Defending her was his duty.
Skilled with a sword and quick with her wit, Scottish rebel Claire Stuart cannot be tamed. And nothing can deter her from rescuing her beloved sister and saving them both from arranged marriages—not even the handsome Highlander who vows to protect Claire. His scorching gaze and fiery kiss bring her to the brink of surrender, but she belongs to no man …
Seducing her would be his reward.
Graham Grant has had his share of lasses. But he has never met one as headstrong or as bonnie as Claire—or one with such desperate, dangerous plans. Helping her could betray his honor, his country, and more. Graham can’t claim her. Yet everything in him says take her, make her yours, teach her pleasure, and never let her go.
Release date: November 25, 2008
Print pages: 356
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A Highlander Never Surrenders
LAIRD OF THE MIST
“The romance is special, the characters are terrific, and there is plenty of action and suspense. Paula Quinn outdoes herself this time. Bravo!”
“Paula Quinn once again proves her skill with words.”
“The Highlands of Scotland come alive in Laird of the Mist . . . Paula Quinn knows exactly how to capture the imagination of her readers by giving them memorable characters and enthralling plots.”
LORD OF SEDUCTION
“Quinn is an author to watch.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“4 Stars! Readers will fly through the pages and wiggle in their seats . . . Feast on this medieval banquet!”
—Romantic Times BOOKreviews Magazine
“Passion, peril, and plenty of medieval political intrigue . . . expertly crafted historical romance.”
“Exciting . . . A delightful tale.”
—Midwest Book Review
“Excellent writing and tantalizing romance.”
“This novel captures the era, on both sides of the conflict, with masterful skill . . . a fine romance, plenty of action.”
“Not to be missed. Paula Quinn crafts a story in which the details combine to make you feel as if you are there with her characters. I sighed over the gentleness of the hero and the charm of the heroine.”
“Bold and passionate medieval romance.”
“This book has it all . . . Should find its way to your keeper shelf! . . . The first novel I have read by Paula Quinn, and I can assure you it will not be my last.”
“CASTLE KEEPER! (The Mystic Castle’s highest honor) . . . [With] a wild and enigmatic hero, sure to set pulses racing . . . Readers will be enchanted with Lord of Seduction.”
LORD OF TEMPTATION
“Features a sinfully sexy hero who meets his match in a strong-willed heroine . . . An excellent choice for readers who like powerful,passion-rich medieval romances.”
“Will enchant and entertain . . . Passion, danger, treachery, and heartbreak fill the pages of this splendid novel . . . don’t miss Lord of Temptation.”
“Quinn’s lively romance . . . offers two spirited protagonists as well as engaging minor characters . . . The sharp repartee and dramatic finale make this a pleasant read.”
“Quinn wins readers’ hearts with a light touch, even as she invokes strong themes of slavery, freedom, and the need for independence.”
—Romantic Times BOOKreviews Magazine
“A truly magnificent tale . . . Dante is a perfect hero and lover and Gianelle is special—perfect for each other. The passion is fantastic—unbeatable!”
LORD OF DESIRE
“4 Stars! . . . fast-paced and brimming with biting, sexy repartee, and a sensual cat-and-mouse game.”
—Romantic Times BOOKreviews Magazine
“Gloriously passionate . . . boldly sensual . . . Quinn deftly enhances her debut with just enough historical details to give a vivid sense of time and place.”
“Fans of medieval romances will enjoy spending a few warm summer evenings with this one.”
“A page-turning experience from beginning to end . . . Highly recommended . . . Lord of Desire’s strength resides in Ms. Quinn’s talent for characterization and storytelling . . . [she] does a fabulous job of creating characters to care about, laugh with, and shed a tear or two for.”
“A fine historical romance.”
—Midwest Book Review
“An emotional and compelling story that brings together a strong but wounded hero and spirited and determined heroine. The characters quickly immerse the reader into their lives.”
“A novel worthy of movie rights . . . If you love a good romance, with a nod toward Ivanhoe, then Lord of Desire will be a fine addition to your collection. If you have never tried a medieval romance, it would be a good choice, because it is one of the best in recent years.”
It has all gone terribly wrong. What I feared most has come to pass.
The stench of cheap wine and ale filled the tavern like a dense fog and settled onto the table where Graham Grant, first in command of the mighty clan MacGregor, sat watching his friend, the eleventh Earl of Argyll, drain his fourth cup of ale.
