by Amy Jarecki
Highland Defender Book Two
When Sir Donald MacDonald, Baronet of Sleat meets trews-wearing, musket-wielding, redheaded Mary of Castleton, he’s completely flummoxed. Such a woman would never fit in to his aristocratic way of life. And Mary wants nothing to do with her father’s wishes for her betrothal. Indeed, the two agree on one thing: They are completely, utterly and inarguably incompatible.
But when Mary is abducted from Dunscaith Castle and spirited away in Sir Donald’s sea galley, the baronet has no choice but to mount a rescue. When his plans are thwarted at every turn, Donald and Mary are thrown in a tumultuous a race for their very lives. Though destiny brings them together, Don must face the truth smoldering in the recesses of his heart. Can he cast aside his ideals and declare his love for the saucy Highland lass?
Genre: Historical RomancePurchase link(s): Amazon B&N
Content/Theme(s): Highlanders, Scotland
Release Date: June 12, 2016
Publisher: Rapture Books
Excerpt & More
Florence caught up and planted her fists on her hips, giving Mary an exaggerated once-over. “Heaven’s stars, why are you wearing trews?”
Mary had actually borrowed the whole get up from Da—bonnet and all. “I cannot very well teach Rabbie how to shoot wearing a kirtle and arisaid, now can I?” It was the same hunting costume Da had worn when teaching her how to handle a musket—in the years before the Battle of Dunkeld when he lost his leg.
“Why not?” The lad came up behind them. “You always wear a dress.”
“Aye, but you couldn’t see my feet. After the last disaster, I thought it would help some and it did.” Mary glanced to her sisters and pointed to the target. “He hit it. Did you see?”
“I saw,” an incredibly deep voice said from behind. “Having a bit of target practice afore the games are you?”
The nape of Mary’s neck tingled while she spun on her heel. The guests were expected to begin arriving after the midday meal—three hours hence. She bit her bottom lip while her gaze swept down and then back up.
The voice belonged to a very tall man, grinning from ear to ear and carrying a musket under his arm. He wore a proper Highland bonnet covering tawny tresses, tied back with a ribbon. Goodness, the nearer he came, the girth of his shoulders grew ever so much wider. His sporran swung to and fro atop his dark plaid while he walked—sword sheathed in the belt across his shoulder, dirk at the front of his hip as if he were ready for battle. Mary’s chin dropped. The muscles in his legs flexed like nothing she’d ever seen before.
At seven and ten, Lilas cleared her throat and nudged Mary’s arm. “Gracious,” she whispered as if she were gazing upon a god.
Giving her sister a subtle elbow, Mary prayed she hadn’t turned as red as Lilas. She threw her thumb over her shoulder in the direction of the target. “Teaching the lad how to shoot.”
The big man gave Mary the most quizzical look. His stare was most unnerving. Aside from being perhaps the most handsome man she’d chanced to regard, his dark blue eyes made it difficult to breathe. Aye, as dark as midnight those eyes. His gaze started at her man’s bonnet and meandered down to her trews before he looked to Rabbie. “Is that so?”
“Och aye. I’ll be joining the rebellion soon.” The lad never lacked in self-confidence for certain.
The man glanced behind as one eyebrow arched. “You’d best keep your voice down when uttering such fervent words.”
Mary stepped in. “Why? Have you not come for the games?”
“Aye, lad.” He studied her with a pinch to his brow, as if she posed a confounding sight. “But I spotted a camp of redcoats not fifty miles down the coast.”
Mary pursed her lips with a brisk nod. “That would be Lieutenant Balfour MacLeod and his regiment of upstarts.” She groaned with a huff. “He’s a spineless weasel if you ask me.” The officer always looked at her like a starved fox. Worse, he hated everything Jacobite, and insured everyone on her part of Skye suffered in the stocks if they were but a day late with their taxes.
“Aye, he’s vile.” Lilas batted her eyelashes at the Highlander like a harlot. The lass was incorrigible.
“Then I suggest you stay well away from the likes of him.” The man raised his powder horn. Odd, he didn’t give Mary’s flirting sister a second glance. “Care for a wager?”
“With me?” Mary’s jaw nearly hit the ground.
He again regarded her from head to toe. “Thought you said you were teaching the lad to shoot.”
“Aye—since our da cannot.” Mary took the gun from Rabbie. “A farthing?” Good heavens, she’d never placed a wager in her life.
Frowning, the big Highlander scratched his chin. Merciful fairies, his eyes were an intriguing shade of blue—not like the sky, but more like the sea made angry by a winter storm. “How about a crown?” he asked as if it were a trifle.
