Seven McTiernay brothers, each a highlander born to protect Scotland and her people, warriors known for their quick wits and quicker broadswords. The third brother, Cole, stared death in the face when he was only a boy...
Now Cole McTeirnay is a man. And though he resists them in every way, he has responsibilities. The wild northern Highlands need a laird who can guide them to peace. Cole has the army strong enough to accomplish this task. What he doesn't have is the desire--to be a leader among men...
And so he is sent off on a fool's errand: a mission to retrieve something from the very Englishmen Cole has spent his life hating. When he finds that the 'something' is a wild hellion, he balks, determined to make the return to Scotland as hard on her as it was for him to set foot on English soil. But though English herself, Ellenor intrigues him with her fierce spirit, and Cole's heart, deeply locked away for so long, may be vulnerable at last...
Showing 1-1 of the 1 most recent reviews
1 . Great quick read...
Posted November 30, 2010 by K. Closson , Harmony, RIThis is the first book I have read of Michele Sinclair and really enjoyed it. Considering reading the other McTiernay brothers books. Story is somewhat predictable but still nice read. Loved the quiet coldness and contempt of Cole's charcacter and the quick wit of Elle. Especially enjoyed reading the chapters of when Cole and Elle travel back from England. Overall a nice 1-2 day read.
November 30, 2009
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Excerpt from Desiring the Highlander by Michele Sinclair
Creag Mhor Summit, above Glen Lyon, 1301
Crouched low, Cole crawled his way up to the edge of
the cliff. His elbows and knees were caked with mud
from the morning's rain, but he didn't care. Just as he
didn't care what his older brother had to say about
what he could and couldn't do. Arriving unseen, where
so many were gathered who knew him and his family,
proved he was more capable than his brother believed.
And in just a few hours, every Scottish soul within ten
miles would be too busy battling the English to worry
about whether a young Highlander should be fighting
Inching forward, he felt his arm sink almost wrist
deep into the wet earth and he bit back an expletive.
His dark brown hair was crusted with the muck. But
crawling through mud, while irritating, was better than
on the jagged rocks that covered most of the broad
ridge. And walking to the peak was out of the question.
The trees that did pop up along this section of the flat-
topped hills were so scarce the only way to avoid detection
was by staying low. Hence the scrapes, the bruises,
and the mud. But he would suffer them all again to be
right where he was--here at Glen Lyon, where the next
big battle against the English would be fought.
The frigid spring wind caused his shirt to billow. He
shivered, but not from the cold. From anticipation. As
if nature knew what was about to happen and changed
the weather, eager to help the Scottish achieve another
He breathed deep the heather-perfumed air and
smiled. The thin-skinned English with all their armor
hated the damp, cool temperatures that accompanied
these hills. And soon, they would have even more
reason to hate the Highlands.
He edged up the last few feet, feeling quite brilliant
and enormously brave about tricking his eldest brother
and making his escape. His best friend Rob had been
right. This was a lot better than training and a hell of a
lot more fun than working for the stable master, taking
care of the horses.
On the battlefield below, Highland boys would
become men, and when all was over, he would be one
No longer would his brother refuse to allow him to
train with the soldiers despite the fact that he was sixteen
and just as tall as half of them. But most of all, he
would no longer be known as the third son, or one of
Conor's younger brothers, or worst of all, the boy Mc-
Tiernay. People would know him by his name. Cole.
And they would be scared.
A sandy-haired figure crouched low at the cliff's edge
bent his head back and issued Cole an exasperated
look. "What took you so long?"
"Mo Chreach! I had to hide the horses way down
there!" Cole hissed back as he edged his way up to his
friend's side. Cole's bright blue eyes peered over the
ridge and took in the grassy slopes that led to a wide col.
Tomorrow--possibly even this afternoon if the English
arrived fast enough--there would be a battle on those
grounds that would rival Stirling Bridge.
"Are they hid good?"
Cole nodded, knowing that Rob was just as sensitive--
maybe even more so--about being discovered by their
comrades. "What's happening?"
Rob shrugged. "Not much. Most of the men have
been getting the spearheads ready. The English are
coming from over there. You can see something shining
through the trees every once in a while if you look
Cole turned to stare, hoping to get a glance at the
sun-stricken armor. He had no idea how long he had
been studying the trees for armored movements when
Rob gave a halfhearted yelp and pointed.
