He stole a kiss, and found a wife.
Ian McCaim is used to following in his brother’s footsteps—even if it takes him to medieval Scotland. When he finally completes the time travel ritual, the magic lands him next to Hightower Castle and his big brother, Greyson, is there to greet him. As soon as the rest of the family returns to Hightower, the McCaims can finally go home, but in the meantime, Greyson has a task for Ian: charm the man whose son is fated to play a pivotal role in the Scottish War of Independence. An easy task—or at least it would be if Ian were capable of behaving himself.
After a lifetime of having endured stares, Màiri Kelbrue is used to being looked at—the strange mark on her cheek ensures it. So when the handsome man she encounters near her father’s loch gawks at her, she assumes the worst. Until he kisses her. The passion she feels for the stranger stuns her—she’d thought to marry her childhood friend, but never once did he make her feel like this. And then the unimaginable happens—when the stranger escorts her home, he tells her very religious father exactly what happened between them.
Within a sennight, Ian and Màiri are rushed to the altar. Ian plans to return to the future sooner rather than later, but the bride he didn’t ask for soon becomes the only thing he wants. What will he do when it’s time to go home?
If you love sexy bad boy heroes with hearts of gold, heroines with the courage to fight for what they want, and love stories across time, then you’ll love this sweeping romance series.
Release date: May 19, 2020
Publisher: Altiora Press
Print pages: 240
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New Orleans, Louisiana
And just like that, Reik was gone too, leaving Ian alone in the cavernous house.
How many times had Ian looked around the Quarter and said to himself, I’ve seen stranger shit than that? Having grown up in a place with a history of accepting the unwanted, the “freaks” of society . . . Ian was pretty much used to anything.
But this took the cake.
All three of his damn brothers had officially disappeared, presumably into the past.
Ian stared at the ancient silver cross in his hands, the one he and his brother had been holding together a few minutes earlier. It was unnaturally cold, but it hardly looked like a relic that had the power to send one person into the past, let alone three. And yet, there was no denying Rhys, Grey, and Reikart had all disappeared while holding it.
This was some crazy shit. But he couldn’t sit here all day and dwell on it. He had work to do.
Laying the cross on his father’s desk, he strode to the picture window, grateful it overlooked the private garden. St. Charles Ave. was probably swarmed with reporters curious about the increasingly strange affairs of the McCaim family. Dad in a coma. His brothers’ disappearances getting more and more difficult to hide.
And wouldn’t they have a field day with this?
Ian slipped his phone out of his perfectly tailored pants, which would only garner strange looks where he was going. He found his cousin’s number, then called him on speaker and tossed the phone onto the mahogany desk next to him. It would only make him more anxious if he had to watch it shake in his hands.
“Reik’s gone,” he said as soon as his cousin answered.
Jeremy, completely up to speed on everything that had happened since the day Rhys disappeared, must be beyond shock at this point.
“I’m here. It’s just . . .”
Yeah, I know.
The whole thing was nuts, which was why they’d assumed their father was crazy the moment the words time travel left his lips. For five years, he’d been claiming their mother hadn’t left them—that she was, in fact, a time traveler from ancient Scotland who’d been called back to her time. The best investigators money could buy had disagreed, saying she’d walked away from the family and scrubbed her identity to avoid being found.
She didn’t leave us. Your mom is from the past. I know it sounds crazy, but I’m going to prove it to you. When I figure out the chant, I will prove it.
They hadn’t laughed him off—he was their dad, after all—but they hadn’t believed him either. Ian felt guilty for that now. They all did. Especially since their father was in a coma. His dedication to finding their mother had taken a toll on him, and he’d suffered a breakdown.
“We worked it out. Jeremy . . .” Ian closed his eyes, blocking out the bright sun streaming in through the picture windows. “I’m going too. You know what to do.”
Jeremy would serve as McCaim Shipping’s interim director and take the lead in convening executive sessions. If they weren’t back in two weeks, he would step in to help lead Ian’s public relations team, the one he’d put together over the last four years. After a month, a search firm would be hired to replace all four of the brothers.
They’d come close to losing the business when his mom had first gone missing. Investors had lost faith in the McCaim patriarch, and they’d threatened to walk—so Rhys and Grey had done the hard thing and forced their father out. But Rhys and Grey were gone, and Reik and Ian had agreed they would stop at nothing to go with them. While Ian had wanted to try again immediately, Reik’s cooler head had prevailed. He’d reminded Ian that they were the only two McCaim brothers left in good enough health to run the company. Provisions had to be made. For the company. For their father.
Mom had been gone for five years. What if they were gone as long?
