The Highlander’s Bride
Their attraction is forbidden
All Highland warrior Gavin Patrick wants is to get back to his native Scotland. But before he can leave the battlefields of France, he's given a final mission—escort Lady Marie Colette to her fiancé. Under no circumstances is he to lay hands on the beautiful, clever-tongued heiress...no matter how desperate the temptation.
Their desire, undeniable
Forced to pose as a married couple to make their escape, Gavin and Colette find themselves thrown into peril...and each other's arms. As the danger mounts, so does their forbidden passion. When Colette is taken from him Gavin must choose—will he jeopardize his honor, defy his promise, and fight to win her back?
Lady Marie Colette had one chance. She needed to secure the Highlander’s agreement to decline marrying her, and she needed to do it quickly, before her father returned. She had never before defied her father, but if he thought he could protect her by arranging a marriage with a Highland warrior and send her far away to Scotland of all places, he was much confused. She would stand by her father and her people, no matter how many English soldiers were at the door.
“Ye dinna wish to marry me?” Sir Gavin asked.
“No, I do not,” said Colette in a deliberate tone, speaking her best English so he could comprehend. She hoped he was not entirely feebleminded.
In truth, he was a fine specimen of a man. She was fair enough to admit it. He was a young man and built on a large scale, towering over most men. He had broad shoulders and a muscular chest, well-defined beneath the formfitting surcoat. His dark brown hair hung down to his square jaw and had a bit of a thick wave to it. He was clean shaven, a surprise considering he was a barbaric Highlander.
“I have heard rumors o’ yer beauty, but they were untrue. Ye’re more lovely than anything I heard described.” He spoke in a rich tone with a lyrical accent, pleasing to her ears.
She almost wished he would speak more so she could listen to his voice. However, if he thought he could win her over with compliments, he was much mistaken. She had been told so often she was beautiful that the words no longer had meaning. Moreover, she found the people who flattered her often wanted something from her. Some wanted money, others her favor, and others, men primarily, wanted to possess her, as if she were nothing more than an attractive object to decorate their surroundings and warm their beds.
“Please understand. It is impossible for me to marry you. But if you make an arrangement with me now, you will not leave empty-handed. Name your weight in gold to walk away.” Her heard pounded to make such a blunt offer. In truth, she would never have made such a crass offer to a French knight, whose honor would have been greatly impinged, but Sir Gavin was a foreigner. A Highlander. Were they not only here to make a profit off others’ sad circumstances?
“It seems yer father’s plan does no’ please ye, m’lady.” Sir Gavin bowed as well as any courtier. “As to yer offer, ye may keep yer riches. Yer wealth is o’ no interest to me.”
Colette was confused. Why did he refuse? Did he doubt her ability to provide him with ample fortune? She glanced at the door, worried her father would return soon. She was running out of time. “Sir Knight, mayhap you are not aware that my mother, she was wealthy before she married my father. Her riches are now my own to do with as I like. If you make an agreement with me now, I can make you quite comfortable.”
He shrugged and walked to the window of leaded glass, looking out onto manicured gardens illuminated in the moonlight. “I will no’ take the fortune of a lady, nor will I force anyone to marry me.” He spoke in a careless manner, as if all she had offered him was as nothing to him.
Colette released a breath she had not realized she was holding. Had he just agreed not to marry her? Would he simply walk away? “So you will tell my father you will not marry me?”
Gavin turned to her, a smile playing about his lips. She had the distinct impression he was not taking the situation as seriously as she thought it deserved. “I am yers to command. If ye wish me to leave, I will go.”
Relief washed over her. She would not be banished to the wilds of Scotland with some strange, albeit attractive, man. “Thank you, Sir Knight. My father, he wished to protect me by sending me far, but I cannot see myself in such a wild, foreign place. We would be most unequally yoked.”
Gavin leaned a shoulder against the stone wall and stared out the dark window into the night. “The Highlands are a rugged place compared to here, and my home is no’ nearly as grand. ’Tis, in truth, no more than a farmhouse. The green valley around it is good for planting, wi’ dark, rich earth that feels good in a man’s hands. Above are the high peaks o’ the Braes o’ Balquidder. Carved into the very rock itself is Creag an Turic, the tower house o’ Laird MacLaren, my uncle. ’Tis a wild place, but in the evening, when the sun’s rays touch the high peaks, setting them aglow with the fiery light, ’tis so beautiful it robs yer breath. No finely decorated hall or richly appointed chamber could ever compare.”
Colette opened her mouth but no words came. Who was this man?
He turned back to her, appraising her finery with a critical eye. “Someday, God willing, I shall take my bride there, a bride who chooses me above all men. We will no’ be surrounded by courtiers or pageantry or fancy clothes or ridiculous pointed shoes.”
Colette swallowed, heat creeping up the back of her neck. Had he seen the points of her shoes?
He stepped close to her, moving with a fluid grace that made her heart beat faster. “In the Highlands we dinna have all yer comforts, but what we do have we hold fast and fiercely defend.”
He was so tall, she had to tilt back her head to see him, putting her headdress dangerously out of alignment. “What do you have?” she asked in a voice barely above a whisper.
“Freedom. In the Highlands, m’lady, ye would be free.”
Free? She stared up at him. He dangled before her the one thing all her riches could never buy. He offered her freedom.
He leaned nearer and her eyes fell to his lips, which inexplicably appeared soft. She could not help but to lean closer toward the irresistible pull of his inviting lips. He also moved closer, bending down slowly so that their lips drew dangerously close. She breathed in the scent of him, an intoxicating mix of wood smoke, fine wine, and pure man.
“Here, I have brought the parchment for you to seal our accord.” Her father strode back in the room, fortunately distracted with his scrolls as both Colette and Gavin jumped away from each other.
The duc de Bergerac spread a scroll out on a table to show them. Colette frowned. It was a marriage contract for her, but Gavin’s name could not be found.
“This is the accord I have made with Kenneth Mackenzie, Baron of Kintail,” said her father.
“I beg your pardon, but…” Colette swallowed, trying to gather together her swirling thoughts in order to form speech. “You made an accord with whom?”
“The Baron of Kintail. Sir Gavin, are you acquainted with him?”
“I…I ken him by reputation,” said Gavin. The careless smile was gone, replaced by a thin line. He glanced at Marie Colette, one eyebrow raised. They had both made the wrong assumption.
Gavin wasn’t meant for Colette at all.
"Forester’s wonderful medieval romance is driven by her strong and appealing characters. The fast pace and exciting adventures keep readers captivated, while the lovely romance enchants and delights. Another winner from Forester." - RT Book Reviews, 4 1/2 stars