Peace in the glens means war in the bedchamber!
In a time of heroes, the greatest hero of all is Callum Mackinnon, Laird of Achnasheen. Brave, reckless, canny, and handsome enough to turn any lassie weak at the knees, Callum is a legend in the wild corner of the Highlands where he rules. Now the young laird is determined to choose a new path for his clan and end the violent feud with the Drummonds, a conflict that has painted the glens red with blood for centuries. This means taking Bonny Mhairi Drummond, the Rose of Bruard, as his wife. When negotiations with her pig-headed father break down, Callum seizes matters into his own hands and kidnaps the fairest maiden in Scotland, swearing to make her his own.
Bonny Mhairi is the adored only child of Clan Drummond’s doughty chieftain and she’s inherited all her father’s courage and stubbornness. Not to mention his undying hatred for anyone called Mackinnon. When the Mackinnon chieftain steals her away from her home and vows to woo her into accepting him as her husband, she swears that she’ll never consent to be his bride. But trapped inside her foe’s castle, Mhairi finds it hard to cling to old certainties. She detests her arrogant jailer, even as he sparks a fierce, forbidden hunger in her soul.
Loving the enemy…
As Callum and Mhairi wage their passionate war of hearts, danger, treachery and desire circle closer and closer. When her father’s army masses at the gates of Achnasheen, will Mhairi prove herself a Drummond now and forever? Or will new allegiances trump ancient hatred, as the desperate laird battles to win the lass he loves more than his life?
An international e-book release 27th September 2019
Achnasheen, Western Highlands of Scotland, June 1699
Mhairi leveled her shoulders and allowed him to take her arm and escort her into the midst of her enemies. When she stood beside the Mackinnon at the head table, every stare felt like a dagger.
“Men and women of Achnasheen, my kin, my clan, my people,” the Mackinnon said in a voice that rang through the great hall. “I bring to ye the lady who will be my wife. Mhairi Drummond of Bruard!”
Callum didn’t look at Mhairi as he took her hand and held it high in front of all his clan. He was ruefully aware that the triumphant gesture was at best premature. The girl tried to wrench away, but he kept hold of her.
“Ye swine, Mackinnon,” she hissed. “That’s no’ true.”
He turned to meet her blazing eyes. To his regret he read only more of that endless resistance. “Aye, it is.”
“I’d rather die than wed a Mackinnon dog,” she announced loudly enough for her insult to echo around the hall.
His lips tightened, as he watched Mhairi’s brave but misguided outburst spark general anger among his people. He’d sworn to treat her with care, but she backed him into a corner, couldn’t she see?
After a vibrant silence, Duff rose and raised his goblet toward the high table. “Aye, ye were right, Callum. You’ve caught yourself a wild cat there. I wish ye joy of taming her. I drink to the new lady of Achnasheen.”
Callum kept his grip on Mhairi’s hand, although she still struggled to break free. He noted that a good few of his men were slow to toast his coming nuptials. His plan to bring peace to the glens hadn’t been universally welcomed in his clan. Many of his warriors enjoyed the ongoing strife, and not a few of them had profited from the cattle raids in his father’s day.
But he was a patient man and a stubborn one, and he’d win out over both his people and his reluctant bride. He’d sworn to end the feud with the Drummonds, and he was above all a man of his word.
So he lifted his goblet with his free hand and swept it through 7the air in a silent salute to everyone present, including Mhairi who stood seething at his side. “A man likes a wild woman to warm his nights, Duff. I drink to peace and prosperity – and many exciting years to come with my bonny bride.”
He took a sip, hardly tasting the wine, as he heard a grudging response from the crowd. Beside him, Mhairi had gone as still as a stone.
He wondered what she plotted in retaliation for his rash declaration. Their acquaintance might be short, but he knew her well enough to guess she had some reprisal in mind. Perhaps he should have let her enjoy her first meal at Achnasheen in privacy, instead of brandishing her before his clan like a trophy.
Except that Mhairi Drummond was a trophy. One he meant to keep, come what may. The sooner she and his kin accepted that, the easier life would be for all of them.
Callum faced her once more. To his surprise, a faint smile curled her pink lips, although the blue eyes still burned with hatred. God’s teeth, what he’d give to turn all that fire to passion.
“As it’s a night for toasts, here’s mine, Mackinnon.” She lifted her brimming goblet in his direction. She spoke clearly so everyone in the hall could hear her. “I drink to a lingering and miserable death for the Laird of Achnasheen and Drummond warriors dancing a jig on your grave. Slàinte mhath.”
There was an audible mass intake of breath. Before Callum could react, Mhairi jerked back her hand and tossed her wine into his face.
Damn her Drummond recklessness. Damn her blazing temper. Damn her courageous heart.
As Callum stood unmoving, his eyes narrowed on her. Through the claret dripping past his eyes, he watched horror at her own temerity turn her as pale as milk. But she didn’t cringe away as his grip on her hand tightened.
