It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult. - Seneca

Monday, November 14, 2011

HIGHLAND LEGACY By B.J. SCOTT ...


Sometimes the only way to conquer temptation is to surrender to it body and soul. 


Faced with an abhorrent betrothal, Cailin Macmillan flees her father’s castle and quickly learns that a woman traveling alone in Medieval Scotland is an easy target for ruthless English soldiers. When Highland patriot Connor Fraser comes to her aid, his steadfast dedication to King and country is challenged by his overwhelming desire to protect Cailin—even if he must marry her to do so.

Accused of murdering one of her attackers and determined to rely on her own resourcefulness, Cailin dresses as a lad, intent on seeking refuge at the camp of Robert the Bruce. 

Can she elude an enemy from her past—a vindictive English lord bent on her utter demise—or will she fall prey to his carnal intent and be executed for a crime she did not commit?

Can Cailin breach the walls that guard her Highland warrior's heart, or will the twist of fate that brought them together, tear them apart forever?
****

Chapter 1
Dunkeld Scotland, 1306.

Duncan Macmillan’s nostrils flared, and his piercing blue eyes narrowed with anger. Judging by the rigidity of his stance, the bulge of his neck veins, and scowl of utter contempt, Cailin had pushed her father beyond his limits. Again.

They’d quarreled often, and each time, he cursed her wild spirit, and temerity, swore fairies stole his real child at birth and left a changeling in her place. An unyielding man, he ruled Clan Macmillan with an iron fist, and made no exceptions. Cailin experienced the force of his wrath on more than one occasion, and bore the physical and emotional scars.

He paced his chamber like a restless animal ready to pounce on its prey. “Laird MacMurray arrives on the morrow and expects to find a cheerful, willing bride. You’ll not embarrass me with your obstinacy!”

“Banish me, beat me, or throw me into the pit if you wish, but I will not marry a man I dinna love. Especially a vile, contemptible swine who is almost three times my age.” As the rebellious words left her lips, memories of past punishments flooded her mind, but she refused to concede to her father’s demands, regardless of the consequences.

"This alliance is important to the clan, and I’ve given my word.” He balled his fist and took a step in her direction.

Cailin crossed her arms over her chest and glared up at him in defiance. “The alliance does not interest you as much as the cattle, land, and chest of gold he has offered for my hand.” She took a slow, deep breath for courage, and continued. “My happiness is of no importance to you. Not as long as you can pad your coffers, and increase your holdings. I am nothing more to you than a pawn, property for sale to the highest bidder.” 

His face flushed red as he stomped toward her with a hand raised in preparation to strike. “Insolent, ungrateful lass, I’ll teach you to speak to me with such disrespect. When I’m finished, you’ll rue the day you were born.”

“I have, for eighteen summers,” she snapped back in retaliation. The stinging backhand she received brought her to her knees.

“Husband, please.” Before he could deliver another blow, his wife, Catherine, stepped between them, and placed her hand on Duncan’s raised arm. “She’s your daughter, and you must show more compassion and understanding. I am sure once she has time to get accustomed to the idea, she will do your bidding. Won’t you?” She glanced over her shoulder, and gave Cailin a pleading look.

Duncan glared down at his wife. “She’s been a wee devil since birth, and it is about time she learned her place. Step out of my way, or you’ll learn your place as well.” He grasped Catherine by the shoulders, and briskly moved her aside.

Cailin slowly climbed to her feet, wiped the trickle of blood from her lower lip with the back of her hand. “Dinna fash yourself, Catherine, it is a private matter to be settled between my father and me. Not one so easily resolved. Mayhap you should go and rest.”

Only two years her senior, Catherine carried in her belly what Cailin prayed would be the son her father had always wanted. If he finally had a male heir, she’d be freed from the burden of blame, guilt, and obligation that had plagued her entire life.

