The Laird’s Christmas Kiss: The Lairds Most Likely Book 2 by @AnnaCampbelloz #ChristmasinJulyFete #g
Title: The Highlander’s Christmas Kiss: The Lairds Most Likely Book 2
Author: Anna Campbell
Genre: Historical Romance
Deck the halls with mistletoe!
For years, shy wallflower Elspeth Douglas has pined for the attentions of dashing Brody Girvan, Laird of Invermackie. But the rakish Highlander doesn’t even know she’s alive. This Christmas, she realizes that she’ll never be happy until she stops loving her brother’s handsome friend. Except it turns out that Brody isn’t singing from the same Christmas carol sheet—Elspeth decides she’s not interested in him anymore, just as he decides he’s very interested indeed. With interfering friends and a crate of imported mistletoe thrown into the mix, the stage is set for a house party rife with secrets, clandestine kisses, misunderstandings, heartache, scandal, and love triumphant. Down with love! Ever since she was fifteen, shy wallflower Elspeth Douglas has pined in vain for the attentions of dashing Brody Girvan, Laird of Invermackie. But the rakish Highlander doesn’t even know she’s alive. Now she’s twenty, she realizes that she’ll never be happy until she stops loving her brother’s handsome friend. When family and friends gather at Achnasheen Castle for Christmas, she intends to show the world that’s she’s all grown up, and grown out of silly crushes on gorgeous Scotsmen. So take that, my gallant laddie! Girls just want to have fun… Except it turns out that Brody isn’t singing from the same Christmas carol sheet. Elspeth decides she’s not interested in him anymore, just as he decides he’s very interested indeed. In fact, now he looks more closely, his friend Hamish’s sister is pretty and funny and forthright – and just the lassie to share his Highland estate. Convincing his little wren of his romantic intentions is difficult enough, even before she undergoes a makeover and becomes the belle of Achnasheen. For once in his life, dissolute Brody is burdened with honorable intentions, while the lady he pursues is set on flirtation with no strings attached. Deck the halls with mistletoe! With interfering friends and a crate of imported mistletoe thrown into the mix, the stage is set for a house party rife with secrets, clandestine kisses, misunderstandings, heartache, scandal, and love triumphant.
Brody Girvan, Laird of Invermackie, was altogether a dashing fellow. Or at least so people told him.
But as he sauntered down from his bedroom at Achnasheen, crossed the medieval hall with its decorations of holly and pine, and approached the breakfast room, he harboured the unwelcome suspicion that he wasn’t quite as dashing as he wanted people to think.
On his first night back in his cousin’s home, he’d stayed up with Hamish and Diarmid, drinking too much of Fergus’s excellent whisky. It was good seeing his friends, but he greeted the morning with a headache and the grim knowledge that he frittered away his youth on pleasures that palled.
For months, this feeling had grown. At first, he’d given it the cut direct. After all, what else could any man want but plenty of reckless women to warm his bed and freedom to pursue whatever vices beckoned?
But his lurking dissatisfaction hadn’t taken its dismissal in good spirit. It had pursued him, like bailiffs harrying a laddie who hadn’t paid his tailor’s bill. Over recent months, its clamor had risen to the point where ignoring it took more effort than anything else in his hedonistic, useless life.
Good God, was that really how he’d describe his gilded existence?
He refused to admit that it was. But last night and too many nights before that, he’d sat up late carousing with cronies, while wishing he’d gone to bed with a good book instead.
A shameful admission for a rake to make.
There was no arguing that today he hadn’t slept until noon as usual, but instead was up at the unheard-of hour of eight. The devil knew why. Nobody else seemed eager to face the snowy morning. The castle was quiet as the grave, and as was the norm in Scotland in December, outside it was howling a gale. In such dreich weather, even a bloody parson could find an excuse to sleep late.
Grumpily Brody slouched into the breakfast room. He caught the smell of bacon and kippers and whatever the hell other instruments of torture his cousin Fergus set out in the name of sustenance. His stomach rebelled. He swallowed sour bile and told himself that under no circumstances would he start his day by casting up his accounts.
