Authors: Teresa J Reasor
What people are saying about Teresa Reasor…
“Love is no match for warring Scottish clans until gutsy Mary Mac
Lachlan makes her stand. Teresa Reasor's debut will keep you reading!” ~
Award-winning author Joanne Rock
He kept his tone soft.
“Why did you offer me the bairn, Mary? I know you do not wish to be
parted from him.”
“‘Tis better for him to be accepted into your clan than mine. He’ll have
the safety of a father to care for him, rather than a grandsire who will use
him or abuse him.”
“You know Collin well,” he said.
“Aye.” The huskiness of her tone tinted the word with pain.
Though she kept her head bent, he glimpsed her tear stained cheeks
and red nose. He eased closer, driven by a need to comfort her.
She fell silent for a moment then raised her gaze to the stone structure
behind him. “He will be a Campbell and he will never have to know what ‘tis
to have a foot in two clans, and never truly belong to either. He’ll know what
‘tis to owe his loyalty to only one and be accepted without question.”
Something in her expression brought a tightness to Alexander’s chest.
“I do not wish to raise my son or daughter alone. A bairn needs its mother.”
She remained silent.
Grasping her chin with his fingertips, he turned up her face. “Will you
allow your hate for me to deprive our child of your care and affection, as you
were deprived of your mother’s?”
Her blue gaze traced his features with a pain that weighted the pit of
his stomach with stones of guilt. “I did not wish to hate you, Alexander. I
wanted very much to care for you because you were to be my husband.”
The knowledge that she had meant to accept him, struck him with the
force of a battle-ax and he drew a deep breath.
She raised her chin. “‘Twas a lifetime ago when I was innocent
enough to trust you. ‘Twill not happen again.”
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are
either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and
any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business
establishments, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
COPYRIGHT Ó 2007 by Teresa J. Reasor
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in
any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author or The
Wild Rose Press except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical
articles or reviews.
Contact Information: [email protected]
Cover Art by
The Wild Rose Press
PO Box 706
Adams Basin, NY 14410-0706
Visit us at www.thewildrosepress.com
First English Tea Rose Edition, March 2007
Print ISBN 1-60154-050-7
Published in the United States of America
To my mother, who has unconditional faith in me in all my endeavors.
At the unexpected sound of booted steps in the narrow passageway,
Mary concealed herself in the rock wall’s craggy surface. The smell of peat
smoke hung acrid and strong in the confined space. With every breath, she
tasted it. Water trickled like perpetual rain from deep within the hillside. She
hoped its movement would cover the uneven sound of her breathing.
“Mary?” The sound of her name echoed through the cave.
She recognized her father’s voice and the thick white hair that brushed
his shoulders. Another man accompanied him, his face indiscernible in the
Bracing the weight of the crossbow against her hip, her fingers found
the trigger. She stepped from the shadows, careful to keep the fire between
herself and the men. “‘Tis here I am, Father.”
Both turned at the sound of her voice. Recognition sent a tremor of
shock racing through her, and she stumbled back, swallowing a gasp. With
a practiced jerk, she leveled the crossbow at the larger of the two.
Her father threw out a hand stilling the man’s stride toward her.
“Loose the arrow, Mary, and you will have murdered an unarmed man,”
What purpose could he have in bringing Alexander to this place?
Almost as though he heard the thought, Collin said, “He has come to
set things aright, lass.”
She shook her head, amazed how obtuse her father could be. “Surely
you know that can not be done.”
“Aye, it can if you will allow it, Mary,” Alexander said, his deep voice
echoing through the chamber.
Those few words flayed her soul with promises that could not be. Her
throat grew tight and thick with instant tears. She blinked quickly to clear her
“You can not stay here alone much longer, lass,” Collin said.
“Not now you have seen fit to bring the likes of him about.” Her brittle
tone was rewarded by the fierce scowls of both men.
“I have signed the betrothal contract with Alexander. I have given my
oath. You will marry him.”
Overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness, she fell silent. If he were
any kind of father, he would not ask this of her. A panicked feeling of being
cornered raced through her. Her eyes searched the passageway behind
them. The bow dipped as she stepped closer to the dark opening at her left.
When no threat appeared, her gaze settled on the man responsible for
her plight. Heavy brows, the same dark chestnut as his hair, came together
in a fierce frown over a straight well-shaped nose. Thick auburn lashes
surrounded his pale amber eyes, their tawny wolfish hue startling and
unusual. The generous curve of his bottom lip promised both humor and
passion. A heavy beard colored his lean jaw a rusty hue, underlining the
strong masculinity of his features.
