Vanessa Kelly’s Clan Kendrick series continues this summer with The Highlander’s Irish Bride. After a wild youth, Grant Kendrick has become an upright citizen and successful businessman. But when he takes on the task of escorting the rebellious, irrepressible Kathleen Calvert through the Scottish countryside, Grant increasingly finds that his buttoned-up reserve is no match for Kathleen’s adventurous spirit.
The Highlander’s Irish Bride will be available from Zebra on July 27, but you can read Grant and Kathleen’s first meeting below!
The set-up: Visitors have arrived at Kendrick House in Glasgow, and Grant Kendrick is returning home from his trading offices to meet several new guests.
Grant forced himself to remain calm. Most Kendricks tended to yell when frustrated, but Grant always made a point of doing the opposite. “Now, Angus—”
The old man started up the steps. “Och, fine. Ye can sit in a corner and be yer usual gloomy self. Not that the bonny lass will have time for the likes of ye, anyway. She’ll be too busy keepin’ her wee sister in line. That one’s waitin’ to pop off like a bottle rocket, I reckon.”
“Good God, just how many people did the duchess bring with her?”
“Including the maid and the grooms?”
“You’re incredibly irritating.” Grant rapped on the door, ignoring his grandfather’s chuckle.
Will, the under-butler, answered. “Good evening, Mr. Grant. I hope you had a productive day.”
“I did, until a lunatic Highlander forced his way into my office.”
Will didn’t bat an eyelash. “The family and guests are beginning to gather in the drawing room, sir, but you and Mr. MacDonald have time to change.”
“Thank you. I’ll just be . . .”
The words died on his tongue as he caught sight of a young woman floating down the staircase. He blinked, and then blinked again.
Grant was used to living with beautiful women. His sisters-in-law were all stunners, the sort that stopped men dead in their tracks.
This girl, though? She was just a wee dab of a thing. If lost in thought, a man might pass her on the street and never notice. But with a closer look, there was something . . . something fey about her, as if she’d just stepped out of a fairy ring in a deep Highland glen.
That impression grew stronger as she reached the bottom of the stairs, her skirts seeming to drift on a mountain breeze. The gown was eccentric and charming, a confection of pink silk and white lace that skimmed over her figure. An extraordinary number of gold spangled ribbons encircled her slender waist and cascaded down the front of the gown, some gently flaring as she came toward them. As she passed under the huge chandelier of the center hall, she seemed to shimmer, as if a thousand tiny stars were embedded in the fabric of her gown.
You’re daft, man.
Girls didn’t shimmer or float, or any other stupid image his brain kicked out.
She was very bonny, just as his grandfather had said. With wide-set, pewter-gray eyes, narrow cheekbones, and a sharp little chin, her face looked more elfin than human.
Except for her mouth, which was definitely human and very lush, with a Cupid’s bow curve and a full lower lip. Set against her ethereal features, it made for an intriguing contrast.
Grant liked intriguing. He decided he liked pink gowns and spangled ribbons, too.
The young woman drifted to a halt a few feet away, her mouth tilted in a crooked half smile, as if unsure of her reception.
“You’re starin’, laddie,” Angus whispered.
Of course, what his grandfather considered a whisper could be heard half a block away.
Stop acting like a dolt.
He dredged up a smile. “I take it this is one of our guests. Perhaps you could introduce me, Grandda.”
“That would be preferable to us staring at each other like boobies,” the young lady responded.
The vinegary reply was offset by her light voice and an appealing trace of a brogue—not Scottish, but Irish. That was also intriguing.
After a fraught pause, Grant nudged his grandfather. “Angus?”
“Och, I’m forgettin’ my manners. Happens all the time, ye ken.”
When the girl smiled—a real smile, this time—Grant almost forgot his own name.
“Lady Arnprior warned me that you didn’t have any manners,” she said to Angus. “So I shouldn’t mind if you say something outrageous.”
Angus gave her a wink. “I’ll be havin’ a wee chat with her ladyship, defamin’ me like that.”
The girl laughed. “Oh, drat. Now I’ve got us both in trouble, haven’t I?”
“Nothin’ we can’t get out of together, lass. Just follow my lead.”
She dipped him a saucy little curtsy. “I will be sure to do so, Mr. MacDonald.”
“A-hem,” Grant said.
Angus gave a fake start. “I almost forgot about ye. Miss Kathleen Calvert, allow me to introduce my grandson, Grant Kendrick.”
Grant bowed. “Miss Calvert, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Welcome to Kendrick House.”
“Thank you, sir.” She tilted her head back, studying him with a thoughtful frown. “I thought Lord Arnprior was tall, but you’re almost a giant. It’s all the clean living, I suppose, not to mention the log tossing. I’ve been told that Scots are fond of log tossing. By your size, I would say you do quite a lot of it.”
Grant’s mind blanked for a moment. “Er, is that a question?”
Miss Calvert studied him for a moment before letting out a sigh, as if disappointed. “I suppose we should go in. The others are waiting."
When she calmly walked off toward the drawing room, Grant turned to his grandfather. “What just happened?”
“Ye got rolled up, son, that’s what happened. Ye’ll have to do better than that.”
“Do better at having bizarre conversations? That’s your forte, not mine.”
Angus snorted. “At least my conversations don’t bore young lassies to death.”
With that annoying and probably truthful bon mot, his grandfather beetled over to the stairs, heading up to the family apartments.
Grant blew out a frustrated breath, then looked at Will. “Is it just me, or is my entire family insane?”
“Dinner in thirty minutes, sir,” the young man politely responded.
Shaking his head, Grant stalked up the stairs.