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December 10, 2013
A lost beauty melts the cold heart of a Jacobite warrior in this stirring novella of fear and desire…
Stranded in a blizzard, Maggie MacDonald is rescued by Logan Douglas, a Highland warrior physically and emotionally wounded from battle. Now, hidden away in a mountain cabin high above the village, Logan discovers that this fiery and unpredictable beauty is capable of warming his heart—and his body.
But the storm is far from over. A tempest of another more dangerous kind is brewing when Logan discovers that Maggie is on the run from the mad and violent suitor who has pursued her too long, too relentlessly to ever let her end up in the arms of another man. But he’s about to meet a formidable competitor in Logan—and the prize is too cherished to ever let it go.
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A HIGHLANDER CHRISTMAS
Featuring Novellas by Dawn Halliday, Cindy Miles, and Sophie Renwick.
A festive anthology featuring three all-new stories, three sexy Scotsmen, and a magical holiday setting.
Read an Excerpt from WINTER HEAT
Warmth washed through Maggie. It pushed through her muscles, combating the frozen knots in her shoulders and neck.
“Mmm.” She shifted her body, turning beneath comfortable, heavy blankets. Seductive heat pressed in on her from all sides. Warm air brushed over her cheeks, and she opened her eyes to find herself gazing into a peat fire.
But the fire wasn’t the source of her warmth—a solid source of a heat hotter than any fire pressed into her back, its earthy male scent mingling with the peat. Bare skin cradled her bare skin.
Awareness slammed into her.
Someone—a man—lay behind her. And she was utterly naked.
Her languid muscles tensed. A strangled cry emerged from her throat. With her heart pattering like a frightened rabbit’s, she lunged away, falling from the bed, then scrambling to an upright position on a hard-packed dirt floor.
He was faster than her. As graceful as a cat, he leaped to his feet, trapping her between his body and the hearth.
She stared up at him in open-mouthed horror. This wasn’t Innes Munroe. This man was harder, taller, darker. Even more frightening in appearance. His face was untainted masculinity, with a high forehead; wide, lush lips; a blade of a nose; and narrow, dark eyes topped by menacing brows. Midnight black hair descended in silky waves to brush broad shoulders. Other than the plaid he wrapped around his waist as he rose, he was naked too.
Maggie flattened her bare feet on the floor, tightened her fists at her sides, and looked up at him in brazen challenge. Though her insides had turned to jelly—no man had seen her unclothed since her husband died—she refused to show him her fear. She was no weakling.
In any case, she thought with an inward flinch, she needn’t hide her body from him. Clearly the man had already familiarized himself with it. Without moving, she rapidly assessed herself. The only pain she felt radiated from the places Innes had hurt her—her chest, her leg, her wrists, and her face.
Still, that didn’t necessarily mean this man hadn’t touched her, hadn’t violated her. Why on earth else would they both be naked?
She tried to control her fear while squelching the shivers that built just beneath her skin. She’d been warm a moment ago, but now the cold prickled over her skin like tiny knives, painful in its intensity.
Glaring up at the tall stranger, she couldn’t determine whether she was more or less appalled than if she’d found herself in bed with Innes. At least with Innes she knew her enemy. This man was an unknown entity, intimidating in both size and demeanor. Everything else in the room seemed diminutive and unimportant when compared to him.
“I found you in the snow.” His voice was a low, rumbling growl that sent a tremble crawling down her spine. “Come back to bed. It’s still storming outside, and you’re chilled.”
“What did you do to me?” she demanded.
His lips thinned. “Nothing.”
She raised a brow.
“I brought you here.”
He shrugged. “Your clothing was wet.”
She glared at him. “What have you done to my clothes?”
“Wet.” With a swift movement of his arm, the stranger motioned behind him. Beyond the bed, her shift, plaid, and stockings dangled from the rafters.
“Now come back to bed.” His hard voice sent renewed shivers through her. The cold seized her body, gripped at her with painful talons. Raising her hands, she flexed her stiff fingers, staring in fascination at the disconnected way in which they moved.
Beyond her fingers, she saw something flash in his dark eyes. Something dangerous.
Slowly, she lowered her hands, curling her fists at her sides. She must gather her wits, keep them close. Despite the compulsion to study her whereabouts, Maggie kept her focus solely on the stranger. Wind rustled the eaves outside, but the peat fire sighed behind her, warm and inviting. It took every ounce of her will not to collapse to her knees and crawl close enough to it to singe her hair in the flames.
Struggling to keep her voice even, she asked, “Who are you?”
“Logan Douglas,” he replied shortly. He held out his hand. “Return to bed. It is too cold.”
She held her ground, curling her toes into the frigid, hard-packed dirt. “Where are we?”
“In the mountains.”
She swallowed down the surging panic. The man just stood there, stiff and unyielding, blocking the path to the exit. She was at this big stranger’s mercy. As much as she tried not to show it, she was afraid.