Duncan’s body shook as he pointed his finger in his daughter’s direction. “Do you see what I mean? Even when someone tries to help her, she shows no appreciation. Not a day goes by I have not wished she had—”

“Go ahead, Father. Admit you wish me dead instead of my twin brother and that you blame me for my mother’s death.” Toe to toe, she stood in front of him. She swallowed hard past the lump in her throat and fought back tears. “No matter how what I accomplish, my efforts will never be good enough. If I could bring my mother back from the dead, I would gladly trade my life for hers. I wish I had been born a lad, and not a lass, but—” 

“Aye, instead of a son, I’ve been cursed with a headstrong daughter who is the bane of my existence. I am surprised any man would ask to marry the likes of you. But on the morrow, you will wed Laird MacMurray.”

His cruel words cut straight to the core, but she’d not give him the satisfaction of knowing he’d wounded her again. “He marries because he needs a mother for his nine unruly bairns, and someone to bear him more. They say he killed his last wife when he found out she could no longer breed.” The thought of bedding Graham MacMurray made her skin crawl. “Mayhap he lusts after the land and wealth I shall inherit should anything happen to you. As your heir, I will be a wealthy woman in the event of your death.”

Would she ever know if a man wanted to marry her for love, or would she always wonder if greed motivated her suitors? Then again, if all men were like her father, prayed for sons, cared only for wealth and power, she’d rather take the vows and spend the rest of her life at a convent. She’d not be like her mother and marry out of obligation or duty to her clan. Nor would she risk bringing a daughter into this world, only to have her shunned by her father and bartered for with less regard than a hog or a steer. No, she’d not take Laird MacMurray as her husband. Mayhap, she’d never marry.

“Excuse me, my lord.” The door opened and a servant stepped into Duncan’s chamber.

Duncan spun around and scowled at the young man. “Ian, what is the meaning of this interruption?” 

“For—forgive me, my lord, but a messenger comes from the Clan MacMurray. He bears a gift for lady Cailin.” With his head bowed and his eyes fixed on the floor, Ian moved in her direction and held out a small wooden box. “His laird has been unavoidably detained, and will not arrive for a week or more.” 

“Nay!” Cailin threw her hands up in protest, shook her head, and backed away. “Tell him I dinna want his gift.”

Duncan snatched the box and opened the hinged lid. From a bed of lamb’s wool, he plucked a ruby and emerald encrusted brooch with the MacMurray Clan crest. After he’d carefully examined the pin, he thrust his hand forward. “You’ll not insult your betrothed by refusing his fine gift. This must be worth a fortune.”

"I dinna care if he is insulted. There will be no wedding. When I marry, it will be to a man I love.” She turned to face Ian. “Send the brooch back, and have the messenger inform his laird I’ll not be bought.”

Duncan pinched the bridge of his nose and shook his head. “Love has nothing to do with marriage. The sooner you put aside these foolish notions the better.” He took a step closer, his hands fisted at his sides. “You will do as I say.”

“What should I tell the messenger?” Ian shrugged and glanced from Cailin to Duncan.

“Tell him my daughter thanks his laird for the fine gift and anxiously awaits his arrival. And while you’re below, tell Cook to send a tray to my solar. I’ll not be down to break my fast this morning.”

Using her father’s momentary distraction as an opportunity to put an end to their futile discussion, Cailin inched toward the door, turned on her heels, and fled his chambers.

“Damnation lass! We’re not finished with this matter. You’ll do as you’re told, or I’ll—” Duncan called after her, but she slammed the large oak door, muffling the rest of his tirade. 

She raced down the long hallway. Surprised, and relieved, that he did not give chase, she paused at the top of the stairs. The daughter of one of Scotland’s most powerful lairds, she knew a day would come when he’d demand she marry, but she’d never believed he’d chose a man she found appalling in every way. Despite her lot in life, she’d always fantasized of a marriage based on passion, and mutual respect. She prayed nightly for a man who would adore her and rescue her from a life of servitude and duty.

Devastatingly handsome, in a rugged sort of way, he’d have the finely honed body of a Norse god, the strength and bravado of a warrior, yet the kindness and gentle heart of a bard. “Be he rich or poor, warrior or poet, I will marry a man I love, or I’ll not wed at all. With that oath on her lips, she bolted down the stone steps.