Immediately, Cole shifted his gaze and followed
Rob's finger pointing down toward two figures standing
no more than fifty yards below them. Cole's heart
lodged in his throat. He was unable to speak.
"Cole, isn't that . . ."
"Your laird," Cole finally managed to get out. "And
my brother. The blaigeard must have followed us."
"Mo Chreach! Do you think he told my father?" Rob
Cole scoffed. "Of course he told your father. His being
laird requires him to do what is right, not what you or
I want," Cole answered, mimicking one of Conor's
favorite lectures. Cole couldn't remember his father
ever once saying something so trite, and he had been
a great laird.
Three months ago, his father had turned fifty-eight
years old. A week later, he was dead, leaving seven sons
to mourn him. He had seemed incredibly healthy, and
maybe in the body he had been. But his heart had left
seven months prior with his wife. Cole had never seen
his father so lost as in those months after his mother
died. Her death had been unexpected and unfair.
Some of the McTiernay families living close to the
clan border had taken ill, and she had insisted on going
out to help. Soon after her arrival, she had fallen prey
to the mysterious disease herself, dying only a few days
later. Cole's father had never recovered from the loss.
Some say he had welcomed his own sickness, letting it
invade and take over so that he could once again see his
one and only love.
Be that true or not, within a week of falling ill, he had
slipped away and Cole's eldest brother, Conor, had suddenly
become laird of one of the largest Highland clans
in the Grey Corries.
Cole had lost not only a father that day, but also
his freedom. The morning after the burial, he had
gone to the fields determined to begin his training
with the soldiers. His best friend Rob had been practicing
for nearly a year and a half, and Cole's father
had promised he would soon be joining his friend in
the daily drills. But when Conor had turned him
away and sent him to work in the stables, an icy resentment
had begun to grow. Over the weeks, then months,
as Conor's pledges of personally overseeing Cole's
training were preempted repeatedly by more pressing
clan needs, the resentment changed to anger and
"Your brother's going to kill you," Rob quipped, stating
"And your father isn't?" Cole retorted.
"My father is a farmer. And while he resents my desire
to train and fight, he certainly wouldn't leave his crops
and follow me."
Cole cocked his head and reconsidered his brother's
stance. "I don't think Conor did follow us."
"What do you mean? If he isn't here because of us,
then why? To fight? I thought you said he didn't think
MacDonnill should have picked the Strath Tay for a
"I did," Cole murmured, remembering every word
spoken that afternoon. He glanced around, hoping to
find familiar faces, someone to indicate another reason
for his brother's untimely arrival. His peripheral vision
told him that Rob was doing the same . . . and was just
as unsuccessful as he was. "We're in serious trouble,"
"Yeah," Rob agreed. "But why is the laird here if not
to fight and not because of you?"
Cole folded his arms and laid his forehead down on
them. "Oh, he's here because of me. I just don't think
he followed us. If he had, he would have stopped us
long before we got here. Na, he just knew where we
Cole glanced at his friend's face. The youthful features
were filled with incredulity. Though nearly two
years older than Cole, Rob would be forever plagued
with people assuming he was younger than he actually
was. He had a slight build, dark sandy blond hair, and
dimples that were more like craters in his cheeks than
simple indentions. Often ridiculed by the warriors as
being too young to play soldier, Rob had been near desperate
to find a way to prove he was not a boy, but a
man. When Cole reported what he had overheard
about a battle at Glen Lyon, Rob had instantly decided
that he was going and that Cole was coming with him.
It was time they both proved something to their elders.
And there was no better way to silence tongues than to
fight in a victorious battle.
Cole watched as Conor spoke animatedly with another
much older man. He couldn't hear them, but knew his
brother was not pleased with the man's answer. Even at
a distance, the black scowl of Conor's displeasure was
easily seen. His brother could go from calm to angry in
the blink of an eye, but usually only with his men or
those he considered family. Rarely did Conor allow
anyone else to see his displeasure.
Cole nudged his friend with his elbow. "Hey, Rob,
who is that with my brother?"
"Um, I think that's Olave. He's some Highlander who
used to fight with Wallace before he left for France.
Olave came to camp one time and all the older soldiers
could talk about was his skill with every weapon known
to man. He doesn't look like much to me," Rob added
with a snort.
Cole watched the argument change tone. Olave
shook his head. Conor then picked up a stick and knelt
on the ground, sketching something in the loose soil.
He looked worried . . . hell, his brother looked scared.