“This business with Connor Stuart weighs heavily on ye.”
Robert slapped his cup on the table and raised his heavy-lidded gaze to him. “Why do you say that?”
“Ye’re getting drunk, and ye brood more than I can stand of late.”
“I’ve only had four cups,” Robert countered with a scowl. “I’ve seen you drink more than twice that amount.”
The mocking curl of Graham’s half smile needed no explanation, but Graham gave one anyway. “I’m a Highlander,” he said and raised his cup to his mouth.
“I can drink as much as any of you.” Robert swung around on his chair, teetered, caught himself, and tried to catch the attention of a swarthy serving wench.
He succeeded, but the deep-cleavaged lass’s eyes swept past his and settled on Graham’s. Graham looked her over from foot to crown, thinking what a pity it was to have to send her away, but the last thing his friend needed was more ale. A subtle shake of his head was all it took for her to move on, pretending not to have seen Robert motioning for her.
“Damnation,” Robert swore, then waved to another wench.
“Look at me,” Graham said seriously, and Robert obeyed. “Not being able to find Stuart is naught to be ashamed of. The man’s as elusive as Callum. Find yerself a wench fer the night and ferget yer duty.”
Robert pushed his cup away, raked his hand through his dark hair, and gave Graham a look that said his friend could never understand what he was feeling. “Graham, General Monck commanded me to find him. Since I was a boy I’ve wanted to serve the realm. Now, when I’ve been granted the honor, I have failed.”
“Who have ye failed, Rob?” Graham asked him and winked at a bonny wench who caught his eye. He stretched his long, bare legs out in front of him, crossing his boots at the ankles, and downed the rest of his ale. “Oliver Cromwell is dead. His pacifist son Richard has been ousted from his seat by military tyrants who claim to hate despotism, yet fight fer power to rule the country.”
“But someone needs to lead us, Graham. General Monck was one of Cromwell’s most fearsome warriors of the New Model Army.”
“Aye,” Graham agreed caustically. “So great were his victories over the Royalists in Scotland, the old Lord Protector named him governor over the country he had so skillfully subdued. Yer country.” Graham added, giving his friend a pointed look.
“That was many years ago,” Robert pointed out. “He’s been fair to our people and has refused to support the dissolving of Parliament.”
“Besides, the most likely to gain the title is John Lambert. Remember, he commands all the military forces in England.”
A vision caught Graham’s eye, thankfully distracting him from his friend’s tedious passion for politics. The lovely Lianne. The lass had stolen into his thoughts several times since she left his bed the night before. He flicked his simmering gaze over her form as she approached his table, toting a pitcher of ale.
Now here was the kind of passion Rob needed. When Graham left his home on Skye two years ago with the newly confirmed Earl of Argyll, it was with a vow to teach the peach-faced lord how to balance his duties with pleasure. Robert had yet to experience the pleasures a lass could offer. Graham narrowed his eyes on him. What the hell was he waiting for? Love? Graham almost snorted out loud. There was no place for it in a warrior’s life. A man was either a husband or a great warrior. He could not truly be both. Graham had made his choice long ago. He was a great warrior because he did not fear death. He had naught to lose, no one’s life to destroy. Hell, he’d seen it so often throughout his life. Lasses made into widows, bairns left to go hungry, without a father to look after them. He did not want to carry that fear, that vulnerability, when he faced his enemy.
He motioned for Lianne and she practically flung herself into his lap.
“More brew, m’laird?”
“Nae, my lovely,” Graham coiled his arm around her waist and fitted his palm neatly over her buttocks. “My friend has had enough.” Hearing him, Robert shot him an irritated look. “He could use a wee bit of distraction from his troubles, though,” Graham continued, ignoring him. With a gentle nudge, he pushed Lianne off his lap and in Robert’s direction, then leaned back in his chair to watch.
“Is that so?” The golden-haired wench rested her tray on the table and swung her tattered apron over her shoulder, readying herself for what she did best. “I’ve been waitin’ all day to be of some aid to such a fine nobleman as yerself.”
Robert barely looked up. He rested his elbow on the table and sank his head into his hand. “I fear, dear lady, that you cannot help me.”
She slid down Robert’s chest until her rump reached his knee. “Dinna be so hasty, sir. Ye’ve no idea what talents I possess.”
Graham did. He smiled, accomplishing his mission, and spread his gaze around the crowded tavern in search of another wench to help him pass the night while Robert became a man.
