He is the Beast of the Highlands, a man known for his cruelty and unforgiving nature. Now laird of the powerful MacLerie clan and in need of a wife, Connor buys his way to a bride, one he insists not be beautiful like his first wife. He brings Jocelyn to his lair planning to keep her in his bed and out of his life... and heart.
Jocelyn MacCallum saves her family and people with her marriage, but fears for her soul and her life when she becomes bride to the Beast. Against his wishes and orders, Jocelyn begins to make a place in his clan for herself and begins to learn more about the man she wed.
When an old threat rises against the clan and laird, will love be powerful enough to save the woman not known for beauty and her Beast?
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June 30, 2006
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Excerpt from Taming the Highlander by Terri Brisbin
Three Years Later
"Is there no other way then?"
She fought not to let the trembling show in her voice. Jocelyn clenched her hands together tightly and pressed her nails into her skin to keep herself from fainting at the news.
"Nay, lass. He specifically asked for you. 'Tis the only way to save yer brother's life."
Her father would not meet her gaze now. 'Twas over. The Beast had made his wishes known and since refusal to agree to his demands was impossible for her clan, she would be sacrificed to save another.
"Mayhap, he will fill ye quickly with a son," her mother whispered from her sickbed. Turning to face her, Jocelyn felt the blood drain from her face as she realized the result of this agreement would give her, body and soul, to a man whose physical desires and cruelty was rumored through the Highlands. "If ye give him the son he craves, he may be merciful to ye."
She fought to maintain some sense of calm, but the soft sobs that followed her mother's words made it impossible. The tremors shook her and she feared fainting, something she swore she would not do in front of the MacLerie's emissary. Dragging in a deep breath, she turned back to her father and his councilors.
"You do not need my consent for this, Father, so do as you must."
Nodding to him and the MacLerie's man, she drew herself up as straight as she could and walked slowly from the room. The urge to run and hide almost overwhelmed her as her mother's crying became louder. But, she was the daughter of the MacCallum, and she would not disgrace herself in this, even if he had. A few more steps and she was out of the solar and in the great hall. Looking around, she noticed a few servants at work, cleaning the tables from the noon meal. Jocelyn realized that word of her betrothal would spread quickly once the meeting was ended and she knew that she had to be the one to tell Ewan.
Taking the shorter way through the kitchens, she left the keep and walked to the practice yards. Shading her eyes with her hand, she searched through the various groups of men until she found him.
Ewan Macrae. Her first love.
The man she thought she would marry.
Now, she was faced with the task of telling him they would never be husband and wife. He met her gaze with a smile and a wave as he walked to meet her.
"Good day to you, Jocelyn," he said, his deep voice so familiar to her.
"Ewan, we must speak," she said, motioning to him to follow her.
Ewan climbed over the fence and walked silently at her side until they were away from the training yards. She turned to face him now with the news that would change both of their lives. Her throat and eyes burned with tears that threatened to spill, but she gathered her control and looked at him.
"Jocelyn. What is it? Your face has lost all its color and you are shaking." He took her by the shoulders and pulled her close. Improper as it now was, she stayed in his embrace, savoring the warmth and protection and affection that she knew she would never feel again. After a few moments, she stepped out of his arms and faced him, her face now wet with the tears she'd fought to keep inside.
"My father has betrothed me to someone else, Ewan. We cannot be together as I'd hoped. I'm to marry the... Connor MacLerie."
"The Beast?" he asked in a whispered voice full of dread.
She could only nod as she was filled with even more foreboding. The MacLerie's reputation was known throughout the Highlands and although she wished that it was simply silly women's gossip, that hope could not lessen her fear.
"Your father has agreed to this?" Disbelief was clear in his expression.
If she had not been in the room earlier, she would not have believed it either. There had been no formal agreement between her and Ewan about their future together, but they had grown closer and closer during his time fostering here and Jocelyn knew he planned to offer for her as soon as he visited his parents in the spring.
"He has. I'm to accompany the MacLerie's men back and the wedding will take place when I arrive there." She said the words, but they did not feel real to her.
"You will be married there? Without even your family around you? The man truly is a beast!"
"Of all the titles he carries, the MacLerie has no liking for that particular one."
Jocelyn whirled around to find the MacLerie's emissary standing behind them. How much he had seen and heard, she did not know. She watched as Ewan's expression turned to stone and he stepped in front of her in a protective motion. Crossing his arms over his chest, he faced the stranger.
"Who are you?" he asked in a challenging voice. "What right do you have to speak for the MacLerie?"
"I am Duncan MacLerie," he answered, sliding his hand down to rest on the sword hanging at his side. "I am his man and represent his interests in this matter."
"This matter? You mean his betrothal to Jocelyn?"