What if they never came back at all? Without the cross, they couldn’t get back. Presumably. And it was still here in his father’s study.
So they’d made their contingency plan. Told their cousin everything to ensure someone would be here for Dad, someone with the best interests of McCaim Shipping in mind.
Now it was time to put it into action.
“Jesus, Ian. I can’t believe this. I mean, I do believe you, but . . . he’s seriously gone?”
Ian turned to look at the spot Reik had occupied moments before.
“He’s gone. And I can’t screw around here. None of us knows how the rules work. If I don’t do this right now, who knows when, or where, I’ll end up. This way, at least I’ll have a good shot at finding Reik.”
“Are you prepared?”
Ian moved toward the duffle bag he’d prepared.
“More than Rhys and Grey, for sure,” he said, unzipping the bag. He hadn’t even changed from work yet. But unlike when he and Reik grabbed the cross earlier, as they’d done most days since Rhys had vanished in front of them, this time, he knew it would work.
He’d watched first Rhys, then Grey, then Reik succeed where he’d failed . . . He knew now which word had tripped him up and was confident he would be joining his brothers next.
“And you’re sure about this?”
Ian tried to ignore the censure in Jeremy’s voice. His cousin didn’t understand the choice he was facing: abandon his mother and brothers in the past or his father and the company he’d built in the present. In the end, nothing mattered more than his family, and the doctor had made it clear that his dad was all but screwed. His brain was still swollen, his prospects dim. So he would go back, find his brothers and mother, and use this silver cross to bring them all back.
Maybe, just maybe, hearing their mother’s voice again would bring their father back too.
He had to hope.
“I’m sure.” He began taking off his dress shoes. “Thank you, Jeremy.”
“Good luck, cuz. I have a feeling you’re going to need it.”
Ian pulled off his socks next and then dumped the jeans, T-shirt, and hoodie out from his bag. What was one supposed to wear to time travel, anyway?
Certainly not a suit.
“Take care of him.” Ian would not get emotional again. He and Reik had already visited the hospital to say their goodbyes to a father who couldn’t hear them.
This time, the silence wasn’t broken by his cousin’s voice. Jeremy had hung up.
Ian finished changing, and before his brother could get too far ahead of him—if that was even how this worked—he grabbed the cross and took a deep breath.
He’d only been this scared three times in his life.
The night they’d learned their mother was missing. The day they’d gotten the call that their dad was in the hospital. And the first time one of his brothers had disappeared before their eyes. And now he was about to follow in his older brothers’ footsteps, as he’d always done, for better or worse.
Ian’s hands refused to stop shaking. What a chickenshit he was.
Just say the words.
He didn’t need the slip of paper anymore, Ian knew them by heart. He’d listened to Reik’s recording of the words over and over again. His brother hadn’t thought he was listening—it wasn’t something he was known for in the family—but this time, he had been all ears.
Roll the gh on the last word.
“Talamh, èadhar, teine, usige ga thilleadh dhachaigh.”
Kinross Castle, Scotland
“Please? Just a wee moment alone with him? I will ask Cook to make burrebrede this eve.”
Màiri had her maid now. Everyone knew how much Alana loved burrebrede. She had to relent. She simply had to. Ambrose was here in the castle, and Màiri had not seen him for more than a fortnight. If she did not speak with him privately now, she wasn’t sure when she’d have a chance. She could ask her father for permission to walk to the loch, the only other way she’d have a chance to see him alone, but she doubted her father would agree to such a scheme given the snow.
Nay, Màiri was determined to see him now. Without a chaperone.
“If your father learns of it . . .”
Màiri leaned forward and kissed the maid on her wrinkled cheek.
Alana frowned. “As if I could not ask Muir to make burrebrede myself,” she muttered.
Knowing it had been a weak plan all along, she wrinkled her nose. “You know I’d never do anything untoward.”
Alana had a way of chastening Màiri with a mere gesture, and she did so now. A slight widening of her eyes reminded Màiri of that summer.
“’Twas one kiss. And I told you straightaway.”
“One kiss”—Alana adjusted her cap—“with a man who will ne’er be yer husband.”
The expression on her face stung more than the words. She clearly meant what she said. She did not believe Màiri’s father would ever allow them to marry.
“Do not look at me so. You know it well, my lady. And you also know what your father would think if he were ever to find out.”
Màiri refrained from chastising her for the formal address. She had spent as many years as she could speak asking Alana to use her given name. She was no maid. In all ways but one, this woman was her mother.
And yet, as in most things, Alana sided with Màiri’s stubborn father. If he decided it was in their clan’s best interest to build ships and sail his entire clan into the North Sea, Alana would think it the wisest plan any laird had ever devised.
