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Entries in highlander (1)

Tuesday
Jul012014

(Day 2) Special Edition Romance Previews: My Rebel Highlander by Vonda Sinclair

 

  

 

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ABOUT THE BOOK: Known for his wicked wit, fierce loyalty, and skills in battle, Robert "Rebbie" MacInnis, the Earl of Rebbinglen, loves freedom and has no plans of marrying anytime soon. But when his father, a powerful Scottish marquess, signs a contract betrothing Rebbie to an earl's young daughter, he is furious. If he has to marry, he's determined to choose his own bride, though he has no inkling who he would wish to wed until fate intervenes to remind him of one fair-haired, nameless beauty and the passionate night they spent together years ago. A night forever etched in his memory.

Lady Calla Ferguson, a penniless widow with a young son, is forced to seek employment as her cousin's companion in order to pay her late husband's massive gambling debt. Having been ignored or mistreated most of her life, Calla has become a resourceful survivor who will stop at nothing to get what she wants—safety and security for her son and herself. Wealthy merchant, Claybourne cares little for the money the Earl of Stanbury owed him; he simply wants the earl's beautiful, voluptuous widow and he'll do whatever it takes to get his hands on her, even kidnapping and blackmail.

When Rebbie happens upon Claybourne abducting Calla, he rescues her and hides her in a secluded castle deep in the wild Scottish Highlands. Calla conceals her passionate spirit beneath reserve and duty, along with closely-guarded secrets which, if exposed, could ruin both her life and her son's. Years ago, she lost her heart to a dark-eyed stranger she never thought to see again, but now he's her protector. Rebbie craves another pleasurable night like the one they shared in the past, and she cannot resist the fiery passion that echoes deep in her heart and soul. Soft but strong, Calla sparks within Rebbie a desperate hunger and a need to protect her. But will her secrets tear them apart?

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Day 2:

The prologue continues and we find out how Calla goes to an inn and meets a dark-eyed stranger who might solve her problem.

Her hand trembled as she pushed open the door and entered the Red Lion Inn's common room.

The scent of ale and beer permeated the air. Men sat at tables, drinking, playing cards, eating and talking. She lurked in a dark corner, eyeing them. Which men were cruel beasts and which were decent citizens? Who was married and who was single? She didn't wish to get involved with a swine like her husband, nor did she want to cause a man to be unfaithful to his wife.

At one of the tables, a man with black, shoulder-length hair caught her attention. He sat across from a taller, ginger-haired man with his back to her. Even at this distance, she could see that the dark-haired man also had dark brown eyes. But it wasn't his coloring that captured her interest. He was breathtakingly handsome. And young, 'haps in his early twenties. Half Stanbury's age. There was no way to tell if the man in question was virile, but he certainly looked healthy with his broad shoulders, thick arms, and trim waist. His fine quality clothing said he might be a laird, or at least wealthy.

He laughed at something the other man said, and—saints—his smile was the most appealing sight she'd ever seen. He looked friendly and approachable. Not frightening like her husband. Stanbury rarely smiled, but when he did, 'twas smug or calculating.

Clenching her hands so tightly she feared her fingers would fall off, she moved to the alcove by the stairs, and continued to watch the gorgeous stranger. He and his friend downed whisky and played another hand of cards.

She scanned the common room, hoping to see no one she recognized, wondering if another man might better suit. But, nay, her gaze always returned to the attractive dark-haired man. When he won a hand, that captivating grin lit up his face again. She could not tear her gaze away. A painful yearning germinated within her, a need to have him smile at her. What would that feel like?

Heavenly?

Shoving her daft and dreamy imaginings aside, she focused on what was important—her instincts told her sharing a bed with him wouldn't be as dreadful a task as sharing one with Stanbury. Guilt sliced through her at the thought of breaking her sacred marriage vows, but Stanbury had broken them numerous times, she was certain. He made it no secret that he had a mistress. As far as she was concerned, his threat on her life destroyed any vows between them.

After she'd waited an immeasurable time, her palms growing sweatier and her stomach more pained with each moment that passed, the man stood, slapped his friend on the shoulder and meandered toward the stairs… and her. Was he drunk? If so, that might work perfectly. 'Haps he wouldn't even remember her in the morn.

When his compelling, midnight gaze landed on her, she froze and her mouth went dry. What should she say to him?

He gave a slight bow. "Good evening, fair and bonny lass," his deep voice purred. He flashed her a roguish grin, then faced the stairs again.

