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Title: Highland Series Boxed Set
Author: Christine Young
Genre: Historical Romance
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 4
Buy at: Amazon
Willfully stubborn, innocently courageous, Callie Whitcomb braves a journey through the treacherous highlands to the Macpherson castle. Callie flees from an unwanted marriage as well as her ruthless half brother. Naively she believes Colin MacPherson, the head of the clan, is loyal to her father and will give her sanctuary, protecting her from the vile plans that have been made for her.
As hard and as unyielding as the winter storms that sweep through the countryside, Colin is irresistibly drawn to the impetuous beauty who has magically appeared on his doorsteps. Despite his vows of revenge against her father, she stirs his passion as well as his sense of justice…but to love her would violate all his vows of revenge.
Throughout the Highlands she is known as Keely, the witch woman. She is a great healer-a woman whose dreams come true. Ian MacPherson is a man who puts honor, loyalty and duty above everything. Their lives are entwined when Ian is sent by the Scottish King to bring Keely to trial for witchcraft. He is attacked and left for dead, but Keely rescues him. When he wakes, he discovers he has no memory. As he remembers his lost past, Ian finds that his need to protect the woman who has saved his life eclipses his duty to his king and country., He is a man torn between honor and duty to his country and the woman he loves.
With her white-gold hair and azure eyes, Lainie MacPherson is as wild and untamed as the rugged Scottish Highlands where she was raised. Lainie vowed to avenge her rape. Recklessly, she defies English laws and the man who raped her puts a bounty on her head. The man who is sent to bring her to Edinburgh sets a dangerous trap. With nothing left to live for the beautiful Scottish spy steals the sealed documents the English soldier has tempted her with.
When the exquisite temptress takes the bait and runs off with not only the forged documents but the purses of the men in the tavern, Aaron Slade vows to hunt her down and bring her to justice, never dreaming she will tame his jaded soul. When Aaron discovers the truth about the tempestuous woman who stirs his passion to the point of madness, he dares not love her, but desires her with all his soul.
Scotland November 1512
A heavy frost sat on the frozen earth, and a full moon shone clearly between the heavy clouds dotting the sky. Lady Callie Whitcomb looked over her shoulder as she raced through the deepening gloom toward the lighted tavern ahead. Every shadow, every mournful sigh of the wind sweeping through the trees, every chilling animal sound filled her with terror. Fear for her life drove her to put all thoughts of danger aside. He would follow her, find her, and drag her home.
“Don’t think of that now,” she reminded herself fiercely, even while tears stung in the back of her throat and fear made her limbs tremble. “Don’t ye dare think of home. It no longer exists.” Nothing and no one could coax her back or make her believe there was naught but terror in the home where she’d been born.
“I will never marry Lord Huntington. Never!” she whispered fiercely, the chill night air solemnly echoing her words.
Her stepbrother, Archibald Covington III, made sure she could never return.
“There ye be, lass! I’ve been waiting for you.”
The voice rose from nowhere and surprised her. Her heart froze, lurched, then began an erratic beat, while raw nerves snapped, sending a myriad of sensations racing down her spine.
“Archibald–” she whispered, panic sweeping through her. “He’s found me.” All she could hear was the pounding of blood in her ears.
Before she could reach her destination, before she could find safe refuge from him, his men had found her. No! Not now. Not when she thought she had eluded them all.
A wave of fear sweeping through her reminded her, that if caught, she would be taken back to Archibald and forced to marry Lord Huntington.
“I’ll help you down, lass.”
Before she could react and spur her horse forward, callous, rough hands centered on her waist then pulled her from her mount.
“No!” She cried out to no avail. Regaining her wits, she beat fiercely upon the man’s broad chest, tearing at his face and his thick beard with her fingers.
“Ach, lass! Hold still! I mean ye no harm. Stop this–” His voice was gruff and impatient.
Fear for her life had spurred her haste. Terror she might see Huntington or Archibald with each turn of the road haunted every hour of her journey. Archibald had retainers everywhere. Messages would have been sent. A highlander could be bought.
