Veronica Scott sez: Our guest author today is Barbara Longley, who I’ve known since our days at Carina Press. She’s sharing the gorgeous cover, blurb and excerpt from her latest novel TRUE TO THE HIGHLANDER. The story:
Native American violinist Alethia Goodsky had plans for her future, and they didn’t include time travel, hocus-pocus good luck charms, or heroic deeds. And she certainly never intended to lose her heart to a fifteenth century Scottish warrior or an orphaned boy unable to hear her music.
A life hangs in the balance, and only Alethia can tip the scale. This is all the supernatural being posing as a Renaissance festival fortuneteller reveals before transporting Alethia back in time to the Highlands of Scotland. Alethia must unravel the mystery before it’s too late if she’s to return home. She throws herself into the task only to have her efforts thwarted by her overbearing, self-appointed protector—Malcolm of clan MacKintosh.
It is 1423AD, the year before Scotland’s King James is ransomed from the British to take his rightful place upon the throne. The Highland clans are at each other’s throats, and all of Scotland suffers under the ruthless reign of their regent, the duke of Albany. Treachery and intrigue rule the day, and all Malcolm wants is peace. Finding a gently bred woman alone on MacKintosh land can only mean more trouble. When the exotic foreigner reveals her strange tale, Malcolm believes she was placed in his path to warn him of coming danger. He cannot allow the willful beauty to put herself in harm’s way for his sake. Malcolm is determined to keep Alethia safe and by his side—if only she’d let him.
Surrounded by enemies, with the mystery still unsolved, passion grows between Malcolm and Alethia until her heart is torn. Should she follow the dictates of reason and find a way home, leaving Malcolm and the young boy she’s adopted behind, or should she listen to her heart and remain true to the Highlander?
Northern Scotland, 1423 AD
Malcolm leaned forward in his saddle and glared down at the well- dressed stranger asleep on the ground. On MacKintosh ground. With an important missive to deliver into his father’s hands, he had no time for problems not his own. “What devilry is this?”
“She looks far more angel than devil,” his cousin Robley remarked. “Who could she be?”
“She’s no’ Sassenach. ’Tis certain. Her complexion is far too dark. Mayhap she’s Italian or Basque.” Malcolm glanced at the tree line.
“Aye, no’ English, for certes. Mayhap she’s fae. She’s lovely to look upon,” Angus murmured. “Enchanting.” He cleared his throat, and his face turned as red as his hair.
“Nay. The fae are always fair skinned,” Galen argued. “’Tis why they’re called fairies.”
His men grunted as they contemplated the possibilities, and Malcolm kept a wary eye on the edge of the forest. The lass wore clothing and jewels proclaiming her nobility. Where were her servants and escort? Something was amiss, and it turned his foul mood to pitch. No doubt this sleeping apparition was some new mischief conspired by fate to beleaguer him further. Between the Comyn clan’s never-ending treachery, the greedy, ruthless rule of their regent, and his parents’ expectation that he make an advantageous marriage, ’twas a wonder he slept at night.
Was peace too much to yearn for? He scowled at the sleeping woman—another complication he didn’t need or want. His gelding stretched its neck to nose the curiosity on the ground, and a delicate hand rose to bat the disturbance away. The lass sat up and looked around in sleepy-eyed confusion, leaping to her feet when she saw him and his men in a circle around her. “Who are you, lady? From whence do you come?” Malcolm demanded.
At his words, she turned to stare owl-eyed up at him. “Holy. Crap.”
The corner of his mouth twitched up. “Where are your guards- men and servants?”
Her spine straightened, and her chin lifted. “They’re . . . in the woods.”
Malcolm studied her. She had eyes the color of the sea on a stormy day. Hair the lustrous shade of fine sable hung in a braid down past her waist. He lost himself in fantasies of that glorious hair free and cascading down around her shoulders. She was a vision. Malcolm gave himself a firm shake. Her looks mattered not in the least. “Aye? What might they be doing in my woods?”
