Stranded in the heart of England after Bonnie Prince Charlie’s hasty retreat, highlander Fraser Lachlan has sworn to stay by his injured friend’s side. But when a kindly English family takes Jack in to be cared for by the governess and healer at their Derbyshire estate, Fraser can only watch helplessly.
It’s just a matter of time before Jack is turned over to the Crown as a traitor, but Fraser’s attempt to rescue his friend is met with the blunt end of a candlestick.
Martha Wantage wears every reason she hates the Scots on her body—in the scars from a violent, fiery attack that killed her family. Now she has not only one unconscious Jacobite rebel at her mercy, but two. And she can’t resist cursing her enemy with the “kiss of hate”.
That kiss unleashes a storm of passion that rages quickly out of control. But with the legacy of Martha’s scars weighing heavy on her mind, and Fraser’s duty calling him to Culloden Moor, it may be too late to explore whether theirs is a desire born of hate… or love.
Half an hour later, Martha hardly recognised the tall, powerfully built man who strode into her kitchen through the open back door. It was only the bandage on his head and his badly cut hair that alerted her to his identity. Somehow, the severely cut breeches, shirt and jerkin Tom had lent him only accentuated the breadth of Fraser’s shoulders and the strong muscles of his thighs. It was plain from his expression, however, that he did not approve of his new attire.
He plucked at the cloth of his breeches with distaste. “I look like a cursed lowlander. ’Tis unmanly and a reproach to my heritage for me to appear in public without my sporran, kilt and dirk.”
Privately deciding that Fraser had far too much manliness for any garment, Martha disregarded this comment. “Sit here while I cut your hair and shave you,” she said, indicating a seat at the kitchen table.
He regarded her with suspicion. “Must I present my throat to you while you’ve a blade in your hand, wee crabbit one?”
“Yes, and I do wish you’d stop calling me that. I lived in Northumberland until ten years ago. I know exactly what it means.”
“Aye, ill-tempered, unpleasant and all-round disagreeable.” He grinned, a gleam of genuine humour in his eyes. “It suits you just fine.”
Ignoring the look she threw at him, he took a seat and, leaning his elbows on the table, made no further comment while she removed his bandages and trimmed his hair into a semblance of order. The red-gold curls clustered close into the nape of his neck and over his ears, and Martha concentrated on her task rather than his proximity. He smelled of masculinity. It was a warm, earthy, musky scent that was out of place in her kitchen. Whenever she moved into the line of his vision, she was conscious of his unwavering stare on her face.
“Northumberland was once a part of the kingdom of Scotland,” Fraser said. Martha gritted her teeth and did not respond. “Aye, and is it not true that the Northumbrians are known for their wild and revolutionary ways? Before the stabilising influence of a Scottish king on the English throne, was it not known as the most lawless county in the land?”
“At least we know who our enemies are, unlike the highland clansmen who seem determined to annihilate each other,” she said.
His jaw tensed at that, and he lapsed into silence so that the only sound for several minutes was the click of Martha’s scissor blades.
“How old are you?” he asked. The question was so unexpected that the scissors made a jumpy arc that came perilously close to his ear before Martha got them back under control.
“That has nothing to do with you,” she said in her best teacher’s voice. He waited, and eventually she capitulated. After all, what did it matter? “I am six and twenty.”
“Past the marriageable age, ’tis true, but not quite at your last prayers. Why is it that you try so hard to appear older?”
That was going too far. No-one had ever spoken to her that way before. Ignoring the peculiar lump his words brought to her throat, she attempted to change the subject. “Where are your other clothes?”
“Why?” He leaned back slightly, watching her now that she had finished her task.
“They will give your identity away. I don’t want them to be discovered.”
A savage fire blazed gold in the hazel depths of his eyes. “That’s right. They are my identity. I’ll not let you dispose of the only things I have left of my name, my pride and my honour.”
“I was going to offer to wash them and store them safely until you are able to wear them again,” Martha said placidly. “Believe it or not, I do know the significance of the kilt and the tartan to your countrymen.”
The fierce look faded slightly. “You grew up on Lord Jack’s estate, at St. Anton?”
“Yes, on the northern part of the estate, close to Bamburgh. My father had land there and farmed cattle.” She didn’t need to explain what that meant. Although Fraser was a highlander and, therefore, hailed from an area far to the north of the border between England and Scotland, he would know and understand the practice of reiving. Conflict between the kingdoms of England and Scotland was as ancient as the lands themselves, and cross-border conflict was bloody, brutal and relentless. Families living on either side of Hadrian’s Wall existed in the certain knowledge that bloodshed, treachery and grief would come their way. The border traditions, passed down through generations, did not die out when King James I, great-great-grandfather of Bonnie Prince Charlie, to whom Fraser had sworn allegiance, united the two crowns. Reiving—raiding for cattle, sheep and anything else that could be transported—was a way of life that continued unabated. But theft was the lesser evil of reiving. Murder, rape and kidnap were all part of daily life on the border.
“Tell me about the reivers who hurt you.” His voice held more compassion than she would have imagined possible. What had wrought this odd change in his approach? Never trust a Scotsman. Her father’s words rang in her ears. It was sound advice, and yet Fraser seemed genuinely interested. He had a knack of triggering a chain of warring emotions in her breast. It was most unnerving.
Martha bent her head, unable to speak. Instead of trying, she busied herself by picking up the knife in preparation for shaving him, but her hand shook so hard that the blade was a silver blur. Fraser watched her thoughtfully, then reached out and clasped her wrist. Carefully, he removed the knife from her grasp.
“On second thoughts, perhaps it might be best if I do that myself?”
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The Jago Legacy Series, her gothic romances, are love stories with a dash of horror and a creepily ever after. Her dark erotic romantic suspense books, The Cunning Prophet Series feature supernatural elements and a charismatic, obsessive villain. Jane also writes steamy historical romance for Samhain Publishing and is working on a three book series for Harlequin in their Nocturne (paranormal) line.