“I . . . ehm—” The sound of Robert stumbling over his words reminded Graham just how much he still had to teach the young earl. But first, where had that swarthy wench gone off to?
“We can retire above stairs, ye and I.” Lianne’s voice dipped to a lusty whisper.
“But I thought you . . .” Robert paused and swallowed audibly when Lianne leaned forward and into him. “I thought you fancied my friend.”
“Aye, yer companion is a sinful creature, indeed.” Her pale blue eyes settled on Graham and deepened with pleasure as if the most decadent memory had just swept across her thoughts. “But tonight,” she returned her attention to Robert, “I want an angel in m’ bed.”
A shadow rising above him drew Graham’s dimpled grin off the seduction of his friend and upward. Very high upward.
“Ye’re supposed to be at my table tonight, Lianne. I paid in advance.” The Highlander was enormous. His soiled plaid stretched across his broad chest when he grazed his eyes over Robert and then to Graham. The challenge in them was unmistakable before he turned back to Lianne. “Now get yer arse where it belongs.”
Hell, Graham thought, mildly disappointed for Robert. He could get up and fight for Lianne’s company tonight, but the brute had paid, and he was quite large. As long as Robert did not open his mouth there was still a chance they might find themselves spending their energy on something more thrilling than fighting tonight.
Unfazed, Lianne left her seat and slapped her apron along the man’s arm as she passed him. In response, the angry patron gave her a shove between the shoulders before he, too, turned to leave.
“You there, the ugly one.”
Graham’s shoulders crunched around his neck as Robert rose from his chair.
The giant pivoted slowly, his black expression a prelude to murder. “Are ye talkin’ to me?”
“Aye,” Robert assured him coolly. “Though I’m astonished you posses the intelligence to have surmised it.”
The patron’s volatile gaze narrowed. Graham couldn’t help but smile, suspecting that the brute was either wondering if he’d just been insulted again, or deciding which of Robert’s limbs to sever first.
When the Highlander grinned, flashing what few teeth he had left, Robert met the baleful challenge with a slight hook of his mouth. Graham set his gaze heavenward and shook his head. This was as bad as traveling with the MacGregors.
“I pray for your sake that you also possess the wisdom to believe me when I tell you that if you lay your hands on that lady again, I shall take you out of doors and beat you senseless.”
The confidence in his promise might have convinced the other patrons who were watching that the smaller lad fully intended to keep his word. But Graham knew better. Having naught to do as a young lad but practice weaponry in the fields of Glen Orchy and study the words of bards and poets, Robert Campbell had grown into an excellent swordsman—and an overzealous knight who was constantly getting them into fights defending someone’s “honor.” But for all his training with a sword, the young fool had trouble connecting his fist to someone else’s face.
Sadly for Robert, the murderous Highlander only laughed, took a step forward, and swatted the table that stood between them out of the way.
Graham stepped aside to avoid getting struck in the head with the flying wood. He grimaced as a huge fist felled Robert to the floor. He wanted to help, but the earl needed to learn how to fight without his sword, and now was as good a time as any. Still, he pushed his cap back from his bronze mane of curls, readying himself for the fight. He would intervene if the ogre pounded his knuckles into Rob’s face one more time.
“Are ye goin’ to stand here and do nothin’ while Atard beats yer friend to death?” Lianne charged, rushing to Graham’s side.
Graham figured she meant to get him moving with her admonishment, but when she patted the creamy mounds of her bosom with her apron, he was sorely tempted to leave Robert to his own defense and carry her above stairs.
“My friend does well.” His dimples flashed, as frivolous as his concerns. “He is once again standing upright.”
Robert’s body countered that opinion as it hurled past Graham’s shoulder.
Muttering a curse under his breath when the earl landed hard against the wall, Graham turned to the advancing giant. He bent to pick up a leg from the shattered table and swung, cracking the wood in half against Atard’s face.
Stepping over the Highlander’s body, Graham knelt beside his motionless friend. “Rob.” He slapped his cheek gently. “Wake up.”
Robert stirred, lifting his heavy lids. “Where is he?”
“Afar off,” Graham assured, then gave him a hard look. “How many times must I tell ye not to fight with drunken Highlanders?” He shoved his hands under his friend’s arms and lifted him to his wobbly feet.
“The ruffian mishandled the lady.”
Lianne offered the knight a grateful smile, but Robert’s already swelling lip prevented him from offering her one back.
