Highland Conquest by @HMcCollumAuthor is a Wintertime Reading pick #scottish #historicalromance
Title: Highland Conquest
Author: Heather McCollum
Genre: Scottish Historical Romance
Cain Sinclair has a plan. In order to finally bring peace to his clan, he will wed the young female chief of their greatest enemy. Only problem: capturing her and forcing her back to Sinclair castle doesn’t exactly make her want to say yes. Ella Sutherland may be clever, passionate, and shockingly beautiful, but what she isn’t is willing. Every attempt Cain makes to woo her seems to backfire on him. A gift? The kitten practically claws his eyes out. A competitive game of chess? Even when he wins, he loses. It seems the only time the two ever see eye to eye is when they’re heating up Cain’s bed. Still, the only thing Ella truly wants is the one thing he cannot offer her: freedom. But when Cain discovers she’s been harboring a secret—one that could threaten both clans’ very existence—he’ll have to decide between peace for the Sinclairs or the woman who’s captured his heart.
“I brought ye some food. Are ye well?” Cain called.
“Leave it outside the door,” she yelled.
“I also have a gift for ye, Ella.” His frown relaxed. “Are ye in need of assistance?”
“No,” she said, and he could imagine her snapping gray eyes trying to skewer him through the oak. “What I need is to be released from Girnigoe and for you to leave Clan Sutherland alone.” She may as well have asked to have wings to fly.
“I will not bother ye,” Cain said. “I want only to deliver my gift and your food.” And for ye to surrender long enough to marry me. He had boasted to Gideon he could convince her within the three weeks that the banns were posted. And he would see the challenge won. He had changed into a fresh white tunic and clean kilt after bathing, and the key to the door sat tucked into his sash.
As if reading his mind, she yelled again. “Do not pretend that you don’t have a key to the door.”
What did that mean? Of course he had a key. “Do ye want me to come in with my key?”
“Do what you want, Sinclair. Leave the food and gift or use your key. I will not be letting you into my cage.”
Needles pierced his head, startling him so that he bumped his forehead into the frame of the door. “Blast, ye wee beastie.” Enough of this. Leaving the cat to cling to his head, Cain fished the iron key out of his sash and jammed it into the lock. The kitten flexed her other paw, jabbing him with more needles. The key turned, and he pushed the door inward.
Ella stood wrapped in the blanket from her bed, warmth from the fire filling the small room. She watched him warily. “My gift is misbehaving,” he said, his teeth clamped together as he tried to force a smile. It felt like a grimace. Cain bent his knees to lower enough so that he could walk through the small doorway with the kitten hissing on his head. The tray wobbled slightly as he entered, but he kept his gaze on Ella’s face.
Her glare melted into a look of surprise. For a long moment, she stared at the two of them. Cain waited, and the kitten pricked his scalp again, making his eye twitch as he tried to hold his smile. Walking forward, he set the tray on a small table near the hearth. “A gift for ye, Ella. The kitten is the smallest of her litter and has weaned from her mother. The other barn cats are not letting her have as much food, so she needs a protector, someone to make sure she eats.”
“I…I suppose I can watch her…while I am here. You said it is a her, a girl?” Ella moved closer, and the smell of the floral soap Merida had given her floated from her wet hair that was twisted up in a bathing sheet.
“Aye, and as ye see, she has spirit.”
“And she is scared to death, way up there on top of a giant,” Ella said, chastising him with a frown. Tucking the blanket tighter around her, she walked to him, dragging the length behind her like a cumbersome train. “Bend,” she demanded and reached high to disentangle the kitten from Cain’s head, her arms shaped with slender muscles.
“Here sweet thing,” she whispered. “Let me take you away from the big bad Sinclair.”
Cain bent his knees so she could pull the cat from him, its paws and claws extended wide. “Ye know, the kitten is also a Sinclair,” he said, watching her bring the ball of black and white fluff to her face, touching her nose to the cat’s little white one.
The heavy blanket around Ella loosened, and she gasped as it fell to the floor. Stepping back, Ella tripped over the wool mass tangled around her feet. Cain’s hands shot out, grabbing her arms to keep her from falling backward. The kitten yowled and jumped from her onto the bed. The feel of him steadying her yanked back a long-ago memory. She had been young and smiling at the festival when he’d bumped into her, making her drop her bouquet of Scottish thistle.
“Thank you,” she said and frowned as if she wished she could pull it back, yanking out of his grasp.
“Ye are all wet.” Water drops sat along her collarbone, making him very thirsty. Och. What would the lass taste like? She clutched her arms over her breasts and squatted to grab up the blanket to hold before her.
“You startled me when you knocked.”
“And…” He looked from her to the tub and back. Water was pooled across the floor. “Ye fell in the tub?”
“No, well…yes. Somewhat. Not all the way.”
He took a quick mental inventory of the room. It was small, too small for his bulk, but it suited Ella. “Ye need a robe and another bathing sheet, a rug for the floor, and some rags for the water.”
She picked the kitten from the bed to hold before her, but the wee beast wiggled until Ella let her jump down to prowl about. “Do not forget a sgian dubh or mattucashlass,” Ella said and clutched the blanket up to the base of her throat. Even half drowned, she was bonny and brave. Although she had little defense in being alone and half dressed with him in a small room, she was not cowering or weeping in a corner. Nay, the lass was asking for weapons.
The side of his mouth tipped upward. “I will keep your request in mind.”
Buy Links (including Goodreads and BookBub):
Audible - https://www.audible.com/pd/Highland-Conquest-Audiobook/1664789715?plink=uvRI8LKNKSvGRGRn&ref=a_pd_Highla_c5_adblp13npsbx_1_1&pf_rd_p=84f8cf28-a842-4761-accd-e5126124c7a3&pf_rd_r=G9KMB7GQQR6PDETD5JS0
What makes your featured book a must-read?
Four brothers raised by an insane warlord father to act like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – talk about alpha-males! Cain is the Horseman of Conquest, but conquest is all about taking where love is all about giving. Will he learn the lesson that goes against his upbringing to win the greatest treasure of all – love?
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I’m Heather McCollum, writer of 16th century Scottish romance full of intrigue and sprinkled with humor, history, & spice. Brawny Highlanders with golden hearts & feisty heroines are my favorites! I’m a mom of 3, dog-mom of 1, & wife of a 6’4” Highlander. I love kilted heroes, dragonflies, watching birds, chai lattes, & eating popcorn for dinner on Friday nights.
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