The Earl’s Enticement: Enhanced 2nd Edition
Castle Brides, #3
Even the best laid plans can fall apart when opposites attract…
Adaira Ferguson made a mistake. In her defense, it was an honest mistake. After all, how was she to know that the dangerously attractive man she imprisoned was an earl and not a spy? Her good intentions don’t mean anything to him, though. He’s out for revenge. And if he has his way, she’ll become the thing she hates most—a prim, proper, and boring lass. But if he thinks she’s going to give in without a fight, he’s got another thing coming…
Roark, the Earl of Clarendon, values control and propriety above all else. Matters of the heart are of no interest to him. His ill-fated marriage rid him of any romantic notions he’d ever had. So taking his vengeance on the free-spirited Scottish hoyden who falsely imprisoned him will be simple. The unwanted feelings she stirs him? Well…those are infinitely more complicated.
Caught between revenge and the dictates of proper society, can Adaira and Roark find the happily ever after they never knew they wanted? Or are they destined to remain at odds forever?
Though this book can easily be read as a stand-alone, most readers prefer to read the series in order.
Contains adult content and language.
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See what readers are saying!
“An exceptional, entertaining, and gripping retelling of My Fair Lady,” The Earl’s Enticement” is ripe with frequent plot twists and steamy interludes.” ★★★★★ ~InD’tale Magazine
“THE EARL’S ENTICEMENT is an extremely enjoyable historical romance.” ★★★★★ ~The Romance Reviews Top Pick
“Completely charismatic, Adaira and Roark’s riveting romance make The Earl’s Enticement an enchanting novel that is impossible to put down.” ★★★★★ ~Lusty Penguin Reviews
“A wonderful Scottish tale with an intelligent, strong heroine, yummy hero, and more laugh-out-loud moments than you can count.” ★★★★★ ~Cynthia Gail Reviews
“A well thought out plot . . . fast pace and a wonderful dialogue keeps this story interesting and always moving.” ★★★★★ ~Bookworm 2 Bookworm
“Absolutely fantastic! It was fun, it was dramatic, it was sexy . . .well-written intelligent historical romance.” ~Rage Sex And Teddy Bears
“Ms. Cameron certainly delivered all that I hope for in a book of this genre and then some.” ★★★★★ ~Chrystal’s Many Reviews
“I have been reading Regency and historical romance novels for almost 50 years. . . . Collette Cameron’s work was a delightful surprise.” ★★★★★ ~Ruthie Mack
“Collette Cameron is at her sparkling best in this, the third in the Castle Bride Series. Beautifully defined characters (Adaira is a treat and Roarke just dreamy) interact with Ms Cameron’s typical sparkling wit and lively dialogue. A fast-moving plot sweeps you along in its wake.” ★★★★★ ~Sarah Hegger
“This was an absolutely perfecting written story.I enjoyed it very much…the characters were so very much fun to be with throughout the story. The action was never-ending. The romance was perfect.” ★★★★★ ~Midnight
Aspen Gold Finalist
2015 RONE Award Finalist
Craigcutty, Scotland — Late June, 1817
Roark, Earl of Clarendon, led his limping horse toward a partially constructed building at the edge of the bustling village. The mare, the only horse available for hire at the inn he’d lodged at last night, went lame half a mile back. He rubbed her velvety muzzle, and she blew into his hand. The poor beast had done her best.
He should have ridden in his carriage the last leg of the journey from London. Yet, he loathed being confined. It stirred childhood memories better left buried. He arched his spine, wincing as familiar tautness twinged from shoulder to hip.
A man, his words indistinguishable, called to a lad standing in the building’s doorway.
The boy glanced over his shoulder. “Aye, I will.”
He bounded across the porch, then down the steps in front of the structure. A piece of straw poked from his mouth, and he wielded a riding crop in one hand like a sword.
Roark waved. “Young chap.”
With long strides, he closed the distance between them.
Ducking his head, the lad yanked the knitted cap lower on his brow. The Scottish bonnet was too big for the boy to begin with, but tugged nearly over his eyes, he looked rather like Roark’s one-eyed Old English sheepdog, Guinevere.
The crop stilled. Shoulders hunched and eyes lowered, the youth removed the straw from his mouth. He tossed it onto the packed earth. “Be ye speakin’ ta me, sir?”
“Yes, I need a horse. What’s your name?”
“Ad— er, Addy, sir.”
The youth was taller and older than Roark first thought, maybe as much as five and ten. Addy’s voice was soft and his brogue rather melodic for a lad that age. He appeared painfully shy, or perhaps, embarrassed at being caught pretending swordplay. He had yet to lift his gaze from Roark’s dust-covered Wellington’s.
Roark scanned the busy street, searching for a livery stable. “Where might I find a horse for hire?”
Gaze trained on the mare, Addy approached her instead of answering the question. He stood with his head cocked, assessing the horse. Rubbing the bridge of his nose, he leaned forward a fraction.
