Title: A Match for Marcus Cynster (Cynsters #23)
Author: Stephanie Laurens
Publisher: MIRA (Harlequin)
Tour Organizer: TLC Book Tours
Release Date: May 26, 2015
Duty compels her to turn her back on marriage. Fate drives him to protect her come what may. Then love takes a hand in this battle of yearning hearts, stubborn wills, and a match too powerful to deny. #1 New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens returns to rugged Scotland with a dramatic tale of passionate desire and unwavering devotion. Restless and impatient, Marcus Cynster waits for Fate to come calling. He knows his destiny lies in the lands surrounding his family home, but what will his future be and with whom will he share it?
Of one fact he feels certain: his fated bride will not be Niniver Carrick. His elusive neighbor attracts him mightily, yet he feels compelled to protect her—even from himself. Fickle Fate, he’s sure, would never be so kind as to decree that Niniver should be his. The best he can do for them both is to avoid her.
Niniver has vowed to return her clan to prosperity. The epitome of fragile femininity, her delicate and ethereal exterior cloaks a stubborn will and an unflinching devotion to the people in her care. She accepts that she cannot risk marrying and losing her grip on the clan’s reins to an inevitably controlling husband. Unfortunately, many local men see her as their opportunity.
Soon, she’s forced to seek help to get rid of her unwelcome suitors. Powerful and dangerous, Marcus Cynster is perfect for the task. Suppressing her wariness over tangling with a gentleman who so excites her passions, she appeals to him for assistance with her peculiar problem.
Although at first he resists, Marcus discovers that, contrary to his expectations, his fated role is to stand by Niniver’s side and, ultimately, to claim her hand. Yet in order to convince her to be his bride, they must plunge headlong into a journey full of challenges, unforeseen dangers, passion, and yearning, until Niniver grasps the essential truth—that she is indeed a match for Marcus Cynster.
In the end, it was agreed that, without any fanfare, Sir Godfrey would reopen the cases of her father’s and the Burns sisters’ deaths, and exonerate Nigel of the crimes by virtue of Nolan’s confession and the subsequent confirmation that it was, indeed, he who had been the villain in all three cases. Catriona, who, through her position as Lady of the Vale, maintained a close connection with the local minister, volunteered to explain matters to Reverend Foyle, thus easing the way for the clan to arrange the appropriate funeral and burials.
By the time all was settled and Niniver had waved everyone off, exhaustion dragged at her, but she had one more meeting yet to face.
Thomas had been the last to take his leave of her. He was seven years older than she; they had never been close, yet she had always seen him as a true Carrick, a man in the mold of her father. After helping Lucilla into the carriage and shutting the door, Thomas had turned to her, met her eyes, then taken her hands in his. He’d held her gaze levelly. “This is the end of a dark time for the clan, and for the family.”
She’d seen understanding in his amber eyes; he’d foreseen the inevitable consequence of the day, just as she had. All that was left was for her to deal with it, to chart her way forward through whatever eventuated.
Regardless of whatever happened, she would, forever and always, be clan.
She found Norris in the library. He was standing at the long windows looking out over the darkening landscape. She suspected that he, too, knew what was coming, and had been waiting to speak with her.
Stifling a sigh, she sank onto the arm of one of the armchairs.
Norris turned. Through the deepening shadows, he met her gaze. After a moment, he asked, “What now?”
She straightened her spine and raised her head. “Now we call a meeting of the clan to elect a new laird.” She held his gaze. “Will you stand?”
He laughed, a hollow, faintly derisive sound. “No. I have no wish whatsoever to lead the clan.”
She’d expected nothing else, yet she’d had to ask and hear him state it. From the moment of his birth, he’d been ignored, not just by their father but by the clan, too. She was the only person he had ever been close to; she was the only person he didn’t ignore back. He had no friends locally, no interests locally; his interests and ambitions were entirely academic, and thus had always lain far beyond clan lands.
“So what will you do?” She was still his sister; she still cared about him, and she knew that, inside his hardened shell, he cared for her.
“I didn’t expect to be free to choose so soon, but there’s nothing for me here. There never was.” Sinking his hands into his breeches pockets, he shrugged. “Truth be told, I’ve always felt there was never meant to be. I don’t belong here.”
She said nothing, simply waited.
Half turning, he glanced out of the window, looking to the east. “I need to carve out a life for myself. I’m going to go—I need to leave, once and for all. Forever. I won’t be coming back. And other than what I inherited from Papa, I won’t expect to draw on clan funds—do tell them that.”
She’d been expecting something of the sort, yet still... “Where will you go?”
His shoulders lifted again. “St. Andrews, perhaps. I can look for work there—as a tutor, perhaps as a researcher. Who knows? I’ll leave tomorrow morning.”
So soon? She drew a tight breath and rose. “So you’ll just ride away?”
Norris brought his gaze back to her face. “Without a single backward glance.”
She almost opened her lips to point out that meant he’d be leaving her behind, too, leaving her to cope with the disintegration of life as they’d known it, but...no. It was pointless to try to hold him. And, indeed, his leaving tomorrow would be an unequivocal statement of his relinquishing all claim to the lairdship. She forced herself to nod, then walked toward the desk. “Don’t go without saying goodbye.”
She felt his gaze on her but didn’t meet it. He hesitated, then said, “I’ll see you at breakfast.”
With that, he walked to the door, opened it, and left.
She sank into the chair behind the huge desk. Once Norris left, she would be alone. The clan would meet and elect a new laird from another clan family. To her would fall the duty of overseeing the transfer of all the clan holdings—the estate, the manor, all except the Carrick family’s personal wealth, a relatively meager amount that would be divided between herself and Norris. Everything else belonged to the clan—the furniture, the books surrounding her, even her deerhounds. Everything that made this place her home.
So what would she do once the transfer was complete?
She sat and stared at nothing as night closed in outside the windows and the shadows inside deepened.
Norris might be leaving, but in doing so, he was accepting the challenge of making a life for himself. She needed to do the same, but she was the opposite of him—she didn’t want to leave clan lands. Her roots were here, sunk into the soil in a way she couldn’t explain. She’d always felt connected, both with the gently rolling fields and even more with the people. She’d grown up immersed in clan, and she simply couldn’t imagine ripping herself free—couldn’t imagine any reason why she might wish to.
“So I’ll remain,” she murmured to the darkened room. “Whatever happens, I’ll work out some way to stay—perhaps whoever moves in will let me reopen the disused wing and stay there?”
She tipped her head, considering it, then lightly shrugged.
Aside from not having any inclination to leave clan lands, there was the overriding matter of her vow to her father—a vow she had yet to fulfill.
Unlike her brothers, she believed in clan, in right and wrong, in fulfilling obligations, and in keeping solemn vows. In giving back to those who gave to her.
Placing her palms on the desk, she pushed to her feet. “One way or another, I will find a way.”
Throughout her twenty-four years, whenever disruption had threatened, she’d fallen back on that tenet as her guide. It would steer her this time, too.
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About the Author
New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Laurens originally began writing as an escape from the dry world of professional science. Her hobby quickly became a career; she has been writing historical romance novels for more than 20 years. Currently living outside Melbourne, Australia with her husband and two cats, she spends most of her days writing new stories in her signature ‘Errol Flynn meets Jane Austen” style.
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