Cole glanced at his surroundings and reexamined
them with new eyes. He studied where the English were
positioned and where his comrades were preparing to
meet them. A sinking feeling overcame him, and Cole
began to suspect his brother had been right.
Almost two weeks ago, a handful of eastern Highland
lairds had arrived with ideas about luring the English
into a battle that would weaken their forces, leaving
Stirling Castle vulnerable for recapture. Conor had welcomed
them and listened to their plans patiently. And
then he had refused to join their campaign.
Most of the lairds--especially MacDonnill--had
made clear their disappointment, saying how Conor's
father would never have forsaken an opportunity to
free Scotland. The barely veiled implication that Conor
was a coward and lacked his father's leadership skills
had not been lost on anyone.
Sitting hidden behind the wooden planks separating
the Great Hall from the servants' preparation area,
Cole had listened intently, waiting for his brother to
roar and drive a fist into the man's skull. But nothing
had happened. Conor only reasserted that it was foolhardy
to believe that sheer Scottish bravery could
defeat English archers, and that the Strath Tay was perfect
ground for the English longbow to find its target.
The lairds had ignored him, and they had been
McTiernays were known for several things. Their
large, well-trained army, their aptitude for leadership,
their ability to command both loyalty and dedication
of their clansmen, even their own skill with a sword. But
those who truly knew them would say their ability to outstrategize
even the most cunning of enemies was their
greatest strength. Some believed that it was this reason
above all others that kept Edward I from trying to
invade the McTiernay stronghold. Only a fool marched
knowingly to his death. And Edward I and his commanders
were a lot of things, but they were not fools.
Cole had never seen a battle, being only sixteen, nor
had he ever fought for his life, but McTiernay intuition
was flickering through his mind, revealing what
was about to unfold. "Rob, come on, we're getting out
"Why? Isn't it too early to join MacDonnill? The
battle is hours away from starting . . ."
Cole's eyes darted over the strath. The valley was a
death trap. Those few Highlanders who did survive
the archers' arrows would be heavily outmatched. It
was not the English numbers which were about to be
weakened; it was theirs.
"We aren't joining the battle," Cole said and began to
Rob reached out and grabbed Cole's arm. "If your
brother being here bothers you so much, then leave,
but I'm staying."
Cole stared into his friend's eyes. "It's suicide, Rob.
The English have us flanked on two sides, and judging
by the amount of armor starting to shine through those
trees, we have less than a tenth of the men. It's going to
be a slaughter."
"You're wrong. Look, MacDonnill is moving men
even now to attack."
Cole watched in horror as MacDonnill split his
forces. Sounds erupting from the field below suddenly
filled his ears as the Highlanders began to yell and
clank their swords, forecasting victory. But Cole knew
miserably that it was not to be theirs.
The cliff provided an excellent vantage point of the
staging area. From here, almost anyone could see what
was about to happen. Anyone but Rob. His friend had
never understood the art of strategy. Having trouble
thinking ahead, Rob always addressed the problem
facing him, not the one coming. Even now, he couldn't
see how the battle would unfold, but Cole could. Mac-
Donnill had just sent over a hundred men to their
deaths, and he doubted the English would be stupid
enough not to take advantage of the mistake.
"What do we have here?"
The snarl came from behind them, accompanied
with the clatter of metal made only by men wearing
bulky armor. With all the noise below, Cole had not
heard them approach until it was too late. His heart
began to pound even faster realizing the mistake.
"Looks like two Scottish whoresons dressed like
Rob shifted to look at them, but Cole refused to turn
around. One of them kicked his shin. "'Ere now, don't
you know enough to look at your betters when they are
speaking to you?"
Out of the corner of his eye, Cole could see Rob stare
with open mouth at the man. His friend spoke only
Gaelic and had no clue what filth the English soldiers
were spouting. Cole wished he were so blessed with ignorance.
His father's closest friend, a Highlander who
lived near the English border, had made sure all the
McTiernays were well versed in the English tongue. He
believed, as did his father, that one had to understand
the enemy before he could defeat him. Cole had always
refused to speak the words, but he understood them.
Just as he understood he was about to die.
He could feel his broadsword burning next to his
thigh, but having it did little good. One movement toward
it would bring instant death, and reason prompted him
to do whatever he had to do to stay alive.
He flipped over as they ordered and surveyed the
depressing reality of his situation.
