How does a woman tell her betrothed that she murdered her first husband?
Shipwrecked in the Scottish Highlands, American heiress Elise Kingston quietly plans revenge for the deaths of her daughter and the brother who sacrificed his life to save her.
When Marcus MacGregor, Marquess of Ashlund, returns to his Highland home to discover a stunning American woman has been taken in by his clan, his attraction is instant and he resolves to make her his–no matter what secret she’s keeping.
Elise is shocked by her need for Marcus and, too late, discovers that her feelings make him a target of her enemy–a man powerful enough to destroy even a Scottish nobleman.
Marcus stood, legs apart, staring down at Elise. She sat on the couch, head bowed, her gaze on the carpeted floor of his library. He took a deep breath and seated himself beside her.
“A day on the trip home and I held my tongue,” he said. “Then a day here at Brahan Seer. You’re well enough now to answer to me. What in God’s name were you doing?”
“I promised Michael I would come.”
“Michael would not hold you to any such promise.”
She lifted her chin and met his gaze. “I didn’t go alone, as you know.”
“You took a boy, Elise.”
Pain flickered across her face. “I will not make that mistake again.”
“Nay, you will not, but that doesn’t explain why you insist upon going. Bloody hell, Elise, no one but you is a risk-taker.”
She stiffened. “I am sorry you had to come for me—”
“Sorry I had to come for you? You little idiot. It wasn’t the coming for you that you need be sorry for, but the fact you nearly got yourself killed. It’s a miracle you survived the fall from your horse.”
Marcus shifted his gaze to her right cheek where the light yellow of a severe bruise peeked out from beneath her thick hair. He was well aware of the gash that lay hidden beneath her hair. She had taken great pains to hide the wound. What else did she hide?
“What of the Campbells, Elise?”
She frowned. “I don’t understand why they took me.”
She started. “I’m not a complete fool. I understand their intentions. But why make off with me? Why not attack me there?”
A mental picture of them attacking her there rose on a tide of a fury that forced Marcus to his feet. He strode to the sideboard, poured a whiskey, drank it in one gulp, then set the glass down and faced her. He leaned against the sideboard and folded his arms across his chest.
“They like to savor their victims.”
Her lips parted in a soft gasp.
“Did you think otherwise?” he asked.
“The beady-eyed one, Rory, would have taken me there, but their leader, William—”
“William?” Marcus interjected savagely. He started toward her. Her eyes widened when he closed the gap between them. He yanked her from her seat. “What did William want, Elise?”
“He stopped Rory from…”
“Did he now?” Marcus shoved her onto the couch, pivoted, and returned to the sideboard. He poured another drink and emptied the glass as he had the last, then faced her again. “It didn’t occur to you he didn’t want a woman who was used up?”
Her cheeks reddened, then her expression hardened. “There had been no sign of Campbells for weeks. How long am I supposed to let your fears rule me?”
“Until I say otherwise. Just be glad I don’t tie you to your bed.”
Her eyes narrowed. “What sort of threat is that?”
“The kind I will enforce with relish.”
Elise jumped to her feet. She swayed slightly. Marcus started forward, then stopped when she fisted her hands at her sides.
“Ooooh.” She drew the word out in a long frustrated breath. “You are an arrogant knave, Marcus MacGregor, not to mention foul natured.
Does it give you pleasure to threaten me?”
“Threaten you?” He gave an exasperated laugh. “I haven’t given you even a small sample of my power.”
“I advise you to keep such threats to yourself,” she said through clenched teeth.
“God help me, I should turn you over my knee—which is what I planned in the beginning.”
Elise took a step back and he advanced. “In fact, if you have any defense, say your piece now, for you shall receive the only recompense your sex allows.”
“I have nothing to tell you.” She retreated another pace.
Marcus halted. Bloody hell, were his suspicions right? “What are you hiding, Elise?”
Her eyes flashed but not before widening enough to tell him he’d caught her off guard. “What could I possibly—”
“You’re a fool if you expect me to believe you simply want to visit Michael. We both know he is well. Who do you meet when you leave Brahan Seer?”
Her eyes lit with indignation.
Feminine fury. Had he hit the mark? Had she taken a lover?
The blood pounded in his ears. “You would risk death—or worse—for a common liaison?”
Her expression flashed to hauteur. “Any assignations I have are none of your concern.”
Relief rammed through him. Womanly pride drove her, not fear of discovery. Why, then, the insistence on going to Michael’s?
She turned, but he caught her wrist and whirled her around. “What are you hiding?”
Elise clenched the hand he grasped. “Is it so hard to believe someone might care enough about another human being to take a risk?”
“You expect me to believe you are so foolish?”
She gave a harsh laugh. “Believe what you will.”
“I believe you are lying.”
“Why bother coming for me, then?”
For the thousandth time, Marcus saw Elise as Katie MacGregor had been when she was found raped and beaten. He yanked Elise to him, his mouth crashing down on hers. She shoved at his chest, but he only tightened his arms around her and roughened the kiss. He thrust his tongue inside her mouth and felt her body stiffen in surprise then slacken against him. Her breath quickened. Marcus remembered the couch only a few feet away, but she abruptly wrenched her mouth free. He hugged her close, burying his head in her hair.
“Elise,” he whispered hoarsely. “When I think—” his voice caught.
“They had their hands on you.” He hugged her even closer. “Never again.”
He kissed her neck, placed gentle kisses behind her ear and down to where neck met shoulder. She gasped, and he lifted his head to look down into her wide eyes. He lowered his mouth to hers, tenderly this time, moving slowly until her lips softened beneath his. She gave a sudden small gasp, then pushed away, her hand going to her lips. He focused on the action.
“Ohhh,” she drew out the word on a soft breath.
Marcus stepped toward her. She backed up until the chair before his desk barred her retreat. He halted, his body inches from her. She gripped the top of the chair, then stepped aside, shoving the chair toward him. Marcus reached for her. The chair hit his shin. Pain shot through his leg, but he stumbled forward, grabbing for her. His fingers closed around thin air as she dashed for the door and disappeared down the corridor.
About the Author
Award winning author Tarah Scott cut her teeth on authors such as Georgette Heyer, Zane Grey, and Amanda Quick. Her favorite book is a Tale of Two Cities, with Gone With the Wind as a close second. She writes modern classical romance, and paranormal and romantic suspense. Tarah grew up in Texas and currently resides in Westchester County, New York with her daughter.
Tarah’s Reading Group: http://microcerpt.com/groups/tarah-scott-reader-group/