspense, action, and humor, this story is entertaining from start to finish.”~One Book More

The Highlander’s English Bride was pure joy. I can’t recommend it enough!” ~5 stars, Tartan Book Review Blog”

“It was truly just such an engaging read and I am not ashamed to say I most definitely binged it.” ~YA IT’S LIT

“It’s a rollicking good ride filled with laughter, danger, witty banter, sizzling chemistry, a bit of a mystery, vanquishing enemies, plenty of rescuing – on both sides – and, of course, a heartwarming, sigh-worthy, happily ever after.” ~5 stars, The Romance Dish

“A totally engaging, lose-yourself-in-the-pages read.” ~Historical Fiction With Spirit

“A fantastic read from a new to me author and a book I would highly recommend!” ~Rose is Reading

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Chapter One

London, England
June 1822

Graeme Kendrick lurked beneath the giant elm, keeping his prey within sight. After losing the slippery Sassenach a few hours ago, he’d spotted the bastard climbing over the wall that separated Kensington Gardens from Hyde Park.

He’d surely earned that bit of luck. Graeme had spent the last month stalking the wiliest criminal gang to hit London in years. The thieves were ripping through the ton like marauding Norsemen, lifting expensive jewels, fine art, and precious antiques. Normally, this was a job for Bow Street, but when the Duke of York’s gold pocket watch—a royal family heirloom—was filched at a ball, the situation had changed. King George was outraged, Bow Street was embarrassed, and Captain Aden St. George, England’s chief spymaster, was summoned.

Much to Graeme’s surprise, Aden had placed him in charge of the case.

While Graeme had come closer to finding the thieves than the Runners had, success continued to elude him. Each time, they’d dodged his grasp. Yesterday, Aden had made it clear how displeased he was with Graeme’s lack of progress.

Very displeased.

It was even worse when the chief riding up one’s backside was family. Aden was half brother to Victoria, Countess of Arnprior, who happened to be Graeme’s sister-in-law. To make things even jollier, both Aden and Victoria were illegitimate offspring of the king himself, making old Georgie part of Graeme’s extended family, too.

When it came to the Kendrick clan, familial relations were ridiculously complicated. If Graeme failed to crack this case, he would disappoint every member of his family, including the blasted Sassenach king.

Of course, in Graeme’s world, disappointing family was baked into the oatcakes.

Keep your mind on the job, idiot.

He tugged off his rain-soaked cap and pushed back his damp hair with an even damper glove before shoving the cap back on. For some reason, his target had paused behind a tree near the Serpentine, the small lake that wound through the park.

Given the dreary weather and the early hour, Hyde Park was deserted. Locals would often frequent the area on a warm summer’s morning, the more adventurous taking a dip in the Serpentine, but today the park was curtained in a steady drizzle, and a cool morning mist curled up from the wet earth.

“What the hell are you up to?” he muttered.

“Maybe he’s hoping to snaffle a rich nob on his way home, just to round out the night.”

Sighing, Graeme glanced over his shoulder. A sturdy lad of fifteen, clothed like an errand boy, hunkered down behind him.

“Got the jump on you, didn’t I?” Tommy said with a cheeky grin.

“Lad, I haven’t slept in twenty-four hours. I might be a bit off my game.”

Tommy jerked his head in the direction of their quarry. “Good thing you spotted him coming over the wall. The captain would be right frosty if you lost the bastard again.”

“And the captain’s wife would be right frosty to hear you swearing. It’s barely dawn. Does Lady Vivien know you’re wandering about so early?”

“The captain does. He sent me to see if you needed help.”

“Check on me, more like,” Graeme scoffed. “It’ll go down like a treat when Lady Vivien discovers he’s sending you out on missions in the middle of the night. She’s doing her best to make you a proper fellow, you know.”

Tommy rolled his eyes. “I’m plenty proper, guv, and I do my lessons with her ladyship every day. But that don’t mean I can’t help the captain, when needs be. Besides, it ain’t the middle of the night.”

Doesn’t mean, and isn’t the middle of the night,” Graeme corrected before refocusing on the thief.

The man was waiting patiently for . . . something.

Graeme also forced himself to wait. But it had been a long night, tailing his prey from one gaming establishment to the next, all over the bloody town. The thief had obviously managed to befriend two wealthy but dim-witted noblemen. Briefly, Graeme had considered finding a way to warn the men they’d been marked. But he knew them, and they were mean-spirited bounders of the first order. If the fools had their pockets rifled by the end of the night, one could argue that Lady Justice had been served, albeit in a roundabout fashion.

Besides, Graeme had a bigger game to play—running the leader of the ring to the ground. To do that, he had to discover where the crime lord holed up. Somewhere in Covent Garden or the rookeries of St. Giles, he and Aden suspected. This morning’s events might answer that question, since it seemed reasonable that the thief would soon be returning to the gang’s lair with his ill-gotten gains.

Graeme would be on his tail.

“Come on, ye son of a whore,” he whispered. “Get yer arse movin’.”

“You’re talking funny again,” Tommy muttered.

“It’s called a brogue, as ye well know.”

“Still sounds funny, if you ask me.”

Graeme snorted. When Tommy was excited or upset, his cant grew as thick as the brogue that emerged from Graeme when he was frustrated or angry. These days, that brogue surfaced more than he liked.

Then again, anger and frustration were better than rampant boredom. Better to be up to his eyeballs in danger and mayhem than sitting about like a useless ninny, bored out of his skull.

Or, worse, getting dragged to ton parties by Lady Vivien, who said he needed a social life to cheer him up.

“Nothing to be cheery about, anyway,” he muttered.

Tommy threw him an odd look, which Graeme ignored, too tired to explain. It had been weeks since he’d had a good night’s rest. Maybe Vivien was right. Maybe he was working too hard.