Her gaze shifted to the target. She’d hit the bullseye five times today—missed by an inch once. Odds were she’d win…and if she lost, she had a few crowns tucked away in the chest in her bedchamber. But those were intended for her future. No, she’d best not lose. She bit down on the cork and pulled it from the powder horn like she always did. “All right. You first.”
Florence caught Mary’s eye and mouthed, a crown?
Mary knit her eyebrows and batted her hand through the air. “Wheesht,” she said so quietly, the shush was barely audible. “Go back to the keep and tell Da the guests are arriving.” The last thing she needed was her two sisters giggling behind her and ogling the Highlander.
Nonetheless, Lilas made googly eyes at him. “Do we have to?”
“Aye. And now,” Mary said, shooing them away.
“Best of three?” The man still appeared oblivious to her sister’s antics.
Mary cringed considering his question. Is that what men do when they place a wager? “Certainly.”
“Laddie, go fetch us a bit of charcoal. You can mark the shots so we will not lose track.”
Rabbie’s eyes sparkled as if he’d been commanded by King James himself. “Straight away, sir.”
Aye, the man looked dapper with his hair the color of burnt honey neatly tied back with a bow at his nape—his silk waistcoat was of fine tailoring as well, but he couldn’t be a chieftain. Could he? The man’s laird must have alighted the birlinn and headed straight to the keep to greet their da.
By the time they charged their weapons, Rabbie returned, grinning from ear to ear. Mary wasn’t sure if his excitement was because her brother wanted to see her bested or if he was happy to have a brawny man there to learn from.
“Do you mind if I fire off a practice shot?” he asked with a hypnotic burr. “I’m afraid my legs think they’re still at sea.”
Mary gave a polite nod. “By all means.” Then a wicked grin spread across her lips. “But only one.”
She swayed a bit, watching the man line up his sights. He planted his feet firm, closed one eye, his bold forehead angled down to the barrel. Dear Lord, his concentration was as impressive as his bonny countenance. A tic twitched above his eye just before his finger closed on the trigger. The blast cracked with a puff of smoke.
Mary hardly flinched. “Did you travel far?”
The man peered at her over the musket’s stock. “Glasgow.”
Goodness, he had come quite a long way. “Was the sea calm for your journey?”
He lowered his weapon. “Och, you’re awful chatty for a lad.” He squinted at her. “How old are you?”
Mr. Handsome thought her a lad? Just as well. Mary cast a thin-lipped glare at Rabbie, sending him a silent message to keep his mouth shut. “Forgive me for talking too much,” she said, avoiding the question about her age. At one and twenty, she wasn’t about to admit her advanced years to a stranger. She stole a downward glance. Ah yes, her breasts were concealed beneath her father’s oversized waistcoat.
Mary hastily gestured to the target. “Carry on.”
He again charged his musket and lined up his sights. This time she pursed her lips to prevent her mouth from distracting the man whilst he fired.
With a thunderous boom, his musket kicked more than hers ever had.
Mary’s gaze snapped to the target. He hit the outer edge of the bullseye. “Nice shooting.”
“My thanks.” He grinned, seemingly satisfied with his mark.
Palms perspiring like never before, Mary stepped up to the line. Curses, even her hands shook a bit. She wiped them on her trews and took a deep breath. She wasn’t about to lose a whole crown—a farthing mayhap, but not a crown. Positioning the butt against her shoulder, she eyed the bullseye. Confidence surged from her heart as her finger closed on the trigger.
When the smoke cleared, Rabbie was already running to the target. He marked both spots.
“Mine’s a hair closer.” Mary smiled.
The man squinted. “Perhaps, but there are two more to go.”
After the second round, the contest was too close to call—even for Mary. The man had a keen eye for certain, but so did she. By the looks of his attire, losing an entire crown would make no difference to his purse. But it would mean a great deal to her.
His last shot hit the bullseye much like his first.
Mary blew on her palms. This was it. She had to win. Rabbie gave her a nod. With a subtle nod back, she raised the musket, lined up her sights and took a shallow breath. Before she blinked, her finger closed on the trigger.
Purchase link(s): Amazon B&N
Win 1 of 5 print copies of The Valiant Highlander
Open US, CA, GB & AU
Ends July 10, 2016
Enter at: www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/189766
Other titles by Amy Jarecki:
Amy Jarecki Facebook page
Amy Jarecki Goodreads author page
Amy Jarecki Amazon author page
More Amy Jarecki on Cover Reveals
Be on the lookout for Amy Jarecki's future release(s): A Hero Across Time coming Aug 2016, The Time Traveler's Christmas coming early Oct 2016, and The Highland Duke coming Mar 2017
Interested in this book? Let your friends and family know about it. Use the buttons below to share this post with them.