Her eyes flew to the forest. “Um . . . tending to . . . things.”
His men chuckled. She was a terrible liar, clearly alone and aban- doned by the side of the road. This could only mean one thing. Trouble, and more trouble he did not need. “What sort of things?”
“Very important things,” Alethia muttered. Definitely the alpha male in this barbarian six-pack, the brute confronting her radiated arrogance and authority. Sun-kissed golden hair fell to his shoulders, and a few days’ growth of thick russet beard stubbled his strong jaw. He wore nothing but a swath of wool in muted plaid draped around his body and soft leather boots that reached mid-calf.
Where the hell was she, some kind of Braveheart parallel universe? What did that old witch do to me? Giselle’s words echoed inside her head. “Time is relative, Alethia, and completely malleable for one such as myself.” Oh my God. Did she send me back in time? Was such a thing even possible? Her head rang from the pounding of her heart, and her mouth went dry. None of this was possible, and any minute she’d wake up and find everything back to normal.
The leader scowled down at her, his wide, generous mouth drawn into a straight line that screamed annoyed. Well, she wasn’t all that happy herself.
Sparing a glance for the rest of his crew, she couldn’t help notic- ing the large swords slung over their backs and all the daggers tucked into belts and boots. She sucked in her breath and stood a little straighter. The Anishinaabe had always been a peace-loving people but also fearless when the need arose. Intending to be brave now, or at least appear to be, she clasped her trembling hands together in front of her. “Now, if you don’t mind, please move aside,” she said, clearing her throat, hoping that would get rid of the telltale quiver, “and I’ll be on my way.”
One of the men nudged his horse forward. As dark as the leader was fair, this one gave off a bad vibe. As frightened as she was, she could still sense his malicious nature.
“Let me take her off your hands, Malcolm. She’s a foreigner and without protection. That makes her fair game.”
“No!” A surge of adrenaline hit her bloodstream, and she searched for a gap in the wall of horses and men. How far would her trembling legs carry her? “I’m responsible for myself and not game of any kind.”
“She is on my land, Hugh,” the one called Malcolm replied. “That makes her my responsibility.”
“My people are waiting for me to join them,” she bluffed, “and they’re heavily armed.”
Malcolm snorted and scooped her up off the ground like a sack of grain. Placing her in front of him, he nudged his horse down the road. His chortling men fell in line behind him.
“Put me down! I have no intention of going anywhere with you.” She tried to pry herself out of his hold.
“And I have no intention of leaving you alone in the wilderness.” Malcolm’s arm tightened around her waist.
She blinked back the tears of fear and frustration and struggled to get out of his hold. It was useless. He probably weighed more than twice what she did, and every inch of him was granite. She glanced back at her violin and duffel bag. The only links to her life lay by the side of the road, growing smaller by the second. “My things. At least let me get my—”
“Nay, we travel in haste. I’ll no’ burden our mounts with any more useless baggage.”
Damn the tear trickling down her cheek. “I didn’t ask you to take me anywhere. I didn’t ask for any of this.”Don’t panic. Think. Swiping her eyes, she took several deep breaths to calm herself. Her mind raced for a way out of this mess. Thank heavens her friends had insisted she take self-defense classes after one of their classmates had been mugged.
She forced herself to relax into his hold. His grip eased. Reaching back, Alethia placed her hands on either side of his neck below his ears. Using the pads of her thumbs, she found his pulse points and applied pressure. Within seconds his body slackened. Shoving his arm from around her waist, she slid off the horse and hit the ground running. Her captor fell with a loud thump behind her.
Alethia snatched up her belongings and ran for the forest bordering the rutted dirt road they traveled. Thundering hooves ate up the ground behind her. She dashed into some brush and glanced over her shoulder. Damn. The dark one was after her, the one who saw her as game. Frantic, she searched for a place to hide.
The Buy Link: http://goo.gl/p7ej28
You can find out more about Barbara and her other books, as well as read the entire first chapter of TRUE TO THE HIGHLANDER on her webpage: www.barbaralongley.com