Say something, Calla!

When he clasped his hand onto the newel post, she placed her hand upon his.

Chapter One

Perthshire, Scotland, August 1619

"Look, Calla. 'Tis one of those barbaric Highlanders," Lady Elena whispered in shock, halting beneath the overhang just outside the dressmaker's shop in Draughon Village. Calla glanced across the muddy street. The Highlander in question, wearing a belted plaid kilt, strode from the Breakstane Inn, his bare muscular calves showing above his boots. He had several weapons strapped upon his body, including a basket-hilt broadsword, a long dagger, and pistols tucked into his belt.

He possessed a fine, athletic form, and his long hair, near dark as midnight, brushed his broad shoulders. He hoisted himself onto a tall, sleek black stallion, while his manservant held the bridle of the spirited animal.

"A wealthy Highlander," Calla murmured. Aye, only a rich man could afford such an impressive warhorse. When the man faced their direction, her breath stopped. His devilish, deep brown eyes and handsome face had haunted her dreams and fantasies for six long years.

"Saints," she hissed. 'Twas him.

"He is a frightening sight, is he not?" Elena clutched Calla's arm.

Calla tugged her cloak's cowl more firmly over her head, hoping to conceal her face. At all costs, that man could not see her. She knew him, but not his name.

Forcing herself to look away, Calla composed herself for her younger cousin's sake. "Laird Draughon wears a kilt most of the time. And, as we know, he is not frightening."

"Aye, but…" She pointed. "With all those weapons, that one looks like he's going to war."

Calla dared another glance at him. "Fear not, cousin. He's leaving now."

Riding the horse as if one with it, the dark-haired Highlander galloped away from the village, his servant following on a smaller nag while he led a pack horse.

Watching until he disappeared around the bend, Calla released the breath she'd been holding and hoped to never see that man again, no matter how wickedly attractive he was. He could ruin her life… what hadn't already been destroyed by her late husband, James Ferguson, the Earl of Stanbury, who'd gambled away every penny.

They bypassed two of the guards the Earl of Barclay had sent to watch over his daughter, Elena, in the village.

"I hate this place. There is naught here but peasants," Elena said, casting a disgusted glance around the village. "The dressmaker was sorely lacking in fine fabrics."

"The fabric you chose was a good quality." Calla had to find a way to divert Elena's attention until she could meet with the messenger she'd hired. It had been a task making certain she could be in the village on the right day at the right time. "We should eat at the inn," Calla suggested.

"In truth?" Elena wrinkled her nose. "They're expecting us back at Draughon for the noon meal."

"'Tis almost two; I'm thinking they've already eaten. Are you not hungry?" Calla's nervous stomach ached too much for her to have an appetite, but she thought 'twould help her get away from Elena and the others for a few minutes.

"Oh, very well," Elena muttered. "I hope the cook can make something passable."

The three lady's maids followed them to the inn.

Once they were seated at a table and the solicitous proprietor had taken their orders for lamb stew, bread, and ale, Calla leapt up from the bench. "Blast!"

"What is it?" Elena's blue eyes widened.

"I've left my best gloves at the shop. I'll go fetch them."

"Take one of the maids with you."

"Nay. 'Twill only take a moment."

Outside, Calla casually strolled by the guards and toward the dressmaker's. Once she'd passed them, she glanced around, noting the guards had their eyes on the door to the inn, then she rushed to the livery stable where she was to meet the messenger. He had once worked for her late husband and was still loyal, though she was certain he needed the work, too.

Upon seeing the tall, lanky man with graying hair, she relaxed. His worn brown breeches and doublet were nondescript.

"There you are, Hobbs. I thank you for agreeing to do this for me."

He bowed. "Lady Stanbury. Always glad to be of service."

She drew the small pouch of coins from the pocket she'd sown into her skirts. She opened the drawstring pouch, took out two silver coins and placed them into his hand. "Those are for you." She pulled the string tight again and gave him the whole pouch. "You ken where this is to be delivered."

He nodded and tipped his hat. "Aye, m'lady. A good day to you, then."

"Same time next week?" she asked. "Or mayhap a bit earlier in the morn? Wait for me."

Hobbs nodded and mounted his horse.

'Twas a shame that she was still paying off her husband's gambling debts five months after his death. But 'twas either give up her meager wages to the fiendish Claybourne or he would make her work off the debt in the worst way possible. She cringed, nausea gripping her stomach.

  (excerpt continued on Wednesday)