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Authors: Allie Mackay

Highlander in Her Dreams

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Praise for
Highlander in Her Bed

“Charming and innovative…This novel definitely delivers a blast of Scottish steam.”

—
Publishers Weekly

“Allie Mackay pens stories that sparkle…. A yummy paranormal romp!”

—Angela Knight,
USA Today

“Mackay…has created a delightful paranormal romance. The writing is poetic, compelling, and fun, and the story features an imaginative premise, crisp dialogue, and sexy characters whose narrative voices are both believable and memorable. HOT.”

—
Romantic Times

“Fun! A sexy, humor-filled romance with delightfully amusing characters. Artfully blending past and present,
Highlander in Her Bed
is an entertaining read. Well-written…readers will enjoy this one!”

—Fresh Fiction

“Appealing and amusing…sizzles with passion…For those looking for something out of the ordinary and a good time, don't miss
Highlander in Her Bed
.”

—Romance Reviews Today

“A whimsical read that will have you panting from start to finish! Allie Mackay knows what a Scottish romance novel needs and socks it to you! Red-hot…a sure-bet bestseller!”

—A Romance Review

Highlander in Her Dreams
Allie Mackay

A SIGNET ECLIPSE BOOK

SIGNET ECLIPSE
Published by New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.) Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.) Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110 017, India Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.) Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices:
80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

First published by Signet Eclipse, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Copyright © Sue-Ellen Welfonder, 2007
All rights reserved

ISBN: 978-1-1012-1134-2

SIGNET ECLIPSE and logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

PUBLISHER'S NOTE
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are 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.
   The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party Web sites or their content.

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author's rights is appreciated.

In loving memory of my mother-in-law,
Annegrete “Anna” Welfonder, née Lemke.
A kind and soft-spoken gentlewoman, she was
the heart and soul of her home, beloved by
her family and all who knew her.
She made every meal a feast, every visit a
celebration, and had the most beautiful
smile I've ever seen. While her cheesecakes
could have topped New York's finest, and
her laugh was warm enough to melt the hardest
hearts, I remember her best for her quiet,
unassuming ways. She was the mother-in-law I
would wish for every bride and I feel blessed
that she was mine.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Scotland inspires every word I write, and although I have enjoyed a love affair with Scotland all my life, a few well-loved places there mean more to me than others. The Isle of Skye, now officially known as Eilean a' Cheò, pronounced “ellan-uh-ch-yaw” and meaning Island of Mist, is one such place. I always spend time there on my visits to Scotland, and it was on Skye that I found the inspiration for this book.

Castle Wrath actually exists and is a favorite Skye haunt of mine. Its true name is Duntulm, and the ruins there are very much as described in
Highlander in Her Dreams
. Only the medieval arch is missing, although it, too, can be found on Skye. I simply borrowed the arch, transplanting it to Castle Wrath from another very special Skye castle ruin, Dun Sgathaich.

Like Kira, I have enjoyed picnics atop the grass-grown arch at Dun Sgathaich. I've also spent time at Duntulm, my attention always drawn to a certain deep, dark opening in the earth. One that I strongly suspect leads down into Duntulm's haunted dungeon where Hugh, a onetime Duntulm laird's evil cousin, was imprisoned. His cries and rantings are said to be heard to this day and I can vouch that Duntulm does indeed echo with the
possibilities
of such ghostly residents.

Many legends are attached to both Skye ruins. A particularly colorful one concerns a clan feud between the MacDonalds and the MacLeods, a tale known as “The War of the One-Eyed Woman.” With so much tradition and lore, it would seem far-fetched to expect more, but Scotland never fails to surprise and delight.

I found further inspiration on a lonely stretch of a northern Scotland beach during this book's deadline. While walking this isolated shore near sundown, I spotted a lone man atop the high dunes, looking out toward the North Sea. Tall, striking-looking, and kilted, he appeared to own the strand. The word “guardian” struck me as I observed him. I also thought of Aidan, imagining that he would stand atop Wrath's cliff in very much the way this man claimed his high dune. I took three photographs of “Aidan.” Two show him as I saw him. The third photo shows only a brilliant globe of glowing light. To this day, I wonder who, or what, he was. In any event, seeing him made me feel good about writing this book.

I must also credit three women for their help in making this tale shine. My agent, Roberta Brown, best friend and trusted confidante. She reads every line I write almost as soon as it's typed. Although she'll deny it, I
know
she is an angel. As always, heartfelt appreciation to my amazing editor, Anne Bohner. There aren't words to thank her for her keen insight and ability to zero in on just what needs fixing. Special thanks to Liza Schwartz. She, too, offered invaluable suggestions. Thank you, ladies. I appreciate your input and support so much.

Last but not least, my deep appreciation to my handsome husband, Manfred, for his devotion and enthusiasm, and my precious little dog, Em. The world's sweetest Jack Russell, he rules my life and keeps me happy.

“Time is of little importance in the Highlands, a magical place of picturesque beauty, languorous and seductive, where you can easily believe the distant past was only yesterday, the faraway and long ago not lost at all but waiting to be discovered by those with eyes to see.”

—Wee Hughie MacSporran, historian, storyteller, and keeper of tradition

First Prologue

Castle Wrath, the Isle of Skye, 1315

“May the devil boil and blister him.”

Aidan MacDonald, proud Highland chieftain, paced the battlements of his cliff-top stronghold, fury pounding through him, disbelief and outrage firing his blood.

Fierce blood, easily heated, for he claimed descent from a long line of fearless Norsemen as well as the ancient chiefs of the great Clan Donald, a race of men famed and respected throughout the Hebrides and beyond. A powerful man who believed that Highlanders were the equal of all men and better than most, he cut an imposing figure against the glittering waters stretching out below him.