“What can I do”—Lianne’s smile changed into something more obvious when she took a step toward them—“to persuade ye both to stop in again on yer way back from where ye’re goin?”
Graham’s languid grin sent a flame straight to Lianne’s groin. Aye, she thought, melting before him, this one’s mouth was as deadly as his sword, a sword he knew what to do with. Ah, but he was a feast for the eyes. His lips were full and fashioned for heathen delights. His eyes sparkled in the light like emeralds set a flame from within. The threat of prettiness was vanquished from his features by an edge of rugged masculinity, and a nose that looked as if it might have been broken a time or two.
She let out a small gasp when he snatched her up by the waist, hauled her against his hard angles, and swept his mouth over hers. His kiss was like sin, tempting her to abandon any last shred of decency she possessed and beg him to take her with him.
“I’m persuaded,” he said, releasing her with a smack to her rump and a lecherous wink that promised he would return.
Feeling like a silly spring maiden, Lianne waved them farewell, then tossed her apron over her shoulder and headed for the patron calling for a drink.
“Ye look like hell.”
Robert slid his gaze to Graham, riding alongside him, as they left the town of Stirling. Everything else pained him too much to move. “I feel like I was tossed into it.”
“Ye needn’t fret about that, Rob,” Graham said, readjusting his cap forward over his brow. “Hell wouldn’t have ye. Which is fortunate fer me. I don’t want to spend eternity with ye.”
Robert didn’t believe his friend would spend an instant in that fiery place. If anyone could find a way to convince God that he belonged in His good graces, it was Graham. “Though you lack any kind of honor when it comes to women, bedding them is not a sin deserving of eternal damnation.”
The doubtful crook of Graham’s mouth convinced Robert otherwise.
Robert smiled, then cringed and lifted his hand to his jaw. “Then for your soul’s sake, find a lady to give your heart to and let her make a decent man of you.”
Graham cast him an askew glance and laughed. “I fear yer books about the courtly ways of love have led ye far from the truth. Ye ferget I have eleven sisters, most of whom are wed to miserable bastards who began as decent men.” He held up his palm when Robert would have spoken, cutting him off. “Lasses are fer caressing, bedding, and leaving. Else ye’ll find yer ears pricked by constant troubles, and yer manhood as useless as yer battle sword.”
“Mayhap the fault lies with your sisters,” Robert pointed out. “Callum is not miserable with Kate.”
“Aye,” Graham conceded, watching the bruise below the young earl’s eye turn purple. “Yer sister is a rare jewel. But even the Devil MacGregor has traded in his claymore fer a sprig of heather clutched in his fist.”
Robert sighed and shook his head. He had much to say on the matter, but his jaw felt like it had been hit with a mace. Besides, he’d had this argument with Graham a dozen times and each time his words had proved fruitless. Graham held fast to the belief that the only things lasting and tangible on this Earth were battle and death. And he was determined to enjoy his life in betwixt the two.
“We should have taken my army,” Robert said after a moment of silence. “If Connor Stuart were standing in front of us right now, I fear I couldn’t pull my sword from its sheath.”
“I told ye, Rob, yer army would only have alerted him to our search. Stuart is cunning. ’Tis why he is the leader of the Royalist rebellion. Remember ’twas he who set the ambush upon General Lambert’s army after they crushed the rebellion in Cheshire a pair of months ago. I am familiar with his brand of strategy. The tales of his prowess grow each day. According to some at the inn, Stuart fights even Monck’s men now. He attacked a legion of the governor’s garrison not far from here. He is well skilled and trained to sense danger days before ’tis upon him. We’ll find him faster with just the both of us. Trust me in this.”
“I do. For I still recall your cunning in breaching the walls of Kildun when MacGregor came for my uncle two years past. But I am out of time, my friend.” Robert worried out loud, rolling his shoulder to loosen the cramp setting in. “In a few short days I will have to face General Monck empty-handed.”
At first, Robert had considered it an honor that General Monck had commanded him to find the Royalist rebel, Connor Stuart. Since there was no longer anyone formally “in command” of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland, the Royalists’ campaign to return Charles II to the throne was rampant. Stuart was cousin to the exiled king, and the leader of the resistance of the English army’s occupation in Scotland. Monck wanted him found, but the man was as elusive as the wind.
“I will not find him unless he comes to me. And he will not do that.”
“Nor would I if the Roundheads were hunting me.”
