Book Two In The Guardians of the Isles
Enemies and lovers are but two edges of the same blade…
Tormod MacLeod vows revenge on the MacDonalds, who brought war to his clan’s doorstep. Gathering a company of men to attack the MacDonald home, Tormod discovers a beautiful red-haired lass being taken to marry Garrick MacDonald, the clan’s heir. Tormod kidnaps the fiery beauty to be his own bride—and to torment her dastardly fiancé.
Fiona Fraser is forced to leave everything familiar when her father pledges her to a man she’s never met. But before she can meet her groom, whose cruel reputation precedes him, she’s taken hostage by a vengeful Highland rogue. Fiona’s given three days to decide her fate—marry the imposing soldier who imprisons her but ignites her passion, or choose a different MacLeod.
When Fiona hears her father is a hostage, and the MacLeods have breached the barrier between the human and fairy worlds, she’s forced to make a terrible choice to save her people and home. Can Fiona and Tormod put aside their family bonds and clan loyalty for the love they feel for each other?
“I must speak with you, Fiona.”
At the sound of Tormod’s voice, her stomach gave a little flip. She opened the door to find him standing there still armed with a sword and scabbard on his left hip and a dagger at his right. A deep frown cut across his face.
“Is all well after the attack? Is someone hurt?” A hint of panic sounded in her voice. Why else would he look so solemn?
“None of our men were injured. I cannot say the same for the MacDonalds.”
“Then what is it? Why do you look so upset?”
He shifted his gaze from her face. “We were lucky tonight—seeing the MacDonald men approaching when we did. If we hadn’t been out on the jetty, things might have ended differently with me being as distracted as I am.” He raked a hand through his hair and returned his gaze to hers. “I can no longer afford such interference with my focus nor can I wait—waiting only ensures the MacDonalds will attack us again.”
“Wait for what?”
“I know I said I would give you time to adjust to the idea of our marriage. However, this evening’s events have proven otherwise. The MacDonalds won’t stop until they have possession of the heir’s bride. Therefore, I must possess you myself. We marry tonight. Gather whatever flowers you might wish for your hair or anything else, but we must go now. The minister awaits us in the chapel.”
“Nay.” The flowers were not a gift but a bribe. “You promised me three days.”
“’Tis a promise I must break for the safety of my clan.”
Fiona knew she couldn’t continue to refuse him. She was surrounded by those who would help him see this marriage through. “Is there anything about you I can trust?”
He held out his hand. “I’m sorry, Fiona, but this is war and this is how the game is played.”
She looked at him with slightly narrowed eyes. “This is a game to you?”
“All of life is a battle. I have been trained all my life to fight for whatever will keep myself and my people safe and prosperous.”
She gave him an angry look. Was he fighting for her, or was she merely a prize to be won then held over the MacDonalds’ heads?
His brow arched. “You are having thoughts about my motives again, aren’t you?” Tormod stretched his hand out to her, waiting. “For better or worse, we must wed to protect you, your father, even your home.”
Ulster Castle would become her husband’s the moment she wed. Or would it? If all of life was a game to him, then perhaps it was time for her to make a move. She studied Tormod’s strong, familiar features, drawn to him and the life he offered her. If she were honest with herself, she wanted him and the women she’d met earlier to become her friends, and as a practical Scottish woman, she wanted the security and comfort Tormod could provide. Was that enough for a marriage? Her own parents’ marriage arrangement had not been for love. And yet they had grown to care for each other.
Her mind said she should accept what he offered, though a part of her resisted. She’d lived in anonymous poverty in a place she’d loved for years. Despite their lack of funds, and at times the staples they needed to survive, that life had become comfortable to her. She knew what to expect and was in control of her life and her choices. That was until her own father had betrayed her by betrothing her to Alex MacDonald. Marriage to someone was inevitable no matter what choice she made. But she had wanted to be part of the decision.
Fiona pressed her lips together in thought. Was there a way to have both her home and the security marriage to Tormod would bring? “I will walk down to the chapel right now and marry you if you give me something in return.”
His gaze narrowed. “Anything, that is within my power to give.”
“I want Ulster Castle, its lands, and the dower house turned over to me. Do whatever must be done legally for it to always remain with a Fraser female in future generations.”
He frowned. “The castle is a ruin.”
“The dower house is not.”
A hint of a smile came to his lips. “Those are your terms?”
Her home was the only thing in this life that meant anything to her. If she could legally claim the castle and the surrounding lands as her own, she would have everything she’d ever wanted. She raised her chin. “Those are my terms.”
“Then we’ve reached an agreement. We have a solicitor staying with us at present. Tomorrow morning I’ll have him start the documents.”
Fiona frowned. “How do I know I can trust you this time? You haven’t proven yourself to be entirely honourable so far.”
He smiled. “Let us seal our bargain with another kiss.”
“Nay. No more kisses. Not now, and certainly not after we are wed. In fact,” she said as an idea came to her. “There will be no more kissing and no marital rights until I have documents in my hand that guarantees Ulster Castle will be mine upon my father’s death.”
Admiration shone in his eyes. “Well played, my sweet.” He held out his hand once more. “Shall we make our way to the chapel now?” With no other reason to stop the marriage from taking place, Fiona accepted his hand. Never in her wildest dreams did she think Ulster Castle would be hers. It was truly a dream come true, except for an unpredictable and somewhat untrustworthy laird who came with that bargain.