Ire pricked Roark at the lad’s audacity. Roark swiftly stifled his irritation. He wasn’t expected. It was gauche to come for a holiday unannounced, but there was nothing for it.
Whispering something unintelligible, Addy tucked the whip beneath one arm before running his hands along the mare’s right shoulder. He squatted and trailed fine-boned fingers to her ankle. “I’d bet me sainted grandmother, a bowed tendon is causin’ her pain.”
Roark quirked a half-smile in grudging admiration. Addy was right. “You know something of horseflesh?”
Eyeing the tip of the crop peeking from beneath the youth’s arm, Roark’s smile faded. He never took a whip to his horses. Or other animals for that matter. He had no respect for anyone who did.
Addy shrugged, still hunkered over the mare’s lower leg. “Aye, a wee bit.”
Roark scrutinized him. He’d originally thought the boy a village urchin. The well-made breeches and fine boots Addy wore belied that assumption. His jacket hung loosely, but was of the highest quality. And, unless he toted the whip around for amusement, he had a horse.
Was he local gentry?
Weren’t the only aristocrats in the immediate area the McTavishs and Fergusons, both of whom resided at the castle?
Roark rubbed his brow. Was this boy one of them? Ewan McTavish, the Viscount Sethwick, had a brother about six and ten, and sisters, too, didn’t he?
Blast. Roark couldn’t remember precisely what his stepsister, Yvette, had written. Except that McTavish’s mother and stepfather, Hugh Ferguson, along with a throng of other family members, lived at the keep.
Removing his hat, Roark lifted a crisp, white handkerchief from his coat pocket. He dabbed his sweaty forehead. With one last wipe across his face, he folded the handkerchief before tucking it back inside his jacket. His fingers brushed the irregular scar on his forehead—one of many marring his body—as he swept his hair backward. He donned his hat once more.
Despite his cap and coat, the lad didn’t appear the least affected by the rising temperature.
Lifting his gaze, Roark examined what he could see of the flourishing township. No doubt Addy was the son of a prosperous merchant, and the structure was a—
Roark angled his head, studying the odd two-story building with its L-shaped additions. The new lumber glowed wheat-gold in the sunlight. The pleasing scent of freshly cut wood permeated the air. He had no idea what the odd structure was.
An inn perhaps?
“Where be ye headed?”
Addy’s question reined in Roark’s musings. He swung his attention to the boy still gently kneading the mare’s leg. The lad made low, crooning noises in the back of his throat.
“Craiglocky Keep, if I can acquire a horse.”
And even if Roark couldn’t, blister it. He didn’t relish a lengthy trudge in this infernal heat.
He gestured to the building. “What is this meant to be?”
Addy’s hands stilled. “An orphanage.”
Keeping his back to Roark, the lad slowly stood and grasped
the crop once more. He edged around to the other side of the nag, caressing her with his free hand. His nails were clean and square.
“Ye be a stranger to Craigcutty. What business have ye at the keep?”
Irritation surged through Roark. He was anxious to see Yvette. Why hadn’t she contacted him prior to returning to England? Why did he have to learn of her homecoming by way of the gossipmongers and the letter she posted from Scotland?
Scrutinizing the top of Addy’s head, all that was visible above the horse, Roark suppressed his exasperation.
He exhaled a long, controlled breath before answering coolly. “My stepsister, Yvette Stapleton, is in residence there.”
The mare heaved a gusty breath and shifted her weight. Before Addy dipped his head behind the nag again, Roark caught a fleeting glimpse of deep brown eyes framed by thick sable lashes. Was that surprise or alarm in the lad’s gaze? He still hadn’t answered Roark’s question about acquiring a confounded mount.
“Ye have a stepsister? At the keep?” Skepticism riddled Addy’s voice. He stopped patting the mare’s neck, then twisted to look at the building he’d come from. “I canna . . .”
The boy slapped his crop against his boot.
Meshing his lips together, he flicked Roark a contemptuous glance. Frowning, Addy stared at the structure while tapping an irregular rhythm on his palm with the whip.
What was he thinking?
“Yes, I’m . . .” By God, why was Roark explaining himself to this impertinent whelp?
Rivulets of sweat trickled between his shoulder blades. He examined the hamlet once more. Occasionally, he left off his title when traveling—especially when he wanted to remain anonymous. He’d found it very useful in determining peoples’ genuineness.
He wasn’t about to tell this cub his title.
“I’m Mr. Marquardt.” Marquardt was his surname, although everyone addressed him by his title, Clarendon.
A snort followed by another muffled oath greeted his words. “Blast it to Hades.”
“Pardon?” Roark skirted around the ancient horse’s head.
Addy stood near the mare’s rump, his nose crinkled in distaste. “Nothing. I stepped in—”
The boy’s footprint was stamped in a steaming pile of horse droppings. Roark set his mouth against the grin that threatened. He patted the horse to hide his smile. Instinct told him the lad wouldn’t appreciate being laughed at.
