The Lockhart brothers' quest for an ancient family heirloom has proved fruitless...and an unpaid loan has left them indebted to their rival, Payton Douglas. With no recourse, the Lockharts offer Payton their most valuable commodity: their sister Mared's hand in marriage.
Raised to despise the Douglas name, Mared outwardly agrees to the marital bargain for the sake of her family; secretly, she concocts a plan to ensure Payton will not wish to marry her. Seeing the handsome, virile laird Payton face-to-face, however, threatens a centuries-long enmity -- and awakens Mared's deepest desires. But she will not be swayed. Choosing to repay her family's debt by working as his housekeeper instead of wedding him, she finds herself inexorably drawn to the man she vowed to resist. Then a profound discovery changes everything....Now, no longer bound by a promise to her family, Mared must let her heart decide if the laird Payton is the enemy of past legend -- or if he holds the key to a future filled with a passion beyond her wildest dreams.
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July 25, 2005
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Excerpt from Highlander in Love by Julia London
EILEAN ROS, THE TROSSACHS OF THE SCOTTISH
Payton Douglas was surrounded by the enemy, his back against the wall or hearth, as it were. The Lockharts advanced on him with an anxious look in their eyes, and he wondered how they had managed to gain entry, today in particular, when he was entertaining some very important men from Glasgow. Men who were, at this very moment, rather deep in their cups, having sampled the barley-bree Scotch whiskey distilled here, on his estate, Eilean Ros.
But his enemies were desperate and, by their own confession, in quite a predicament, for they'd been caught completely unawares when their dear friend, Hugh MacAlister, had purloined their priceless family heirloomea gold statue of a beastie with ruby eyes right out from under their noses.
Griffin Lockhart, from whom the beastie had been stolen, had just argued passionately that while this outrageous insult would be avenged in due time, at the moment, it seemed that MacAlister's actions had left the entire Lockhart family near to penniless and faced with the forced betrothal of their only daughter, Mared, to the man who had lent them a princely sum to retrieve the beastie: Payton Douglas.
The very same Payton Douglas who stood with his back against the cold hearth, eyeing the only one of the five Lockharts in his study who seemed inordinately relaxed. Seated at his writing desk, she idly twirled a quill pen as Payton stoically listened to the rather windy speech of her laird father. Frankly, one could scarcely do anything but listen when in the company of so many Lockharts.
This speech, obviously prepared in advance, judging by the way Lady Lockhart's lips moved in unison with her husband's, spoke to how Payton, the son of ancestors who had spilled precious Lockhart blood in every war and time of strife, would take their only daughter to wife, having bargained for her in loaning them a substantial sum that was to be repaid within a year's time.
"'Tis the stuff of popular novels!" Lady Lockhart exclaimed.
Behind her, her daughter Mared smiled as she twirled the pen, as if that analogy amused her.
"Frankly, milady, I've never read a novel as befuddling as this," Payton said. "If I am to understand, do ye mean to say ye'll no' honor our agreement regarding the loan I made ye?"
That question was met with a burst of nervous, high-pitched laughter from the four dark-headed Lockharts standing at this little impromptu meeting: Carson, the aging laird of what was left of the Lockhart clan; his lean and graceful lady wife, Aila; their eldest son and massive soldier, Liam; and his younger brother Griffin, who was slightly smaller and quite debonair.
"Of course no'!" Liam boomed reassuringly. "But surely ye understand that we couldna have dreamed MacAlister would betray us so."
"As ye've said several times over now. Nevertheless, it would appear that he did indeed betray ye, and ye owe me a tidy sum, aye?"
The four standing Lockharts looked sheepishly at one another while Mared sighed and opened a book on his writing desk, flipping to the first page.
Grif quickly stepped forward and smiled charmingly. "If I may, milorde the problem is that without the beastie, we've no means to repay yer very generous loan"
"Three thousand pounds," Payton quickly reminded him, "was more than generous. It was sheer insanity."