Available August 2009
NAL Signet Eclipse
ISBN-10: 0451227018 ♦ ISBN-13: 978-0451227010
In the Scottish Highlands, two warriors are about to clash over a woman of passion…
They were the unlikeliest of friends debauching their way through London: The Earl of Camdonn, a nobleman of vast wealth and power, and Scottish laird Alan MacDonald, a respected Jacobite with ambitions of his own.
But their friendship is destroyed when Alan marries the beautiful Sorcha Stewart—only to witness Cam kidnap her from their bedroom. Then Alan learns the truth: his bride was not an innocent. She took a lover before him—his friend—who taught her the ways of pleasure.
Now, Alan will do anything to get his wife back. Cam fights to redeem his honor, even as he refuses to give up his desire. Torn between love and duty, Sorcha must watch as the two men she desires go to war over her. And when the battle lines are drawn, all three lovers are lured into a triangle of forbidden passions…
Warning: This excerpt contains material inappropriate for minors.
By reading on, you are certifying that you are over 18 years of age.
Cam dismounted and tethered his horse to the spindly trunk of a juniper. Though a full moon had brightened the night sky earlier, clouds had gathered and now a soft mist fell. The horses’ heavy breathing steamed the air and their intermittent snorts contrasted with the whisper of water on the bushes and grass.
Ignoring the needles scraping his arms, Cam glanced back at MacLean, who remained mounted, waiting for Cam’s instruction. The man and his horse formed an inky shadow in the increasing gloom.
The ground sank under Cam’s feet and leaves rustled as he moved to take measure of the small valley below. He scanned the stables and few dark outbuildings hardly visible through the rain, but his gaze came to an abrupt stop when it collided with the largest dwelling in the enclave—Alan MacDonald’s two-room cottage near the banks of the loch.
Sorcha and Alan were inside. Alone at last on the first night of their marriage.
Hours ago, from behind an old cairn, Cam had watched the villagers dance around a bonfire as the lively tune of their fiddles and pipes echoed through Glenfinnan. Cold to the marrow of his bones, he’d stared past the stones down at them, at her. Sorcha smiling shyly as Alan led her in a reel, her skirts swishing around her calves. She looked as a young bride should: beautiful, happy. Innocent.
But she wasn’t innocent.
Her father had tried—and failed—to keep a tight rein on her. Now it was Alan MacDonald’s job. Cam knew Alan would do it better.
Smoke puffed in small clouds from the chimney and light spilled out from the cottage windows onto the water, making it glitter as it splashed gently against the pebbled shore.
Again Cam glanced at MacLean, who sat patiently upon his horse, reins held loosely in his meaty hands. “Wait here. Come only if I call for you.”
MacLean nodded. Cam didn’t allow his gaze to linger on the big man—he didn’t want to see any sign of disapproval, though logic told him MacLean followed him blindly with no interest in separating right from wrong. If Cam saw disapproval in MacLean’s expression, he’d be conjuring it from a blank slate.
Swiping the back of his hand over his stinging eyes, Cam stared at the cottage. He had no choice but to go down there. He had to see it through to the end. Maybe then his obsession with her would end.
“Stay out of sight,” he murmured to MacLean.
“Aye, milord.” MacLean’s rough voice came from behind him, but Cam hardly heard. He was already striding down the wet slope toward the cottage.
Sorcha. Her name rose in his mind, peaked and receded like a delicate wave. How had it happened this way? And why, for God’s sake, did it even matter? He’d thought Sorcha was a toy, an entertaining plaything. A dalliance. Nothing more. How wrong he was.
Over a month ago, her father had left Cam’s service and moved his family to Glenfinnan. The day before she’d gone, she met him in his bedchamber. After they made love, she’d clung to him, and her eyes had glistened with tears as they’d murmured their farewells.
Cam assumed he’d forget about her. He predicted he’d easily find another skirt to amuse him. Instead, he’d thought about her daily. He ached to see her, to hold her again. To touch her silken skin. To see her generous smile, then kiss her into submission.
When he learned of her upcoming marriage to Alan MacDonald, something had snapped in his consciousness. Thoughts of her began to occupy his every waking moment. He’d tried to stop. He’d schooled himself to restraint and resolutely kept out of her affairs.
Today was her wedding day. And, God help him, today he hadn’t been able to stay away.
He reached the edge of Alan’s cottage and placed his palm flat on one of the cold, wet stones. Slowly, he walked around the back to the closest window, dragging his fingers across the jagged surfaces of the stones as he went. Now completely hidden from MacLean’s sight, Cam peered inside.
There was Sorcha, closer to the window than he’d expected, facing away from him. She stood still, her dark hair a satin waterfall cascading down her back. Beyond her, the large, cluttered space contained a rough-hewn dressing table, several chairs and chests, a long bench, and a bed built into the wall. A peat fire flickered in the fireplace at the room’s far end. Rustic, but comfortable. Nevertheless, far below Alan’s means.
Cam sensed movement deeper within and ducked away, his pulse surging to a frantic cadence.
Breathing heavily, he leaned back against the wall. Out of all the men in the world, why did it have to be his closest friend who’d taken her to wife?
Cam turned his face up to the rain and savored the feel of the stones digging deep into the flesh of his shoulders. What in the devil was he doing, slinking about like a common low-bred thief? Longing for something he could never have? He hated himself for it.
Yet he couldn’t stop.
He turned and looked in the window once again. Alan sat on the edge of the bed now. He’d removed his plaid, and his white linen shirt covered him to midthigh. He spoke softly, much in the same way Cam had seen him calm a jittery horse.
Sorcha took a step away from the window. Cam couldn’t see her expression, only the dark fall of her hair shimmering in the light of the tallow candles as she moved. She wore a thin linen nightdress that shifted provocatively with the sway of her hips.
Alan was ignorant of Cam and Sorcha’s previous carnal acquaintance. If he knew, he never would have married her. Cam was familiar enough with his friend’s personality to know this as absolute fact. It was clear Sorcha hadn’t revealed anything of her experience during the short period of their engagement.
Ultimately, Cam couldn’t blame her for hiding the truth. Her father had placed her in this position, and she would die before dishonoring him. Furthermore, her blasted Highland morals wouldn’t allow her to embarrass or anger Alan, her laird and future husband.
And now they were married. Joined together . . . as one . . . until death. Cam winced. Bloody hell.
Would she continue to play the part of the timid virgin tonight? Would she cry out as she had when Cam took her maidenhead? After she had made that small, frightened noise, he had frozen in place, hating to have caused her pain. But she’d clutched him tight and whispered to him, saying it was all right and encouraging him to continue. Soon she had arched up to meet him, making a little sound of pleasure with each thrust.
Cam would never forget that night. When he had broken through the shield of her virginity, her reaction had been honest. With Alan, it would be a deception. Cam tried to take some comfort in that, and failed.
Sorcha sat on the edge of the bed beside Alan, turning so Cam could see her profile. Her eyes were downcast. A lock of hair fell across her face, and she reached up to brush it away with trembling fingers.
So she did choose to play the pious fraud. Cam grimaced, clutched the windowsill, and watched.