A fresh wave of pain assaulted her just from looking at him. “You can
not expect me to abide by the contract now.”
“You are with child, Mary. He wants to be a father to the bairn.”
A short bark of bitter laughter broke from her. “Aye, he would.” She
drew a steadying breath and straightened her shoulders though she
trembled with a combination of reaction and cold. “I will not be his wife.”
“I signed the contract. You must honor it.”
“Nay! The contract be damned!”
Collin’s jaw tensed, his brows puckered in a severe frown. “The
marriage has been arranged to prevent a feud, Daughter.”
“A feud of your making not mine. ‘Twas you who started it, should be
you who ends it.”
“You will be shamed by bearing a child out of wedlock, Mary.”
Alexander’s deep, quiet voice scraped at the wound already raw.
“Do not talk to me of shame! ‘Twas you and your deceit that has
caused this!” She hated the defensive guilt that tormented her. How had
she ever thought he cared for her? How could she have trusted him with all
she had to offer? She shuddered, causing the bolt in the crossbow to jiggle.
“The child is mine, Mary. You can not deny me my rights as its sire.”
His jaw set, his dark auburn brows meshed into a fierce frown. The
masculine planes of his face held an undeniable strength and
determination, on other occasions, she had found almost beautiful. Now
the sight of him inspired such feelings of anger and pain she found it hard
to stand her ground.
Emotion held her silent a moment, her heart crying out against the
events that had brought her to this impasse. Her chin rose in open defiance
of him and his claims. “You are not my husband. You have no rights.”
Alexander’s lips thinned, drawing her attention to them for a moment.
Gentle memories brought fresh pain in their wake. He had tasted of
cinnamon and smelled of leather and wood smoke and man. She quashed
the thoughts before they could go any further.
Her attention shifted to her father, her distrust a living breathing thing
within her. A Campbell bastard beneath her father’s roof would be used
against her, or for his own purposes. She had known that from the first. She
would not see her child abused by him.
No matter how he had failed her, Alexander would not fail to protect the
child. Tears clogged her throat and for a moment pain threatened to
overwhelm her resolve. Her voice sounded hoarse. “You may have the bairn
in recompense for the contract.”
“You can not be serious, Mary!” Collin stared at her, his features blank
“Aye, I am serious, Father.” Her face felt stiff with the effort to retain her
composure when it felt as though her heart were being ripped from her
chest. “If a father he wants to be, then I will let him be one.” She stepped
closer to the fire. “Let us see if he is as good a one as you have been these
many years past.” The enmity she felt for both of them lay like a stone in the
pit of her stomach. “You have both received what you came for, now leave.”
“We can not do that, Mary,” Alexander said. “You can not remain here.
‘Tis not good for you, or the bairn.”
She had given him her love, had shared her body without reservation,
and he had proven how little she had meant to him. How could he play the
concerned lover now? “I have survived worse things.”
Alexander’s lean jaw clenched. The scar along his cheekbone grew
white in the firelight.
“Do not pretend to be concerned for my well-being or the bairn’s. I
have learned well the ways of men since that night. Your only interest is
yourself, and what you can gain from this. Just as it is his.” She nodded
toward her father.
Collin’s jaw moved as though he gritted his teeth his features set in a
grimace of fierce displeasure. “You will come home with me.”
She ignored his attempt to intimidate her into submission. Even in this
he had not acted as a father, but the Chief of his clan. And once again, she
felt used and betrayed, just as she had that night. “I will not go with a man
so willing to hand me over to the likes of him.” She used the bow to point in
Alexander’s direction. “I shall go to the abbey and reside with the nuns until
the bairn is born. Afterwards, I will send the babe to Castle Lorne.”
She fastened her attention on her father. “You will leave me out of any
future plans you may have, Collin. From this day forward, I will owe you as
much loyalty as you have offered me in this matter, or any other.” She
swallowed against the tears threatening to overwhelm her. “Go now. I have
had enough of the both of you to last a lifetime.” Backing away, she slipped
into the chamber at the back of the cave. From the safety of the shadows,
she turned to watch the two men.
“She will kill you if she thinks you intend to touch her,” he warned. “She will
do as she has said. You shall have the child.”
Alexander had expected her resistance, but he had not expected Collin
to yield so easily to her wishes. He rubbed absently at the stubble along his
jaw, wondering how the MacLachlan chief hoped to use this to his