Very slowly, he set his goblet down on the table. The room was deathly silent, and every eye focused on the laird and the woman he’d just proclaimed as his bride.
“A fine vintage, indeed,” he said gently.
Without shifting his gaze from her, he reached for his snowy white linen napkin and wiped his face. The front of his shirt and coat were soaked. She was fiendishly hard on his linen, this fierce wee lassie.
“I hoped to cool ye down.” The quiver in her voice told him that she knew she’d done the unforgivable and that nobody in this castle would raise a finger to defend her from the consequences of her actions. “Ye seemed a wee bit overheated.”
When he released her hand, he saw her wondering if perhaps against all the odds, she might get away with such a blatant insult to his standing. Unfortunately for her—and for him, he’d had hopes of winning her over with gentleness—he couldn’t allow that. Not if he wanted his clansmen to regard him with an ounce of respect.
When Callum grabbed her slender waist in both hands, she stiffened. Genuine fear sparked in her eyes. He was preternaturally aware of every subtle change in her expression. He’d never been so conscious of another person. It had been like this from the first.
“Ye ken you’ve gone too far.” The silence in the room was a hungry, living thing as his clan waited for him to punish her for her insolence.
Mhairi glanced to either side as if seeking some escape, but she was a Drummond on Mackinnon lands. She was trapped and alone.
“I wish it had been boiling water.” Again that wee shake in her voice betrayed the trepidation beneath her bold words.
“Your defiance has certainly put ye in hot water, mistress.” He hauled her away from the table, ignoring how she strained against him.
The belligerent angle of her chin was familiar. “Ye may as well kill me now.”
He let his smile express evil intent. She saw it and recoiled as far as she could, which wasn’t far at all.
“Nothing so easy as that, my lady.” He didn’t raise his voice above a murmur, but he knew she could tell how angry he was.
“No,” she said on a gasp of panic. “Ye promised.”
Perhaps after all, he’d been too quick to allay her fears. He’d given her a mistaken impression of just how much he’d accept from her. “Too late, lassie.”
The word was more demand than plea, and it was too late for either. Callum bent to haul her over his shoulder the way he’d carried her to his horse on her father’s lands. She tried to fight him, but he was too strong for her. He braced for her to start screeching insults, but she kept silent. He felt her hands fist in the back of his coat.
His hand settled on her rump in a visibly possessive gesture as he turned to face the crowded room. “Enjoy your dinner and drink up, my friends. The wine is excellent. I can tell ye that much from experience.”
There was an astonished pause, then cheering broke out.
“Aye, Mackinnon, show the Drummond biddy who’s in charge,” one of strongest opponents to ending the feud called out over the noisy approbation.
When he narrowed his eyes on Sel the Red, the man closed his mouth and subsided against his seat. The deafening crash of tankards and hands pounding on the wooden tables faded under the laird’s steady gaze.
“Hold your wheesht, Sel. This lady is to be my wife.”
“Good luck with that, Mackinnon,” someone called out in a drunken taunt. “I’d rather snuggle up to a crocodile.”
He ignored the comment. “I will no’ tolerate any disrespect to her.”
“What about disrespect from her?” another drunken voice called out.
“Och, now, that’s a different matter altogether, Liam,” he said with a laugh that rang to the rafters. “And something my lady and I need to discuss in private.”
“Aye, discuss away all night,” one of the grooms called from the base of the table. “I wish ye braw joy of your discussions, Mackinnon.”
“Aye, God willing, Brock, God willing. Dinnae look for me until the morning. Now I leave ye all to drink to my bonny bride’s health.”
The room erupted into more cheers as he swaggered across the hall and began to mount the stairs. His every sense remained attuned to the woman flung across his shoulder. She shook with fear. She’d hate that she betrayed such weakness, he knew.
Once they were out of sight of the crowd, she began to squirm and hit his back, but the arm he’d lashed across her legs held her in place.
“Lie still, mistress. Do ye want me to drop you on the stairs? It’s a long tumble back to the hall.”
Her scent made his head spin. She was more intoxicating than the fine wine she’d wasted splashing over him. The body he carried was slim and graceful, and hid soft, delicious secrets. He realized he’d started to caress that luscious curve of her bottom.
“Better I break my neck now than suffer what you’ve got planned for me,” Mhairi snapped back.
Her voice sounded choked. Perhaps her position hoisted over his shoulder restricted her breathing. Or perhaps she fought tears. She hadn’t cried once so far, although she’d had plenty of cause. Her strength was something he’d learned to respect. But by God, she needed to learn to respect him in turn.
He didn’t reply. What he meant to say was no conversation for the stairwell, where anyone could follow him and listen. He shouldered his way into the empty tower room and kicked the door shut behind him. The slam of the thick oak sounded like the crash of doom.