Despite the whispers and wayward glances of the servants, Cailin didn’t stop running until she’d reached the bailey. Her only option was to run away. The thought of leaving her home and all she held dear, of venturing out into the world alone, frightened her, but she had no choice. Her father would never yield on this matter, and neither would she.

The messenger’s arrival provided the perfect opportunity to escape her father’s ire, but to get beyond the castle walls unchallenged could prove more difficult. If Duncan got wind of her intent, he’d lock her in her chamber until the dreadful day her betrothed arrived, but she had to try.

With Scotland in a state of constant turmoil and the high risk of running into thieves, scoundrels, or worse, English soldiers, she seldom left the castle without her nurse and an armed escort. Guilt tugged at her heart when she thought about Eildth, the only mother she’d ever known. She hated the idea of leaving her behind, and she would miss her nursemaid terribly. But marriage to Laird MacMurray would be a fate far worse than death. Once she’d settled in her new home, she’d send word and let her nurse know she was safe. 

The sound of metal clanging against metal and men shouting brought her back to the task at hand. Most of her father’s men were busy training in the lists, leaving only a few to safeguard the parapets. The servants and crofters milling about the bailey tended to their business and paid her no mind. Her heart pounded like a battering ram against her chest, but she remained focused on her destination. With her head held high, she sauntered across the inner courtyard as if she didn’t have a care in the world—a feat much easier said than done. As she neared the postern gate, freedom, she realized her worst fear. A guard rounded the corner of the castle, heading in her direction.

“Good day, m’lady.”

“It is a lovely day, Miles.” Can he hear my heart pounding? Can he sense I am up to something? She fisted her hands in her skirt to keep them from trembling and stepped aside so he could pass.

With a curt nod, he continued on his way and, to her great relief, did not look back. As soon as he was out of sight, she slipped through the gate.

There was no time to waste. She might be free, but to tarry so close to the castle would not be prudent. The question was where to go and how to get there. She had no time to plan beyond the present moment. The future was fraught with danger and uncertainty.

Her lady’s maid lived in a small croft at the edge of the village. In public, the girl showed the proper respect to her mistress. But behind closed doors, and despite the difference in their social status, they shared their hopes, and dreams. They were friends—creating yet another bone of contention between her and her father. In his opinion, the daughter of the laird did not fraternize with the servants. But Cailin never let that stop her, and she cherished the time they spent together. Surely if she explained why she had to leave Dunkeld, Myrna would help her gather the supplies she needed for the arduous journey ahead. She thought about asking her friend to accompany her, but she would not do anything that might put her in danger.

Myrna would not be home until dusk, so Cailin opted to wait in her secret place, a small, secluded cove, where the River Tay joined the loch. As she made her way along the familiar forest trails, allowing the earthy scent of pine, spring blossoms, moss, and leaves to fill her senses. A raven called in the distance, and the comforting sound of water rushing over rocks grew louder with each step. She quickened her pace.

Certain she was alone, Cailin stepped free of the forest’s protective cover, and paused, committing the scenery to memory. She smiled when she spied a red doe and her fawn grazing on tender shoots of grass. A hawk circled overhead before it swooped down to pluck a mouse from the field. Fragrant heather, and assorted wildflowers, covered the moors as far as the eye could see. She’d miss the beauty and tranquility the riverbank offered.

Cailin removed her slippers, then dipped her toes into the water. She shivered, and drew her foot away. The spring air might be mild, but the river still held winter’s chill. Squatting down, she used her hand to scoop up the sparkling liquid, and took a drink. She closed her eyes, savoring the cool, fresh taste passing over her tongue. Her stomach growled. She hadn’t eaten in over twelve hours, and wished she had helped herself to some cheese and bread before going to see her father. A few feet from where she stood, a bush bursting with ripe berries beckoned. They would suffice until she could meet with Myrna, and ask her to gather some supplies from the castle stores. She plucked a handful of crimson morsels, and popped one into her mouth.

“Well, what have we here?” 

The gruff English accent sent a shiver of trepidation slithering down her spine. Her eyes darted in all directions as she searched for the source of the comment, and a subsequent means of escape. She turned to run, but bumped into an English Officer, his mouth drawn into a sinister grin.

