Three centuries ago in Scotland a curse was born of the long-standing feud between the Claren and the MacKinnon clans. Now, generations later, destiny has decreed that three women, the last of the Claren line, be granted one final chance to set things right.
Maggie, Cailean, and Delaney Claren are three cousins who grow up unaware of one another--until an inheritance brings them together. Now mysterious journals and the deed to an ancient Scottish castle will bring them face-to-face with the warriors at the heart of the MacKinnon family, three brothers sentenced to cruel fates by a terrible curse.
Duncan is trapped in the form of a ghost, Rory must live an immortal life alone, and Alexander has been wrenched by time from the past to the present, with no way back. Ferociously compelling, dangerously relentless, they are bound by no mortal laws--except desire for the three Claren women. The journals speak of one key that can break the powerful spell. And finding that key will plunge them all into a world of unforeseeable danger and tantalizing desire....
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April 06, 1999
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Excerpt from The Legend MacKinnon by Donna Kauffman
He'd never find her here.
It was twilight when Maggie Claren finally wound her way to the end of the gravel and dirt road and parked in front of the old cabin. Madden County, North Carolina. It was impossible to believe that anyone lived in such a remote area. On purpose.
From the looks of the place, no one had been living here for quite some time. The cabin was part stone, part log over log, put together the way she imagined Abe Lincoln's folks had probably built theirs. If she'd been standing in Kentucky instead of the Smokey Mountains, she could easily be convinced they'd built this one personally.
Maggie forced her fingers to release their death grip on the steering wheel. She rolled her shoulders, wincing at the pinches of pain. She didn't care what the place looked like. It was hers. She could be safe here. She had to be.
The deed had been rerecorded over the years, but at least part of the cabin and all of the land was the original Claren property as it was first claimed almost three centuries ago. She could not fathom it.
How many of her ancestors had stood on this spot, walked this land, stepped up on that porch?
Until recently Maggie had never given much thought to her family tree. Aunt Mathilda hadn't spoken of it, most likely because she didn't care. They'd both been too busy living the present to dwell on the past. As Mathilda had been right up until her death at age eighty, Maggie was happy, well-adjusted and excited about the vast opportunities life presented to her. That had always been more than enough.
Had been. One of those opportunities had, unfortunately, been Judd. Suddenly the opportunity to delve into the past was a tantalizing proposition.
She looked upward. "Thank you Great-Uncle Lachlan, whoever you are. Were. You saved my life."
She eyed her timely inheritance again. Old Judge Nash had not been a fount of information, but now she understood why he'd spared the extra minute to explain where she could find a room for the night. She hadn't thought to ask about basic matters like electricity and running water.
She looked down at the key in her hand. Who was she fooling? There was a good reason Judd would never think to look for her here. Ellie Mae Clampett she was not.
She seriously debated tracking down that motel room and tackling this tomorrow. Then she thought of Judd, who was probably taking her condo apart right this minute, looking for any clue to her whereabouts. Well, he wouldn't find any. Judge Nash's letter telling her of her recent windfall could not have arrived at a more perfect moment. Judd knew nothing about it and since the letter was in her purse, he never would.
He'd certainly never picture her living in a run-down shack and driving a rusted out hull of a car. She smiled a bit smugly at her vehicle. Little had she known just how well the junker would suit her new life.
She slid out of the car, groaned as she stretched, then marched up the steps of the creaking front porch. She slid the key Judge Nash had given her into the lock, then shoved at the warped door until it opened enough for her to squeeze inside. She had no idea what she expected.
It definitely was not a six-foot-plus Scotsman wearing a kilt. And nothing else.
Her mouth dropped open. Too stunned to do more than blink, she simply stared. The man was a giant. His long legs resembled roughly hewn oak trees, looking oddly all the more masculine for the skirt he was wearing. Her gaze moved upward when he crossed formidable arms over an even more formidable chest and glared at her. His face was full of magnificent angles, accentuated by dark slashes of eyebrows and sculpted lips that, for all their beauty, looked as cold and hard as the rest of him. His hair was long, black, and as wild as the light in his fierce gray eyes.
He took a menacing step forward. "I dinna ken who ye be lassie, but I'll thank you to get the hell off my land."
He was entirely overwhelming and more than a little terrifying. None of which explained why a bubble of semi-hysterical laughter emerged through her lips. She held up her hand. "I have a key," she said, as if that would explain everything. "Lachlan Claren left the cabin to me."
The man's face twisted in rage and he stormed across the room toward her, dust rising from the floorboards with each thundering footstep. "This is MacKinnon land," he roared. "And MacKinnon land it will stay! Auld Lachlan dinna own this place, nor lass, do you. Now be gone!"
By all rights she should be running screaming down the mountain. Perhaps it was because less than a week ago she'd had a loaded gun held to her head and had spent several terrifying minutes believing she was going to die. Maybe you only really believed you were going to die once.
She stepped back and said, "I don't know who you are or how you got in here, but this is my cabin now. I have the deed to prove it. If you have a problem with that then I suggest you take it up with Judge Nash. In the meantime, it's late and I'm tired. When I come back, I expect you to be gone."
She turned and walked out to her car where she grabbed her duffel bag and the can of pepper spray she'd tucked into the glove compartment. She glanced at the rest of her inheritance, which occupied almost the entire back of the car. Later, she decided. She'd unload Lachlan's trunk tomorrow, though she had no idea how she was going to get the thing inside. She cast a look toward the cabin, then shook her head. She doubted Braveheart in there would be willing to play bellboy.