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About the author:
I have has been a lover of romance books since the seventh grade when my mother introduced me to Victoria Holt, and my sister shared her Barbara Cartland collection. I have a lifelong long of sea glass and am the founder and former editor of Glassing Magazine, the first-ever print periodical all about sea glass and beach glass (which sold in 2018 and is now called BeachCombing Magazine).
I am the proud mother of four (my greatest loves) and live in Western New York with my wonderfully supportive husband, Larry, and my just-ok dog, Brody.
The Highlander Heroes Series is a long-time dream, finally come to life. I'm looking forward to sharing so many great love stories!
What inspired you to write your book?
When I was in high school, I read every 'bodice ripper' I could get my hands on. After a while, it was a challenge to find ones that stood out, that really moved me, or which I absolutely fell in love with. It seemed a natural thing, then, to write the stories I wanted to read.
Here is a short sample from the book:
Tess Munro stared steadily into the pale gray eyes of the man she would very soon vow to honor and love above all others. She searched deeply, reaching into his soul, she was sure, and waited, with the greatest of hopes, and saw—nothing. Nothing that inspired or impassioned her, nothing to hold her interest nor warm her heart. Nice eyes they were, but blank.
No, not blank. Detached, lacking any promise.
Alain Sinclair possessed nothing at all that would have ever inspired her to choose him as her mate. He was, however, hers. Or soon would be, if her father had anything to say about it. Alain Sinclair was her father's current pet. His rapid rise up the ranks from page to knight did much to recommend Sinclair to her father. And it didn’t hurt that he was second son to the Earl of Caithness.
Tess found herself intrigued now only by his willingness to meet with her today. Surprised, too, for they were only recently betrothed and there were few who would dare to risk the wrath of her sire, Sir Arthur Munro—this she had learned rather quickly.
Truth be known, Tess Munro could hardly claim to know much else about her own sire. She’d spent the majority of her life in England, where her mother had been exiled as punishment for failing to produce a male heir. Set aside, as if only a pair of worn riding gloves for which you no longer had any use. When her dear mother had passed away last year, Tess had been summoned to Scotland.
What little her mother had ever said about her father and his severity during their short marriage had left Tess only with an impression of a cruel and imposing figure. Thus, when she’d been reunited with her sire after nearly seven years apart, the meeting had been coldly civil, and she knew that her mother had not exaggerated his unkindness. Any fanciful notion she’d had of a warm and loving welcome had been just that, no more than wishful thinking.
She was to serve a purpose. That was all.
“Families and fortunes and castles and coin,” her mother had answered dully when Tess had, many years ago, asked, “Why did you marry father if you felt no love for him?”
Tess knew now that her years at the nunnery—where her father had discarded his wife and daughter, so that he might pursue another, younger, and hopefully more fertile wife—while idyllic, had not properly prepared her for life outside those cloistered and happy walls. Marlefield was not a happy place. Her home of the past year was cold and stark and unfriendly, exactly like her father.
This, then, had Tess feeling quite desperate and so very unsure, which had then prompted her to secretly send Alain an invitation to rendezvous with her outside the fortressed walls of Marlefield, away from the watchful eyes of her father, his warriors, and the serfs and servants of the hall.
She knew she hadn't a prayer of swaying her father. Sir Arthur had made up his mind about her marriage and there would be no further discussion about it. One neither disagreed with nor disobeyed Sir Arthur.
So be it.
But she could learn of Alain. She could discover if her present reality would also be her future reality. She’d prayed just this morning that this would not be the case. She’d prayed that she would find in Alain someone she could confide in, trust, and whose company she enjoyed.
She’d used the postern gate of Marlefield to creep outside the walls of the keep and had waited for her betrothed in one of her favorite spots, a small glade of tall grass surrounded by a copse of trees, just off the lane, which led to the village down in the glen. She’d left a ribbon marking the spot where Alain should turn off into the trees, which he’d complained might have been a sign for any random passerby to find her.
“Once I am master of Marlefield,” Alain said now as Tess leaned against the trunk of the lone tree in this small clearing, “I shall not allow you to traipse around the woods as you have.” His diction was near perfect. She was aware that he had spent considerable time in England; he seemed to work very hard to betray none of the rough Scots sounds in his precise language.
“I thought we might get to know one another,” she said, searching his face, offering a slight smile.
Thin brows lowered over his light gray eyes. “There will be plenty of time for that after we are wed.”
“But aren’t you curious about me? I am very curious about you.”
The brows remained lowered. “What is there to know? King Edward and your father and the Scottish council have decreed that we marry. And so, we shall.”
Pushing herself away from the tree, Tess gave a little laugh. “But do you like riding? Have you ever participated in a joust? What is your horse’s name? Do you prefer rain or sun?”
Tess wanted only to know what Fate had dealt her. Would there be love? Respect? Affection? She guessed not, having spent several minutes now in conversation with Alain. He was an easy man to appreciate in a casual sort of way; he was handsome and educated and brave, and purportedly loyal beyond question. Yet he aroused in Tess no greater sentiment than one might feel for the hounds in the hall.
Sadly, she now knew her fate.
“Lady Tess, I’m not sure what you are about here—why would my horse have a name? I think we should get back—"
"Kiss me, Alain," she said suddenly, cutting him off in mid-sentence.
"Excuse me?" He appeared nonplused, as if someone had ruffled his perfectly tailored garments for no reason at all.