His companion jabbed him. “He’s on the move.”

Graeme unbent from his crouch. “Looks like he’s heading straight along the footpath to Piccadilly. See if you can get ahead of him, in case he changes course and cuts up to one of the other gates.”

Tommy nodded, but before he could dart off, Graeme clamped a hand on his shoulder. “Do not get close to him. He’ll be armed, and Aden will skin me alive if anything happens to you.”

The lad huffed with derision. “I ain’t a flat, guv. I’ve been doing this longer than you have.”

“I’m not a flat,” Graeme absently corrected as the boy ghosted off into the mist and drizzle.

But Tommy was correct. He’d been a trusted part of the St. George household for four years now, running errands and delivering important messages. Still, he was more a member of the family than an errand boy or even an agent in training, and Graeme would cut off his own arm before he saw the lad placed in danger.

Before he saw any child placed in danger. He’d been stupid enough to allow that to happen once before, and . . .

He impatiently shook the gruesome image from his mind and slipped out from behind the tree. Following the path, he kept a respectable distance from the thief while doing his best to adopt the attitude of a local out for a leisurely morning stroll. Ridiculous, given the weather, but since the barmy bastard was all but creeping along the path, Graeme couldn’t exactly set a brisk pace. The fellow was either up to something or suspected he was being followed.

If the latter, then Graeme had to be ready for the man to bolt.

When the thief slipped behind yet another bush and froze, Graeme realized his quarry was behaving like one of the barn cats at Castle Kinglas stalking a mouse. Moving deliberately closer to his target, exercising care not to be seen.

But who—

Graeme had his answer a moment later, when the man darted across a narrow strip of lawn that ran along the bank of the Serpentine. A figure was lingering by the water, a woman swathed in a dark cloak, a deep-brimmed bonnet serving as protection against the rain. Her back to them, she peered toward the footpath that led up to Grosvenor Gate, oblivious to her surroundings and absently swinging a plump-looking reticule. It didn’t take a genius to realize what would happen next.

Mentally cursing, Graeme took off at a run. He’d be damned if he let a woman be robbed, even if it meant blowing his cover. And why the hell hadn’t he noticed her before? What in God’s name was she doing here, anyway?

He closed the distance, but his thief was too far ahead.

“Lass, behind you,” Graeme yelled at the top of his lungs.

The woman spun around, only to be seized by the thief.

Graeme spotted Tommy running in from the other direction. He threw out an arm to warn him off, but the lad ignored him, veering around a stand of oaks as he neared the couple.

The lady wasn’t giving up without a fight, struggling mightily to keep ahold of her reticule.

“Let go of ’er, you stinkin’ napper,” Tommy yelled.

When the thief threw a startled glance at the boy, the woman kicked her assailant in the shin.

It only encouraged the bastard to redouble his efforts. He yanked the reticule from her grip, then tossed a glance over his shoulder at Graeme before grabbing the woman by the arms and dragging her to the very lip of the embankment. Then he shoved her over the edge.

The woman desperately windmilled her arms before toppling into the Serpentine with a resounding splash.

With Graeme closing in, the thief took off toward the closest gate to the park, directly into Tommy’s path. The man slipped a hand into his jacket and pulled out a knife.
“Tommy, duck,” roared Graeme.

The boy dove for the grass and rolled before coming up in a defensive crouch. The man kept running, heading for Piccadilly.

Graeme abandoned his pursuit. The woman was flailing about, obviously panicking as she struggled to keep her head above water, her sodden bonnet half covering her face.

“Hang on, lass,” he called as he stripped off his coat.

The Serpentine, while a piddling excuse for a lake, was certainly deep enough to drown someone dressed in layers of clothing, including a heavy cloak. Water was a killer, as he knew all too well.

He leapt in, sending a huge splash over the woman, all but submerging her. By the time he reached her, she was sputtering some surprisingly salty oaths.

“I’ve got ye,” he said, grabbing her shoulders.

She blindly swatted at him, the brim of her soaked bonnet now almost down to her chin. Still, she managed a good clout to his ear.

“Get away, you bounder,” she gasped.

“You need help, guv?” Tommy called from the shore as Graeme struggled to keep himself and the woman from going under. She was a slender thing, but no weakling.

“I’ve got this,” Graeme barked as he clamped his hands around the woman’s ribcage and pulled her against his chest. “Get after the bastard, but do not get too close. Just follow and report back. I’ll paddle your arse if ye do otherwise.”

The lad nodded and took off. Probably a lost cause, but if anyone could catch up, Tommy could. Hopefully, he’d obey orders and keep his distance. This mission was now officially a cock-up, but Tommy was a bright one, and Graeme had to trust him to be smart now.

Right now, Graeme had to focus on keeping the woman in his arms from drowning them both, which she seemed determined to do.

“Stop strugglin’, ye barmy lass.” He managed to drag her toward the embankment. “I’m not tryin’ to rob ye. That idiot’s long gone, no thanks to ye.”

The woman finally stopped swatting long enough to yank her bonnet away from her face. Graeme encountered a gorgeous—and furious—peacock-blue glare. That fury in no way detracted from the rest of her attractive face. Stunning, in fact, if one ignored the tangle of hair plastered to her forehead or the glob of mud across her perfectly straight nose and sharply delicate cheekbone.

“Release me, sir. Right now.”

She gave him a surprisingly strong shove, which unfortunately caused her to lose her balance and go under again.

Sighing, Graeme hauled her back to the surface. “If you would hold still for a minute and let me get this bonnet off, you would see that I am not your assailant.”

She stopped flopping about. He yanked the blasted hat back so it dangled from her neck instead of covering her face.

