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Authors: The Last Highlander

Claire Delacroix

BOOK: Claire Delacroix
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THE LAST HIGHLANDER

 

Scotland, 1314. After the Scots reclaim Edinburgh Castle, Alasdair MacAuley only wants to celebrate. But the revels are interrupted by an old crone who claims the castles true owner is the legendary witch Morgaine le Fee. Dared by his fellow warriors to go meet the witch, Alasdair heads down a flight of stairs – and tumbles right into another century...

 

Scotland, 1998. American Morgan Lafayette is in Scotland to enjoy the history, not to ogle men in kilts. So when she stumbles upon a brawny man in a kilt, she is less than enthralled. She is certain he’s drunk for he claims Morgan is a powerful sorceress who has brought him to her magical kingdom! Despite her reluctance, she is intensely drawn to this handsome Highlander and the mystery surrounding him, a mystery that has the power to alter history – and her heart – forever...

 

* * *

 

Praise for THE LAST HIGHLANDER

 

“With an ending guaranteed to bring a tear and a smile to your face,
The Last Highlander
is a quick-paced, thoroughly entertaining read. A winner!”

Writers Club Romance Group on AOL Reviewer Board

 


The Last Highlander
is a tremendous time travel tale that stars two wondrous lead protagonists. The brisk story line will grab onto readers from page one and not let go until the story is complete.”

Harriet Klausner for Affaire de Coeur

 

“At times humorous, at times heartwrenching, this unique time-travel deftly combines historical facts with a shimmering romance that defies time and place…The resolution is simply wonderful, and I’m not going to give it away. You will just have to read it yourself to savor the feast Ms. Cross provides.”

Tanzey Cutter for Old Book Barn Gazette

 

“Sensual beyond belief and romantic enough to quench even the most thirsty of those who read the genre, Ms. Delacroix scores a big ten out of ten with her latest novel. One peek between the covers is all it takes to hook you. An exciting delight and a marvelous read; clearly one of this year’s best.”

Kathee S. Card for Under the Covers Reviews

 

“The best time travel I have ever read!”

Michelle Sawyer for The Literary Times

 

“A touching and heartwarming story. Cross’s characters are easy to love and the story is fast paced. Anyone looking to escape with a Highland rogue will definitely love
The Last Highlander
!”

Kemberlee Lugo for Compuserve Romance Reviews

 

“You’ll love this story of how love can bring two people back together to give each their heart’s desire. Splendid!”

Donita Lawrence of Bell Book & Candle.

 


The Last Highlander
is a delightful tale of a love that crosses centuries.”

Lynne Remick for The Romantic Bower

 

“Long after the last word, you will bask in the afterglow of this fascinating story.”

MT for Rendezvous

 

* * *

 

Dear Reader;

 

The Last Highlander
is a time travel romance and romantic comedy which was originally published under my pseudonym Claire Cross, by Berkley in 1998. I wrote four books for Berkley – two for the Time Passages imprint and two for the Magical Love imprint. The titles were
Once Upon a Kiss, The Last Highlander, The Moonstone
and
Love Potion #9
. When I look at them now, I can see that writing these books gave me the opportunity to play with humor more, and to work on balancing comedy and tragedy. I had a lot of fun writing these books. For years, I heard from readers who wanted copies of these books, so I’m particularly delighted that all four of these books are now available in new digital and trade paperback editions.

 

My original title for
The Last Highlander
was
The Briar and the Rose
. It’s still a title I really like, as well as the title of a song by Tom Waits with quite evocative lyrics. Holly Cole recorded a beautiful version of this song, which appears on her album
Temptation
. To avoid confusion, however, this re-release has the same title as the original printed edition.

 

As with all of my re-releases, I’ve chosen not to revise this book, but to republish it pretty much the way it was published in the first place. Although I’ve learned a few things about storytelling and writing since writing this story, I like the work as it stands. There may be a few typos or exclamation marks missing, but otherwise this edition is very similar to the original mass market edition.

 

In other news, I’ve returned to Scotland in my books and am happily writing medieval romance again.
The Renegade’s Heart
, the first book in a new four-book series called The True Love Brides, will be published in May 2012. This new series picks up the story from my Jewels of Kinfairlie series, following four more of the siblings at Kinfairlie as they meet their romantic matches and find their happily-ever-afters.
The Renegade’s Heart
is Isabella’s story and I’m very excited to have the chance to finally tell her tale. Visit my website for more information about this series and other upcoming releases.

 

I’ve enjoyed revisiting
The Last Highlander
, and hope you enjoy reading Alasdair and Morgan’s story, as well.

 

Until next time, I hope you are well and have plenty of good books to read.

 

All my best,

Claire

www.delacroix.net

 

* * *

 

The Last Highlander

by Claire Delacroix

 

 

This book was originally published under the pseudonym Claire Cross. This new edition has had only minor corrections from the original text.

 

©1998, 2011 Claire Delacroix, Inc.

 

Digital Edition

 

The scanning, uploading, printing and distribution of this work without the express written permission of the author is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized versions of any work, and do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.

 

* * *

 

The Last Highlander

Table of Contents

 

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Epilogue

 

Excerpt from The Moonstone

 

* * *

 

The Last Highlander

by

Claire Delacroix

 

* * *

 

Prologue

 

Edinburgh Castle - March 1314

 

“Have another swallow of the old barley bree, laddie!”

“Aye, let us see what the lad is made of!”

Alasdair choked on the healthy measure of whisky being poured down his throat by his gleeful compatriots. ’Twas not the first he had sipped this night and his difficulty in focusing on the faces of those about him showed the result. At one and thirty, he was no wee laddie, but he did not correct the old codgers.

