One Night in Scotland (The Hurst Amulet)

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9781439175897: One Night in Scotland (The Hurst Amulet)

New York Times bestselling author Karen Hawkins begins a sparkling new series with this thrilling tale of a desperate beauty on an urgent quest, a dark earl scarred by his beastly past—and the ancient treasure that binds their fates.

 A mysterious abductor . . . Someone is holding her brother prisoner in exchange for a gold-and-onyx box covered in mysterious runes, so Mary Hurst boldly sets out from the family vicarage to find the priceless artifact. But the man who possesses it, Angus Hay, the Earl of Erroll, is less than sympathetic to her plight.

A forbidding stranger . . . Himself a prisoner of his dark past, Angus refuses to yield the box—or allow Mary to leave! Suspicious of the alluring lass’s mission, he vows to wrest a confession from her, but unearths a fiery temper and a will as strong as his own.

An unbreakable curse . . . Passion flares between them, but now there is more at stake: an unknown enemy is hunting down the precious box, and will stop at nothing. Risking all for love, Angus must solve the mystery behind the runes . . . and trust the only woman who can awaken his forgotten heart.

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About the Author:

Karen Hawkins is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of many wickedly funny historical romane novels set in Regency Scotland, including the wildly popular MacLean Curse series, the enchanting Hurst Amulet series, the funny and charming Duchess Diaries series, and now the romantic Oxenburg Princes series. Karen is also the author of two sassy contemporary romances set in the little town of Glory, North Carolina. Find out more at Facebook.com/AuthorKarenHawkins and KarenHawkins.com.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Aberdeenshire, Scotland

May 12, 1822

The inn’s wide oak door slammed open, the icy wind swirling snow across the uneven, rough plank floor. Almost as one, the inhabitants of the room looked at the newcomer, a heavily bundled-up young lady obviously offended by the dire weather.

Shivering from head to toe, Mary Hurst grabbed the door with both gloved hands and struggled to close it. Her maid appeared and they finally secured the door, both panting from the effort. “Thank you, Abigail.”

“Ye’re welcome, miss.” Abigail rubbed her arms and looked around the room with interest. “Gor’, miss, there do be a lot o’ folks in this establishment.”

Mary undid the scarf that covered her chin and ears from the harsh elements and blinked at the gazes locked upon her. The harsh weather had driven all other travelers inside the only available inn on this particular stretch of long and lonely Scottish roadway.

Mary stepped through the wide arch that led to the common room. “I’ve never been so cold in all of my life.”

Abigail rubbed her gloved hands together. “Aye, ’tis as cold as a witch’s teat!”

Mary’s face warmed to a hot burn as the two farmers and a well-bundled tradesman who sat around a table by the window guffawed. A clergyman who sat at the long buffet table sent Abigail a hard stare before he hunkered down over his plate. Meanwhile, in the far corner, two rough-looking laborers chuckled boisterously, winking when Mary sent a reprimanding glance their way.

“Abigail, please watch your language.”

Unabashed, Abigail grinned. “Aye, miss.”

She unwound her muffler and looked about the room with interest, her broad face brightening with an even broader smile.

“Gor’, miss, do look at all the gentlemans!”

Mary turned a stern stare on her enthusiastic maid. “Abigail, ladies do not stare in admiration at strangers. So let’s not look at all of the gentlemen.”

Abigail’s smile dimmed. “Very well, miss, but—”

“No ‘buts.’” Mary removed her scarf, shaking off the melting snow. As she did so, she caught the gaze of the final occupant of the taproom. Dressed head to toe in unrelenting black, the man sat in the only chair beside the crackling fireplace. Larger than any other man in the room, he had broad shoulders and long legs that made even the heavy chair seem too small.

He was still wrapped in his coat and a heavy muffler partially concealed his face. That was a pity, for he had a most striking appearance: dark hair that fell over a noble brow; a strong, acquiline nose; and pale green eyes that caught and held her gaze.

Abigail said in an audible whisper, “Miss, I thought we wasn’t supposed to stare at the gentlemans.”

Mary’s face burned, certain that the man had heard her maid’s unwelcome comment, but he merely favored them both with an indifferent glance before turning his gaze back to the snapping fire, his face a study of disdainful boredom.

Piqued by such an obvious dismissal, Mary turned her back on the stranger and yanked off her wool-lined gloves.

