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SECRETS OF A SCOTTISH ISLE
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Available 4.15.24


Excerpt of Miss Maple And The Playboy by Cara Colter

Purchase


Harlequin
August 2009
On Sale: August 11, 2009
Featuring: Beth Marple
192 pages
ISBN: 037317604X
EAN: 9780373176045
Mass Market Paperback
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Romance

Also by Cara Colter:

Winning Over the Brooding Billionaire, February 2024
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Winning Over the Brooding Billionaire, February 2024
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Hawaiian Nights with the Best Man, November 2023
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Snowed In with the Billionaire, January 2023
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Snowed In with the Billionaire, January 2023
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Bahamas Escape with the Best Man, July 2022
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Snowbound with the Prince, January 2022
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The Wedding Planner's Christmas Wish, November 2021
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His Cinderella Next Door, July 2021
e-Book
One Night with Her Brooding Bodyguard, September 2020
e-Book
Cinderella's New York Fling, July 2020
Paperback / e-Book
Mail-Order Marriage & Husband By Inheritance, March 2011
Paperback
Winning A Groom In 10 Dates, July 2010
Paperback
Rescued In A Wedding Dress, February 2010
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Just Married!, January 2010
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Miss Maple And The Playboy, August 2009
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Hired: Nanny Bride, May 2009
Mass Market Paperback
His Mistletoe Bride, December 2008
Mass Market Paperback
Her Royal Wedding Wish, June 2008
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The Playboy's Plain Jane, February 2008
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Their Christmas Wish Come True, October 2007
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The Prince and the Nanny, March 2007
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A Vow to Keep, December 2006
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Priceless Gifts, July 2006
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Chasing Dreams, June 2006
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That Old Feeling, May 2006
Paperback
Love's Nine Lives, January 2006
Paperback

Excerpt of Miss Maple And The Playboy by Cara Colter

"It sucks to be you."

Ben Anderson opened his mouth to protest and then closed it again. He contemplated how those few words summed up his life and decided the assessment was not without accuracy. Of course, the truth of those words was closely linked to the fact he had become guardian to the boy who had spoken them, his eleven-year-old nephew, Kyle.

It was a position Ben had held for precisely ten days, the most miserable of his life, which was saying quite a bit since he had spent several years in the Marine Corps, including an eight-month tour of duty in the land of sand and blood and heartbreak.

At least over there, Ben thought, there had been guidelines and rules, a rigid set of operating standards. Becoming Kyle's guardian was like being dropped in the middle of a foreign country with no backup, no map, and only a rudimentary command of the language.

For instance, did he tell Kyle he was sick of the expression It sucks to be you or did he let it pass?

While contemplating his options, Ben studied the envelope in front of him. It was addressed to Mr. Ben Anderson and in careful brackets Kyle's Guardian just so that where was no wriggling out of it. The handwriting was tidy and uptight and told Ben quite a bit about the writer, though Kyle had been filling him in for the past ten days.

Miss Maple, Kyle's new teacher at his new school was old. And mean. Not to mention supremely ugly. "Mugly," Kyle had said, which apparently meant more than ugly.

She was also unfair, shrill-voiced and the female reincarnation of Genghis Khan.

Kyle was a surprising expert on Genghis Khan. He'd informed Ben, in a rare chatty moment, that a quarter of the world's population had Khan blood in them. He'd said it hopefully, but Ben doubted with Kyle's red hair and freckles that his nephew was one of them.

Ben flipped over the envelope, looking for clues. "What does Miss Maple want?" he asked Kyle, not opening the letter.

"She wants to see you," Kyle said, and then repeated, "It sucks to be you."

Then he marched out of his uncle's kitchen as if the fact that his old, mean and ugly teacher wanted to see his uncle had not a single thing to do with him.

Ben thought the responsible thing to do would be to call his nephew back and discuss the whole "it sucks" thing. But fresh to the concept of being responsible for anyone other than himself, Ben wasn't quite sure what the right thing to do was with Kyle. His nephew had the slouch and street-hardened eyes of a seasoned con, but just below that was a fragility that made Ben debate whether the Marine Corps approach was going to be helpful or damaging.

And God knew he didn't want to do anymore damage. Because the hard truth was if it sucked to be someone in this world, that someone was Kyle O. Anderson.

Ben's parents had been killed in a car accident when he was seventeen. He'd been too old to go into the "system" and too young to look after his sister, who had been fourteen at the time. Ben went to the marines, Carly went to foster care. Ben was well aware that he had gotten the better deal.

By the time she'd been fifteen, Carly had been a boiling cauldron of pain, sixteen she was wild, seventeen she was pregnant, not that that had cured either the pain or the wildness.