Three men of varying height towered over them. It
was impossible to tell how broad they were with all the
metal they wore, but from their eyes, Cole could see
who was in charge. The man was standing a little over
ten feet away, leaning on the hilt of his sword, which he
had stabbed into the ground, and from the glint in his
black eyes, Cole knew the man was a heartless bastard
fully intent on killing them.
The one closest to Rob kicked him in the ribs. When
Rob instinctively reached for his sword, the man stomped
on his friend's hand. Cole could hear the bones snap
under the weight. To Rob's credit, he didn't scream, but
just stared back. He was just as aware as Cole that they
were about to die.
"Hey now, I don't think you will be needing that
today," the English soldier sneered, kicking the broad sword
away. "And I would apologize for the hand, but I
don't think you will be needing that either."
"What do you think they're doing up here?" another
asked. "Scouting? You don't think they were planning on
fighting, do you?" Cole suspected he had been brought
along for his brawn, not his intelligence.
"Even the Scots aren't dumb enough to let their boys
fight a man's battle."
One soldier poked Cole in the side. "Hey, how old
Rob immediately cried out, "Sguir!" yelling for them
to stop. "My brother's only a boy! He knows nothing
but farming. I am the one you want."
The instant Rob shouted his lies, the soldiers responded.
A foot weighted by iron links crashed down
upon Cole's chest. Hearing the choking sounds Rob
was making, Cole guessed the same had happened to
him. The English wanted them to feel helpless and
weak, and damn their souls, it was working.
"What did he say?" one of the men asked. "The dregs
can't even talk right. I don't think they understand a
damn word we're saying."
The leader's eyes flicked from Cole to Rob and back
to Cole again. Finally, he spoke. "The gaping one
doesn't," the leader finally decided. "But the dark-haired
boy does. You understand every word we are saying,
don't you? Just who are you? A farmer boy wanting to
His voice was deep and had a sick tone to it. The man
had more than just a willingness to kill; he enjoyed the
act itself. His question also proved he understood
enough Gaelic to interpret some of Rob's lies.
Cole leveled his hard gaze and let all emotion drain
out of him. He was not afraid of dying and it must have
shown because the leader chuckled and approached,
his cruel smile growing larger as if he just thought of a
delightful game involving pain and death. The soldier
pinning Cole down adjusted his stance, but did not
The leader swung his polished blade around and
pointed it at Cole's neck. Cole could feel Rob squirming
and heard him choking. That's when Cole grasped
it was not Rob's chest they were using to pin him down,
but his windpipe.
Cole felt as if the hand of God had swooped down
and torn him in half. The part with any emotion, any
feeling, was screaming to save his best friend, to do
something, say anything that would get the bastard to
lift his foot and let Rob breathe. But the other part--
the part that controlled his actions--refused to move.
Every emotion, every foolish hope and childish dream
he had ever had, was shriveling, leaving only a cold,
empty shell in its place.
Cole stared in silent defiance as the leader slowly
pressed the tip of his sword into his throat. Warm blood
began to trickle down the side of Cole's neck and then
past the back of his ear. When Cole remained unresponsive
to the pain, the metallic edge began to move
upward, unhurried, to slice the skin. Bit by bit the blade
carved its way up the neckline, stopping at the curve of
Cole's chin. The man was waiting for him to fight back,
put up some type of resistance. His enjoyment rested
upon reactions--a cry, a flinch, a whimper . . . anything
to let him know that Cole was afraid.
But Cole wasn't afraid of dying. What he was most
afraid of was living.
The leader must have seen it. Somehow, he had recognized
that one weakness. The man smiled cruelly,
lifted his blade, and then nodded at the soldier to his
right. A second later, Rob's raspy gasps filled the air. No
longer was his friend pinned, dying for lack of breath.
The leader then pointed at Cole and said, "Tie up the
bastard. We wouldn't want him to suddenly feel heroic
and get in the way of our fun."
Cole heard one of his ribs crack as a foot collided
with his side, forcing him to roll over. His arms were
yanked back as a coarse rope was slipped around his
wrists, binding them tightly together. But not once did
his bright blue eyes lose their lock on the maniacal
leader as he walked over to his friend's side.
He leered at Rob and then returned his attention back
to Cole. "I'll admit that I had thought to kill you first, but
I have come to realize your death means little to you. So
I have changed my mind. You will watch me kill your
pathetic farmer-boy brother and the slaughter of your
countrymen. And then it will be your turn. Maybe by the
time your legs and arms are tied to horses, you will feel
more inclined to fight back."
