Title MacIan’s Gift
Author Terry Graham
Genre Scottish Historical Romance
Publisher The Wild Rose Press
A bard, Jamie MacIan believes in ghosts and family curses. Nothing else explains the loss of his clan years ago. His wife and newborn son were slaughtered, and he wasn't there to stop it. When he sets out to restore his ancestral home, he finds more than the reputedly haunted tower. He finds a woman as beautiful and innocent as an angel and more trouble than he ever imagined.
Sarah Clinton tries to be obedient and dutiful, but it's difficult when one finds oneself in hell. Rather than wed her step-father's son, she flees and hides in a ruined castle. Discovered by a Scotsman as gorgeous as sin, she can't trust her savior with the truth. Her uncle, known as the Devil of the Highlands, destroyed Jamie's clan. Lying in his arms is heaven, though, and she learns more about love than she ever thought possible.
Can Jamie and Sarah learn from the past and trust in love, or will the sins of their ancestors destroy all hope of heaven on earth?
“Ils viennent, petit.”
“They’re coming, little one.”
True to the words, Sarah heard the scrape of the kitchen shelf a moment later and air rushed into her lungs. The sliver of firelight widened, and she scrambled to rise.
“Merci,” she silently responded. Her muscles screamed, then rebelled. Too taut from the hours of disuse, her leg refused to brace. Unwilling to show weakness, she clutched at the slimy wall and dragged herself to her feet.
Rory plowed into her, knocking her against the hard surface.
“I was so scared,” he told her, skinny arms squeezing her waist. More words followed, so fast and furious she shut them out. Grateful for the support, both emotional and physical, she hugged him back and blinked away tears.
“Are ye all right, lass?” Jamie’s quiet question interrupted Rory’s stream of babble. He pulled the boy off her and reached out to grasp her elbow. The contact sent a jolt of heat through her and her lungs shuddered.
“I’m fine,” she lied and pushed herself upright. Her fingers locked around her plaid to prevent the telltale reach for her hair, and she lifted her chin. She wouldn’t show how terrified she’d been. Only children feared the dark, and the cave was huge, not the tiny stifling closet Eilidh had always used for punishment. And she wouldn’t tell them Lady Aalis had talked to her and sung to her when she started to panic. They didn’t need a raving lunatic on top of a fugitive.
“Jamie says tis all right to be frightened. Only fools aren’t.” Rory’s fingers snuck between hers and the cloth. She clutched them back and forced a half-smile. How silly was it to cling to a child?
“I donna think it’s safe for you to be in the castle with us anymore.” Her stomach dropped so hard it bounced back up to strangle her, but Jamie continued. “During the day, it’s safe, but not at night. Ye’ll have to sleep in here.”
Alone? She had to sleep in here alone?
“Oww. Ye’re squeezing too hard.” Rory wiggled his fingers out.
Sarah’s fingers recoiled into a fist. Her nails cut her palm.
“Can ye do that, Sarah?” Jamie glanced around as if they hadn’t spent four nights in the enclosed space. “Tis warmer than the castle, anyway.”
Warmer, but she hadn’t been alone. “Yes.” She choked the word out. Inside she babbled with denial.
“I’ll stay with her.” Niel offered with an encouraging nod. Sarah’s lungs resumed dragging in air as the men crowded the opening, varying degrees of worry lining their faces.
Jock and Rory volunteered as well, and Sarah’s breathing evened out.
“Nay.” Jamie scowled, and tears pricked Sarah’s eyes. She couldn’t blame him. Her presence endangered them. That he was even willing to let her stay was a boon.
“Jock and Rory will sleep in the kitchen. We’ll leave the shelf open. The rest of ye will bed down in the hall. If Mitchell’s dog-bolt flunkeys show up, ye’ll hold them off long enough for Rory to slip in and trade places with me. I don’t care how.” The set of his jaw suggested he’d just as soon they killed them.
“Jock and I will slide the shelf back into place behind Rory.”
“I’ll fight them too!”
Jamie shot a stern look at Rory. “Ye’ll do as ye’re told. I’ll not leave Sarah alone again.” When his gaze shifted to Sarah, a flicker of anguish glowed then disappeared. His throat worked and his mouth opened, but nothing else came out until he spit a Gaelic term she assumed was an insult.
A murmur spread through the group, and before she knew it, the black space filled with warmth and light. Jamie continued to issue orders while Sarah stood aside, afraid to move, afraid if she did, she’d crumble into a blubbering idiot. When he finally pushed Rory through the opening with a final whisper, the shelf slid half-closed and he turned toward her.
“Come here, Sarah.” The hoarse, raw sound surprised her. His arms opened wide and welcoming, but her feet wouldn’t move.
His eyes squeezed shut. “Tisn’t for ye, Aingeal. Tis for me. I need to hold ye.”
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Terry Graham has been imagining love stories since she began playing with Barbie and Ken. In high school, she read Barbara Cartland along with Dickens, Austen, Asimov and everything else she could get her hands on. After two careers, as a chemist and a computer programmer, she retired to try her hand at writing. Terry lives in upstate New York with her cat Amber. She's divorced with a grown son who makes it all worthwhile.
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