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Authors: Hildie McQueen

Beauty and The Highlander

BOOK: Beauty and The Highlander
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Beauty and the Highlander

 

 

 

Hildie McQueen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pink Door Publishing, Augusta, Georgia 2014

 

 

 

Beauty and the Highlander

 

 

 

Amazon Bestselling Author

Hildie McQueen

 

Pink Door Publishing

 

Cover Artist: Robin Ludwig Design Inc.

Editor: Tina Winograd

 

 

Copyright Hildie McQueen 2014

 

ISBN: 978-1-939356-20-8

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book
may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means—except
in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or
reviews—without written permission.

This eBook is licensed for your personal
enjoyment only.

This eBook may not be re-sold or given away
to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person,
please purchase an additional copy for each reader.

If you're reading this book and did not
purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return it
to your retailer and purchase your own copy.

Thank you for respecting the hard work of
this author.

 

The characters and events portrayed in this
book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely
coincidental and not intended by the author.

 

 

Other Works by Hildie McQueen

(In reading order)

 

Heading West Series, Western Historical

Where the Four Winds Collide

Westbound Awakening

 

Historical Western, Shades of Blue Series

Big Sky Blue

A Different Shade of Blue

The Darkest Blue

Every Blue Moon

Blue Horizon

Montana Blue

 

Contemporary

Concealed Carry

 

One Night in Vegas

One Night with the Boss

 

Paranormal, The Protector Series

Desperate Choices

Desperate Betrayal

Desperate Surrender

Desperate Possession

 

Highland Historical Erotic Novellas

Highlander's Captive

Seducing Her Laird

Enticing Her Highlander

Ravished by the Laird

In the Warrior's Arms

 

Beauty and the Highlander

 

 

 

Dedication

 

 

I
have a beautiful life, filled with amazing friends and family. I dedicate this
book to my wonderful circle of readers who complete my amazing world.

 

 

 

Chapter
One

 

 

When the evening meal was placed before him, Carrick
Gordon plowed through the food, planning to retreat to his chambers as soon as
possible. The huge dining hall at the Gordon keep was especially noisy this
eve. Filled with the boisterous talk of the clansmen, who'd just returned from the
clan's games, and the clanking of plates and cups slammed onto the long tables,
the noise elevated with each new pitcher of ale passed.

How different from the more modest home where he now
lived with only a small serving staff and a handful of clansmen for company.
Carrick moved away from his father's keep right after his mother's death
several years earlier, preferring the solitude and quiet of his own home. That
and the fact his remaining family here shunned him.

"Avail me of more ale," his father, Laird
Angus Gordon, bellowed to a serving wench who scurried to do his bidding. Once
filled, he took a long draw from the tankard and slammed it onto the table.
Moraine, the laird's current wife, jumped at the sound, but didn't utter a
word. Throughout the meal, she kept her gaze down, her shaky hand reaching for
food, and on occasion, the goblet of wine. Studying her, Carrick caught sight
of fresh bruising on the woman's jaw.

Carrick looked to his father, who in turn observed the
meek woman's movements with an interest that could only be described as
satisfaction. Fear fed Angus Gordon's ego and he was adept at getting it from
not only his family, but his men as well. The laird's streak of cruelty was
well known.

 The food on Carrick's plate lost its appeal and he
pushed it away picking up his cup of ale instead.

The laird cleared his throat upon noticing Carrick's
regard. "Yer lass and her uncle arrive on the morrow. Can you attempt to
behave as if you are part of this family while he is here?" The older man leaned
back into the chair and focused on him, shrewd eyes lingering on his plain
tunic. "Perhaps something more presentable in the way of attire."

Carrick could only gape at the words, at a loss for a
reply. Exactly how did the laird expect him to act? If there were someone who'd
spurned him and ensured he'd never felt a part of the Gordon clan, it was his
father. "The agreement has been made, I sincerely doubt my way of dress
will change anything. This marriage agreement was not my doing, but yours,"
he retorted and stood.

His father's words stopped him from leaving.
"It's up to you of course, the chit has nowhere to go. Either way she will
remain here or her family will shun her if she is rejected by you." He
shrugged. "I suppose I can always give her to your brother." Narrowed
eyes scrutinized Carrick, taking in the scar that ran from the corner of his
right eye down to his upper lip. "But then again, the woman will no doubt
refuse you at first glance. Therefore this conversation may be but a waste of
breath."

His younger brother Declan laughed, but a worried
expression flickered when he regarded their father. "I am in no need of a
wife as of now. The McGregors will insist on the agreed upon marriage to
him." He looked to Carrick.

Angus burped without abash and waved his hands in
dismissal. "You are correct in that, I suppose. Enough of this talk.
Whether frightened or not, she will marry Carrick."

