Claimed by the Laird

An old maid—that’s all Lady Christina McMorlan, daughter to the Duke of Forres, is to society now that she’s past thirty. She hosts her father’s parties and cares for her siblings, knowing she’ll never have her own home and family. She has no time to pine, however. By night, she’s The Lady, head of a notorious whiskey-smuggling gang that supports her impoverished clan. They’re always one step ahead of the revenue man—until Lucas Black shows up.

Rejecting his title and the proper society that disparaged his mother, Lucas earns his living running a successful gambling house. He’s also a spy, charged with bringing down the Forres Gang. He thinks The Lady’s just a bored society spinster. She thinks he’s a lost child playing at rebellion. And when the truth comes out, it’s not just their love on the line.

Will he expose her as the criminal he seeks, or seduce her as the woman he desires…?

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“The perfect combination of intrigue, passion and romance. A captivating and sensual love story and a satisfying finish to this enjoyable series.”

— Rakes and Rascals

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“Lady Christina?” He said. His tone was deferential, in contradiction to the expression in his eyes, which was anything but respectful. “My name is Lucas Ross. I do not believe we have met, unless you have the advantage of me…” He let the words hang for a moment and Christina’s heart gave a wayward thump.

He had recognised her. He knew she was the woman he had kissed the previous night.

She straightened her spine. “No,” she said coldly. “I have not had that pleasure, Mr Ross.”

A spark of amusement gleamed in Lucas’s eyes as though he was remembering just how pleasurable it had been, how she had melted in his arms, her lips opening beneath his as he had kissed her with heat and skill and passion. She felt a flash of that same sensual heat low in her belly. Damn him. The only thing she could do now was to act the aristocratic lady, disdainful, dismissive. She had to pretend to coldness even if cold was the very last thing she was feeling.

“This is very irregular,” she said. “In what way may I help you, Mr Ross?”

Lucas smiled, quick, appreciative. It transformed his whole face, giving it warmth for one brief moment.

“I applied for the footman’s post,” he said. “Unfortunately my application was not successful. I wondered if you would be good enough as to explain why?”

“The appointment of servants is Mr Galloway’s job, Mr Ross,” Christina said. “You would need to apply to him for an explanation. Now if you will excuse me-”

“But you were the one who refused to offer me the post,” Lucas said. “I heard you tell Mr Galloway not to appoint me.”

There was a sharp silence during which Christina ran through any number of unladylike epithets in her head. She had not realised that they had been overheard.

“I am sorry, Mr Ross,” she said eventually. “I am not in the habit of explaining my decisions to anyone.”

The quizzical lift of Lucas’s brows was very close to mockery. “I see,” he said, and Christina blushed to realise quite how arrogant she had sounded. “But how am I to improve if you will not tell me the areas in which I am lacking?”

Galloway came puffing up at that moment. “Mr Ross! How dare you approach Lady Christina in such a ramshackle manner?”

“I meant no disrespect,” Lucas Ross said. His gaze had not moved from Christina and she felt her face heat. “I merely asked to know the reasons why my application was rejected.  Do I not deserve that?” He spoke directly to Christina so that only she could see the hidden amusement in his eyes. She felt trapped, flustered. Lucas knew perfectly well why she had rejected him and she had a disturbing feeling that unless she changed her mind he would be quite prepared to share the reason with everyone. Allegra was looking from one to the other with speculation. Even the Duke was looking mildly interested. As for Galloway, he was avid to know her reasons since she had refused to give him any.

She was not sure which was worse, the fact that Lucas could expose her as a whisky smuggler or the fact that he could disclose that the previous night he had tumbled her in the heather. The first might land her in gaol and the second would ruin her reputation.

She was trapped.

“I expect,” Allegra drawled, unexpectedly coming to her rescue, “that Aunt Christina rejected your application because you are too handsome Mr Ross.” Her blue MacMorlan gaze was drifting over Lucas with undisguised appreciation. “My poor aunt has to consider the smooth running of the household, you know. Your looks would cause havoc below stairs and scandal above.”

“Allegra!” Christina snapped, torn between relief and embarrassment at her niece’s intervention.

“What?” There was a hint of childish petulance in the way that Allegra shrugged one slender shoulder. “You know it’s true.”

Lucas smiled easily. He addressed Christina rather than Allegra. “It has always been a terrible disadvantage to me to look like this, I confess.”

Christina was almost tempted into an answering smile by his dry tone. “I am sure that your plight garners a great deal of sympathy, Mr Ross,” she said, equally dryly. “It must be a terrible burden to be cursed with such good looks.”

Appreciation sparked in Lucas’s eyes. “Oh it is. But I scarcely think that is the reason you dismissed me, Lady Christina. Do tell us your real explanation or I shall be obliged to speculate.”

Christina took a deep breath. That was a clear threat and she was not going to be intimidated. Lucas Ross needed to understand that he could not expect to blackmail her into giving him a job just because she had enjoyed kissing him rather too much the previous night.