She had dragged Kyle through broken relationships and down-and-out neighborhoods. When Ben had been overseas and helpless to do a damn thing about it, she and Kyle had gone through a homeless phase. But even after he'd come back stateside, Ben's efforts to try and help her and his nephew had been rebuffed. Carly saw her brother's joining up as leaving her, and she never forgave him.

But now, only twenty-eight, Carly was dying of too much heartbreak and hard living.

And Ben found himself faced with a tough choice. Except for Carly, his life was in as close to perfect a place as it had ever been. Ben owned his own business, the Garden of Weedin'. He'd found a niche market, building outdoor rooms in the yards of the upscale satellite communities that circled the older, grittier city of Morehaven, New York.

A year ago he'd invested in his own house, which he'd bought brand-new in the well-to-do town of Cranberry Corners, a community that supported his business and was a thirty-minute drive and a whole world away from the mean streets of the inner city that Kyle and Carly had called home.

Ben's personal specialty was in "hardscaping," which was planning and putting in the permanent structures like decks, patios, fireplaces and outdoor kitchens that made the backyards of Cranberry Corners residents superposh. It was devilishly hard work, which suited him to a T because he was high energy and liked being in good shape. The business had taken off beyond his wildest dreams.

Ben also enjoyed a tight network of buddies, some of whom he'd gone to high school with and who enjoyed success and the single lifestyle as much as he did.

Did he disrupt all that and take sucks-to-be-him Kyle O. Anderson, with his elephant-size chip on his shoulder, or surrender him to the same system that had wrecked Carly?

Since Ben considered himself to be a typical male animal, self-centered, insensitive, superficial—and darned proud of it—he astonished himself by not feeling as if it was a choice at all. He felt as if sometimes a man had to do what a man had to do, and for him that meant taking his nephew.

Not that either his nephew or his sister seemed very appreciative.

Not that that was why he had done it.

Ben opened the tidy envelope from Miss Maple. He read that Kyle's behavior was disrupting her class, and that she needed to meet with him urgently.

Ben decided if Miss Maple had a plan for dealing with Kyle's behavior, he was all for it. Having decided against the drill-sergeant method, since it was untested on eleven-year-olds who were facing personal tragedy, Ben was at a loss about how to deal with the mouthi-ness, the surliness, the belligerence of his eleven-year-old nephew. There always seemed to be an undertow of hostility from Kyle.

Unfortunately, the note said he was supposed to meet with the much maligned Miss Maple fifteen minutes ago.

"Kyle?" he called down the hallway. There was no answer, and Ben went down the hall to Kyle's room.

He stood in the doorway for a moment. The room used to be Ben's home gym, complete with a wall-mounted TV and a stereo system with surround-sound speakers. Now all his workout stuff was in the basement, though he'd left the TV and stereo for Kyle.

Kyle was sprawled on the unmade bed. Highly visible were the cowboy sheets Ben had bought for him, along with the new twin-size bed, when he'd confirmed his nephew was coming to stay for good.

Kyle, naturally, had glared at the sheets and proclaimed them "for babies." Ben could see his point, as at the moment he was listening to ominous-sounding music in a foreign language and flipping the pages on a book with a title that looked like it might be Greek.

"When did your teacher give you this note for me?"

Kyle shrugged with colossal indifference.

"Not today?" Ben guessed dryly.

"Not today," Kyle agreed.

Ben glanced at his watch and sighed. "Let's go see Miss Maple," he said. "We're late."

"Miss Maple hates tardiness," Kyle said, obviously mimicking his teacher's screechy voice. He sounded quite pleased with himself that he had managed to get Ben in trouble with the teacher before they had even met.

Ben felt uneasily like a warrior going into the unexpected as he held open the door of Cranberry Corners Elementary School, and then followed Kyle down the highly polished floor of a long hallway. Was he going into battle, or negotiations? Strange thoughts for a man traveling down hallways lined with cheerful drawings of smiling suns and stick people walking dogs.

He stopped, just outside the doorway of the class Kyle pointed to, and frowned at what he saw inside. A woman sat at a lonely desk at the front of the class, mellow September sunshine cascading over her slender shoulders.

"That can't be Miss Maple."

Kyle peered past him. "That's her, all right."

It was because he'd been expecting something so radically different that the first sight of Miss Maple made Ben feel as if he had laid down his weapons somewhere. He felt completely disarmed by the fact that it was more than evident that not one thing Kyle had said about her was true. Or at least not the "mugly" or "old" part. He'd have to wait and see about the "mean." And the screechy voice.

There was something disarming about the classroom, too. A huge papier-mâché tree sprouted in one corner, the branches spreading across the ceiling, dripping with brightly colored fall leaves with kids' names on them. The wall contained charts full of shining stars, artwork, reprints of good paintings. This was the space of someone who loved what she did. From Kyle's attitude, Ben had pictured something grimmer and more prisonlike for Miss Maple's lair.