“I’m trying to rescue you,” he added.

She glared at him. “You’re making a hash of it, then. And I’m perfectly capable of rescuing myself.”

“I don’t think the man who attacked you would agree.” Graeme pulled her to the edge of the greensward that surrounded the water.

“I was doing quite well on my own, thank you very much.”

“Yes, I noticed that when you were tumbled into the water.”

“Which only happened after you rushed up at us.”

Graeme stared at her in disbelief. “He was attacking you, lass. What in God’s name was I supposed to do? Stroll on by and let you two thrash it out?”

For a moment, it seemed she would continue her fiery tirade. Then she reached up and rubbed her nose, as if trying to prevent a sneeze. When she dropped her hand, Graeme saw her mouth curve up in a rueful smile. She had beautiful lips as plump and pink as a budding rose.

Which, of course, had nothing to do with anything.

“I sound awfully ungrateful, don’t I?” she said. “It was very kind of you to jump in after me, although quite unnecessary. I’m a very good swimmer.”

“Not bogged down by that rig. That cloak must weigh twenty pounds by now.”

“Perhaps you haven’t noticed that we’re both standing on the bottom. The Serpentine’s not very deep at this end of the park.”

Graeme looked down. He was only submerged to his waist, while the water reached her chest.

“It’s deeper further out, but I only went under because he pushed me so hard,” she said. “I was quite safe at all times.”

Graeme couldn’t help feeling annoyed. “To me, it looked like you were drowning. Anyone would have assumed that you were drowning.”

“I was just surprised, that’s all. But of course there was no way for you to know that,” she hastily added.

He was beginning to get the sense that she thought him rather dim-witted. “It’s not as if genteel ladies make a habit of paddling around in the Serpentine.”

She nodded. “Correct. Having said that, do you think we could get on with the rescue?”

Apparently, he was a dimwit. “My apologies.”

The lass shoved the wreck of her coiffure out of her eyes. “I’d like to get out of here before anyone sees us.”

“Little chance of being seen with this weather.”

A quick glance around the park confirmed it remained deserted. Even the men of the Royal Humane Society had failed to put in an appearance, despite all the watery flailing about. The small building on the opposite side of the Serpentine was staffed at all hours in the event a hapless Londoner needed rescuing. In this case, it probably hadn’t occurred to the staff that anyone would be larking about on so dismal a morning.

Why this particular woman was larking about was the question. Because of her, Graeme had lost his thief. Again. And that was incredibly annoying.

“Thank goodness,” she said. “Naturally, I’m grateful for your help, but it might have been better if you hadn’t come along at all.”


He planted one hand on the embankment, keeping hold on her with the other. “How awkward of me. Thoughtless, really.”

She crinkled her nose. “I just sounded rude again, didn’t I?”

“Oh, not a bit.”

“I will need your help climbing out of the water,” she replied in an encouraging tone. “I’m positively waterlogged, and my fingers are rather chilled. Who knew the water would be this cold in the summer?”

It felt more like bath water to him, but he was a Highlander. He was used to mountain streams and lochs that could freeze the balls off a bull in August.

“Then let’s get you out. Are you sure you’ve got your footing?”

She shoved her sodden cloak back over her shoulders. “Since I am now standing barely chest-deep, I believe I can manage to stay upright.”

The mention of her chest naturally brought his gaze to that part of her anatomy. Her pale yellow dress was a sagging mess that exposed the tops of her stays. It also clung to what appeared to be a grand set of breasts—perfectly round and full. And she obviously was chilly, because even through the various layers of fabric, he could see the jutting of her pert nip—


Graeme jerked his head up to once again meet an irate peacock stare.

“Right,” he said briskly. “Let’s get to it.”

He vaulted up onto the embankment, inadvertently splashing her with yet more water. She spluttered indignantly as he reached down a hand.

“Sorry,” he apologized.

She wrapped her gloved fingers around his wrist. “I suppose you can’t help it, since you are exceedingly large.”

“Aye, that.”

He hauled her out and set her on the grass, keeping a hand on her waist to steady her.

“And strong,” she said, a trifle breathless. “And Scottish, obviously.”

“Guessed that, did ye?”

She made a game attempt to shake out her dripping cloak. “I’m not a moron, sir, despite certain indications to the contrary.”

“Never said you were. And you’ll catch your death if you keep that stupid cloak on.”

He swiped up his coat from the grass. While damp, it would be warm compared to her soaked garments.

The poor girl was shivering, and her pink lips held a tinge of blue around the edges. Graeme’s worry spiked. If he didn’t get her dry and warm, she could catch a fever. He’d seen it happen in his own family, and results had been dire.

“Let me help,” he said, as she struggled with the ribbons of her cloak.

They were hopelessly knotted, so he just snapped them and tossed the cloak to the ground.

She grimaced. “That was new and quite expensive.”

“Lass, you’re safe. That’s what matters. Now, let’s get that bonnet off, too.”

“Also new and expensive.” She pulled off the offending headgear and tossed it onto the cloak.

He tucked his coat around her shoulders, then tapped one of her delicate gold earrings. Graeme had never found ears enticing before, but hers just might be the first.

“At least you didn’t lose your earrings.”

She pulled his coat tight around her body. “Thank you for this. It’s so—”

Breaking off, she reached inside the jacket and gingerly extracted his knife.

“Sorry about that.” He slipped the knife into his right boot.

“There seem to be a few other, er, implements in your pockets.”

“Right. Sorry.”

Feeling like ten times an idiot, Graeme extracted his pistol from one of the coat pockets, shoving it into the back of his breeches, then pulled a pair of knuckledusters from the other pocket. Those he tossed on top of her cloak before tucking the jacket back around her body.

