Widowed following a marriage of convenience, Jeannie MacWherter has fled lowland Dumfries, Scotland, for the highland cottage bequeathed to her late husband by his brother-in-arms, laird of the glen. Though she’s never met the laird, local rumor labels him both murderer and seducer—a wicked, dangerous man who Jeannie learns is determined to chase her from his land.
Finnan MacAllister has come home to Glen Mhor in order to right past wrongs. He doesn’t care that Rowan Cottage is the beautiful Widow MacWherter’s only refuge. He’s convinced she’s a wanton who deliberately broke the heart of his best friend, Geordie, and he’s vowed to get even with her: seduction is his weapon of choice. But will his own heart betray him?
Purchase Links: Amazon * ~ * ~ * Kobo * ~ * ~ * Barnes & Noble * ~ * ~ * iTunes
Finnan MacAllister floated just below the surface of the pool, communing with a trout. The water—still cool even on this warm August day—lapped about his naked body, and his submerged ears were privy to all sorts of gurgles and ripples he told himself made up the fish’s language. His hair floated out around his head in a mop of reddish brown, and his eyes, wide open, stared up through the water at the achingly blue sky.
If he kept very still, the trout in this pool would come to him and impart their knowledge, whisper it right in his ear perhaps. God knew he was in need of some wisdom. For the past ten years, ever since taking up his sword in defiance of a broken heart, his existence had gone from bad to worse. Everything he had done had come back in some way upon him.
Now that lowland bitch had set foot here in his glen. Worse, she’d taken up residence in the haven he had meant for Geordie. Ire spiked in his breast and chased away the ease his time in the water earned him. The grasping she-devil had broken his best friend’s heart, and Finnan meant to exact revenge—just as soon as he discovered what would hurt her most.
The cool, silken body of a trout brushed his cheek, and he held his breath, lungs bursting. When he had been a lad in this glen, he’d been able to stay under water for the count of two hundred. These days he had lost the art, but if the trout meant to whisper to him, he would damn sure exert himself.
The trout, not just a fish but a creature of mystery and magic, carried great wisdom, according to the old tales by which Finnan lived. One way to acquire that wisdom was to kill and eat it, or threaten to eat it, for in such an instance the trout often bargained for mercy.
Finnan showed mercy to few men, but animals were different. He’d once beaten a man half to death for flogging a tired horse, and had killed a man for abusing a hound. He whispered an ancient prayer for forgiveness whenever he went hunting, and the idea of killing a trout violated all he believed.
And what did he believe? He knew what people said about him, that he had no moral sense at all. He did, but he’d acquired it the hard way, through loss and necessity.
The trout brushed his other ear, and he heard a whisper through the gurgle of the water. He would have to break the surface soon in order to breathe.
He thought, Tell me.
Bargain for peace.
Peace. It was the one thing he truly lacked and the most difficult to find. He now had wealth and material gain. He even had a measure of satisfaction. He’d regained this place he loved more than his own life. To his surprise, none of that had brought him happiness. And no peace.
How? he asked the trout.
When you love your enemy, peace will conquer your heart.
Ah, what drivel was this? Love his enemy? Aye, and he had expected better of the trout.
He broke the surface with his lips, took a big breath, and settled back again. He might not get the answers he wanted, but the water washed away his rage, if not his sins. And how bonny the day looked through the fluid screen before his eyes—that blue sky with one or two white clouds sailing, the leaves of a rowan tree that leaned over the bank. He did not want to think about anything.
Certainly not of the traitorous woman he needed to chase from his glen. Anger whipped through him once more at the thought of her. Treacherous lowland hussy—born, no doubt, to trick and deceive. How could Geordie have been taken in by her? Yet there had been a childlike quality about Geordie MacWherter beneath all his courage and bluster. Geordie had believed in love the way Finnan believed in magic. Indeed, it had been one of the things they talked about during their weary, hopeless nights or the terrifying ones before a battle.
Geordie, like Finnan himself, had been dispossessed, surviving by the sword and longing for things he could not have: a home of his own, someone who would wait for him there, a family. No doubt this lowland bitch, this Jeannie Robertson—or MacWherter, now that she’d wangled marriage to Geordie—had seen that longing in Geordie’s eyes and taken advantage.
The trout brushed against his left cheek and shoulder. Peace, it whispered again.
Ha! There would be no peace until he paid that trollop back in full and chased her from the glen.
TO WIN AN eCOPY OF HIS WICKED HIGHLAND WAYS, ENTER AT RAFFLECOPTER. THE GIVEAWAY IS OPEN FOR 7 DAYS AND THE WINNER WILL BE NOTIFIED SHORTLY AFTER THE CLOSING DATE.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Born and raised in Western New York, Laura Strickland has pursued lifelong interests in lore, legend, magic and music, all reflected in her writing. Though her imagination frequently takes her to far off places, she is usually happiest at home not far from Lake Ontario with her husband and her “fur” child, a rescue dog. Author of Scottish romance Devil Black as well as The Guardians of Sherwood Trilogy, she is pleased to say that His Wicked Highland Ways is her eighth title for The Wild Rose Press.