"Kiss me." Tess needed hope and was desperate enough to want to believe the whispered confidences of her maid, who had declared with a red-faced giggle that a kiss could make you fall in love. She stepped closer to him.
Though disheartened by his brows crinkling yet more, Tess closed her eyes and lifted her face. She waited and listened to him clear his throat. She heard a rustling sound followed by a weak groan—preparations, she guessed—and then his lips touched hers.
Soft at first, with the newness of each other, lips gently glided over hers. She sighed and leaned into him, felt his hands settle high on her arms, larger and stronger than she would have imagined of Alain, pulling her closer.
He shifted his head and slanted his lips fully over hers, moving them slowly back and forth. He pulled back slightly and tasted the seam of her lips with his tongue. Tess gasped and felt his fingers tighten on her arms as his tongue pushed into her mouth, swirling around her own. Tess was undone. The feel of him was entirely delightful, the things his touch did to her insides was inexplicable. Suddenly she did not know her own body. She was cognizant of the butterflies—of which her maid had warned her—searching for flight in her belly. Her legs grew weak, making her vaguely grateful that he supported her so easily and allowed her hands to cling to him.
Odd that she truly hadn’t put much stock in what her flirty maid had said, but now, in his arms, with this kiss, she believed it all. Believed him capable of wooing her successfully, making her a slave to his touch, and bringing her to her knees in awe of his power over her.
It lasted no more than a minute, this, her first kiss, but it seemed as if the sun had risen and set several times before he finally pulled his head away.
And she could not move. Indeed, she scarcely remembered how to draw breath.
Her eyes remained closed, invoking the wonder of this, caused merely by touching two mouths together.
A faint yelp, a child in distress perhaps, finally opened her eyes.
Arms held her still. Tess raised her eyes to Alain's and saw…
Not Alain at all.
In his place, a barbarian of extreme height with mesmerizing blue eyes, watched her with a mixture of restrained humor and what Tess, in her relative innocence, could only describe as hunger. He said nothing, only stared at her, waiting, Tess supposed, for outrage to evolve.
But she could garner no such emotion. Not now. Not yet.
As if in a dream, as if not really a participant of the drama unfolding, she turned her head. There was Alain, at the edge of the glade near the trees, held stiffly between the arms of two men similar in size to the giant before her. A gag was shoved in Alain’s mouth and his eyes were widened in horror. They were surrounded by perhaps ten or twelve men, all watching as if the next move belonged to her. She turned back to the one holding her, staring in dumbfounded bewilderment at this man who had stolen a kiss, at his incredible blue eyes. She opened her mouth, though what she would have said she did not know; no sound came forth. Indeed, she must be dreaming—her body felt weighted and disconnected, as if trying to swim against the current.
"Now you are kissed," said the giant before her. "Let us leave."
Her first thought, upon hearing his voice, was that his Scots accent was so much thicker than what she’d grown accustomed to in these past many months in Scotland. Tess, having spent so much of her life living in a small cloister in the north of England, had only known the soft melodious words of her countrywomen. She had never heard sounds such as these.
But with his words, with that sound, also came reality.
Tess shook her head, slowly at first, not in refusal of his command for she had yet to grasp its meaning, but in denial of what was transpiring around her. She moved her head more wildly now as the horror of her circumstance became very real to her.
"Alain?" she called but was dragged away and now understood that the giant's request to leave included her, though for what purposes, she could not imagine. True, the beast’s kiss had stirred her as she was certain a kiss from Alain never would, but she didn’t want to be kidnapped by him!
Tess cast frantic eyes to Alain and watched with increasing terror as he was laid out by a blow from a thick and meaty paw. He collapsed like so much honey dripping from a ladle, oozing lower onto the ground. She screamed, loud and long, turning this way and that, avoiding the hand of her captor as he tried to silence her. Twisting in his steel-like grasp, she shrieked for quite a moment until finally the giant managed to wrap her in his arms and clamp one large hand, the hand which had touched her gently only moments ago, over her mouth, effectively muffling her screams.
"Perhaps now, we shall make haste," he said to his companions, sounding not at all put out by her resistance. He lifted her high up in his arms, tossing her over his shoulder like a sack of grain and strode through the tall grass as though a body slung over his shoulder was no impediment at all.
Completely horrorstruck, her fear choking her, Tess tried hopelessly to draw breath enough to scream again as they raced through the open field, away from Marlefield.
"Dinna make me kill you here.” Tess’s captor whacked her bottom hard, a sharp warning that any effort to save herself might well result in her death.
Now true panic closed in. Tess lifted her head and watched as the other brigands followed their leader, loping silently along the old northern trail as if they bore not the great mass of themselves.
It occurred to Tess that she had nothing to lose by giving voice to one last effort to save herself. Dead now or dead later was still dead. Drawing in a quick rush of breath, she shouted again. But it was not done nearly well enough to save herself, she knew, and she was dumped to the ground before the giant and held fast by one large paw as the other yanked at the sleeve of her left arm. Tess shrieked again as the fabric was torn clean away from the shoulder of her gown. The giant pulled the ripped piece down over her wrist, leaving her arm completely bare. He then covered her mouth with the fabric, tying it at the back of her neck. Tess fought this, her finger scratching at the sleeve as it was secured so tightly, she was forced to open her mouth.
When it was fastened to his liking, and so that Tess could not make a sound, he gripped her upper arms firmly and put his face very close to hers. “If you touch it, I will kill you.”