She eyed him. “Are you by any chance a Bow Street Runner?”

“No, just the sort that likes to be prepared. Never know whom you’ll run into, as you just discovered,” he added with a wink.

His answer got the response it deserved. She shuffled back, which brought her dangerously close to the edge of the embankment.

“Watch it, miss. You don’t want another dunking.”

She studied him for a few moments longer before apparently making a decision. “I suppose if you wanted to murder me, you would have done it before now. But it is rather odd to be carrying so many weapons on one’s person.”

“No odder than a genteel young lady wandering alone in Hyde Park at the crack of dawn, in the rain.”

Her eyes popped comically wide. “Oh, my goodness. Hannah!”


“My maid. I didn’t want her to get wet, so I sent her off. . . . Oh, dear!”

She darted around him and headed toward a clump of oaks at the end of the lake. Graeme followed and saw that there was another person in the park—a girl who lay in a heap on the ground.

The woman crouched next to the slender girl, who looked to be a few years younger than her mistress. “Hannah must have fainted when I was attacked.”

“How helpful of her.”

“The poor thing obviously suffered a terrible shock.”

“You’re the one who suffered the shock. This one didn’t even scream or try to help,” Graeme said.

She started to pat the girl’s cheek. “That is disappointing, but Hannah just came up from one of our country estates a few weeks ago. She finds London intimidating.”

“Maybe you should give her a good shake. That might wake her up.”

“I don’t suppose you have any smelling salts?”

“I normally carry them right next to my pistol, but I seem to have forgotten them just this once.”

She flashed him a scowl. “There’s no need to be sarcastic.”

“Really? I would disagree.”

The whole situation was now officially beyond ridiculous. They were as wet as drowned hens, he’d lost his man, and he was beginning to grow concerned about Tommy. If the lad had taken any foolish risks, he’d never forgive himself—and Aden would probably kill him and be done with him once and for all.

“I do generally carry smelling salts, but they were in my reticule,” she said.

“Perhaps the thief will find them useful,” Graeme acerbically replied.

“Instead of making such unhelpful comments, perhaps you might do something useful instead.”

“Such as?”

“You could drip on Hannah’s face. That might do the trick.”

When he laughed, it pulled a rueful smile to her lips. “There I am being rude again,” she said.

“I canna blame you one bit,” he replied. “But fortunately your girl seems to be recovering.”

Hannah let out a moan as her eyelids fluttered open.

“Oh, my lady,” she said faintly. “I was sure you were dead.”

Ah. Not simply genteel. The drenched lassie was a member of the Quality.

“I’m fine, although quite wet,” her mistress replied. “Why don’t you try to sit up?”

When Graeme reached down to help, the maid let out a faint shriek. “He’s still here, my lady. He’ll kill us both!”

“Hannah, this gentleman saved me from my attacker. Now do please try to sit up.”

They helped the maid to a sitting position and propped her against a tree.

“Are you sure he won’t hurt us, my lady?” Hannah quavered, peering up Graeme. “He looks a dodgy sort.”

“Calling him a dodgy sort is hardly going to endear him to us.”

“But who is he?” the maid asked.

Her mistress glanced over her shoulder, lifting an eyebrow at Graeme.

He sketched a brief bow. “I’m Graeme Kendrick, at your service.”

“That don’t tell us if you’re respectable or not,” the maid suspiciously answered.

“He’s perfectly harmless, Hannah,” her mistress said. “I assure you.”

Perversely, Graeme found himself irritated by that description.

“What is now important,” continued the young woman, “is returning home without anyone seeing us.”

“But the other servants will be up by now, and you look like something the cat drug in.” Hannah grimaced. “I knew this were a bad idea, sneaking off to meet his lordship like—”

“We’ll discuss that later,” the young woman hastily interjected. “Besides, lamenting the situation will not solve anything.”

“Might I make a suggestion? Lady . . . ” Graeme pointedly trailed off.

She briefly pressed her lips into a flat line. “I’d rather not tell you.”

Understandable, under the circumstances. Secretive meetings between members of the opposite sex rarely ended well, as he knew from painful experience.

“Are you acquainted with Lady Vivien St. George?” he asked.

She brightened immediately. “I am. Do you know her?”

“I’m well acquainted with both Lady Vivien and her husband. Their townhouse is only a few blocks from the park, as you probably know. You could get dry there, and Vivien could find you suitable clothing that should make it easier for you to return home.”

“That is an excellent idea, sir,” she said.

“Oh, miss, are you really going off with him?” Hannah cried in dismay.

“Mr. Kendrick has proven himself trustworthy,” her mistress crisply replied. “Besides, if I don’t get out of these clothes, I will turn into a block of ice.”

A sudden and massively inconvenient image flashed through Graeme’s mind. He was stripping off her clothes, and then warming her body with his body.

His naked body, naturally, since that was how his brain worked.

“But how will I explain where you are?” Hannah protested.

“You are to say that I’m still in bed with a headache, and that you stepped out to the apothecary to fetch some headache powders.”

“But Lady Sabrina, you never get a headache.”

Graeme caught her flinch at the use of her name. He began flicking through his mental files to place it.

“I’ve certainly got one now,” the lady muttered.

“Hannah, since the rain has finally let up,” he said, “I suggest you be on your way. I’ll see to your mistress.”


“Please do as he says, Hannah,” Lady Sabrina said firmly.

“But how will you get back into the house?”

“I’ll think of something. Just remember what I told you.”

“Well, if you’re sure,” Hannah doubtfully replied.

“I am.” Her mistress pointed a finger in the direction of the Stanhope Gate. “Now, please.”

Casting Graeme a final, suspicious glance, Hannah bobbed a curtsy and hurried off in the direction of Mayfair.