Could this day get any worse?

The vile man grabbed the crotch of his trews, pumped his hips in a lewd manner, and laughed. “You appear to have lost your way, my pretty little wench. Perhaps I can be of assistance.” He tipped the clay jug he carried to his lips, and after taking long, slow drink, he tossed it aside, then closed the gap between them.

“Come here and give me a kiss.”

Show no fear.

She squared her shoulders, and tried to appear calm, and in control—a far cry from the panic squeezing her chest and causing her stomach to churn. “You are drunk, and out of line. My father is the Macmillan, and he will see you—”

“Enough talk. My ballocks are aching, and I know the cure. I haven’t had a Scottish whore in at least a week.” He lunged forward, caught her around the waist, and pulled her against his chest. “What say you, and I have a little bit of fun? When I’ve had my fill of you, my friend Thomas can have a turn.” He shot a glance in the direction of the woods.

When a second scoundrel step into the clearing, she was certain all color had drained from her face. She might have a chance against one man, albeit a slim one, but two men narrowed her odds of escape to nil. Yet she refused to surrender her innocence without a fight.

“You’re forgetting the wench you had a few days ago, when we raided the crofter’s cabin near Glasgow.” Thomas stood a few feet away with his hands on his hips. “Pity you had to slit her throat before I got a chance to have her.”

“The ugly wench was old enough to be my mum. Besides, she would not stop screaming. This one is more to my liking.” Her captor tightened his grip, and slid his hand along the swell of her breast. “Once I’m finished with her, I promise to let you have a go.”

“Why do you always get to go first?”

“Because I outrank you,” the first man replied as he dipped his head and nipped her neck. When she clawed at his face and tried to break free, he grabbed her wrist, twisting her arm behind her back.

“She’s a wild one, Harry. You’ve got your hands full.” Thomas laughed. “Maybe having you take some of the fight out of her isn’t such a bad idea.”

“Defy me again, and I’ll slit your throat. It makes no difference to me if you are dead or alive when I breed you.”  Harry shoved her to the ground, trapped her wrists above her head with one hand, and hiked up her skirt with the other. “Lovely,” he groaned as he slid his hand up her inner thigh, then cupped her most intimate place. “I’m going to enjoy every inch of you.” Wasting no time, he tugged at the laces of his trews and quickly covered her with his body.

She gasped for air. She couldn’t breathe or move. He had to outweigh her by at least one hundred pounds. The proof of his arousal dug into her hip while his groping hands roamed her breasts. The sound of fabric tearing was followed by a rush of cold air on her shoulder.

“Let me go—”

His mouth crashed down on hers, smothering her protest. She gagged when he tried to pry her lips apart with his tongue, and cringed at his harsh, brutal kiss. He took without asking, and ravaged without mercy. His touch made her cringe, and the smell of ale, tobacco, unwashed flesh, and rotting teeth sickened her stomach. Her only desire was to escape from the vile man, and to scrub her body clean of his stench. In an effort to fight back, she bit down on his lower lip. When he reared back, crying out in pain, she brought up her knee and caught him square in the groin. But the blow didn’t have the force she’d hoped for, only serving to rile him more.

“Bitch! I’ll teach you to flaunt yourself like a wicked siren, and then deny me.”

A balled fist connected with her jaw, followed by another. She saw stars, and nausea twisted her belly.

“You’ll not be teaching anyone a lesson, if I have anything to say about the matter.”

Someone grabbed her assailant by the shoulders and dragged him to his feet. No longer pinned to the ground by his crushing weight, Cailin scrambled to her feet, and started running toward the forest. She heard the men shouting and the sound of their swords connecting, but didn’t pause to look back.

She raced along the path, ignoring the small branches as they swiped her cheeks, and ducked beneath the larger ones. Rocks and forest debris bit into the tender flesh of her bare feet, but she did not slow her pace. Cailin choked back a painful sob, summoned her last dregs of courage, and forged ahead. Deprived of oxygen, her lungs burned as if on fire. Her muscles cramped and her legs grew heavier with every step, but as long as there was a breath left in her body, as long as there was a chance of escape, she refused to give up.