Then, without any more preamble, the evil man
brought his sword high up in the air and then straight
down, goring Rob right through his stomach and into
the ground. A scream filled the air. The strike was
meant to kill slowly, painfully. Then the madman struck
again, his crazed smile growing each time Rob shrieked
Cole knew he was only getting started. The man
would continue his merciless attack finding more and
more ways to exact pain before Rob finally succumbed
to his death. And there was nothing Cole could do but
watch. He knew if he closed his eyes for even one
second, the English lunatic would think he had won.
Suddenly, a trumpet blasted over the strath and a
man riding an armor-covered horse broke over the
ridge. Pausing only briefly to assess Cole and then Rob,
who was now writhing on the ground, he rode straight
to the leader. "Lincoln wants you and your men on the
west bank now."
The confidence the leader had worn just moments
ago dissolved upon hearing the order. "The west b . . ."
He moved to look over the ridge at the troops below.
For the first time since locking his eyes on the murderer,
Cole broke his gaze and looked out.
The English archers who had lined the western flank,
ensuring the doom of the Scottish cause, were gone.
Somehow, MacDonnill had maneuvered a handful of
men behind them and they now lay dead. The battle
would now be fought between the English cavalry and
Scottish spearmen, a much more equitable turn of
events. Cole knew who was behind the miracle. His
brother. Conor must have somehow talked some sense
into MacDonnill, and the pompous laird, recognizing his
perilous situation, had listened. The English numbers
were still significantly greater, but there was now a chance.
The English soldiers must have seen the same thing.
The leader pivoted, ordered his men to get their horses,
and grabbed his sword still protruding from Rob's abdomen.
But just as he jumped on his mount, he turned
to face Cole. "This changes nothing. Watch your people
pray to God as they meet with their end, and when I
return, it will be my turn to listen to you beg for mercy."
And then he was gone.
Cole collapsed and closed his eyes, listening to his
heartbeat. He tried to feel something . . . anything.
Fear, anger, remorse. There was nothing. Then he
"Cole . . ." Rob's voice was weak and close to death.
Cole scooted awkwardly over to his friend. "I'm
here." He wanted to say hold on, I'm going for help,
you are going to be all right, but each time he tried, the
words got caught in his throat. All he could mutter was
"I'm here" again and again, hoping to reassure his
friend that he would not die alone.
"Do something for me."
Cole swallowed. "What?"
"Live. I have a dagger in my belt. Use it to get free
and then I want you to make every English blaigeard pay
for what they do today."
"I will." Cole choked on the two words. Hearing his
dying friend speak in such pain was making everything
seem more real, more awful. The detached part of
himself was slamming back inside and his heart was
"Don't forget me and what they did. Promise me,
Cole. Promise me you won't forget."
"And Cole . . ." Gurgles of blood started sputtering
from Rob's mouth. "Tell my father . . ."
But before he could finish the request, his eyes
glazed over and Cole knew that his best friend since he
had been four years old was dead. A deep hatred began
to slide over his skin, slipping into his pores. The urge
to join the ensuing battle below was paramount. He
would find the English leader with cold black eyes and
drive a blade straight through his heart.
Twisting around, Cole fumbled with the back of
Rob's belt for what seemed an eternity. Then he felt the
small cool blade on his fingers and slid the tiny weapon
out of its casing. A minute later, he was free.
Picking up his broadsword, he swung it high in the
air and then began yelling as he descended the steep
slope to join the battle.
Crazed, detached, almost unaware of his actions
or what he was doing, Cole began swinging his weapon
haphazardly at anything covered in armor that was
moving. He plunged and sliced and created a bloody swath
through every English soldier he encountered, searching
for the one man who had dared to mutilate Rob.
Then he found him. He was sitting atop his horse,
behind the fighting, among several other English leaders,
confident that he was safe. Cole was charging the
small group when a lone arrow appeared and found its
target. The man came down off his horse with a crashing
thud. The others immediately rode off hoping to
avoid being next.
Cole screamed in fury and ran up to the Englishman
hoping to find him alive. But revenge was not to be his.
The arrow had pierced his jugular and the man was
dead. Cole cried out and was about to behead him
when suddenly his weapon was stripped from his hands.
Turning to attack, Cole encountered Conor, who threw
his sword down and gathered him in his arms.
"It's over now, Cole. It's over. He's dead."
Cole shook his head. "It will never be over," he whispered.
"And I won't forget."