“Can you trust her to do as instructed?” Graeme asked as he led Lady Sabrina back to retrieve her discarded garments.

“I hope so, or my goose is cooked. My father will go into hysterics if he finds out about this.”

“Sneaking out to meet strange men rarely meets with parental approval, oddly enough.”

She made an impatient sound. “There’s nothing strange about this gentleman. He’s perfectly respectable.”

“Not if he’s meeting young ladies at this time of day.”

“Nonsense. Couples stroll in Hyde Park all the time.”

Graeme snorted. “This early, and in the rain? Try again, lass.”

“I was chaperoned, you know.”

“Aye. Hannah seems quite the dependable sort.”

Lady Sabrina muttered something under her breath while he bent down and quickly wrapped her cloak and bonnet into a neat bundle, after stashing his knuckledusters inside his waistcoat.

“Do you find you need those on a regular basis?” she politely asked.

“Only when I’m attending balls in Mayfair. Those affairs are cutthroat.”

That elicited a reluctant smile. “After today, I’m thinking of getting a pair myself. Perhaps you might give me advice in that regard.”

“They generally don’t come in ladies’ sizes.”

She swiped a lock of bedraggled hair out of her eyes. Lady Sabrina had quite a lot of hair, thick and wavy, it seemed. Graeme suspected it would glow like the palest of wheat under a summer sun when dry.

“Ladies could use them, and more often than you think,” she said in a serious tone.

Graeme had no doubt of that. Several of the women in his family had been forced to protect themselves under fairly dire circumstances.

He took her elbow to encourage her to pick up the pace. Now that the rain had eased off, traffic would soon pick up. In fact, someone had turned into the footpath and was trotting—


“Finally,” he muttered.

“Someone you know?”

“Aye, he’s a good lad. He works with me.”

She shot him a curious look. “Mr. Kendrick, what exactly do you do? Besides rescuing damsels in distress.”

“That’s actually one of my prescribed duties.”

Graeme was spared what was obviously going to be a tart reply when Tommy rushed up.

“Everything all right, guv? Is miss hurt?”

“We’re fine,” he replied. “Have any luck?”

Tommy’s mouth twisted sideways. “Caught up with the blighter on Curzon Street, but he gave me the slip past Regent.”

Dammit to hell.

“You can show me exactly where you lost him, later. I might get some ideas from that.”

“Please do not trouble yourself on my account,” Lady Sabrina said. “I’m sure he was just a common cutpurse.”

When Tommy shot him a look, Graeme gave a slight shake of the head.

“As you wish,” he said to her. “Tommy, could you run ahead and fetch a hackney? I’m taking the lady to the captain’s house. She and Lady Vivien are friends.”

“Really? Cause ladies ain’t usually hanging around the park by themselves, ’specially not this time day,” the boy replied with his usual and fatal candor.

When Lady Sabrina bristled, Graeme cuffed him on the shoulder. “No cheek from you, lad.”

Tommy let out a dramatic sigh. “I didn’t mean no offense, miss. My name’s Tommy, by the way. Pleased to meet you.”

“And I’m happy to meet you. My name is . . . ”

When she hesitated, Graeme finished for her. “Lady Sabrina Bell.”

She flashed him a startled look “How did you know that?”

Graeme led her toward Knightsbridge, as Tommy jogged ahead. “I think you’ll discover I know quite a lot, my lady.”

Her silence suggested she wasn’t best pleased with his answer.

Chapter Two

Sabrina rarely set a foot wrong when it came to dealing with gentlemen, but she’d made a capital blunder with the blasted marquess. Now she had to hope that Mr. Kendrick could shield her from the consequences of her error.

“Serves you right,” she muttered to herself. She’d ignored her instincts when it came to this morning’s assignation.

She couldn’t be blamed for falling afoul of a cutpurse, though. And who in his right mind would shove a person into the Serpentine?

Kendrick peered down at her. “What was that?”

Even when sitting he loomed over her, and also quite squished her into the panels of the hackney coach. Scottish people did seem to run on the brawny side, perhaps an effect of the clean Highland air.

“Nothing of any note, sir.”

She shifted, but there wasn’t an inch between them from their shoulders to their knees. And given how damp they both were, and how Kendrick’s wet buckskins clung to his muscled thighs and to . . . well, the rest of him, Sabrina couldn’t help feeling unnerved.

Drat the blasted marquess. It was most disappointing that his lordship had proved so unreliable.

Then again, men generally disappointed her.

“We’re both dripping wet, which is no fun,” Kendrick said. “I had to pay the coachman half a guinea before he let us into this confounded thing.”

“I’m happy to pay for the coach, sir.”

He flashed her a ridiculously charming grin, one that no doubt had susceptible ladies swooning on a regular basis. Thank goodness she was impervious to such masculine charms.


“Och, don’t fash yourself, my lady. I’m good for it.”

He had an interesting voice, a rough sort of purr laced with a brogue. His eyes were an arresting shade of forest green, and his forceful jaw paired with a firm mouth that seemed more inclined to scowl than smile.

When he did manage to smile, it made one’s heart skip a beat, which Sabrina found quite annoying.

As for the rest of him, his wet hair appeared to be a dark red, and his lean cheeks sported bristle. He seemed an odd combination of rough and refined, and it was the rough part that had initially panicked her.

That he was both kind and a gentleman was not in doubt. What sort of gentleman was he, though? Sabrina had a finely honed sense of social distinctions. Not that she judged one’s character by such a standard, but it did help in deciding how to respond to people in various situations.

That this was a social setting she’d never before encountered went without saying.

“Are you cold?” he asked.

The husky note to his voice sent a little thrill coursing through her body. She firmly quashed it, as she did the memory of him gazing at her chest while they were in the water. He’d seemed quite appreciative, and she’d been forced to communicate her disapproval.

