Devil in Disguise (The Ravenels #7) by Lisa Kleypas

“She’s my older sister,” Luke said, “and she employs me, so … no, I’m not going to tell her a damned thing.”

“How do you know I won’t insult her virtue?” the Scotsman demanded in outrage.

Luke lifted his brows, looking mildly interested. “Are you going to?”

“No. But I could!”

Merritt had to gnaw the insides of her lips to restrain a laugh. “Mr. MacRae,” she soothed. “My brother and I are both well aware that I have nothing at all to fear from you. On the contrary, it’s common knowledge that Scots are trustworthy and honest, and … and simply the most honorable of men.”

MacRae’s scowl eased slightly. After a moment, he said, “’Tis true that Scots have more honor per man than other lands. We carry the honor of Scotland with us wherever we go.”

“Exactly,” Merritt said. “No one would doubt my safety in your company. In fact, who would dare utter one offensive word, or threaten any harm to me, if you were there?”

MacRae seemed to warm to the idea. “If someone did,” he said vehemently, “I’d skin the bawfaced bastard like a grape and toss him onto a flaming dung heap.”

“There, you see?” Merritt exclaimed, beaming at him. “You’re the perfect escort.” Her gaze slid to her brother, who stood just behind MacRae.

Luke shook his head slowly, amusement tugging at the corners of his lips before he mouthed two silent words to her:

Table syrup.

She ignored him. “Come, Mr. MacRae—we’ll have your affairs settled in no time.”

KEIR COULDN’T HELP following Lady Merritt. Since the moment he’d been drenched in 80-proof whisky on the docks, he’d been chilled to the marrow of his bones. But this woman, with her quick smile and coffee-dark eyes, was the warmest thing in the world.

They went through a series of handsome rooms lined with wood paneling and paintings of ships. Keir barely noticed the surroundings. His attention was riveted by the shapely figure in front of him, the intricately pinned-up swirls of her hair, the voice dressed in silk and pearls. How good she smelled, like the kind of expensive soap that came wrapped in fancy paper. Keir and everyone he knew used common yellow rosin soap for everything: floors, dishes, hands, and body. But there was no sharpness to this scent. With every movement, hints of perfume seemed to rise from the rustling of her skirts and sleeves, as if she were a flower bouquet being gently shaken.

The carpet underfoot had been woven in a pattern beautiful enough to cover a wall. A crime, it was, to tread on it with his heavy work boots. Keir felt ill at ease in such fine surroundings. He didn’t like having left his men, Owen and Slorach, out on the wharf. They could manage without him for a while, especially Slorach, who’d worked at his father’s distillery for almost four decades. But this entire undertaking was Keir’s responsibility, and the survival of his distillery depended on it. Making sure the bonded whisky was installed safely in the warehouse was too important to let himself be distracted by a woman.

Especially this one. She was educated and well-bred, the daughter of an earl. Not just any earl, but Lord Westcliff, a man whose influence and wealth was known far and wide. And Lady Merritt was a power in her own right, the owner of a shipping business that included a fleet of cargo steamers as well as warehouses.

As the only child of elderly parents, Keir had been given the best of what they’d been able to provide, but there had been little in the way of books or culture. He’d found beauty in seasons and storms, and in long rambles over the island. He loved to fish and walk with his dog, and he loved making whisky, the trade his father had taught him.

His pleasures were simple and straightforward.

Lady Merritt, however, was neither of those things. She was an altogether different kind of pleasure. A luxury to be savored, and not by the likes of him.

But that didn’t stop Keir from imagining her in his bed, all flushed and yielding, her hair a blanket of dark silk over his pillow. He wanted to hear her pretty voice, with that high-toned accent, begging him for satisfaction while he rode her long and slow. Thankfully she had no idea of the lewd turn of his thoughts, or she would have fled from him, screaming.

They came to an open area where a middle-aged woman with fair hair and spectacles sat in front of a machine on an iron stand.

“My lady,” the woman said, standing up to greet them. Her gaze flicked over Keir’s unkempt appearance, taking in his damp clothes and the lack of a coat. A single twitch of her nose was the only recognition of the potent smell of whisky. “Sir.”