Roark turned his attention to the well-used forked road. Parallel ruts, formed by innumerable wagon wheels, lined the parched earth. One lane led directly into town, and the other hugged the village perimeter. Most likely the latter was the route to Craiglocky. “Does this village boast a livery?”
“Aye, there’s a livery, but nae horses are available to ye.”
Roark swung his gaze to Addy. He seemed to have overcome his bashfulness and stared intently at him now.
“And why not?” Roark tightened his grip on the reins. The mare jerked her head sharply.
“Shh.” He rubbed her neck. “It’s all right.”
“Look around.” Addy waved the whip in the air. “Ye can see the building and carts and all. Every beastie is already in use.”
From where Roark stood, he observed three other buildings in various stages of construction. Hammering, sawing, boards banging, and calls from the workmen carried to him on the inadequate breeze. At least four wagons had rumbled into the hamlet while he’d been occupied with the boy.
“Perhaps one of the wagons is continuing on to the keep?” Roark spoke more to himself than Addy. Another laden wagon creaked by. “Maybe I could share a ride?”
“Nae likely.” Addy shook his head, his cap promptly sliding to his nose. “Bugger me,” he muttered, shoving the cap up his forehead.
Taking a couple of steps backward, Addy settled the bonnet higher on his head. It still obscured the top portion of his narrow face. “The castle’s within walking distance.”
He pointed the crop at the outlying road. “It’s a wee bit more than a mile along there.”
Addy spun on his heels and started to dash away. He slid to an abrupt halt. Little puffs of dirt spiraled around his ankles. Half-turning toward Roark, he said, “Take the horse with ye. There’s someone at the keep who knows how to treat the animal.”
He turned away and took no more than a dozen steps before stopping. He faced Roark again, staring past him with impossibly dark eyes.
Roark arched a brow. “Was there something else?”
Addy’s unnerving gaze met his for an instant, then flitted to the road behind Roark.
“Aye. When ye come to the fork, ‘bout half-mile yonder, make sure ye keeps to the right. Ye canna miss it. A monstrous old willow tree splits the path.” Addy shook his right forearm back and forth for emphasis. His short jacket rose and fell with the motion. “If ye don’t, ye’ll find yerself sinking in the bogs.”
Something akin to antagonism glinted in the lad’s eyes. Curious. Beneath winged brows, they were unusual eyes, too. Oval, not round, and coffee-brown, almost black.
A Highlander’s coloring to be sure.
Addy stood, hands on his hips, tapping the toe of one boot. He peered at Roark expectantly. Even with a few feet between them, Roark could see flecks of citrine in the boy’s pupils. Impatience was also mirrored in their depths.
Addy spoke slowly, as if speaking to a simpleton. “Keep to the right. Nae. The. Left.”
He made three sharp jabs with the whip in Roark’s direction.
Roark clenched his jaw. He typically kept a tight grip on his temper, yet this slip of a boy had managed to rouse his displeasure four times in less than ten minutes. And that damn whip. If Addy pointed the crop at him one more time, Roark was going to snatch it from him and—
Roark gave a curt nod, his patience at an end. “Yes, I understand. Stay to the right at the fork in the road.”
With that, Addy flicked a cocky salute. One hand holding the oversized cap atop his head, he tore off down the street as if the hounds of hell nipped at his heels.
Roark released a frustrated sigh. From the sting biting on one heel, he’d sport a blister or two by the time he arrived at the castle. That’s what came of hiking in new boots with the leather not broken in.
He didn’t mind the walk. He did mind the sweltering temperature, and the nag worried him. She was far too old to have been ridden this distance. She should have been put to pasture long before now. Guilt assailed him. Roark shook his head. He’d caused her lameness, albeit unintentionally. Remorse left a bitter taste in his mouth.
They both could use a drink. Cool water for the horse and something a lot more substantial for himself. Dunderhead. He should have heeded the innkeeper’s offer of a flask of wine when the man suggested it this morning. Roark’s stomach rumbled. He smiled ruefully. He’d also skipped breakfast. A decision he now regretted.
There was nothing for it, then. He’d have to take his time leading the mare. Likely, there was some fresh water along the way. Addy mentioned nearby bogs. No need to hurry. Yvette wasn’t expecting him. He’d come without an invitation, but his visit was warranted.
“She was only wearing a filmy chemise. And he was naked as a robin under the toweling when my sister discovered them in his chamber at Banbury Inn.”
Roark shook his head to dislodge Lady Clutterbuck’s shrill gossip from his memory.
What had Yvette been doing in McTavish’s chamber?
A shout, followed by cursing, drew Roark’s attention to the village center. Addy had plowed straight into a Scot carrying an armful of boards. In the ensuing turmoil of waving arms and crashing wood, the cap slipped from the lad’s head.
A cascade of long, chocolate-colored curls, tied at the nape with an emerald ribbon, tumbled free.