“Ruffian! Unhand me! Ye barbarous Scotsman.”
If Archibald had guessed what path she followed…
“Verra well, ne’er let it be said that I dinna do a lass’ bidding.” Just as suddenly as he’d grabbed her, his hold upon her vanished. She stumbled backward.
Instantly, she found herself sitting on the frozen earth. The man towering above her watched her with concerned dark eyes. Despite the scar stretching from forehead to chin, his mouth quirked upward in a humorous slant.
“Ye be a handful, lass.”
“Get away from me!” Confusion blindsided her. If this man had anything to do with Archibald or Lord Huntington, he would have never let her go. Yet she could take no chances.
His arms outstretched, his hands beckoning her to him, he smiled. “Now calm down.”
Crab-like, she scurried backwards. “I will not go with ye. I would rather die.” Despite her proper upbringing, she wanted to scream her frustration and bellow with anger.
“Hawke is waiting for you, lass. There is no need for this panic. He means you no harm.” The man stepped forward, bending over her as if to lift her from the ground.
“Hawke?” Callie did not want to meet Hawke. She sought Colin MacPherson. She stood before the man could touch her again, quickly dusting the dirt and leaves from her hands and moving sideways, ready to bolt. But the giant moved quickly and lethally, his huge hand closing over her upper arm. He pulled her along with him, heading toward the tavern.
“Aye, Hawke. You sound as if you’ve ne’er heard of the mon. Well, I suppose ’tis good you dinna let on about your identity to just anyone. He waits for you and the papers you were to bring with you.”
To no avail, she dug in her heels. “I have no papers.” Only the letter her father had written before he died and that was meant for Colin MacPherson, not some man named Hawke.
“‘Tis all right, lass. You dinna need to tell me anything.”
“No! It is not all right. I won’t go with ye. I won’t go back.”
“We’ve got her, Hawke.”
“Aye, I see that you have.” Laughter rang out from the shadows of the tavern. “Bring the wee lass inside where we can talk.”
“Nay, ye have no right.” Callie stiffened, searching the porch, every nerve strung taut. “I am not chattel ye can push here and there.”
Music, sounds of laughter, the scent of ale and peat smoke floated and clung to the heavy night air. A man moved forward, silhouetted by the backlight of the tavern.
“I have every right,” he said, but he made no move to change her situation or to tell his henchman to unhand her.
Struck by his size and with every nerve tightened, she inhaled a deep, ragged breath. When he stepped into a pool of light, she nearly gasped aloud. Moonlight gave his strong, well-chiseled features definition and there was a strange, vulnerable expression on his face.
Oh, but he was tall and his hair was as black as the night and the shadows surrounding him. His long, dark hair was pulled back and secured at his nape with a leather strap, his muscles rippling with every movement. At his side, he’d strapped a claymore, and a dirk was tucked into the top of his knee-high stocking.
Behind her, Pansy moved uneasily then trotted off into the darkness. “Pansy–”
“Dinna fret, lass. Hawke will send a mon after your pony.”
“Hawke,” Callie said his name aloud, returning her consideration to the man on the porch. She sensed his attention bone-deep, and her heart thundered, every instinct within calling out for her to flee. They thought she was someone she wasn’t. Sensations she’d never felt before swept through her.
She’d always known Archibald was wicked, but if she hadn’t seen his evil with her own eyes, she would have never believed him capable of such horrific deeds.
She didn’t want to remember. In the dusk of the evening, she had been where she wasn’t supposed to be, retrieving a doll for Archibald’s little sister. She’d followed the doll as it rolled endlessly down the steep embankment. Then she’d seen her stepbrother and the man she was supposed to marry, Lord Huntington, killing a man, the dagger piercing the victim’s heart.
The next day she had risen before dawn and packed one bag. With all her money sewn into the hem of the dress she’d bought from one of her servants, she’d donned her warmest cloak, saddled her mare, Pansy, and left the keep. No one had stopped her or sounded an alarm. Callie had told no one about the murder because she trusted no one. She’d been too terrified of the very walls in the castle to tell anyone.