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Framed for a crime he did not commit, Duncan Campbell, the illegitimate son of a chieftain, returns to the Highlands after 10 years in exile, determined to prove his innocence and claim his love, in this final novel of McCarty's Highland trilogy. Original.
Monica McCarty is the bestselling author of the Highlander trilogy (Highlander Untamed, Highlander Unmasked, and Highlander Unchained). Her interest in the Scottish clan system began in the most unlikely of places: a comparative legal history course at Stanford Law School. After a short but enjoyable stint practicing law, she realized that her legal vocation and her husband’s transitory career as a professional baseball player were not exactly a match made in heaven. So McCarty traded in her legal briefs for Scottish historical romances with sexy alpha heroes. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and their two young children.
“A Black beginning maks aye a black end.” Scottish Proverb
Near Aboyne Castle, Aberdeenshire, Autumn 1608 Jeannie went to the loch on a whim, which was notable in itself. Rarely did she give in to an impulse or flight of fancy. If the apple had been Eve’s downfall then “that little voice” in the back of her head barraging her with “good ideas” had been Jeannie’s. Over the years she’d learned to ignore it, leaving little of the impetuous girl who’d come so perilously close to ruin. Whenever Jeannie felt the urge to do something, she forced herself to stop and think, and invariably ended up reconsidering.
But not this time. The pull of an unusually hot day so close to Samhain, and the knowledge of how refreshing it would feel to swim in the cool waters of the loch before the sun gave way to the gray of winter proved too tempting. As was the thought of escape. Just for a little while. To carve out a moment of peace and solitude where the troubles of the recent months could not find her.
It was only a swim. For an hour, no more. She would bring a guardsman. And her pistol. Something she kept close to her side of late.
She couldn’t stay locked away forever, a prisoner in her own home. The short outing to the loch was just what she needed. She was almost out the door when a voice behind her halted her in her tracks. “Going somewhere, Daughter?”
The sharp voice of her mother-in-law, teeming with censure, set her teeth on edge. If mourning the death of her husband wasn’t enough, Jeannie had been forced to contend with the oppressive presence of his mother, the formidable Marchioness of Huntly, for the past few months as well.
She clamped her lips together, biting back the ready retort that it was none of her blasted business. Taking a deep breath she turned around and even managed a smile—albeit one that stuck to her teeth. “It’s so lovely outside today I thought I’d go for a quick swim in the loch. I’m taking a guardsman with me,” she offered, anticipating the objection.
She didn’t know why she was explaining herself. Nothing Jeannie did ever met with the Marchioness’s approval. Jeannie had never been worthy of her son when he was alive, and now that he was dead could never hope to be. Why Jeannie still bothered trying to please her, she didn’t know. But she did. To do otherwise was to admit one more failure to her husband and that she could not contemplate.
The Marchioness returned a smile that was every bit as forced as her own. Her mother-in-law might have been an attractive woman at one time, but over the years the sourness of her temperament turned outward, taking a toll on her countenance. Sharp lines of disapproval were mapped across her face, and the corners of her mouth turned down in a perpetual frown. Tall and frail—from the constant fasting she did to prove her discipline as well as her devotion—she looked like a strip of salted herring left to dry in the sun.
Jeannie had always hated herring.
“Are you sure that is wise?” It was criticism masked as a question—a particular skill of the Marchioness’s. The woman seemed to take distinct pleasure in questioning—and by implication, criticizing—everything Jeannie did. It was ridiculous. Jeannie was nearly eight and twenty, but standing before the older woman she felt like a recalcitrant bairn. The Marchioness shook her head and tisked in a poor attempt at motherly fondness. “You know what happened last time you went off by yourself.”
Jeannie clenched her fists at her side, resenting the implication that the recent abduction attempt was in any way her fault. Though they’d been beset by cattle reiving since Francis’s death—a widow being perceived as an easy target
Excerpted from Highland Scoundrel by Monica McCarty All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.