Her Wicked Highland Spy (The Marriage Maker #10)

Her Wicked Highland Spy (The Marriage Maker #10)

Erin Rye

Chapter One

Trapping a Daredevil

“The man’s impossible.” Lady Elana Gallaway jabbed the letter with a forefinger.

Sir Stirling James arched a brow.

Lady Elana, elegance personified, was a raven-haired beauty with a natural grace who held an unparalleled reputation as a woman of great composure, but upon reading the letter, this legendary composure had cracked.

“Ethan Brodie was one of the best spies in His Majesty’s service.” She rose and placed both palms flat on the surface of her mahogany, leather-topped desk. “A master of arms. Marvelously keen-witted. Unquestionably loyal. He’s so very excellent at serving king and country…” She let her voice trail away, then added in a distinctly sour tone, “But he’s appallingly awful at living a normal life.”

Stirling permitted himself a smile. “Come now, surely he can’t be the first man to find the Season tedious enough to seek entertainment elsewhere.”

She pushed the letter across the desk. “Read it. He hasn’t bothered to attend even one function where he might find a suitable wife. His excuse? Varnish. The letter is a practical ode to the stuff. He spends his every moment at work with James Sadler on their infernal hot-air contraption. I swear, the man’s more interested in the silk skirts of a balloon than those of a woman.”

Stirling settled back in the leather-tufted chair and scanned the letter as Lady Elana paced before the fire, the crackle of logs and soft swish of her burgundy gown the only sounds to be heard.

“Fascinating,” Stirling murmured.

Lady Elana paused. “I can’t say I care for that tone.”

He chuckled. “Then tell me, why the difficulty with women? Does the man lack social graces?”

“My dear fellow, I fear it’s a problem of the opposite kind,” she replied with more than a hint of dry amusement. “He’s far too comfortable charming his way under petticoats as the fancy strikes him.”

Stirling nodded and placed the letter on the desk. “Then invite yourself to his balloon endeavors and bring me along. I must meet this man in order to find his match.”


Lady Elana stepped through the French doors, out onto the veranda, and sipped a glass of lemonade as she watched Ethan Brodie of Brodie, 21st Thane and Chief of Clan Brodie, work the bellows on the lawn of his London estate. Well over six feet, he was a beast of a man, square-jawed, and with blue eyes that crinkled around the corners when he laughed.

She sighed. If only there were eligible women present. The way his muscles bulged under his white shirt couldn’t fail to catch an eye. He was a strikingly handsome man, who oozed an easy charm—a charm that had saved their lives more than once--but he’d left the King’s Service nigh on a year ago. Why hadn’t he put his charm to good use? If she could somehow manage to drag him in front of the season’s debutantes, perhaps one would manage to sink her claws in deeply enough to show the man exactly what a stable life could offer.

Across the lawn, Ethan let out a shrill whistle. A handful of men rushed forward and rearranged the patched silk balloon that lay on the grass yet again. They’d tried all morning to inflate the thing—to no avail. Even Stirling had joined, a little too eagerly for Elana’s liking, and as the afternoon passed, she could only assume he’d lost sight of their original purpose.

“Men,” she huffed under her breath. Men and their toys.

Shouts rent the air. The balloon’s multi-colored envelope began to lift off the lawn, struggling like a fledgling as various silk panels billowed from the hot air and smoke. The voices began to laugh, excited.

Then the entire contraption deflated with an audible poof.

Curses replaced the laughter as Ethan ran his hands through his thick, dark hair and wiped sweat from his brow. He clipped several curt orders, then abandoned the bellows altogether and headed her way. Stirling fell into step beside him.

Finally. Elana quickly took her seat at a nearby white-linen covered table.

“It’s the resin. It won’t hold to the seams in the salt air, I’m sure of it,” Ethan was saying as they arrived. A flawless master of accents, his natural voice held the pronounced Scottish lilt of his native Scottish Highlands.

“Indeed, I can only agree,” Stirling mused in reply.

Ethan glanced at Lady Elana with a wide grin. “A most good afternoon, my lady. To what do I owe the honor of your visit? Surely, you have not come to bully me over attending your fêtes somptueuses?” He executed a full courtly bow, complete with elaborate flourish.

“You’re incorrigible, Ethan. Tell me truly, what harm would it do you?”

“Immeasurable.” He leaned back against the veranda railing and crossed his arms. “But I shan’t waste your time. It’s a moot point. Stirling has just brought the matter of Lady Sarah to my attention.”

Elana didn’t miss the sudden tightening of Ethan’s mouth as the woman’s name fell from his lips. It wasn’t a name he would mention lightly. Lady Sarah Stafford, wife to their beloved mentor, Lord Stafford—the late Lord Stafford.

Unbeknownst to his own family, Lord Stafford had served as a master spy for decades. He’d recruited and taken a particular shine to Ethan. He’d taught the Highlander every trick he knew. For his part, Ethan had loved the man as a father, and as such, the man’s death the previous year had dealt him such a devastating blow that he’d left the King’s Service—for good.

Erin Rye's Books