“I think that would be a mistake, Mr Ross,” she said. “Think carefully before you say something you might regret.”

Lucas’s eyes danced, daring her to call his bluff. “Are you afraid of the truth, Lady Christina? Do you not want it to come out?”

The man was a scoundrel. He deserved all that was coming to him.

“Well,” Christina said, injecting what she hoped was sincere regret into her tone, “I was thinking only of protecting your reputation, Mr Ross, but as you are so monstrous persistent I can see that nothing but the truth will suffice.” She took a deep breath. “I am afraid that there was a problem with one of your references.”

She could see that Lucas had not been expecting this. A shade of wariness had come into his expression. Good. He was far too sure of himself.

“I was hoping not to have to raise this,” Christina said, warming to her theme. “I imagine it is an uncomfortable topic for you, Mr Ross…” She risked another glance at Lucas and saw that he was watching her with so much wicked amusement in those dark eyes now that she almost forgot what she was saying.

“On the contrary, Lady Christina,” he murmured, “you find me positively agog to hear what you have to say.”

“I am a little acquainted with one of your previous employers, Sir Geoffrey MacIntyre,” Christina said. “Your reference from him was most generous – positively glowing. However,” she gave Lucas a look of limpid innocence. “I understood from him when we met last winter in Edinburgh that he had in fact sacked his footman for gross impropriety. I am therefore obliged to doubt the veracity of your references, Mr Ross.”

For a second Lucas looked completely taken aback and it gave her the most immense satisfaction. Then his lips twitched. “I do believe you are accusing me of faking my testimonials,” he said.

“I would do nothing so crude as to accuse you of fraud,” Christina corrected. “I merely point out that this raised some concerns in my mind.”

“What sort of impropriety?” Allegra piped up. She was looking enthralled. “Did you run off with Lady MacIntyre, Mr Ross? How wicked of you!”

“I am sure that Lady Christina will tell us precisely what impropriety I have committed,” Lucas murmured. His gaze challenged her. “Well, Lady Christina?”

“I am afraid it was financial impropriety,” Christina said solemnly. “I am sorry, Mr Ross-” She flicked him a sympathetic look. “I imagine this is very difficult for you.”

“It is not what I expected, certainly,” Lucas said. “However I am afraid there has been a misunderstanding. I have never been accused of financial impropriety in my life. Perhaps you have confused me with another of Sir Geoffrey’s footmen?”

“I doubt I could ever confuse you with anyone, Mr Ross,” Christina said, with perfect truth. “You have made sure of that.”

Again she saw that flash of amusement in his eyes. “I am flattered to think so,” he said.

“You should not be flattered,” Christina said. “I hope you will understand, however, that no amount of... persuasion… will convince me to change my mind.”

End of Excerpt

Claimed by the Laird

is available in the following formats:
North American Edition
UK Edition

July 29, 2014 · Harlequin · ISBN 13: 978-0373777907 · ISBN 10: 0373777906

Connected Books

All of the books in the Scottish Brides Series:

Behind the Book

One element to the background of Claimed by the Laird was the illegal trade in whisky smuggling that went on in Scotland. I’ve always been fascinated by Scottish whisky smuggling, as the place we stay at every year in the North West Highlands has a “tea house’ an old bothy that was once the site of a whisky still. These days you can walk up the mountain track and take your own refreshment at the bothy and imagine what it was like in Regency times when the smuggling was rife and the excise officers rode the hills looking for smugglers! The photograph shows the bridge at Torran leading up a mountain track to the “tea house.”

To a Scot, “smuggling’ meant not just illegal import and export, but also illegal distilling. in 1707 the parliaments of Scotland and England were united and thereafter the English system of customs duties and excise was introduced into Scotland. Not only was this regarded as an imposition by most Scots, it also saw a period of inefficient application of the English system. The result was that, especially with the lucrative English market to the south, smuggling boomed. It was the introduction of a tax on malt, an essential ingredient in the making of whisky that helped spur on the illicit distilling of whisky — that is the distilling of whisky without a licence. Much of the Highlands, where hundreds of illicit stills operated, had little income from agriculture or other trades.

Acclaim

Reviews for Claimed by the Laird
5 Stars

“The perfect combination of intrigue, passion and romance. A captivating and sensual love story and a satisfying finish to this enjoyable series.”

Bad Ass Boots!!

“Nicola Cornick creates a colorful cast of characters in a fun, exciting set of tales.”

Tasteful and Delectable

“The characters in the story are endearing and charm you. Its sweet, charming, and enough romance to satisfy those sweet urges.”

4 stars

“A unique storyline that will grab the reader's attention and make him/her want to read on.”

“A wickedly delicious romp though Scotland. I would highly recommend this title, especially, if you enjoy Scottish romance, smugglers, and spies. Lots of danger, secrets, betrayal and seduction. But most of all the true power of love and trust. I absolutely loved this title.”

“Through tangible details and sensuous descriptions Nicola Cornick brings an unusual courtship to life.”

4 stars

“Nicola Cornick is a fine storyteller.”