It was a most inhospitable welcome. There were no available chairs and not one of the male occupants had stood when she and her maid entered, much less offered up their seats.

But she could endure this and more for her brother. This is for Michael. I cannot let him down.

She had a special place in her heart for her youngest brother. He had been sickly from the time of his birth until well into his teens, when, miraculously, he had ceased catching every illness that came through their village. Within a year, he’d lost his worrisome cough, gained a golden tan, and grown four inches.

Though he’d recovered fully, the long years he’d been ill had shaped him in many ways. The hours he’d been forced to lie upon the couch had left him with little to do but devour book after book. When his health had improved enough that he could attend school, he found he was far ahead of his classmates and, somewhere along the way, had become a scholar.

To his family’s surprise, he’d taken his fluent Greek and Latin, his advanced knowledge of sciences and histories, and had become the one thing none of them had expected… an Egyptologist.

Mary said the word in her mind, savoring it. It was a new term, come to usage only since Napoleon’s Nile campaign. His troops had ravaged the Nile valley, and after Napoleon’s defeat, their acquisition of a large number of ancient Egyptian treasures had enriched the coffers of the British Museum. Michael was a member of Britain’s Royal Society, an organization founded in 1660 and comprised of energetic scientists who valued empirical evidence over everything else. The members took their role as the leading experts in the study of Egyptian artifacts very seriously indeed.

But Michael hadn’t joined the society just to search for Egyptian artifacts. He was on a special quest that only the family knew about: to recover the Hurst Amulet, which had been stolen from an ancestor and gifted to Queen Elizabeth I. History suggested that the intrepid queen came to fear the amulet, thinking it possessed magical qualities, and had passed it on to a courier from a foreign land.

The problem was, no one knew which land. Over the years, Michael had become convinced that the amulet had ended up in Egypt, and he was determined to find it.

Mary was eager to hear what new clue Michael had unearthed. His life was so exciting, she thought wistfully. He was doing the very things she wished she could do—adventuring, exploring, finding and purchasing historical artifacts for private and public collections. She, meanwhile, was the sole child left at home, and the care of their parents had fallen on her.

Not that she regretted it. She loved her parents and the vicarage, but sometimes her soul longed for excitement.

Right now, though, she could do with a lot less adventure, and a lot more warmth. Her hands and feet were freezing; she couldn’t feel her toes at all.

She straightened her shoulders and gazed about the inn’s common room in the way she imagined Michael would, coolly and without fear, meeting the gaze of every man present.

The farmers and tradesman in the corner lost their grins immediately, dropping their heads and muttering to one another under their breath. The clergyman turned bright red, then sniffed and returned to reading his well-worn Bible. The rough laborers stopped guffawing and shifted uncomfortably in their seats. Only the darkly garbed man by the fireplace didn’t acknowledge her, but continued contemplating the flames as if searching the glow for the last book of Ramesses.

Fortunately, she didn’t need him to pay attention to her. She’d tamed the common room with just one look. “Come, Abigail. Let’s bespeak a hot meal and see to hiring an escort to New Slains Castle.”

The clergyman’s head snapped in their direction. “New Slains?” Thin and slight, he was almost swallowed by his frock coat and slouched muffler.

“Yes, New Slains Castle.”

“Och, ye canno’ wish to go there.”

“But I do. I must speak with the Earl of Erroll.”

“But—” His gaze flickered past her, then back. “The road is impassable. No one will take ye there.”

“Someone will have to, for I’ve very important business to conduct with the earl. Besides, the roads cannot be that bad; the ostler said it had only been snowing an hour or less.”

“Yes, but before that it was raining, so there’s sure to be ice. The road is very steep in places and treacherous.”

Abigail made a distressed noise. “Miss, mayhap we’d best bespeak a room fer a night or two until—”

“No.” She’d come so far to fetch the item Michael needed to win his freedom, and she wasn’t about to give up.

“But, miss, ye’d have t’ have yer head up yer arse to—”

“Abigail!” This is what came of traveling with a companion one had barely met.

Normally when Mary traveled, she took one of the serving girls who helped clean the vicarage, both well trained and genteel. Unfortunately, influenza had raced through their small hamlet just before Michael’s urgent letter had arrived and both maids were ill. Mary had been left with no choice but to accept the only available female willing to travel to Scotland on such short notice, her groom’s niece.

Abigail blinked in mild surprise. “What’s toward, miss?”

“That phrase is vulgar.”