“Indeed, no. Your coat is very warm and comfortable.”

Especially once she’d divested a hidden inner pocket of yet another knife, one she’d discovered when she sat down on it in the carriage. Fortunately, it was encased in a sturdy sheath.

Although quite certain Mr. Kendrick was not a member of the criminal classes, Sabrina wondered what he did for a living.

It’s none of your business.

“You must be chilled, though,” she added.

“Och, no. Anyway, we’re almost there.”

“It might have been faster if we’d walked to Captain St. George’s house.”

Their destination was a townhouse off Cadogan Square, normally a short drive from the park. But the rain had made for slow going.

Kendrick chuckled. “Yes, I’m sure Lord Musgrave would have been thrilled to hear of us strolling about town, looking like a pair of mud larks. Let’s hope that maid of yours is trustworthy, by the way.”

She winced. If Father ever found out about this little expedition, she was sunk. “If Hannah does bungle the story, I’ll simply say I needed some fresh air and stepped out for a stroll.”

“Yes, nothing sets one up like a toddle in the pouring rain, I always say.”

“One problem at a time, Mr. Kendrick,” Sabrina firmly replied. “Right now, I am simply desperate to get out of these wet clothes.”

He looked blankly down at her for a moment before shifting uncomfortably on the seat. Clearly, he wasn’t the only one feeling rather squished.

“I told the driver to take us around to the mews.” His voice sounded oddly strained. “We’ll use the kitchen entrance to avoid being seen.”

“I imagine it’ll be quite the surprise when we appear like this.”

“No worries, lass. Tommy ran ahead to warn St. George.” Kendrick pulled a slight grimace. “Sorry. I should be calling you Lady Sabrina. I’m much too informal.”

Sabrina rather liked it when he called her lass, which was absurd. “You must admit that our introduction has been decidedly less than formal.”

“That’s one way of putting it.”

He’d gone back to sounding grim. Once again, she got the feeling he was immensely frustrated about something—not her, per se, or her idiotic accident. It was obvious that he hadn’t simply been taking a morning constitutional. He’d been in the park for a reason, and her topple into the Serpentine had knocked him off course.

Still, there was nothing she could do but apologize, which she’d already done. Right now, her primary objective was avoiding the incineration of her life from a horrendous scandal of her own making. Even though the marquess was a handsome and charming man, he certainly wasn’t worth this much trouble. At the end of the day, what man truly was?

The hackney took a sharp turn, all but tumbling her into Kendrick’s lap. She once more became sharply aware of his muscled thighs and imposing body—aware in a way she found shocking. Especially since the front of his wet breeches perfectly outlined—

Sabrina righted herself. “I beg your pardon.”

“We’re here,” he brusquely replied.

He was already opening the door and swinging out before the carriage came to a complete halt.

Trying to ignore the heat rushing to her face, she took his hand and stepped down with as much dignity as she could muster.

“You’re very flushed,” Kendrick said with a frown. “I hope you’re not catching a fever.”

She mentally winced. “I’m sure I’m not. I rarely fall ill.”

There was an awkward pause.

“Oh, well, that’s splendid,” he replied.

This had to count as the most embarrassing day of her life, and the clock had yet to strike nine.

He steered her to a sturdy iron gate in the garden wall. Extracting a key from his waistcoat, he unlocked the gate and ushered her through, pausing to lock it behind him. His caution seemed excessive, but more to the point—why did he have a key to St. George’s garden?

Kendrick led her along a gravel path through a small but pretty enclosure. A tidy kitchen garden was tucked into one corner, while a wrought-iron gazebo, surrounded by beds of roses, took up the rest of the space. Even in the rain it was a charming retreat, and a great deal more welcoming than the formal Italianate gardens behind Musgrave House.

At the end of the walk stood a modern-looking brick townhouse. The St. Georges had moved to Cadogan Square shortly after their marriage, and now led a life of quiet domesticity. Since Lady Vivien, a vivacious and charming social butterfly, had once been one of the most popular beauties of the ton, Sabrina still found the change in her friend rather mind-boggling.

“There you are,” cried the lady herself as Sabrina stepped down into a low-ceiled and blessedly warm kitchen.

Vivien, in a frivolous dressing gown and an even more frivolous nightcap, dodged around the cook, the kitchen maid, and a footman, all of whom seemed unsurprised by either their mistress’s unconventional appearance or by a pair of bedraggled guests muddying up the clean stone floor.

Ignoring Sabrina’s bedraggled state, Vivien gave her a hug before turning to a neatly dressed, middle-aged man who appeared from the pantry with a stack of clean towels. “Ah, Simpson, thank you.”

She removed the damp coat from Sabrina’s shoulders and replaced it with a wonderfully thick towel. Then she turned to Kendrick.

“Graeme, I do hope you’re not responsible for Lady Sabrina’s condition. I’ll be most annoyed if you are.”

Kendrick, who’d taken a towel to dry his head, regarded her with disbelief. “I’m the one who pulled her pretty arse out of the Serpentine. She’d have been in quite the fix if I hadn’t come along.”

After recovering from the shock of his outré language, Sabrina bristled. “I would have been perfectly fine. The water wasn’t even over my head.”

“Yes, and I’m sure you could have then strolled right home through Mayfair. And let’s not even mention your idiotic maid.”

“What happened to your maid?” Vivien asked.

“She fainted when the cutpurse pushed me into the water,” Sabrina replied.

“How dreadfully unhelpful of her. Perhaps you might think about hiring a new maid, my dear.”

