Seduced By A Highlander
Book#2 in the Children of the Mist series
His kiss is her undoing...
SINS THAT CAN'T BE FORGIVEN
Tristan MacGregor is famed throughout the Highlands as a silver-tongued seducer and an unrepentant rogue. Bold and charming, he's dallied with many women, yet none as beguiling and mysterious as the lass he steals a kiss from at the king's court. Little does he know this beauty is one of his clan's greatest enemies. br>
PASSION THAT CAN'T BE DENIED
Isobel Fergusson has despised the bloodthirsty MacGregors ever since they murdered her father. When she learns the handsome stranger who melted her resistance is a MacGregor, she vows to forget him. But Tristan means to possess her at any cost and Isobel's body turns traitor at his touch. Can a man she's sworn to hate be the only one she can ever love?
4 1/2 Stars and a Top Pick from RT Magazine!
"Quinn again displays her talents in an engrossing story brimming with atmosphere and passionate characters whose emotions run as deep as their senses of honor. These hallmarks combine to reach out and grab readers, who will dub this book a true keeper."
From Romance Reviews Today
"SEDUCED BY A HIGHLANDER tells a powerful and dramatic story of the evolution and redemption of character, of new understanding and forgiveness. Though centered on Isobel and Tristan, the two families are also well presented as the dynamics of the situation affect them all. The suspenseful plot includes a deeply hidden secret, a seemingly doomed romance, excitement and-believe it-a leavening by humor."
5 Cups from Coffee Time Romance
"Paula Quinn went above and beyond my expectations. Not only did she write about a devilishly handsome Tristan, who has the heart of a lion as he pursues the lovely Isobel, she also managed to wrap the tale around another of my favorites, the tale of Tristan and Iseult. This story is well written, with characters to make a reader laugh, cry and shake their fists. I found myself lost within the covers of this book for hours at a time."
From Yankee Romance Reviewers
" This story is strong but tender, emotional in many different ways and a comic in so many others. You won't know whether you should feel pity or hilarious gratitude at some of the antics that arise from a touching clash of personalities. The passion will leave your toes tingling and rapturous in appetite. From beginning to end it is non stop and leaves you panting and drooling for more upon it's ending."
"Arrogant imbecile!" Isobel Fergusson pushed through the heavy wooden doors and entered Whitehall Palace 's enormous privy garden with a dozen venomous oaths spilling from her lips. Finally, eleven years since her mother had died and ten since her father had left his seven children orphans, the full weight of taking care of her family had taken its toll on her. Her brother Alex was going to get them all killed. Oh, why had they come to England ? And damnation, if they had to attend the Duke of York's coronation, it should be Patrick, her eldest brother and heir to their late father, the Fergusson Chieftain, here with her and not Alex. They were only supposed to stay for a sennight or two, but when the future king invited all his guests to remain at Whitehall for another month, Alex had accepted. She kicked a small rock out of her path and swore again. How could she have raised such an imprudent, thoughtless bratling?
It wasn't that Isobel was impervious to the lure of Whitehall's luxurious feathered mattresses, its grand galleries with vaulted ceilings where even the softest whispers uttered by elegant lords and ladies, powdered to look like living, breathing statues, echoed. It was all quite.unusual and beguiling in a queer sort of way. But Alex had accepted knowing the MacGregors of Skye were here! Oh, how could he? Had he forgotten the hatred between their clans? Or the trail of dead Fergusson Chieftains left by a Devil bent on revenge a decade ago?
"Dear God," she beseeched, stopping at a large, stone sundial in the center of the garden, "give me strength and my witless brother wisdom before he starts another war!"
A movement to her right drew her attention to a row of tall bronze statues gleaming in the sun. When one of them moved, Isobel startled back and bumped her hip against the sundial.
He wasn't a statue at all, but a man-though his face could have been crafted by the same artist who had created the masterpieces lining the garden. Isobel took in every inch of him as he stepped out from behind the golden likeness of an archangel, wings paused forever in flight as it landed on its pedestal. He wore the garb of an Englishman, but without all the finery.or the wig. His hair hung loose to his shoulders in shades of rich chestnut and sun-streaked gold, almost the same blend coloring his eyes. He wore a cream-colored linen shirt belted to flare over his lean hips. The ruffled collar hung open at his throat, giving him more a roguish appearance than a noble one. He was tall and lithe, with long, muscular legs encased in snug-fitting breeches and dull black boots. His steps were light but deliberate as he moved toward her.
"I didna' mean to startle ye." The musical pitch of his voice branded him Scottish, mayhap even a Highlander.
"I thought ye were my sister. I am infinitely grateful that I was mistaken." His smile was utterly guileless, save for the flash of a playful dimple in one cheek, and as warm and inviting as the heavenly body perched behind him.But the way his eyes changed from brown to simmering gold, like a hawk's that spotted its prey, hinted of something far more primitive beyond his rakish charm.
For a moment that went completely out of her control, Isobel could not move as she took in the full measure of his striking countenance. Save for the slight bend at the bridge, his nose was classically cut, residing above a mouth fashioned to strip a woman of all her defenses, including reasonable thought.