Anyway, he placed the blame in the wrong quarter. He should credit the menu to that black-eyed, half-Italian witch Fergus had married a year ago.
Except that wasn’t fair. Brody liked Marina, Fergus’s unconventional bride. Although he couldn’t help noting that his restlessness with a perfectly pleasant life dated from seeing his once self-sufficient cousin in thrall to a woman. And as happy as a Scotsman in a haggis factory.
Blast it, at this rate, Brody might start considering marriage, too.
At first, he thought the breakfast room was empty—which suited his curmudgeonly humor. Then he saw a girl watching him from the shadowy corner beside the buffet.
“This room is as dark as a deuced coalmine in Hades,” he growled, before reminding himself that he was supposed to be a gentleman, with at least a distant acquaintance with manners.
“And good morning to you, too, Brody,” the girl said in a flat tone, carrying her plate across to the table. She chose a seat that offered her a view across the snowy lawns to the loch.
It was the Douglas chit, the youngest sister, the quiet one. The only brunette in a family of blazing, golden blonds.
“I’m sorry. I’ve got a devil of a head,” he said, before wondering if confiding the night’s excesses to a well-born virgin was quite the thing either.
“Then by all means, don’t feel you have to make conversation,” she said, with more of the faint sourness that had tinged her greeting.
Shocked, Brody paused on his way to the buffet, seeking not food but the coffee pot. The lassie spoke as if he didn’t deserve her attention. When he appeared, girls always brightened up and played with their hair and went all giggly and arch.
He frowned at this wee brown wren. She didn’t look giggly or arch. In fact, she showed no pleasure in his company at all.
The lassie ate her porridge with dogged dedication, as if he wasn’t there. Surprise thundered through him, stole his breath. Good Lord, she ignored him. Girls never ignored him.
He shouldn’t be piqued. But he was.
Grumpier than ever, Brody prowled across to the coffee pot and raised it in her direction, wondering if he’d catch her observing him under her lashes. She wasn’t. Instead, she stared out the French doors at the unencouraging weather. With Christmas four days away, today promised snow all through the festive season.
“Would ye like some coffee?” he asked, to interrupt whatever profound, non-Brody-related thoughts she enjoyed.
She inspected him the way she’d look at a slug on her salad. “My name’s Elspeth.”
He became seriously annoyed. Too much whisky must make a man short-tempered. Which was odd, because as a rule, he was the most easygoing of laddies, even after a night of kicking his heels up.
You’re easygoing only because you always get your own way, a nasty wee voice sniped in his mind. That nasty wee voice had moved in at the same time as his general dissatisfaction. He’d spent a year wishing it to Jericho, but it remained entrenched, and inclined to offer opinions when least welcome.
“I know that,” Brody responded with a hint of impatience. “You’re Hamish’s wee sister.”
Elspeth’s lips tightened. Had he said something wrong?
“I wasn’t sure you remembered me.”
“Of course I remember you. Our families get together two or three times a year. I’d need my head fixed, if I didn’t remember you.” He waved the coffee pot at her, just missing spilling it. “Now, Elspeth, Miss Douglas, Hamish’s wee sister, would ye like some coffee?”
“No, thank you,” she said, with a politeness that shouldn’t irk, even if it did.
What I love most about the holiday season:
Getting together with the people I love and celebrating good times and good friends.
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ANNA CAMPBELL has written ten multi award-winning historical romances for Grand Central Publishing and Avon HarperCollins and her work is published in twenty languages. She has also written 21 bestselling independently published romances. Anna has won numerous awards for her Regency-set stories including Romantic Times Reviewers Choice, the Booksellers Best, the Golden Quill (three times), the Heart of Excellence (twice), the Write Touch, the Aspen Gold (twice) and the Australian Romance Readers Association’s favorite historical romance (five times). Her books have three times been nominated for Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA Award and three t