Sabrina blinked, nonplussed by her friend’s casual attitude toward the morning’s events. “Er . . . ”

“And what,” Vivien interrupted, leveling a glare at Kendrick, “were you doing while all this pushing and fainting was going on? Aden will be most displeased to hear that you allowed this to happen, Graeme.”

“That’ll be a change of pace,” Graeme sarcastically replied. “That fact is, I wasn’t close enough to stop the blighter from attacking the silly girl, or I obviously would have.”

Silly? Sabrina was never silly.

You were this morning.

“I was simply minding my own business when that dreadful man decided to rob me,” she said, adopting a tone of offended dignity.

“Minding your own business?” he said. “What young lady in her right mind goes larking around the park at that hour of the morning?”

Vivien scrunched up her nose. “Graeme does make rather a good point, my dear. Fashionable persons rarely stroll in the park before noon, and certainly not in a downpour.”

Sabrina’s cheeks heated again. This was not a conversation she wanted to have in front of the servants, although, to be fair, none of them seemed the slightest bit interested. Simpson stood with a patiently resigned attitude, as if these sorts of events happened on a regular basis.

“Vivien, I’m absolutely desperate to get out of these wet things,” she said. “Do you think we could hold off further explanations until I do so?”

Her friend was instantly diverted. “Goodness, we’re all brutes to keep you standing here. And I’m sure Cook is beside herself at the mess Graeme is making of her kitchen.”

“I’m not doing anything,” Kendrick protested.

“You’re dripping,” Vivien replied. “Drips make Cook positively demented.”

The cook, a tall, lanky woman with an impressively competent manner, rolled her eyes as she assembled a lavish tea service that Sabrina devoutly hoped was for her, since she was positively famished.

“Not to worry, my lady,” Cook said in brisk Yorkshire accent. “I’ve sent up hot water and a maid to assist her ladyship, and the tea tray will be up in a twinkle.”

Vivien beamed. “You’re a gem, Evans. What we would do without you?”

“Starve to death, most likely,” the woman responded.

Sabrina blinked at their familiar exchange. Clearly, the household was more than slightly unconventional. That wasn’t surprising, since Vivien had always been somewhat eccentric herself. There’d been quite the scandal over her marriage—something about a Russian prince, whom she’d thrown over in a very exciting fashion for the mysterious Aden St. George. Sabrina was some years younger than her friend and had barely emerged from the schoolroom at the time, so she’d never known the full details.

Vivien took her arm. “Let’s get you dry and into something warm.” She shot Kendrick a warning look. “Once you change, you’re to report to Aden.”

“Lucky me.”

“And whatever happened to the maid?” Vivien asked. “Surely you didn’t leave her lying under a bush in the park?”

Kendrick looked up at the low ceiling, as if searching for patience. “We sent her home with instructions to say that Lady Sabrina was still in bed, nursing a headache.”

“Quick thinking on your part,” Vivien said.

“It was Lady Sabrina’s idea,” he replied.

Vivien let out a delicate snort before leading Sabrina to the stairs.

Glancing over her shoulder, Sabrina threw Kendrick an apologetic smile. He simply shrugged and went back to drying his hair. It was now a beautiful russet shade, as vibrant as an autumn leaf.

“I do owe poor Mr. Kendrick a debt of gratitude,” she said as she followed Vivien up the back staircase. “He was quite helpful in such unpleasant circumstances.”

“Graeme knows I’m teasing. Mostly. He can be reckless, so the occasional reprimand does him good.”

“I never thought of you as the managing sort, Vivien, but you seem quite good at it.”

“Not as good as you, dear. Your ability to manage gentlemen of all sorts is legendary.”

Sabrina sighed. “I seem to have slipped a jot this morning.”

“Ah, so you were meeting someone in the park.”

“Why else would I do something so stupid?”

Vivien steered her down the second floor hall. “You can tell me all about it once you’re warm and dry.”

“And I’d better be quick. If I don’t get home . . . ”

“Graeme and Aden will come up with a plausible story. They’re quite good at that sort of thing.”

From the end of the hall, a long-case clock bonged out the hour.

“Drat,” Sabrina muttered. “Already eight o’clock.”

Vivien cocked her head. “Yes, the children are certainly awake,” she said with a smile.

“I’m so sorry to drag you out of bed for something this ridiculous.”

“Nonsense. Aden and I are both early risers. That man is up at the crack of dawn most mornings.” She cut Sabrina a sly smile. “Which means I am, too.”

Sabrina huffed out a laugh as Vivien ushered her into a cozy bedroom. Decorated in shades of cream and primrose, it had comfortably modern furnishings piled high with cushions covered in lovely floral fabric.

Even more appealing were the roaring fire in the grate and the bowl of hot water on the Sheraton-style dressing table. A maid bustled about, laying out a flannel wrapper and a fresh set of underclothes. Sabrina slipped behind a wooden screen to strip off her clammy garments. A minute or so later, she heard the tea tray arrive. After it was set up, Vivien dismissed the servants.

Attired in the wrapper, Sabrina came out to find a steaming cup of tea and a plate of pastries on a small table by the fire.

“Wash your hands and face, and then let me comb your hair,” Vivien said. “You look like someone dragged you through a thorn bush.”

Sabrina meekly washed up before gratefully sinking into a low chair. “You shouldn’t be waiting on me, Vivien. I’m sure you have other things to do.”

“Nonsense. Besides, I’m simply dying of curiosity. Tell all, darling.”

Sabrina took a sip of tea. “That’s what I’m afraid to do.”

“I won’t breathe a word, I promise.”

“I believe you, but it’s too late. Your servants have seen me.”

Vivien carefully began to detangle Sabrina’s locks with a silver comb. “Our staff never gossip. Aden wouldn’t allow it.”


“My husband’s duties at Court require the utmost discretion from this household. There will be no gossip as a result of your visit this morning.”

