ISBN 10: 0743410289 / ISBN 13: 9780743410281
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Sinopsis:

One lucky man would win her hand...

A lady of London breeding, Emma Van Court never expected to be left widowed -- and penniless -- in the Scottish village of Faires. But when a fortune is promised if she remarries, the pretty schoolteacher finds Faires' motley assortment of eligible men scrambling for her attentions -- from the local cowherd to an obnoxious baron!

One sweet kiss would seal their love...

James Marbury, Earl of Denham, was urbane, sophisticated....and utterly at odds among the muddy roads and thatched roofs of Faires. He had come after hearing of his cousin Stuart's passing -- and was exasperated to find his maddening, tempestuous love for the widowed Emma was as strong as ever. With bachelors coming out of the woodwork to woo her, James sees only one solution: offer himself to her as a temporary husband...even if secretly he longs to make his "I do's" last a lifetime.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

Mainland, Shetland Isles
May 1833

Emma Van Court Chesterton was having a bad day.

Not, of course, that today was particularly worse than any other. She'd been having bad days for nearly a year now. Oh, there'd been a few fair-to-middling days thrown in during that twelve-month period, but for the most part, they'd been bad.

She wasn't exactly sure what she'd done to bring on this spell of foul luck. She had picked up every single halfpenny she'd found and avoided walking under ladders.

Not that she believed in luck, of course. It was very old-fashioned and superstitious to do so.

But to be on the safe side, she'd visited the Wishing Tree again just last week and nailed Stuart's bedroom slippers to the trunk. She didn't have any of her own shoes to spare, and Stuart wouldn't be needing his any more, of course.

But when she woke up the next morning, she realized the shoes hadn't done the least bit of good. Her bad luck continued unabated.

The rooster had run away again.

Bad luck. That was the only explanation for it. A glance at her bedroom window revealed that the day was well advanced. The leaden sky was just light enough to indicate that dawn had come at least an hour earlier, but no rooster's crow had wakened her.

So she was late. Again.

The thought of throwing back the bedclothes to face the day was a daunting one. Emma lay still for a full minute after waking, debating whether even to bother setting foot out of bed. It was only the impatient whimpering of her bed partner -- a laughing-faced dog of indeterminable breed but inestimable charm, whom Emma had rescued the week before from the docks -- that finally propelled her out of bed.

Better to face a day lacking in promise, she decided, than to allow her new guest to have an accident indoors.

Hastily, Emma stuffed her feet into slippers and her arms into a dressing gown, while the dog -- a female who, to Emma's admittedly inexperienced eye, appeared to be due to give birth at any moment -- waddled in happy circles around her ankles, occasionally colliding with her new mistress's shins in her excitement over being let outdoors.

But when Emma opened the cottage door to let the dog out, she saw that things were worse -- far worse -- than she had imagined. Not only had her rooster run away, but rain -- heavy, impenetrable spring rain -- poured down in a thick curtain before her, turning the yard around her cottage to soggy bogs of mud. A squall had blown in from the sea during the night and was now pounding the tiny Hebridean island with its full force.

After having suffered through a half dozen blizzards since October, the sight of a good solid rainfall was not exactly unwelcome. Emma's enthusiasm for this spring shower was somewhat dampened, however, by the thought that she was going to have to wade out into that storm in order to get to the village, where a dozen children would be waiting in the schoolroom for her to conduct the day's lessons.

Emma wasn't the only one who looked upon the heavy rain with dismay. Her small guest placed a paw hesitantly in the mud, then turned to look back up at Emma, as if to say, "Must I? Must I, really?"

But it was only when that trusting, slightly perplexed expression turned suspicious and a low growl sounded in the dog's throat that Emma sensed there was something wrong with the animal other than a simple distaste for rain. Following the direction of the dog's gaze, Emma caught sight of the shadowy, hulking figure standing perfectly still just beneath the overhang of the cottage's thatch roof.