“I know my father wishes it not to be so,” Màiri said softly, looking away. “But perhaps he will change his mind.”
She didn’t need Alana’s look of skepticism to know her words rang hollow.
“Go. Be quick about it before your father learns of his presence. He shouldn’t be here.”
Màiri didn’t need to be told twice. She ran from her bedchamber through the halls of the castle where she’d been raised. Although she hadn’t asked Alana, she knew where Ambrose would be: the solar belowstairs. It had been her mother’s preferred place, and her father still avoided it so many years after her death.
Slowing her pace before approaching the open door, she took a moment to compose herself and then stepped inside.
With the winter winds howling outside, the largest window in the entire castle providing evidence that it was, indeed, snowing again, the fire Ambrose stood in front of roared. He was looking at the carved overmantel, the story of Adam and Eve etched into its stone.
He turned, the familiar face of her childhood friend softening as he looked from her to the open door behind her.
“Has agreed to give us a moment alone.”
Long dark-blond hair capped a slightly long but nevertheless handsome face. Once their friendship had been sanctioned by their fathers. But that had been many years ago, before the men had taken different sides in a fight Màiri wished to forget.
“My apologies for not coming sooner. My father . . .”
His voice trailed off as it always did when he spoke of Laird Dern.
“I’m pleased you came today,” she said honestly. With so few age-mates at Kinross, she’d always sought out Ambrose for company and conversation. He was also the one person who never, ever, stared at her cheek. It was as if he didn’t notice her mark at all.
She gestured to the bench on the other side of the sole wooden table in the room. He sat, and Màiri did the same. On the other side, of course. Though her father was still likely in the hall, where he spent much of his time during the day, it would not do well for them to sit on the same bench together.
Father Abernethy would have much to say about such an arrangement, particularly without a chaperone present.
“I spoke to my father about us,” Ambrose said.
The thudding in her chest had nothing to do with any uncertainty about taking Ambrose as her husband. She wanted that. More than anything. Had wanted it for nigh on a year now, ever since he first suggested it.
They were a perfect match.
He had an easy temperament, much like hers, and their friendship had endured the breakup of their clans’ alliance. She and Ambrose had just one hurdle: their fathers despised each other.
“What did he say?”
Ambrose tried to smile. “He did not toss me from the room.”
“As I should do now?” a deep voice asked.
Màiri sighed, not even attempting to disguise the sound. Of course her father would have discovered Ambrose was here. The man knew everything. How had she thought it might be possible for them to steal a few moments alone? Slowly, she turned toward the door. Ambrose was already standing as if her father were his commander in battle.
“Ambrose has done nothing wrong.”
The argument sounded tired, even to her own ears.
Her father didn’t move. Filling the doorway with his frame, he stood immobile, attempting to intimidate poor Ambrose. Fortunately, her friend knew him well and did not react.
“Where is Alana?” Her father did not sound pleased.
She was tempted to ask if his curiosity had more to do with her and Ambrose being alone together, or if he wished to know for his own purposes. Màiri had long suspected their feelings for each other extended past the typical relationship between a master and servant, but all of her attempts to unite them had come to naught.
“I came straight to the solar when I heard Ambrose had arrived,” she lied. Although Alana could handle her father easily enough without help, she had no wish to be at the center of an argument between them. “Father, please. Ambrose was just . . .”
She wasn’t certain about how to finish.
“Leaving.” Her father was never at a loss for words.
“Aye,” Ambrose agreed, walking toward the door. “I was leaving.”
She pleaded with her eyes for him to stand up to her father, to refuse to leave until they finished their conversation. But Ambrose would never do that. He claimed disagreeing with her father was no way to win his respect.
When her father stood aside, Ambrose nodded his fare-thee-well, clearly uncomfortable with having to navigate the burly laird.
Màiri had no such qualms.
“You could have allowed him to stay,” she snapped. “He just arrived.”
Her father cared as much for Ambrose’s feelings as he did for troubadours. Or his neighbors.
“Ah, mhuirnín . . .”
“No. I am not your darling, not at this moment.”
She loved her father dearly. Understood his hurt, his anger. But that did not mean she was prepared to forgive him for refusing to consider her feelings.
“Pardon me, Father.”
Attempting to ignore the look of hurt on his face, Màiri pushed past him to retreat to her chamber. Another afternoon of crocheting, one that could have been spent in pleasant conversation with the man she loved.
And if it was not the type of love troubadours sang of, so be it. She was determined Ambrose would become her husband one day, with or without her father’s approval.
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