“Not even from Mr. Kendrick? Or Tommy?”

“Tommy is completely reliable, as is Graeme.”

“I thought you said he was reckless.”

“Certainly not with a lady’s reputation.”

They were silent for a few moments as Sabrina ate a pastry and Vivien worked the comb through a particularly bad snarl.

“Who were you meeting in the park?” Vivien finally prompted.

“Tell me about Mr. Kendrick first,” Sabrina stalled. “He seems like a gentleman, although he’s rather gruff. He works for your husband, I take it.”

Vivien laughed. “That was a commendable dodge, pet.”

Sabrina sighed. “I’d like to know more, since I got the sense that my stupid accident was more than a simple inconvenience to him.”

Vivien’s hand paused. “What do you mean?”

“He seemed . . . well, frustrated. As if I’d interrupted some important task.”

“Like a mysterious assignation in the park, for instance?”

Sabrina twisted around to look at her. “You think he was meeting a lady? He gave no indication of such a thing.”

Vivien’s mouth twitched. “You don’t know Graeme Kendrick.”

Sabrina repressed a scowl as she turned back around. “He certainly didn’t seem the sort to engage in . . . ”

Drat. Secret assignations. Like she’d been doing.

“As I said, Graeme can be reckless, but he is a gentleman,” Vivien replied.

“So was the man I was meeting. In fact, he’s a wealthy aristocrat.”

Vivien came round to settle in the chair on the other side of the hearth. “Why doesn’t this aristocrat simply take you for a proper stroll at a proper hour?”

“You know how hard it is to have a decent conversation with a man. Everyone is always watching.”

“There’s a reason for that, dearest.”

“I’m not a chit just out of the schoolroom, Vivien. I’ve been running my father’s household for years.”

Vivien wriggled her feet, encased in frivolous feathered mules, closer to the fire. “Why not invite him to Musgrave House and take a quiet stroll in the gardens? I’m sure you could easily find a private corner to chat.”

Sabrina waved an impatient hand. “Father would hate that. He fusses when it comes to potential suitors.”

“Your dearest papa is afraid you’ll marry and leave him.”

“Honestly, I haven’t been that keen on the idea either. I’ve yet to meet one blasted man who could tempt me to . . . ” She twirled a hand. “Rather the opposite, actually.”

“That’s because you haven’t met the right one.”

“Well, they can’t all be like Captain St. George. He’s the very definition of dashing.”

Vivien breathed out a happy sigh. “He is at that. But how about Graeme? He’s certainly not your average gentleman of the ton. He’s a Highlander, for one thing.” She flapped a hand in front of her face. “My dear, that brogue. So delicious.”

“Vivien St. George, and you a married woman with children!”

“Very happily married, which means I have an excellent eye—and ear—for the right sort of man.”

“Surely you cannot be serious. Mr. Kendrick was exceedingly . . . ”


“ . . . Bossy,” she concluded.

“He’s a man, Sabrina. And a wise woman bosses right back. I suspect you could manage Graeme Kendrick quite well.”

“I literally just met the man,” Sabrina replied, exasperation setting in. “While I was waiting to meet another man, I might add.”

“And he didn’t bother to make an appearance.”

Sabrina grabbed the comb from Vivien’s hand and began to unsnarl the last of her tangles. “This is a ridiculous conversation. Besides, if my father wouldn’t approve of a lord with a large estate, he certainly wouldn’t countenance a mister. Especially not a Scottish mister.”

“But your mother was Scottish, and you were born a stone’s throw from the border. How can Lord Musgrave not approve of Scotland?”

“We were residing at our Northumberland estate at the time of Mamma’s illness. Father is convinced she’d still be alive if we’d been in London, where we could have accessed the best physicians.”

Her mother had died of an infectious fever before Sabrina was even three years old, carried off in less than a week. Since the poor lady had always been in delicate health according to Father, it seemed unlikely that any doctor could have saved her.

Vivien’s blue gaze softened with sympathy. “I’m so sorry, dearest.”

Sabrina shrugged. It always felt awkward speaking of her mother, since she had so few memories of her.

“Thank you. It affected Father dreadfully, of course. He loathes the country now, especially the north. He’d fall into hysterics if I so much as gave a single thought to marrying a plain old mister from Scotland.”

“There’s nothing plain about Graeme Kendrick. He’s the brother of the Earl of Arnprior, which means he’s the brother-in-law of—”

Sabrina almost dropped the comb. “No!”

“Yes. Brother-in-law of Victoria, Lady Arnprior, the illegitimate daughter of the king himself.”

“Lady Arnprior is your husband’s half sister.”

It was one of the worst kept secrets of the ton that Aden St. George was the natural son of King George IV. Sabrina had forgotten about Lady Arnprior—not surprising, since the king and his royal brothers had quite a shocking number of children born on the wrong side of the sheets.

“And that means Graeme is part of our family, too.” Vivien ruefully smiled. “Although it does get rather complicated when one isn’t supposed to publicly acknowledge such relationships.”

When the bracket clock on the mantle chimed out the hour, Sabrina grimaced.

“I wish Mr. Kendrick the best, and I’m grateful to him,” she said. “But I simply must be on my way. If you would let me borrow your carriage, I would be desperately grateful.”

Vivien rose. “Of course. But won’t you tell me who you were meeting in the park?” She pointed a finger. “I do think you owe me.”

“Blackmail, in other words,” Sabrina wryly replied as she crossed to the bed to begin dressing.

Her friend’s gaze sparkled with mischief. “I’m quite good at that sort of thing.”

“I suppose it doesn’t matter, since the wretch never showed up. It was the Marquess of Cringlewood.”

The Highlander's English Bride'

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