After all, this was a moment to celebrate! This very night they had routed the English and claimed Edinburgh castle for Robert the Bruce. Now, flushed with victory, they roamed in victorious exploration of their newly gained prize.

’Twas only a matter of time before Robert the Bruce took Stirling Castle, as well. Then, Scotland would be free, for once and for all, of England’s heavy hand.

The men jostled each other good-naturedly, peered down darkened corridors, dashed up and down twisted stairs like children granted free rein. The goodly quantity of whisky they had imbibed did naught to aid their collective sense of direction.

Alasdair had just noticed that this corridor seemed particularly dark and roughly-hewn when a voice rose from the shadows ahead.

“Halt all ye trespassers!”

The men stumbled to a dumbfounded halt. Alasdair found himself unexpectedly at the front of the awkwardly silent pack. The two torches the men held high illuminated the corridor with fitful orange light.

A pinched old harridan of a woman confronted them with a boldness that belied her humble garb. Her white hair hung tangled about her face, and her garb was tattered. Though she looked no better than a beggar, there was an authority about her that made a man shiver in dread.

But Alasdair folded his arms across his chest and braced his feet against the stone. He had faced foes much more deadly than this wraith of a woman.

“This castle is ours!” he declared. “’Tis fairly won and we shall do what we will within it!”

The men muttered agreement, but the woman shook one finger in their direction. “Morgaine le Fee will not take kindly to your intrusion,” she hissed.

The men took a collective step back, but Alasdair could not stop himself from snorting with scorn. “Morgaine le Fee?” he echoed. “You threaten us with a child’s tale?”

The men gathered closer to Alasdair and murmured approvingly.

“Aye, a wee bairn’s tale is Morgaine and Arthur’s fable,” said one with newfound bravado.

“A tale fit to frighten the wee ones, ’tis no more than that,” muttered another in agreement.

A roar rose from somewhere deep beneath their feet at that moment, and made the stone tremble in a most unsettling way. Alasdair was not the only one to glance to his companions in uncertainty. He looked back to the woman to see her eyes alight with a strange glow.

“Oho!” she cried and flung up her hands. “Morgaine’s dragon awakens! Your bold words have disturbed its slumber and will tempt her wrath!”

“And who might you be?” Alasdair demanded. Even the whisky was not enough to give him tolerance of this woman’s nonsense.

His attitude seemed to reawaken a similar attitude in his companions.

“Aye, and how did you find your way here?”

“There was no woman in our ranks when we arrived, so you must be of the English!”

The woman’s glance was chilling. “I have no name that you might care to say,” she intoned ominously. “And to no country of men do I owe allegiance.” She closed her eyes and swayed slightly on her feet. “To Morgaine alone do I pledge allegiance, and it is she alone who summons me.”

Clearly the woman was mad.

All the same, she evidently knew another way into the fortress that they had yet to discover. It was Alasdair’s obligation to ensure that every passageway, however narrow, was secured against any retaliation.

“Enough of your haivering about,” he ordered when his companions fell silent. “Show us how you entered this place.”

The way the woman’s gaze locked with Alasdair’s sent a curious chill tripping down his spine. “So, you would meet my queen?”

“I demand only to know your means of gaining this keep.”

The woman smiled to display crooked and yellowed teeth. “Then you must ask my lady Morgaine,” she said simply and offered her hand to him in invitation.

Alasdair stared at the taut pale flesh of the woman’s hand, not in the least bit certain that he wished to touch her, let alone follow her.

A great rosy orb of a nose appeared close by Alasdair’s shoulder when he hesitated. Alasdair did not have to look to know that that nose belonged to Iain. All the same, he did look and saw that man’s bushy silver brows working energetically up and down, and his eyes glittering.

The man fair lived to make trouble.

“Not afraid of witch’s tales, are ye, laddie?” he demanded.

“I have naught to fear from a wee witch, if indeed she is even one,” Alasdair retorted. Though he led these men well, Iain still liked to rile him because of his age.

“I, for one, would know if we sit atop a dragon or not,” Iain declared. “’Twas you who challenged her and you who should see the matter through.” Before Alasdair could answer, Iain leaned closer to whisper. “Truly, if there be no Morgaine and no dragon, ye have naught to lose. And if there be, you might ask her the fate of our bonny land.”

Alasdair cast a quelling glance at the other man. “Any fool knows that Scotland will soon be free again. Robert the Bruce will see it made so.”

Iain smiled slyly. “Then naught have ye to risk by asking.”

“Dare you, we do,” asserted another.

Alasdair did not have time to consider the matter before Iain whispered a taunt. “Unless the lad is afraid?”

“Are you afeartie, laddie?”

That accusation and the men’s chuckles hit a sore point. Alasdair had never shirked his duty or covered before a challenge, however unpleasant either might be.

And he would not begin now.

“I am afraid of
naught
a woman might cast my way,” Alasdair snapped, certain that this was all a bit of foolery that would cost him little. “I shall indeed meet this Morgaine!”

The men about him crowed with delight, and a flask of whisky was shoved into his hand. Alasdair threw back his head and took a long draught of the fiery liquid under the woman’s steely regard.

He heard his blood pounding in his ears as he reached out and took her hand.

The witch’s flesh was as cold as the grave.

Alasdair had noted no more than that before she began to run like a wild thing. Despite his greater height, he had difficulty in matching her pace. She led him down one convoluted path and another, and the sound of his pursuing companions fell away behind them.

BOOK: Claire Delacroix
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