“Some would consider me a Roundhead,” Robert reminded him, realizing once again how precarious their friendship was.
Graham shrugged his shoulders, keeping his eyes on the path ahead. “Aye, ye support a Parliament that has recently been expelled by the military. ’Twas better here in Scotland when we had a king.”
“You are a Royalist, Graham, I understand. But should I forget my allegiance to the commonwealth?”
“Yer commonwealth is ruled by generals who fight amongst themselves and who suppress our people. Even Parliament does not trust them.”
Robert ground his jaw with frustration over his own uncertainty. The Campbells had served the law for generations. Whether that law was handed down by one man or a house full of them made no difference. To turn his back on the realm was treason. Still, he knew Graham was right in his thinking. The return of a sovereign power would be better than the complete anarchy in England now. “Why do you aid me in finding Stuart if you believe in his crusade?”
Graham looked over his friend’s swollen face and sighed. “Because I’m afraid he’ll kill ye.”
“Your confidence in my skills is warming.” Robert attempted a sardonic smirk, which Graham answered by grimacing with him.
“I’d be more confident if ye’d thrown a punch in return.”
Robert shook his head, painful as it was to both his shoulders and his pride. “I think the bastard broke my jaw.”
We have all been betrayed.
Satan’s balls, she wasn’t going to die this way! Claire Stuart glared at the man’s head buried between her breasts. With a final tug that confirmed how tightly her wrists were bound to the oak behind her, she gritted her teeth and then sank them into the mauler’s shoulder.
“Ahh! You bitch!” Her attacker reeled away gripping his bloodied wound. “I’ll kill you for that!” He lunged for her, mindless that her legs were free. None of the men had thought to secure her feet to the tree. After all, it was her arms that had wielded a sword so expertly against them, killing six of his comrades when they came upon her this morning. But her attacker realized his oversight an instant after, when she kicked him square in his nether regions and sent him straight to his knees.
“You’re a feisty wench.” Another man strode toward her with an arrogant swagger. Claire silently promised to rid him of it the moment she was free—if she could just get her damned hands loose! “Brave . . .” He stepped over his writhing companion and, with a smile of purely naked male intent, pointed the tip of his blade at her throat. “. . . and foolish enough to travel alone. Mayhap I shall bring you back to London with me. Surely General Lambert would grant me a wife for all my years of service.”
“Lambert?” Claire glowered at him while she struggled against her restraints. “What are Lambert’s men doing in Scotland?”
“We are paving the way for our leader, and killing a few Royalists along the way. Someone must fulfill the task, since Monck sits idly in his castle doing little to stop them.” He dipped his eyes to the creamy swell of her bosom, half exposed by her torn shirt. Then lower, to her shapely hips and legs, encased in snug-fitting trews and boots. “Strange attire for a lady,” he said, meeting her fired gaze. “What is your name?”
Hell, he was as dense as a wall. Did he think she would give him her true name if she was a Royalist? Which, being the king’s cousin, she was. She gave him an exasperated sigh. How long were these two going to waste her time? Her sister could be being forced to marry some despicable Roundhead soldier at this very moment. “I am a Campbell, and if you release me now I will beg my father to spare your worthless life.”
“She’s lying, John. No Campbell would let his daughter ride alone.” The man she’d kicked staggered to his feet rubbing his injured groin. “Kill the bitch. Better yet, let me do it after I shove my cock up her arse.”
“Touch me again,” Claire’s voice was a low warning growl, “and I’ll cut out your innards and then strangle you with them, you filthy son of a whore.”
He came at her quickly, and pushing John’s sword out of his way, cracked her hard across the face.
“Geoffrey, stand down!” John commanded, stepping away from Claire’s treacherous boots. “If she is a Campbell we’ll be flogged for striking her.” He angled the edge of his sword against her throat to keep her still, then lifted his other hand and swept a strand of flaxen hair off her cheek. “We’ll take her back to camp and find out who she is.” John inched closer to her, so that when he spoke his breath touched her clenched jaw. “If she is lying, I will take her first and then give her to the rest.”
Claire closed her eyes, sickened when he spread his tongue over the seam of her mouth. She beseeched God and all His saints to give her the opportunity to kill these two Puritan Roundhead bastards quickly. She had to find her sister.
Dear God, Anne. Poor Anne. She’d been taken from their home by General Monck’s army, but how long ago, Claire did not know. She’d been at Ravenglade Castle, awaiting her brother’s return fro. . .
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