She took a step around the sundial, instinctively keeping her distance from a force that befuddled her logic and tightened her breath.
Damnation, she had to say something before he thought her exactly what she was-exactly what any other woman with two working eyes in her head was when she saw him-a doddering fool. With a tilt of her chin that suggested she was a fool for no man, she flicked her deep auburn braid over her shoulder and said, "Yer sister thinks ye are an arrogant imbecile, also?"
"Aye," he answered with a grin that was all innocence and innately seductive at the same time. "That, and much worse."
As if to prove his statement true, a movement beyond the statue caught Isobel's attention. She looked in time to spy a glimpse of sapphire blue skirts and flaxen curls rushing back toward the palace.
"My guess," Isobel muttered, peering around his back to watch the lady's departure, "is that yer sister is likely correct."
"She most certainly is," he agreed, not bothering to look behind him. The cadence of his voice deepened with his smile. "But I'm no' completely irredeemable."
Rather than argue the point with such an obvious rogue when she should be thinking of a way to convince Alex to leave with her and Cameron, Isobel quirked a dubious brow at him and turned to leave. "As difficult as that is to believe, sir, I will have to take ye at yer word. Good day."
Her breath quickened an instant later when the stranger appeared at her side and leaned down toward her ear.
"Or ye could spend the afternoon with me and find oot fer yerself."
His nearness permeated the air around her with heat and the familiar scent of heather. He was definitely a Highlander, mayhap a Gordon or of the Donaldson clan, though he wore no plaid. She thought to ask his name, but decided against it. He might consider her interest in him an acceptance of his offer. She could not afford to allow her senses to be addled by a whole afternoon spent with him when her family's safety was at stake.
"Thank ye, m'lord, but I have matters to think on." She quickened her pace, but he would not be so easily dismissed.
"Do these matters have to do with the witless brother ye were prayin' fer?"
"Why?" Isobel asked, trying to sound unaffected by his boldness in following her. "Are ye worried he might have usurped yer title?"
She was completely unprepared for his laughter, or for the way it rang through her veins, coarse and carefree. A dozen other men would have scowled at her accusation, though she meant it only to show her lack of interest, but this charismatic stranger found it humorous. She liked that he had enough confidence to laugh, even at himself.
"Why must brothers be so difficult?" she conceded with a smile and began to walk with him. "Truly, if there is a title of witless brother, he has already taken it." She felt a tad bit guilty about speaking so about Alex with a man she didn't even know, but perhaps not knowing him made it easier. She needed someone to talk to about her dilemma. No, what she truly needed was a moment or two just spent not thinking about it. This man made her smile, and she hadn't done that all morning.
Beside her, he bent to pick up a rock and threw it into a small pond a few feet ahead of them. "And what has yer brother done that is so terrible?"
"He refuses to leave Whitehall and go home."
Isobel cut him a sidelong glance and found him smiling back at her. "Ye do not understand."
He raised a dark brow and waited for her to continue.
"All right then, if ye must know, our most hated enemies have recently arrived to pay homage to the king. My brother is cocky and prideful. If we remain here, he is likely to insult them and bring the barbarians down on our heads once again."
He nodded, leading her around the pool. "Now I see yer point more clearly. But why is it yer problem to ponder?" he asked, turning to her. "Where is yer faither that his son should make decisions that put his kin in jeopardy?"
"He is dead," Isobel told him, her eyes going hard on the palace doors and the beasts that strolled somewhere within. "Killed by these same enemies. I swear if I could get just one of them alone, I would slice open his throat and sing him back to the devil who spawned him."
She was a bit surprised to find both sympathy and amusement softening the man's features when she looked at him.
"It sounds to me like yer enemies have more to fear from ye, than ye do from them, lass."
Isobel shook her head. "I am not foolhardy like my brother. Our enemies have left us alone, and I wish it to stay that way."
"Wise," he said, and Isobel was glad she had told him. He agreed that she was correct in wanting to leave. "I could speak to him fer ye if ye'd like, mayhap talk some sense into him."
Isobel couldn't help but shine her smile on him full force. He seemed to be listening in on her thoughts. She needed help and she was willing at this point to take it from anyone, even a stranger. "That is most kind of ye, but I could not impose-"
"Ye are no' imposin'. I wish to help ye if I can."
She stopped walking and looked up at him when he paused at her side. "Ye do not even know me. Why do ye want to help me?"
His dimple deepened, along with the honeyed hue of his eyes. "'Tis what I do best."
After he stole kisses and whatever else from ladies behind statues in gardens? He was crafty, this one, but immensely likable. "How verra gallant of ye."
He bowed slightly and crooked his mouth at her, setting her heart racing. "Ye see? There is hope fer me yet."
"Not according to yer sister, and she knows ye best."
"What would ye like to know?" He offered her his arm and this time she accepted.
"I only have a moment or two."
"Och, then ye'd best make yer question a good one."
She tapped her finger to her chin while they walked the vast lawns. "Verra well, I have it. Why does yer sister think ye are an arrogant imbecile.among other things?"
