The Scot is Hers (Scots of Honor #2) - Eliza Knight
There was nothing worse than attending a ball thrown in one’s own honor when it was against one’s will. This was the situation that Alec Hay, Earl of Errol, General in the Royal Regiment of Scotland, found himself in.
This whole mess was so torturous he would have rather discovered himself back on the battlefield in France, facing off with Napoleon himself. Instead, he was trussed up as some marionette in a jacket that was a little too tight, given the growth of his shoulder muscles while overseas and the lack of warning from his mother, the Countess of Errol, that she was going to be throwing this wretched event.
Alec had literally taken the last bite of his morning eggs when his mother informed him their Edinburgh manse would be packed to the brim with bubbling debutantes tonight. Not enough time to have his evening wear fitted properly or to get out of what promised to be imminent torture.
He tugged on his collar as another mother swept her daughters in front of him. Alec made polite conversation but refrained from writing his name on their dance cards, even though he knew that was their ultimate objective. There was a measure of guilt he felt at ignoring that obligation, but they didn’t know if he was already full for each number, and he decided to pretend he was. Besides, the pained expressions on their faces mirrored his own. They were only going along with their mother’s intentions because they knew he came with a sizable annual income, and they wanted to be a countess. For a price, they were willing to accept him despite his once-good looks having been obliterated in a single moment of treachery on the battlefield.
“If ye’ll excuse me.” He bowed low, winking at their mother for good measure, so his own mother didn’t take him to task later for not at least trying to flirt, and then he disappeared through the crowd. The older women didn’t seem to mind his brutally scarred face. They had that motherly instinct to coddle him. So strange. He wasn’t in the market for a mistress, but if he were, he was certain to find one amongst the meddling mothers.
Alec scanned the crowd of pastel gowns and fitted evening coats, which shimmered in the thousand candles lit up in the ballroom and dripping from the chandeliers.
None of his friends were here. He had a feeling his mother had purposefully left their names off the invitations because she didn’t want Alec to spend all of his time chatting with his comrades instead of finding a wife.
The woman who’d birthed him was mad as a hatter with the idea of his needing to wed. Alec did not want to bind himself to another human, especially one of these silly chits. Any woman he’d be interested in wouldn’t be the same type of female as these flighty bits of lace. If he were ever to marry, it would most assuredly not be to a debutante. Of that, he was certain.
Alec was not in love, nor even in like with any of the nitwits in attendance at this farce. Did his mother really think she could simply snap her fingers, pass out biscuits and champagne and expect him to get down on one knee? He glanced at his pocket watch, willing the time to be much later than it was.
“My lord, would ye please allow me to introduce ye to my daughter, Lady Mary.”
Alec glanced up from where he’d been glowering at the ground and bowed unseeing over yet another young lassie’s gloved hand, feigning interest when he couldn’t care less. The evidence of her desire to escape was as plain on her face as it had been with every other eligible maiden in attendance. They took one look at the left side of his face and were ready to run for their lives.
He wanted to shout, “I was handsome once!” But knew they’d either not believe him or at best think him as mad as he would sound for doing so. Only their mothers remembered him as he’d been before the war. Those last moments of the battle had been unending. As he’d tried to save his second-in-command, the edge of a bayonet had hacked over his face, leaving him with a scar that would scare the daylights out of any young lass decent enough to garner his interest. Cut down to the bone, it was a wonder he had survived—let alone had a left cheek