“Th’ one about stickin’ yer head up—”

“Yes. It’s not an appropriate expression.”

“Nay? Even when ’tis the truth?”

One of the farmers snickered loudly. Mary glared at him until he covered his mouth, though his shoulders still shook.

“It’s not proper ever.” She tucked her gloves into her pocket. “Now, we must find the landlord and—”

The outer door opened and a short, squat man came into the entry hall behind them. He was swaddled in a huge coat, a prodigious number of mufflers, and a thick woolen cap. Stomping his boots upon the floor, he paused on seeing Mary and her maid standing in the common room. “G’day. Can I help ye? I be Mr. MacEllis.” The thick Scottish brogue was barely understandable.

Mary dipped a curtsy. “I am Mary Hurst and this is my maid, Abigail. We would like to bespeak a private parlor, if one is available.”

He tsked. “Och, miss, we dinna have such a thing. ’Tis the common room or none.”

Mary forced a smile. “Fine, then. We’ll find some chairs here. We’d like some dinner as well. We haven’t eaten since this morning.”

“I’ll bring ye out some Cullen Skink.” At Mary’s blank look, he explained, “’Tis stew made of finnan haddock, potatoes, onions, and whatnot.”

“Ah! That would be lovely.” It sounded appetizing and she loved stew, especially on cold days. “All we need is a seat, then.”

The innkeeper went into the common room and looked around. His gaze flickered over the farmers and tradesmen and fell upon the gentleman by the fire. “Why, ’tis—”

“MacEllis, there you are,” the man said in a deep, rumbling voice. “I came to try your whiskey, if you’ve any left.”

The innkeeper shot a side-glance at Mary and her maid. “O’ course we do, er—”

“Mr. Hay.”

“Mr. Hay, then. I’ll bring ye a good tipple.”

“Thank you. After, of course, you’ve seated your new guests.”

“Aye.” The innkeeper turned toward the wide bench by the buffet table. “Vicar Turnbill, would ye mind scootin’ yerself down a wee bit? We’ve guests, as ye can see.”

The vicar looked as if he did indeed mind, but he gathered his Bible and plate and slid to the far end of the table, where he sat stiff-backed as if afraid his very air might be tainted by their presence.

The innkeeper gestured to the plank bench. “There ye go, miss! I’ll fetch yer stew and some bread.” With that he hurried off, leaving them alone with the men in the common room once again.

“Oh, I do hope there is a lot of stew, fer I’m hungry enough to eat a hog’s head all by meself.” Abigail swung her cape from her shoulders and hung it on a peg by the door.

If every eye had been fastened upon them before, they were glued now, for Abigail’s plain gray gown accentuated her astounding figure.

Abigail smoothed down her gown as she cast a winsome glance at the clergyman. The scrawny man gulped, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he turned bright red. With a sputtered deprecation, he ducked his head into his Bible.

Abigail grinned as she took her seat, making certain she was facing the men in the room, whom she now favored with a simper.

Mary clutched her pelisse tighter and wished she could toss a muffler over Abigail. Never had there been such an attention-seeking maid. Resigning herself to the inevitable comments and stares, Mary took her seat at the end of the table.

As she did so, she found herself meeting the sardonic gaze of the stranger by the fire, his green eyes glinting with mockery. Her face heated and she resolutely looked away.

Mary wished she could teach Abigail a bit of decorum, but the girl was addicted to the attention her figure solicited, and Mary couldn’t completely blame her.

Mary wouldn’t mind being so blessed herself. She had the ample breasts, but the rest of her was ample as well.

It wasn’t that she was fat, but she was healthy. She lacked both the slender, willowy figure favored by fashion and the hourglass figure that Abigail enjoyed. Mary’s shape was more… squarish, a shape enhanced very little by the current style of gowns with their tiny puffed sleeves and waistlines directly beneath the breasts.

Stop thinking about such silly things! You need to focus on your mission.

Her throat tightened at the thought of her brother. His letter had assured them that he was well, but she knew from experience that his letters were often carefully edited for their parents’ eyes. Later on, when it was just him and Mary, he would tell her the real tales of danger and deception, excitement and—sometimes—tedium.

She knew more than any of their other siblings just how far some of Michael’s letters were from the real truth, and it frightened her now in a way it never had before.

He was not doing well; she could feel it in her heart.