Topping six foot four and favoring rough Highland garb, he was a giant among men, turning heads and inspiring awe wherever he went. Just now, with his dark, wind-tossed hair gleaming as bright as the great sword strapped at his side and his eyes blazing, the very air seemed to catch flame and part before him. Certainly, on a fair day, few were the men bold enough to challenge him. On a day such as this, only a fool would dare.

Aidan of Wrath had a reputation for turning savage. Especially when those he loved were threatened.

And this morn, he wanted blood.

More specifically, his cousin Conan Dearg's blood.

“A pox on the craven!” He whipped around to glare at his
good
cousin, Tavish. “I'll see the bastard's tender parts fed to the wolves. As for you”—he flashed a glance at the tight-lipped, bushy-bearded courier standing a few feet away, against the parapet wall—“if you won't tell us your name, then I'd hear if you knew what is writ on this parchment?”

Aidan took a step toward him, his fingers clenching around the damning missive.

“Well?”

The courier thrust out his jaw, his eyes cold and shuttered.

“Perhaps a reminder is in order?” Aidan's voice came as icy as the man's expression. “See you, this missive is scrawled with words that would have meant my death. My own, and every man, woman, and child in my clan.”

Had the scroll been delivered to its intended recipient and not, by mistake, to him.

Anger scoring his breath, he let his gaze sweep across the choppy seas to the steep cliffs of nearby Wrath Isle, its glistening black buttresses spray-washed with plume. He fisted his hands, his eyes narrowed on the long, white-crested combers breaking on the rocks.

He would not be broken so easily.

This time Conan Dearg had gone too far
.

He swung back to the courier. “How many of my cousin's men knew of this plot?”

“Does it matter?” The man spoke at last, arrogance rolling off him. “Hearing their names changes naught. All in these isles know you've sworn ne'er to spill a kinsman's blood.”

“He speaks true.” Tavish gripped his arm, speaking low. “Conan Dearg is your cousin, as am I. He—”

“Conan Dearg severed all ties with this house when he sought to arrange our murder.” Aidan scrunched the parchment in his hand, its rolled surface seeming almost alive. Evil. “To think he planned to slit our throats as we sat at his table, guests at a feast held in our honor!”

He stood firm, legs apart and shoulders back, the edge of his plaid snapping in the wind. “I canna let it bide, Tavish. No' this time.”

“We can put him out on Wrath Isle. His man, too, if he refuses to speak.” Tavish glanced at the nearby islet's jagged cliff face. “With the tide rips and reefs surrounding the isle, they'd ne'er escape. It'd be the closest place to hell a soul could find in these parts.”

Aidan shook his head. He knew Wrath Isle, a sea-lashed hellhole as wicked-looking this fair morn as on a cold afternoon of dense gray mist. But the isle's brooding face deceived. With cunning, a man could survive there.

It wasn't the place for Conan Dearg.

He drew a long breath, hot bile rising in his throat.

“He'd not find much foraging on the isle.” Tavish spit over the parapet wall, the gesture more than eloquent. “No women, either.”

Aidan shot him a look, his frown deepening.

Conan the Red's handsome face flashed before him, his dazzling smile as false as the day was long. Not lacking in stature, charm, or arrogance, he was a man to turn female heads and win hearts.

Men, too, easily fell prey to his swagger and jaunty airs.

Foolish men.

As he, too, had been. But no more.

Fury tightening his chest, he turned back to the courier. “I ask you again—how many of my cousin's men knew of this perfidy?”

The man rubbed the back of his neck, his face belligerent.

He said nothing.

Aidan cracked his knuckles. “Perhaps some time in my water pit will loosen your tongue? 'Tis an old, disused well, its shaft open to the tides. Greater men than you have spilled their secrets after a night in its briny depths.”

“I'll see you in hell first.” Steel flashing, the man whipped a dirk from the cowled neck of his cloak and lunged. “Give my regards to the dev—”

“Greet him yourself!” Aidan seized the man's wrist, hurling him over the parapet wall before the dirk even fell from his fingers.

Snatching it up, he tossed it after him, not bothering to look where man or knife landed. In the sea or on the rocks, the result was the same.

Beside him, Tavish coughed. “And Conan Dearg?”

Aidan dusted his hands on his plaid. “Have a party of men set out at once. Send them to his castle. To the ends of the earth if need be. I want him found and brought here alive.”

“Alive?” Tavish's eyes widened.

“So I have said,” Aidan confirmed. “Out of deference to our kinship—and my oath—I'll no' end his life. That he can decide on his own, whene'er he tires of the comforts of my dungeon and a diet of salt beef and soured water.”

“Salt beef and soured water?” Tavish echoed again, comprehension spreading across his features. “No man can live long on suchlike. If he doesn't die of hunger, his thirst will drive him mad.”

“Aye, that will be the way of it.” Aidan nodded, feeling not a shimmer of remorse.

“And”—he took Tavish's arm, leading him from the battlements—“we'll have a feast to mark the craven's capture, the thwarting of his plan. See you that Cook makes preparations.”

Tavish gave a curt nod as they stepped into the shadows of the stair tower. “It will be done.”

“Indeed, it shall,” Aidan agreed.

The moment he slid the bolt on Conan Dearg's cell, he would treat his clan to the most raucous celebration Castle Wrath had ever seen. A lavish fest sparing no delicacies or merrymaking revels. With free-flowing ale and women equally generous with their charms, he'd make it a night to remember.

Always.

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