The crunch of leaves beneath a thunderous footfall alerted her to the fact that the English soldiers who had tried to rape her were only a few paces behind, and closing in fast.

Don’t think. Run!

When she believed she could go no farther, the sight of the watchtower, and belfry of the village kirk brought a glimmer of hope. The familiar smell of cook fires burning lifted her spirits, the rhythmic din of the smithy’s hammer like music to her ears. If she could go a few more yards and climb a small embankment, she’d be safe. But her foot caught in a tangle of roots, and before she could steady herself, she lay sprawled in the dirt, the air forced from her lungs when her chest hit the ground.

The deafening roar of her pounding heart drowned out all other sounds. She clawed at a tree stump, tried to stand, but she’d run out of time. A large hand clamped down on her shoulder, holding her in place. Another hand covered her mouth and stifled her cry for help. She struck out wildly, trying to fight back, but her fists collided with a solid wall of unyielding muscle.

“Dinna fight me, lass, I mean you no harm. I’ll remove my hand, and let you up if you promise not to scream. Do you give me your word?” When she stopped struggling and nodded, his hand slid from her mouth, allowing her to draw in a gulp of air. In one swift move, he flipped her to her back and squatted beside her. “You scurry like a rabbit, and running you to ground was a most difficult task.”

Her eyes widened, searching those of the man hovering above her. At least six-foot-two, his honed-to-perfection body, a solid wall of muscle beneath a taut saffron shirt, was an obvious testament to years of training, discipline, and hard work. With a straight aristocratic nose, high prominent cheekbones, full lips, and a strong square chin—covered with a day’s worth of dark stubble—his features left her awestruck. Brown eyes, as dark as night, fierce, yet filled with mystery and passion, held her gaze. A thick mane, the color of a raven’s wing, hung loose about his shoulders.

She gave her head a shake. This stranger could be her savior—the man who’d intervened on the riverbank, and had helped to facilitate her escape—or he could be another bastard, waiting his turn to ravage her body. The attack had happened so fast, and she didn’t get a good look at the man who had come to her aid. The rich Scottish burr in his voice indicated he was not an Englishman like her attackers, but she didn’t plan to find out if he was with them.

The sun filtered through the trees and caught a glint of steel. Her attention drawn to the dirk hanging at his side, she swallowed hard past the lump in her throat, uncertain if she could slay a man in cold blood. Did she have the strength, and courage, to plunge the blade into his heart? She’d have one chance, and if she failed, he’d no doubt use the same weapon to slit her throat.

The choice was clear. If she didn’t try, she’d be at his mercy. Her fingers wrapped around the leather-bound hilt, and before he guessed her intent, she slid the dagger from its sheath. Bent on survival, she asked God’s forgiveness, and struck out with all the force she could muster.

REVIEW~

5.0 out of 5 stars 
A Must for your Kindle library, November 12, 2011
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Highland Legacy (Kindle Edition)
The debut novel of BJ Scott will captivate you the moment Cailin Macmillan, the feisty beauty with a fiery Jane Eyre-like temperament, enchants Connor Fraser, a strong-willed masculine Scottish highlander duty bound to keep her safe.

This book was an emotional roller coaster ride that I never wanted to stop. I laughed, gasped, frowned, sighed and cried. This novel is filled with romance, secrets, sensuality, captivating dialogue, and a great villain to keep every character on their toes.

Scott is a brilliant writer. The geographical descriptions and aesthetical features of this period piece made it a pleasure to read. I highly recommend this debut novel to all fans of historical romance. They won't be disappointed. HIGHLAND LEGACY will prove why Scott's work is so incredibly irresistible---- her dynamic characters jump off the page, and her attention to historical details is so rich you feel you've stepped back in time.

I LOVED this endearing, passionate love story and I know readers will yearn for her next brilliantly set up installment. (To tell the truth, I'm personally rooting for it to feature Bryce and Fallon. That's a love story that will pack a punch!)



Visit B.J. Scott on the Web


                                *GIVEAWAY*
B.J. will be giving away an E-copy of HIGHLAND LEGACY to one lucky commenter! You must leave your E-mail address with your comment in order to be eligible.