It would be a relief when they finally reached their destination, recovered the artifact from the earl, and met up with William, who should be sailing from France now to meet them at the dock in Whitby. William had gone to collect one of Michael’s best friends and compatriots, Jean-Francois Champollion, to serve as a guide for the delivery of the artifact to Michael’s captor. No one knew Egypt like Champollion.

If everything went as planned, Michael would be free within the next six weeks—which was far too long to be a captive, but the best they could do.

The innkeeper returned carrying two bowls of steaming stew and a hunk of thick bread already buttered. Despite her worry for her brother, Mary’s rumbling stomach welcomed the lovely stew.

As she ate, the travails of the last few weeks seemed to melt into insignificance. She was truly blessed to be able to make such a journey. Had either of her other brothers been home, it would have fallen to William or Robert to make the trip. Fortunately, Mary had been the only one available. Eager to go, she had overridden her parents’ objections with a calm assuredness that she hadn’t always felt once the journey had begun.

Their travels had been far more difficult than she’d expected. They’d suffered a broken wheel on their third day, and then faced two days of slogging rain that had left the roads treacherously muddy and travel painfully slow. There were times she’d thought it would be faster to walk than remain in the creeping carriage.

Then, as they’d passed through Aberdeen, the rain had turned into snow, which had made traveling impossible until it eased up and the road became visible once more.

Abigail hadn’t helped, either. The woman had chattered nonstop about things Mary had never done or thought to do—lies she’d told, men she’d allowed to kiss her, and how she’d once stolen a penny from a man who hadn’t bought her a big-enough present.

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Book Description SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 173 x 102 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Michael Hurst is obsessed with the ancient amulet of Hurst family lore and is determined to find it after all these years. But during his search, Michael disappears, and his younger brothers set out to find him, leaving their sister Mary at home waiting for word from Michael. So, when a message arrives that William is being held prisoner and will be released only if his family returns a certain artefact, a black onyx box covered in runes, Mary sets out to retrieve the item from William s friend and fellow antiquarian, Angus Erskine. When she arrives in Scotland though, nothing is as she expects. The keeper of the box, the sexy-as-sin Earl of Mar, believes her to be an impostor, sent to seduce him into giving it to her. But Mary refuses to leave until confirmation of her story arrives from a mutual friend, and in the meantime, makes herself at home, much to the Earl s chagrin. And as the artefact continues to be threatened by thieves, the two must work together to keep it safe long enough to get her brother back. And all the while trying to guard their hearts from an unexpected love. Bookseller Inventory # BZV9781439175897

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Book Description SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 173 x 102 mm. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. Michael Hurst is obsessed with the ancient amulet of Hurst family lore and is determined to find it after all these years. But during his search, Michael disappears, and his younger brothers set out to find him, leaving their sister Mary at home waiting for word from Michael. So, when a message arrives that William is being held prisoner and will be released only if his family returns a certain artefact, a black onyx box covered in runes, Mary sets out to retrieve the item from William s friend and fellow antiquarian, Angus Erskine. When she arrives in Scotland though, nothing is as she expects. The keeper of the box, the sexy-as-sin Earl of Mar, believes her to be an impostor, sent to seduce him into giving it to her. But Mary refuses to leave until confirmation of her story arrives from a mutual friend, and in the meantime, makes herself at home, much to the Earl s chagrin. And as the artefact continues to be threatened by thieves, the two must work together to keep it safe long enough to get her brother back. And all the while trying to guard their hearts from an unexpected love. Bookseller Inventory # BZV9781439175897

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Book Description SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2011. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 173 x 102 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Michael Hurst is obsessed with the ancient amulet of Hurst family lore and is determined to find it after all these years. But during his search, Michael disappears, and his younger brothers set out to find him, leaving their sister Mary at home waiting for word from Michael. So, when a message arrives that William is being held prisoner and will be released only if his family returns a certain artefact, a black onyx box covered in runes, Mary sets out to retrieve the item from William s friend and fellow antiquarian, Angus Erskine. When she arrives in Scotland though, nothing is as she expects. The keeper of the box, the sexy-as-sin Earl of Mar, believes her to be an impostor, sent to seduce him into giving it to her. But Mary refuses to leave until confirmation of her story arrives from a mutual friend, and in the meantime, makes herself at home, much to the Earl s chagrin. And as the artefact continues to be threatened by thieves, the two must work together to keep it safe long enough to get her brother back. And all the while trying to guard their hearts from an unexpected love. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9781439175897

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