"Verra good," he commended her with a somewhat worrisome crease dipping his dark brow. "Ye're clever and bonnie."
She narrowed her eyes on him and cut him a knowing smile. "So are ye." She almost gasped at her own boldness, but his disarming candor made her feel at ease.
"How am I supposed to answer yer query truthfully after ye called me bonnie? Pick a different question."
She laughed, and it felt wonderful. "No. The same question. Answer please."
"Hell, let's see then. Well, she thinks I am always reckless."
"Nae, I am simply less concerned with every consequence."
"Then ye are reckless indeed."
He nodded and held up a finger. "But no' always. I said less concerned, no' unconcerned."
She gave him the point, enjoying his shrewd banter. "Are ye less concerned or unconcerned with the consequences for a lady's reputation if she flees back inside a palace with her curls drooping against her flushed cheeks?"
He turned around slightly, as if just now remembering the one he had hidden behind the sculpture. "If she is eager to put her reputation in my hands after one day of knowin' her," he said, settling his gaze on Isobel again, "then I would be more inclined to be less concerned."
"I see. Well, ye are honest, at least."
"Go on," he teased. "I would much rather listen to ye list my virtues than tell ye my faults."
"Are there many more then?"
"That depends on who ye ask."
"I think in this instance I would prefer to make my own judgments."
"That is refreshin' to hear." He looked surprised and so sincerely relieved that for a moment Isobel wondered just how troublesome this man truly was.
She should go back inside and see to her brothers, but damnation she was enjoying herself. What harm could come from just walking together? It wasn't as if she was going to let him kiss her behind the next structure they came to, although she could certainly understand why some stately, normally stuffy ladies at court would cast away their reputations for a few stolen moments with him. The more she looked at him, the more irresistible he became. She wasn't certain if it was his quicksilver smile or the way his eyes took in every nuance of her face when he gave her his full attention that beguiled her good sense. At the moment, she didn't care. She liked the way he looked at her, as if she was more than a mother, a nursemaid, and a cook to her brood of brothers. Not that she minded being those things. She loved her family more than anyone else in the world, but it was nice to forget her duties for a little while, especially knowing now that he would help her with Alex.
"What aboot ye?" he asked as they approached the west gate. "What would yer brother say aboot ye?"
"That depends on which brother ye ask." She smiled, thinking of the ones she'd left at home with Patrick. "I have six." She rolled her eyes heavenward and nodded in agreement when he gave her horrified look. "The three youngest would likely complain that I give them too many chores to do, but it would be untrue, for they play much more than they tend to them. Cam might tell ye I am too soft, while Patrick thinks me as stubborn as our bull."
"Yer bull?" he asked, slanting her a wry grin. "Is there one in particular that ye remind him of?"
"We have only the one, but he is all we need, since we have only two cows." She was sorry she had told him the moment after she spoke and his smile faded just a little. She could tell by his clothes that he was not poor. Would he look down his nose at her because she was?
"It must be difficult fer yer mother raisin' all those sons with so few cattle to bring in any coin," he said, proving that he was no more concerned with their stations than he was about kissing ladies in public.
"My mother died giving birth to Tamas."
He stopped her as they came to a long stone bench at the gate wall. "Ye raised them all on yer own then?"
"Patrick and I did. We still do. Tamas is only ten and one. There have been difficult times, but wonderful ones, as well." She smiled at him when he offered her a seat before he gained his.
"Have ye gone hungry?" The concern in his expression was quite endearing now that she knew "what he did best."
"Put away yer shining armor, knight. There is no need to offer up yer aid. Patrick has always made certain there is enough food on the table."
His charismatic grin returned and flashed across her gaze, convincing her once and for all that no woman in all of Scotland or England could likely resist him. "Armor is too cumbersome a suit to don. Besides, mine would be rather rusty."
"It can be polished."
She wasn't prepared for the way his eyes went soft on her or for the sudden silence that followed. "That is true," he said after a long moment that made her breath stall in her chest. "'Tis odd ye would speak of such things to me."
"No one else has, I presume."
They shared the same arcane smile between them before he answered. "My uncle used to speak of knights and their chivalrous deeds all the time. I have no' been reminded of his tales in a verra long time."
"Ye know the story of Arthur Pendragon then?"
"Of course. Would ye like me to tell it to ye?"
She really shouldn't. Alex and Cameron were probably already looking for her. "I would."
The few moments Isobel had intended to spend with her handsome stranger turned into hours, but it was only when the sun began its descent that she realized how long she had been gone. "I must go. My brothers are probably sick with worry."
"Meet with me tomorrow." He grasped her hand as she rose from the bench and turned to go. "In the garden by the stone dial."
She shook her head, acutely aware of his fingers leaving hers as she backed away. "I shouldn't. I do not even know what ye are called."
"Tristan," he told her.
She smiled playfully, feeling more lighthearted than she had in months.years. "I do not know the tale of that knight," she called out as the distance between them grew. "But ye may call me Guenevere.
"Nae," he laughed. "Iseult was Tristan's lady."
Turning back toward the palace, her smiled widened. "Even better."
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