But then, Miss Maple was not the Miss Maple he had imagined, either, and Ben struggled to readjust to the picture in front of him. In fact, the teacher was young, not more than twenty-five. She was concentrating on something on her desk, and her features were fine and flawless, her skin was beautiful, faintly sun-kissed, totally unlined. Her hair, pulled back in a ponytail, was the exact dark golden color of the wildflower honey that Ben kept in a glass jar on his countertop.

Of course, she could still be mean. Ben had known plenty of gorgeous women who were mean straight through. You could tell by their eyes, diamond flint and ice.

But then she lifted her eyes, and he was momentarily lost in their softness and their color, an astounding mix of jade and aqua and copper.

Nothing mean in those eyes, he decided, and tried out his best easygoing boy-next-door grin on her.

An unexpected thing happened. She frowned. It didn't make her look mean precisely, but he understood perfectly how an eleven-year-old boy could be intimidated by her.

"Hello," she said, "I think you must be lost." Her voice wasn't screechy at all. It was quite amazing, with the belllike tone of a church bell ringing on a cold, pure morning. She leaned back in her chair and folded her arms over her chest, as if she had suddenly reached the alarming conclusion she was alone in this end of the building.

Women weren't generally alarmed by him, but the fact she was here at five in the evening probably meant she was sheltered in some way. The atmosphere in the classroom really was a testament to no life. How long did it take to make a tree like that? She'd probably been in here all summer, cloistered away, working on it!

More's the pity, since Ben could clearly see her chest was delicately and deliciously curved, though it occurred to him it was probably some kind of sin to notice that about the grade-five teacher, and the fact that he had noticed probably justified the alarm in her eyes.

Or maybe that was nuns a man was not supposed to think manlike thoughts about.

Which she was dressed like, not that he was an expert on how nuns dressed, but he suspected just like that: high-buttoned blouse in pristine white, frumpy sweater in forgettable beige.

He would have liked a glimpse of her legs, since he was unfortunately curious about whether she was wearing a skirt or slacks, but the desk totally blocked his view.

He moved forward, leaned over the desk and extended his hand. He couldn't think of a way to lean over far enough to see her legs without alarming her more than she already was, so he didn't.

"I'm Ben Anderson, Kyle's uncle." He deliberately turned up the wattage of his smile, found himself wishing he had changed out of his work clothes—torn jeans with the knee out, his company T-shirt with Garden of Weedin' emblazoned across the front of it.

Miss Maple took his hand but did not return his smile. Any idea he had about holding her hand a little too long was dismissed instantly. Her handshake was chilly and brief.

"You are very late," she said. "I was about to leave."

Ben was astounded to find he felt, not like six foot one of hard-muscled fighting machine, but like a chastened schoolboy. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Kyle slide in the door, and roll his shoulders inward, as if he was expecting a blow. Ben found he didn't have the heart to blame his nephew for not giving him the note.

"Uh, well," he said charmingly, "you know. Life gets in the way."

She was not charmed, and apparently she did not know. "Kyle, will you go down to the library? I had Mrs. Miller order a copy of The History of Khan for you. She said she'd leave it on her desk."

"For me?" Kyle squeaked, and Ben, astonished by the squeak glanced at him. The hard mask was gone from his eyes, and his nephew looked like a little boy who was going to cry. A little boy, Ben thought grimly, who had seen far too few kindnesses in his life.

He was aware the teacher watched Kyle go, too, something both troubled and tender in her eyes, though when she looked back at him, her gaze was carefully cool.

"Have a seat, Mr. Anderson."

Miss Maple seemed to realize at about the same time as Ben there really was no place in that entire room where he could possibly sit. The desks were too small, and she had the one adult-size chair.

He watched a faint blush rise up her cheeks and was reluctantly enchanted. He decided to smile at her again. Maybe she was one of those women who liked the real-man look, dirt and muscles. He flexed his forearm just a tiny bit to see if she was paying attention.

She was, because her blush deepened and she took a sudden interest in shuffling some papers on her desk. She apparently forgot she'd invited him to sit down.

"Your nephew is a bit of dilemma, Mr. Anderson," she said in a rush, shuffling frantically to avoid further eye contact with his muscles.

"Ben," he offered smoothly, hoping she might give up her first name in return.

But she didn't. In fact, she stopped shuffling papers and pressed her lips together in a firm line, gazed at him solemnly and sternly, the effect of the sternness somewhat tempered by the fact she picked that moment to tuck a wayward strand of that honey-colored hair behind her ear.

Ben had the unexpected and electrifying thought that he would like to kiss her. He wasn't sure why. Maybe as a shortcut to the woman underneath that uptight outfit and the stern expression.

Excerpt from Miss Maple And The Playboy by Cara Colter
All rights reserved by publisher and author

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