Winner will be drawn at random on Friday November 18, 2011


Good Luck!

33 comments:

hotcha12 said...

my my my bj! 5 outta 5? now gotta read this. congrats on the review!

Anonymous said...

congratulations BJ. please enter me in your contest

BJ Scott said...

Thanks for coming by Hotcha 12 and to the anonymus commenter. I wish you both luck in the contest.

BJ

Tami Dee said...

Great excerpt and reviews B.J! i I enjoyed your post very much and am looking foward to this week. Please enter me in your contest.

BJ Scott said...

Thanks for stopping in Tami and good luck.

winnie said...

I enjoyed the excerpt and would love to read more. Thanks for the giveaway!

chibipooh(at)gmail(dot)com

Julie Robinson said...

OmyGosh , that looks good. My email is:

rebelatheart(at)bellsouth(dot)net

I used to love stories about the heroine dressing as a male. Haven't seen one of those in a good while.
Julie

Alexa said...

Whoohoo! SOunds like a fantastic story! Congratulations!

alexa(at)alexabourne(dot)com

BJ Scott said...

Thanks Winnie. I hope you enjoy the rest of the book as well.

Good luck in the giveaway

BJ Scott said...

Thanks for stopping in Julie and for leaving a comment. Hope you get a chance to read the book.

Good luck with the giveaway

BJ Scott said...

Thanks Alexa. Glad you stopped by and good luck with the giveaway!

derekd said...

Very compelling cover. Sounds like a wonderful read. Good luck with sales.

shihanderekatyahoodotcom

BJ Scott said...

Thanks Derekd!

The cover artist did an amazing job. I was thrilled the first time I saw it.

Suzy said...

Love a good highland love story and the cover is very magnetic, can't wait to read this one. Please enter me in the draw...

BJ Scott said...

Thanks for stopping by to comment Suzy. Hope you enjoy the book. Good luck in the giveaway

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Looks like a yummy story with great, vibrant characters. Good luck with lots of sales. No one can have too much of anything Scottish. ;)

mlurso@comcast.net

Sky Purington said...

LOVE Highlander stoies. Sounds like a fantastic read! :-)

BJ Scott said...

Thanks Paisley.
I agree, there is no such thing as too much Scottish!

BJ Scott said...

Thanks for the comment, Sky. I hope you get a chance to read the book.

Pat McDermott said...

Exciting excerpt, BJ. And congrats on those stellar reviews! I'd love to read more of Cailin and Connor. Please enter me in your contest. Best of luck with your writing!

hotcha12 said...

WOO HOO BJ! #31, MY AGE FROM A DECADE OR MORE AGO! LOL SHOOT IF I DON'T WIN I CAN ALWAYS LICK THR SCREEN. ROFL

Chicks of Characterization said...

I want to thank EVERYONE who has stopped by to show B.J. Scott your support! I know she appreciates it! Good luck with the contest!

Andrea

BJ Scott said...

Thanks Pat.

I appreciate you stopping by and your support! This has been an exciting week for me and I really am grateful for everyone's best wishes and wonderful comments.

lily sawyer said...

please enter me in your contest

thanks
Lily

BJ Scott said...

Thanks for stopping by Lily.
Good luck with the contest!

Maeve said...

I agree!!! This IS A MUST READ. :-)

BJ Scott said...

Thanks for stopping in Maeve!
I appreciate your support

Dawn Marie Hamilton said...

Congrats on your debut release, Barb. I wish you many more book contracts and great sales with this book.

dawn(at)dawnmariehamilton(dot)com

BJ Scott said...

Thanks for stopping by Dawn. Best of luck with the giveaway!

Callie Hutton said...

Highland Legacy is a fantastic book. You will definitely lose yourself in it. Check out my review of it on www.soulmatepublishing.com.

BJ Scott said...

Thanks Callie! You are too sweet!

B J Scott said...

The winner of the free e-book copy of Highland Legacy will be announced once drawn by the blog hostesses some time on Sat.

Good luck everyone and again, thanks for your support.

hotcha12 said...

THANK YOU BJ!

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