“Who are you?” she pushed out.
“I told you . . .”
She shook her head. “I know everyone within miles of Lubfearn. Where did you come from, Logan Douglas?”
“Far from here.”
Slowly, the recollection of what had happened to her drifted into Maggie’s mind. A drunken Innes Munroe had abducted her from her cottage. He’d tied her wrists and carried her up the mountain on his horse. She’d escaped, Innes had abandoned his search for her and headed to Malmuirie’s, and she’d started the long walk home. After that, her memory faded to a blur.
“Where did you find me?” she asked hoarsely.
“Less than a mile from here,” Logan said. “You were unconscious.”
“When?” Maggie’s voice wavered.
No outside light seeped in from the cracks in the stone walls and the door, and the only light inside was the flickering gold glow cast by the fire. It was nighttime. She’d been absent from the village an entire day. By now, her servants would have informed the laird what had happened. Would he come after her? But Innes had said her cousin had approved of his abduction of Maggie. When Innes returned to the castle without her, what would he tell Torean?
Knowing Innes, he’d stay deep within the warm carnal haven of Malmuirie’s at least until the storm had passed, which meant Torean wouldn’t come searching for her anytime soon. Her knees trembled, knocked together, and though she tried to still her body, she shook like an autumn leaf in a gale.
She gritted her teeth. She must remain upright. But even as she commanded herself not to crumple, her legs simply melted from beneath her. Before she slammed face-first onto the hard-packed dirt, Logan scooped her against his chest. She tried to stiffen in his tight embrace, but her body wouldn’t obey her.
“Put me down,” she managed to say through her chattering teeth.
He ignored her command. “Come to bed. I’ll warm you.”
Gently, he laid her down and tucked the blankets over her. Still, her whole body shook, and the sound of her knocking teeth resonated like booming drums in her ears. She’d never be warm again, she was certain of it.
Logan’s hand curled over her shoulder. “I’ve seen this before. I need to lie beside you. I must give you my warmth.”
She clenched her teeth in an attempt to control them. “I need—bring me my shift.”
“No.” A line appeared between his black brows as he hovered over her. “It is wet.”
She groaned in frustration. “My stockings and plaid then.”
“They won’t help you.” His voice washed over her, dark and rumbling and warm. “You require the heat of my skin.”
“You—you’ll . . .” She wrapped her cold arms around her even colder body. “I don’t want you touching me.”
“I don’t know you!” The pitch of her voice rose to a reedy screech.
Wearily, he sank to the edge of the bed. She saw his hand advancing, reaching toward her, but she gathered her strength and flinched away. He sighed. “I won’t hurt you.”
“How can I know that?” She sounded shrill and panicked, but she was too frightened—and too cold—to care.
“I don’t hurt women.”
She shook her head. “You—you look like you’d hurt anything that stood in your way.”
“Not you,” he said flatly.
She blinked at him, and he turned away, busying himself by piling more plaids on her body.
Perhaps she was being stubborn. This Logan Douglas, as solid and intimidating as he was, seemed to have no intention of hurting her. Yet it damaged her pride to know he’d taken her clothes off, had observed her bare form, and then had lain for Lord knew how long with his body pressed against her, both of them stark naked.
Staying in her curled-up position, Maggie forced her sluggish body to turn away from him, a clear signal of dismissal.
“I . . .” His voice was rough. He cleared his throat and tried again. “I wish to help you recover. That’s all.”
She burrowed more deeply into the blankets, seeking not only their warmth but their ability to hide her body from his dark, compelling eyes. “I’m completely recovered.”
It was a lie. Her skin prickled with pain, and shivers continued to ravage her body.
He released a harsh breath. “No. You’re pale. Your lips are more blue than pink.”
“I’m well,” she insisted.
“You are frozen.”
“I said I am well.” Her tone brooked no argument, but her eyelids felt weighted by steel. She was so, so tired. She couldn’t think straight. She needed sleep. Only sleep could warm her.
He tried once more. “Allow me to lie beside you.”
“No.” It was becoming difficult to speak. “You—you must sleep on . . . on the floor.” She sounded rather drunk, though she couldn’t remember drinking anything. Had she?
Giving in to the pressure, she closed her eyes.
Finally they could agree on something. “Will you sh-leep on the floor?” she slurred. “Please?”
All her strength had gone. Yet a strange man stood hovering over her. Valiantly, she struggled to open her eyes.
He stared down at her, but instead of the frustration and anger she expected, compassion filled his face.
“I’ll keep you safe,” he said, his voice low and soothing. “You must rest.”
“I . . . Lord . . . so tired.” And the cold . . . it hurt.
“You’re safe, lass. Nobody will hurt you.” The low-pitched words seemed to come from far away. “Sleep.”