Preferring to die before he'd give his father the
satisfaction of a reaction, Carrick shrugged. "As you wish. It matters
naught to me." He walked with purposeful unhurried steps to his chambers.
Damn them all to hell. How he craved to be away from the place.

That he was at Gordon keep was only because Analise
Macgregor came, and he'd agreed to marry her. The clan made an agreement and
he'd given his word to be present when she arrived instead of sending a proxy,
which would have been his first choice. Carrick tried to remember if he'd hit
his head or drank too much ale on that cursed day which led him to agree to be
present for the farce of a marriage.

No, it was that he felt a kinship with Analise,
something in common as it were. Her clan did not want her, and they were going
to marry her off in an effort to rid themselves of her.

Yet, there was the big difference between Analise and
him. No matter how much his father detested him, he was the first-born and
would be the next laird of Clan Gordon. A grim smile curved his lips. That he'd
one day lead the clan is what kept him from disappearing to never return. One day
he'd be laird and there was little his conniving younger brother or father
could do about it. Once that day came, he'd right every wrong Angus Gordon ever
committed.

With a deep breath Carrick entered the bedroom and lay
on the bed. Deep in thought he stared at the ceiling. The hand fast agreement
was made in haste between his father and the Macgregor, who seemed desperate to
place his niece in a respectable household. No doubt the lass was homely,
otherwise she'd not be married off to a clan that brought them little in
return. Of course if Clan McGregor was in some kind of trouble, the Gordons,
with their well-trained warriors, were a good ally.

It was best he kept his word and take her to his home.
No matter how uncomely this woman was, she did not deserve to be pawned off to
Declan as a wife or worse, a bedmate. His brother would not settle anytime in
the near future. No sooner had Declan become of age to take women, than the
stories of his prowess surfaced. Maids eyed Declan when he passed, their widen
eyes and lips curving in anticipation he'd take her by the arm and lead them to
his chambers.

Carrick inhaled. This woman would be his wife. The
faceless Analise would live out the rest of her life as his companion. What
could Carrick do if the woman was indeed repulsed by his disfigured face?
Nothing. The jagged scar that ran from the temple to his lip was too prominent
to ignore.

Yet, Carrick stroked the bumpy skin and considered
maybe all this was for naught. There was the possibility after one look at him,
the woman, whether ugly or beautiful, would recoil with repulsion and beg her
uncle to break the agreement.

A loud knock took him from his thoughts. "Come
in."

The door swung open to show Declan. His brother leaned
against the doorframe and crossed his arms over his broad chest, his face
impassive. "Father is none too happy at your abrupt departure from the
dining hall."

"I'm sure his tender heart will recover."
Carrick continued to stare at the ceiling. "What do you want,
Declan?"

Only slightly shorter, Declan was leaner. Yet, like
Carrick, trained to be a lethal warrior. "Are you going through with the
marriage?" His brother's eyes shifted to the window before coming back to
him.

Carrick smiled knowing his brother hoped he'd follow
though and decided to goad him. "Do you fear you'll be saddled with a
homely woman when the Macgregor demands you step into my place after the lass
refuses to marry me?"

Declan's hands dropped to his sides, hands curled into
fists. "Answer the question, Carrick."

A yawn escaped and Carrick propped his upper body from
the bed onto his elbows. "I will be there tomorrow, I agreed to the
marriage. It matters naught to me who I am tied to."

When Declan visibly relaxed Carrick continued.
"Of course, like father stated, she may be repulsed by my disfigurement
and beg off. If her uncle has a soft heart, she may still end up with
you."

"Women do not get a choice," Declan sneered.
"If I ever marry, I will choose my wife. Someone who brings power, not
shame, to this clan and coin to my pocket. I do not have my own title to fall
back upon like you."

Carrick shrugged. "Like I said earlier, it
matters naught."

"Just ensure you are there." A thump sounded
as his brother closed the door behind him.

Carrick chuckled.

 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

Looking up at her intended's clan's home, Analise
Macgregor shook so hard her teeth chattered. She pulled her horse to a stop and
took in the unfamiliar surroundings. The Gordon keep was immense, the austere
gray walls of the building blending with the eerie mist of the Highland
mountains behind it.

The imposing structure loomed over them as they
neared, and she closed her eyes and prayed. Please let my intended be a kind
man. And if there is some way to not go through with the marriage at all, let
it happen. The sense of dread refused to leave no matter how much she recited
prayers over and over in her head.

God help her, if only there were a way to escape, to
live out her life as a villager. All she desired was a cottage of her own where
she'd make a living as a seamstress. Anything was better than losing her
freedom. How had it come to this? An unraveling of her life to end in marriage
to a stranger far from everything and everyone she'd ever known? A tear slipped
down her cheek, which she wiped away with the back of her hand. She looked to
her uncle to ensure he did not notice her weeping. The last thing she wanted
was to worry the kind elderly man.