"Good Lord," Emma murmured, placing a hand to her chest. Beneath her fingers, her heart had begun to drum much too loudly. Really, she thought to herself, this is simply too much. To be accosted in front of her own cottage, while she was still in her dressing gown, for goodness sake....And it wasn't the first time it had happened, either. This will not do. It simply will not do, she thought.

Opening her eyes, which she'd closed to utter a quick and silent prayer of thanks that at least she knew this particular interloper, Emma regarded the still figure.

"Really, Mr. MacEwan," she said in her sleep-roughened voice. "What are you doing, standing out here in the rain like this? You frightened me nearly to death, you know."

The giant -- for that's what he was, really, a six-foot-seven giant of a man, who lived with his aging mother on the farm neighboring Emma's -- inclined his head, causing rainwater that had collected along the brim of his hat to flow down in a stream to the toes of his thick boots.

"'Mornin', Miz Chesterton," he said, shamefacedly. "I didna mean to afright ye. I...I brung back yer rooster."

For the first time, Emma noticed that there was a skinny, somewhat bedraggled bird tucked under Cletus MacEwan's arm.

"Oh, dear," she said. "Was he at your hens again, Mr. MacEwan? I'm so sorry -- "

"I reckon he forgot that he don't live there no more." Cletus set the rooster on the ground. "But I don't s'pose he'll run off again. Our Charlie gave 'im quite a fight. I'm surprised ye didn't 'ear the two of 'em squawkin' all the way up 'ere."

Emma glared at the rooster, who hurried into the meager shelter provided by the overhang of the cottage's roof, then scratched aloofly at the hard ground, pretending he didn't know they were talking about him.

"I didn't hear them, no," Emma replied, "which is why I'm running so late this morning. I can't thank you enough, Mr. MacEwan, for bringing him back."

Cletus nodded. "Well, I reckon he'll stay put this time, after the peckin' Charlie gave 'im." Then, shyly, he held out his other hand, from which a basket, its contents covered with a blue-and-white cloth, dangled. "Almost forgot," he said. "Me mam just made 'em. Scones. Fresh out o' the bakin' oven, are they."

Emma took the basket from his raw and work-reddened hands -- he'd left his gloves behind again, she saw. The first warm day of the season, and Cletus MacEwan had abandoned his gloves, not remembering, as Emma did, that the weather in the Shetlands did not always abide by the calendar. It could be warm as summer in the middle of winter, and cold as February, as it was today, in the middle of May.

"Oh, Mr. MacEwan," she said, raising her voice so that he could hear her over the steady pounding of the rain. "Thank you so very much. But really, I wish you hadn't...."

Emma wasn't just being polite. She really did wish he hadn't. Though she infinitely preferred Mrs. MacEwan's scones over last week's offering -- a butchered hog -- this was still far too much. Cletus MacEwan was Emma's most dedicated -- and physically prepossessing -- suitor, but he was also the most lacking in common sense.

"You're going to fall behind on your work, bringing me breakfast like this every morning," she scolded him gently.

Cletus only smiled at her, the trusting, friendly smile of a very young child. And indeed, he was young, at eighteen a year Emma's junior.

"Me mam says we've got to see you eat right," Cletus replied. "She says you've gotten too thin, and that you're goin' to waste away up 'ere -- "

"Yes, well," Emma interrupted. She had heard Mrs. MacEwan's dire predictions before. There wasn't anything the least bit wrong with Emma's health, but Cletus's mother quite liked bragging to her friends in town about her efforts at fattening up "Poor Widow Chesterton." There wasn't any doubt that neighborly kindness was not the only reason behind Mrs. MacEwan's concern. She had an ulterior motive, and that motive was standing in front of Emma right then, shivering like a lamb before the slaughter beneath his wet clothes.

Under ordinary circumstances, Emma exercised no tolerance whatsoever for her many suitors. On this day, however, she decided to make an exception. Maybe it was the sight of C

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