As if on cue a heavy drizzle began to fall as they
rode toward the thick daunting gates and Analise pulled her heavy cape tighter
around her shoulders.

"Lift that chin, child, it will be well."
Although intended to be comforting, her uncle's words fell hollow by the drawn
brows over his warm eyes. "Once yer married and with a wee one hanging on
yer skirts, this day will seem more like a dream."

A nightmare would be a more apt description. Analise
nodded and gave him what she hoped was a brave smile. "Aye, uncle, may
your words come to pass."

The heavy gates groaned open and the small party was
allowed into a sizable well-kept courtyard.

Analise kept her attention on the horse, ensuring she
held onto its reigns until they were taken from her hands. Too soon, she was
assisted down from her mount and young lads went off with their horses.

The laird neared and greeted them. Tall and barrel
chested, the male's eyes raked over her hesitating at her breasts. Analise
ensured to keep her chin lifted, her eyes straight ahead. In spite of the
shiver of repulsion that crept up her spine, she did not stir. Whatever the men
spoke of did not reach her ears. She was far too busy searching for any
possible escape.

Once again the laird studied her, a cruel twist to his
lips as if he found her distasteful. If the son was anything like the father,
she'd runaway, there had to be other exits besides the large gates. She'd take
flight before marrying anyone who would mistreat her.

The thumps of her heart echoed with each place her
eyes landed. The walls were dense, the guardsman who stood atop the towers
huge, and the logs set to secure the gates once closed, immense. The Gordon
keep was virtually impenetrable. Not an easy target for enemies to invade or
for someone to steal away from.

Movement behind the men talking caught her attention.
A lone man descended the steps. The tartan colors he wore identified him as a
Gordon. Long burnished hair fell forward concealing his features, yet his
presence had an immediate effect on her. Analise followed the male's progress
as he neared. Broad shouldered with an expansive well-formed chest that tapered
to a trimmer waist and hips, he commanded attention. He moved closer, his gait
sure and fluid. At her study of him, breathing came easier and she was able to
control her troubling heart rate only to lose it again when the amber eyes
lifted and locked to hers. Dark slashes for eyebrows, his mouth tight, the
exquisite man studied her in return. He exuded raw power. With chiseled
cheekbones and aristocratic nose he seemed more masterpiece than human. If not
for the jagged scar that distorted his right cheek and full upper lip, she'd
think a more flawless creature did not exist.

"Miss Macgregor." His deep voice resonated
through her and he lowered his head, barely a bow. "I am Carrick Gordon.
Your betrothed."

Analise's eyes flew to each of the people surrounding
them. Surely this was a cruel joke. At any moment another man would stumble
into the courtyard and be introduced as the real bridegroom. The laird leaned
forward, as if in anticipation perhaps for her to utter something in response,
but she found herself at a lack for words.

Thankfully Carrick presented his arm and spoke again.
"Allow me to escort you inside." She slid her hand around it. His
strong forearm under her palm steadied her.

They followed the laird and her uncle into the clan's
great room. From under her lashes, she slid her gaze to where her hand rested
on her bridegroom's thick arm. She wanted to study him further. Unfortunately
his height made it impossible for her to look at his face. He led her forward
the entire time remaining aloof, rigid almost.

"I didn't get the opportunity to introduce
myself," Analise whispered to him. "I am..."

"I am aware of who you are, Analise
Macgregor." His words were curt almost as if he were bothered she'd been
taken aback upon meeting him. Surely he was used to people's reactions to his
astonishing good looks?

When they stopped beside a chair, Analise was finally
able to look to him and she managed a smile. At a loss to what to say while
they stood with the group, she glanced across the room. "It's a very nice
home."

Carrick did not reply to her comment. He motioned to
the chair. "Would you please sit? I'm afraid my father's wife is not
feeling well, but she should join us at the evening meal."

His father's wife. Ah yes, she remembered now hearing
that Carrick's mother died not very long ago. "Thank you," Analise
told him and sat.

Whisky was poured and the men drank and spoke about
subjects she did not understand and thankfully they did not pay much attention
to her. The respite was not only welcome, but gave her a chance to study the
man she would marry.

Although cordial to her uncle, Carrick seemed to
remain separate from the other men. She noticed when the laird spoke, he never
looked to his son, but spoke only to her uncle. Likewise Carrick Gordon did the
same, only speaking to her uncle.

"It's a pity to see you ignored," a second
deep voice spoke at her ear and Analise turned to sparkling green eyes. "I
am Declan Gordon." The handsome man held out his hand to take hers.
"The younger brother." He kissed the back of her hand and held it a
bit too long before releasing it.

Carrick looked over at hearing his brother's voice.
They locked gazes; Carrick's remaining flat, expressionless, while Declan let
out a soft chuckle.

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